Lessons From My Toddler And Newborn
When I started writing this, my newborn lay sweetly asleep in her cot, and my toddler was fast asleep in our family bed, splayed over her pillows.
On good days, looking at my newborn beam at her big sister melts my heart. On bad days, I literally watch the clock until my husband comes home, and this is after my rapid fire Whatsapp SOS messages to him. When he comes home, he can tell by the look on my face what kind of day I’ve had with our daughters.
My little girls are my most honest and authentic teachers. Here are some recent lessons:
1) It gets easier
Being a second-time mum brings the gift of more confidence.Vomit? Poop explosions? Sleep deprivation? Been there, done that. Bring it on. Your firstborn has given up the gift of Super Mama Powers. You are able to function with a ridiculous lack of…everything. Your younger self would marvel at how much you can do now, with broken sleep, hastily eaten meals and turbo-fast showers.
2) It gets harder
Just when you thought you had it all figured out, your second baby arrives and everything implodes. Your first child will understandably get jealous because of the adorable and helpless newborn who has suddenly taken over. Depending on the temperament of your child, this jealousy could translate into pouty unhappiness or your toddler head-butting said usurper.
3) Self-care first
With one child, it’s already so important to fill your self-care cup. Having a newborn makes it doubly important. Even if it’s 5–10 minutes daily, make sure you get some downtime. It will help you feel more centred and emotionally available to your children. I cannot overstate the importance of just inhaling and exhaling for three counts when you feel like you’re about to lose your cool.
4) A little flexibility goes a long way
You have plans for the day. So do your newborn and your toddler. When the stars align — wonderful. Realistically, when they don’t, it’s easier for you to just go with the flow. Are you and your kids fed and relatively clean? Excellent. Don’t set yourself up for disappointment by creating a massive to-do list every morning. In this early stage, keep it simple, celebrate your successes, and forgive yourself for not getting it all done. You are nourishing two little human beings!
5) Savour the joyful moments
When your toddler helpfully passes a diaper to you for your newborn, finds the misplaced baby wrap you’ve been fretting about, or entertains your newborn while you’re in the loo…savour it. Consider these wonderful signs of their budding and hopefully lifelong friendship.
6) Bad times will pass
On the days where your toddler is screaming at you, your newborn, and then tries to smack both of you, remember to breathe in and out — slowly. When you’re just about ready to strangle yourself and said toddler, know that this too shall pass. When your newborn wakes every hour or two at night and you wonder if you will ever sleep like a human again — trust that you will.
7) Keep the end in mind
You are raising two little ones to be friends for life, long after you and your spouse are gone. Right now, in the trenches, it may seem like The Worst Idea Ever to have kids so close in age. Regressions, sibling rivalry, being unable to nap when baby naps because your toddler wants you too — it’s not easy. Breathe in, and breathe out. Trust that with the inevitable unfolding of time, you and your spouse will smile at each other for the genius idea of raising two children who can be playmates and confidants.
8) Get help
Set up a realistic weekly timetable and get your spouse on board. Arrange playdates at home and outside of the home so the pressure of playing with your toddler and tending to your newborn isn’t all on you. Arrange regular babysitting so you can get some rest. It’s normal to feel guilty for taking time away from your little ones, but do it anyway. A recharged mama is able to give more to her loved ones. A stressed and resentful one cannot.
9) Read, read, read
There is so much content out there about how to nurture siblings without the default concept of sibling rivalry. My favourite book on the topic is Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings: How to Stop the Fighting and Raise Friends for Life by Dr Laura Markham. Read this book even before you fall pregnant with your second child!
Even basic stretches and walks can help restore your balance. During the really bad moments, take a deep breath, re-centre, and take your toddler and newborn out of the house. Nothing feeds frustration more than being stuck at home. The upside of taking your toddler to the park — he/she gets to burn up that energy, you get some fresh air, and your newborn can look around.