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Going from 1 to 2 children


Epicurean
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I know this post will seem silly to those of you with large families, but maybe you can share some of your wisdom.

 

We are expecting our second child in March. Our older child will be a little over three at the time. Lately, it's really been hitting me how hard those newborn days were, and I'm getting anxious about caring for a toddler and a newborn at the same time. How do you ladies do it?

 

I'm having a repeat c-section (not a candidate for VBAC because of oblique pelvis) and my DH will be home for nine days post birth. Then I'll be parenting solo except for the hours of 5 pm - 10 pm during the week (though DH gets Friday, Saturday and Sunday off). We can't ask any of our parents to come stay with us because they all have health problems. We can't afford a nanny or daycare.

 

And that's okay, because I feel like I should be able to handle this. Right? I mean, lots of you do it with older kids added to the mix who need schooling after a little break--seems like this would be easy by comparison. But honestly, I already feel overwhelmed just being pregnant. I can't imagine how exhausted and stretched thin I will be. The only solution I've come up with so far is to throw our limited screen time rule out the window with our toddler, but even that will probably only help so much.

 

So, any tips or tricks for juggling the needs of two young children?

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Give yourself a lot of grace, and let a lot of things go.  You likely will not be able to sleep, shower, AND keep a house clean all on the same day for a while.  Look for someone you trust that can come help you out if you are having a really bad day.  (That was the biggest mistake I made, as we were in a similar situation with no family nearby, and my husband traveled.  I didn't ask for help from anyone, and it burned me out pretty quickly)

 

I had twins and a 3 year old, and I honestly don't even remember most of the first year...lol.  But you will get the swing of things.  

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I somehow survived and you will too! A few ideas: try to keep 3 yo napping if possible so you have a break. Or at least train him or her to play alone for a bit. Freezer meals. Get something going for supper every day early on since my newborns

 

Always wanted mama badly during dinner prep time. With this newborn, you will at least already know what it's like to take care of a newborn. Make sure you have an extra set of sheets and pass for all beds so you don't have to wait to do laundry if someone wets the bed. As my mom always said, this too shall pass!

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It works out.  

I found recovery from my second c-section a bit easier than the first (but it was scheduled versus emergent, plus the baby was smaller, and it happened during the evening hours, instead of hte wee middle of the night).  I didn't struggle with nursing my first, but even then, nursing the second was easier.  I already had a family style routine down, so I didn't have to reinvent the wheel.  Our lives already revolved around naptime, I had already made some mommy friends, and I already had adjusted to the career change of being a SAHM.  So, all those things were already navigated and removed some of the stresses of my first newborn period.

 

Yes, my toddler watched too much PBS Kids.  We ate some crazy one-handed meals those first few months.  My house was dirtier than I wanted.  My second child cried more than my first when I couldn't get to him (It evened out because he is not a crier by nature, and my first sometimes...often....cried even when we held him).  But it was okay.  And after a few weeks, we found our footing and our rhythm.  You will, too!

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You can do it. Give yourself grace. Make sure the pantry is stocked. Get some meals in the freezer. If your dh doesn't already do the grocery shopping and cook meals, make sure he knows he'll need to step up to the plate. Same with housework until you are well healed.

 

Yes, relax your screen time rules for a while. It will be okay. We are very limited here compared to most, but there have been seasons I have relaxed and new babies and little help us definitely one of them . Don't feel guilty.

 

Also, do not under estimate how long it takes to get out of the house with two little ones. It's insane and will drive you crazy unless you just accept it.

 

So much, though, will likely be easier than when you had your first. You are in "kid mode" and have routines around the care of your child. You've done this before.

 

Also, if there is money on the budget, consider hiring a babysitter once a week so you can run out to Starbucks between feelings or get some exercise by yourself.

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If you have a Y, join. I joined when my 2nd child was 6 weeks old. The membership comes with two hours of childcare. You can workout, walk slowly on the treadmill while reading a magazine, take a shower, or read a book in the lobby. One friend even took short naps. It has helped me ton over the years.

 

I'd do your meal planning now, get some meals in the freezer, and stock up on non-perishables. A big struggle I had was planning meals and writing a grocery list. Just knowing what we will eat takes done of that pressure off.

 

You can do it! It will take awhile to adjust but I promise you will be able to handle it.

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My older 2 are 1 1/2 years apart and I had c-sections with both. I wouldn't expect too much during those first few weeks. Especially with regard to schooling. Preparing dishes to put in the freezer is a good idea.

 

I got a trampoline, mega blocks, and magna tiles for him. I put the baby in a swing when I could. While I nursed, I read to him.

 

Then when baby was 3 months we went to museums and the park a lot. There's also story time.

 

My house was a mess. It's a busy, stressful time, but it can be an enjoyable fun time as well.

 

Don't forget to take lots of pictures. :)

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Will your DH be able to take FMLA if you're not ok in 9 days? Will he be available to take you to the doctor and the baby to the ped? I've never been able to drive at 9 days post op. I felt best after my 2nd and 4th c-sections. After my 2nd, my 1st child was 22 mos but very helpful and listened well. I didn't need to lift her. She could climb into the car seat alone, etc. After my 3rd, which was an extremely complicated surgery, I still needed assistance getting out of bed and chairs at 9 days. My older kids were much older and able to give me a shoulder or hand me the baby. I would've been bad off if I had a 3 year old with that one. I couldn't have handled the physicality required for caring for one, even one who was fairly compliant. My 4th went well, but I still wouldn't have been able to lift a 3 year old at 9 days out. Or squat and help with potty or...

 

Is there a friend's older kid who would be able to assist as a mother's helper?

 

Premade meals, grab and go foods for during the day (including for YOU if you'll be nursing), letting vacuuming and laundry and big chores slide will help. New books, new videos (Amazon or Netflix?), novel snacks for 3 year old.

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Will your DH be able to take FMLA if you're not ok in 9 days? Will he be available to take you to the doctor and the baby to the ped? I've never been able to drive at 9 days post op. I felt best after my 2nd and 4th c-sections. After my 2nd, my 1st child was 22 mos but very helpful and listened well. I didn't need to lift her. She could climb into the car seat alone, etc. After my 3rd, which was an extremely complicated surgery, I still needed assistance getting out of bed and chairs at 9 days. My older kids were much older and able to give me a shoulder or hand me the baby. I would've been bad off if I had a 3 year old with that one. I couldn't have handled the physicality required for caring for one, even one who was fairly compliant. My 4th went well, but I still wouldn't have been able to lift a 3 year old at 9 days out. Or squat and help with potty or...

 

Is there a friend's older kid who would be able to assist as a mother's helper?

 

Premade meals, grab and go foods for during the day (including for YOU if you'll be nursing), letting vacuuming and laundry and big chores slide will help. New books, new videos (Amazon or Netflix?), novel snacks for 3 year old.

This has given me a lot to think about. DH can take off an extra two weeks if he has to, but the nature of his work is that he'll get really behind and it'll hurt his coworkers to do that, so it's a last resort.

 

Last time, I took the bus to the pedi and doctor. It stops about thirty feet from our apartment, so it's not far. Of course, then I just had one baby to take in the stroller and it'll be a little harder with a three year old in tow.

 

DD is daytime potty trained, so I'm thinking about training for naps and night in a few months. I'm just not sure about the ideal time to do it...might wait until she's actually three in January.

 

Unfortunately, the kids we know who might be able to help don't live nearby and it'd be hard logistically for them to help. But I think you're right that we should have at least an emergency person.

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I had 4 children. With the coming of each new one, I wondered how on earth I would do it---and of course, I adjusted. I will say that for me the hardest adjustment was going from one child to two because previously my child had had all my attention and my heart was torn when I felt he needed something and I couldn't give it to him. (I am talking about little things like he wanted to be picked up and I was nursing and I couldn't do both. But I still wanted to be able to.) Once I had two, then the "status quo" was that the attention was already divided so that wasn't an issue with #3 or #4. 

 

I would look and plan for alternate sources of help for those first weeks. Do you have other family (siblings maybe?) who could come to visit even for a few days? Friends who could stop in?  Are you a member of a church or another organization where people could set up a care calendar for you and bring meals?  You can't hire a nanny, but could you hire a teenager for a couple hours during the afternoon? Is there a neighbor who could be "on call" if you are sleep deprived and desperately need respite?  (Once when dh was out of town and I had a 2 year old, a 4 year old, and a newborn who just wouldn't go back to sleep often at night, I asked a neighbor if I could call her if I was desperate in the middle of the night and became afraid I would not keep control in a sleep-deprived state. She was totally understanding and more than willing to help. Just knowing that she was there helped me get through because I knew I wasn't alone. I never had to call her.) 

 

Also a 3 year old child is going to be able to help you to some extent with things like going to get a diaper if the baby has an explosion in the living room and you don' t want to carry the baby to the room where the changing pad is, etc. There are lots of little things a 3 year old can do that make them feel important and are truly helpful. 

 

I would ask IRL friends with kids for their suggestions like you are doing here. Tell them that your parents can't come help.  They may volunteer themselves or they may know of local resources for you.

Edited by Laurie4b
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You can do this! One suggestion I have is to go to Costco or wherever and buy a huge stack of paper plates and cups use for the first little while. It cuts down on dishes a ton and takes one thing off your list of things to do when you have a newborn. No, it's not great for the environment, and yes, it creates a lot more waste, but your sanity is important and it's just temporary. When my youngest was born and I had a 21-month old, 3 yo and 5 yo, we ate off of paper plates and cups for nearly a year!

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Naps. For all of you. The importance of this cannot be overstated! Besides that everything is a blur and I have no better advice than all you have received. But seriously. Take LOTS of naps. Everything is more possible when you're rested.

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Lots of books and games like Candyland that I could play one-handed while nursing the baby.

 

But really, you just kind of do it. You might not be able to picture HOW right now, but you will. What's the most immediate need right this second? Okay, baby's hungry. Feed baby while reading to toddler. Baby fed, so now it's time for mom and toddler to eat. (Simple meals, freezer meals, make it so toddler can get some of her own food and drinks, whatever.). Now change baby. Baby's fed and clean, toddler is fed, so dress toddler. Everyone's happy, so throw a load of laundry in. Repeat.

 

If toddler doesn't nap, and you need a rest, I would have no problems with a little screen time so you can rest too. Put things on doors if need be so toddler can't go outside, or gate toddler into a room. (3yo are good helpers and not as needy as young toddlers, but they don't nap as much, so there's that trade off. I think every age gap has ups and downs.)

 

After you're cleared (not sure what the recommendations are post-c-section), if you don't have a good baby carrier, get one. If you have trouble using it, look for a baby wearing group or check out thebabywearer.com. My first was a high energy 3yo when my second arrived, and my second was happy as long as he was being held but for the first three years barely moved out of my arms. If I hadn't already been a baby wearer, I'd have become one with him, or I'd have gone insane. But because I could snuggle him up against me in a carrier, he was happy, and I could assist my daughter.

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Also, if I did potty train the toddler for night and naps, I would not count on that sticking with the baby's arrival. It's common for toddlers to regress a bit when a sibling arrives. You might find that more frustrating than just planning to deal with the toddler being in diapers for night and naps a while longer. Of course ymmv there.

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Two tips:

 

1. Your second baby is fairly likely to feel less overwhelming than your first. (Unless your first was unusually easy or this one is unusually challenging -- that does happen sometimes.) This is because you already know how to handle 'a baby' an the learning curve is just not nearly as steep. There's less trial and error and your ingrained habits will just pop out and be useful.

 

2. For now let/make your toddler do a lot of things independently: like climb into her own car seat and put the straps over her shoulders, or get a cup of milk for herself, or eat fruit without help alone at the table, or turn on the tv herself. Definitely dressing herself and getting ready to go. This will take 10x as long as you just taking care of it for her, but it will be a big help, so it's worth the patience.

 

(I don't mean she should do these things without your loving presence, of her own willingness, just to be co-operative. I mean only that you can work towards getting her physically capable of doing those actions with mostly verbal support, not so much hands-on support.) Any few of these abilities will help you immensely.

Edited by bolt.
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My life saver was a wrap baby carrier. You'll probably have to wait until you are completely healed... but it will enable you to have both hands free to help/do stuff with your 3 year old while still holding the baby. How many times have a cooked dinner with a baby strapped to my chest?

 

Also, if you take the bus often, a wrap is much easier to navigate with and pull along another kid. In a pinch you can still pick up a 3 year old with a baby in the wrap - at least I can.

 

ETA: and congratulations! My favorite part of having lots of little ones is seeing them love each other. :)

Edited by carriede
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I know this post will seem silly to those of you with large families, but maybe you can share some of your wisdom.

 

We are expecting our second child in March. Our older child will be a little over three at the time. Lately, it's really been hitting me how hard those newborn days were, and I'm getting anxious about caring for a toddler and a newborn at the same time. How do you ladies do it?

 

I'm having a repeat c-section (not a candidate for VBAC because of oblique pelvis) and my DH will be home for nine days post birth. Then I'll be parenting solo except for the hours of 5 pm - 10 pm during the week (though DH gets Friday, Saturday and Sunday off). We can't ask any of our parents to come stay with us because they all have health problems. We can't afford a nanny or daycare.

 

And that's okay, because I feel like I should be able to handle this. Right? I mean, lots of you do it with older kids added to the mix who need schooling after a little break--seems like this would be easy by comparison. But honestly, I already feel overwhelmed just being pregnant. I can't imagine how exhausted and stretched thin I will be. The only solution I've come up with so far is to throw our limited screen time rule out the window with our toddler, but even that will probably only help so much.

 

So, any tips or tricks for juggling the needs of two young children?

 

 

Does your three old still nap?  I would put effort into making a nap my new normal.  You could really use that as a habit those first months (or year.)  My 5yo and 6yo still nap.  They are shorter now, but we think they have value.  If you're nursing you really need to make food, water, and rest a priority over housework and busy-ness.  Making milk is a priority and the best way to make milk is to rest, drink water, eat food.

Simplify.  Meals need to be seriously simplified.  If he sits for book reading that is something else I would practice - just hold a doll and read a book.  These little down times are easier to teach now than when it's a real baby and that real baby is frustrated because it doesn't know how to latch on, kwim?

 

The only things I'd tell you is that you might find a newborn easier than being pregnant.  I don't like being pregnant and frankly, at the end of a pregnancy I find EVERYTHING hard and I'm so bulky - chasing after a toddler, sleeping, pretty much just existing.  I'm so euphoric to NOT be pregnant that those first few weeks go smoother.  

 

And, while the large family mamas have sorted through this in their past, please don't think it wasn't hard for us too. I don't think any of us pooh-pooh your concerns. :)  The nervousness and anxiety you feel over the transition from one to two is a *really* big transition and it's perfectly fine, normal, and true to have it be a big challenge and learning curve, kwim?!  

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Great advice above. With each new child, it took me about 4 months to feel like this was my real life and I had everything under control. Not to say it's all going to be awful for 4 months. Just don't feel like you're doing something wrong when you're a month in and still feel like you're learning how to function. Yes to extra screen time. I would not stress about getting your dd dry overnight, because I don't actually believe that is something you can train a child to do. Yes to getting her more independent with other things. Especially getting herself snacks and drinks. Big siblings are always hungry the second you sit down to nurse. If you have a church or homeschool community that can help with meals for the first few weeks, definitely accept that help.

 

You'll be ok! I promise.

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you are going to be recovering from major surgery as well as recovering from pg and dealing with a newborn.  please don't dismiss that.  are either of your mothers/sisters able to spend some time after your dh goes back to work?  do you belong to a church that can help out for part of the day?

 

I remember that time -I remember being nine months pg and strapping 1dd in a car seat and thinking "enjoy this while it lasts because soon it's going to be two".  1dd was really pretty easy (she's made up for it :glare: ), and she liked being a big sister with a baby to play with.  (I put 2dd under the christmas tree to look at the ornaments while I made dinner.  1dd would take off all her clothes . . . . ) .  I ended up with PPD and 2dd was extremely high strung. (she hated being a baby.) I was also babysitting a little girl who was about the same age as 1dd (it was like having twins, and they really did keep each other busy.)

 

try to be realistic about your expectations - you're going to be tired, don't worry about a clean house or extravagant meals.  it's ok to ask for help.  most magazine spreads about celebrity moms leave out the fact they DO have nannies and other help.

 

do you have the ability to make frozen meals ahead of time?  it could also work if you have the ability to splurge on some ready-made/almost-made meals.  that would be a huge energy saver for you with two little ones.

 

involve big sibling in helping with baby, and be sure and give time to big sibling too.  it varies with some kids - but 2dd, was really mad when I went to the hospital with #3.  she wouldn't come near me for a couple weeks at least.  she was 3 1/2.  for as easy as 1dd was - 2 dd was (probably more) difficult.  she did get over it - and I do think it was more about me being gone than the baby3.  (he was super easy an infant as she was hard.)

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I had 3 in 3 1/2 years, all c-sections. It's hard but not impossible! 

 

1) Ask for help with cleaning and cooking from friends and family and accept help when someone offers! Use paper plates/cups, etc. if you need to and don't feel guilty. 

 

2) Take TONS of pictures and journal about both of your babies frequently (what you did that day, funny things they said, their favorite foods/shows/books, anything!). It will all be a blur and when you look back at those journals and pictures you will be SO glad you took that time. There are so many stories and little things I never would have remembered, had I not journaled. 

 

3) Getting up and moving around will help you heal faster BUT remember to not overdo it with the heavier things (vacuuming). Don't lift more just because you are feeling good, follow those instructions! I healed the quickest with the 3rd because he was in the NICU so I got up daily to drive and see him.

 

4) Spend special time with the 3 year old; they will be in school before you know it. 

 

Enjoy every moment even though there will be days you will want to cry. It truly flies by! 

 

 

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I gave my 2.5 year old oldest son a tiny little baby doll so he would have a baby, too.  He loved that little doll and named him Sharkie.  It was really small--about as big as my hand.  Then, if I was doing something with the live baby, I could say things like, "oh babies!  We have to take care of our babies!  I'll take care of this guy while you play with Sharkie."   

 

I would talk a lot about how the real baby (not Sharkie!) was OUR baby.  How we would take care of OUR baby. 

 

I don't know if what I did worked or if my oldest was going to love the baby regardless, but my oldest never showed signs of sibling rivalry.  I would be sure to let the oldest hold the baby on his lap when sitting down (while I quietly hovered very close by.)  I would do my very best to include the oldest in anything with the baby and take lots of time to interact with the oldest. 

 

It wasn't, "Mommy can't play with you now because I have to feed the baby."  It was, "Our baby is so hungry!  We have to feed him!  Let's play as soon as our baby is done eating.  You play/watch *fill in the blank* until our baby is done eating."

 

Like other posters, I prepared a ton of food ahead of time in the freezer to pull out and eat.  My dh was home for 2 weeks and I didn't have a C-section, but I didn't feel too overwhelmed when he left for work, but I had longer help and needed less recovery time, so there is that. 

 

I do not have high standards for cleanliness, so letting things go wasn't that big of a deal to me.  Having a bit of mess didn't bother me as much as it does other people  Eventually you'll settle in to whatever standards you can handle and you'll find ways to get things done.

 

For those first few weeks, only do the bare minimum to keep you fed and clothed.  After that, worry about vacuuming and dusting and bathrooms--like 8 weeks later you can dust.  The dust can sit there for 8 weeks.  Ask our dh to wipe down the bathrooms and run a vacuum on the centers of the rooms on the weekends until you're back up to speed in however long it takes (2 months or whatever your recovery is.)

 

​Like everyone else said, it's all a bit of a blur.  I was always exhausted.  Nursing was a ton easier the 2nd time around because I knew what I was doing.  I was pretty sad that I couldn't "nap when the baby was sleeping" like with the first, because both kids never napped at the same time.

 

I was happy to stay home, but when it was time to go somewhere, I would start getting ready at least 30 minutes ahead of time.  Expect it to take 30 minutes or more to prepare to actually leave the house.  So if you have to leave at 2:00, start getting ready at 1:30 or earlier.

 

Unless you're really extroverted, expect to stay home for a good 3 or 4 months just getting the things done that you need to get done, like showering and eating and tending to the kids.  That's about all you'll do.

 

I did a chart of how long things took to do: changing a diaper, nursing, bathing and feeding, soothing: and found that it took 8 solid hours of work to tend to the baby every day, only those hours were scattered throughout 24 hours.  So, taking care of the baby was certainly a full time job, plus the toddler had to be tended to for all of his waking minutes.  He was an active little guy and I couldn't leave him alone to play or rest without me being right there the whole time. 

 

Life was just about keeping us all fed and clothed and clean for about half a year.  And that was it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by Garga
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I found the 2nd to be much easier than the 1st!

 

Mine are two years apart - don't underestimate the helpfulness of any kid old enough to grab diapers and wipes, a water bottle for you from the fridge, 'read' to the baby, and so on. 

 

My second needed less attention from me, because she got attention from the oldest. So, she could be out of my arms longer, with much less fussing. 

 

I would schedule all appointments on Fridays only rather than trying to deal with the bus, at least for a while. 

 

If you are hooked into the local homeschooling community at all, you may be able to find a mother's helper at very low cost to keep the 3-yr-old active and occupied a couple of times a week. 

 

Outside tends to be much better than inside for both babies and toddlers, as far as being content and occupying themselves. We spent tons of time on a blanket in the front yard when we couldn't get to the local park. 

 

 

 

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The best advice I was ever given was to practice making the older child wait so that they won't even unconsciously blame the baby for you not being able to help them right away every time. I don't need to do it now but I did when pregnant with my third. The other two were 18 months and 3 when he was born. Two times a day I laid down and rested. If they asked me to read a book or get a drink or whatever I just said sorry but I couldn't until I was done resting. I may have set a timer but I know I kept it around 20 mins. This taught my kids to wait and not expect immediate gratification. It also taught me how to better prepare for rest time (that would become nursing times). Things like getting out a toy bucket, putting down drinks or locking the gate the kitchen. It also began teaching them self sufficiency and I remember the older one helping the younger one quite a bit since I "couldn't". This was of course praised and encouraged.

 

Yes it felt weird and "wrong" to refuse to help them or read to them etc but I knew that that was coming anyways and better to have them not associate it all with the new baby. The adjustment to 3 was so much easier than to 2 even though they were all so little.

 

ETA: I was on the couch and therefore in eye shot of them the whole time.

ETA2: I forgot the most important part! What ever I said I couldn't do right then I always did as soon as my rest time was over. So they knew they could count on me even if they had to wait.

Edited by busymama7
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Make busy bags for your toddler, so you can just pull out something new and interesting to buy you some time.  You can just use ziploc baggies.  I'd put away most all the other toys so they don't turn into a mess everywhere.  Mine played so much better and deeper by being given a couple of things at a time, and just encouraging them to figure out something with those.  Then, they are able to put everything back in the baggie when they are done. 

 

 

I love this idea.  Right now before baby is born, put away many of the toys in easy to get out containers. Put them in the garage or someplace where they are not right there in the way.  It will make it easier to clean up when you are pregnant and right after baby is born.

 

When you get out these toys, they are almost brand new to toddler and will hold your oldest's attention so much longer!

These can be small busy bags with ziplocs, but they can also be bigger toys also.  When you pull something out, try to put away something.  Because, although it sounds couterproductive, less is sometimes better with toddlers.

 

And, you can do it! Don't let mommy guilt overtake you.  Sometimes it is hard with the second child because you are splitting the attention you give.  But, really, everyone's going to turn out okay!  

Edited by Okra
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It's pretty easy, truth be told, but only if you accept that it will feel funny and difficult and unnatural for at least the first few weeks, and probably not 'normal' again for 4-6 months. If you go with the flow, watch a lot of educational TV, have the toddler doing as much independently and helping as possible, and loaf on the couch nursing? That makes it much easier.

 

Some of it depends on how you're feeling and the baby's temperament, but the newborn phase isn't bad at all. It's just a matter of rolling with it and recognizing that you won't feel sore and tired and hormonal forever ;)

 

And yes - putting away all but a box or so of toys is a great idea, because a three year old can easily clean up after themselves with just a little verbal supervision and direction if the quantity isn't overwhelming. Now is the time to start training the big kid if you haven't already.

Edited by Arctic Mama
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I don't know if what I did worked or if my oldest was going to love the baby regardless, but my oldest never showed signs of sibling rivalry.  I would be sure to let the oldest hold the baby on his lap when sitting down (while I quietly hovered very close by.)  I would do my very best to include the oldest in anything with the baby and take lots of time to interact with the oldest. 

 

It wasn't, "Mommy can't play with you now because I have to feed the baby."  It was, "Our baby is so hungry!  We have to feed him!  Let's play as soon as our baby is done eating.  You play/watch *fill in the blank* until our baby is done eating."

 

 

 

I think this was wise enough to quote also.  How you look at things as a mom, and phrase it plays a role into how toddler sees things.  You are getting lots of great advice!

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Great advice above.  I want to emphasize a few things that were already mentioned:

 

  1. Freezer meals - Try out recipes now.  Get containers where you can subdivide.  Most recipes (at least for DH and I) made too much but when I had smaller containers I could usually get three meals out of one recipe.  One meal would be eaten right away and the other two frozen for eating later.  This is a HUGE help if you already have 7-8 meals or even more stored in your freezer.  Get 15-20 recipes that you and your DH like, put them in sheet protectors and keep them readily available (maybe even laminate them with self-laminating sheets and put them on a ring).  Prep at least 7-8 ahead of time, hopefully more.
  2. Y or other exercise place - Sometimes places have great specials where you can go for $30 or less a month.  Most offer at least 2 hours of child care daily.  That's two hours of child care nearly daily where you could get some exercise which will help tremendously with healing and with mental and physical health (once you are able to exercise) and you can even shower/read a book for a bit without having to pay an hourly babysitting rate.  I even paid bills during that time.
  3. Mommy Support Group - See if there are any mommy support groups in your area.  MOPS (Mother's of Preschoolers) is one of them.  They can be a tremendous help.  Get involved with one now, if you can.  Once the baby comes, you already have a group of local people that might be able to bail you out if you run into trouble and you have people to hang out with at park dates, etc. that you already know.
  4. Organization and simplify - Agree with up thread, brainstorm ways to simplify ALL tasks.  Make sure that you have easy ways of getting to the things you need daily.  Walk through your house and think about each thing and how you could make it easier/simpler after the surgery.  Have paper plates and cups ready to go for those really tough days.  Get your clothes organized so you don't have to reach up for anything.  
  5. Occupying the toddler -
    • ​​Agree with up thread.  Get bins to store extra stuff and just put those things away in the garage or a closet or something so it is easier to clean up and you are less likely to trip on something.  Get 2 gallon bags and stuff some toys in those.  Put them away until the baby comes.  Pull them out in emergencies where you really need your toddler occupied.
    • Check your local library for great audio books for that age.  Have an area where you can lie down and your toddler and you can listen to an audio book while they play.
    • Find out what shows are available for your child to watch that you would be comfortable with them watching.  There are a lot of nice TV programs out there for littles.  Have a list of what you are o.k. with and when/where you can get them access.  If you have a way to record them or find a sale and can play DVDs or Blue Ray, start stocking up now.
    • Start training them now to do little things to help out.  Make it a fun, positive bonding experience where you are both preparing for your ("your" meaning the whole family, including and especially the two of you) baby to come.
    • Have books around that you can read to them but also books they would be happy looking at on their own (pictures).  Maybe look for some garage sales or second hand stores that will have rock bottom price book sales.  (I got a whole bin of books for $1 once.  Granted, half the books were useless but I got several great books out of the deal.)
    • If you have a shady area and a backyard, considering trying to find a lounge chair you could lie in while you nurse your baby and your toddler plays.  Get some buckets, some measuring cups, some shovels, two disposable roasting pans and fill one with sand and the other with water.  Watch them play.  :)
  6.  Rest often - Seriously.  Whenever you have 20 minutes to nap, do so.  Don't stress out about the house or the laundry.  Rest.
  7.  DH -  You will have been through major surgery and your physical and mental resources are being split between trying to recover and taking care of two little beings that are VERY dependent on you for their survival.  DH needs to be cognizant of that.  Sit down with DH and discuss what he could do daily to help.  It doesn't have to be huge amounts of stuff to really help out.  Maybe on weekends he does laundry.  Maybe on Saturdays and Wednesdays he cooks dinner or thaws out one of the freezer meals.  Maybe on Tuesdays and Thursdays he watches the toddler and the baby for a couple of hours while you take a break.  Or whatever seems to work for the two of you.  Just work out some stuff ahead of time so you both are on the same page with expectations.  Be plain spoken.  I find that a lot of times my DH misses the cues I think are pretty clear.
  8. Babysitter - Find someone you can trust.  Having someone already in the picture is a huge help, even if you never end up needing them.  You and DH might just need a couple of hours to go out to dinner.  But you might need someone to come watch the kids because you are very sick.  Or maybe DH had something happen and he needs your help.  Having someone you know you can trust is a big relief.  One time our oven caught fire and filled the entire house with smoke.  Thankfully, a daughter of a woman from our church was available to come over right away and take the kids to their home.  Since I had gotten to know her before the situation arose, and had had her babysit before, I knew I could trust her to take care of the kids.  I was able to stay and clean up the mess, air out the house, and not have to worry that my little ones were running into the street or getting into something that wasn't safe and they were not breathing in the fumes.

Gotta run but hugs, good luck and hang in there.  Best wishes.  :)

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My suggestions . . .

 

+ Stash as many meals as you can in the freezer! Having things that are easy and tasty are key. 

+ Let go of official schooling for a few months

+ Enforce a quiet/nap time daily for 2 hours or so. During this time, be sure you get some rest. 

+ Let go of housekeeping standards. Sanitary and livable are all you need for a few months. You won't get this time back, but the housekeeping will always be there!

+ Let go of official out-of-the-house commitments for a few months to the greatest degree possible. 

+ Take any/all friends up on offers of playdates at their house/etc so your preschooler gets some fun times while you are resting at home. 

+ Accept any/all offers of help, meals, rides for your preschooler, etc. Just say YES PLEASE THANK YOU and let people help out.

+ Stock up on some new fun play-it-by-myself toys/games/crafts/videos/etc for your preschooler. 

+ Celebrate milestones! We enjoyed the "Birthday Cake" celebration after the baby's birth (a day or two late is fine). . . Your preschooler will enjoy this, and it's fun! Since you'll be in the hospital for a few days, maybe do a "Welcome Home" party cake (with hats and balloons -- prepare ahead -- you can get an icecream cake and have it waiting in your freezer. . .)

 

 

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