Even though you don’t always realise it at the time, being a first-time mum is a totally indulgent experience. Everyone makes a fuss of you. You can spend hours feeding your newborn in front of grown-up telly. You can go for long lunches and coffees with your friends, whether they have children or not. You can take your little one into town without fear of tantrums and complaints.
Second time round, you’ll probably be breastfeeding one baby while rescuing your toddler from the bouncy castle at your local soft play. You’ll be soothing your crying newborn while your toilet-training toddler wees all over the floor. You’ll feel guilty that your newborn goes to the toddler-based activities your eldest enjoys, instead of the baby ones your first-born enjoyed.
You’ll feel guilty about dividing your time, attention and love.
However, when you see the incredible bond that forms between them from such an early age, you’ll know how lucky they are to have the gift of a sibling. My little ones laugh uncontrollably at each other – no-one else knows what they are laughing about, but the sheer joy in their eyes brings tears to my eyes.
A number of my friends are expecting second babies right now. Some of them are feeling quite overwhelmed as to how they will cope with two. I admit, I felt the same. I had a complete meltdown during my second pregnancy about how I would manage bath time with two on my own. When it came to it, it was fine.
My youngest is now 19 months old and my eldest coming up for three and a half. Here’s my top advice for mummies of two.
1. Do a massive cook-up and pack the freezer full of lasagnes, bolognaises, soup, pies, casseroles and other healthy family favourites. Planning meals in advance will mean you, your toddler and other half won’t go hungry in the crazy early days and you will be less likely to reach for the biscuit barrel in a fit of starvation.
2. Stock up on washing powder, toilet roll, cleaning fluids, bin bags, tinned and packaged foods… anything non-perishable that you know you use regularly. The last thing you want to worry about when you’re a new mum-of-two is running out of loo roll and doing a mad dash to the shops with two in-tow.
3. Accept help. It is not a sign of being a failure or being unable to cope. Having a baby is a full-time job. Having a toddler is a full-time job. Keeping on top of the housework and washing is a full-time job. You are trying to do all three, probably on your own and probably on very little sleep. People wouldn’t offer to help if they didn’t want to. They like to feel they are doing something useful. If your friend offers to take your toddler to the park, say ‘yes’. If your mum offers to clean the bathroom, say ‘hell, yes!’ If a friend brings you round some home-cooked food, at least get it into the kitchen before you devour it.
4. Be organised. Have change stations in every room you spend time in and make sure you keep them fully stocked. You won’t want to leave younger toddlers downstairs while you change your newborn, yet sometimes the effort of getting everyone upstairs is too much.
Have everything you need to get your children dried and dressed after their bath in the bathroom with you before you put them in the water.
Think about your daily routine. Knowing who is eating and sleeping when will really help. I found the hour between 5pm and 6pm rather challenging to start. My daughter would need food. I would need food. My husband would be home from work soon and would also need food. (We eat as a family… more on that in other blogs). My newborn son would need milk. It’s rather challenging cooking with one hand, feeding with the other and entertaining an almost two-year-old too. Preparing the tea earlier than needed helped me here. As did gently coaxing a routine so that they both slept at around the same time after lunch, meaning I had a bit of downtime to clean, tidy, cook or just veg in front of the telly.
5. Get out and about every day.
As much as I love my children to bits, it’s a long day if you don’t leave the house. Entertaining a toddler while balancing the demands of a newborn can be tough. In local playgroups and music classes the older one will be stimulated and have lots of company. Your other mum friends may even help out in times of craziness – holding the baby while you take the toddler to the loo, for example.
6. Try to spend a bit of time with your eldest. It’s not always easy if you don’t have childcare or family nearby. Even if it’s just half an hour at the weekend while your other half takes the baby for a walk in the pram, your elder child will massively appreciate that undivided attention.
What are your top tips for other mums-of-two? I’m sure they would love to hear your thoughts.