According to indisputable, statistically significant research, wherein I quickly thought about some of my friends and readers, an increasing number of people are having two children aged two and under — or, as obstetrics professionals say, “popping out dem babies back-to-back.” Highly trained researchers in the field of made-up facts, including myself and the cats, attribute this trend to more women having kids later in life, making them eager to take advantage of their shrinking window of fertility, as well as their overriding desire to optimize the “Kids Eat Free on Tuesdays” option at IHOP.
I am one of those women who has popped out babies back-to-back. Yes, in part because of the shrinking window of fertility, but mostly because of too many mai-tais. Being the mother of children just 23 months apart, and a family columnist-slash-funmaker, some expectant readers have assumed I have wisdom to impart on the subject. They are, no offense, out of their minds.
Mr. Candy and I were together for twelve years before we decided to have a baby. Those twelve years of mental preparation totally paid off, helping me hit the ground running when I became a mom and giving me ample time to perfect my Quarters game. Nothing, however, prepared me for the chaos of becoming the mom of two young kids.
As I once shared, I cried in the shower for the first eight months of having two kids — a confession that scared the heck out of some of my readers about to be in the same position. Oops. “Please share some tips for juggling two kids!” they asked, seeking comforting advice from the very woman who frightened them in the first place. I figured that coming up with a few tips was the least I could do in exchange for giving them nightmares, so I sat here in front of a blank computer monitor, reflecting. Just like my toddler on the potty: I sat and I sat and I sat and I sat and I sat and…nothing.
“Do you have any tips?” I asked Mr. Candy.
“Let me think about it,” he said, brow furrowed.
That was four years ago. (Explains that burning smell: four whole years of Mr. Candy thinking!)
So, instead of pretending we have grand advice to share about effectively juggling two kids under two and/or two and under (just saying that is exhausting), perhaps it would be more helpful if I shared what I would have done differently. To that end: How NOT to handle two kids two and under…
- Don’t expect to have any time to yourself. Downtime is a thing of the past. Buh-bye!
- Don’t roll your eyes when your husband suggests hiring a “Mommy’s Helper” to help when you’re alone with the kids during bedtime. Help is a GOOD THING. Embrace it.
- Speaking of which, don’t have family that lives 3,000 miles away.
- Don’t live in a townhouse with three levels of stairs, and another set of stairs to the sidewalk and yet another set of stairs to the garage, especially if you have a toddler who refuses to climb the stairs herself. (This has since changed. THANK GOODNESS.)
- Don’t be afraid to say you’re overwhelmed. Sometimes, just admitting it helps lift some weight off your shoulders.
- Don’t be disorganized. It’s okay to go with the flow with one child, but having a schedule would really help with managing two little ones. Or so I imagine.
- Don’t be afraid to let the kids cry a little bit when you’re juggling nap- and bedtimes (especially by yourself). I would stress out when one kid would cry as I was trying to put the other one down (and this happened a lot). Just take a deep breath, give your toddler a big kiss and tend to the infant because his needs are probably more pressing than your older child’s.
- Speaking of your older child, don’t hesitate to mourn the loss of his/her “babyhood,” because getting a younger sibling does force the toddler to grow up and be less dependent on you in some ways. And it’s okay to acknowledge that can be kind of sad.
- Don’t settle for having only two arms. You’re going to need at least six with two little ones.
- Don’t worry if you can’t keep up with the mess. Kicking toys out of the way is good enough sometimes. (And by “sometimes,” I mean most of the time.)
- Don’t expect to savor the little moments with your new baby as you did with your firstborn. You will be pulled in several directions and won’t have the time. And don’t beat yourself up about that. I always guiltily felt like I was shortchanging the baby; yet, despite that, my youngest was pretty much the happiest, smiliest baby in the history of happy, smiley babies. Because even though you can’t tend to the second baby with your one-hundred-percent attention, you are now armed with a secret weapon: your firstborn, whom your baby will think is the most awesome person on the planet. I could not wait for my daughter to wake up in the morning so she could help entertain her baby brother. All she did was shout gibberish in his face (communicating in his native “baby talk,” I guess) and the baby would literally shake with excitement and laughter. IT WAS AMAZING.
- Don’t forget to carve out special one-on-one time with each child when you can.
- Most importantly, even on your darkest days, don’t forget there is light at the end of the tunnel. Ten months after having my second child, I went from crying in the shower every day to glancing back at my two babies in the backseat, making each other laugh, and thinking, “Damn, life is pretty good.” (Although, every once in a while, a good cry in the shower still feels pretty damn good, too.)