Have you seen this quote from Jim Gaffigan?
You want to know what it’s like having a fourth kid?
Imagine you’re drowning…
then someone hands you a baby.
The only change I would make to that quote is to take out the word “fourth,” because that’s the feeling I had after every kid.
It’s like your life is suddenly off-kilter. The nice daily spinning rhythm you worked so hard for is wobbling like a drunk merry-go-round.
Today we’re going to talk about how to minimize all the crazy ups and downs of parenting multiple kids. Especially when that mix involves a dependent wailing machine (a baby) and a selfish egotist (a toddler).
Those two can actually blend into a happy (sleeping) family. It’s just takes a little effort.
Your Pre-Birth Attack Plan
The best defense is a good offense, right?
You can do a lot to help your toddler transition into the “big brother” role by getting him used to the change waaaaaay before it ever happens.
- Name your baby early if you can, while she’s still in the womb. Then include your baby’s name in family conversations with the older sibling. (I wonder what Elena will look like? Would you like to go to the beach next summer with Daddy, Elena, and Mommy?)
- Have your toddler help you get the nursery ready for the baby by “folding” clothes, arranging diapers, etc. Ask questions about what he thinks his sister might like in her new room.
- Let your toddler pick out a new stuffed animal to go in baby’s room.
- Have your baby “give” your toddler a present when you come home from the hospital. Not only will it help with sibling bonding, but it will provide a great toddler distraction. *wink*
The best way to get your older child to get your older child cued into the mega-life-change around the corner is to talk about it. A lot.
Help him start to see some of the changes coming. Teach him how new babies need a lot of time and attention, but reassure him that he will still be special and you still love him.
One of my favorite ways to prepare my kids for a new kid was to slip a few “here comes baby” books into our nightly reading ritual. Here are a few favorites:
Three Ways to Master the
Baby/Toddler Juggling Dance
Those first few months of parenting two (or three, or four, or whatever number you’re on) are definitely challenging.
It’s like you’re on some medieval rack, being stretched farther than you thought possible.
I remember calling my husband and asking him to come home early one day, because I had reached my limit. I needed to go sit in the car, take a walk, or sit and stare at some blank wall, by myself, for a few minutes. The kids were making me feel like I was losing my mind.
Need proof that even moms with so-called baby blogs have less-than-stellar parenting days? Check out my first outing as a mom of three.
I’ve learned that there are three main things that can drastically lower your mothering blood-pressure. They are…
Organize Your Day
Think through what your days are going to look like, and then rearrange your home to maximize that schedule.
- Stash a basket with diaper changing supplies in the living room. (Think “easily accessible”.)
- Create a Mystery Basket for your toddler with special books, toys, crayons, etc. that your toddler gets to play with while you’re feeding the baby. Update the basket every week, adding new library books or forgotten Christmas toys.
- Use nursing sessions to sit with your toddler on the couch and teach him letters, numbers, and colors. I use the preschool curriculum ABCMouse with Bella (ages 2-6). It’s a great blend between “playing with Mom” and learning.
- Go to the library one morning a week for Storytime. Then let him bring home a few books for you to read while feeding the baby, letting him turn the pages “because he’s such a big boy”.
- Coordinate napping schedules so in the afternoon you have an hour or two to rest or enjoy time to yourself. (If your toddler isn’t taking an afternoon nap, that may make the evenings harder for him. Get help with his sleeping schedule.)
If you have a child who’s older and stopped napping, have him take a quiet time looking at books or playing quietly in his room. It will help him learn to play by himself and give you a much-needed afternoon respite.
Figure Out the Bedrooms Early On
It’s helpful to figure out where you’d like everyone to sleep ahead of time.
- Is the baby going to share a room with you for a few months, to avoid endless treks to the nursery?
- Will she eventually be moved to her own room?
- Will she be sharing with her older sibling?
Then you can…
- coach the baby while she’s in your room and then move her to Big Brother’s room once she’s sleeping through the night.
- move the older child out of the room (make sure he knows it’s just temporary!) and do the sleep coaching there, before moving him back.
If your children (up to age 6) aren’t sleeping through the night, sign up for one of my Sleep Coaching Workshops. We talk about your situation and come up with an effective plan that will get everyone sleeping again!
Agree on a Parenting Philosophy
You’re about to read the least helpful factoid on this page: Toddlers have tantrums. (If not at age two than definitely by age three.)
That’s just what happens when you’re just learning how to communicate and a parent dares to say no.
You and your spouse will need to decide how you are going to handle these temper tantrums and then respond right away, without extra emotions, every. single. time.
Want to still have these temper tantrums when he turns 6? Be inconsistent.
Helping your child learn your “no” means business takes a calm spirit and a LOT of consistency. The earlier you, as parents, decide how you will address these temper tantrums, the easier it will be. Trying to figure out what to do about your toddler’s fussing while your newborn is screaming her lungs out for lunch is a recipe for disaster.
Talk it out ahead of time, and then consistently implement the plan you decide on, no matter how long it takes.
Like I said above, it takes time for you to get your “sea legs,” so to speak, in balancing a new baby with older siblings.
Your life is going to be focused on those two little people and not much else.
That’s where my favorite word really pays dividends: delegation.
No-Planning Meal Planning
I’m not a “throw something together” kind of cook. If I don’t have a meal plan for the week there’s a 99.9% chance we will be eating out. And that gets expensive.
Two years ago my sister introduced me to eMeals and I’ve been hooked ever since. (I use the Kid-Friendly Plan, which my picky-eater kids actually really love.)
eMeals is having a 20% off back to school sale. Use the coupon code SCHOOL during checkout and save 20%. (Expires on 9/30/14)
Grocery Shopping Online = Heaven
I used an online grocery service a LOT with a newborn. Nothing stressed me out more than the thought of grocery shopping with a herd of children under the age of 6.
Have Low Expectations.
(Especially at First)
Do not walk into “parenting more than one” thinking that…
- if your baby cries for more than a few minutes you’re a bad mom.
- if you put your toddler in front of the television or the iPad (or some other electronic doohickey) you’re a bad mom.
Neither of these things are true. Actually, let’s be honest: BOTH will probably happen at some point.
Listen, friend. There are 101 different ways to be a good mom, and “baby never cries” or “kid never watches TV” aren’t on the list.
Remember, you have three goals during those exhaustingly intense few months.
- Feed your children when they are hungry.
- Sleep as much as possible. (Make sure both kids are safe!)
- Hug, smile, and love all over these little blessings.
Those are your goals. Everything else is bonus.
What about you? How do you balance your kids? Do me a favor and share it here. It will encourage the moms coming up after you!
Meet Heather Taylor
Heather is the Chief Encouragement Officer here at Incredible Infant and has been writing and encouraging parents online since 2007. She's certified in baby sleep coaching (yes, that's a real thing), has served as an Expert Parenting Panelist for numerous events, and has been a featured writer on blogs like DaveRamsey.com, SimpleKids.net, My Kid's Adventures, Cafe Mom, and others. If it's 2am and you're desperate to read SOMETHING, click here for all her darkest secrets, including why she really shouldn't be allowed to blog.