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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

making time for two littles

You've heard it before... having two babies in your world makes things twice as fun, but also more challenging. It's busier, that's for sure. Your attention, time, and thoughts are split between two little ones who need you. I explained what it was like to have two kids like this... take all that you do with one child, and double it ... and then add even more time to that... That is what it's like doing what you do with two kids.

And yet... it's manageable. You figure it out. That's my classic line to people who ask me what it is like having a second child. You just figure it out. You do. It's hard the first couple of months, and then you get into a routine and it just works. And you laugh... A LOT... so that makes it worth it!

One part about having two kids is figuring out how to make time for two of them. Your attention is split. There are two littles who have different needs - at the same time. I know so many moms worry about this when they add another child to the mix, HOW will they make sure they give enough attention to both. Here is how I've learned to make time for my two little monkeys.

*During naps- In the beginning I was nursing my youngest, so she would eat after I'd put my son down for his nap, which put her going for her nap a half hour after he did. She also couldn't just eat and then lay down, it hurt her belly, so she'd play for a half hour, then we'd go up for nap. That half hour was sacred for us. It was when I felt I had total undivided attention on my newest little one. We did that at least through the first year or more. I loved it! It's difficult to get two kids to sleep at the exact time, so having it staggered in the beginning was helpful. Now they sleep at the same time so we don't have this alone time together before nap like before.

*When one wakes earlier- My children typically wake the same time every day, but at least once or twice a week one wakes earlier than the other either in the morning or after naps. That's always a nice 15-30 minutes of one-on-one time with whoever is up. We have to be quiet since the other is still sleeping, so we read typically or snuggle with a snack. I always make it a special thing, get out a treat to share or tell them I found a cool book just for them, etc. Take advantage of extra time like this.

*When you put one to bed before the other- Last night I did this. My oldest had taken a really long afternoon nap so wasn't ready for bed right when we typically send him, but my daughter was sick and exhausted so we put her to bed regular time. I made a big deal of it, telling my son I was proud of him taking a longer nap and that he got to stay up extra later with me for a special date. His grin on his face was priceless! We colored with "big kid markers" as I called them, again anything to make it seem out of the ordinary special. We talked, without his little sister bugging him. We spent a half hour like that.

We also have started reading a story together, and then another one with just our bigger guy so he gets that alone time. He gets frustrated with his sister talking during the story, so it's easier to let him have his own story sometimes.

*Bath time- One is playing, one is interacting with you. It's a time when you have both of them, but you can divide your attention easily. My son is bigger so he typically has games he likes to play in the tub, so I focus on my daughter a bit at that point.

*In the car- Typically you can talk to your older one for a while in the car, especially for the long period the younger one is facing backward in the car seat. This is always my time to check in with my son about his day, tell him about my day, point things out in the road, etc.

*Running errands- It's WAY easier to go with just one child than two, so if at all possible my husband and I split up and take one child at a time. This ends up being some alone time with that individual child, too. It gives me time to laugh with them, teach them things like finding groceries or being polite, and spoil them, too, with a treat after if we have a good trip.

*Alternating- When I go up to get them in the morning or say goodnight before bed, I alternate which room I go into first. I don't know why it matters, but to me I try to do it. I don't stress about it and don't memorize which room to go into first, I just try to make a conscious effort to mix it up.

*Special Dates- My husband and son have been doing "special breakfasts" since before our daughter was born. He takes him out to breakfast just the two of them. When they go out, I get one-on-one time with my daughter. My son also is obsessed with being outside working with his dad, so they get a lot of alone time doing big kid things while I've typically been inside with the younger one. I take my son out for special dates, too. It's fun to go out for something bigger sometimes, but it's also good to just hit up a playground and get a cookie some place.

Make it count. 
Taking five minutes to spend with one matters. It doesn't have to be a ton of time or planned out or a big outing. It just has to happen... so take advantage of the small moments, they add up to something big.

In the very beginning, I'd have my newborn nursing on me while talking to my son about something or reading with him. When the newborn would sleep for 15 minutes I would play a game with my son. No rest for the weary when they are little like that! But it's important. I think moms feel guilty if they can't spend hours with their kids with individual time, but what I've found is even a solid 5 minutes of undivided attention is helpful. Spending quality time can mean laying down next to them while they play with cars on the floor, asking which one is his favorite or what the cars are doing. Kids don't have high expectations. They just want you focused on them for a period of time, frequently.

It is difficult at first to figure this process out, the whens and hows of raising more than one little one underfoot. But you can do it. I promise. It just takes some focus sometimes. It takes ignoring chores like never before, because you know 15 minutes spent with your big kid playing with dolls or tractors is more important than clean dishes in the sink.

Interested in hearing more about my transition from 1 to 2 babies? Check out some older blog posts from last January 2013, starting with this one:

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