I’ve always heard that the transition for one child to two children is the hardest. And as we approach the birth of our third baby, I’m really hoping that’s true, because that transition was a huuuuge learning curve for us to say the least. Don’t take this the wrong way — But I don’t think I truly felt like a mother until I had two kids. It was only then that I felt like I was reaping the effects of, “Everything changes when you have kids”. Only then did I feel like I was really having to make sacrifices [for our kids], whether I wanted to or not. Only then, I realized, “Hey, this motherhood gig is kinda hard…”, and even felt I wasn’t cutout for it.
I loved becoming a mom of two, and I’m so stoked to add a third! Buuuuut I definitely love it more now that we’ve gotten a better grip on how to all respectfully and peacefully coexist with each other… Let me take a moment to emphasize “better“. We rarely have “perfect” days where the kids don’t bicker with each other, or act out because of something we did as parents, at one point or another. And even when we do get those days, I’m honestly not sure if they actually happened or I dreamt them. We are constantly learning how to navigate parenthood with each new day. But we’ve come so far and have so much less bitterness, and so much more patience than we once did. PLUS, though not PERFECT, we do have a lot of GREAT days!
So here are some pieces of parenting recommendations (that you can take or leave) based off what we’ve learned along the way – from the time we first introduced a second baby into the family, to now with them both being toddlers! Obviously they are totally based off our experiences and there’s more than one way to parent. But these are just things that have made a significant difference in each of us as individuals, as well as in our overall family dynamic. I will also include a few books at the end that I HIGHLY recommend and wish I would’ve read long before a couple months ago!
For reference, Brayden and Knightly are under 22 months apart. Also, I’m just gonna refer to the older child as “him” and “he” because writing “him/her” and “he/she” repeatedly might make it annoying to read.
Involve your oldest with as many tasks as possible.
Baby-related [or non]. It’s easier said than done. If you’re like me, you’ll probably get scared of the older one being too rough and potentially hurting the baby. Or you’ll become impatient at even the slightest thought of letting him help with something when you know you could do it much more quickly and easily. But one, babies are very resilient, and your oldest isn’t just gonna magically learn how to handle a baby if you’re not taking the risk [repeatedly] and teaching him. And two, worst case, you have to redo the task but you also gave your kid a sense of autonomy and he’s happy!
Some examples of things to involve them with:
- Diaper changes (exactly how involved will depend on age of course, but I started with asking Brayden if he could hand me a wet wipe or throw the diaper in the trash!)
- Changing clothes (again, age-dependent, but you could also start with letting them help pick out the baby’s outfit)
- Feedings (if you’re not exclusively breastfeeding, which I was, so Brayden didn’t help until we introduced solids)
- Cleaning up spit up (one of the things I was impatient with, but Brayden loved helping with this for some reason)
- Playtime/Tummy time
- Holding the baby (this was always him sitting down somewhere with Knightly laying on his lap, but I’ve also had friends with older kids actually experience WEARING their baby sibling, which I think is SO cool!)
You can pretty much involve them in anything, but don’t force it of course. If your child says “no” when you ask if he wants to help you change a diaper, don’t pressure him to do it anyway. That is likely to make him resent the baby and/or you over time as well. Only involve him as much as he wants to be involved.
Remember your oldest is still a baby.
This is more specific to toddler siblings, but… He may not be THE baby anymore, but he is still A baby. He is still learning and growing and needs you and wants you to help him.
There will be times when your baby starts babbling and your toddler (who most likely knows how to communicate effectively) will start babbling when talking to you as well. Just go with it. He’s not regressing, I promise. He just wants your attention. Don’t tell him to stop or that he’s a big boy and needs to use his words. Unless of course he’s actually trying to tell you something and gets frustrated because you don’t know what he’s saying… In which case, I’d just calmly respond with something like, “I know you’re trying to tell me something, but I can’t understand you unless you use your words.” That way, you’re not telling him to stop talking like a baby; you’re just giving him the option to use words so that you can help him with whatever.
My point is, you probably wouldn’t be rushing him to grow up if the new baby wasn’t there, so don’t rush him to just because there is a new baby.
Don’t close yourself off with the baby.
There are some exceptions to this, such as you’re napping and/or trying to get the baby to sleep. But even with the latter scenario, try to avoid it if you can. Just communicate to him that you’re trying to get the baby to sleep. One of the books I’ll recommend had a suggestion of giving options: He can be in the room quietly, or he can go play with his toys in another room and you’ll join him when the baby falls asleep. Gentle (and sometimes repetitive) communication is key with any relationship. Even with toddlers… Especially with toddlers.
I shut myself in the room alone with Knightly OFTEN when she was a baby, and I hate that I did that. Sure, Brayden got one-on-one time with his daddy, and that’s great. But sometimes, I think we are too quick to discount the feelings of toddlers simply because they’re toddlers. If someone I love was constantly closing themselves off in a room with this new human like they were in some exclusive club, I’d feel SUPER hurt. I mean, I am a type 4 enneagram and my love language is quality time, but still. I’d probably feel a little jealous, and maybe even act out a bit as an adult. Toddlers have all these feelings too, except, they don’t know how to properly respond to all their new feelings yet. And Brayden definitely built up some frustration about it and eventually went through a hitting phase with just me.
Schedule DATES with your oldest.
Like I said, my love language is quality time. But no matter what yours is, I think it is SO important to have quality one-on-one time with your loved ones. That includes your kids as well, no matter how young! Schedule a time, I’d say once a week if you can, to go on a “date” with your oldest. Preferably out of the house, away from potential new baby distractions so that he can feel you’re truly focused on him. You don’t have to spend money and it doesn’t have to be an extensive amount of time – it could be a picnic at the park if you want! Just make sure it’s not an errand that he’s just tagging along on [though those are fine too; they just shouldn’t replace the no-distraction date] and that you’re giving him your FULL attention.
Oh, and I feel like this goes without saying, but just in case… Don’t bring up the baby at all. Don’t ask how he likes being a big brother or what he thinks of the new baby. It’s fine to discuss if he brings it up, but try not to linger on the topic. Let him know you wanna talk about him.
I highly recommend doing this with each of your kids, new baby or not, and even as they get older. It’s great for them and for you to get the individual time together!
Schedule DAILY TIME with your oldest.
I was gonna include under the previous heading, but honestly, it deserves its own heading! I think it may be even more important and effective than the weekly dates, and I actually got this idea out of one of the books: Schedule a minimum of 20 minutes each day of one-on-one time for each child [with each parent]. This differs from the date suggestion because this would be a shorter period of time and at home!
Braxton and I came up with the plan to literally split up at home [each of us takes one kid… which can only be a thing for a few more weeks I realize] and give them our undivided attention. Whether we are doing a puzzle with them, coloring, building with tiles, whatever they wanna do for 20-30 minutes! Then we switch. It doesn’t have to be an immediate switch. I mean, we can split off again later in the day. But you get the point!
Again, this doesn’t have to be just something you do during the new baby transition. It’s proven to be very helpful [for our family] way beyond that!
I realize the above recommendations have been more so catered to helping your child adjust to a new sibling. So let’s get to some things that will help YOU adjust to having two little ones! First thing’s first…
GIVE YOURSELF GRACE.
Motherhood. is. not. easy. LIFE. is. not. easy. I’m 99.9% certain you’re doing just well as anybody else. It just looks different!
Slow Your Scroll.
I see you. You scroll through social media and see all those mamas with their pretty photos and homes and stylish outfits making them look like they should be on America’s Next Top Model. One, remember, things aren’t always what they seem, especially on social media. And two, take initiative to make sure that’s not all you’re seeing. Unfollow people, even if it’s temporary. Follow new people who you can relate with more in this season. Maybe even take a break from social media entirely if you need to! Speaking from experience, you’ll be amazed at the amount of free time that gives you to cope with anything going on.
Unpopular Opinion: Keep your house tidy.
I am fully prepared for people to come at me about this, and I’m not judging anyone who disagrees, but hear me out! Brax and I don’t keep our house clean for other people or because we feel obligated to. We keep our house clean because a decluttered, organized space keeps us feeling more at peace. I can’t always control the fighting over toys or the sleepy newborn cries or the fact that my husband is at work or doing school while those things are taking place (undoubtedly simultaneously because #momlife) and I’m alone with all my insane postpartum/breastfeeding hormones trying to find their way again. HOWEVER, we can control the tidiness of our home, and having a clean home in the midst of the chaos makes all the difference.
Pro tip: Take advantage of that nesting phase and declutter your home before the baby arrives! We hate stuff, so the minimalism lifestyle has just been a natural thing for us for a while now. I understand it’s not that simple for everyone though! Create your own version of it! I’ll try to write a blog post on that soon!
Practice Self Care.
Whatever that looks like for you. Maybe that looks like getting ready each morning or a relaxing bath each night. Maybe it looks like getting your nails done or reading a book. For me, it’s exercising (most times, with the little ones) and taking time for myself to improve/learn new skills that I can eventually teach our kids. Playing an instrument, learning a language, taking a class of some sort! Something you can do, at least occasionally, that will help reboot your mental health in a sense and allow you to tackle every day life a bit more smoothly!
Read Parenting Books.
Parenting books are so so great, despite the bad rep they’re sometimes given. The authors aren’t claiming their way of parenting is the ONLY way to parent, or that you HAVE to do it that way, otherwise, you’re a failure. Nobody is secretly judging you through your eyes into your soul as you’re reading each page (I can’t be the only one who has felt that way 😂) . The books are just tools! Just like this blog post you’re reading or your own observations of others, you can take what you want from it and leave the rest. You can try the suggestions and/or things you see, and if they work for you and your family, amazing; if not, keep looking for new suggestions until you find what does work!
A few of my favorites so far:
- Siblings Without Rivalry by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
- No Bad Kids by Janet Lansbury
- How to Talk so Little Kids Will Listen by Joanna Faber and Julie King
- The Whole-Brain Child by Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. and Tina Payne Bryson, PH.D.
Those are all really nice starting places for getting some parenting guidance. We’re dealing with children, here. Naturally, we’re bound to run into some conflict and emotional outbursts. So having a starting place with how to navigate those moments appropriately when they do occur makes life SO much easier!
Ask For Help.
Last, but certainly not least. Please ask for help if you need it. It could be from your mom, dad, sibling, friend, whoever. Maybe you need a meal, a coffee date, a babysitter, something small. If you have loved ones nearby, take advantage of that! It’s a gift! People love helping people, especially people they love. So let them help you!
Or maybe you need more help than that. Maybe you are struggling with postpartum depression or rage. Maybe something triggered your childhood trauma and you’re struggling to show up as a person. Life is just hard in general, and maybe you just need talk therapy! No matter the reason, if you need/want professional help, don’t feel ashamed to seek that out! In all transparency, I even started weekly therapy recently. I’ve got some serious traumas that like to sneak their way in and interrupt my daily life sometimes. But sometimes literally just talking about things out loud helps, no matter how big or “small” the issue may be!
This topic has been the most requested, so I hope you can gain at least something from this post! But again, these are just things that have personally worked for me and our family. So just try a few things out [or don’t, ya know 🤪], and find what works for you and yours!
Love you, friends! Please don’t hesitate to email me or comment below with any questions, or even if you just need someone to vent to!