On Raising an Infant and a Toddler at the Same Time

You're in for a treat. Meagan Feeser, a mom of two, writer, nonprofit wunderkind and more, is writing this week about something about to be very near and dear to my heart: raising a toddler and a baby (or, in my case, babies), at the same time. You'll love her (might I suggest this post as a good intro to Meagan!) 

Thanks, Meagan!

My daughter and son are 21 months apart. When I was pregnant with my son and asked other moms of children close in age to give it to me straight, most of them didn’t sugarcoat it: it’s really freaking hard.

You didn’t actually ask me, but I too am going to give it to you straight. Raising an infant and a toddler at the same time is hard. Really freaking hard. I’m not usually one to impart parenting advice, as I generally subscribe to the “whatever gets you through” mentality, but since you (didn’t) ask, here’s my two cents on raising two kids under the age of three.

Accept (or Seek) Help

When my first child (my daughter) was born, there was definitely some ego at play in me wanting to prove I could do the whole “mom” thing on my own. I didn’t let people take the baby when they offered. I didn’t accept help. I should have. It didn’t make me a hero; it made me a martyr.

One of the saving graces when my son was born last spring, was every afternoon, one of my parents would come take my daughter for a few hours—take her to the park, for ice cream, to their house, wherever. It gave me a much-needed break from a “spirited” toddler, gave me and the baby some alone time, and it gave my daughter the one-on-one attention she needed as well.

In short: let people help. Take them up on that offer to let you make a solo Target run.

Triage

Whines, tears, yells will fill your house. Your life is now an unwavering assault of attempts to get your attention. You can’t take care of everything at one time. Assess the situation, see who’s in immediate danger/who has an easier fix/who’s about to destroy your entire living room, and start there.

Synchronize

As soon as you possibly can, start working your infant into a schedule that syncs with your other child(ren): eating, napping, bathing, etc.

My kids’ naps overlapped at least once a day. I plunked my son in the bathtub in his bath sling with his sister once he was just a few months old. As soon as he was eating solids, we were all sharing mealtimes.

The sooner you can kill multiple birds with one stone, the more efficient your life will become.

Encourage Independence

My daughter has been stubborn independent since birth, a trait I (mostly) now relish because her independence means more time for me to focus on other matters. In the mornings, she goes to the bathroom, brushes her teeth, picks out her own (ridiculous) outfits and gets dressed, 95% by herself. Encouraging her to be more self reliant has made the whole household run smoother.

Helpful Toddler

I also then exploit my daughter’s self-reliance and independence to put her to work. She can fetch Nuks, diapers, sippy cups--anything really. She’ll even toss dirty diapers in the Diaper Genie. I’ve even trained her to let the dog in and out.

I’ve also really played the Big Sister Card and enlisted her help in quieting her brother on car rides, reassuring him when he’s crying, closing a door before he’s about to enter a room he shouldn’t, etc. Hey, there’s no child labor laws for siblinghood!  

Pick Your Battles

Because my daughter is so stubborn independent, we often butt heads, usually over the smallest matter, like me closing the refrigerator door when she wanted to do it. I’ve learned to pick my battles. There are non-negotiables – like no hitting her brother or the dog, no disrespectful talk toward me, no throwing toys, etc. But there are quite a few things I’ll just let go. You want to close the fridge door? Sure, I’ll just reopen it so you can close it. You want to wear those offensive lime green polka dot pants with that shirt to school? Go right ahead. (Seriously, I even have an Instagram hashtag, #whatholdywore, so you can see some of her more creative combinations.)

Everything Is a Phase

If you can remember that everything is a phase, it makes dealing with the hard times just a little bit easier. The baby won’t always get you up three times a night. The toddler won’t always hate every food that isn’t a pancake. You won’t always have to watch Frozen on repeat.

This is, however, both a blessing and a curse.

Two naps will eventually change to one. A toddler who previously went to bed like a sweet little angel may decide she’s afraid of her room. She may also start to hate pancakes.

Just remember: everything is a phase and there’s a fresh new horror around ever corner.

There’s a saying I’ve seen pop up recently in various “you can do it, mom” articles: “the days are long but the years are short.” It’s absolutely true. Some days it will seem like you absolutely cannot soldier through. Some nights you may just need to hide in your closet for a few minutes to cry. Do it--there’s no shame. Then stop, dry your eyes, and go back into the fray.

Another quote that’s really inspired me comes from the brilliant Tina Fey:

“You go through big chunks of time where you’re just thinking, ‘This is impossible — oh, this is impossible.’ And then you just keep going and keep going, and you sort of do the impossible.”

You got this.


You can find Meagan online (and you should!) here: