While I was pregnant with our youngest daughter I spent a lot of time researching this topic. Our lives were about to change significantly, so what could we do to ensure that the transition from one child to two went as smoothly as possible??? I probably read just about every blog article going.
I followed much of the advice about making things easier on our three year old: we made changes around the house (like moving her into a big girl bed) gradually. As soon as I had a visible bump, we talked about the baby a lot so that she’d be used to the idea of having a new little sister.
My husband and I also did everything we could to get the house ready, so that we could focus exclusively on our expanded family once the new arrival was here. The nursery was newly decorated. The freezer was stocked with meals. The house was spic and span (sort of, ha!).
But even with all this planning, there were still a few things that I just wasn’t prepared for when our baby finally arrived.
I knew to expect that our lives would get a whole lot busier. Almost everyone is in agreement that when going from one to two kids the workload increases exponentially. It more than doubles. Fact.
However, there were other changes too.
Now that I’m almost couple of months into life with two littles (and the fog is finally starting to lift!), I can take a step back and reflect on these things.
I can’t speak for other parents of course, but for me personally, these are some of the unexpected things (good and bad!) that I experienced.
#1 You’ll feel guilty. A lot of the time.
I’m a worrier by nature, so have probably spent half my life feeling guilty about various things! However, even I wasn’t prepared for the level of guilt I’d experience with the addition of a new baby.
Firstly our toddler. Every time I tell her that I can’t play with her because I’m feeding the baby I just feel terrible.
She’s still really trying to figure things out. She loves her new sister but at the same time is well aware that she’s no longer the star of the show. I feel bad seeing her struggle with all of these new emotions, knowing that only time will help her adjust to the new dynamic, regardless of how much I try to comfort and reassure.
Next it’s the baby. I feel awful when I’m wishing her to sleep, so that I can spend a bit of time with her big sister or get some stuff done around the house. The newborn phase is so fleeting, and really I should just be enjoying every minute of her.
Then my husband. By the time he gets home from work I’m typically exhausted and barely capable of adult conversation. I’m really not the best company at the moment! And sometimes I just want to hand him the baby as soon as he steps through the door, so that I can give my aching arms a rest. But he’s tired too. That’s another thing I feel bad about.
So. Much. Guilt! And that’s before we even get to the rest of my family and friends who I hardly have time to call or text, let alone actually see. Sigh.
I keep telling myself that we’re in the most difficult phase and am going to assume (hope!) that the guilt will ease up a little over time as things calm down. Or maybe as parents, it’s just our lot in life to feel conscience-stricken like this most of the time!
#2 You’ll develop superhuman abilities when it comes to getting stuff done
I’ll admit that the prospect of taking care of the baby and toddler for a whole day by myself that first time was a little terrifying!
Like many newborns, our baby girl likes nothing better than to nestled be in someone’s arms. All the time. It’s like they have a sensor that goes off as soon as you try to place them in the bassinet or crib (even if they appear to be in the deepest of slumbers), isn’t it?!
So how on earth was I going to get anything done?
Well, it actually isn’t as bad as I’d anticipated. Worst case scenario, I can grab five minutes here or there while the baby is napping and the toddler is playing. And that’s really all I need to tidy up a little, put on a load of laundry or make a basic lunch.
Fortunately, our baby is quite content to be lugged around in the baby carrier for a while (what a lifesaver!) so that definitely helps too. At this point I’ve eaten a good number of meals with her strapped to me, trying not to spill crumbs on her sweet little head, haha!
It’s quite amazing what you can actually achieve in a short space of time, when you set your mind to it.
It can be exhausting, but it IS doable.
The housework may not all get done every day. That’s difficult for someone like me who’s a little on the OCD side, but I can certainly do enough.
And of course, there’s also a fair amount of lowering the bar in terms of expectations :). The definition of what constitutes “me time” has shifted dramatically at this point (5 minutes in the bathroom with the door shut counts!).
#3 New routines will be forged gradually and organically
In all honesty, we’re still adjusting to our new “normal”.
Of course, having a newborn around will pretty much throw any semblance of a schedule out of the window. However, I am starting to see some new daily routines slowly emerge. For example, most mornings the baby will sleep in, so my big girl and I get to have breakfast together in peace.
The bedtime routine has also shifted to accommodate the fact that my husband and I often have to pass the baby back and forth so that we can take turns doing baths, reading books, telling stories etc.
It hasn’t always been easy so far, especially given that toddlers seem to do so well with routine and knowing what to expect. The chaos can be a little unsettling.
However, we’re getting there. And the fact that we’re taking our time to establish new routines, and letting it happen gradually, definitely helps.
#4 Seeing your big kid cuddle their new baby sibling for the first time will melt your heart
This has to be one of the silver linings to all the craziness, doesn’t it??? Either it’s hormones, or that I’m just getting more sentimental and soppy with age, but I almost cried the first time that our big girl cuddled up to her baby sis and gave her a tender little kiss on the head.
I can’t wait to see them grow up together. And I hope that they’ll share the same close bond that I had with my brothers when we were kids (and still do!).
I’m already imagining how great it will be to see them play together, do each other’s hair, share a bath, get on the school bus together… And I love that I get to share this whole experience with my husband too.
I wanted to end on a positive note, because I’ve read so many other blogs and articles that focus solely on how difficult this transition is. I wouldn’t want to sugar-coat it, because let’s be honest, it is bloody hard work… but it’s also so wonderful too!
Oh, and one final revelation… going through this experience has given me a new level of respect and admiration for all those parents who have made the jump to three, four, five little ones… or indeed those with multiples. I take my hat off to you all!
How did you find things when going from one child to two (or more)? Would love to hear your experiences too!