My 14-month-old daughter was eating lunch when I slipped away to the bathroom to take a pregnancy test. The next time she saw me I was literally jumping up and down with a huge smile and screaming. She started to smile and scream with me throwing her spoon and its contents in the air. I wonder — if I knew then what I know now, how much quieter that moment may have been!
I planned for my son, just not his timing into the world. I knew that having two children under the age of two would be difficult, but I was wholly unprepared for just how difficult. Advice to me was sugar-coated: “It’s hard but it’s so great!” My advice to you, mama, waiting on number two with your first still in diapers, is this: “It’s great but HOLY DICK CHENEY MOTHER OF PEARL is it hard.”
I know I’m not alone either. There are boards and forums and Facebook groups full of moms with two under two. Some have other children in addition to their two under two, and there is plenty of advice that fellow moms have given about how to make the situation easier. No matter the advice they give, one thing is apparent- having two babies that are younger than two years old at the same time is HARD.
One mom, Lauren, had two babies in 14 months and had a 4-year-old daughter at the time as well. “I was shuffling back and forth from school pickups and drop-offs with a toddler and a newborn in tow. The toddler was still a baby- only 14 months old- and she still needed me desperately. Every single day (and night) was a struggle. It wasn’t until my youngest was a year old that things started to get easier.”
This seems to be true for many families. The baby stages with two under two is impossibly difficult. But as they get older, things get easier and dare we say, even sweet. The little siblings will start playing together. They will go to school together. After school activities can be done together. They might even have the same friends and playdates.
So yes, two under two is hard. Really, really hard. But the handwork will reap the benefits- even if those benefits aren’t seen for years.
I have learned a lot during my time with two under two. Many things didn’t come easily but as we have gone through the years, there are certain things that I have learned.
Here are the top ten tips I would give to my fellow mamas of darlings who are less than 24 months apart:
1. Shop online.
For flipping everything. Clothes, cleaning supplies, bathroom necessities, laundry detergent, it is all a couple of clicks away. If you are not an Amazon Prime or Mom subscriber, I highly recommend it just for the free two-day shipping. I promise it will pay for itself and then some, if just for convenience alone.
2. Crockpot. Crockpot. Crockpot.
Cooking healthy meals was my biggest failure and biggest stressor as a new mom of two. I wish I could tell my past self to rely on and plan crockpot meals as much as possible. There are a slew of ideas on Pinterest – take advantage!
3. Focus on one when you can.
As much as you can, focus on one child at a time. They both need you fiercely. When my newborn slept I was all eyes on the toddler. Even if I was cleaning she was cleaning with me. And when I got the chance to pawn the tot off on a friend or family member I soaked in my newborn, hoping to not miss the chance of sketching his face into my memory.
4. Battle plan a grocery shopping trip.
Grocery shopping is impossible. IMPOSSIBLE. with two babies. But if you absolutely must do it, here is the ultimate parking strategy: park next to the shopping cart return, get a cart, put the toddler in the shopping cart first, put on your baby carrier and then retrieve the baby. Also make sure you have activities and snacks for your toddler at the ready, have your credit card out of your wallet and in a pocket beforehand, have your grocery list items in order (very important) and always ask for help out to the car. Once you are back at the car have your help unload the groceries, then cart the toddler over to the baby’s side, unload baby, cart around to the other side to situate the toddler, and then you are right there at a cart return!
5. Order groceries online!
This is one that I wish was around when I had two-under-two, but it’s relatively new. And it has exploded since COVID-19. Buying your groceries, diapers, or basically anything nowadays is easy and convenient. You don’t even have to get out of the car which is a blessing. And you don’t have to walk around the grocery store with a baby who is hungry and a potty-training toddler who always needs to go potty once you are in the very back of the store. Online grocery pickups have come down for the heavens to help us mothers, especially those of us with two under two.
Another tip? Make a deal with a friend that you watch each other’s older children while the other grocery shops! Sometimes what you really need isn’t another bag of carrots- it’s just the opportunity to get out of the house and have a break for a little bit. So swap childcare duties with a friend so you can breathe a little while you shop.
Extra pro-tip: Do the grocery shopping online and swap childcare for kid-free Target shopping instead.
6. Wear your baby.
My son lived against me for the first few months of his life. I loved it and he loved it. It enabled me to still be there for my toddler and run the house. It’s the most natural place for a newborn to live anyway. He was like my little joey in my kangaroo pouch. He would peep his eyes out of the sling during wakeful periods and then go back to sleep against my chest. So in addition to being practical, wearing him provided some of my fondest memories from that difficult time.
7. Ask for and accept help.
You will be told several times “I’m here if you need anything!” Respond with “well actually,…” then pull out your ready-made list of items you need help with.
Don’t be afraid to ask a friend to take your toddler for a little while for a playdate (going from two under two to just having the baby at home is basically a dream). Ask a friend to pick up your groceries from the curbside pick up so you don’t have to put the baby, who hates the car seat, in the car again. Let people buy you dinner. Most people really do mean that they want to help, but they don’t want to offer and make you feel bad about it, or they don’t know what to help with. So put on your big girl panties (you know, the mesh ones you hoarded from the hospital) and let them know how they can actually help.
8. Eat chocolate.
Don’t feel too guilty indulging in your favorite vices. As long as you are still eating healthy and taking care of yourself it’s okay to find happiness in the form of your favorite treat. I don’t think I could have survived the first few months without my Starbucks hot chocolate!
9. Resign yourself to the following:
1) It’s harder than you are prepared for. 2) Your sink and laundry baskets will never be empty again. 3) Your toddler will be sad about it from time to time. 4) You will cry, or want to cry, every single day.
10. Forgive yourself.
You will do something every day that you will need to forgive yourself for. Making a lousy dinner, letting the tot cry while you feed the baby, being unable to take your family to the park on a nice day; there will always be something running through your brain at night when your head finally hits the pillow. When these thoughts occur, take a deep breath and whisper. “I forgive myself.” It really does help!