When the Second Baby Arrives

Survival tips for moms of more than one small child.


That first baby is a big shock to the old lifestyle but it's also kind of luxurious. There's time for baby-rocking and eye-gazing. Life is filled with magic and surrounded by a rosy glow. But with two kids, that magic can turn into chaos pretty darn quickly. If you're going to survive, you'd better whip yourself into shape. We're talking about organization, sleep scheduling and the lessons kids learn when they're no longer an only child.

Brittany has two boys now; her baby and her three-year-old and no childcare help. The baby is a "snooze-grazer" who falls asleep fitfully after rocking and breastfeeding, only to wake up cranky twenty minutes later, all night and all day. Her older son isn't the kind of guy who sits around quietly doing puzzles either. He's a hurricane and smart enough to know that when the baby's sleeping, he gets Mama all to himself. He'll throw a tantrum to prove it, if necessary. Brittany's exhausted and overwhelmed. "I thought the second baby would be easier but I feel like I'm drowning."

Tia's kids were born 18-months apart. She works part time but when she's home with her kids, she sticks to a super-strict schedule. "I used to be the most free-spirited person, but now, it's all about the schedule. They have a daycare schedule and a mommy-care schedule. It's repetitive doing the same things every day but it's working. Now, when they're going through some developmental change, there's less madness because they know how their day will go. They've got it nailed."

How Far Can You Stretch Yourself?

Years ago, when I had two-under-two, I did medical transcription at home when my babies napped. Except they didn't nap often enough, long enough or at the same time. We were all exhausted and stressed out. One day, I'd finally gotten the baby down for a nap when my toddler got a bad case of the "clingies." My transcription report was due in two hours. I arranged snacks and toys and tried to type while my daughter played next to me. She wasn't having it though. The more stressed I got, the more demanding she got. She climbed in my lap, threw a massive hissy fit and slammed her fist down on my keyboard, deleting every word I'd painstakingly transcribed. That was a million years ago in computer-years and mine didn't do "auto-save." I was screwed so I had my own meltdown. The baby woke up, added her screams and we had ourselves a no-holds-barred, all-girl tantrum. I felt like a bad mom, bad employee... just plain bad. And I'd been trying so hard to be all things to all people.

I desperately needed some structure... hell, I needed scaffolding and a schedule. One where my kids slept at predictable hours; with room for playtime, work-time and even a daily shower. It meant delegating and dividing housework and childcare between my husband and myself and a total overhaul of our priorities. This was the beginning of real family life. Not just Married Couple With Kid. We had Kids. We needed to work, sleep, bathe, exercise, have friends, read books, cook dinner and even have sex once in a while. And the kids needed to know their parents were in control.

Kids come into the world a disorganized mess. They're at their parents' mercy to make sense out of life. Clawing out a schedule is tough. When kids' demands are so whim-based and erratic, where do you start? By knowing that scaffolding supports healthy, well-behaved kids and parents who aren't tearing their eyes out. Take it step by step.

10 Survival Strategies:

  1. Remember that you, the parent, are in charge.
  2. Perfection is unattainable. Nail down your priorities and go for "good enough" instead.
  3. Establish and enforce normal bedtimes and naps. Seriously. Kids need sleep to thrive. Parents need them to sleep to get anything done. Pick a sleep-training book and tailor it to your family.
  4. Expect kids to protest newly imposed schedules and rules, but don't let their temper rule the household. Remember step one.
  5. Be consistent. Keep things simple and give everyone time to adjust. Predictable, straightforward parenting is always the best.
  6. Ask for help and expect your partner to do his/her part.
  7. Do less and expect everything to take longer than it should.
  8. Multitask realistically. Your kids and your boss deserve your full attention, but not at the same time.
  9. Don't entertain your kids all the time. Kids that can self-entertain learn to enjoy their own company and become self-sufficient.
  10. Take care of yourself. Let go of the frills but this stuff is crucial: bathing, sleeping, eating well, exercising and your own personal playtime.

Jeanne Faulkner, R.N., lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and five children. Got a question for Jeanne? E-mail it to jeanne@jeannefaulkner.com.

This Fit Pregnancy blog is intended for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace medical advice from your physician. Before initiating any exercise program, diet or treatment provided by Fit Pregnancy, you should seek medical advice from your primary caregiver.