Benjamin was 20 months old when Annabelle flew into the world and was caught by her Daddy at home on the bedroom floor! 2 minutes later Benjamin toddled in, pointed at her, said baby and wandered back out to play with his toys! Not quite the relaxing water birth I’d hoped for or the way I’d imagined Benjamin being introduced to his baby sister!
From that moment on life has been full on, crazy, intense and awesome, it feels like we’re living at a million miles a minute!
“You've got your hands full!” Is a comment I hear often, generally as I'm trying to steer the pushchair with one hand, holding Benjamin on my shoulders with the other…. or as I try to navigate a shopping trolley around Aldi peering round Annabelle in her car seat with Benjamin in the trolley surrounded by food chattering away to the grapes…… or when I answer the door with Annabelle attached to my boob and Benjamin hugging my leg.
Yes, I do have my hands full, but my heart is even fuller!
“Are you coping?” A question which I'm never sure how to answer because truthfully I don't know! I don't know if I'm doing a good job, I think I'm doing OK but then again I don't have much time to think about it, we're just busy doing life! We're all washed (ish), dressed, fed and watered everyday so I guess we must be coping!
There are times when I wish I could split myself in 2 or 3 or 4, like when I'm changing a monster poo nappy from Benjamin whilst he's standing up because he wriggles when lying down and he's playing Fireman Sam and shouting rescue me rescue me nee naw nee naw at the top of his voice and Annabelle's bored of looking at Freddie the Firefly on her jungle gym so she's screaming too and I can't comfort her until I've finished poo gate with Benjamin so make a lousy attempt of singing to entertain her, or am I singing to keep myself sane? I'm not quite sure but I feel sad because I can't rush to her like I did for Benjamin when he was a baby.
Then there's the times I'm breast feeding Annabelle and Benjamin wants a ‘Mummy Cuddle' so he gets behind me holds on to my hair shouting giddy up Mummy in my ear and pulling my hair like its reins, I feel sad that I can't play with him like I used too because Annabelle needs feeding, these times I would love an extra two arms.
Then there's the times Annabelle just falls asleep and is snoring away and I think ahhhh 5 mins sit down, Benjamin realises my hands are free and starts shouting for a tickle fight with the Mummy monster, of course I want to play I spring into action as the Mummy monster and just as we collapse on the floor laughing, Annabelle wakes up with the noise……
It can be quite stressful, it's certainly exhausting but it's definitely fun! I absolutely love adventuring through each day with my baby bears.
Yes I wish I could split myself in two and yes, my hands are definitely full but my heart is even fuller I can't put into words how much love I have for my children but there are definitely times when it's not easy.
I love a challenge, and am always experimenting with ways to be as productive and efficient as possible so I want to share some of the things that have helped me survive the last 2 months and still have a spring in my step and a smile on my face.
Here are my 15 survival tips for doing life with two under two.
1. Get out of the house
There are loads of playgroups, mother and toddler groups, sports clubs, art clubs, swimming clubs out there just waiting to welcome you and your munchkins. Check the children's centres, local library websites and notice boards, church notices, Facebook groups. There's a huge mix of paid and free groups.
We go to playgroups, dancing, gymnastics, sing and sign, we've been to an inflatable playground, swimming, even a messy play group where Benjamin ended up sitting in a paddling pool of spaghetti! That one wasn't really our cup of tea but it was an experience!
Benjamin loves them! It's a great opportunity to meet other mums and for your toddler to socialise with other children of different ages as well as play with different toys, do different activities, sing different songs and just have loads of fun. They are fantastic for developing a huge range of skills.
I tried a few until we found a couple we loved and felt comfortable at and now go to every week, it feels like being part of a family and you know everyone looks out for each other. I can feed Annabelle and know Benjamin is safe and having fun or Annabelle can have cuddles with another mum while I do crafts with Benjamin.
2. Get a Sling
I LOVE my sling! I have a Close Caboo and it is amazing I'd be lost without it, perfect when you need your hands free but baby needs a cuddle or is struggling to settle for a nap. I do house work, make playdough figures, cook, go for walks where pushchairs don't go and have my hands free to play with Benjamin.
3. Hire a cleaner
I really struggled with this one, I hated (and still do) the thought of anyone cleaning up my mess, I'm a bit of a perfectionist and like things doing a certain way and I'm one of those really strange people who actually enjoys cleaning, I also really hate spending money so it took me a while to come round to the idea of paying someone to clean. But now there's no going back, they do a fantastic job and as much as I love cleaning I love spending time with my children more, that extra time with them, not having to stress about it and coming home to a clean house once a fortnight is worth every penny! Even if you just have one for the first couple of weeks do it, it's one less thing to worry about.
4. Don't make plans
Especially not in the early days, When Glen went back to work I said to myself if we get up, fed, washed and dressed then that's an achievement, if we get out of the house it's a bonus, and we did! Everyday, but we had no plans, no time constraints we just took each day at a time. We still do take each day as it comes and although we have plans of things we can do and places we can go if we don't get there on time or at all then that's fine. I have two times of day; morning or afternoon, if I have to give a time it's an ish and 10ish can be anywhere between 10.00 and 10.59!
Friends and family will understand and if they don't then they're definitely not the sort of people you want to be around!
Keep life simple and stress free, you and your babies come first the rest of life will fit around you.
5. Involve your toddler
Your toddler has had you all to themselves for all of their life, having a new baby is a massive change, their little world has been flipped around upside down and they are no longer your only priority. Don't let them feel pushed out, include them in everything, yes it will take longer to bath baby or change a nappy, but it will make your little munchkin feel important to have big brother jobs and also keep them occupied when you need your hands for your baby.
6. Get a routine
I've never been a huge fan of routine, I had next to no routine with Benjamin until he was at least one but I knew it was going to be necessary with two babies for a happy household.
I am very very loosely following Gina Ford's Contented Baby and Toddler routine for morning and evening, but not for feeding as I breast feed Annabelle on demand. I'm finding it works really well, Annabelle sleeps brilliantly and it seems to be helping Benjamin to sleep better too.
We stick as much as we can to our get up routine and our tea, bath and bedtime routine but the rest of the day really depends on what we're doing, it's probably quite easy to stick to if you stay in all day and never have visitors but we like to be out and about doing different things each day so I stick to nap times as much as possible but don't worry if it gets in the way of life! I'm certainly not going to try and keep her awake on a walk in the pushchair, make her sleep at a noisy playgroup or wake her up to feed her whilst driving!
7. Batch cook meals.
I guarantee you will not have the time, hands, inspiration or inclination to cook! The closest I have come to ‘cooking' is to stick a bit of butter and squeeze a lemon over some salmon before bunging it in the oven with some pre prepared sweet potato wedges! If it takes longer than 10 minutes to prepare its just not going to happen! So I've batch cooked and frozen a load of clean meals included chilli, bolognese, lasagna, beefy thing and chicken curry; I've chopped and frozen sweet potato, carrot and parsnip and bought frozen veg including chopped onions and peppers. All you need to do then is pull out frozen meals the night before, or put meat in the slow cooker in the morning with the veg or steam the veg just before tea time.
8. Have plenty of healthy snacks at hand
When you've got your hands full of baby the last thing you want to worry about is preparing food for you or your toddler, so keep a load of healthy snacks at hand, we often have different combinations of the following for lunch,
Hard boiled eggs
TOP TIP #1 keep dry snacks in a box for your toddler in your changing bag so you always have something when out and about, the last thing you need is a hyper toddler because you had to feed him junk food.
TOP TIP #2 Prepare fruit and veggie sticks on an evening so they are ready to grab and eat during the day.
Eating healthily is a great way to boost your energy which will absolutely make life with two under two less stressful and more enjoyable, you can find more ways to boost your energy in my book Rocket Fuel For Busy Mums – 9 Natural Ways to Boost Your Energy Book
Having two under two is hard work, there's no denying it, it's non stop 24/7, it is physically and mentally exhausting so it's vital to have as much energy and feel as fit and well as you possibly can. Eating healthily is one way of getting more energy, follow this link for more ways to get more
9. Evening whirlwind
At the end of the day it's so easy to just crash when you're exhausted from the day but a quick whirlwind around the house will make the morning and next day so much easier.
I whiz round having a quick tidy, put the dishwasher on, prepare food, get our clothes out, make sure the changing bag is restocked and ready to go, get anything else that we need by the front door and I have to arrange the cushions on the sofa although I wouldn't say that's necessary! Basically, I like to leave the house how I like to find it in the morning, waking up fresh and ready for the day without having to face yesterday's mess makes me feel more productive and positive.
10. Big brother/sister box
I made Benjamin his big brother box whilst pregnant with Annabelle with a few gifts from the baby to help soften the blow! He got a talking Fireman Sam, big brother book and Sam sticker book. As well as making him feel special these toys keep him entertained, I change the toys frequently and put new surprise things in occasionally so when I have my hands full of baby there is always something interesting in his special box to keep him entertained.
TOP TIP sticker books are amazing! They keep Benjamin entertained for hours, although I do find stickers all over the house including on me and Annabelle!
11. Peppa Pig is a totally acceptable babysitter
Benjamin loves Peppa Pig and I quite like it too! We get out as much as possible and I keep TV to a minimum when we are in although there have been a couple of days that we have watched Peppa Pig all afternoon! If Benjamin is tired, cranky or when I'm feeding Annabelle or need to get things done quickly Peppa is our number one babysitter, closely followed by Pingu, Postman Pat and Fireman Sam.
TOP TIP save screen time for special occasions, if you have it on all the time the novelty will wear off and they probably won't be as entertained when you need them to be.
12. Dance! Sing! Be stupid!
If all else fails be stupid! If your toddler is having a tantrum or you're feeling the need to lock yourself in the bathroom and scream just have some crazy time. Dance, sing, pull silly faces, have tickle fights, engage with your inner child and just let yourself go. Your toddler won't know what to do and you'll both end up laughing.
13. Do what you need to get by.
If all else fails, eat chocolate, drink wine, order a pizza, put your favourite tunes on and dance in your pants!
Yes I know this is a total contradiction, I'm all about keeping it clean and eating well, I know the benefits of a clean diet and I know how bad junk food can make you feel but sometimes you just need to stuff your face with rubbish and deal with the consequences later! There have been days when my go-to healthy snacks just don't work and I needed pizza, a family sized bar of Dairy Milk and a packet of chocolate Hobnobs in my face, and yes Benjamin got some in his face too and loved it, one day we had Cadbury's Creme Eggs for breakfast! Whatever your thing is just do it if it makes you feel more human!
14. Don't be too hard on yourself
At the end of the day you can only do your best, and that is absolutely awesome! Accept that you won’t always get it right and realise that’s perfectly OK, accept that your house will be a mess, that you won’t always look your best and that you will always be busy, take the pressure off yourself and you will find it much easier.
Just relax, take each day as it comes and don’t stress about things that aren’t important.
Enjoy your babies, everything else can wait. I know my babies are loved so much they won't remember the rough times because they are completely outnumbered by the times we laugh and sing and dance and play. Your toddler won't remember what it was like before their sibling arrived, they've got a friend for life, a playmate, a confident, they will grow up together knowing they are both loved wholly and completely.
15. Remember you're amazing!
You're doing a fantastic job supermum, and don't let anyone make you feel you're not, you know what's best for your babies but at the end of the day as long as they are loved that's all that really matters.
We're just winging it everyday, I definitely make mistakes, I regret some decisions, I overthink everything and am my own worst critic but deep down I know I'm doing the best I can and I'm happy to admit I don't always get it right.
I put my whole heart, soul and self into raising my children and don't regret a single thing about having them so close together. My heart has doubled, I love Benjamin more than I ever thought possible when I see how much he loves his little sister and my heart just melts when I see Annabelle watch her big brother with amazement.
These tips have helped me stay calm and focussed, I hope they help you too, it's all a learning curve, I'm learning everyday and most of the time I'm just winging it but hey, it's worked OK for most of my life!
Do you have any top tips or stories to share? Leave us a comment, we'd love to hear from you.