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Friday, May 29, 2009

How hard is it? (A Primer for New Parents of 2 Under 2)

I get asked that a lot. How hard is having babies so close in age, really?

Honestly, truly, it's not that hard. In fact, having two under two is easier than spacing them out more.

When you have a three or four year age difference between kids, you get rusty. You forget the process of being the mother to an infant. Oh sure, you can change diapers with ease - that's like riding a bike, you never forget how. But the day to day, nitty gritty mom-to-an-infant stuff is a routine that takes some getting used to. And when you have a thirteen month old and then add another baby, you're already deeply enmeshed in the daily routines, so the new baby just kind of works it's way in. It's a beautiful thing.

Another thing is, when your older child is three or four or older when the new baby arrives, they suddenly seem huge and capable. Part of you thinks they should be getting their own snacks and brushing their own hair and maybe even using the toilet with some regularity. But you can't expect any of that. Your child might be physically capable of caring for herself (to some extent) but she's still very much a baby and needs your love and attention just as much as the new baby (but in different ways.)

When babies are just a year apart, there is no jealousy. A twelve or thirteen month old child is incapable of feeling jealousy. A preschooler remembers life before baby and may want that back, feeling like second fiddle to the new arrival. Luckily, this has never been the case with our children, but that's because I happen to have children with very laid back temperaments.

Don't get all excited though. Just because your twelve month old doesn't hate his new sibling, doesn't mean he won't. Wait a few months - that's when the fighting starts. I don't think an eighteen month old feels jealousy, per se. I think he just wants things his way, and when the baby impedes that, he takes matters into his own hands. I really don't think a one year old is capable of cognitively thinking "Oh, the baby is taking my place as the youngest, perhaps I should poke his eyeballs out with this plastic giraffe." I think, if your eighteen month old could talk, he would say something more along the lines of "I really want a snack but my mom won't get it because the baby's sleeping on her lap. I bet if I hit the baby with Goodnight, Moon and wake him up, she'll be able to get me my snack."

The hardest part of having babies close together is dinner time for the older kids. If you don't have older kids, seriously, sing Hallelujah to the heavens, because it means you don't have to listen to the babies cry while you heat up Dinty Moore. Here's the thing: eventually, your teeny tiny newborn will be mobile, and she will not be happy that you're in the kitchen. If she follows you in, she will be absolutely furious that you won't hold her. She doesn't understand that if you hold her, the stove could give her a serious burn, and that you need both hands to cook. She just wants to be held, preferably right this instant. She will scream and holler until you stop and pick her up, and if you don't, she'll find the dog food and happily eat that until you're finished. This gets better when the littlest one can eat in a high chair - drag the high chair into the kitchen (if it's in the dining room) and give baby some cheerios or a banana while you cook. Problem solved.

Your toddler will be hungry approximately thirty seven thousand times a day, so it's easiest to feed him when you start cooking dinner for the rest of the family. Put his high chair in the kitchen too, so he can watch you, and give him something to eat. (Ham and cheese is a big favorite in our house.) So he won't eat dinner with the rest of the family. Big deal. He'll be starving again in twenty minutes anyway, so don't worry about it. At least they're both contained and happy, and if you're super lucky, they'll stay that way for an extra ten minutes so you can actually eat too.

So, is it hard to have two under two? You bet, but no harder than having them further spaced, really. Honestly? It's harder to be hugely pregnant and chasing a drooly cralwing baby than it is to take care of two babies at once. You can do it. And if it does turn out to be super-hard, that's okay too, because they really aren't babies for very long at all. In a year's time you will wonder why you ever had any difficulty at all.


Sara said...

i wholeheartedly agree with your point about having kids that are spaced out a daughter is 5 and my son is 3 months old, and i had completely forgotten how much WORK an infant is!! but, i have noticed how my 5-year-old does seem so much bigger and more capable now...great post!!

Intertwined said...

It seemed hard the first time I did it. By the time #5 and 6 were born and "big sis" was 17 months old it seemed like old hat! Course, I've never done it any other way so I couldn't tell ya how much harder or easier it is. ;)

Evie and Chris' Mommy said...

I slightly disagree with some of the things you said. Some days it is so easy and some days so hard. My son is 16 months and daughter 26 months, and both of them get jealous of the other at times. Some days they fight like cats and dogs then other times they are two peas in a pod. It is definatly an adventure, but I wouldn't have things any other way.

Susan Busch said...

Hi! Great post. The point I agree with most here is the non-jealousy thing. I was SO SCARED my 13 month old would hate her new baby sister (and me, for that matter) when our family dynamic changed for good. But I was amazed at her ability to adjust pretty seamlessly. I coped with two under two by constantly talking to both girls -- even if they couldn't answer, it kept me saner to hear myself say to whoever was crying, "As soon as mommy is finished changing your sister's diaper I'll be right there to help you."

Jenni said...

My two are 18 months apart. I think the first two-three months, when the baby is CONSTANTLY attached to the boob, are the toughest because, as you say, a toddler will eat like a million times a day. But, really, I've found it much easier the second time around. Partly I think because being a 2nd (3rd, 4th, etc.) time parent is SO MUCH easier than being a 1st time parent. I mean, I feel almost compentent most of the time.

hotsauce5597 said...

THANK YOU for this post. You are the first person to post a blog about 2 under 2 that didn't scare the poo out of me. I currently have a 9 month old and am 5 months scared out of my mind. Thank you for your reassuring words that is is do-able.