Dear Boston Mamas: Life with Two Kids

laurel-violet-feet.jpgWhile I was en route to California this past weekend, I was so happy to have some quiet time to read through more of the Boston Mamas survey comments. Among the responses was a question that fit well both for the Dear Boston Mamas column, and given that I just guest posted at Rookie Moms about what I have learned in having a second child. Of course, a lot of the below would apply to 2+ children as well; if you have additional thoughts to share, feel free to do so in the comments!

Question: How is life with two kids? We are expecting #2 and I know it will be different but how? How are you managing? Is baby #2 on a schedule or on older child's schedule?

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Dear Lovely Reader:

Obviously, not every day of parenting is easy, but in general, I will say that I have been amazed by how wonderful life with two kids is. After several years of struggling with infertility, I finally made my peace with being a family of three. After which point of course I got pregnant. But from the very beginning Violet has felt as if she belongs with us. We feel so blessed.

It also has been excellent to experience parenting through a new lens; specifically, that of a laid back, experienced parent. I know it's not the same for everyone, but I have heard many people comment that subsequent kids are more laid back because their parents are more laid back, and this certainly has been the case for us.

Now, to address your questions about logistics: adding a new person to a family does, of course, involve adjustment. Here is how our transition has shaken out:

  • Morning routine: The period immediately coming home was the most chaotic, particularly since school was in session for Laurel and we still needed to be organized enough to get lunches together, keep on top of homework, and so forth. Since I was nursing and thus up with Violet quite a bit during the night, we simply decided that Jon would be the point person for Laurel in the morning. If I got up and could help, it was a bonus, but otherwise, Jon was on point to negotiate breakfast, finish Laurel's lunch packing (to cut down on morning chaos we assemble most of it the night before), handle the dreaded hair combing (admittedly, many days during that period of time it was rather nest-like...), make sure Laurel brushed her teeth, and get her off to school. Gradually, however, I was able to get back to helping, and now we're all up at pretty much the same time so it works out fine. Violet usually crawls around and pulls up on Laurel's chair while we take care of the morning routine.

  • During the day -- sleeping: This time around we're totally not worrying about watching the clock and sticking Violet to a sleep schedule, and it's been interesting to see Violet fall into a pattern naturally. In general, she's now up between 6:30am - 7:30pm and takes two naps during the day (like Laurel, she's a short napper -- usually just 45 minutes or so each time). But instead of trying to force naps on the clock, we wait until she's tired or just falls asleep (e.g., in stroller). It's so much easier and it's been great to put an awake but drowsy baby in the crib, walk away, and have her fall asleep on her own!

  • During the day -- eating: While we are very flexible about Violet's napping, the one thing I do try to pay attention to is her eating schedule. Because rather like me, Violet is much more affected in the cranky department by hunger than fatigue! Also, I found that the scheduling/details got a little more complicated when Violet started solids and I needed to keep track of what she was eating (to keep an eye out for allergies) and how to fit in solid feedings with nursing. Regarding suggested food process and schedule, I have found HappyBaby: The Organic Guide to Baby's First 24 Months (which was sent to me by the company) super helpful. And now that we're a couple of months into solid foods and we're on to real meals (vs. little bits of solids simply for exposure), we're now happily in a rhythm where Violet has solid foods at regular mealtimes and breastmilk first thing in the morning, as between-meal snacks, and at bedtime. Basically, it's easier to remember when to feed her because her solid food intake generally corresponds to our mealtimes!

  • Bedtime: One of the more challenging elements for us at the beginning was the end of the day. Pre-Violet, we used to put Laurel to bed and then the rest of the evening would be time for Jon and me to connect or for both of us to catch up on home and work matters. Early on Violet napped more during the day and was very awake during the window between Laurel and our bedtimes so Jon and I felt rather lacking in downtime. However, in the last couple of months, Violet has fallen into a pattern where she is ready to call it a night right around Laurel's bedtime. That has been quite lovely!

  • How the two kids' schedules intersect: Another major reason we don't fret over Violet's sleep schedule is because we have an elementary school aged kid with fixed things such as soccer practice or birthday parties or playdates on her schedule. Often times, Violet is a companion to many of Laurel's events -- we don't worry about the napping element (she tends to just fall asleep if she needs to on the go), but I do make sure I bring along food for her if we're going to be out during a meal. Also, I'm still nursing, so we always have extra nourishment at the ready if need be.

    Every family system varies, and I would suggest that the most important thing to remember at the beginning is that yes, some days will be really, really hard, but that you will fall into a routine eventually and things will get easier. Good luck and let me know if you have any other questions!

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    Image credit: Christine Koh (those are Laurel and Violet's feet!)

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    Have a question for Christine? Drop her a line! And of course feel free to comment in if you have recommendations beyond those made above.