Having a second child is not just twice the work. For me, and other mothers of multiple children I have spoken to, two children are triple, sometimes even quadruple the work of one kid!
With my in-laws having returned to Hong Kong, I am finally on my own in being the caretaker of a 4-month-old and a 17-month-old. Things are actually better than I had feared, but at the same time, I am completely drained by the end of each day and I tell all my friends to wait at least 2 years to have a second child if they could help it.
(For those who are wondering if we decided to get help with the kids, we want to see first if I could handle it by myself, with some help from my parents and my sister. Child care is so expensive these days and I would rather tough it out for these first few years so that we can save money for the kids’ education, starting with a good preschool for Claire which is only a year away!)
There are some things that come as a no-brainer when transitioning from one child to two. But every situation is different, and in ours, these are the changes we have made, or found ourselves making, to make our lives a bit easier.
1. Run the dishwasher.
Believe it or not, we used to barely use the dishwasher because of my OCD tendencies. This habit continued even after Claire was born, but now that time is even more limited and the extra 20 minutes washing the dishes by hand could honestly could be spent doing other things (even just sprawled out on the couch, zoning out in front of the TV), I have given in and decided that the machine will have to do.
We still wash all the baby bottles by hand, though. I haven’t quite let go on this front.
2. Take baths with Claire.
Since Claire was starting to grow out of her inflatable tub (the transition piece from her infant tub to the grown-up, full-sized bathtub) — and because I was finding it harder and harder to find the time to keep up with personal hygiene — we have purchased a large bath mat and a sprout cover so that I can just hop in the tub with her. (I even got a bottle of tear-free bubble bath to make the transition easier for her. ) I have never liked bathing or even showering with someone else, but you can’t beat killing two birds with one stone.
3. Leave the kids alone more.
I never realized I had been so dangerously close to becoming a helicopter parent until now. Because, as a post in one of my favorite parenting blogs, Free Range Kids, says, having multiple kids close together in age “will throw any perfectionist tendencies under the bus.” The author goes on to state:
I’ve started to see that one reason 1950s moms let their kids wander around all afternoon is that it was too hard to keep tabs on that many kids all the time. Smaller families make it possible to plan and monitor a child’s every move, and that possibility makes people think they should. If everyone had four small kids, leaving the three younger ones in the care of an 11-year-old while you ran a quick errand to the post office wouldn’t seem so nutty.
Do I pay attention to my kids? Of course! But I have also started to leave them to their own devices more and more. And when you take a step back, you can watch wonderful things start to unfold. Like earlier this week, when I left Aerin for some tummy time, and found Claire crawling up to her to join in and keep her entertained during her exercise!
4. Give up much of my “me” time, via my computer.
This may seem obvious, but unless you have more than one child yourself, you won’t believe just how much more time a second (and subsequent) will consume. The biggest blow was dealt to my computer time and online presence — I now hardly spend time on Facebook, Twitter, and even…gulp…Google Reader! And when I do, I only have time to browse the first few items.
I have decided that blogging will remain at the top of my online presence, and as such, I take some time out every night to write a post for the next day. Even then, I know that this blog has been suffering for the past few months (and will probably continue to suffer for another year or so) because of my limited time and resources.
This is one area where I really envy working moms, or at least the kind that have the type of jobs that allow them some personal computer time.
5. Let the kids cry sometimes.
I am not a superwoman. I only have two legs and two arms. There are times when I can only devote my attention to one child. And during these times (as much as it pains me), I have to let the other cry, just as long as I know that they are in no physical pain or danger.
I do, however, try my best to avoid these situations as much as possible. For example, you should see me — all 5’1″ of me — carrying around both girls at once. (The upside to having two very young kids is that your arms will get diesel.) Or, when both are hungry, giving Aerin a bottle with my left hand while she is strapped to my chest in a carrier, and spoon-feeding Claire with my other hand.