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Survival Tactics for Two Under Two - Part One

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I have been blessed with two beautiful daughters, they are 17 months apart and my baby girl recently turned 3 months! So I am relatively new to the topic and I know I have a long way to go but I want to share a few of my survival tactics that have kept me going so far. Because it is hard, really hard! And I have fantastic family support and an awesome husband and even so it is still a struggle.

Those first few weeks were especially tough, but you manage by developing strategies - not all are the most conventional or going to get me nominated for ‘parent of the year’ but when you have a newborn totally dependant on you and a toddler demanding attention who cannot yet talk, tell you what they want or follow instructions, it’s all about what you can do to stay sane!

I am certainly not a parenting/health expert, these posts are based on my opinion and I am simply sharing those tried and tested tactics that have worked for us in our home and hopefully they will work for you too! Actually once I started typing and pouring it all out, I found there were so many tips that I think it is best to split them over 3 parts. This first part will focus on the changes and realisations I have had to make, along with the physical changes made to our home to adjust to our growing family…

PART ONE – Adjusting to a changing household

1. Accept it takes a village to raise a child

This is probably the biggest adjustment I have had to make. You truly need to ask for help and make sure to take all offers of help. You have to accept that you simply cannot do it all on your own. There’s an old African proverb: “it takes a village to raise a child” – notice the saying refers to one child – so it definitely requires a village to raise more than one child! As strong independent women, it does not always come naturally to us to ask for help, but we really need to learn quick in this case. Remember, it’s not a question of pride, but the wellbeing of your child/children and that of your own.

And you cannot compare yourself to other people and their family situations. I used to criticise myself and think I should be doing better. My daughters are truly angels, they are not boisterous, overly energetic or have ADHD – it should be easy! But even perfect angels can be hard work! Asking for help is not giving in or a sign of failure. There is nothing wrong with asking for help and your friends and family will be more than willing. As we are used to being so capable and independent, this is often the biggest lesson to learn.

2. Create a baby safe space

Designate an area in your home where your toddler can play without getting into anything dangerous and where you can sit with baby and feed stress free. Our back room is set up like a kindergarten room – baskets of toys, books, play kitchen, child size table and chairs and a nice big recliner chair for me. Remove clutter, set everything up at toddler level, keep it bright and fun with the decor. You can see our pinterest board for play room inspiration, we had lots of fun setting it up: http://www.pinterest.com/kellyboateng/childrens-play-room/

I can sit comfortably for my baby to feed while my toddler plays – a safety gate keeps her securely in our ‘safe zone’. This is so important especially when baby is going through a growth spurt and you can be stuck on the couch as feeds can take 30 minutes or more!

3. Change stations

We have ‘change tables’ set up all over the house! Nappies, towels, facewashers and wipes are stashed in all sorts of places – the playroom, the dining room, the kids rooms of course. This way you have everything at your fingertips to take care of nappy changing while keeping an eye on your active toddler!

4. Time Management and Lists

I can see you rolling your eyes right now at the words “time management” LOL. Seriously though, this is a survival tactic for me. I do admit, I am the queen of lists! I have notepads everywhere, whiteboards on my fridge, random lists are everywhere, I love lists! I just find it so much easier to jot down what you want to achieve – split chores between you and hubby and do what you can when the kids are asleep (or is that when we are meant to sleep? Yeah right!). Personally, I find it gives my day structure in the midst of all the chaos and I get a sense of fulfilment when I get to tick something off (even if I only got one task done!).

Do what you can online – bills, banking, grocery shopping. I love shopping online especially buying groceries online and having them delivered to my doorstep. Most major grocery shops will let you select the time you want it delivered, its so quick, easy and can be all done from my comfy recliner at any time of day or night. Best part is you save the headache of carting bored, screaming kids around the shops!

Take the time to plan out your week. Plan dinners ahead of time. Put the washing on at night time before you go to bed and then it is ready to hang out in the morning. It’s winter right now so hearty stews/casseroles/soups are great – I use the slow cooker, prep the meal in the morning, chuck it all in the pot and then less hassle during that hectic ‘witching hour’. These are some of the tactics working for me right now, you will work out what tactics work best for your household. For example, you may find it easier to make meals that use a similar base because you can make a large batch that can then be frozen and used later in the week. It sounds so simple but it really is the simple steps that can make life that much easier.

5. Learn to let go

OK so after talking about to do lists and getting things done, I think it’s appropriate to also mention that sometimes you also just have to let it go. We put so much pressure on ourselves to achieve everything and be perfect mums with a spotless home and perfect kids. But bottom line, you just have to put your babies first and deal with their needs. If it means today all you do is feed and nappy changes then so be it! The washing/cooking/cleaning and every other fun filled domestic duty can wait. If you didn’t get everything on the list complete, who cares – the kids don’t care but they do care if they are left out while you attempt to be super mum. There is always tomorrow! Our role as Mum is to care for our children and everything else comes secondary to that. Once I came to realise this, I felt a huge weight lifted off my shoulders (and I still need to remind myself of this from time to time).

5. Getting out and about

Don’t stress if you can’t get to the regular café’s that you used to go to. Go to the local park, have friends come over, visit their place for play dates etc. We have some fantastic kid friendly café’s in our area and I am sure you do too, research online and get out of the house. Admittedly I became somewhat of a recluse for the first few weeks but it does feel great to break the monotony of the daily routine of washing clothes/washing dishes and get outside! We have a double pram or sling and pram also works really well. Going on my own could lead to a double murder/suicide, it is definitely much easier to head out with another adult to help!

6. Mum time!

LOL does it exist? I’ve resigned to the fact that the days of going to the toilet unaccompanied are long over, it’s been well over a year since I visited the hairdresser and getting to have a shower feels like a trip to the day spa…so do we ever get time for ourselves? Well not entirely and I guess that is the trade off, we get these beautiful little beings in our life but it means we no longer get to focus only on ourselves.

I’ve managed to make it work…kind of…the other day I was standing in the shower and thinking how great it was to be alone in the shower – it’s the one time I truly get time to myself! It’s only about 15 minutes of me time but I sure do make those 15 minutes count! Once the kids are in bed, I make sure I get some pamper time in. It might include dying my hair, putting on a mud mask, plucking eye brows, nice smelling bath salts in a hot bath with a glass of wine.

It doesn't have to be pamper time, you might just want to read a chapter of a book, a trashy magazine or do some indulgent online shopping. Sometimes it happens at 6am, or 11pm but you have to find that window of opportunity to steal some mummy time. Make the most of the grandparents/friends to look after the kids so you can have a date night – either with your husband or a night out with the girls. You just have to make it happen for your own mental health!

One baby is hard enough...but two babies is a circus and it takes time to master the juggling act! Not only have we had to learn tactics to keep ourselves balanced, we have had to learn strategies to keep our toddler occupied while we attend to our newborn. We've had to revisit our baby settling techniques too! Keep an eye on this space for our next 2 posts on these exact topics...