Achieving Balance with a Newborn and a Toddler
When I brought my second son home from the hospital, he was just a day old. His older brother, 2 1/2, was safely ensconced in his grandparents' loving arms, who were considerately taking him in while I got back on my feet. Our first week home was languid and blissful. I enjoyed all the joys of a newborn, rested easy, and even managed to get some sleep. My mother-in-law (bless her) sent food over, and my husband (bless him) made sure the household ran as usual.
The following few weeks veered between moments reminiscent of week one (quiet, peaceful, everyone getting along) to times when I wondered if I would ever make it as a mother of two. It was a balancing act of meeting the physical needs of a baby and fulfilling the emotional needs of my firstborn. I felt torn in two, even with love and heart space multiplied.
Six months in, our home landscape finally settled somewhat, much of it to do with us finding some balance as a family and my son turning three. Many factors helped us in successfully coming to a “resolution,” imperfect as it may be, to balancing a newborn with a toddler/preschooler.
Here are a few things that I would suggest:
As much as I like to think that I can do it all, I can't. No one, realistically, can without dropping a few balls. We accepted help from my in-laws, who had my oldest at their place a few hours a day, just so I could get a breather. Of course, we are lucky that they live around the corner, a mere five minutes' walk away.
I advise you, new mother of two, to accept help when it is offered. Whether it's a few hot meals, or an offer to hold the baby and/or entertain the toddler just so you can grab a shower or just stand in the kitchen ALONE for five minutes to drink a hot beverage, say “yes.” Your spouse offering to take the baby for an hour so you can spend time with your firstborn? Say “yes.” Say “yes,” “please,” “thank you very much.”
Ask for help.
Now, you may not receive offers of help or the kind of assistance you need. ASK for it. Do not be shy. Call your mother and say you need a break or that you need someone to run to the store for you to grab some milk. Ask your spouse to step in and step up if they're not doing so.
Let things go.
Dishes piling up in the sink? Laundry pile getting higher? Let it go. It'll get done eventually. Refer to #2.
Schedule time for your first child/other children.
This may be a little harder to do on a regular basis, especially if you have more than two kids. Discuss it with your spouse and/or other family members who can step in to look after your newborn for a short period so you can take time to be with your older child(ren).
It's absolutely important to do this, because they will remember what it was like when Mommy had a baby — that they weren't given enough attention or that Mommy got snappy with them (it's inevitable). Make some time to assure them that they haven't been forgotten and that they're still loved.
You don't always have to do something extra special. It could just be cuddling together on the couch. Better yet, if you can do bedtime or bathtime regularly, make it your thing with your toddler.
Be gentle with yourself.
Do not, at any point, feel that you need to do it all to achieve balance. Some days, it will be hard, and if all you need is a breath, then so be it. There's tomorrow. Try harder then. Give yourself some leeway to have one bad moment or a so-so day.
It will never be an even 50/50 for each child. Some days, your baby will need you more, so give him/her more. Other days, it will be your toddler. Go where the need is. Be where you are. Let go of the guilt. Embrace the good.
Good luck, new mothers-of-two!
How did you balance having a newborn and a toddler?