I’ve asked some of my favorite creative mamas to help out while I’m away with our new baby. Today, the wonderful Jen from The Haystack Needle is sharing some thoughts on motherhood – specifically some things she’s learned as a mama of two! Thanks Jen! –Nole
Hello! I’m Jen and feel lucky to have connected with the ever-inspiring Nole through blogging (back when I did blog.) I’m now a freelance writer/editor working from home and mostly being a mama to Juniper (3) and Leo (18 months). My kids are 20 months apart and are the sweetest spirits who keep me feeling light and searching for little moments of amazing in each day. We just moved to Portland, Maine, from Brooklyn back in January. And I have to say, Portland has stolen my heart. It was such a dream spending this summer going blueberry picking, swimming in lakes, making sand castles at the beach, flying kites, loading up on lobster rolls by a lighthouse, and feeding goats at the farm where we get our milk. I was mourning the end of summer, till I remembered we have apple cider doughnuts to look forward to. Location-wise, I will say it’s incredibly easier being a mama to two when you don’t have to get everyone up and down three flights of stairs (and deal with getting to your car that stores your stroller being two blocks away thanks to alternate side street parking) like we did back in Brooklyn. But no matter the location, two little ones can feel like triple the chaos in moments. Here’s what I’ve tried to pass onto friends moving into being a mama to two.
+ Go on dates with your kid. I don’t mean this in the formal way. A date could simply be curling up on the sofa with a longish book that you wouldn’t read while your younger one’s attached to you. It’s the simplest advice and it helped us through hurdles in the beginning, when I was nursing nonstop and couldn’t actively play with her the same way, and even now when random toddler tensions build up (and then I remember, wait! When was the last time I got 20 minutes of quality alone time with her?). Kids need so little to refuel with your love. And you’ll miss your alone time with your first and need to reconnect. You’ll know you’re desperately in need of a date if you think back on what you’ve said in the last day to your oldest, and if it’s a lot of don’ts, let’s not, and let’s go. Then yes, you need a date. It could be as simple as looking through old photos together or taking a walk where she takes the lead on how fast you go. But, I found it needs to be you and her, no babywearing the younger one, or half looking at your phone. True together time. And then I found the meltdowns and odd behavior calm down for a bit.
+ Don’t forget the tricks that worked when she was little. I’ll never forget the day that putting Juniper in a sling saved me. And I’m not talking about when she was a newborn and I got to have my first hot meal or do some laundry. I’m talking about two-and-a-half year old Juniper who was having a tough moment out with me and Leo, and it was dissolving fast. Leo, by default as the younger one who wasn’t walking yet, always was in the carrier and Juniper would walk or ride in the stroller. And then, as you learn with kids 2+ years in age, having options always helps, and I thought to offer her the sling in the heat of the moment. And that’s when I heard it in her voice. That she’d been missing some mama love. She happily went in the sling and just wanted to be held for a short time. And then all was calm. That’s repeated itself for us, and it always works. I wore Juni in wraps, carriers, and slings from birth through most of my pregnancy with Leo (in a back carry). But as soon as Leo arrived, of course he was the one I carried. It took me a few months to figure out she missed that part of our relationship.
+ Be positive in how you talk about your kids, especially when they’re around. We’re all blogging and snapping beautiful Instagrams of our little loves. But I find it’s so easy, especially when you’re hanging around other mamas, to endlessly talk about how hard it is or how much your little guy sleeps or how tough it is when your two-year-old doesn’t want to get dressed in the morning. Yes, we all need to release some of the pressure and know that we’re not alone in the challenges of parenting. But I’ve tried to spend less time talking about the hard stuff, especially on playdates or on the playground. Because in a way, I think it sets up this tone of you against the kids or one kid against the other (since it’s so easy to talk about how different your kids are), rather than celebrating the moments that are pure awesome. And there are so many! I’ve read about how bad it is for a marriage to cut your partner down in conversation with someone else, and I think it applies to kids too. Sometimes just talking positive helps. I have a lot of days where I’m zapped, but those are the days I try to remember to say to my two, “hey we’re a team this morning, the three of us, let’s go have a good day.” And then there’s a high five and we’re off.
+ Nothing is permanent. Do what works for you now. As with everyone, my kids sleep, eat, play, and have gone through their first years in totally different ways. It’s easy (especially thanks to grandparent schools of thought) to think if you do this, you’ll never be able to do that or transition them out of this or that. I disagree. Do what you need to survive right now, not what you think you have to be doing because you’re afraid of some permanent habit. Especially with regards to sleeping arrangements. Just follow what works for you, and when it doesn’t work, change it up and it will naturally move on to the next phase. You’re the best expert on your kids, anyhow.
+ Say less. Once your littlest is moving around, the sibling relationship really starts to shine. I’ve found the easiest way to help support my kids bonding is to not play referee. Don’t intervene with little squabbles or minor sharing/pushing moments and let them work it out themselves. For the most part, they do and no one gets hurt. And that’s when you find your 15-month old running in circles on squares of felt in a fit of giggles with your 3-year-old because they just made up some new game, just them.
Oh and prepare to have your heart melt every time they hug each other, read books together, or you watch your oldest feed your little guy strawberries that she just sliced for him. And then you’ll really feel silly that you spent all that energy worrying about not being able to focus on your oldest child after your second arrives. I’m pretty sure Juniper would say I gave her the best gift ever with our little Leo. And I would agree.