Guys, 2 kids under 2 is hard. We have really really good days and we have really really bad days. I have had many days where I had to give myself a pep talk and essentially tell myself, "Come on Sarah, you can do this. Get your **** together." I am constantly asked for advice though (as I'm sure all new 2U2 moms are), so here is my Top 10 Pieces of Advice pep talk.
1) Take baby steps. There is always a newborn survival period and that doesn't go away just because you've done this before. Accept the chaos and the sleepless nights, and do what you have to do to get through it. As you get more comfortable and the survival period is waning, start slowly adding tasks and responsibilities to your day. Maddie is almost 4 months old and I am just now starting to use the cloth diapers again because this is the first time that I could really mentally cope with them. You need to give yourself time to adjust to the new daily rhythm and routine, and for your own sanity, go slow and add things only when you're comfortable and ready to do so.
2) Get out of the house. I don't try to go somewhere productive every single day. It's exhausting. But even just getting the girls out to the park, or out on the driveway or porch for some fresh air and sunshine makes a big difference to everyone's moods. I also love having Anna's music class once a week because it gives us something specific and scheduled to look forward to without having a daily commitment. On the days that we do stay home, I make sure we keep busy with play time and housework...luckily Anna likes to help!
3) Get dressed every day. I'm not setting the bar high here, people. This might even just mean clean yoga pants and a clean t-shirt. The point is to start the day fresh and to feel good about yourself. I always like to do my makeup whether I'm leaving the house or not, just to help me feel a little more polished and confident. And if you have a baby that throws up on you all day like I do, then you might get to have a new outfit three or four times a day, haha.
4) Take care of yourself. You are the glue that holds all of this together and you cannot function at your best if you aren't taking care of yourself. Eat real meals, get some sleep, take a hot shower and keep your spirits up because everything goes more smoothly if you are in a good mood. And drink some coffee.
5) Force time for yourself. I know getting out alone for hours at a time is not always realistic now, but even just forcing an hour a day to read, relax or take a walk around the block without the kids is such a relief. Even being able to run errands without the kiddos in tow is a treat, and it's a good mental break. And if you sneak a Starbucks run or a mani/pedi in between the errands, hey, I won't tell! There are some days where I tell myself that even if the ONLY thing I get done that day is a kid-free workout, I will consider the day a success. You need that time to decompress and to not be on-call, and you should never ever feel guilty about taking that time for yourself.
6) Have an escape plan. If both kids are crying and you're about to join them, have a couple of escape plans in your back pocket ready to go in case you need them. If you have family in the area, drop one or two kids off if someone is willing to watch them. Go for a car ride and listen to fun music (and take a book with you in case the kids fall asleep). Get outside. I like to drop them off at the YMCA day care and walk on the treadmill or do the elliptical for an hour of kid-free time. I like to buy the frequent passes to the local jump/play places so that we can go anytime we want. I also like to keep a couple of new toys or puzzles hidden away in case Anna is just really driving me nuts...it's great to be able to pull something new out and have her entertained for a few minutes while I finish whatever I'm doing. The escape plan isn't just for you - sometimes a change of scenery or a break in the routine is just what the kids need too.
7) Do a daily de-clutter. Sometimes a bi-daily de-clutter if you are really on a roll. Your house is not going to be as clean nowadays. It's just not. I love that quote from Jerry Seinfeld, "Having a 2 year old is like having a blender without a lid". But you will feel SO much better if the counters are clear and the toys are contained. Save the deep scrubbing for the weekend or for when you have some help watching the kids. Most of the time I just try to keep the house looking good enough where I wouldn't be mortified if somebody stopped by unexpectedly. Do I miss the days where the bathrooms got deep-cleaned at least once a week? Yes. But these days aren't going to last forever and in 20 years, I will remember the fun times with my kids more than I will remember whether or not my floors were spotless.
7) Keep your sense of humor. There is SO much magic in this age range and there is so much to enjoy throughout the day, even if things do get hard sometimes. Anna is constantly coming up with new silly things and making me laugh, and Maddie's big toothless smile is the highlight of my day. It's so important not to lose sight of the positive parts of the day, and sometimes the best way to break tension is to find something to laugh at.
8) Celebrate your victories and learn from the mistakes. Nobody is perfect and you won't have perfect days, but there will be a lot of things that go right and it's important to give yourself a pat on the back. It is easy to feel like a failure sometimes but if you take a step back and acknowledge all of the little things that you did "right" that day, you would be pretty darn impressed with yourself. And if things don't really go that well, then don't internalize it and let it affect your confidence. Learn from your mistakes and figure out a way to make things go a little more smoothly the next day.
9) Spend time with your husband. The days go by in a blur, and I really enjoy clearing all of the toys out of the living room and getting to spend the evening with Steve after the girls go to bed. We don't last long - we're usually conked out by 10:00...maaaaybe 11:00 if we're being wild and crazy, but it gives us a chance to have a glass of wine together and to watch a TV show or play one of our games. It's important to maintain that connection and to feel like adults, and it's a good way to unwind and to share the news from your respective days.
10) Cuddle. Lots of cuddles. I have realized that sometimes Anna will have a tantrum because we are trying to do too much, too fast, and stopping for a hug and kiss will make all the difference in the world. Sit down on the floor or on the couch and just cuddle with your kids. Breathe in their sweet baby smell, tickle their tummies, and enjoy this time. You will feel better and your kiddos will too!