I have two kids under three and I lead a truly blessed life (touchwood!) on most days. Somewhere between diaper blowouts, tantrums, time outs, and watching my babies fall sound asleep with the innocence of a gentle cloud calmly floating by, we bask in oodles of smiles, armfuls of hugs with plenty of kisses to go around, and even a few belly laughs to add to our daily routine. However, on days that seem particularly trying and I feel more like a biscuit that got over-dunked in hot chai and succumbed to its burns to the bottom of the cup than the energetic mama I usually pretend to be and I still need to make those hugs, kisses, and smiles happen, I have below, 10 perfectly acceptable ways that help me keep my sanity:
1.Reading books instead of playing is perfectly acceptable:
I love reading to TJ and E. We have spent hours together, just reading. It helps that he is a young bookworm! When we are stuck at home whether it is because Baby E decided to actually nap that morning or those rare days when it rains or I just don’t feel like dragging my entourage out and about, we stay home and read [we also do other things, mostly play and bake but that requires me actually getting off my comfy chair and doing something!). Because TJ loves reading so much, both Aaron and I use it to calm his tantrums down (and yes, it works with the right book) or to help him unwind and tone down play time before bedtime.
2. Using technology to help with babysitting is perfectly acceptable:
If you are reading this with a WTH expression on your face right now, stop reading. You’re probably not going to like this post. Yes, I am one of those moms who resorts to using media to keep my toddler engaged while I am busy with my infant. TJ gets to watch his favorite YouTube videos everyday at lunch time. Yes. Everyday. Do I feel a little guilty about it? Yes. Do I plan to do something about it? Hmm…probably not…not until I can figure some alternative plan out. [Because I need him in one place for a slightly extended period so that he doesn’t come upstairs and disturb my attempts to put Baby E down for a nap]. Besides those videos can be educational too. For example, even though we taught him colors, watching garbage truck cartoon videos that also mention the different color garbage cans has helped reinforce the names of colors. So there you go…
3. Laying baby down in a safe place and letting her cry it out for some time while you gather your sanity is perfectly acceptable:
This one is self-explanatory. Chores need to be done, rooms need to be vacuumed, laundry needs to be folded, bathrooms need to be scrubbed…and that Instant Pot isn’t going to cook itself 🙂 This one is also especially true if you’ve ever experienced holding your baby for a long time with arms shrieking for relief or if your baby has been crying incessantly for long minutes that seem like hours and you just need a frikin’ break. Give yourself a break. As my former pediatrician in Chicago once said, “No harm has ever come to a baby because of crying for 5 -10 minutes.”
4. Turning off the audio on your audio-video baby monitor is perfectly acceptable:
Baby E, like pretty much all babies, has an uncanny ability to wake up as soon as I put her down in her Pack n Play. I am gradually introducing her to what it feels like to fall asleep on her own which means I try to lay her down drowsy but awake and she is not always pleased with this new arrangement. She ends up fussing and whimpering for some time and it bothers me that she has to go through this. Knowing that I am helping her be a better sleeper in the long term, I have accepted this set up as a necessary evil but it does not mean I have to feel worse hearing her unhappiness. I turn the audio off but still leave the video on. She is usually asleep within 5-8 minutes and if she ever starts crying, I can still hear her anyway. I just don’t need additional auditory anxiety. That’s all.
5. Taking a shower while both kids watch you is perfectly acceptable:
Mama needs her shower and if that means sometimes propping the kids up in front of the shower while I quickly get in and out, then so be it. If you do this, just be sure kids are in a
safe place. Baby E is always strapped to her little chair and TJ usually has a book or two around him to keep him occupied. I use a sand-clock given by the Santa Clara Water Valley District at one of TJ’s library storytimes and make sure my showers are under 5 minutes what with the drought and all. Besides, the toddler can be a great help in getting your towel (something TJ likes doing when he is off his stool standing by the shower looking at me).
What I love about this arrangement besides getting a nice, hot shower – I get to watch my beautiful babies just sitting there, waiting for mommy, doing their own thing….I get to make faces at E from inside the shower and see her big smiles. I get to see TJ look down at his book and pretend to read and I also get to see him lean over to his sister and kiss her many times. With all these beautiful moments, my sanity is restored and the fact that I sneaked a shower in, makes me a genius!
6. Giving your toddler a special treat so that his tantrums don’t wake the infant baby up is perfectly acceptable:
Yes, guilty. Just as a two year should, TJ is prone to sudden excitement over the littlest of things and sometimes this energy translates to screams and of course there are the occasional and regular tantrums that cause him to yell or throw things around. Regular time outs have helped reduce these tremendously but still…he IS a two year old 🙂 SO if Baby E is sleeping delicately and prone to waking up at the slightest sound, I sometimes bribe TJ with a cookie, piece of a brownie, or whatever else (Videos!) I have handy that I know he likes. Timeouts are perfectly acceptable too although I know there are opinion pieces out there that talk about why that is not the case. To each her own.
7. Having your toddler do age-appropriate chores to help with your baby (e.g., diaper changes) is perfectly acceptable:
Lucky for me, TJ loves helping out with Baby E. He has gotten me burp cloths, blankets, diapers, powder, Vaseline or whatever else (thankfully not all at the same time. What kind of a mom do you think I am?) I may have needed and forgotten or am too far from or too much into something (think holding an infant’s feet in the air to prevent further damage from the most recent blast!) to get those things myself. He has helped Aaron with a diaper change when I was away. The other day, after a massive blowout, Aaron found out he had no fresh diaper to change her into. TJ knew where the diapers were. He climbed all the way up the stairs to her diaper table, got his step stool, stood on it, grabbed a new diaper, and brought it all the way down for daddy. What a little helper! Point is, don’t feel guilty soliciting help from your older child as long as it is age appropriate. TJ even loves disposing off Baby E’s diapers. So we let him do it.
8. Reprimanding/Threatening to punish your toddler for loving his sister too much is perfectly acceptable when safety is a concern:
If the above hasn’t made it obvious, TJ adores his little sister. Sure he’ll refuse to kiss her good night sometimes but that is hardly an indication of a two-year-old’s love. Ever since he first met her at the hospital..actually that’s not correct…ever since my pregnant belly became prominently pregnant and he grasped (in his own way) that there was a baby in there, he has been kissing it. Not surprisingly, he wanted to kiss his baby sister at the hospital too and we let him of course. Since the day she has been home, he has always loved kissing her. A bit too much sometimes. He would haul himself over her in her swing to kiss and hug her and then shower her with tons of wet kisses (see picture above). While I was afraid for my newborn, I couldn’t deny the bond he felt with his sister.
Even now, he wants to kiss her first thing in the morning when I bring her downstairs. He wants to run upstairs with me whenever she wakes up from her nap so he can be there to say “Hi” to her. However, when his love for her gets to be too much – when kissing her could potentially mean her slipping off her swing or chair, I have had to reprimand him. Sometimes, that doesn’t work and I have had to threaten him with punishment. You can only imagine how horrible it makes me feel. I have honestly said, “Stop kissing your sister NOW or else…” I feel terrible scolding my son for showing so much affection for his sister and yet, I have to do it. Someday we’ll talk about boundaries and respecting a person’s space. That day is not today or even tomorrow.
9. Using one’s burp cloth to clean another’s snot is perfectly acceptable (just use the clean, dry part and get each one a clean cloth the next time):
Gross, right!? I agree but when everyone seems to demand your attention at the same time, a burp cloth may just be what it takes to buy you a few minutes. Of course I don’t use a used burp cloth to clean snot but if it is unused and just hanging next to the baby and TJ happens to roll around with a need for some cleaning, I have that handy cloth. Why get up for a different one?
10. Ignoring your baby to attend to the non-important needs of your toddler is perfectly acceptable:
Even though I am much calmer as a second-time parent, when baby E cries, my instinct is to want to attend to it immediately or at least take a quick glance over to make sure there are no real monsters attacking her. Usually my darling little munchkin is happy just kicking her legs non stop, blowing spit bubbles, gnawing on her hands, or filling my heart with her gummy smiles. Hunger, sleep, soiled diapers, and a stuck burp that she cannot get out cause her to cry so if she is simply whimpering or whining or crying but not to the point where she demands immediate attention, I let her fuss it out for a while if TJ is around also seeking my attention. He is very attuned to how I am with Baby E and sometimes imitates his sister to get the same attention as I am giving her which I generously give him too.
Then there are times where he absolutely has to have me come over and look at his newest creative toy arrangement or train crash or tow truck AND Baby E is howling for some attention of her own for any of the aforementioned reasons. There have been times when I have let Baby E cry and gone over to TJ’s play area to look at whatever he wanted me to look and appreciate. It only takes a few seconds but it reassures TJ that his needs are also important to his mommy. Content with that knowledge and secure in his little world knowing that mommy still pays attention to him, he is back to playing on his own and I can then go attend to Baby E.