Tips from Mama O on raising two under two
My family is growing which naturally means I’m growing too and not just in the physical sense. I’m looking to learn every step of the way to make sure I’m prepared for what lies ahead and as much as I have faith in my internal badass, I naturally have lots of concerns about raising two kids under the age of two. Some of these concerns include: Will I ever sleep again? Will my first one adjust well to the change? How will I balance it all? As you can imagine, I need all the strength and support I can get so I met up with Mama O @mamaolivek ,a mommy in a similar situation (our kids have almost exactly the same gap between them, around 20 months.). Mama O is a photographer, a blogger, social media influencer and an amazing cook (Check out her videos) and she does all this while putting her babies Olive and Marley first and showing them with love. I wanted to know how she managed with introducing a new family member, splitting her attention and time between the two, managing ‘mom guilt’ and generally surviving the exhaustion that’s coming my way. Another thing we have in common is our passion for physical fitness and mental health and I wanted to know how she continued to keep these a priority alongside her new responsibilities. I hope you enjoy our little chat and if you are in a similar situation or if you have any babies at all, then I hope this helps you as much as it did me.
Did you give your first born a little extra one on one time and attention before number two was expected to come?
Mama O : No, not really! My second pregnancy was actually so hard that I had to give her less attention, which was really difficult for me. If you know me, you know, I’ve always been super hands on with Olive, so it killed me that I wasn’t able to show her the attention that I did before. That said, when I was with her, I made sure that all of my attention was focused entirely on her, instead of on other people or my phone etc. During this period I put her in Strong Start (Strong Start is a interactive nanny and baby/toddler playgroup in Nairobi.) so that she could have her own time to establish her independence and find some friends, especially because during morning hours I would either be resting and recovering or giving my attention to my new baby.
How did you manage the discomfort in the late stages of pregnancy, while trying to spend time with Olive in her last few months as an only child.
Honestly, the ‘Mom guilt’ was really hard. I would think to myself, “am I that lazy?” or “am I genuinely this tired.” I’d make the decision to let others play with her while I took a rest and then I would feel really guilty about how lazy I’d been. Then, as soon as I gave birth, I had all this energy back which made me realize that my exhaustion really was due to my pregnancy. I went through some really hard days of pregnancy depression about how terrible I felt physically and about not being able to spend as much time with Olive. There were days where I had to suck it up and make the effort to spend time with her and then deal with my pain and fatigue later.
Having good support around me really helped. Knowing my daughter was in good hands and that I had people who were helping me with all the things I couldn’t do was great it meant that when it came round to spending time with her I could be at my best and give it my all. It’s all about quality over quantity. As long as you know they’re happy and secure, even when they’re not with you, they are still growing up in a great environment.
How did you introduce the idea of your Pregnancy / welcoming a sibling? Did you feel she could understand the concept?
When I was pregnant with Marley, I would always tell Olive that there’s a baby in here. I don’t know if she really understood until the baby was born, but she must have understood on some level because the day that she came to the hospital to see us, her whole world was different and from that moment on all she wanted was Marley. No one could hold or touch Marley and all she wanted to do was be with Marley, so maybe she did have a connection already.
What did you do to make the introduction to her new sibling easier.
I let her be involved in absolutely everything I was doing with Marley. From the time Olive came to visit at the hospital, I let Olive take control of the situation. If she wanted to carry her or not let anyone touch her, then that was fine.
I also asked people who were coming to the hospital or home to see the new baby to please say hi to Olive first because I didn’t want her to think there was a new best thing and that it had taken her place. As a parent you should let others know exactly what you expect of them to make the transition easier, especially because everyone will automatically gravitate to the new baby.
Another thing I decided to do was to make sure that If both babies were crying I would go to the older one first to let her know she is still a priority. When I first had Olive I would get a bit more upset when she’d start crying because I felt that she needed me immediately, but now, with my second, I’ve realized that babies can cry for a couple minutes and be ok. I felt like it was more essential to show Olive that the new baby was not more important than her. I think doing this will help her relationship with baby number two and make sure she doesnt resent her sibling in the future.
Another thing is when Olive does something wrong, something that she knows she’s not supposed to do, I tell her to stop. But then if Marley does that same thing, (in front of Olive) I’ll tell Marley the same (even though Marley doesn’t understand.) This is because I want her to know I have the same standards for both of them and that they’re in the same boat.
Did sleep deprivation and the focus on the new arrival affect your relationship with the first one.
I wouldn’t say it affected her that much but it affected me a lot, especially towards the end of my pregnancy. I would get easily frustrated because I was so tired. I had to actively remind myself to stay calm and remember that she’s just a child and I’m just incredibly exhausted. That was a real struggle for me. I would actively try to be the best that I could be with Olive and during the times that I was too frustrated I would let others take over. Taking care of you and giving yourself space is the most important thing during this time.
How did you include her during the newborn/baby phase?
Like I said, letting her take the lead and be involved in everything. She wanted to change diapers, change her clothes, feed her and help with absolutely everything and I had to let her, even if she was doing it wrong or slow. I felt like I had to give her the chance so that she wouldn’t feel resentful or left out. Of course, this can be kind of frustrating but you have to find the patience to let them have their own bonding experience. And now they wake up and they’re just so happy to see each other because they’ve bonded and seeing that is really rewarding.
Do you have any tips for handling having 2 under the age of 2 and still looking after yourself and your mental and physical health?
You need to actively make time for yourself, despite the ‘mom guilt’, which gets us in the hardest ways. The fact of the matter is that your kids need you at your best, and if you’re not in a good place then you’re not doing them any favors. If you are cranky and in a bad mood or struggling with depression, you will pass that energy on to your kids. It’s absolutely worthwhile to take care of yourself, whether that means seeing a therapist, taking a walk by yourself, going to the gym, having a few drinks, hanging out with friends or taking a nap in the parking lot (which I’ve done). Whatever self-care means to you, you need to go do it. Also, get a lot of rest. It takes a lot of energy to take care of two kids. As much as we want to do everything as moms we really need to take time for ourselves, that’s just incredibly important.
What are some of the wonderful things about all this that I can look forward to?
Just seeing them together and watching them form a friendship. I knew it would happen anyway even if they weren’t two under two but I’m just enjoying watching their relationship develop watching them bonding and growing up together. Also, for me, what was important was I didn’t want to draw it out and go through this every three years. I wanted to be done with pregnancy and the challenges it brings and have the freedom to start a different stage of my life.
So there you have it. I found Mama O’s little insights incredibly helpful and I feel like I’m going to use her wisdom as I prepare to welcome the new addition to our family.
Remember Mom guilt will always be there no matter what we do. We deserve as mommies to be at our best, not stumbling and dragging ourselves through our mommy journeys (Even though that’s how it feels sometimes.). We deserve to make our needs known, set aside time for us and keep in touch with who we are and only we have the power to make that happen for ourselves. I hope I can continue to grow into the best mom of two I can be. Wish me luck.