Written by Maggie Zehring
Our household boasts three cribs, two bunk beds and dressers filled with at least $100 in diapers every month. We own two pack-and-plays, two bouncers and four car seats. There are no twins in our home — just three toddlers and another babe on the way.
We didn’t get here overnight, and with each additional child, we learned more fully how to manage our household, keep our sanity and love our children better. Nick and I welcomed our first child in March 2016, and a year and 10 days later, we became foster parents to a 4-month-old. The transition from one child to two happened by design, but it was not easy.
We expected our second child to fit smoothly into the schedule we’d perfected with our firstborn, and we were sadly disappointed to learn how unrealistic that assumption was. Becoming parents of two was a huge lesson in logistics and juggling. It took about six or eight weeks of drudgery to get a handle on managing adult conversations, tag-teaming dinner and knowing who was better fit to give someone a bath.
My husband and I both underestimated the regular demands of our household and our jobs. Between dropping kids off at daycare, grocery shopping, extra appointments — and in our case, foster care obligations — life felt like one of those machines at the gym where you’re perpetually climbing uphill.
If you’re growing your family, here are five ways to lighten your load and learn from our mistakes:
1. Communicate and be kind. Being efficient, kind communicators becomes even more important. There’s something about the added stress of a new human that makes whispering under your breath and rolling your eyes easier to do — and much worse for your relationship. We got a crash course in how badly it brought us down as husband and wife when we (mostly me!) didn’t speak with patience and kindness. Giving each other a heads up on our moods, the day’s challenges and our expectations for one another was and is crucial.
2. Do anything you can in advance. Preparation for any part of our day or plans became a necessity for us to function well as a family. Breakfast, coffee, clothes and bags are all set out the night before. Anything and everything that can be done in advance is done. Call me crazy, but sometimes I set the dinner table the night before just to take one more task off my hands at the dreaded 5 p.m. hour.
3. Coordinate to-do lists. Emailing one another our to-dos for the week or weekend helps us as parents and partners better anticipate each other’s needs and give each other the freedom to do what we need to do.
4. Baby-wearing literally saved us from many challenging moments of overwhelm. Whether it was our toddler or 4-month-old, there was rarely a moment when someone didn’t want to be held close in those first few weeks of transitioning from one to two kids. Being able to wear one of our kids was a saving grace, especially during the witching hour of dinner time.
5. Learn to let go. We quickly learned attending every social event could no longer be a priority. We now pick and choose the events that mean the most to us as a family and individuals. I also let go of the need to document every milestone. I stopped posting cute photos of my eldest at each month of his life after the second month, and I let go of the same pressure with our second and third.
At the end of the day, yes, the transition to parenting more than one child is hard.
And yes — it will be worth it.
Maggie Zehring of Scottsdale juggles her writing and social media skills with being a mom to three young children.