Having children born close together can be chaotic. A chaotic, magnificent collage of madness and beauty.
At least it has been for me. In remembering back to when I had my first baby, and even before — especially when I was pregnant — I had more than a few lofty ideals. Some of which evaporated soon after I was in the thick of being a new mom, and most of which disappeared or became altered after the birth of my second.
While I’m definitely no parenting expert, I surely do have nearly four years of experience in parenting little ones close in age and not losing myself in the process. My biggest feat has been steering clear of swallowing buckets of guilt over how I parent.
The tips below won’t be for everyone, but they’ve definitely helped me along. Which is really a large part of what this blogging thing is about. Sharing our stories and experiences as parents, and our unique experiences as mothers, with the hope that others will be able to relate. That we find camaraderie, develop a community, and inspire one another. At least that’s the hope. Not everyone has an ample support system; lots of moms fall prey to the weight that society in general puts on how mothers should be. Not everything is magical, but most of it is — or can be. It’s all in how you look at it. It’s all in how you handle it.
1. Learn to let go.
Having babies close together, especially back-to-back, takes a big toll on our bodies! Not just in the physical, but the metaphysical too. Our hormones fluctuate greatly, and how we view ourselves mentally and physically changes immensely. We judge ourselves for not losing the baby weight fast enough, or if we aren’t blissed out enough or doing it all effortlessly with a smile.
I had to re-learn a large part of what being a woman meant to me. As a woman who is also a mother. It didn’t hit me at first, but it definitely hit home after the birth of my second. It was a long haul, but I learned to let go of so much in order to keep myself, if that makes any sense.
Let go of the house on occasion; leave the laundry pile, leave the dishes, leave the mascara. Eat something healthy instead. Read a couple of chapters in that book you’ve been dying to pick up.
The biggest part of this, for me, was LEAVING the babies. In giving up mommy martyrdom, I allowed myself personal time to leave the house to do anything I darn well pleased. Write by the water, go for a massage, go to yoga, take a canning or photography course… these are all things I did (and plan on doing), without feeling guilty for leaving my babies when they were “too little.” Ain’t no one happy if Mama’s not happy.
2. Ask yourself what really matters.
Oh, when I was pregnant with Wyndham, everything was going to be organic and natural all the way! No plastic toys, cloth diapering, breast-milk only, organic cotton clothing only, all baby food made from scratch… and the list went on. Looking back at that list now, I just laugh and laugh and laugh. And then laugh some more. How annoying I must have been.
Listen. Many would still call me a crunchy mama, sure. Whatever. We can’t ever predict what’s going to happen when we’re actually in it. When we’re actually mothering. For example — I wasn’t able to exclusively breastfeed. I can’t control what other people buy my kids. We cloth diapered with our first, the beginning of our second, and then when my back went out from an old injury, we lost the plot on it and never went back. I certainly washed the soosie every single time it dropped to the ground with my first, and if a tap wasn’t around to wash it for my second, my mouth most certainly would do.
How much do all of these things matter? A little or a lot — depending on how seriously you take yourself. Dark humour should be your very good friend during the early years of parenting, especially when you have more than one underfoot. Just sayin’.
3. On a lighter note: Make meal prep easier!
Have breakfast for dinner. Yes. DO THAT. More than once a week even. Goes over like gangbusters and everything will be just fine. Including your mental state. On a related note, for many of the nights that you don’t make breakfast for dinner? Get super friendly with your Crock-Pot. Buy one if you don’t have one.
Also, make friends with a really good blender. Screw all that fancy baby food-making gadgetry. I’ve used the same standing blender and hand blender for all of my baby food making needs.
Finally, embrace the concept of daily smoothies. For yourself and your babies as soon as they are at that stage of eating. Especially green smoothies — so good for you and them!
4. Make time for your relationship.
No seriously, DO THIS. Losing the plot on this can happen so easily when you have babies to care for and love up — but it also can be very difficult to reverse that kind of disregard. I’m not saying every relationship during the early years of parenting closely spaced siblings will suffer. I’m just suggesting to have a date night once a week, mmkay? Even if you do it at home, someway, somehow — make time. Definitely (harkening back to that guilt thing here), make room in your budget for a babysitter if you don’t have family close by who can take the reins once a week for a spell.