Kids Close in Age

Day two of having two kids 13 months apart and I knew it was going to be absolutely insane. It’s just crazy trying to manage two babies that have different needs but need those needs met RIGHT NOW. And they can’t tell me what those needs are except by screaming, crying, hitting, pulling or fussing. Sometimes it seems like I can’t even keep them both alive.

But I know that I’m not alone. I reached out to some of my friends who have children really close in age and asked them how they are all still alive. Really, I did. I said…”HOW DO YOU DO THIS?”. Not just “this” in general, but “this” as in dinner time and bathtime and bedtime and getting to and from the car and all those types of things that we don’t think twice about until we have two hands and way too many things (including two lives) to carry in those hands.

And here is what I got in response. I loved each and every response that I got, and I asked them all permission to share in this blog post. I’m not an expert, but these ladies are doing it day in and day out and they are AMAZING Momma’s. And I loved how each one of them has a totally different strategy. I totally picked and choosed (not the right grammar…) their advice and have been applying it all regularly!! SO helpful!

 

Mandie has two beautiful children, Owen and Josie. Owen and Josie are 11 months apart!

What are some practical tips for managing two kids so close in age?

Practical tips: Caffeine? Lol. No, but seriously I drink too much soda, coffee, and tea! (which with nursing kind of backfires, but it’s survival). ALSO, for me to stay sane I can’t stay in the house. It’s so hard, but I go places ALL THE TIME (this is partly because of my anxiety and depression issues). I’m constantly running errands (sometimes ones that I don’t even need to run), going to my parents and friends houses. Getting out and wearing Jojo while Owen is in a cart/stroller, keeps me busy and not have time to go insane or notice how tired I am. (This could be really bad advice FYI, but it’s what got me through it)

You also have to let go of having a clean house. My home is a MESS…not always (having people over makes me clean it lol)

What are some of the comments that you have gotten in regards to having two so close together (from friends, family, random strangers….)?

2) Comments from people: During pregnancy people would ask how it’s possible. (we got pregnant at 6 weeks post partum from Owen) Now I already get asked if they are twins

People would ask if it was an accident or on purpose

or some would assume and say Oops

I think the thing I hear most is “Wow, you’ve got your hands full”

why yes, yes I do! And i love it! tongue emoticon lol

Also, it wasn’t planned to have them that close together, but we weren’t trying to prevent as we want our kids close together and Owen wasn’t nursing

Do you have any good ideas/suggestions for how to teach the eldest (Tera in this case) to be gentle and not drop 5 pound books on the little one?

3) being gentle….bahahaha. Let’s just say babies are resilient and can handle more than you’d think. Just be consistent…Josie was like 6 lbs and her brother was sitting on her. We still working on it, but are lucky that Owen is VERY compliant and not a typical 18 mo old. (he’s his father’s son). “Gentle hands, soft touches” etc are things we say every time he isn’t gentle.

What is the hardest part of having two kids so close in age?

The hardest part of having them so close is my body image. I never got to lose weight from Owen before I got pregnant with Josie. I ended my pregnancy with her 60lbs above where I started. I still have 20lbs to lose.

And carrying both of them in from the car when Owen is sleeping is like hilarious. We park on other side of the building so I have him on one shoulder, Jo’s carseat on my arm, the diaper bag on my back, purse on my shoulder, and whatever else in my hands. Have never dropped a kid, but Josie did take a soda dumped on her face and head lol

What are some of the benefits of having two so close in age?

Benefits: They will never grow up not knowing life without each other. I also like that I don’t have a naughty 2 or 3 year old that needs extra parenting than Owen at his current stage while I’m dealing with a newborn and no sleep

Do you have any other words of advice??

Hang on to your horses and enjoy the ride. It’s incredible and amazing! It’s hard and discouraging! But it’s 100% worth it!

Laura also has two beautiful children, 12 months apart. As I read through her responses to my questions, I cried almost the whole time. She gives such beautiful, grace-filled answers and it gave me so much hope!

Thanks, Laura!

Firstly, I would never recommend having babies that close! Ha ha, but really, I wouldn’t. I know Emma (No. 2) was certainly no accident. Addie (No. 1) was 3 months old when I became pregnant again. Around about that time I was reading a Christian magazine about Mum’s having kids close together and a thought popped into my head “yeah, I could do that”. Sure enough, I was pregnant. I think the Lord was preparing me. I get pretty sick when I’m pregnant, so poor No.1 would be sitting on the floor all by herself while I leaned over the edge of the couch shaking a toy in her direction trying to keep her entertained in between vomiting and being so fatigued I could barely pull myself off the couch. And I’m a high energy person!

When No.2 was born No.1 wasn’t walking yet, so I had to carry both kids everywhere while ‘healing’ from childbirth. Nine months of No. 1’s twelve months of life I was pregnant, so a lot of that is a blur and then the first nine months of No. 2’s life was a blur just because of the sheer amount of energy and work it took to keep kids fed, breastfeed, diapers etc. It didn’t help that both girls had a bunch of allergies that I had to work around too, which gave me a grand total of 14 POOPEY diapers A DAY and irritable sick kiddos.

While I wouldn’t recommend it, sometimes the Lord ‘asks’ us to do it anyway. It’s totally possible, and yes, a lot of the time enjoyable, but boy is it hard! I’ve talked to a lot of mothers over the years and they all say “people say it gets easier! But it doesn’t, it’s just different”, well, when you have kids close, it certainly does get ‘different’ AND EASIER. The place I’m in right now is a MILLION times easier than this time last year. Heck, I’m going to be running a triathlon in 2 weeks! That’s proof right there.

Practical Tips: Use a slow cooker, as soon as breakfast is done set up the slow cooker. Either that, or use the first part of nap time to prep dinner, then sit down and relax. Once nap time is done, there are the post nap cuddles, the snack time, the reading book time, the poopey diapers etc etc and before you know it, its dinner time.

Baby wearing. Especially a baby from a Foster care system. The more cuddle time the better. I wore No. 2 while cooking, shoveling snow, bathing No. 1, laundry etc. It helps them be content and get much needed ‘contact’ time.

Be intentional. Even now, I have times of the day that I am very intentional about giving my kids 100% of my attention. I make the effort to sit with them on the floor and read some books, sing, paint, play house or garden. We cuddle, we play wrestle, we hang out and laugh. But after a while, I say “now it’s your turn to play together”, and they have to play without me, after a few hours (or one hr) we have ‘intentional hang out’ time again. This happens throughout the day. I find my kids can play better together and are less ‘needy’ if I am able to devote some time to giving them my full attention and physical touch. Of course, this is on a good day right? Not every day can be like this, but I try.

Hang out with other Mums. This helps you work things out, ask questions, reassure you that you’re not alone, or the only one with a weird kid. You can share pooping stories, choking stories, cute stories….it helps keep you sane and normal. It’s even helpful to have a friend who you can ‘go deeper with’ on other issues, such as struggles in your marriage etc. I know the hardest time in our marriage so far was when the girls were in the ‘tough’ stage. I was too tired to put as much effort into working things out with my husband. We both had a pretty rough time. Ohh, I used to dream about packing my bags and heading back to Australia to my whole family, regularly. I was sure I wouldn’t even miss him, but I knew I was only feeling like that because of months and months of not being intentional with my husband. It’s hard to balance not just children, but the marriage relationship. I’m not going to lie, it gets hard, but being more intentional about spending time with the Lord, reading his word and confiding in Godly women helped.

Give yourself a break. At nap time I used to panic, there were so many things I wanted to get done that I would try to do them all. In the end I just did a little bit of them all, and none of them well. I would then get frustrated and feel like I had wasted my precious time. After a while of this I had to learn to adjust my expectations to nothing. If I don’t get ANYTHING done in the day other than feed and change my kid’s diapers, that was okay. It’s easy to ‘know’ that, but to be okay with yourself when you actually do that, is another story.

Also, as soon as you can, put both kids down at the same time for naps. Do whatever you have to do to move No. 2’s second nap to the same time as No. 1’s nap. I am MUCH more patient and sane if I get an hour of quiet time. That being said, I do stagger the naps a little. No. 1 gets to stay up a little later in the afternoon and that’s when we have our one on one time. We usually make tea and drink it out of pretty (cheap) china tea cups and read stories. She feels so special and I get to see a side of her I don’t when its hectic and crazy with two kids. Then, No. 2 wakes earlier, because she went down earlier, and I spend time with just her. Obviously this is possible because I only have TWO to juggle. Also, this isn’t possible every day. Some days I just put them down, shut the door and put on music or a movie to drown out the crying. For their sake and my own I have to do this!

 

Comments from strangers:

“it’s worse than twins!” because they are at totally different stages, but both needy.

“oh good, I like it when smart people reproduce”  ha ha ha, oh man.

“are they twins?” even though one is obviously a head taller than the other one.

“don’t you know how to prevent having children?” uh…no we are just both health professionals.

 

Teaching the eldest to be gentle:

It helps that No. 1 wasn’t around for long before No. 2 arrived, so she didn’t form too many rough habits. We always said “gentle” while we stroked No. 1’s face to show her.

I also asked No. 1 to watch out for No. 2. No. 1 would always yell out to me if No. 2 was going to roll off the couch, she would scoop rocks out of her sisters mouth, and never let her touch the power cords. I would praise No. 1 so much when she did that, and say “you’re such a great BIG sister!”. I taught her how to do this by saying “Addie, Emma is going to eat that rock! Quick take it off her” (obviously only if she wasn’t needing immediate attention). We taught her to be aware of her sister. Sometimes I would say “Addie, go check on Emma please” (even though I could see her and she was fine) If No. 2 cried I taught No. 1 how to put her pacifier in. No. 1 even learned how to feed No. 2. Someone’s comment to my video of this was “a baby feeding a baby!”, yes, that’s true, but don’t underestimate how clever and capable little kids can be. If you can overlook the mess, it’s worth it. Learn how to back off a little and let the older one get involved in taking care of little sister. We also teach No. 1 to serve No. 2 first when it comes to food or treats, that way she is looking out for her sisters needs first. At least we are trying to! There is still PLENTY of fighting despite how they are raised. Oh, the fighting!

Hardest part: kinda already answered that. Tiredness, every day feeling like a blur, overwhelmed. But this doesn’t last! When no. 2 reached 18 months I woke up one day and thought “hmm..it’s not hard anymore!”. I actually started wanting to sew again and exercise again, and do some of the things I really enjoy again.

Benefits: NOW!! Oh, my, how much easier it is now. Now I am at an advantage when it comes to my friends with only one kid. My kids entertain each other! They play together all the time. They look out for each other, so I can relax a little cos I know No. 1 will tell me if No. 2 gets into the pantry, or unrolls the toilet paper or draws on the walls. I can even mix and match their clothes (sometimes). I still wouldn’t recommend getting pregnant when your first baby is only 3 months old, but for those of us that find themselves in this situation, it does get easier. When you get a full night of sleep and a few hours every morning because the kids play together and then during naptime, heck, don’t tell me that’s not easier. The different is inevitable, the fighting, the back chatting, the attitude, that part comes no matter what the age gap. Some days I end up yelling at the top of my lungs “I’m going crazy” (I really do that), some days I hide from my kids for a few minutes of peace and quiet, sometimes I put on Curious George just to stop the whining, but that’s just part of being a parent. It’s tough having kids so close, the ‘different’ is going to happen, but the ‘easier’ is real. I promise!

I also want to add….everyone parents differently. I’ve had many people  tell me I’m a lousy parent, and many people tell me they ‘look up to me’ in how I parent. Basically, with a prayerful heart and support from your husband, do the best you can do, and that’s enough. No one is perfect. Just love your little girls, discipline them, establish boundaries (so they feel safe) and try to survive. There is alot of fun ahead of you and alot of tears. It makes you a wiser, stronger, more compassionate woman than what you would have been otherwise.

Shannon is a good friend of mine from our church here in Ohio. She also has two children who are 13 months apart!

Q: What are some practical tips for managing two kids so close in age? A: Realizing that you are in a stage that won’t last forever really, really helps. I try to keep it balanced though; on one hand you find relief knowing that this insanity won’t last forever and on the other hand you treasure each moment of each stage knowing that you will miss it when it’s gone! I believe it’s unhealthy for a mom to be unbalanced in those mindsets either way. Keeping a balanced focus greatly helped me when things were ‘insanely insane’ and boosted my spirits even more when all was peaceful and going smooth! Also keeping in mind that they will be good friends the older they get was something to look forward to and helped me through the crazy days as well. We are seeing them now, more often than not, getting along very well and loving on each other in a beautiful way! All glory to God for I know He is mightily working and answering many prayers for them as they grow. We also have always had our kids on a later schedule which is not very common with other families we know. Our kids have always had a consistent morning wake-up time of no earlier than 9:00am and often later. We’ve never really stuck to much of a schedule other than our whole family going to bed later and the kids sleeping later (I fully expect this to change when we start ‘real school’ but for now while the kids are little this is what works well for us). The slow mornings all to myself have always been really helpful and I can usually get small projects done before they kids get up and it leaves me feeling more accomplished for the day. Or I use the time to catch up on sleep if needed. Once each of our kids started sleeping through the night they consistently sleep 10-12 hours. When they were tiny they obviously woke up often to nurse and there were definitely times when I was exhausted out of my mind and I felt like it had been years since I had gone to bed and woke up the next day – life felt like one super-duper long day but that stage did not last forever. Staying flexible and not scheduling yourself to do more than you and/or your family could handle – Another life-saver and a privilege that I don’t take for granted. Being able to be a stay-at-home mom and regulate our family schedule is a HUGE blessing from the Lord and I am very grateful!! Within reason and without letting them take over and make our lives miserable, I let the kids make their own natural schedules because I found that as soon as I tried to get them into a schedule their physical needs changed as they grew and messed up whatever schedule we had worked to hard to get into. I know some moms who swear by keeping a strict schedule but found that trying that route made things more stressful for our family over-all. To sum up this answer, I would say that, along with keeping the Lord my source of strength, a balanced, positive mindset and being as flexible and laid-back as possible are the things that helped me the most. P.S. Since I had such terrible pregnancies and labors/deliveries, the trials of caring for them after they were born were much preferable to the former!

Q: What are some of the comments that you have gotten in regards to having two so close together (from friends, family, random strangers….)? A: Usually, as soon as they know their ages, I let them know that Kaylene was an oops (a very good oops!!) before they even think to ask. And mostly it’s just mentioned that kids closer in age have a tendency to get along well because they have more of the same interests than if they were born farther apart.

Q: Do you have any good ideas/suggestions for how to teach the eldest (Tera in this case) to be gentle and not drop 5 pound books on the little one? A: When Kaylene was a newborn, Timmy was too young and too chunky to be able to get up on the couch and so for a few short weeks she was safe if I put her there. But then Timmy learned to climb. Even though Kaylene had her share of ‘clumsy toddler brotherly love’ she lived and does not remember those days – phew! Training Timmy to be obedient helped tremendously. He didn’t always obey but for the most part he did. Teaching him to be gentle was a time-consuming process. Sometimes I would just put him in his highchair though, or a place where he was safe and contained to give me and Kaylene a break and he was not allowed to fuss about that so that we didn’t just trade one crazy for another crazy. I remember also putting Kaylene in her bouncer on the kitchen table (before she could roll over or move anywhere). I was obviously always present when she was up there and Timmy was not allowed to pull out the chairs to climb up to reach her. I did that often when it was time to prepare meals.

Q: What is the hardest part of having two kids so close in age? A: Not having a child old enough to help even in the smallest way – having two entirely dependent-on-me people for a time, especially if I was sick and alone while my husband worked long hours. Timmy had barely learned to walk before Kaylene was born and I often had to carry them both at the same time and that was rough.

Q: What are some of the benefits of having two so close in age? A: They really do grow up to be best friends!! At least ours have and it’s precious to watch. Having one right after the other also doesn’t give you much time to forget things so I didn’t really feel like I had to ‘re-learn’ caring for the younger sibling because I felt like I had just been doing it with the older one. I know that if I was to have another baby right now I would find myself thinking often “oh I forgot about this or that part of the newborn stage.”

Q: Do you have any other words of advice?? A: Stay in the Word and walk closely with the Lord – the only truly predictable stability in this crazy life!!

 

One comment

  1. Nancy says:

    Kudos to all you mammas with kids so close in age. You’re all doing a fabulous job. And I can’t believe the questions people ask. Isn’t there any such thing as privacy or keeping your comments to yourself unless they’re helpful or encouraging?!

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