As we welcomed our second baby earlier this year, life has been same same but different.
After surviving 4 months with baby Leroy, we sometimes find ourselves a little more confident. Adding a toddler into the equation however, throws us into a new zone altogether.
But we’re happy to say that most days are good, and we’re keeping our fingers crossed for them to get better. After all, parenting is a lifelong learning journey where the adults discover infinite lessons with our little ones.
So, this month, the spotlight is on none other than…. Yours truly!
If you’re expecting another baby, or planning to start a family, we hope our insights and first hand experience offer straightforward and practical tips to help prepare for what to expect!
1. How has it been caring for a toddler and a newborn? What are some challenges that you’ve faced thus far?
I’d be lying if I said everything has been a breeze!
With a newborn, our engines have restarted to get our breastfeeding journey going, and have a sort-of routine in place for the baby. His feeds are at about 2hr intervals, so I pretty much go about my day like clockwork – he’s my alarm that any precious me-time is up! But a child is not in-built with a fixed schedule – nap times may sway or take longer than usual to sleep (if he even sleeps!).
A new baby means new chapters; things which may seem all too familiar may at times be a little different too, so it’s a little rediscovery in itself with the new baby.
A general routine can offer a guide through the day, and I do covet some “me” time during the day. By that, I’m referring to time to go to the toilet in peace (lest you imagine it’s shopping time or high tea!) or simply stone and browse the Internet when I can. I’ve since realised that embracing the uncertainty of a day makes it more bearable – guess that means baby-led days!
That also means a planned out day could go totally haywired when tasks are disrupted – Delayed naps and baths? No time to meet deadlines? Sudden urgent errands? Stay calm and try to avoid pulling out your hair! :P
A baby’s needs are simpler than a toddler’s, so it’s relatively easier in a way. Since this is our second child, we sort of count on our past experience to handle situations (we don’t get too anxious when things happen), and I’m definitely more calm now when he cries! Save for the first couple of months when he had trouble sleeping on certain nights – fatigue enveloped me and I was a ball of cranky nerves at times!
With toddlerhood a “new” chapter for us too, it started off a little trying when our buttons were pushed. It took us plenty of effort to adjust our thoughts and actions (no thanks to insufficient sleep for us and a toddler trying to manage her bigger-than-me emotions!), reading helpful articles as well as putting ourselves in her shoes to understand what makes her tick and in turn, we are able to react appropriately without regretting our actions or a Scream Fest.
Having a hands-on husband is a blessing too – we can split our duties between both kids and he’s able to attend to their needs and mine too, whenever the situation calls for.
We’re far from acing it; we’re continuously learning and might I say, it does take some psychology skill + people management, and it does help sharpen one’s skills or unearth and developed those you never knew existed too, which would be really effective at a workplace too! That’s why we think that being a mum should go on our resumes, yes? :P
Some days, I just want to hide in the toilet and pretend I can’t hear anything, and on other days, I wished I had Harry Potter’s Invisibility Cloak.
Sometimes, I’d wish they’re a little bigger so they can be more independent and we need not have to fuss over every single detail. But there are moments we wish for time to freeze, so we could hold them close forever… And time flies faster when we become parents, don’t you think?
2. Has there been any sibling rivalry?
When I was expecting Leroy, we made sure to prepare Vera for the baby. It sounds strange because, how would she understand the concept of a baby when she can’t even see it?
She knew there was a baby in my tummy, and on the day we had Leroy, she came to visit and saw this baby. I guess a stream of question marks must have wriggled through her little mind!
Most of the time, she’s okay with Leroy, except when certain members of the family are carrying him at a specific timing (e.g. when she’s really tired), she would want to be carried by that person too. It gets a little more trying when she’s unwell, and that’s when both kids are at home and it can get seriously challenging, in all honesty! There, I’ve said it!
She’s mostly a sweet big sister who would come telling us to “carry didi (little brother), he’s crying.” Or she’d help out in different ways through her actions such as getting the things we need when he’s due for a diaper change or wiping down at bedtime. She’s our little helper who takes his hankies, diapers, clothes, body lotion etc. when she knows we need them. When he cries or drools, she’d take a hankie to wipe for him, or come telling us what’s happening.
It’s also very normal for toddlers to have a strong sense of ownership at this stage – e.g. MY daddy, MY toys etc. I’m not too worried, as this is a natural phase. But it can lead to child tantrums leaving the parents agitated. Guess it takes alot of self-control when it comes to raising voices and losing our cool.
3. How should I prepare my elder child for the new baby?
They say, preparation is half the battle won, and this applies with a new baby too!
We started preparing Vera for our new baby during the second trimester, and when things seemed more “stable” during the pregnancy. Also, my tummy was a little more obvious, so it was easier for her to “see” there’s some changes.
Books are one of the ways to tell her what’s happening with the characters in the story. As we read the books to her, we took the chance to relate it to our family, telling her that baby will play with her, baby needs to change diapers, baby can only cry and drink milk, and baby loves hugs and kisses etc.
We bought a few books to prepare her for the new baby, but this book, I’m a Big Sister by Joanna Cole was our best bet for an under 2!
Similar to using the books for a discussion, we talked about things she could relate to. For e.g. Will you share your toys with baby? Jie Jie will help mummy to look after baby, right?
Getting the toddler involved during preparations for the new baby
Having the older child involved lets her feel part of the new chapters ahead and what’s to come. Asking her to help choose new clothes or toys for the baby, or helping to sort or pack the items in the nursery (e.g. mittens and booties, diapers etc.) gives her some responsibilities which she can hone and a sense of belonging.
I personally feel that this offers her independence, allowing her to play her role in the family, and subsequently when baby is here, it’s a natural progression for her to continue being involved too.
4. What happens if both toddler and baby are crying? Who should I attend to first?
Some friends shared that they’ve chanced upon literature which share that the toddler should be attended to first, since they are aware of the environment, as compared to a baby.
There’s no hard and fast rules – and we’d subscribe to reacting according to individual situations.
If the toddler is crying because she fell, and the baby is crying because he wants to be carried, then yes, the answer would be obvious – attend to the toddler first.
In the case when the baby is hungry, and the toddler is having a meltdown, then the quickest way would be to scoop the baby up to comfort him, and speak to the toddler before proceeding to feed the baby (or this might be done at the same time too!)
It sounds strange to feed the baby in the midst of a crying baby, but sometimes, it has to happen, especially if you’re alone at home. With additional hands, it would be helpful to get support and have someone else attend to one of them – if baby is bottle-fed, pass him over and you can attend to the elder child.
If baby is breastfed, nurse the baby and have the other adult calm the elder child. Before the nursing session, tell the elder child that you’ll have to step aside to feed the baby (just so she doesn’t think that you’re disappearing from her sight or ignoring her emotions which could aggravate the meltdown). After the nursing session, address the toddler’s concerns in a calm manner.
To be honest, there will be many chaotic moments, and some days will be frustrating where all your buttons are pushed. Patience gets thrown out of the window! But at the end of it, as parents we have to remember that our children looks to us as examples (in other words, they would mimic us!) and the way we handle situations would influence them too.
When it comes to emotional wellbeing, things can get sensitive or hurtful, and we may not realise it since the elder child is so young, but every positive bit contributes to his/her emotional bank, just as negativity does!
Staying calm, and keeping a positive mindset helps address challenges on a more neutral basis!
5. Any tips for managing a toddler in his/her trying two’s?
As you know, parenting is a never-ending journey until we breathe our last. I guess the most important tip would be to first, learn to manage ourselves – emotionally, mental, attitude etc – before we speak about managing a child.
At every age, parents are put to unique sets of challenges. And at the same time, we are sharpening our EQ along the way, yes?
As toddlers, they are testing boundaries and gaining independence while making sense of the world. Some days, they want to do everything that they are NOT supposed to – and truth be told, that would count as a horrible day for parents :P
In a social setting, it’s all about people, mostly adults in this case. At the workplace, cafe or even with our families, it’s pretty much the same, except that the subjects are (hopefully) rational adults. And this list of what to expect of toddlers might get you nodding away in agreement too!
Manage your own expectations
The young child is all of a grand age of 2 – not 20. It’s important that we understand that they are not able to be as rational as we hope for them to be (just yet).
However, I do notice that being calm and taking time to explain to them (e.g. why big sister should share our toys, or why we can’t go to the playground because it’s raining) does make a BIG difference in terms of them accepting our “grand speech” as opposed to raised voices and commando-style instructions.
During toddlerhood, they are constantly learning while this paves the path to their years ahead. Whether it’s the terrible two’s, trying two’s or terrific two’s, the phase remains, fortunately or unfortunately! HA!
Get ready for surprises too!
While managing our expectations as parents, you will soon realise that your once-upon-a-time baby has now blossomed into an active and chatty toddler who pretty much knows ALOT about what’s going on. You’ll be surprised because we’ve been stumped by V countless times!
From the things she says and her trail of logic, her actions, we know that she’s picking up all these every day in ways we least expect – so yes, it’s proven that kids download information secretly and one day, BOOM! :P So, yes, keep the bad and show the good, eh?
Just as Newton has summed it up: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
This cannot be further from the truth when it comes to parenting. A toddler would react accordingly too, and when emotions are larger than their tiny selves, things can get overwhelming, so it’s good to remind ourselves that they’re just a young child in this BIG world.
Summon every inch of your cells labelled ‘patience’ and that might help with tackling the trying toddler!
And, as if you didn’t already realise, parents constantly worry about their children all of their lives. If your child has bid the trying two’s goodbye, get ready to greet the Threenager soon after :P
6. How can we help our toddler appreciate her baby sibling?
Involvement, no doubt!
The toddler may not be all lovey-dovey with his/her new sibling just yet, but like adults, interaction builds relationships. Deliberately keeping the elder child away can cause him to feel like he’s lost his parents’ love and attention, and before you know it, resentment is brewing. As with negativity, a little drop grows and manifests at exponential speed, and can cause one to hold it in their hearts and minds all their lives.
Some senior folks may not understand the consequences of such actions of keeping the kids separate (afterall, that’s what they probably did during their time and with multiple kids to care for?), and it can get challenging when they quickly accede to the child’s requests whenever they get angry or cry. The parents preferred parenting style and method get overriden easily and, BAM! Adults start pointing fingers at that kid now labelled as “naughty” for knowing who to manja with or trying that luck at, when either parent is firm on not being the rules.
It may not be a rosy path ahead, and we’re no experts today being newly-promoted parents of 2 now. We’re continuously learning and discovering how to help our toddler appreciate having a baby in the family.
7. Any tips for mums who are expecting another child?
Enjoy your current status – being pregnant and being mum to an only child for now! I know how hard it can be when you feel like a whale most of the time – here are 17 things that might go through your head when you’re in your third trimester :P
Try to spend one-on-one time with the child now when you can, because soon enough, such quality time will be scarce. Don’t even get me started on mum’s guilt when both are crying for your attention…
Enjoy being pregnant too, because the bump will only be there for X weeks, and before you know it, you’ll be cradling a fragile newborn in your arms :)
Embrace the new changes when your new baby arrives… there will be ups and downs, but most importantly, learn to filter off a “bad” day and remember the good times in your memory!
I’ve often wondered how we would be able to love more than 1 child… and how hard it will be devote time and effort to both individually. I’ve since learned that 1 + 1 does not equate to 2…… and that a parent’s heart grows with each child. Our hopes for each child are the same – for them to be healthy and happy :)
Happy parenting and enjoy the ride! :)
Are you expecting another child?Or do you have child managing tips to share too? Do tell us!