SELF-CARE SELF-ASSESSMENT FOR BUSY MOMS

Before becoming a mom of two under two, I had never even heard of the term “self-care.”

Before babies, I also never had to be intentional about looking after my own needs—I just got around to them when I got around to them.  No big deal. But when you have a baby (or two) it’s easy to keep putting your needs aside over and over again…and never getting around to addressing them. This became a serious problem for me when I had two back-to-back babies, especially because I suffered from postpartum depression. For me self-care has become an essential part of being a good mom—it’s what’s keeps me energized and happy.

In Matthew Kelly’s book Building Better Families(pg. 77), Kelly addresses four legitimate needs that we all have.  These needs are essential to any person being able to thrive in life. I have used these needs as a roadmap to assess and address my wellbeing each day.

Your turn for a self-assessment. For each of the categories below, ask yourself: “Am I getting…?

Physical Needs

√ Regular Exercise

√ Balanced Diet

√ Sufficient Sleep

Emotional Needs

√ Opportunities to love and be loved

√ Carefree time with children and spouse (playtime)

Intellectual Needs

√ Opportunities to stimulate and nourish your mind

Spiritual Needs

√ Silence and Solitude

The way you meet these needs might be slightly different from the way I meet my needs.  For example, to meet my Spiritual Needs I make time to read the Bible and my daily devotional every morning before the kiddos wake up.

My husband and I have also had to work together to find ways for me to have my Intellectual Needs met. In this season, unless I make time to read and write (which often is only possible when someone else is babysitting) it doesn’t happen.

How are you doing? In which areas are you struggling? Is there a way you can be more intentional with your time, so that you can be sure these essential needs of yours are being met?

What to Expect when you’re expecting 2 Under 2

My kiddos are 10.5 months apart, basically as close in age as you can get to your sibling without being a multiple. When I was preparing to give birth to DS, I remember trying to research what life was like for other moms with two under two. I hope this post gives expectant moms some insight into what life is really like with two BABIES who are different ages…it’s a longer post, but I wanted to include as much as possible.

Expect to feel like you’re running a marathon at a sprinters pace.  Lets dive right in to the reality: two under two is HARD. It’s hard because you are EXHAUSTED and someone CONSTANTLY needs you. Literally, every waking minute someone needs you—a dirty diaper, someone is hungry, someone needs some love & attention, etc…—especially early on. When you have two under two, your days (and nights) are non-stop. It is hard to come up with healthy, well-balanced meals for your oldest when you’re dead tired they are being a picky eater. It is hard to get out of the house and take the kids for a walk when your body aches from exhaustion and all you want to do is sleep (but the kids are getting cabin fever). The list of things that is hard goes on and on, therefore…

Plan to MAKE “me time” in the car and on stroller walks (encourage your kids to like the stroller!) and prepare for these times with your favorite music, podcasts or audiobooks.  Listening to my favorite podcast and taking a walk is often the only “me time” I get during the day, and that was especially the case early on. This time is really important for recharging your battery.

Expect to need help, to ask for help and to be sooooo thankful for any help you’re given.  We had a lot of family help in the early weeks, and honestly I don’t know how we would have done it otherwise. My Mom/MIL cleaned, cooked and took DD on walks so I could take time to bond with DS (and sleep whenever possible). When DS was 7 months old we hired our first babysitter and haven’t looked back. I am able to get out of the house for a few hours a week now, go to the gym and read/write at Starbucks. My husband and I are able to go on dates every so often, which helps us keep our relationship healthy and a priority. I am a MUCH happier, MUCH more energized and organized Mama.

Expect to NEED to go to bed early (even if you don’t want to) for the foreseeable future. It’s hard to want to go to bed—instead of playing on your phone, watching a show, reading, etc.—when you’ve spent all day pouring your time and energy into little needy babies. But trust me, make yourself do it—you’ll enjoy those little ones SO much more tomorrow if you go to bed ASAP tonight, and all you do for them tomorrow will feel less like work & more like joy if you are well-rested.

Expect strangers to ask if they’re twins. Every. Time. You. Go. Out.  And expect said strangers to act awkward & embarrassed when you tell them no, they’re not twins.

 Expect rude comments and questions. Was [your youngest] planned? Did you want them to be born so close in age? How does that even happen? [OR] You know how that happens, right? What birth control did/do you use? I have been asked all of the above and more.

But expect other moms of kids close in age (especially those with grown children) to show you compassion and offer guidance & encouragement. These women will make your day. They will make you realize that you’re not alone. They will make you value this time with your little ones because they will make you see that it will come to an end and you will miss it. They will give you hope—they have all told me that age 3 is the magic number (when things get “easy”). They will make you feel like you are a part of a special, amazing club. Talk to these women. Encounters with them are like pauses in time—pauses when you are recharged and centered—and you will remember these moms and your conversations.

Expect to grow in character & virtue. Expect to be pushed to your limits (and often beyond) and to find yourself in awe of what you’re capable of doing. For me it has been what I’ve been able to do & who I’ve been able to be in spite of my postpartum depression and extreme exhaustion. I’ve become a much more loving, others-centric, joyful and disciplined person. Right now, I’m working on the virtue of patience.

Expect to live in survival mode more often than you’d like. Again, this is especially true early on, but will get better as you develop routines. This is also the case when you/the babies are sick.

Expect to become obsessed with hand sanitizer and hand washing. Remember when you thought things were hard because you had one sick baby? Multiply that times two, and after one bout of illness you will be a germaphobe.

Expect to feel pulled between two babies, and to feel like you never have enough to give. Again, another major struggle early on that over time you will learn to manage.

Expect to be a constant referee once your littlest starts to move. We are struggling with this one now…I have a 12-month-old who can walk and wants everything that his 23-month-old sister has. DS is always trying to get into DD’s business, and DD hits/pushes DS to keep him out of her business unless I am constantly refereeing. This has been a problem since he started walking THREE MONTHS AGO. It is not developmentally appropriate for a 20/23 month old to share, BUT I’ve found that DD is very receptive and understands how to “take turns”. REMEMBER THESE TWO WORDS, “take turns”, they will save you and your children during this phase. I also talk to DD about how it makes DS feel when she pushes him away, and we have been seeing an improvement! There is a lot of talk about feelings in our house.

Expect to be on a different schedule from other moms with (one) kid your kids’ age. My number one priority lately—after months of staggered naps—has been to get DS and DD on the same sleep schedule. Well, I am proud to say we are there. They both sleep roughly 7p-7a overnight, and go down for a 2-hour (or so) nap at 11a. The 11a nap is something we’re working on pushing back right now, as all story time & playgroup activities seem to always happen at 10:30a/11a where we live. Those social activities are really important to the three of us, but naps are most important. So for now we can’t make it, but I hope to get the kids on a more accommodating routine soon.

Expect to value schedules and routines, but at the same time to become a very “go with the flow” person. I have found that keeping a daily schedule is so helpful to both the kids and to me. They know what to expect and at what time to expect it (no one fights bedtimes) and I know what I need to do and at what time (empty the dishwasher, fold the clothes, give the kids my undivided attention, etc.) to stay on top of everything that needs to happen for the day.

Expect to forget a lot (thanks to sleep deprivation); expect to take lots of videos and pictures to counter this forgetfulness. I remember right before DS was born, another mom who had two under two told me that the first few months would be a blur. This is true, but in my experience the blur has lasted all year. You will feel like you miss out on a fair amount of milestones. Or you’ll be there but sadly have no memory of it. Right now I’m sitting here trying to remember DD’s first steps, and the only thing that I can easily recall is video on my phone of her pushing her toy cart around.

Expect to feel like a baller, because you are. Perhaps you’ll feel it at the end of the first day that you’re home alone with TWO babies—you will want to (and should) give yourself a pat on the back. Or perhaps it will be the first time you leave the house with both babies by yourself. Or perhaps it will be the night you successfully bathe both kids at the same time by yourself, and you’ll be like, “Dang, I just did that.” On DS’ first birthday, I had one of those moments when I looked back on the year and felt proud, because I have worked freakin’ hard this past year.

Expect your love to double. Before DS was born, I remember sharing with one of my playgroup mommy friends how I was worried about having another baby so close in age to DD. I felt like she and I hadn’t had enough time together just the two of us, and I was worried about sharing my time and energy with another little one—I felt like DD was going to lose out. I also wondered how I could ever love another baby as much as I loved her. My mommy friend told me how she and her brother were close in age, and how her mother had said that when her brother was born, her love doubled. This happened to me, and it will happen to you too. And this love will make all the other things possible; this love is how you will “do it”, how you will navigate these early years.

If you have two under two, do you have anything else to add?  If you’re expecting, what are your biggest concerns or questions before baby arrives?

Essential Baby Gear for Two Under Two

We just hit the 12-month mark with two babies under the age of two. Beyond the obvious two cribs and two car seats, below is a list of the baby gear that helped us thrive survive this first year.

 A Double Stroller.  If I could only recommend one thing, this would be it. A double stroller has been the key to my success over the past 12 months. Seriously, having a double stroller is what has kept me (and the babies) sane—it’s the only way we can get out of the house.  We were given the Joovy Scooter x2 at my son’s birth, and more recently got the Maclaren Twin Triumph. Both have been fine and both have their good qualities, but honestly I don’t love either of them. If I could do it all over again, I would have gotten the Britax B-Agile Double stroller (or some sort of travel system double stroller…I lust after the City Select Double Stroller & if we have another baby we’ll likely get this stroller with the glider board). It would have been SO nice to have had a travel system and simply been able to strap DS into his car seat while we were still in the house and then to have headed out from there. Especially if your oldest is not yet walking when baby number two arrives, as was the case for us, I strongly encourage you to find a travel system double stroller.

A good baby swing. It’s sooooo important to have a safe, comfortable place to put your younger baby down when you’re at home. You need a break sometimes—or you need two hands to prepare meals and/or put your oldest down for a nap, etc.—so the swing, complete with soothing, entertaining music and mobile, allows your littlest to enjoy some quiet play time while you do your thing.  We used this swing and loved it.

A playard (safe play space for baby) – Toddlers don’t know their own strength sometimes, especially when they’re under the age of two and still a baby themselves. Since the time when DS grew out of his swing (or it might have been since the time DD started trying to “play” with DS while he was in his swing) I have kept a pack-n-play equipped with toys in our living room. I put DS in there when I need to get stuff done around the house and might be momentarily distracted. It’s a great safe place for your littlest to play because your older child can’t reach them easily, and they also can’t get into trouble.

A baby carrier. Helpful at all hours of the day, from the house to the grocery store. Most helpful for when you go to the park and you need to chase after your oldest while wanting to keep your youngest close. A baby carrier is useful anytime you need two hands (or wish you had more than two hands), or anytime you need to direct all your attention to your oldest while still wanting/needing to hold your youngest. We had the Moby Wrap when DS was a newborn and the Ergo 360 for both DD and DS (side note: We still use the Ergo 360 for BOTH kiddos).

A good nursing cover (if you’re nursing) – I have nursed in a variety of public places since DS was born. It has been a very different, much more challenging experience than it was with DD. With DD I was always able to retreat to the car or be in a private place to nurse when I wanted, but with DS I have nursed everywhere from the library, to the park, to farms and malls and public transportation. When you have a toddler who wants needs to get out of the house and explore the world (a.k.a. burn off energy), you need to be able to nurse wherever and whenever. Sometimes this means you are nursing while chasing after said toddler. If you’re okay pulling out your boob wherever and don’t care if people see you, you go for it Mama (I tended towards this attitude around month 10 of nursing my second). But if you’re not comfortable baring it all for the world to see, than finding a cover-up is essential. I liked my Covered Goods nursing cover for my second because it wrapped all the way around and provided excellent coverage from every angle, while still being lightweight. Once it was on and situated, I didn’t have to mess with it too much.

A backpack diaper bag & a purse with a wearable strap – As a mom of two under two, I often wish I had about 10 more arms. But since I don’t, I’m always looking for ways to maximize the two that I do have. One way to do this while I’m out and about is to have a backpack diaper bag. Just throw all your essentials in there, put it on your back and forget about it (until you need it). You can easily wear your baby in a carrier on your front and have your diaper backpack on your back. We’ve used the Skip Hop Forma Pack and Go Diaper Backpack, and it has worked great for us.  That said, sometimes you don’t want to haul the whole heavy diaper bag into Safeway to pick up milk (two babies is enough of a load for you to carry). In those cases, I’ve found that a wallet with a purse string attached is super helpful: take it out of the diaper bag, sling it across your body, and once again you have both arms free for schlepping babies around. I have the Vera Bradley Women’s All in One Crossbody, which is so awesome it even holds my phone.

Side note: As a mom of two under two you are perpetually tired. Therefore, if your wallet is not on a string/attached to your body, you will likely lose it or leave it behind at a store. THIS HAPPENED TO ME. That night I went in search of a wearable wallet.

For those of you with two under two, do you have anything to add to this list?