Yes, there are people who have two kids under 18 months.
When my eldest child was 6 and my toddler was not quite one and a half, we added another baby to our family. My two middle children are 17 months and 2 days apart to be exact. Now aged 3 years 9 months and 5 years, they are as thick as thieves. Best friends. Seeing them together makes my heart ache with love and joy (except when they are being little shits, obvs!)
I enjoy them.
I enjoy their company.
They make me laugh.
This wasn't always the case.
Rewind 3.5 years.
I knew that having two babies so close in age would be tough.
I was prepared for 2 hard years.
I had done my research.
I was ready.
I had my game face on.
But, by Jesus......
So cutting to the chase: in effect, you have two babies who are completely dependent.
Needing to be fed, dressed, changed. Two babies in nappies, who nap, cry, whinge, whine, poop, need to be held and cuddled, soothed and settled. Who can't talk. communication is a guessing game. If one wakes up by night, the other one is sure to follow. Apply the same principle to sickness. Two babies who have not yet mastered the basic concepts of life, climb on stuff, fall off stuff and eat lego. In other news, they are in need of constant supervision and care.
For the first couple of months, to allow myself to heal, recover and bond with my new baby, I sent the toddler to crèche. My eldest had just started school so I had quiet time to feed and focus on the new baby.
After about 6 months, I felt it was time to keep the toddler home and rise to the challenge. I wanted to be able to be with both of them. After all, that's what a mother is meant to do, right? If I said I felt ready, I'd be lying. I didn't feel ready. (Big shout out to Mama guilt. You're a killer!).
So started my days of being at home with a baby and a toddler.
It was hard.
As hard as expected. Maybe harder. It took time to adjust to the new dynamic with two such small ones to take care off. It took time to not feel anxious every morning my husband left for work. And it took me a while to build up the courage to leave the house with them. I spent the next 12 month or so choosing and prioritizing between who needed me more. Physical need over mental need. I spent the next 12 months looking at the clock wishing for the time to pass. I spent the next 12 months tired. Worn. Slightly on edge. A little overwhelmed. Smiling through it all. I learned a couple of survival tricks along the way.
I started baby-wearing to have my hands free for the toddler.
I became an ace at multitasking.
I became a pro at prioritizing.
I survived. And so did the kids.
Here are some facts about having 2 kids under 2.
The first 18 months or so suck. There is no other way to say it. It is hard. It is physically exhausting. It is mentally exhausting. You are tired all of the time. When one baby wakes up, the other needs to go down. When one has a poo, the other has a poo. Mealtimes are just a mess. Most times, both need you at the same time. I stood in the hallway many a time, slightly panicked, looking from right to left, thinking, "Where do I go first?'"
Perhaps, now isn't the time. Now isn't the time to take over the world. Or do things such as wallpaper the bedroom. Now isn't the time to start baking your own bread or start inviting friends over for dinner. Now isn't the time to watch that late night movie. Accept that and be ok with it. Be ok with putting certain aspects of life on hold while you adjust and survive. The time to do those things will come again.
Team work is key. Share the work. Share the pain. When my husband came home, neither my day or his day didn't end. Instead, we shared the workload until the kids were in bed. This means bath time was a team effort. Putting the kids to bed, we divided and conquered. We sat down together for the night when everything was done. You are both in this together. And because you will be absolutely jaded, be kind to each other. Cut each other some slack. Fatigue paired with exhaustion can be a monster.
Every day it will get better. Every day it will get easier. You are growing as a parent each and every day. You are growing into the responsibility. And as you grow, your kids grow, too. Before you know it, you are watching your kids play together and making each other giggle (right after they tried to kill each other) It is then you will realize that you wouldn't have it any other way. Every tear you shed, every sleepless night you had and all of the frustration will be so worth it. Keep reminding yourself of that.
Set realistic expectations for yourself. Every day everything doesn't get done. Some days everything got done. And that is ok. Don't expect to be able to accomplish half of what you were able to do before. Don't stress yourself and accept that for now your primary role is to keep those two little babies happy, fed and loved.
Chances are you won't have your poop in a group. Let go of trying to be on top of everything. Get used to being tired, exhausted and use your energy resources wisely. Slow down. You never know what the next night will be like. Because you are now catering to two small peoples' needs (or perhaps more), it's ok to be late on occasion, or cancel dates and appointments because you had a nappy malfunction or someone threw a shit attack just as you were leaving the house.
Invite people over or go to meet people. Toddler groups and play dates kept me sane. It was my safe place where I felt comfortable going. I yearned being around other adults who totally got the situation and it helped kill some of the long hours until my co-pilot arrived home. It was a safe place to bring the kids. Chances are people there are in the same boat as you hanging on by the skin of their teeth. It's a great change of scenery for the kids and for you.
Routine is your life saver. Establish some fix points in your day. Create a routine that works for you and the babies. I established a solid routine where my kids ate at the same time and eventually napped at the same time giving me a chance rest and recharge. Bedtime routine was the same. At 7pm both smallies would be in bed meaning there was an end in sight after a long day and a guarantee of some well-deserved adult time. You need this!
Look after yourself. And by this I mean ask for help if you need help, something I didn't do enough. Have routines for yourself, like eating to replenish your body (especially if you're breastfeeding) and getting enough nighttime sleep. Cut yourself some slack. You know you are doing your best. Becoming the parent you want to be is a journey. Have a little compassion for yourself, and remind yourself of all the ways you are getting it right. Mama guilt? Flip it the bird.
Don't wish their childhood away. Like I did. I won't say "Enjoy every minute", because you won't. Take the good with the bad. It won't be this hard for long. Every day will get easier. The kids will get older, more independent, and more self-sufficient. You will be able to communicate and reason with them. They will not need you like this forever.
So, I am sending all of the extra love, patience, and energy I have to you. You are not alone. You are stronger than you think.
So, smile that smile, and give those hugs.
Let's turn this day into a good one!
Give me some knuckles!
Shine on, you beautiful soul!