If you’re expecting your second (or your third!), these hints will help ease some of your stress.
It’s not a good idea to put on a brave face or pretend you have it all under control, warns Melissa S. Cohen, a psychotherapist in Westfield, New Jersey. “When you act like everything is fine, then everyone will think that everything is fine,” she says. Certainly, it can be hard to admit that you feel overwhelmed. “Saying even to your closest friend that you’re struggling and in over your head is a statement that can stick in your throat,” she says. “For some of us, it feels like failure to ask for help, but if you don’t ask for assistance, you’re at risk for developing postpartum depression.”
So, rally your inner circle, and ask specifically for what you need, whether that’s taking your oldest to dance class, picking up groceries, or throwing in some laundry. “If someone, anyone, asks you if you need anything, say yes—and figure out what that is later and circle back,” says Cohen. Getting that assistance has a ripple effect. “Your patience level will increase, and your stress will decrease,” adds Michelle Klavohn, a life and family coach in Quad Cities, Illinois.
Your baby is portable, so keep your schedule more focused on your older child. “Many second and third children are often along for the ride,” Cohen says. Just be ready for on the-go feedings by always having a fully stocked diaper bag or keeping backup diapers and snacks in your car. And plan special activities to reassure your older child that he’s still your baby too.
When Jaime Robinson’s 2-year-old daughter, Indie, started acting up shortly after the birth of her sib, the Berkeley, California, mom planned weekly dates with her oldest. “Just hitting the library while the baby stayed with Dad went far in making Indie feel less sidelined,” she says.
Some moms swear that having a routine is the key to getting much needed sleep, “me time,” and privacy with your partner. “Babies do better on a schedule because it makes life predictable for them,” says Cohen. Knowing what’s next on the agenda can also curb meltdowns in older kids, so follow a set sequence of activities. “Don’t worry about exact times, but try to do the bath-book-bed thing every night regardless of what time your kids go down,” she says.
Then again, if sticking to a schedule is just stressing you out, give it up. “The goal is to create a home and a life where you enjoy being and not to live a perfect routine,” Klavohn says. “There are no bonus points for you or your child for never having missed a nap.”
However, at times it’s important to be more rigid, like when it comes to your self-care and date night. Says Cohen: “If you don’t take a pit stop, you’re going to blow a gasket.”
Once the baby arrives, you’ll have a transition period where everything seems difficult—almost impossible. The sleep deficit of being a mom of more than one child is rough, Cohen notes. “Your infant is up at night, you have a toddler or preschooler in transition who may also be awake, and you don’t have the luxury of napping when the baby naps because you have to take care of your older kid,” she says.
Recognize that you can’t do it all. Trade off with your partner at night with the baby (or your restless older child). Eat nourishing foods (a smoothie is quick and easy). And use tools to get by, like putting on a kid-friendly show for your first child while the baby naps so you can rest.