Mom diaries: Survival of the second kid and how to look after yourself

Eve Dugdale
Eve Dugdale - Special to Al Arabiya English
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There are times when I feel like I’m a good mom.

Then there are the other 362 days of the year.

Indeed, if the constant doubt, self-criticism and habit of comparing myself to every mother I see isn’t enough, the stomach-churning sense of guilt when I’ve shouted at my angel-faced toddler because a pen is missing its lid can feel completely overwhelming at times.

And despite having been a mom for four years, I still feel like much of what I do is winging it.

So, what the heck am I doing bringing another child into the mix?

Now that the initial joy of finding out number two is on its way has subsided, worries about what the reality of this actually means have started to creep in – mainly that another tiny person will take up residence in my house and rely on me to keep them alive.

It’s terrifying.

I turned to my friends for advice.

“Continue to wing it but you’ll have more confidence this time,” seemed to be the consensus.

“Cook in bulk and freeze it,” was top of my friend and mom-of-three Rosa’s advice.

“Get both kids on the same, or at least close to the same, routine. Bathe them together from the start and make sure bedtimes are as close together as you can get - ours go to bed within 15 minutes of each other so that I actually get time to breathe.

“Try to make being a big sister the best thing ever and all about your eldest so there's no jealousy. Tell her she is going to be the best big sister and she is so lucky you're having a baby. Include her in as much as you can when the new baby comes along - from passing baby wipes, to sitting with you whilst you feed, encouraging her to stroke the baby's head. I used to feed the twins and read books to my eldest at the same time so it wasn't all about the twins. Getting one to one time with each, even if it means leaving a bottle for baby and still getting your time with your eldest.

“Use a whiteboard for lists. Encourage independence in your eldest and drop your standards about healthy food, a clean house and getting everything done. Also, let people help as much as they want. Wear your new baby as much as you can so you can be hands free.”

I’m not sure whether my friend Caroline was telling the truth when she tried to convince me that having a second wasn’t difficult.

She said: “Two was easier than one for me. The first one was such a shock to the system but then my son came along and I couldn’t understand why I never had time when I had the one but managed fine with two.”

Her sentiments were echoed by another friend Dee, who said: “You have to let the small stuff slide because you are too busy and you don’t get chance to overanalyse everything. I think ‘forget it’ a lot too. I kept one alive, the second will be just fine.”

Christine Kritzas, a Counselling Psychologist from Lighthouse Arabia, advises dropping my standards – even just short term.

“Eating boxed dinners or takeout for a while isn’t terrible,” she said.

“Make use of online grocery shopping too – having fresh fruit and vegetables delivered to your home can be a great time-saver. Cook double portions and freeze them as finding the energy will be harder after the baby is born.

“Use convenience products like pre-cut veggies, fruits and bagged salads.”

Prioritizing “me-time” is essential after you welcome baby number two. • Sleep – it is recommended that you get 7-9 hours of sleep per night. This may not be attainable in the first few weeks of giving birth. However, if you are able to enlist your husband or nanny to help with some feeding chores during the night, this may help you in getting uninterrupted sleep. • Exercise – try to incorporate aerobic exercise in your schedule 3-5 times per week (i.e. 150 minutes). Be creative in how you choose to exercise – maybe buy a jogging pram and take your infant for a run. • Meditate in the shower – try engaging in a daily practice of meditating for 5 minutes whilst taking a shower. • Learn to ask for help – if a close relative or friend comes over to visit the baby, take this time to go do something just for you – enjoy a manicure or massage maybe, without the guilt.

Counselling Psychologist Christine Kritzas, Lighthouse Arabia

It’s important to stick to routines as well says Christine adding: “Organising is a process, not a one-time event.”

From getting clothes ready the day before to avoiding the morning rush at breakfast by putting out bowls, utensils and cereals before bedtime, whatever you can do to make life easier, do it!

And when it comes to worries that my first born will feel left out while I get used to having a baby again, Christine says a little goes a long way with children.

She said: “Carve out special one-on-one time with your first born while your newborn is napping or otherwise engaged.

“Even ten minutes of focused attention - positive eye contact, getting down to their level, engaging in their favourite game, is enough to remind a child that you love her and that she is important, which will give you a sense of calmness as well.”

And finally, accept that adjusting to a new routine will take time.

She added: “The idea that parents should find their footing immediately is simply unrealistic. Be gentle with yourself when it comes to finding a balance.”

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