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Surviving 2: Your guide to second-round postpartum sanity

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So you kept your child alive, fed, and clean (sorta) for two solid years. You are winning at life and may even be sleeping through the night every now and then. You're rolling out of the house on time and even offering up advice to other moms.

And then you have another kid.

You're starting over again but this time there's an extra butt to wipe. The odds seem forever stacked against you but you got this. Here's a few tips to surviving two.


Establish a routine.

In the beginning, your angelic newborn will sleep most of the day. When that comes to an end, your kids will never nap at the same time. It's really a sick joke. As soon as one falls sleep, it's like a sensor activates in the other one's brain telling them to open their eyes and yell.

The sooner you can get the baby into a routine, the sooner your sanity will (somewhat) return. Use the same room and play the same music before putting the baby down. Every time. When my son hears his "nite-nite" music, he smiles and his eyes start to close. Babies thrive on routine. They need to know what to expect so they know what to do. "Nite-nite" music = go to sleep, and you'll play it whenever your toddler's headed in that same direction.

Pack a change of clothes for everyone in your party.

Don't potty train your toddler the week before you have another kid. Now she's in big girl panties and you'll have to follow her around the house asking her if she has to go potty all the live long day.

Until your toddler's a potty pro, pack an extra outfit. You'll also need a change of clothes for your newborn and yourself. The ultimate blow-outs will not only leave your baby in need of a second look but also any surrounding parties. And let's be honest, if you've just pushed out another baby, a change of pants and underwear should probably already be in your bag. I mean, maybe your baby didn't throw up on you today but maybe you happened to sneeze or you stumbled into a bouncy house with your toddler without really thinking that decision through beforehand. Is anyone in the family except your husband actually potty trained at this stage of life?

Give your first-born (perceived) responsibility.

I often obsess over whether I'm giving too much of my attention to the baby. So when the baby cries and I'm with my toddler, I don't leave her to go to him immediately. I continue engaging with her and then we go to him together-a team.

Sometimes I even ask my toddler to "babysit" while I go grab a diaper (or find wine). My baby is always in a safe location and I'm back within seconds, but my toddler beams with pride when I return and ask her how it went. Sometimes I just hide out and watch from another room (check in on my wine) while she entertains him. They are bonding and she is feeling needed and important. Just don't leave them for too long because it's likely that she will cough directly into the baby's open mouth at some point.

Let someone help you.

For five months, my pride would not allow me to accept help. I see so many of my friends balance motherhood and full time jobs. What if one of my working-mom friends found out that I had help? How could I possibly justify that I require a nanny when I stay at home with my kids?

One particularly discouraging morning, I conceded. Both of my kids decided against sleep the night prior and after two busted K-cup pods (for a stay-at-home mom, the ultimate death penalty), my daughter was screaming for me to get her down from her booster seat while I was elbow-deep in a blow-out diaper. The nanny started the following week.

I listened happily upstairs as she sang to my son. Had I been downstairs with him, I'd be half asleep, unengaged, and counting down the minutes until his nap time. And when my husband came home, I wasn't stalking him with resentful vengeance after having been left at home with the kids all day. Go ahead and judge me for hiring help but this set-up is better for everyone involved.

Take a break. Let someone else step in-someone who got actual REM sleep the night before. The fog of guilt quickly lifts when you return to your children a rested, happy version of the zombie mom they've become accustomed to.

Keep calm and rock the mom bun.

Being a mom is overwhelming. We exist in constant comparison with other moms, convincing ourselves that we're falling short. Instead of criticizing ourselves, why not try to embrace the small victories? You may be rockin a top knot but you showered this morning! Dinner may not always make it to the table on time but when the worst thing to come out of a parent-teacher conference is that your kid is too affectionate, maybe you're doing better than you think.

Embrace the journey. When it comes down to it, all you can do is just get out of the house, bring more diapers than you can possibly fathom needing, and try not to pee your pants.

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