New Baby is approaching the six-month mark and has started to fall into a predictable sleeping pattern. No longer a wrinkly, red-faced, humorless, tyrannical newborn, he has likely grown into a chubby, bubbly, ball of fun that now provides the cooing and gurgling positive reinforcement that all parents crave. Plus, now that you're getting a little sleep, the old brain cells have started working again and you're starting to feel like you've got a handle on things.
Careful, old girl - isn't this about that stage where you found yourself pregnant again on the last go-round?
Yes, things have gotten easier, but don't get too comfortable because they are about to get harder than ever. When we told you about the challenges of having two babies, we forgot to mention that one of the BENEFITS of having two babies in the beginning is that the youngest is, in some ways, much like a potted plant. Largely content to stay in one place and await the next feeding and watering session, New Baby will always be right where you left him if you dare to leave the room for half a millisecond and come back.
But now he has started to notice that there is a big, wide world out there and Big Baby seems to get to do a whole lot more exploring than he does. He begins trying to keep up with Big Baby - creeping, crawling, pulling up, taking Big Baby's toys - even attempting to scale items such as coffee tables and stairways. As if wanting to be on the go weren't enough, he now has an opinion. Even the most laid-back, go-with-the-flow ("chill", in our house) babies start to realize around the six-month mark that if they want their opinion to be heard in the funny farm of a family in which they've landed, they'd better express it loudly and frequently.
If this sounds familiar, it's because you likely already have one of these in your family, and his name is Big Baby. Really, there is very little point in bothering to take down the baby gates or cribs, which will be permanent fixtures in your house until your kids graduate from college, it seems. A little on what to expect at this stage:
With New Baby falling into regular sleep patterns, you've likely found yourself stuck in the nap trap (we didn't coin it, but we love it!). NOW is the time when you can start looking at sleep schedules and trying to tweak them to achieve the Holy Grail of Baby Bunching - overlapping naps.
Since you likely spend a good part of your day in the kitchen feeding everyone, do yourself a favor and move the toys somewhere where you can see/hear the kids playing from the kitchen. No, you won't host the next 20 Christmas dinners on a Leap Frog activity table instead of your grandmother's gorgeous dining set, but considering moving things around a little for a few years to accommodate your current daily reality. We promise that you will be able to take back your living room in a few years and the convenience you gain in the meantime will be totally worth it.
This stage is where we're a big fan of pre-packaged convenience foods Generally speaking, we are opposed to these for both expense and environmental (wasteful packaging) reasons, but you need all the help you can get during this stage when you are busier than a one-legged man in an ass kicking contest. Not that "convenience" means junky -- string cheese, applesauce cups, graham cracker sticks, pretzels, fruit leathers provide healthy options that you can grab-n-go quickly when you need to stash your diaper bag for an outing or even make lunch on the fly.
Speaking of food, don't forget about mom. This was the stage where Cara (never a waif-like girl) noticed that clothing from HIGH SCHOOL was hanging loosely on her (why she even still owned high school clothes is another post). That's because you will find yourself so busy that it seems impossible to take time to feed and water yourself. Cara started drinking Slim Fast or Carnation Instant Breakfast in the morning, otherwise it would be mid-afternoon and she'd realize she had fed her body not one thing besides 5 cups of coffee. We're not saying liquid diet is ideal or a long-term solution, but it's a bridge one - supplement with a banana and a granola bar and take your vitamins every day and you could almost call it a meal.
This stage will be your first glimpse into sibling rivalry. When your little one can finally get himself to the puzzles, Little People, blocks, etc., Big Baby gets a fast lesson into what's "mine is yours." This is when the real action starts. Be ready for it.
The double stroller becomes critical here. Some hard-core baby wearers tote their kids in slings successfully until they start kindergarten, but this was the stage where it became uncomfortable for us. The sling that had been our link to sanity in the earlier months suddenly became too heavy to haul around as baby approached the 15-20 lb mark. Now's the time to get a double stroller if you don't already have one - you gotta have a way to pin everyone down in public.
Speaking of strollers, realize that your outing M.O. will change here. What once worked when New Baby was unable to crawl, cruise or walk, will change. Chances are baby just hanging out in the stroller while your toddler conquers the mall play area will not be OK. You will now have two to watch and keep out of trouble. This is where the fun really starts! Getting in and out of the car will change as well since your New Baby will likely be pushing his way out of the infant carseat. (Tip: Keep baby in there as long as you can.)
You've already got your momtourage lined up, right? If not, GET ON IT. You need them now more than ever to help you keep your sanity. Bonus points if they will come to you and help turn the nap trap into a series of play dates. Double bonus points if they will bring wine when they come.
Per our last post, give up on your house. Really. If you haven't already, LET IT GO. Certainly, keep it clean enough that you're not appalled when your babies crawl on the floor, but do not think that just because you are stuck at home all day while babies are napping that you will get jack shit done. If you are a stay-at-home mom, you might as well be working an 80-hour week outside the home, for all your house looks like. In fact, working moms probably have cleaner houses at this stage of the game. All that to say, it doesn't matter. Don't kill yourself trying to be freaking Donna Reed - it's not possible and you will make yourself (and your kids) crazy trying. We both found it so frustrating to be surrounded by mess that we couldn't control, coupled with an irrepressible urge to try to control it and be productive, that we finally ended up leaving the house whenever our kids weren't sleeping. Out of sight, out of mind, as they say.
Just so the child welfare authorities don't come knocking on your door and you don't end up in the loony bin, we do recommend a "re-set" each night. AFTER (this part is key) your kids go to bed, clean the kitchen, sweep all toys into a basket, tidy your "hot spots" (mail center/desk/dining room table) if you have the energy, and throw in a quick load of laundry. It's amazing what starting the day with just a clean living room and kitchen can do for your sanity. Please, do not be tempted to straighten or deep clean any other rooms in your house - it is an exercise in futility, take our word for it.
Finally, shipping Big Baby off even one morning a week to a Parent's Morning Out is nice at this stage. Ask your momtourage for recommendations and find a good program that you feel comfortable with if you haven't already.
If you're starting to notice some themes here (get a good support system, find a good Parent's Morning Out, cut yourself some slack on the house), it's because we know our stuff, and we learned it the hard way. Trust us.