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I go back to work on Monday after being on maternity leave for the past eight weeks. This time at home has taught me more than I ever imagined. Mostly, that being at home with two kids is hard, but also way more fun than being away from them all day. I am not looking forward to going back to the office. My only hope is that I’ll get another opportunity to take some time off after we move back to Michigan this summer.

If you are getting ready to bring home baby #2 or getting ready to spend time at home with kids instead of at work, here are a few things I’ve learned that might help you out. As always, this has been my experience. Yours may be waaayyy easier or(hopefully not!) even harder.

1. Two IS Much Harder than One

Even though a baby just kind of sits there, and sleeps a lot and doesn’t really need to be entertained; having a baby and a toddler is so overwhelming at first, that you may feel like you are running in circles just trying to keep both children alive. Never mind fed, clean, clothed and happy! When you get one settled, the other one needs you. Immediately after that one is settled, the first one needs you again. Repeat this pattern all day long… oh, and all night too. You start to wonder if they plan it all out during secret meetings they hold when you aren’t around, but then… when aren’t you around? While you are showering? Nope, they’re with you. While you are pooping? Nope, they are with you. While you are sleeping? Nope. They are still with you. Maybe they have telepathic powers…

2. Take Advantage Of Nap Time

God willing, both kids are sleeping at the same time for at least an hour, two if you are really lucky. This is your golden ticket to do whatever you want (or need) to do. Dying to watch a little uninterrupted television? Nap time. Want to call your sister? Nap time. Need to clean the bathroom without a two year old “helping?” Nap time. Want to take a nap? Nap time! It is the best time of day, so plan for it and use it wisely. Don’t spend glorious nap time wandering around the house or doing something you can do when the kids are awake. This will be the only alone time you will get until bed time. (Also a magical time of day!)

3. Set And Keep A Bed Time

For them, not necessarily you, though that is also recommended. Just because your toddler isn’t going to daycare in the morning doesn’t mean they should stay up until they pass out from exhaustion at night. They need their sleep and you need your down time. Truman goes to bed at 8:00, no exceptions. He is used to this and very rarely has a hard time going to sleep. If he does, it is usually because time has gotten away from us and it is past bedtime, making him cranky and overly tired. Grant may not fall asleep until later, but he is usually relaxing with Mike or myself until we go to bed. I do not know how Mike and I would ever get a moment to talk to each other if Truman didn’t have a bedtime!

4. Do Not Turn Your Back

I learned this one the hard way. Accidents can happen when you are in the very same room as your kids. Take every precaution, because they will catch you slipping way before you realize you slipped. Scissors, hot cups of coffee, kitchen knives, power cords, paint, markers, thumb tacks, a carton of eggs, open milk jug, photos, cell phones… all things they will have in hand if given half a second’s chance. This advice may seem obvious; but when you have a second child, you are no longer staring at every move your first one makes. So, prepare the room before he goes into it. He will still find something dangerous to do in there but at least you’ve substantially decreased the odds of a hospital visit.

5. Take Time To Do The Fun Stuff

Paint, bake cookies, go for walks, sing funny songs and dance around. Actually DO the stuff that you dreamed about doing back when you thought being a stay at home mom was easy. It takes all day, it gets messy, and by the end you will be exhausted but the expression on your big one’s face will make it sooo worth it.

6. Your Big Kid Needs You More Than Your Baby Does

This may seem wrong, but as long as your baby is fed, has a clean diaper and isn’t crying…they are doing just fine without you. While holding your baby is awesome and important for bonding, holding your big kid and doing things with him is more important. He is going through a lot. Someone new is now sharing the two most important people in his life. Actually, the two people his entire life revolves around. His whole world has changed and that is really scary. Constantly putting him on the back burner is asking for a troubled relationship between you and him, and also between him and his baby sibling. There is plenty of time for baby snuggles after bed time, and while Big Brother is busy doing his own thing. Make sure to encourage family cuddles and brotherly (or sisterly) affection as well!

7. Get Out Of The House

It takes forever; getting them changed, dressed, packing the bag and scheduling an outing around naps and meal times. Then the buckling and unbuckling, and re-buckling… going somewhere may not seem worth it at first. It is. The more you do it, the easier it gets and you will feel like part of the world again. You will learn the best order to get them both into the vehicle and out, how to open the double stroller, how to fit groceries into the cart around both of them and what you really need in the diaper bag. Hell, sometimes being in the car is easier than being at home! At least you know exactly where both kids are, that they are safe, separated and unable to touch anything dangerous.

8. Savor Each Newborn Moment

I know, I know, I all but said to ignore the baby in number six, but I didn’t mean you should forgo sweet, bonding moments with your precious new bundle. When your big kid is sleeping or playing or happily harassing the cat; soak in every second of that new baby. You now know first hand how fast they grow, and change and that they will only be a skinny, wrinkled, teensy-tiny for a millisecond. Soon they will be walking, talking, and refusing to kiss you right along side your first born. Smell him, count his little toes and fingers, hold him close to your chest and talk a little baby talk. It is all over so very soon.