In a few weeks, I’ll have a five-year-old and a two-year-old.
Along with all the clichés like “time really does fly”, their birthdays mark a line in the sand.
We’re almost over the first leg of what could be the hardest of all parenting stages – life with more than one child under five.
(Please don't tell me if this is not true, BTW!)
Let's be real
Life with kids under five is chaotic. There’s very little continuity. It’s also expensive - we’re working parents with two kids in daycare four days of the week. You can do the maths on that one.
Both our boys have VASTLY different needs. And while as they get older the gap closes a bit, their ages still dictate everything from what games to play, right down to day sleeps.
Without a nap, the two-year-old is VERY hard work. Give the almost five-year-old a nap, and there’s danger he'll never go to bed that night.
Let's be real - it’s a juggle.
There's heaps of good bits, too!
Of course, there are a million other positives. For one thing, their ever-increasing bond is a delight and something I know we will see more of. And the cuteness of tiny bums and hands and feet and giggles and storytime and snuggles.
But the impact on your life and wellbeing and the challenges of attempting to navigate this period can get overwhelming.
Heather Turgeon and Julie Wright explain how we can parent our kids more kindly on Kinderling Conversation:
So if, like me, this is your first time around, here are 7 great tips from seasoned parents of little ones that could make life just a little bit easier.
1. Keep your daily routine basic
Logistics alone prevent doing too many things each day with your little ones. And the truth is, even when you do make a plan, something will almost always go awry.
As blogger, Kimberlee Stokes (AKA The Peaceful Mom) writes: "Just remember that loving and training those little ones is your priority for this season of life, try to get as much sleep as possible and really enjoy those babies. There will be time later for other projects - trust me."
2. Slow down! (Well, try)
Everything will (and does!) take a long time when you have to factor in more than one little person. Even getting them dressed can go belly up! This can be extremely frustrating for people who like order and routine, so try and be patient with yourself. Factor in more time than you think you need for almost everything. And then if by some sweet miracle you don't need it, do as I do, and celebrate with a takeaway coffee before you get in the car. #smallwins!
3. Use your high energy times to best advantage
Pick a time in the day when you've got a bit more energy, and use that to plan the rest of the day or week. I've always tried to use our toddler's nap time to have a half hour rest with my older son, and then start prepping dinner or doing bits of cleaning, because I have most energy in the middle of the day. Other friends get a surge of energy after the kids are in bed at night, and use that time to hang out washing, prep clothes for the next day and do meal planning.
4. Live outside as much as you can
Parks, picnics, dinner in the backyard. Beach, bushwalks, camping, swimming. ALL of these things are so much fun with little ones. It takes a bit of forward planning, but being outside is good for all of you. Double bonus: mess stays outside of your house too!
5. Try ‘go with the flow’ days
I try this at least once a week, usually the midweek day I am home. On these days, we head to the pool or the park. The rest of the day is toys in the back room that can be spread anywhere, until 4pm - when I whack out the vacuum and pack everything away.
6. Take care of you
Choose two or three things that REALLY matter to you and lock them in, no matter what. Exercise, meditation, coffee mornings with other mum friends, or date nights with your partner. You are worth taking care of too!
7. Late afternoon walks for the win
My boys are so much calmer in the evening if they're - well - worn out! About 4pm, once we've packed away the toys, we grab a scooter, pram and ball and head down to the local bike path for a wander. Some days we manage half an hour, other days it can be just 15 minutes. But this last bout of energy expenditure always pays dividends.
This too shall pass
It sounds like a cliché, and it's also VERY challenging to do when you’re tired, and life just seems like a neverending list of tasks and demands and very little time-out ... but just try to remember this is a stage of life. Not the rest of your life.
Here I am with a five-year-old who will be at school next year, and all those lazy park afternoons will be a lovely memory.
As my lovely Greek neighbour says to me, enjoy your kids when they’re young because life takes care of the rest.
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