This post was originally published one year ago, when my daughter turned two. She has a birthday this week, and it’s now my tradition to write down what I’ve learned in the previous year and give out some thoughts to other mama’s going through the same things. I’ll be posting that as soon as I can wrap my head around having a three year old :). Here are my thoughts on the second year of my baby’s life. If you want to read my advice for new moms in the first year and what I wish I would have known, you can find it here.
I am officially the mom of a two year old.
I no longer have an infant or baby in the house. I have a beautiful, smart, stubborn, engaged, talkative, opinionated, joyful little person to share my days with.
I remember writing my advice for first time moms after my daughter turned one. There was so much I felt I learned in that first year.
That was only the beginning.
I now see her personality developing. Her independence is starting to emerge. She is taking joy and delight in so many things, and also discovering the frustration that comes with not always getting want you want, when you want it.
Kids change in the blink of an eye. I try so hard to keep up with her, and find myself constantly hoping I’m doing the right things and making the best decisions for her.
While there are things that are so hard, there are so many more things that are glorious, wonderful and awe-inspiring about being a parent to a toddler.
Here are the things I learned in the second year of being a mom:
1. Buy yourself something
This second year is when the spit-ups, breast feeding and blowouts usually start to decrease. I felt like, after two and a half years of being pregnant, nursing, leaking and sweating, I finally had a little control over my own body. I had been wearing the oldest and cheapest clothes I could, because I knew inevitably they would be pooped or spit on by the end of the day. We were also using our funds to go towards toddler clothes, booster seats and college funds. This is the time to do something to make yourself feel beautiful and important again. For me, it was buying two pairs of expensive and amazing designer jeans. I had been WAITING to wear jeans and heels on a date night with my husband, and I went for it. Silly, yes, but that’s the point here. Maybe you want expensive sheets, a new handbag (that does NOT double as a diaper bag) or unreasonably priced boots. Go for it, girl. You made it through two years and you deserve it.
2. Accept that sleep will never be normal again
Somehow I thought that sleep would normalize after the newborn stage. Then I thought it would after the first tooth. Then after I stopped nursing. Then after the first set of molars. Then after potty training. I’ve decided that, once you are a mom, your sleep will never be normal again. You may get more of it, but just when you think your child is on a great schedule, they will decide to stay up all night and skip naps. Then later on we will stay up wondering why they’ve missed curfew. It’s easier just to accept it now and move on.
3. Start a group activity
I found that there are quite a few activities for newborns and mommies, and then quite a few you can start after the age of two, but there weren’t many for that in between time. It’s definitely worth seeking them out. We started a once a week music class and swim lessons twice a week, both of which allowed me to be with her. My daughter loved seeing the other kids and making friends. She started to become more comfortable with other adults in authority, which I feel is important looking forward to school in the future. We used the music class CD constantly to soothe her in the car and at home, and an added bonus was the mom friends I made in the process. In addition to paid activities, I found quite a few free weekly kid activities at our local library and rec centers, so don’t let money deter you! It may seem like a hassle at first, but it’s so worth it.
4. Let go a little
In the first year you are doing everything you can just to keep your baby safe and happy. You want to protect them from all the negativity and toxins in the world. I worked really hard specifically on feeding our daughter the best foods. I breastfed for 16 months, introduced solids at the rates we were supposed to in order to avoid allergies, and kept all sugar away from her. I realized towards the end of her second year that, at some point, I couldn’t keep telling her “no” when all other kids at the birthday parties were having pizza and cupcakes. You know what? It’s fine and she will survive. The world is going to start imprinting itself on your child sooner or later. The best thing you can do is teach them the reasoning behind the choices you make and give them the best tools to do that themselves. Part of being a kid is enjoying exploring and eating things you shouldn’t. Control what you can, pick your battles and let the rest go.
5. Read to your child
Read, read and read some more. Whenever anyone asks what they can get our daughter as gifts, I tell them “books”. We have three specific times throughout the day that is “reading” time, and we all love it. She can now go to the bookstore or library and recognize her favorites and chose new ones. Yes, we end up reading the same thing for a week, but it gives her a chance to memorize words and understand diction and how different sentences sound. You as a mama also get extra snuggles, which become harder to come by at this age. It can seem easier to grab a device, but trust me, reading is king.
6. Take a night away by yourself
There are some of you reading this who have taken many nights away, so you can skip to the next one. This piece of advice is for you moms who are still completely avoiding the fact that you may need to be away from your child for one night in the future. I didn’t leave our daughter until she was 22 months. I nursed for a quite a while, but she took a bottle and I pumped so I really could have left sooner if needed. I just wasn’t ready yet. When the time finally came for a two night business trip, I was ready. My husband was ready. My daughter was beyond ready. She was bored of me and over it and needed a break. It was amazing. Just imagine time on an airplane where no one needs you. You can actually drink coffee, and read a book, and just SIT THERE. You will remember you are more than a mom, your husband will get bonding time with your babe and, as hard as it is to believe, your baby needs it as well. You will never feel 100% ready, but at some point you just have to do it.
7. Put your phone down
If they haven’t already, at some point your child will notice the device you constantly hold in your hand. At this age, they are past the point of just playing with it and start to really wonder why this little thing holds so much of your attention. Especially if it’s attention that you could be giving them. I don’t want my daughter growing up thinking I need my phone to keep me occupied or to avoid boredom. I want her to know phones are amazing tools for learning and convenience, but they aren’t needed for fun or to make the time pass. We have imaginations and songs and words that can all do the same thing.
8. Watch your words
Not only are our babies learning to talk and form words at this stage, they are developing their view of themselves and the world. We all drop the occasional curse word and kick ourselves when our kids repeat it back. It’s just as important to watch the phrases that leave your lips. “I’m fat”. “I hate my boss”. “You won’t like that”. If you say it enough, they will start to believe it in their own worlds. I want to be someone who’s words illustrate the confidence and love I feel inside.
9. You won’t be #1 all the time
This is a tough lesson, moms, and I’m still trying to accept it. There will come a time when I am not the most important person in my child’s life, and the slow journey to that is starting now. It’s inevitable as our children start to grow into who they are meant to be. I don’t WANT to be the most important person to her when she’s 30 years old with a husband and kids, but I kind of do now. So it stings a little when she asks for her dad instead of me or when she leans over and pushes me and says, “Mommy, move!” I do my best to not take it personally and remember she is developing exactly as she should. My absolute love and pride and adoration of this girl does not depend on her giving me the same, and it never should.
10. Put one foot in front of the other
How do we do what we do? Because we just do. If you are a mom, you know that. There are days you look at the clock and have no idea how you will make it from 10:30am until bedtime. But you do. There will be times you are aching because you can’t seem to console your sobbing baby. But you do. There are moments you are paralyzed by the fear of your child – your entire heart – leaving the safety of your arms and entering the big world outside. You don’t want to ever let them go. But you do. Why? Because we are moms, and that’s what we do.