Kate is due any moment…

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Dear Kate:

So exciting! You’re going to be a mother of two soon; how incredible does that feel? I know you probably think you have your hands full already keeping up with little George, chasing those little toddler legs up and down the castle corridors, so I thought now might be the right time to share with you a little of my hard-won how-to-parent-two knowledge so you don’t completely lose your mind in the weeks and months to come. You can thank me later.

First and foremost, having two littlies – particularly when they are a newborn-and-toddler combo – is really shocking to the system. You thought that becoming a first-time mother was the Big Adjustment? Well, hold on to your fascinator … you ain’t seen nothing yet! Just like learning to be a mother for the first time is full of ups and downs, parenting the second time round will see just as many tears – I just hope there’ll be more of the happy variety than the sad/frustrated/tired/I-don’t-know-why-I’m-crying tears!

So here’s what you need to know:

Forget about ‘sleep when the baby sleeps’

Unless you are prepared to let your toddler trash the house while you have a sneaky kip, sleeping when the baby sleeps is no longer an option. Because as sure as night follows day, your toddler will decide that nap time is a thing of the past the very same day you give birth to his sibling.

Just know that you won’t get enough sleep. And it could go on for quite some time. So it’s best to make peace with it now. You will be tired. Some days you will be so epically tired that you can barely believe that you are still breathing. It WILL pass. One day …

Stock up now on Thomas the Tank Engine trains

Or whichever toy will keep George happy when you need him to play quietly beside you. While it’s great to have Mummy’s Little Helper ready to hand you baby wipes and nappies and to love on his new sibling 24/7, there are those times (often when the newborn sibling needs to be given a little space from all that loving) when you just need to spend five uninterrupted minutes catering to the needs of the second born. And that’s where Thomas and his friends come in. A small treasured toy is a lovely thing to behold when you’re holding a fractious baby and the toddler is about to turn on you too.

Getting out of the house will be harder

In fact, I’m not going to lie, everything you do in your waking life will be more challenging. Toddlers need you a lot. Newborns just can’t wait. So if you need to be somewhere at an exact time – say, your baby health clinic appointment – you need to start planning proceedings the day before. Yes, that may sound like overkill, but trust me, in order to be where you’re meant to be when you’re meant to be there requires the same kind of effort that invading forces bring to the task.

Pack bags the night before, plot a timeline, have a Plan A and then a Plan B and even a Plan C. You can’t begin to imagine the things that can go wrong once you are committed to a plan of action.

Write things down

Back in the day, long before baby brain attacked you and then lack of sleep sucked away what was left of your functioning brain, you could make arrangements with friends, remember that the dishwasher guy is booked in for next Tuesday AND not forgot to pop into the butcher on the way home to buy meat for dinner.

Now, sadly, not only is there no ‘popping in’ anywhere (see my point above) but you will not be able to reliably remember your own name without writing it down on a list first. Either start using that Notes function on your phone – though you may find typing accurately really hard to do on only four hours of sleep a night – or buy yourself a pretty notepad and then REMEMBER to use it. Friends will not be forgotten, dishwashers will get fixed and your family will not go hungry. It’s win/win for everyone.

Invest in a really good nappy bag

In the early days, did you ever find yourself out and about with George, only to embarrassingly discover you were without nappies/wipes/change of clothes (for him and possibly you)? Well, add into the mix a potty-training toddler who could need a snack AT ANY MINUTE, and you could find yourself in the middle of your very own horror story.

If you didn’t do it the first time round, buy yourself a kick-arse nappy bag. You will never suffer buyer’s remorse over this purchase. And the very first time George’s sipper cup of Ribena spills inside the bag and DOESN’T seep out to ruin the car upholstery forever, you can quietly congratulate yourself on being such a smart shopper.

Hand-me-down everything really is good enough

Chances are George was given more cute triple-zero clothing than he ever had a chance to wear – in fact, to get him into every tiny ensemble, you would have been doing more clothing changes each day than Barbie on a busy day. So give them all a good wash – and maybe toss out the clothes with permanent mashed banana stains on them – and use them again. The baby won’t notice or care.

Save your money for the important stuff like car seats and a really good pram that includes a toddler seat. That pram you had for George? Don’t try and use it again – with a toddler in tow, those little legs won’t take him far so it’s worth spending some cash on a pram built for two.

Having two children really is more fun

There’ no doubt that having two littlies really turns up the volume on chaos and disorder, but there is something really, really lovely about it too. That sense of family that you just don’t get with one child … the noise, the games, the giggles, and the friendship. So let’s just gloss over the inevitable moments of bickering for now and instead enjoy a rose-tinted glimpse into the future, where two freshly bathed children, complete with damp hair and clean pyjamas, lie quietly side by side listening to you reading a story, ready for bed and ready for another day.

That’s why you’re doing this.

Forget the sleep deprivation. Forget the long days and the broken nights. Forget the unsettled baby and the toddler foot-stamping. Having two children is wonderful and you are embarking on the ride of a lifetime. Enjoy!

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