Being a toddler mom can be tough. They are constantly on the move, into absolutely everything, wanting so badly to be big but not quite capable of doing the things they want, and on top of all that you’re dealing with a brand new attitude that just came out of no where and their favorite new word: NO!
When you add pregnancy into the mix, I’m not going to lie to you, it can be rough with a capital R. Your first pregnancy, you have the option of just lying around, giving yourself a little TLC, and skipping dinner (after all, your adult partner is plenty capable of cooking for himself).
But when you have a toddler, the rules change. You can’t just lie around on the couch. You have to make sure your child doesn’t kill themselves. You have to change diapers, make food, give baths, brush their teeth, keep them from destroying your house… the list is endless. And being pregnant doesn’t make those things go away.
While pregnancy with a toddler is definitely a lot more work than when you don’t have other children, or only have older kids, it’s something so many women do because the majority of people wanting multiple kids do have them fairly close together. So, with the wisdom I’ve gained through having 2 children and the tips I’ve learned from other mothers, here are so ideas to help you manage your household and your sanity during your 1st trimester.
Relax your rules
As mamas, we have certain ways that we like things to be. Whether that’s the bedtime routine, your family’s diet, screen time, wanting your kids to be outdoors more, or how clean you keep your house.
All of those things are wonderful ideals to abide by. It’s great for us as mamas to want to keep our house in order and to keep our family healthy. However, the 1st trimester isn’t a time that you’re going to want to start new habits, and you probably won’t have enough energy to perfectly enforce some of the rules you have.
One of the best ways to keep things simple for your toddler is to only enforce what you can handle enforcing. If you don’t have the energy to put up a fight about a certain rule, only stick to it if it’s extremely important. If you say no and then don’t have the gusto to stick to that no, you will only confuse your child. Do what you can. Otherwise, it’s not going to end the world if you let a few things slide.
You can always ease back into nightly pickup routines, chores, screen limits and healthier diets when you’re feeling better. For now, don’t feel even the slightest bit guilty about lowering your expectations. You are growing a human being and you don’t need to be stressing yourself out right now.
Don’t start new milestones
Toddlerhood is well known for being full of milestones. Your child is still is smack dab in the transition between being a baby and a kid. But every single one of those transitions and milestones comes with some big negatives. Big moods and emotions, sleep disturbances, pickier eating, anger, anxiety, grumpiness… Your child will go through a lot of feelings and doubts every time you start a new milestone.
Whether that’s transitioning from a bottle to a sippy cup, learning to self feed, potty training, transitioning from a crib to a bed, or even something life changing such as school or moving, do your very best to save these transitions for the second trimester. Learning new things requires a lot of energy, time and patience on your part and you aren’t going to be feeling up to the task in the 1st trimester.
With the new baby coming, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed and rushed, feeling like you have to get your toddler through all of these transitions before you have a new kid to take care of as well. While it’s definitely a great idea to get as many of those things done as possible before the birth of your new child, don’t rush it!
Remember how long pregnancy felt the first time? You have time to save these new learning experiences for later in your pregnancy when you feel better. Schedule out the time to deal with these things in the 2nd or early 3rd trimester (by the end you will be feeling exhausted again, and probably overwhelmed getting ready for the new little one).
Make meals easy
Even if you’re the most committed and talented meal planner in town, the 1st trimester is likely to kick your butt and cause you to go back a step or two. When you only had a spouse to take care of, you could just skip meals and eat when you felt like it.
With a toddler, you don’t have that option now. But, you DO have the option of keeping things simple! Don’t feel guilty if you aren’t cooking hot meals every night. It’s totally okay to have frozen pizza, mac & cheese, eat out, or throw together a couple of sandwiches.
When you combine nausea and the crazy strong smelling senses you now have, it can be hard to cook. Try to make meals that have bland smells. Pasta, casseroles, chicken, salads, broth soups, sandwiches, and popcorn are all really good options for filling and healthy foods that don’t have intense smells and are easy to keep down.
During your 1st trimester, you should feel proud of yourself if you just get the meal on the table! That’s the most important part of it anyways. If you need ideas for snacks and meals that are healthy and easy, check out this blog post.
Hopefully your toddler still takes a nap. If so, don’t take it out of the equation now! No kid is too old for a nap. However, if you recently eased out of naps, don’t be nervous to begin enforcing a quiet time. Every mom needs a break from their kid, but you do even more than you did before!
Even if “nap time” means they are playing or reading in their room, make this happen every single day if possible. This will make everything you are going through just a little bit easier. If you have older kids that you can’t enforce nap time with, at least prioritize rest time. Ask them to do quiet activities, read, or allow them to watch TV so that you can have your quiet time.
Rest is extremely important in the 1st trimester and you shouldn’t run yourself to exhaustion. All of the intricate details of your child’s body are being formed right now and you absolutely need to take care of yourself. Lay around, take naps, go to sleep early, sleep in, say no to events. Sleeping is one of the most vital things you can do to guarantee that your child grows properly, so do what it takes to make that happen even if it means rearranging your regular routine.
Plan your schedule around how you feel
Every mom has a different experience with each pregnancy and your 1st trimester will be different every time. You may have morning sickness, you may not. If you do, it might show up at a different time of day than it did with your previous children. You might feel extra exhausted at certain times of the day or just all the time.
Whatever the case is for you this time around, figure out what your schedule needs to look like to accommodate your needs. If you feel awful in the afternoon, aim for meals that you can prep ahead of time for your family and they can eat while you rest. Make naps and quiet times later in the afternoon so you can have quiet time and be okay with your kids staying up a little later. Run errands, see friends, play with your kids and do housework in the morning.
If morning is when you feel the yuckiest, try to put your kids to bed a bit later so that you can all sleep in in the morning. Let mornings have some screen time, even if that’s not something you used to allow. Defrost meat for dinner the night before, so you don’t have to deal with looking at raw meat when you’re feeling nauseous.
Whether it’s nausea, exhaustion, or just life all around, figure out when you feel the best and make the important things happen in that time frame each day. When you start to feel sick, abandon the to-do list and just rest. Don’t worry about if your kids watched too much TV or had hot dogs for dinner. You need to take care of your needs too, and no mom is a good mom if she’s barely surviving.
Don’t stress about your diet
Proper nutrition is extremely important during pregnancy. The food that you put in will influence your child’s health for the rest of their life! Thankfully, though, during the 1st trimester, your child will be taking very little from you in the way of nutrition. They are so itty bitty and most of what they need they can take from you without depleting your stored nutrition.
The most important things you need to do in the 1st trimester are rest and drink tons of water. When it comes to eating, eat what you can and when you can, and do your best to make them somewhat nutritious choices. If you could stomach a cracker or a banana, choose the banana. But don’t beat yourself up for the foods you choose during the 1st trimester. Your body doesn’t need all the calories right now so don’t worry too much.
As far as diet goes, the #1 thing you do need to be concerned about is getting your prenatal vitamins in. The 2nd and 3rd trimester will bring concerns of extra calories and supplement concerns, but in the 1st, all you need is a good and balanced prenatal vitamin, and enough calories to survive.
Utilize screen time
I’m one of those moms that’s pretty picky about screen time. I don’t have strict rules about when, where and what they watch, but I do keep tabs on it and I do enforce limits. My method is pretty much to just not suggest or allow TV unless I really need a break. If my child asks specifically for TV and he hasn’t watched any yet that day, I will usually say yes. But if he doesn’t ask, and I don’t need the break, I don’t offer it.
The 1st trimester was a huge difference in this area, though. I was so miserable that I could barely function in the mornings. I would drag him out of bed with just enough energy to change his diaper, maybe brush his teeth, and grab him a drink and a pre-made breakfast. Then it was to the couch I went with my peppermint tea to lay around in my pajamas.
Do your best to encourage independent play when possible, but since you have a toddler, you know that there will be times when your child won’t play by themselves and you won’t have what it takes to help them out. When this happens, make the most of screens. If you’re worried about frying their brains, try to find educational shows. Some fabulous educational toddler shows that we love:
- Daniel Tiger
- Leapfrog movies
- Super Why
- Little Einsteins
- Story Bots
- Sesame Street
- Gecko’s Garage
- Dinosaur Train
- Little Baby Bum
- Word World
Explain pregnancy to your toddler
I have heard differing opinions on this, and ultimately it’s up to your discretion as a parent about your specific situation and child. We chose to tell our toddler right away. In fact, I actually told him before I told my husband and he was able to tell his daddy when he got home from work that day.
The transition that a child goes through from being the baby of the family to being an older sibling can be extremely difficult on them in so many ways. I have heard a lot of people suggest to not tell the toddler about the new baby until you are showing enough that they notice, or about a month before hand.
While I can see how this makes sense in ways, I personally feel like putting such a huge thing on your child so soon before it happens would be cruel. 9 months is a long time. It’s enough time to answer those hard questions, to prepare their hearts and minds to accept the baby, to talk about what it will be like, to reassure them that they are still loved and that they will have an important place as an older sibling.
Whenever you choose to bring up the baby is your choice, but I found that it helped to bring it up in the 1st trimester because this way my toddler knew why I was sick. He seemed okay with me laying around and not being myself because he knew that my body had a baby in it. No, he didn’t understand all the details of that but we were able to talk about it and he liked knowing what was going on.
One of the best ways to introduce the concept of pregnancy to a toddler is through tv shows and books. So many kids books and shows have great stories about the characters gaining little siblings. Some focus on their mom being pregnant, while some focus on life with the new baby. Both are great resources that can make the process of explaining such a foreign concept to your toddler just a little bit easier.
Ask for help
To me, this is one of the most obvious things, but in our culture we are really good at being overly independent to the demise of our sanity. If you can’t usually bring yourself to ask for help at any other time, allow yourself to make an excuse to do so now.
If you just need a day off, ask a family member to babysit. If you can’t handle making meals for your family because of nausea, ask your mother, grandma or mother-in-law to bring you freezer meals. If you are too exhausted to clean, hire a housekeeper for a couple of months.
Don’t be ashamed of asking for help where you need it. Your family needs to be taken care of, and you need to take care of yourself for your future child. There’s no shame in asking for your village to come around you and support you.
Best of luck, and just remember: you will get through this! Before you know it, you’ll be holding your precious little bundle in your arms and this season will be long forgotten in light of the joys that are to come.