Surviving pregnancy with a toddler
When you’re pregnant with your first child, it’s often easier to take care of yourself, take time to pay attention to those niggly pregnancy symptoms, and rest when you feel like you need to. (Though at the time you don’t realise quite how easy it is). But when you have a toddler to contend with as well as a baby bump to look after, self-care can go right out the window. And how can you possibly keep your toddler entertained when you’re exhausted, nauseous, struggle to move, and emotionally drained? Here are some ideas for juggling your toddler’s needs alongside your own and survive pregnancy with your sanity intact.
Lower your standards. Face it, you’re not perfect, so would it really be completely terrible if the laundry piled up or the vacuuming waited another day? Make time to put your feet up and go easy on yourself.
Keep healthy. Remember to eat healthy meals, engage in light exercise and get sufficient sleep. It will make managing the needs of an often energetic and demanding toddler a little easier.
Encourage playtime. Not only important for you, but equally so for your toddler, independent and quiet playtime develops creativity. So keep a stock of crayons, books and puzzles on hand to establish a quiet time routine.
Arrange playdates. An absolute lifeline to sanity, playdates will give you some much needed time out on your own. If you’re friendly with your playgroup, you may be able to “owe” them a playdate after baby has been born.
Nurture naptime. Take advantage of your toddler’s naptime to grab a quick nap yourself. If your toddler no longer naps, consider popping a movie on for an hour or encourage some quiet play time on their own.
Find a care provider. Enrol your toddler in a preschool or kindy for a few hours a week or enlist a babysitter or mother’s helper for an afternoon every week, allowing you time to get the shopping done, fit in a doctor’s appointment or catch up on a few hours of sleep.
Involve your toddler. Toddlers love to help out. Find little chores they can do to make them feel important and helpful. Setting the table or picking up the toys can be fun if you make it seem like a game.
Don’t overdo it. While pre-pregnancy it may have been all in a day’s work to go to music group on Monday, playgroup on Tuesday, swimming on Wednesday, craft session on Thursday, and coffee group on Friday, recognise that it’s okay and actually necessary to slow down. If you need to pare back your toddler’s activities so it’s not so manic, do it. Give both of you a break.
Ask for help. Really. Just do it. Don’t be shy to ask for help when you need it. Talk to family about how they can support you; having a family member over to spend an hour or two playing with your toddler can be a huge help. “Tween-aged” cousins or friends’ children are great as they are still young enough to enjoy playing with your toddler (and feel important being asked), but old enough to be patient with them.
Remind yourself pregnancy is not forever. All too soon you’ll have another little one to care for, so spend quality time with your toddler one-on-one. Visits to the library for storytime or slow walks in the park to feed the ducks or pukekos are precious moments in your toddler’s life.