The challenging toddler years…

Is Tom actually a toddler anymore? Or does three count as a preschooler or something instead? Either way, he’s a far cry from the adorable 13 month old he was when I first started this blog and an even further cry from the tiny newborn in the picture on our desk.

To say that I have found the toddler years challenging would be a major understatement. Tonight, to take a fairly average example, I have told Tom off for hitting his (3 month old) sister, endured a whining marathon because I turned off the TV, and had a relatively lengthy argument about whether or not he had kissed his sister good night (He had. He just wanted to put off bedtime as long as possible so was insisting he hadn’t made the kissing noise, so it didn’t count). All this between 6.30 and 7.00 pm.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the bones of this boy. He’s bright and articulate and funny. He does crazy dances and tells me long stories and makes his dinosaurs pretend to take naps. Life wouldn’t be worth living without him. But he is also argumentative, willful and infuriatingly cheeky. No one can press my buttons the way he can.

Deep down though, I know the problem isn’t him. He’s a very normal toddler. If anything, he is actually more on the well behaved side, at least according to everyone else who knows him. The problem is me. Lack of sleep and the constant work of parenting a young baby are making me impatient, snappy, and sometimes scary-shouty. Instead of remaining calm and establishing firm limits, I’m losing my temper, shouting, and acting like a child myself. None of which helps Tom to behave well.

Something needs to change. And since Piper doesn’t look set to start sleeping better anytime soon, it isn’t going to be getting more rest…

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Days with two

Someone seems to have pressed the fast forward button on my life. I can’t believe how quickly the time goes now. How can Tom be three? How can Piper be 3 months? Surely it was only yesterday I was bringing them each home from the hospital.

Day to day, it feels like we achieve very, very little. We are often still in pyjamas past 10 am. Unless John is home or I have to drop Tom at nursery, we rarely make it further than the garden. And yet the days fly by. Though having said that, some individual hours can last for years. I seem to spend my whole time cooking, cleaning, changing nappies, and putting someone down for a nap! An average day now looks something like this:

6.00 – my alarm goes off and I immediately press cancel before it wakes Piper or John.

6.05 – alarm two goes off. I quietly wake Piper if she’s not already awake and take her to the living room for a feed.

6.20 – Piper is done nursing and Tom is up. I change her nappy, pop her on her fleece to play, and get him breakfast. Whilst he eats and she plays, I get my own breakfast and a cup of coffee.

6.45 – breakfast is over and Tom “plays” with Piper which requires very close supervision. I distract him by brushing his teeth and bribing him to go to the potty.

7.10 –  Piper is getting tired but I’m trying to extend this awake time, so I get down on the floor with her to try to keep her happy a little longer.

7.20 – time to settle Piper for her nap. Tom gives her a kiss and I take her to our room whilst he amuses himself in his bedroom.

7.30 – Piper is asleep. Tom and I play in his room or the living room. 

8.00 – leaving Tom to play, I go to load up the washing machine for the day’s first wash and start to clear the breakfast things. 

8.15 – washing up done, I look over my to do list and start knocking off any admin tasks. Piper wakes up and I go to give her the dummy so she will go back to sleep. This will need repeating roughly every 20 minutes until she gets up. One of these waking typically wakes John and he’ll get up to get breakfast and a cup of coffee. 

8.45 – Tom is bored of amusing himself. We play a game, do a puzzle, or sit him down for some colouring. 

9.00 – I jump in the shower whilst John looks after the kids. 

9.20 – time to get Piper up for her next feed. I wake her if she’s not already awake. John goes for a bath. 

9.35 – Piper is done. I take her nappy off and lay her on the floor on her change mat for some nappy free play. John and I take it in turns to distract Tom from “playing” with her. 

9.50 – first wash is done. I unload the machine into our washing bag ready to be hung out later. 

10.00 – The kids play. I keep an eye on them whilst tidying the living room, putting away dry nappies, or checking my emails. 

10.15 – Piper is beginning to get a little fussy so I get down to play with her. We sing songs, do baby massage, or work on her grasping skills. Tom usually joins in. 

10.30 – I put Piper’s nappy on and take her to settle for her nap. 

10.40 – Piper is asleep. I take the washing outside to hang. Tom comes with me so he can play in the garden. John keeps an ear on Piper, though I can hear her from the garden too. On the rare days there is no washing to hang, I might get Tom dressed and head to the park with him for an hour or so, leaving John to look after Piper. 

11.20 – Piper is awake. One of us goes to give her the dummy so she can sleep more. We get Tom dressed if this hasn’t happened earlier. 

11.40 – I start to prepare lunch whilst Tom and John play. 

12.10 – lunchtime. John, Tom and I sit down together to eat. 

12.30 – lunch is over. John does the washing up. 

12.40 – time for Piper’s next feed. John reads Tom stories and puts him down for his nap whilst I feed her. Sometimes John gives her a bottle instead and I put Tom down.  

13.00 – Piper is done and Tom is in bed. John and I have a quiet moment to drink our coffees whilst Piper plays on her fleece. If she had a bottle I pump to replace the feed. 

13.45 – John starts getting ready for work and I change Piper’s nappy. 

13.50 – I say goodbye to John and take Piper for her nap. 

14.00 – for a brief moment, both children are in bed at the same time. I read a book, write a blog post, or spend some time browsing baby forums. 

14.30 – Tom is up from his nap. We play games, tidy his room, or tell each other stories. Piper wakes around 14.40 and I resettle her with the dummy. 

15.30 – I get Piper up for her next feed. If she didn’t have a bottle earlier she has one now. 

15.45 – Piper is done and goes down on her fleece to play. If I’ve given her the bottle I do a quick pump session to replace the feed. 

16.15 – I put a nappy wash on, then play with the kids. 

16.40 – I take Piper for her nap whilst Tom plays in his room. 

16.50 – Piper is asleep. I make dinner for Tom and I  and we sit down to eat. 

17.30 – dinner is over. I run Tom a bath and he plays with his bath toys. 

17.45 – Tom gets out of the bath and puts on pyjamas. I put a cartoon on the computer for him to watch. 

18.00 – I get Piper up for her next feed. 

18.15 – Piper is done. I put her on her change mat for some nappy off play and do the washing up. 

18.30 – I run Piper a bath and turn off the cartoon. Tom helps me bathe her. I get her into her sleepsuit ready for the night. 

18.45 – all three of us snuggle in Tom’s bed to read stories. Piper is often a bit fussy so I bounce her on my knee or give her a dummy while I read to Tom. 

19.00 – I tuck Tom in and say goodnight, then take Piper to our room for a top up feed. She often drops off to sleep during it, but will usually wake up as I burp her. 

19.15 – feed over, Piper and I cuddle for at least 10 minutes before I put her down. Sometimes she fusses a little, others she falls asleep before I put her in her cot. I aim to put her down heavy lidded but still awake, so she can fall asleep on her own in her cot. 

19.30 – Piper is asleep. I sort out the bathroom, tidy the living room and hang the nappies to dry. 

20.00 – me time! I make a snack and sit down to watch some TV or read a book. 

21.00 – time for my evening pump session. I watch TV whilst I pump. 

21.30 – milk goes into the fridge. I wash and sterilise the pump and the day’s bottle, and do any last washing up, then wipe down the kitchen. 

21.45 – bedtime for me. I sneak in quietly to avoid waking Piper. 

00.45 – Piper wakes for a feed. 

1.15 – Piper back down. John usually is home by now and sneaks into bed. 

4.00 – Piper is up for another small feed. 

4.15 – Piper back down

5.15 – Piper is awake again and wanting to start the day. I give her the dummy and she falls back into a light doze, but wakes every 10 mins or so when the dummy falls out. 

6.00 – my alarm goes off and we start all over again!

Piper – 10 weeks old

Piper turned 10 weeks on Thursday 3rd August, making 3rd-9th August her 11th week of life. Here’s what was going on for her this week.

Where we were: Tom, Piper and I went down to my parents’ house for a long weekend on the Thursday (John had to work). Both my siblings were there too, plus my brother’s new not-quite-a-girlfriend-but-actually-yes-she-is. And my parents’ new black Labrador puppy who is just two weeks older than Piper. So it was quite a crowd.

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Enjoying some granny time

The three of us also spent Saturday on the bank of the Thames at a little rowing regatta that I have participated in for almost 10 years now – there’s a crew of about 20 of us who have been doing it for ages which includes some of my closest friends from school. So again, quite full on for a young baby! Since the weekend was so busy and the rest of the month will be too, I’ve kept us mainly at home since we got back on Monday.

Feeding: Piper has been a speedy feeder since birth and used to finish in less than 10 minutes. She slowed up a bit this week, mainly due to all the distractions, and a couple of times I had to take her into a quieter room in order to get her to concentrate on her feed. She’s still done in less than 15 minutes usually, including burping between sides.

We did have some bottle issues this week. We offered her one on Wednesday. It was the first one she had had for about two weeks and that had been fresh milk, whereas this was from the freezer which does taste a bit different. She got very upset and didn’t want to drink it, but after half-an-hour of soothing and walking her around John did get her to drink 4 ounces (we did check the milk but the temperature was fine and it didn’t taste off or bad). I’m going to introduce a daily pump session so she can have a bottle every day and hopefully will stay used to the taste so this doesn’t occur again. We have several weddings coming up and I don’t want her to be refusing a bottle in church! I hate pumping but I do need her to take a bottle on occasion so it is worth the effort.

Sleep: I miss our nice long 2 hour naps! Piper has been suffering from the ’45 minute intruder’ for a few weeks now and we rarely get more than one day of good naps. We didn’t have any this week, but that was partly due to being away from home. Our first day back she did two really good 2 hour naps in her moses basket, but then we moved her into her new cot and she went back to waking up at the 45 minute mark again. Hopefully this will get better as she gets used to her new sleeping environment, but we are going to be away so much this month that it may take longer than it would otherwise.

When she wakes up after 45 minutes we first give her five minutes to see if she can resettle herself. If she can’t, we go in and offer her the dummy and she will typically doze for the rest of the nap, but doesn’t seem able to get back into a deep sleep. We’ve given up shush patting or rocking though as our presence just seems to wake her up more and I can’t really spend 45 minutes shush patting her with a toddler to entertain as well. Tom didn’t take a long nap until he found his thumb at about 20 weeks though, so I’m still fairly happy with how naps are going.

Nightime sleep is generally good, though she had a lot of problems settling at the start of the night at my parents’ house. The room we use there is very light and just above the kitchen, so pretty noisy. Once we got back home she was fine again, even in the new cot. She did wake once every night this week for a feed – it has been over a week since she last slept through (by which I mean from when I put her down at around 19.30-19.45 to at least 5.30 with no wake ups at all). However, she is definitely hungry when she wakes and is now sleeping until our desired wake time of 6 am pretty much every morning, so that is a bonus. She also settles very quickly after her night feed and we are generally not up for more than 20 minutes max – I can definitely live with this!

Working on: Piper never really suddenly found her hands the way Tom did. She’s been aware of them from at least 3 weeks old and has been working since then to get control of them. She definitely stepped it up a level this week though and can now get them to her mouth pretty consistently, though she can’t then keep them there. She also struggles to extend her fingers at the right angle to suck on them. She has started to try to grasp things that are held above her and will bat at a toy or my hand if I hold it for her.

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Already trying to steal big brother’s toys

Piper has been extremely chatty this week and can already make quite a wide range of different sounds. My mum reckons she’ll be a talker! She especially loves to chat to me during bath time, which is still her favourite time of day.

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Cooing to the lights on the ceiling (and yes I was just there to catch her if she suddenly learnt to roll). Stickers courtesy of Tom.

Other things from this week: Piper has been a sling baby since birth, as I often have Tom in a buggy still for longer outings and we don’t have a double one. Plus I need my hands free for him. This week she had her first ride in our big buggy, with the newborn insert in, whilst we were at the regatta. She was very content in it and actually slept much better than I expected, though I did have to rock her to get her down.

Schedule: I use the term schedule in a loose way. Wake-up time and bath time I do by the clock. I’ve also found I can’t persuade Piper to nurse properly if it is much sooner than 3 hours after her last feed, apart from in the late afternoon, which determines when her feeds are to a certain extent. Other than that we follow her signals for when to put her down for naps or get her up for a feed. She was managing about an hour of awake time this week so days looked broadly like this, though you can assume we were actually up to 30 minutes earlier or later on anything except wake up and bath.

6.00 – up for the day and feed (I wake her up at this time if she is not already awake)
7.00 – Nap 1
9.00 – Feed and awake time
10.00 – Nap 2
12.00 – Feed and awake time
13.00 – Nap 3
15.00 – Feed and awake time
16.00 – Cat nap 1 (in the sling if we are picking Tom up from nursery)
17.00 – Feed and awake time
18.00 – Cat nap 2 (she rarely sleeps well for this and it is the only time I’ll give the dummy at the start of the nap, so she’ll at least doze. We’ve tried keeping her up though and she is just a mess by bedtime so we prefer to at least have her in her cot where she can get some light sleep and is less likely to be over stimulated. Plus Tom needs my attention at this time of day)
18.45 – bath time
19.00 ish – bedtime ritual and feed
19.20 ish – feed over and cuddle
19.30-19.45 ish – into cot for night
One wake up any time between 1.30 and 4.00 – feed and straight back to sleep

 

 

One Hellish Week

Urgh. Things have not been happy in the Wildling household just lately. Tom came down with oral thrush, which we can only assume was the result of him having been on antibiotic eyedrops for his conjunctivitis. He also picked up a cold from nursery, and, just to cap it all off, his lower canines are coming through.

Needless to say, we have had an extremely upset baby. He went from sleepy and clingy on Saturday, to screaming in pain at every mealtime on Sunday. By Monday last week, he was refusing to eat at all. Thankfully he would accept milk.

We’ve been treating him with antifungal gel four times a day, which has almost cleaned up the thrush. After three days of not eating, he began cautiously accepting weetabix (with added probiotic) on Thursday and is now basically back to normal with food.

Mr Techno and I are lucky to have been able to switch out most of the week, so neither one of us has had to take the full burden of caring for our sick little one. But it’s not been easy for any of us and I’m very glad that the end is in sight.

Unsurprisingly, all of this means we’ve not been getting out much! Apart from to the doctors of course. The new, though still unfinished, mud kitchen has been a bit of a saviour as a distraction when we have gotten out into the garden. But the lack of outdoor time was not helping my patience.

In fact…I did have a bit of a meltdown on Saturday morning. Tom was refusing to nap. I’ve not been feeling well either, and all I wanted was a hot bath. And Mr Techno had to go to work. So I was pissed off. And feeling like an awful mother for not putting my wants to one side to be there for my sick baby. All of which I kind of shouted at Mr Techno. Except with a lot more swear words (Tom wasn’t in the room at the time). Seriously, the man has the patience of a saint sometimes.

Anyway. It was fine once I had the rant out of my system. I got my bath, although it had to involve a lot of Tom ‘help’…so I was joined by lots of toys and had to avoid getting my hair washed. Then we went to meet friends at Victoria Park. We had lunch, which Tom ate (it was mine, but hey, he was eating) and a long walk. And suddenly everything was manageable again.

Thank goodness for the healing power of the great outdoors!

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One Year as a Working Mum

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This time last year, Tom was 6 months old. And I was starting back at work, after 7 months of maternity leave. He had started at nursery two weeks before – one week of settling in and one week of early pick ups – and had mostly settled well, apart from a few napping issues. I was still a bit shaky about leaving him, but could see he was being well cared for.

I know it’s not the case for everyone, but I actually really enjoy being a working mum. Although I miss my boy whenever I’m away from him. I really enjoy my job. I’m extremely lucky that my circumstances worked out to allow me to come back just three days a week (job-sharing with the lady I covered when she was on maternity leave). Also…my job involves organising training courses for a building conservation charity. I get to do things like hang out at the Tower of London or Hampton Court Palace all day, calling it work. It’s not so much with the financial rewards, but the pay off in job satisfaction and life/work balance is more than worth it.

Don’t get me wrong – it hasn’t all been plain sailing. I was still breastfeeding when I went back, and pumping at work was not much fun. I sometimes have to travel around the country to run courses, which means leaving Tom overnight. And the logistics of childcare are often a bit mind boggling. As is the cost!

For the most part though, having something outside my family life gives me a lot of personal reward. It has led to a more equal parenting relationship between Mr Techno and I, as we both work and both stay home with Tom. And I’d even argue that it makes me a better mum – I don’t do well with being home full time. Being away part of the week means I am more willing to concentrate fully on Tom when we are together.

My situation wouldn’t suit everyone – I know there are lots of working mums who would rather be home with their babies. And plenty of stay at home mums who get lots of satisfaction from being there for their kids full time. But for me, this seems to be a good balance.