Monday, 30 September 2013

Coping with a Toddler During Pregnancy (without resorting to TV)

I am not a massive fan of writing blog posts that tell people how to do things as if I am some authority on the subject, however coping with a toddler during pregnancy is something I wondered about when I was pregnant with Boris (not his real name), I never could quite imagine how I would cope being so tired and so sore and also having a toddler to run around after.  It was hard enough sitting at a desk at work all day.  So since I am now pregnant AND have a toddler (and seem to be coping) it seems fitting to describe the experience and the methods I have used to avoid going crazy and/or collapsing from exhaustion! 
Many people wait until their first child is older before having a second for fear of not being able to cope in pregnancy and I want to reassure women who want a second baby but feel they might be too tired that you can do it, you just need to make sure that you aren't trying to do-it-all.  
During the early stages of pregnancy I experienced sickness and tiredness but was physically able to move around fine, now in the later stages of pregnancy, I no longer feel sick but am finding it harder to run around after my little boy and it is now that I am having to come up with more and more strategies to keep me going.
I know plenty of parents let their children watch TV to give them a chance to get on with housework etc, and that is fine for them, but for me, I wouldn't be comfortable with this, especially having read Remotely Controlled by Aric Sigman.  I know everyone does what they need to to survive and I would never judge anyone for resorting to TV during difficult periods, but for me and my family TV isn't a satisfactory choice.
So here are some of the ways that I have changed my lifestyle in order to cope with pregnancy and a toddler:

  • Go to places where your toddler gets to run around and you get to sit down - I used to go to play grounds and parks a lot, also farms and lakes where I would walk around and let Boris run around while I ran around after him.  This has been ok, but I can't do it every day like I used to.  Instead I find it much more relaxing to go somewhere like the children's center or a toddler group where I can have a nice sit down and Boris gets to play with and show me all the exciting toys.  He burns up energy and i get to rest so it's a win win.  There is also opportunities for interaction with other children which is a learning experience for him and usually a chance for me to have a cup of tea and some good conversation with a grown up human!  Children's centers are great because they are free and usually have an outdoor space so your little one gets fresh air.  They also have areas set up with activities at tables so you can sit with your toddler while he explores some play doh or a puzzle for example.  There are usually toddler groups running every day so if you can travel then you can plan your week around toddler groups for maximum rest/play opportunities. 
  •  Sleep when your toddler sleeps - I know this is a cliche and some people find it really annoying to be told this, but I find it quite useful to remind myself that it is OK to sleep when my toddler sleeps.  I am not saying to sleep every time your toddler sleeps, I know there are things that need to be done, but if you can get a day time nap at least a couple of times a week, it does make a difference.
  • Provide stimulating activities for your toddler - I have found that if I spend a bit of time engaging my toddler in a planned, stimulating activity, he is much easier to cope with afterwards, he is often even happy to play by himself for a bit so I can have a sit down.  Obviously you have to  make the effort to come up with an activity, plan in, sort out the materials, set it up and get in there and play with your toddler, which can be tiring when you are pregnant, but it is worth doing on those days when you have nothing else planned.  Here are some ideas for fun things to do with your toddler.
  •  Get out of the house as much as possible - I have found that my toddler goes stir crazy if I try to stay indoors with him all day.  Fresh air and a change of scenery make all the difference so I often take him to the park, for a walk or simply to a friend's house where he can play with other toys and explore different surroundings. Often something as simple as walking to the shops gives your toddler the chance to burn off some energy and get some mental stimulation from his surroundings.  My toddler loves to stop and look at every stick, stone, man hole cover and piece of littler.  Let them, it gives you a chance to stand still for a moment and will make things easier later on because they will have been stimulated.
  • Create a routine - You don't have to stick to it rigidly, but I find that having a predictable routine for the week helps me to feel grounded and  reassured. I like knowing what the week is going to bring and although there is still room for spontaneity, regular activities anchor me throughout the week.  I think that they help Boris too.  So when I look at the week ahead I know that for example I usually meet my NCT group on a Monday afternoon, on Wednesdays I do the weekly shop and go to  Nursery Service at my local church, on Thursday I attend toddler group and on Friday I have my breastfeeding support group.  Just having these few things throughout the week that I know will occur is really reassuring for me, especially coming from a background that was ruled by schedule and repetition (teaching).
  • Don't try to do too much - I usually plan no more than two activities during the day.  One before lunch and one after.  There are times when I will try to do one more things and it ends up being stressful, rushed, and I feel bad for Boris because he doesn't get to take his time with things like his lunch or examining a flower because I am rushing him on to the next activity.  It is much better to be realistic with what you can achieve in one day, take your time, be gentle with yourself and your toddler and don't worry about letting things go.  It is ok to miss a toddler group or meet up with friends that you normally do if it means you can do a one off activity that you want to do, rather than trying to squeeze both activities. I m saying this as much to myself as to anyone else because I am often guilty of trying to do too much. 
I really hope this list of ideas helps anyone out there who is pregnant with a toddler and struggling or anyone who is thinking about having another baby but not sure how they will cope.  I hope I can add to this list, so please let me know if you are pregnant and have a toddler, what do you do to help you cope?

1 comment:

  1. Great tips:) I'm a proponent of the mantra "sleep when your toddler sleeps" too, and it's easier than the old cliche "sleep when your baby sleeps." I especially try to sleep when my tot sleeps when I'm the solo caregiver. More on that, and a link to your helpful tips, here:)