Have no energy (or patience!) during your pregnancy with a toddler? Learn how to handle your child’s needs, even if you’re pregnant.
As hard as a pregnancy can be (and in my case, a twin pregnancy), it only feels worse with a toddler in tow.
Caring for a toddler was taking a toll on me during my second time pregnancy, from dealing with his behavior to tending to his needs. As any toddler parent knows, young children don’t exactly stay in one place, but they’re also still not old enough to do most things themselves.
I was so tired by the end of the day that I’d find myself heading straight to bed once he was tucked in. Working full-time left me running low on time to spend with him as well as the energy to do so. I felt too tired to play pretend kitchen or catch, then guilty for not being the mom I knew he needed.
I simply couldn’t keep up.
How to survive pregnancy with a toddler
Perhaps you can relate. Your first pregnancy may have been easier to handle—after all, you could rest whenever you wanted. Now, you find yourself tugged between trying to get through pregnancy symptoms and dealing with your eldest at the same time.
Getting through pregnancy with a toddler can leave any mom feeling like a failure. Rest assured, you’re not alone, nor are you left simply to slog through the next few months.
As difficult as my twin pregnancy was, I also knew there had to be a way to take care of myself and still be there for my son. Sure, it was going to be different from what we were used to, but we’d find a way to get through it in the meantime and even enjoy ourselves.
Here’s how I got through this stage, and how you can, too:
1. Find activities that allow you to rest
We’ve all dreaded the times our active toddler runs up to us and say, “Let’s play chase, mama!” right when we’re feeling nauseous with morning sickness. Life doesn’t stop for them, even if we’d rather lay on the couch and sleep the rest of the day.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t find easy activities that don’t require too much out of you. Your toddler can still have fun playing with you, even if you’re not doing nearly as much physical activity as she is.
For instance, you can:
- Play “catch,” where you throw the ball to one another. But each time the ball rolls far away, leave it to her to run and grab it. This way, you can stay in the same place without needing to get up much.
- Take her to the park. Stick to age-appropriate playgrounds so you can sit in one spot while letting her explore nearby. Even a walk around the neighborhood can be enough—the fresh air can do you good as well.
- Stick to low-key, quiet activities. Reading library books, playing puzzles, and painting are a few ideas that allow you to spend plenty of time with her without demanding too much out of you.
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2. Encourage independence
Giving your attention to your toddler can seem like a no-brainer. If there’s anything she needs, you’re right there to help.
The problem? All that hovering doesn’t give her a chance to be independent. Despite what you might think, she’s likely capable of doing many things on her own.
I learned this out of necessity when I was on bed rest and couldn’t do as much for my son. He had to learn how to wash his hands, fetch a snack, or dress himself completely. I was nearby to give instructions as needed, but he had to do most of this himself.
This goes beyond simple tasks and into independent play. Your child doesn’t always need you to engage with her during play. She can benefit from playing on her own without you hovering or directing her play.
Give her the time and space to play on her own nearby—she can enjoy imagine and create on her own terms, and you can take a quick break as well. Whether it’s chores or play, her growing independence can take a few tasks off your hands and build the confidence she needs in herself.
3. Give your toddler a “new” toy
Do you feel like your toddler has a short attention span and won’t last a minute doing the same thing? See what happens when you give him a new toy (or even one he hasn’t seen in a while).
We all love novelty, kids included. I gave my son a game of wooden doors he can open and close, and I kid you not, he kept at it for 45 minutes straight.
When you feel like you can’t take any more, or anticipate needing a break, giving your child a new toy can be all it takes to keep him occupied.
This doesn’t mean all the toys have to be new or extravagant. I’m a fan of rotating them as a way of both clearing clutter and reviving interest in old ones. Don’t toss toys you think he’s bored with just yet. Store it out of sight, then bring it out a few weeks or months later, and they can feel like special toys all over again.
Another idea is to buy dollar toys and activities, taking out a few at a time to keep him engaged while you rest. These items are simple enough for him to play with on his own, but still fun and new to grab his attention.
4. Nap at the same time
If you’re like me, you’re often tempted to cram as many things as possible when your toddler naps. From preparing her snacks to vacuuming the floor, there doesn’t seem to be enough time to get everything done otherwise.
But if there was any time to let your standards go, it’s now. Being pregnant and caring for a child is exhausting even for the most energetic mom. Use her nap time to rest along with her. This doesn’t mean you have to sleep—even lying on the couch to read and relax can help.
Think of it this way: this is a temporary period in your life—napping when she naps doesn’t mean this is your new lifestyle. It’s okay to let the chores slide or to have her wait while you prepare her snacks.
Focus on getting as much sleep as you can, so that when you are with her, you’re better rested and ready to be present.
5. Don’t be too hard on yourself
We can put so much pressure on ourselves to always be on our A-game, then feel guilty when we fall slightly short of that goal.
You’re not failing your toddler because you don’t have the energy or patience to handle her at the moment. Accept the season you’re in, rather than piling even more blame on your shoulders. She doesn’t love you any less because you’d rather read a book than play soccer at the park.
If you lose your temper, be quick to apologize and learn from the moment, rather than dwelling on the challenges. Find ways to make your days more conducive to being present instead of rushing from one activity to the next.
And keep your days simple. It’s okay if you eat pizza or chicken nuggets instead of preparing a home cooked meal, or skip housework or even a bedtime story because you’re too exhausted. Use these moments to recharge and pick yourself back up again.
But most of all, don’t be too hard on yourself. It may not seem like it, but this pregnancy is temporary and one you can get through soon enough.
Surviving a pregnancy with a toddler in tow is challenging and we all have those bad parenting days. But you don’t have to be stuck feeling miserable, guilty, or downright tired for the next few months.
Start by focusing on games and activities that don’t require too much physical effort on your part. Nurture her independence, encouraging her to assume tasks or play on her own with you nearby. Give her a new toy, from simple trinkets to old toys brought out of storage.
Use nap times to grab some rest for yourself, knowing that doing so can help you be a better parent than when you’re exhausted. And finally, go easy on yourself, mama—this is a temporary season in your life that’s best left without added blame.
You can get the break you need —or at least, 45 minutes of uninterrupted rest while he opens and closes wooden doors and latches nearby.
Get more tips:
- How to Survive the First Few Weeks with a Newborn and Toddler
- Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Going on Maternity Leave
- Top Baby Stuff for Dads He Can Actually Use
- When You Feel Guilty About Adding to the Family
- Top 10 Tips on Surviving the First Trimester
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