I Look Like Somebody’s Mom. Probably Because I Am. And I’m OK With That.

My two little woodses

Parenting often feels like walking through water with all of my clothes on. Everything is damp, I’m moving more slowly than I ever thought possible, I’m more exhausted than I ever have been, and I just can’t seem to get anywhere, let alone to my destination. Come to think of it, I’ve completely forgotten what my destination even was to begin with. I’ve gone hours before having the chance to go to the bathroom. Days without a drink of water (ok, probably like 30 minutes, but I get dehydrated quickly) and I recently went nine months without wine.

It’s not easy to parent small people and it’s even harder to parent two small people. I think many of us have a tendency, or a desire perhaps, to paper over the challenges of raising kids. To focus only on the highs, of which there are many. But acknowledging the challenges doesn’t diminish the wonders. It doesn’t negate that some aspects of parenting are miraculous, life-altering, and utterly wonderful. And other aspects are filled with poop–usually in a literal sense.

Where I’m At: The Mommywoods Edition

Why am I writing about parenting when I’m supposed to be writing about money? Because I am so very in it. So very in the thick of the dirty, tiring work required by my two-year-old and two-month-old daughters. And I promise I’ll weave in some financial lessons here too, unless I forget on account of the fact that this post was written over the course of two weeks, approximately five minutes at a time while one child or another (or both) clung to me/I read them a book/did a puzzle with them/nursed the baby/wiped something of indeterminate origin off the floor with my foot.

Babywoods right before asking if she could knock the snowperson right on over. Sure, kid.

I am the queen of the multitask, as is every other parent on earth. It’s true that having kids has made me more efficient and effective. I get a lot done every day because I am focused and my windows of time to work are infuriatingly brief. Did you know you can clean an entire bathroom during a 20-minute episode of Daniel Tiger? You can. Did you know you can do an entire yoga routine during a 20-minute episode of Daniel Tiger? You can. Did you know you can fold and put away an entire household’s clean laundry during a 20-minute episode of Daniel Tiger? You can. Did you know that Daniel Tiger is god’s gift to parents? He is.

Everything I do has to take my kids into consideration and must work around their schedules. Going to the bathroom, getting a drink of water, taking a shower, sleeping, eating… let alone herculean things like leaving the house. Every aspect of my life–and my husband’s life–is dominated by our two niblets. I’m OK with that, mostly because I know they will only get older and more independent and less reliant on their parents (right?! I mean surely five-year-olds can pull up their own pants and don’t walk around with their bums hanging out?).

I know, I just know, that Mr. Frugalwoods and I will miss this stage one day. This early phase of our lives as a family of four. This seemingly impossible time with a toddler and an infant. I suppose I’ll think fondly about being woken up to feed Littlewoods multiple times a night. Of hearing Babywoods wail that she wants more “sweet toetaytoe” when she already has an entire freaking sweet potato on her plate. Of herding two crying children into the library/church/playgroup while both cling to me with their tiny claws and one of them pretends she has forgotten how to walk and passersby gawk at the modern mother trying to have it all and, in that moment, so clearly failing. It’s hard to see that end right now when the entire human experience happens before 8am most days. But I know that end is there. Somewhere.

Savoring And The Ease of The Second

Littlewoods is a whopping 2 months old!

Since I know the end of their childhoods looms and maturity will happen, I’m trying to savor Littlewoods’ infancy. It grates on my nerves when people say, “they grow up so fast,” as they smile at me and I grimace back with infant spit running down the inside of my shirt (my first clean shirt in days) and my toddler is lying on the floor picking dirt off my boots (again, why?!). Because let me tell you, it does not go fast when you’re in the middle of it. It goes glacially. Each day is a marathon. A long and painful one that you didn’t train for. And no one is standing on the sidelines handing you snacks or cheering you on. I’ve also heard tell that the days are long, but the years short. I might be able to buy into that one.

With our first daughter, the first six months or so were a complete haze. I was exhausted, terrified we were screwing up, unsure of what this tiny person would do next, and completely overwhelmed at the loss of my freedom. With the second kid, however, things are much easier.  It’s nowhere near the mind-blowing alteration of going from zero to one kid. We know what we’re doing (sort of), we’re not stressed out (mostly), we know that infant-hood doesn’t actually last all that long (thank goodness), and our lives are already orchestrated around children (there’s a trampoline and a slide in the middle of our “dining” room).

When Babywoods screamed for me in the middle of the night at two months old, I panicked she’d be doing it until she went to kindergarten. Mercifully, she was done with that by six months old. And so as Littlewoods cries to nurse in the middle of the night now, I go to her in a state of exhausted calm. I have a roadmap of how this will end (spoiler alert: with sleep training). I find that knowing what to expect makes all the difference for my mindset and how I respond to my kids.

Me and Littlewoods rocking our hand-me-down carrier (and clothes)

This is, incidentally, also how I feel about managing my finances. Knowing what to do with my money and what to expect removes the anxiety I used to feel about it. So much of our anxiety around our money is born of not knowing. Of not knowing how much we’re spending, how much we’re making, and where it’s all going every month. Grant yourself the peace of ironing out these basics. Track your spending. Write down all of your debts with interest rates. Know exactly what your take-home pay is each month. Then, make a plan.

I read a million parenting books before and after Babywoods was born, but nothing prepared me to be a parent quite so well as actually being a parent. It’s an on-the-job type of learning experience. Or at least, it is for me. Although the books do help and I still avidly consume them. I figure someone has to know more about parenting than me–and they do! Here’s a list of books I’ve found most helpful.

In the same way, nothing will prepare you for managing your money quite like getting down to the business of managing your money. You can read all the tips and tricks you want for budgeting and saving and investing, but until you start doing it, you won’t know what your personal plan will be. You won’t know how much money you can save in a month until you buckle down and do it.

I Look Like Somebody’s Mom

Looking like the mom I am

Going through the day, I’m pretty proud of myself for not yelling at my kids and for calmly (can we say “beatifically” with a straight face?) singing about cleaning up toys while my two-year-old alternates between cleaning up toys and rolling around on the floor (why?!), decidedly not cleaning up toys. I’m pretty pleased that both kids are happy and healthy and, let’s be honest, still alive at the end of the day. But then sometimes I catch myself in the mirror (by accident, I assure you) and wonder who this mom is staring back at me.

I was lethargically singing a song (there’s A LOT of singing in our house) I made up about brushing teeth the other evening as I poked the toothbrush around Babywoods’ mouth in the farce that passes for brushing a toddler’s teeth when I looked up at myself in the mirror and was stunned. I looked so tired, so old, so puffy, so much like someone’s mom.

I’m thrilled to be a mom, I’m proud of my children, I love them fiercely and without end, but I am mildly shocked that I now look the part. I’m still wearing maternity clothes two months after Littlewoods’ birth. I haven’t had time to shave my legs since she was born (thought about it the other morning while in the shower, didn’t have time, haven’t thought about it since). And I look as exhausted as I am. I don’t dislike how I look, I also don’t really care, but it’s a shocking realization that something has tipped in my life and in my appearance. I show the wear of carrying and birthing two children. I am older and more lined. I can’t tell if I have grey hairs or blond hairs (lets be honest, it’s grey… no one goes blond).

A Ceaseless Tide Of Work And Worry

Parenting is a ceaseless tide of work. It’s an endless exercise in pushing yourself to the outer limits of patience (and I thought I was impatient before having kids… HAH!), creativity (which I have a short supply of to begin with… ), physical labor (carrying a toddler, barnacled to the exterior of the occupied infant carrier, sobbing “cuddle me, momma!!!!” is ridiculously draining and heart-warming). Then there’s the mental exhaustion of responding with interest and teaching with enthusiasm (“what’s that noise, momma?” is Babywoods’ constant refrain. I mean seriously, kid, I have no idea what that random humming noise is inside our house. Either the refrigerator or, you know, the gas line about to blow up. Even chances I’d say).

Hi mom!

Parenting is also a way of signing yourself up for a lifetime of anxiety. When you have children, there is LITERALLY no end of things to worry about. First, I worried that I wasn’t getting pregnant, then I worried about the health of the fetus while I was pregnant, next up was anxiety over childbirth, then SIDs and every other danger imaginable, the possibility of them eating too much or too little, concern that they might knock another child over in pursuit of an orange at playgroup, then the other night I woke up in a panic that Babywoods had somehow swallowed a screw and that it would perforate her bowel (how I even think of these things defies reality)… truly, there is no end.

Of course parenting is also a way of signing yourself up for unimaginable joy. For a fulfillment so deep I didn’t know it existed. For a happy sense of calm and of profound love. Not to mention hilarity. Kids are fonts of unintentional comedy. One of Babywoods’ recent commentaries on life: “I am sharing with my parents. I am very kind.” This right after she ran into a wall, bounced off of it, and kept running… I mean seriously.

Often, the frustration and the elation come side by side. The other evening, I called Babywoods to dinner and, when I didn’t hear a thunderous scamper, came out to explore. I found her sprawled out on the couch, wearing a blanket, a pirate hat, and a pair of sunglasses. Stone faced, she told me that she was “hiding out and investigating the couch” and so couldn’t come eat dinner. I hid behind a wall to laugh for a moment before marching her into dinner. Truly, the highs of parenting are the highest highs imaginable and the lows are pretty much the gutter. And I haven’t even scratched the surface of sleeplessness.

Lean Into The Phase Of Life You’re In

Babywoods: “I’m holding my sister!!!”
Littlewoods: “Why is a baby on the floor?!”

I chose to be a parent. I very consciously made it happen and yet, I’m still stunned by its complexities. For now I’m still walking through water with clothes on, but it won’t always be this way. I’m leaning into the phase of life I’m in–a phrase I love to repeat here on Frugalwoods because I find it so apt for most life journeys. If you’re in the phase of needing to pay down debt, then LEAN INTO that. Put all of your effort towards eradicating your debt. Do everything you can to save in every area possible and pour your money into paying off your debt–every month that you don’t, you’re losing more money. So let that motivate you.

Since I’m the parent of very young children, I am embracing that. I am fully bought into it. I am putting all of my effort towards their care. Because this will not always be my phase. I will graduate into mommy of elementary school kids with girl scouts and soccer and skiing and children who will miraculously be away from me all day long. I will miss them then, I know I will. Not to mention when they go to high school and then actually leave their parents’ nest (at least, we hope they eventually leave the nest… ).

So for now, I will try to savor these moments, grim as they sometimes feel, riddled as they are with the pathos of being two years old in a world where everyone is bigger, shot through with the torment of trying to not just make it through the day, but engage and enrich and inspire these little people.

Finding peace in the present moment isn’t always possible, but there are windows every day where it can happen. Or so I tell myself. As I write these words, Littlewoods is snoring in her carrier on my chest and Babywoods is reading a book out loud to herself in the big brown chair in our living room. My arm is soaking wet from a recent infant spit-up, I need to prepare lunch soon, and for the love of god someone should vacuum these floors. But I will savor this nanosecond of contentment, of peace, and of the present.

What phase of life are you in? How do you embrace the good and bad of where you’re at?

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203 Responses

  1. I concur wholeheartedly with the aspect of “Ceaseless Worry” that you mentioned. It started for us during pregnancy with our first. Decisions regarding baby equipment and supplies, birth plan, the vitamin K shot, vaccinations, circumcision (our first is a boy), the list goes on.

    SIDS prevention, organic clothes / crib / crib mattress vs. non-organic, what car seat is safest, outlet protective covers, the list of things to research and make decisions on was lengthy and quite draining. Little FFP just hit the 1-year-old mark, and by all accounts seems to be doing well. We feel much better prepared knowing what to expect for future children, but preparing for the first was most certainly a stressful experience!

    Right now we’re in an interesting phase of life. Recently FI, we had only a month or two to adjust to our new and much more fulfilling lifestyle before I ruptured my Achilles tendon playing volleyball in the local winter city league. Surgical repair and a lengthy recovery period have had me sidelined on crutches for the last 12 weeks while delaying several ambitious home improvement projects (new self-installed furnace and duct system, water heater conversion from electric tank-style to natural gas tankless, new PEX piping throughout house, water softener installation, bathroom remodel, 300’ grapevine installation) which had been on hold for years due to a lack of time off the clock from my job.

    This unplanned medical issue put Mrs. FFP in the unenviable position of both caring for me and our young son, a stark difference from our expectations that FI would enable me to help shoulder more of the child rearing responsibilities. Thankfully, we are nearing the end of my “invalid” status and I should begin physical therapy soon while ditching the crutches.

    In terms of how we’ve been coping with this situation, we first recognize how blessed we are to even be FI to begin with. We have much to be thankful for – a paid-for house with a roof over our head, two reliable and fuel efficient vehicles that get us from Point A to Point B, family that loves us, and a son who is in good health.

    Although I tend to lean more towards the cup half-empty perspective, even I can appreciate that if this Achilles rupture had occurred prior to our becoming FI, my recovery would have been far more painful, protracted, and uncomfortable due to attempting to return to work prior to having fully healed. And as difficult as it has been for my wife to care for both myself and our son, had this happened in his first six months of life, the burden would have been far, far greater. Add to this the fact that our medical bills would have been far higher on my former employer’s insurance plan and we have much to be grateful for.

    So I guess we’re coping simply by being cognizant of the fact that many of our “issues” are in fact first-world in nature. This helps us keep things in perspective while appreciating that while we’ll always face challenges, our current challenges could be far more serious than they are.

    • Krista says:

      Hello Mr. Financial Freedom Project!
      I too had to care for my husband with two young children after his ruptured Achilles (play indoor soccer). It was so hard on us but the financial stability and his being able to work remotely helped enormously. It was a long recovery. His leg looked like a bird wing when the cast came off. My husband was so down but determined to recover. He did his physio exercises every day, did bowen treatments (helped a ton), joined a gym for the first time and took up swimming. Now, 1.5 years later he’s training for a triathlon and ran 16 km today. Soon you will be back at it and people will wonder “what’s that guy made of?” Warmest wishes, Krista

      • Thanks for sharing your own experience, Krista! It sounds like you guys went through the ringer as well. My hat is off to you for caring for your husband and two children through the recovery process! Your and your husband both sound like driven and motivated individuals.

        This is actually my SECOND Achilles rupture, as I tore the other five years ago in the same fashion… indoor volleyball. About the same time of year. That recovery period was far more complicated than this one has been to date, as my surgical repair was performed by a general orthopedic using an open surgery technique and an incision approximately 14″ long. I had excessive pain and swelling for many months after, but used cycling as a means of improving mobility and strength, and was able to return to pre-injury activities such as whitetail bow hunting and volleyball.

        This last surgery was performed by a specialist using a percutaneous technique with an incision only about an inch in length. The pain, swelling, and scar tissue are night and day compared to my last recovery, and I’ve been weight-bearing and performing mobility exercises far earlier to attempt to reduce the amount of muscular atrophy. Should start physical therapy next week!

        Thanks again for the encouragement. As I’m sure you know, this injury can be pretty devastating, even having gone recovered from it once before.

  2. Caroline Bowman says:

    Oh every parent, ESPECIALLY when the second comes along, feels just precisely as you do at this very moment. You’re a couple of months into few-consecutive-hours sleep at any time. Yes, you DO sleep of course (like a dead body), BUT never for more than 3-4 hours on a great night. Ever. That is in fact a very effective form of legitimate torture used in POW camps even today. So there’s that. It’s the on-and-onness of it all (as the Dowager Duchess of Downton Abbey said one memorable episode). I used to refer to my days as turtles wading through peanut butter…

    I found the move from one to two a massive shock. Number 2 son also had very bad reflux, which was unpleasant and added an extra layer of exhaustion and dirt and washing, but even had he been the world’s easiest baby ever born, it was the conflict between the needs of a very active 3 year old and a small baby that just never ended. Ever.

    For this very reason I went into an actual melt down with proper snot and throwing (soft) things when, after months and months and months of wandering around with vomit down by shoulder and in a haze of tiredness, I managed to get a hair appointment at JUST the perfect time of day AND line up a babysitter… but she called because she had to cancel, all chirpy ”can you maybe do 10am tomorrow?”. I hung up on her. Then I had my meltdown.

    After that, weirdly (I think number 2 must have been around 4-4.5 months), things really improved. His reflux was properly managed and the vomiting / screaming dialled right back. He started sleeping for much longer on end in the night… things just somewhat clicked.

    This is why when surprise boy number 3 was en route I was nearly hysterical with anxiety at the very idea. Of course, he turned out to be so easy and sleep so long and so much that I took him to a doctor because I was worried that a new baby shouldn’t sleep through the night consistently from around 8 weeks old, surely he’s terribly sick or there’s a problem? He slotted in like he’d always been there and yes, I did once forget him at home when walking the middle one to kindergarten. Just did. I know. Half way up the road I went ”whaaa…” and RAN back to the house to find him doing what he did most of the time, which was sleeping.

    As they say, the days are so long, but the years are very short!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      I love this! Thank you for sharing! I feel your pain so acutely on the hairdresser cancelling–the unfathomable work that goes into planning every outing when you have kids is nothing short of daunting at times.

      • Caroline Bowman says:

        it nearly made me go your route of simplifying and insourcing. However, unlike you with your glorious thick, shiny, nice-coloured hair, mine is… thin. Let’s say that and be charitable. Thin and a sort of greige colour. The colour depression would be, but not serious depression, just a kind of low affect / mood type of depression.

        A hairdresser is required! 🙂

  3. Victoria says:

    I have a just-turned 2 year old and a 3 week old and a big fat AMEN for this post.

  4. Amanda Page says:

    I don’t know that the phase of life I’m in has a name. It’s definitely not a prescribed one. I’m middle-aged, and really in a relationship building phase, I suppose, in and with my chosen city. I’m in a growth phase in my career, one that probably happens to most folks around 30. It’s a good question to think about, because first I have to define this “phase.” Right now, I’m looking at just getting through the next month. One month at a time! But it is a phase, and I’ll likely miss it once it’s over and I’m looking for the next adventure.

  5. Rae Ierullo says:

    One of your best articles!!!

  6. Aww Babywoods and Littlewoods are absolutely adorable!

    I’m currently 5 months pregnant and will be a mommy of 2 in late August or early September. It will be a lot of work taking care of a 3.5 yo and an infant, but I someone wish that I would be able to see our 2nd baby soon. When our son was born, hubby and I were just like zombies at least for the 1st month. Now it’s an infant plus an active toddler. I don’t even want to think about all the challenges. I just want to think about the happy times we will have together. 😀

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Congrats! And yes, there are so many happy and adorable times!!! I really do think it’s easier to go from 1 to 2 than it was from 0 to 1 kid

  7. Sarah says:

    I’m in a similar phase to you, with a 1, 3 and 6 year old. Hang on in there, you know it does get easier once you pull through the fog of the exhausted newborn days.

    I know you don’t wear makeup anymore Liz, but for me personally taking 5 minutes to apply a tiny bit of makeup in the mornings makes a world of difference to how I feel about myself (as well as disguising the suitcases under my eyes…). It makes me feel more like me and ready to get out there and face the world each day, more than ever since having young kids.

  8. Jill says:

    Wow. Talk about perfect timing with a post! We have a one week old…yup…one WEEK. We’re in the weeds feeling tethered, tired, and overwhelmed. So much to adjust to and then pile some hormones on top of it! I applaud your honesty at how hard parenting is…and we’re just in the feed/change/snuggle stage! I’m with you in solidarity!

  9. Emily Taylor says:

    Thanks for your post! We have two year old, and are expecting our second in August. I just finished your book this weekend… I really enjoyed it (read it in a day), and it was a good reminder to start getting our finances back under control. We were doing pretty well before our first was born, then we’ve been so tired it’s hard to think about the most frugal option. Then we bought a house and have already sunk a bunch of money into it. I’m trying to get more organized for baby number two, so we can be a more frugal family of four. Thanks for your work, and I feel you about the mom exhaustion/aesthetic! I’d love tips on how to save money on baby/toddler supplies like soap and diaper cream, or household items like toilet paper. I’ve tried to do zero waste, and want to eliminate as much plastic from our lives as possible, but then we’re stuck in the cost/environmental benefit conundrum. I’m wondering if any of your readers have experience with sites like Thrive Market?

  10. Jen says:

    My two are 22 months apart, and are currently six and four years old, but I still remember the extreme exhaustion of the first six months after the second was born. The exhaustion that makes every single little thing feel so much worse. The exhaustion that makes you change your feelings on your rules. “What? You want to watch five episodes of Daniel Tiger in a row? Sure, just let me doze on the couch while the baby sleeps.” (Good ol’ Daniel was a favorite at our house as well.) The exhaustion that makes you wonder if life will ever get back to being fun again. (Spoiler: it does.)

    Even with all that, I would absolutely have them so close if given the chance to do it over again. Now that they are older, they are close enough in age that they enjoy the same things. They are each other’s best friend, and love to play together. (Most of the time.)

    You got this, Mama!

  11. Jen says:

    What a beautiful post. Thanks for getting real with us! I’m going to be honest, sometimes when I read your posts I feel baffled and a little like a failure as a Mom because everything seems so perfect and easy for you. It’s a sweet relief to read these words and be reminded that parenthood is a struggle for us all. You are pulling off two kids with amazing grace… Keep up the good work team Frugalwoods!

  12. Laura Gail says:

    Amen! Thank you for the very real reminder to lean into my phase of life. I’m sick this morning, naseous, barely able to make the boys lunches only to discover that my baby had thrown up in her crib over everything in the middle of the night. So, now I’m washing everything and disinfecting it. I love the phrase lean in! It just helps me to not be frustrated and fight my season of life. That’s the word the lord gave me last summer as school let out and I had no idea what to do with my kiddos. Lean into summer and don’t fight it. I have two active boys who live to wrestle and argue and they drive me batty sometimes even though they are my precious treasures. Thank you for offering this real parenting perspective this morning! I need it, Liz! We are not alone in the trenches! Solidarity, sister!

  13. Jason says:

    Dealing with 1 toddler is monumentally easier and simpler than dealing with 2. My youngest (2.5) is so obsessed with what her older sister is doing 100% of the time. When separated they are both different children. These years are tough for sure just because they are both very needy and the older will try to revert back to baby time because she sees her younger sister getting the ‘treatment”. Its quite the cycle.

  14. Lauren says:

    I have children about the same age and too am trying to balance the idea of enjoying it all now (spoiler alert: I definitely didn’t at 4am this morning when the baby woke up). What reminded me of that importance is talking with an old coworker who has girls heading into the middle school years (9 and 10).

    The things that she’s dealing with sound so scary (explaining the birds and bees before someone else does?? dealing with bullies??), which gives me pause for wishing any of this time away. I know I (and all of us with small children) will be prepared to deal with it once we get here, but it makes the spit up, lack of sleeping through the night and toddler whims about food sound less difficult when put into perspective.

    So, virtual high five for embracing it! (from one puffy-eyed mom to another)

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      High five right back to you :)! My baby was up at 5:20am so I feel your pain (although she did smile at me). And amen to not wishing this time away (much as we might want to at times… ).

      • Amanda says:

        My son is 13 now. And my daughter is almost 11. I enjoyed them when they were little, but also love the stage they are in right now.

        When my son was little his wake-up time was naturally 5am no matter how many times he woke up in the middle of the night. Luckily he did nap in the afternoon. The sleep deprivation was so hard. When people said to me “these times go by so fast” I wanted to yell at them. (i didn’t but really wanted to)

  15. JP says:

    We will have an empty nest come August. What I wouldn’t give to have a time machine to go back to rock my kids when they were small. Or to go back and see my 12 year old daughter skip through the house while singing. Lean into it, yes, but sometimes its necessary to take a step back to keep perspective. Those first couple of years are really really hard! I found I needed a “day off” occasionally to do things just for myself (like sleep – ha). It does get easier, I promise!

  16. Diana Hickman says:

    I believe this was your best article yet. I once had a toddler and a newborn, a job, and a not helpful and soon to be gone husband, and I remember how wonderful and gruesome it all could be. Now, at 75, I will soon be sharing the purchase of a house on some acres in Vermont, where I have wanted to live seemingly forever. He and his wife and two of his daughters, teens, will be moving with my husband and me, a big leap for all six of us, not to mention our dogs and cats. Our house purchase and approval all fell into place just recently, and now we only have to sell our house and then, the most daunting of all for me, at 75, MOVE. We may even end up neighbors.

    Again, great article. Thank you.

  17. Jan Tymorek says:

    As an older mom, I agree with “The days are long but the years are short” – and yes, you’ll remember the highlights (if you write them down, which I recommend!) and miss those years. I wish our families weren’t so spread out. It seems some of this stress is due to our isolation as young families. With our third child my mother-in-law came to stay with us for awhile. She didn’t do any baby-care, but read stories to the older two, took them out, made dinners, did laundry, and saved my sanity.

  18. Mommy Unlikely says:

    I’m the full time mom of an almost 5 year old and an almost 18 month old. I hate to say this, but it sorta gets *harder*. Yes, you sleep more (as much as you ever sleep when there are tiny dictators occupying your house), but once baby #2 starts to be on the move, its a whole new ball game. At right around 13 months for our littlest, when he started his death defying toddling and strongly objecting to being in the carrier (wants to do what brother does), I immediately longed for the baby days. There’s something about babies just having those base needs to satisfy – fed, dry, slept, closeness – that simplifies things. Then they start with the opinions. The opinions, that’s what exhausts me currently… woof. All this to say, as soon as you’ve got it licked, they’ll change it up on you and leave you scrambling all over again.

    • Gwen Junge says:

      Amen! I have 3 girls 11,7, and 18 months. I hear young parents saying, “I can’t wait until they walk. ” the problem with that is then they are walking…. and getting into everything.

      I’m afraid I’m one of those people that sees a first time mom and says, “It goes fast. ” because it does. Ridiculously fast. I’ve had my days covered in poop and vomit on huddled on the floor in a pool of my own tears (at least o hope that’s what the liquid was). But, looking at my now 11 year old, I have no idea where the time went. It has flown. It makes me appreciate my little one that much more. I actually enjoyed the sleepless nights this time because I knew never again would another human being need me as much as this tiny baby needs me right now. I could provide love and nourishment to her in a way no one else could. I didn’t quite understand the gift with my oldest because I was stuck in just trying to get through to the next meal, nap, day, diaper change. But now, I have the gift of the passage of time and I see how quickly it all goes and I appreciate it all. I actually laughed when the 18 month old took off her own diaper and I had poopy footprints through my house. Her feet will never be that small again.

  19. Audra says:

    Amen to Daniel Tiger, he is a life saver around here as well. We’re extremely picky about what our 4yo watches, but also allow dinosaur train and the very hungry caterpillar Eric Carle compilation in a pinch.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      YES to Daniel Tiger! We were really hesitant to do any screen time at all, but Daniel Tiger is amazing. I love the lessons, the pace, the songs, and the gentle approach. Such a great show for little citizens :). Good to know about Dinosaur Train and Hungry Caterpillar, we’ll have to check those out–thanks for the recommendations!

      • Tarynkay says:

        We allow very limited screen time for our 6 and 2 year old, but our one go-to is Mr Rogers (full episodes are available on Amazon Prime.) It’s the only show that my kids are actually nicer after watching.

        I think time speeds up as they get older. My eldest is graduating Kindergarten next week and I find myself wanting to homeschool, just to have more time with him.

  20. This article brings back so many memories! I have 4 children who have grown into seemingly well-adjusted adults despite my many failings. For me the toughest time was when I had two children under 3 years old; I was always tired. And the clueless people who would say, “You think it’s tough now, just wait until they are teenagers” were not handing me any kind of lifeline! There was one woman in our church who said, “I love the teenage years – they are the best!” I decided to hold onto that sentiment. And I have to say that while the teenage years were not without occasional unpleasantness, overall they were truly a fun time of helping my young adults discover who they were, what strengths they had, and what they were made to do. Be encouraged that the effort each day takes right now is more than worth it as you get to know the blessings you are stewarding and build solid relationships with them! You will eventually get to catch up on your rest.

  21. Carrie says:

    I love this blog even more after reading today’s post. I am reading this post on my ferry commute, after a sleepless night with our 5 month old, having just had the awful realization that I left my pumping supplies at home, and a crazy busy day at work sprawled our ahead of me.

    Parenting is so crazy. It’s amazing people keep doing it but I’m glad we do! Here’s to leaning in to the phase.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Oh no! I’m so sorry you left your pump at home!!! Good luck mama and hang in there! (for what it’s worth, a lot of my friends who work outside the home got a second pump–often as a hand-me-down–to leave at the office).

    • Frugal in training says:

      I once hand expressed into my (very clean) thermos mug. I did have two pumps, but the tubing had become defective.

  22. Nancy says:

    Yes, yes, and yes. As usual you’ve nailed it exactly! My two are now 33 and 29, and yet I still remember the exact feelings you are experiencing. What I would add are the usual platitudes…..it does get easier, with time. Get a support team so you can get out or off by yourself occasionally, for your sanity. Soak up the good, laugh at the bad, and take tons of pictures. Sleep all you can at this point.

    It actually gets harder, later, in a different way. I found the emotional battles of the mind and will, which come later, more exhausting than the physical needs that you are consumed with now. But they are all part of parenting…..seasons of life…..and you will revel in them all. And I think you are, already! (I just can’t figure out how you actually came up with 20 minutes to clean the bathroom! I have no memories of bathroom cleaning at all during that season of my life! 😳)

    You never get over the worry. Never ever. But if the foundation is right, the worries are always tempered with the fact that you have raised a child to be a responsible, loving, ambitious, carefree adult in whom you will delight forever. It is so, so worth it!

  23. I had no idea what responsibility and stress really were until the day my wife became pregnant (while I was unemployed). Boy that was a wake-up call.

    We’ve “survived” a handful of years since then. I’m not sure the worry will ever go away. Neither will the memories of laughter and fun we’ve had either. I now have a sense of purpose that I don’t know if I’d ever have had without adding my boys to our family.

    Nothing great ever comes easy!!!!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      You hit the nail on the head with “I had no idea what responsibility and stress really were.” SO TRUE.

  24. Jennifer says:

    We have a teenage boy so we’re all about trying to keep him as close to us as possible for as long as possible. We talk about sex and drugs it seems endlessly–many times instigated by the teenager’s questions, which I am thankful for.
    He’s in training to get his driver’s license at which point our car insurance, will at least double, or at least that was a best guess from our insurance company.
    I can tell you this from all the stages I’ve had with him. With each one I continued to be amazed at how much fun he is to be around and I always think, it can’t get any more fun than this. But it does! Best wishes and good luck Mama 🙂

  25. Kristine says:

    Loving the photos! Thanks for sharing. I love your point about leaning into whatever you are doing right now and embracing it. 🙂

  26. Maria says:

    My grandmother used to say when you have children you have to sleep when you’re not tired and eat when you’re not hungry. I would add, as the mother of a 28 year old, it’s all worth every minute of it.

  27. French Mama says:

    A dear friend said to me recently, “It’s rewarding, but it isn’t fun.” when I told her how hard it was to be at home all the time!

    But seriously: Raffi. All Raffi, all the time. He’s pretty much the only children’s musician who doesn’t drive husband or I slowly insane because he has a genuinely nice voice and demeanor with kids–and I loved his songs as a kid myself. Check out clips on YouTube! “Six Little Ducks” live is hilarious, as is the “Something in My Shoe” song. He even has a “Brush Your Teeth” song! My personal favorite, though, is a little known one caled Raffi’s Weather Report, which is him saying, “The sun will keep shining…” and goes on to talk about all of the weather things that will keep happening in the world, regardless. Very comforting and grounding, to me.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Thanks for the Raffi tip! I’ll have to look that up!

      • Ali says:

        Love love love Raffi. His hit, “Bananaphone” will lift grey moods of toddlers and adults alike. Especially if you sing along into a pretend banana phone. So I hear. Ahem.

    • Bethany says:

      Raffi is a staple in our house for our 6 month old, but also for us. He was “new” when my husband and I were small. I may have cried (joy, hormones and exhaustion are a ridiculous combo) when my mom and I sang “Down by the Bay” to her together when husband and I brought her home. And “Apples and Bananas” has been THE eating song since she was less than a day old. He still tours, btw.

  28. Hannah says:

    I really like this post, and I echo a lot of other comments about its right-on-ness. However, I do want to say a little word about being open to help. You have described your warm, close-knit community in Vermont. I hope you are taking advantage of those supports to get some respite. Parenting is hard, especially at the ages of your daughters, and there is no failure in calling for help! There is only strength. The failure lies in not reaching out when you need to. So be strong and don’t try to “have it all” or “do it all.” Instead, recognize the grace that comes from community. And good luck!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      So true! I’m all about accepting help! Babywoods is actually out and about with our fabulous grandmotherly neighbor right now having their weekly “playdate.” We are so lucky to have a wonderful community and lots of people willing to help parent our kids, which we are so grateful for!

  29. Marina says:

    What a great post, Mrs. FW. I can relate to this so much because I am in this same season as well – have a 2 year old and another due in October (aack!) Just this morning, the 2 year old refused breakfast at the table, then wouldn’t get dressed, then played with my phone and cried hysterically when I took it away… and I hadn’t even started my day at work yet! I can’t even imagine the craziness that a second will add, and it doesn’t help that today’s work places aren’t set up to be helpful to working parents, adding yet another challenge to these early years.

  30. Sara says:

    Thank you! I LOVE this post. 🙂 And yes, five-year-olds can pull up their own pants, but it doesn’t mean they won’t still try to get you to do it for them.

  31. Jen V says:

    Humor & lowered expectations. My kids are 6-16 so as one drives off to get herself to practice as the youngest cuddles up to me with a book, I shake my head in awe of it all. And as far as looking like a mom..I saw a meme that summed it up : My personal style can be best described as “didn’t expect to get out of the car.”

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      HAHA I love that so much. Mine should be: “Didn’t expect to leave the house. Ever.” That is perfect. And yes to lowered expectations–we’ve been all about that since Littlewoods was born.

  32. Ruth says:

    Yes, this is a great post!

    I have three kids, ages 11, 9, and 6.

    I remember those days very well. I changed diapers for 7 1/2 years straight. I nursed for 8 years. (from the birth of my first in 2006, to the weaning of my youngest in 2015 minus a 6 month break while pregnant with the 3rd) Having three older kids is much easier than any configuration of babyhood whether it be with 1, 2, or 3 kids. While I was dealing with the stress of diapers and potty training, it seemed that it would never end. It’s now been over 4 years since my youngest has been in diapers.

    My oldest will be 12 in August. She can stay home alone for short periods, cook, will be going to summer camp this year. All three of my kids are good readers and can entertain themselves for long periods of time in a book.

    Though this stage is easier, there are certainly other worries that come up. (i.e. discussing birds and the bees, telling my kid that they can’t have a cell phone or email account yet, and fending off the 50th request for a pet ball python)

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      A pet python! Oh the things kids come up with… Babywoods asked for a screwdriver and saw yesterday… So glad to hear your kids are doing well and that you’re on the other side of the diapers/nursing/potty training events of life 😉

  33. Amy says:

    Oh how I LOVE this post. My boys are 6 1/2 and 3, and we have just now begun to round the bend on all-consuming neediness so that I can actually spend a half an hour cooking dinner on occasion (not always…it is still often interrupted by fighting, screaming or toys getting broken sometimes) without getting continually interrupted. But it IS getting better. It’s like someone opened a window and let air into a room that had been closed up for a very long time, and suddenly I am able to complete sentences again, complete whole trains of thought.

    I absolutely despise the comments, often from older mothers, about “how fast it goes,” often uttered while my children are being complete hellions and I feel like I’m going to lose my mind. I have promised myself I will never utter those words to another mother, ever! Once, at a farmer’s market when my youngest was six months old and my almost-four-year-old was melting down onto the concrete while I clutched the stroller and a box of peaches I’d just bought (and it was, of course, 90 degrees), I was hissing at my oldest to get up…I was trying so hard to just hold it together, and this older man (maybe 60) starts yammering at me, in a very forceful way including even leaning into my space as I tried to get away from him, about how fast it goes, about how I’ll miss it someday, blah blah blah. By that point in parenting I’d already heard that phrase so many times that I just lost it. I turned to him and said, “No mother of young children ever wants to hear that. Ever.” He finally shut up and left me alone so I could peel my kid off the ground and get to the car.

    One afternoon when my oldest was a toddler (#2 hadn’t come along yet) I had to carry him from the library while he was screaming, holding him sideways across my body like a plank of wood while he thrashed. I was grim-faced but not even really reacting…it was just another day in Toddler World. But I passed an older woman in the parking lot and she reached out to me as she walked by and said, “You are doing the most important job in the world.” I was so grateful for her kindness that I sat in my car and cried. I carry her words inside me like a torch. THOSE are the words I promise to pass on to other mothers someday when I see them struggling with whining, crying kids. This is the best, hardest, most tedious, most wonderful and most enlightening job I will ever have. I am grateful for it even as I sometimes feel beaten down by it, and I am in awe of what my children have taught me about myself and about life. Onward and upward, mamas!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      YES YES YES! Your descriptions of Toddler World are perfect and I have pretty much experienced those exact things. An older mom once told me, “you are doing a great job!” as Babywoods wailed and I also broke down and cried because it was just so kind of her. So I know that feeling exactly! I will join you in your pact to not tell younger moms how quickly it goes. But I will tell parents how great that are doing! And why do toddlers feel the need to glue themselves to floors/concrete/the ground. Just why?!

    • Elizabeth says:

      Parenting is a labor of love… with an emphasis on labor! Hard work, long thankless hours, self-sacrifice and the steepest learning curve I’ve ever encountered. With that being said, I’m guilty of thinking and saying “it all goes by so fast”! I have a 9 yo and 5 yo. So when I read an article somewhere that mentioned “There was a moment where it was the last time you ever picked up your child”, it really struck me. I don’t pick up my 9 yo anymore (not in the same way I pick up my 5 yo), and I completely missed the moment that it was the last time I picked her up like that. I can’t remember when that moment occurred, and I certainly didn’t recognize it for what is was.

      Some moments we want to race through (ahem – temper tantrums in the middle of a store with a bunch of gawkers and judgers looking on). And others, I wish I was more mindful of, more present for – I wish I had marked them in my memory so that I could appreciate them for what they were. The last time I breastfed, the last time I bottle fed while holding my infant close, the last time my toddler climbed into our bed at 3am, the last time my older daughter asked to be picked up, the last time they believed in the tooth fairy or Santa or princesses, and so so many more “last time”s. I think we say “it all goes by so fast” out of a sense of nostalgia and wistfulness because I think every single one of us would take a temper tantrum in the middle of a store if it meant that we’d also get one more 3am snuggle.

      So continue to fight the good fight, but also remember to mark the good moments of those years and know that they are two sides of the same wonderful (and terrible!) coin called childhood.

      • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

        Beautifully said! I had Mr. FW take pictures of the last time I breastfed Babywoods (she was about 16 months old) and I was wistful in that moment! I like your thought of remembering those special last moments :). Thank you!

  34. Lisa says:

    This is the stage of life that, without good community/family/spousal support in a real “pitching in” sense, a mom finds herself spending a lot of money to get a little help. Babysitters, house cleaners and gym memberships are godsends to overworked moms especially those who don’t have local friends/family/spouses with flexible work arrangements. When I was in that stage, I spent a lot of money on those things not out if frivolity, but out of a need to feel balanced and sane.

    • Amy says:

      I agree completely. I’ve used a babysitter for just a few hours a week for the last six years (I just let her go this week because my kids are old enough and I no longer feel the need to escape them so frequently, ha!), and it was a big but necessary expense for our one-income family. We don’t live near family, and it was the only way for me to stay human.

      • Lisa says:

        Yes, I had cleaning once or twice a month, and just a couple of hours a week here and there babysitting during the day so that I could go on a run or do errands without kids…it was nothing extravagant but in hindsight I see the extra $200-$300 a month really set us back.

  35. Kim says:

    There’s a podcast out there you might really enjoy called The Longest Shortest Time, all about different kinds of parenting issues. I don’t have any kids but I love the show for its variety and kindhearted look at different ways of being a parent, parent-child relationships, and identity. I think episodes usually come out around 3am, perfect for feeding time.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Yes! I keep meaning to listen to that podcast as so many folks have recommended it, but then someone throws up on me and I forget! I will actually do it now :). Thank you!

  36. Mandy says:

    We had our first the same day you welcomed Littlewoods into the world and I just started back at work last week. It’s been stressful and overwhelming and nothing has gone the way I planned, because you simply cannot make plans for babies! I keep coming back to your words about accepting the stage of life you’re in instead of wishing for the next stage. I’m still wearing a mixture of maternity clothes and my husband T-shirt’s and I’m ok with that. My body doesn’t look the same because it isn’t! It’s frustrating and I’m impatient but I keep reminding myself of what you’ve written, and try to just enjoy the snuggles right now because the treadmill will still be there tomorrow.

    Thanks for all the words of encouragement!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Congrats to you! And yes planning + babies often goes awry ;), but it does get easier as they get older because their schedules do become more predictable. Take care of yourself and hang in there!

  37. Lena says:

    I’m currently reading this post with my 6 weeks old daughter in my lap, a giant milk stain on my left breast from feeding her, spit on our sofa, my floors equally in need of a good vacuum-cleaning. Last night I slept a total of 4 hours and ended up laying our baby in our own bed out of sheer exhaustion. Then I went to brunch with some friends, face covered in zits (did, however, manage to take a shower) with a baby that wouldn’t fall asleep. Fun times.

    Motherhood is totally different from what I expected, I can relate to all the feelings you described above. Especially the feeling that you’ve lost your freedom and will always, always be responsible for this little human being. And yet I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.

    I think you are very, very brave: being pregnant and taking care of Babywoods, writing a book, taking care of your homestead, writing a blog. And then giving birth to Littlewoods.

    You are doing great in life! Kudos to you!

    I do have a question: I really feel the need to pamper myself and shop for new clothes and get a haircut. I usually don’t spend a lot of money on myself, but I need to feel like a grown woman again. Did you struggle with that? How did you handle it?

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Hey! We are in the same exact position right now :)! Littlewoods waves hi with her flailing hand. I recently discovered that I can remove my couch cushion covers to wash them (not that I’ve done it yet), which is really good news since the other option pretty much seemed to be to burn the couch… In terms of pampering, I shower every morning and do yoga almost every afternoon. I guess the clothes thing isn’t important to me right now since I know someone (ahem) is going to spit up on them no matter what. I do want to get out of maternity clothes (hence the yoga), so I know that will be a big boost for me. I think you have to find whatever you need to feel confident and strong as a momma–it is so important to find that right balance for you! I also had Mr. FW give me a haircut last week, which was lovely!

      • Lena says:

        Thank you for your reply, it made my day!
        Do you recommend any yoga classes for mommies (on doyogawithme)?

        • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

          There are a number of prenatal classes on there, although I actually haven’t done any of them. Lately, I’ve been doing vinyasa power yoga (every afternoon during Daniel Tiger 😉 ) with a few different instructors on YouTube (I’m really trying to lose the baby weight!!). But on Doyogawithme, my favorite instructor is Fiji McAlpine and I believe she does teach a few of the prenatal classes as well. Good luck and enjoy :)!!!

  38. Debra says:

    As a mother of four grown children – the youngest two being twins – I can totally relate to your post. My response to the “they grow up so fast” comments was always “some days not fast enough!”

  39. I’m 26 so whatever phrase I’m in, it isn’t as much work and sacrifice as motherhood. I’m pretty sure if I was a mom I would “Amen” to this all day.

    When I was in school, there were some teen pregnancy girls from my school and a lot of them didn’t look like someone’s mom after the baby was born. They were still partying like teenagers without the grace of a real mom. Soo I think of the tired mom feeling as a badge of war pride. It’s soo not easy at the stage you’re in (2 kids under the age of 10) and that’s after the labor!!! Omg who takes on this job without a CEO salary??! That’s my two cents as a 26 year old.

  40. Athena says:

    Picture this: two sons, one is 24 and an officer in the Marines, deployed for 6 months. The other is a freshman in college, who calls at any hour of the night to talk, thereby letting me know he is not sleeping as he did when at home and OMG, I do not want to know all the rest that he is up to.

    I was like you at one point and now at this other end of the parenting spectrum I can see that the bone-deep physical fatigue of rearing young children puts you in a daze, whereas the soul-deep worry of parenting older ‘kids’ will keep you awake for hours each night, worrying, wondering, “Are they okay?” Parenting is bittersweet and lovely and messy and heart-wrenching all at one. Keep the faith, Liz. You’re doing just fine.

  41. Britt Murray says:

    Hi Liz,

    Loooong time reader, but one of the silent ones. I have a 2.5 year old and 9 month old and work from home full time. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve taken a customer call locked in the bathroom or put my laptop on the kitchen counter so I could stand and rock baby in the carrier to sleep. I always admire your writing skills but this post really knocked it out of the park. Thanks for capturing all the emotions that I can never put words to about this crazy season of life.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Thank you! And thank you for joining the conversation :)! I am ALL about the laptop up on the kitchen counter–it’s just about the #1 trick for how I work at home (I can bounce the baby in her carrier and Babywoods can’t paw the keyboard, but can play at my feet). Not sure what I’d do without that high countertop!

  42. Kate says:

    My “babies” are now 30 and 26, and this post brought back the awe, fear, and exhaustion like it was yesterday. It sounds like you have a super-helpful community around you, but for those who do not, I recommend any kind of parenting support group you can get your hands on. I also kept the phone number of the local Parental Stress Hotline handy… for a few years there, I swear I had it on speed dial! Knowing I wasn’t the only person who used to sneak into the bathroom for a good cry made me feel a lot better. I wish there was some kind of support group for parents of adult kids on the autism spectrum.

  43. Carolyn says:

    I am sending you all of the vibes of love, comfort, and many consecutive nights of uninterrupted sleep. My girls are now 11 and 9, and I felt every single aspect of life that you are feeling right now. It’s all real and true, and I nodded with love, compassion, and aching empathy at your every exhausted word an uncharacteristic typo. “Fast”-forward nine years (because *IT IS TRUE* that the days are long and the years are short): My kids have morphed like gorgeous butterflies into kind, thoughtful, capable, considerate people who take out the recycling and scoop the cat’s litter box; who still want snuggles at bedtime and to be read to; who whine about stuff occasionally, but who doesn’t?; who can get themselves to school and back without me. But you know what? I actually don’t miss the stage you’re at right now. It’s exhausting, and it feels like a marathon you couldn’t possibly have trained for. Bravo and thank you for your candor. I think you will look back on it in nine years and marvel.

  44. Olivia says:

    Oh, hang in there! I so, so, completely understand where you’re at. Been there, done that. My eldest is now in college, and the younger one in high school. It gets better!!!! Trust me, it truly does. Of course you always worry about them, and you periodically help them in one way or another, and argh the battles over chores with teenagers—but OH MY GOD THE FREEDOM: to leave the house, to sleep in, to nap (notice a theme?), to read—to do pretty much whatever you want in your (actually) free time!

    I distinctly remember one moment as a young mother (of one just child then, four years old). I was trudging up the four flights of stairs (no elevator) to our apartment, carrying groceries and shepherding a little one, when my next door neighbor—a young single woman, my age but a world away—cheerfully sailed by me on her way out. She wasn’t even carrying anything! She just waltzed out the door in her cute sundress and off she went. Oh, how I envied her.

    Now, I knew my neighbor well, so I know she had her own burdens to bear, as do we all. But I so wished for that freedom. And good news, it comes back!

    Honestly, especially since I am not a kid person by nature, as far as I’m concerned parenting just gets better and better the older they get.

    So hang in there, and definitely enjoy the sweet moments, fleeting and rare though they may be. Another bit of happiness: later on, you’ll remember those best anyway. So trudge dutifully through the endless keeping-small-people-alive part, and be sure to look down whenever you can to notice the flowers along the way.

  45. Melissa B says:

    You are such an incredible writer! I had my kids two years and 3 months apart, so I can certainly relate to every single word you wrote. I applaud you for your honesty in how hard it truly can be, and yet the most rewarding at the same time. One day at a time, girl. You are awesome!

  46. Mr RIP says:

    Thanks Mrs. Frugalwoods for this excellent article that summarized my (so far) 10 days experience with parenting!
    My metaphor is that a baby is like a Tamagotchi (those who are old enough remember).
    They’re trying to die in dozens of spectacular ways each day and you need to do your best to keep them alive.
    Ah, and they only have one life. And if you fail, your life is destroyed from within and from the outside.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Haha yep. That pretty much sums it up! But as they get older, they do start to smile at you and then TALK, which I find so much more rewarding than when they just scream and frown 🙂

  47. Staci says:

    That Daniel Tiger is actually a magical tiger, I think! A cartoon that doesn’t make me to want to rip my hair our listening to it and also keeps my 2 yr old suitably entertained. Glad you feel the same way. I’m pregnant with my 2nd, due in August so I will soon be in your same shoes of learning to make it all work again. I can’t wait to meet our new little one and am really glad that I (relatively) know what to expect this time around. Also somewhat terrifying because I (relatively) know what to expect… I will be working from home and my husband will largely be gone working at the farm harvesting for the first couple months after our new little will be born so it will be a challenge but one I can’t wait to experience again.

    I like the 2nd time pregnancy experience, much more aware of what you actually NEED with an infant (ie not a lot besides formula, clothing and cuddles) vs the unnecessary things I purchased with my first. With a pre-pregnancy/pregnancy budgeting changes with formula cost in mind I already have almost 6 months of formula cost saved up which makes me thrilled. 2nd hand purchasing and trading with friends has also filled some holes in terms of needs and wants which is awesome.

    Thanks for this post, it was very aptly timed for me to read it!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Hooray for Daniel Tiger! He has taught us so many good lessons :). And I really do think it’s easier with the second baby because you are, like you said, so much more confident and knowledgeable in your parenting. Good luck and hang in there!

      • Elin says:

        The best thing with Daniel Tiger is that it can also be used against the kid. The floor is full of toys and you tell them to pick them up. “NO!” *sings the Daniel Tiger song about picking up things* “You know that Daniel Tiger wants you to pick up your stuff too. If I sing the song we pick them up together!” “Yes!!!”

        Mine are soon to be 2 and 6. The first two years with our daughter were hard. She was a demanding and intense kid, absolutely lovely but very intense and I didn’t have a single wish for another one in that time. It got better after that and now she is a very smart and clever child. The second one soon being two actually does feel like it happened in a week and that the kids have always been there. I can hardly remember life before them and the thought of them not being there is unthinkable.

        They are little monsters sometimes and sometimes they fight but often they really are the best of friends and the little one loves his sister so much and hugs her and is constantly calling out for her if she goes out to play or visits a friend. I think the big one needs a break from her little brother sometimes but she also is so affectionate and loves teaching him stuff (and bossing him around but I am OK with that within reason).

        This year will be a pivotal moment in parenting as the older will start school. I love that she is growing into a new stage with its own challenges and perks and I am a little worried how I will handle both school and preschool. I am sure it will be fine but it is new to me.

        We are far from FI and have no plans to retire early but we are currently recovering from having all our savings wiped out from having kids, health problems and unemployment as part of our life. Having decent savings and the ability to do things like go on a holiday and such is really all we ask for. We only have a student loan and have no immediate plans to buy a house so while low on savings at least we are not knee deep in depth. In two years I hope to have no worries at all about finances and I am already at a place where I am no longer in constant worry which I was just a year ago.

  48. Anne says:

    Many of us choose to live where we want but which is often far away from family. Consequently, the support system of Grandparents, Aunts & Uncles, Siblings, and close friends which traditionally has always helped out is not longer available. It’s hard enough parenting but it’s overwhelming without help on a daily basis.

  49. Our only child is 18 months old. This post resonated greatly with me, I found myself nodding along as I read. I am glad to hear the second one is “easier”. Here’s to leaning in!

  50. Sherry says:

    My babies are 31 and 33 and I remember fondly the days you speak of. Just be super glad that you don’t also have financial stress (like I did) to go along with all the other adjustments! By eliminating that you removed part of the burden. Your influence is changing hearts and minds even as the hair on your legs continues to be too long! 😂

  51. JH says:

    I love your idea of leaning in. Each phase of parenting has its own joys and worries. Instead of reading storybooks, I spent yesterday proofreading my high school senior’s English paper. Instead of finding a band-aid for a scraped knee, we were commiserating with our oldest about the jerk who crunched into her parked car and didn’t leave a note. Instead of going on play dates, our middle is going on job interviews. But I love it all! I love the fun I have with my big kids. Watching your kids blossom at each stage of their life is so fulfilling. Enjoying each step along the path without looking too far forward or grieving too much for what has passed is key, I think.

  52. Laura says:

    One of the people I most admire has always been able to “lean into the phase of life” he’s in. It was nice to hear you put it so well. I’m never sure what phase I’m in, not having any (adorable) little kids to help me decide, but it’s nevertheless really terrific advice.

  53. K says:

    I’m in the grandparent zone, first grand is cooking as I type. I am shocked by how few positive memories I have of the little kid years. Part of it was the relentless grind of it all, the other part was (I now realize, in hindsight) it was made terrifically more difficult by what I now see as a doomed marriage in which made me a single parent of three children (one of whom was not a child). That certainly casts a gray haze over everything. I certainly don’t regret my children–they are both the best and hardest thing I have ever done–badly. I just wish I felt better about it all. And I wish that mothering wasn’t a pass/fail endeavor, in which you either are perfect and make 100% and pass, or you make any other score and feel that you have failed.

  54. Torrie says:

    You know, I adore all your frugality and financial posts, but it’s always nice for us to be reminded that your life consists of much more than that (because our lives do, too)! I’m expecting my second child in a couple of months, and I’m trying to “lean in” as much as I can into this last phase of being in my current comfort zone. I know our world is about to be rocked with the birth of my son, so I’m just trying to enjoy this last bit of time with just my daughter while also preparing so that the baby’s transition can be as smooth as possible.

    Parenthood is so many things, but as any parent will tell you, it’s so very worth it (though that doesn’t make it any less hard or exhausting!). Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  55. Elizabeth says:

    I’m moved to tears by this post! I have two kids, 6.5 and 4.5, and all you describe here is still fresh in my heart. I wish I’d had your type of wisdom and perspective when my first was born; I was a mess. Your philosophy of leaning into your current life phase helps me regularly and puts it into perspective for me. You’re an amazing mom; I appreciate all of your honest sharing here. And it does get better; take it from this mama who really didn’t love the baby days. Now we get to go on fun camping adventures as a family, teach the kids how to ride bicycles, and go to the zoo without a stroller or carrier!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      You’re living my dream (camping, bikes, the zoo!)! I am so excited for that phase with our girls! I am trying not to wish this time away though since I know it has its own specialness. Thank you for the perspective!

  56. Mary says:

    I haven’t been following you since the beginning so I often click on your links to earlier posts. I clicked on your post on the journey to getting pregnant and the picture of you with dressed stylishly in necklace, dress, tights – yep I whole heartedly agree, you do look like somebody’s mom. BTW, my youngest is 21 and I STILL look like somebody’s mom! And I don’t care- there are more important things in life. Thanks for your posts- they always get me grounded and keep.my from getting my head stuck where it doesn’t belong.

  57. Marcia says:

    Ah ha ha ha!

    A few comments:
    “The days are long and the years are short”. No idea who is the first person who told me that, but they were right! My kids are 12 and 5.

    By age 5, they can wipe their own butts pretty reliably.

    Water … I didn’t realize this until a few weeks later, but there was a period of time when my second kid was two months old and kid #1 was in first grade. I was not quite back at work after mat leave yet, but about to go back. Husband was traveling a LOT. I got really really sick to my stomach one day. Horribly sick. Took a day to get over it. A month later, happened again when I was back at work part time. Again, husband traveling. Had to leave work early and go home.

    I realized later that when I thought back to those two days…I’d literally had nothing to drink since breakfast, and hadn’t managed to have lunch. No wonder. I was dehydrated as heck (nursing of course makes that worse!) and my body just shut down. Never made that mistake again.

  58. It takes a zillion of those moments – hard, sleepless, never-ending, mundane, silly, confusing, messy, joyful and so on, to make a family. All these long days now will be the ones you look back on and laugh about. Even the ones that were so difficult at the time, will be the ones you turn around and love dearly. That’s what I think as I remember the long days that built the memories I cherish now. I love your post today because it brings all the memories back. So, thank you for that

  59. Shelley says:

    I have two boys and they are 14 months apart (not intentionally, but man – we wouldn’t change it because they’re pretty darn cool.) My eldest, who is 5, will sometimes say to me that he wishes he was a baby again and I always tell him that although he was an adorable baby, he’s more fun now and I point out all the things we get to do together.

    The season you’re in right now is a hectic (and sleepless!) one, but you have a good perspective and two beautiful girls to boot. I’m over here on the “past diapers / they can kinda wipe themselves” stage of parenting (I’ve pretty much given up on the notion of a restful slumber) and I’m rooting you all on! Drink lots of water! Eat nourishing foods! Nap when you can. (And praise Daniel Tiger!)

  60. Amy says:

    My oldest will be off to college in the fall and the life you describe still feels like yesterday!
    The TIME you’re investing will be worth every excruciating and exalted second … talk about “compounding interest.”
    The life you’ve built for these two little ones is a gift … Hang in there, you’re a fabulous mom!

  61. This entire post speaks to my soul. I went from 0 to 2 kids (21 month old twins) and man is life simultaneously amazingly wonderful and more difficult than I ever imagined. When I’m at my lowest I try to remind myself to embrace this stage and experience. And usually one or the other will do something to crack me up and not take myself so seriously all the time. This season is fleeting, but also feels never-ending in the tranches of daily life.

  62. Crystal says:

    I can relate to so much of this post. My wife and I went from zero to 2 kiddos in December, when our boy/girl twins were born. They are now 4 months old, and things are feeling a tad more manageable (largely because they’re sleeping better!). If you’re interested, I’d recommend a couple of (free!) parenting podcasts that I find helpful – “The Longest Shortest Time”, which especially came to mind during your musings on that exact topic, and “One Bad Mother”, an often hilarious parenting podcast that you need to listen to away from your littles because “there will be swears”. 🙂 Here’s to frugal parenting, one day at a time!

  63. Heather says:

    As the saying goes, “the days are long and the years are short.” As Mom to an 18 YO daughter getting ready to go 6 hours away to college in 4 short months, and a son who is a freshman in high school, my stage could be called “Panic that our babies are leaving and all I have left is my husband?!” 😂 The anxiety and worry never ends, the type of anxiety and worry just evolve. Hang in there, savor every puke- and poop-filled moment and know that what you and your husband are doing for your girls is nothing short if amazing.

  64. Dawna says:

    My two are 17 months apart, and now they are fourteen and sixteen. I do remember those days. I wouldn’t say I exactly miss it, because it was every bit as hard as you describe— but I do sometimes miss how simple the problems were. I guess I think every stage is hard. There was a sweet spot in the early school-age years, and I’m told I can expect another one when they hit their twenties. Good thing I love them so much!

  65. Hang in there. I remember when our 2 boys were that age…well actually I don’t remember it because everything was just a blur of survival. I won’t say it gets easier, but I will say the challenges you face are different as they get older and sometimes that’s a relief and other times it’s horrifying.

  66. Anne says:

    I needed to read this today! Right there with you, as a mom of a two-year-old and infant too. Everything is temporary, I tell myself!

  67. Julia says:

    My husband and I were teenage parents (our older child is a freshman at university), and recently had our second (almost 5 months). Having that large gap between our kids has really brought parenting in our 30s into perspective–we’re more relaxed, less anxious, and we have more money now, which makes EVERYTHING easier. I don’t know if you’ve ever read the Yiddish folk tale ‘It Could Always be Worse’, but it really sums up my second-child parenting philosophy.

    That being said, my husband is so elated by how much easier this experience has been that he really wants to have a third baby. Speaking as the person who would need to carry said baby (and is currently typing this with spit-up drying on my shoulder)… I’m not so sure.

  68. Rose says:

    I relate to all of this and only have one baby!

    Worry about getting pregnant – yup
    Constant worry about miscarriage – yup
    Complete and utter shock about loss of physical and mental freedom after baby – yup
    Confusion about everything because baby is so so so wanted!

    At 5 months it’s gotten much better but holy cow, where was the keeping it real prenatal class I needed?!

    Wonderful post – you’ve GOT this!

  69. Christine Keefe says:

    Mine are 9 and12, so I’m firmly in the elementary school phase. It rocks! Those early years were rough, and I too wanted to punch everyone who said “it goes so fast”. No, it didn’t and no I sure as heck don’t miss those days!!

  70. Amber says:

    So much solidarity, sister! My second is 8 weeks old and my other little gal will be 2 at the end of June. I’m right there with you. I have this lovely thought on my big letterboard in our living room: “Be where you are. Do all things in joy.” Just being fully present moment-to-moment in all of this is really my only goal. Anything else is above and beyond – including things like showering. 🙂

  71. Jenny says:

    I wish I could have read this when mine were little. They’re now 21 and 22.

  72. Mr. Tako says:

    As a parent of 2, I feel like I speak from experience here — You don’t really “grow up” until you have kids.

    I thought I understood responsibility before I had kids… ha! Kids make you old.

  73. Your kids have such an awesome gift of presence and time since you and Mr. Frugalwoods are home. I remember, when I was a stay-at-home mom, that I just wanted to undo that 24/7 being with them once in a while, but now that they’re 7 and 10, I am so glad I was there.

    I think this post will be such a great way to remember how it felt to be right in the thick of it years hence. I forget, and then, reading this, am taken right back to those days. I actually remember almost nothing of the period when mine were 3 and newborn. There’s like this huge memory gap that only the occasional photos and videos we took fill in. It’s kinda weird, actually. But remembering cramming stuff in to the 20 minute episodes (we watched Fireman Sam) brings some of it back.

    May tonight bring sleep and tomorrow, a clean shirt! 🙂 Oh, and no snow!!