How Do You Split Your Time Between Two Young Children?

Updated on April 08, 2014
M.M. asks from Buffalo, NY
19 answers

My daughter is 3.5 years old and my son is 8 months. I was hoping that daily life would become more manageable, but I still find myself having a hard time juggling both their needs. I especially find playing with both of them difficult. My daughter wants me to play what she wants to, but it's hard because my son is into everything. He also only naps in my arms, so I really have no one on onetime with her. She does go to preschool twice a week for 2.5 hours, so at least she gets out. Does anyone have any advice or suggestions for me. I feel bad for both of them and I am not sure how to make it better.

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answers from New London on

As a parenting teacher...I'd like to say that kids need to learn to play by themselves some of the time. And not on technology (Just had to toss this in).
We tend to "over parent" our kids today. Give him crackers/toys and an excersaucer and play with your daughter for 10 or 15 minutes. I am not against a playpen. Me and ALL of my friends were put in one a few times throughout a day way back when.

Take her to a local library that has a kids section and let her play with kids w/ you in view one day a week.

With that being said, your son should be put down at 8 months. He is not learning to nap himself. He is expecting your undivided attention in this moment, too. It's okay if he cries for 20 minutes 3 or 4 days in a row until he could do it on his own. Put him down when he is awake and not overtired. My sensory child would only sleep in a swing !

Discipline means "To Teach"---and it is what a child craves. So, if they both want your undivided attention all the time and he will not nap on his own...Then discipline needs to take place. It is easier said than done.

Let me give you a sad example: We have two Moms in town who have daughters. I have watched the girls grow up. Both of the Moms think their kids are gold and have always played with them, given them almost anything they have wanted, complimented them all the time...Think they are queens. The words "no" or "wait" weren't really in their vocab. Even now, the kids and the 2 Moms wear expensive clothes, boots...have the BEST. Well...I was at so and so's house the other day and guess what?
These two girl (age 12) had pics of themselves on snapchat---They were in their bras....AT 12 ! Of course, why not? They have always gotten tons of attention...And now they are "CRAVING" the discipline they never got.
And this is how they are doing it.

This is a sneak peek into what a "DOORMAT" parent is. The tweens seen
nothing wrong with it. The boys get the photos and nobody at home sees this??? Sadly, all of the Moms of the boys have seen these pictures. How embarrassing for the parents of these 2 girls. But, the girls still do not do anything wrong !!

I use this example when I speak to parents. It clicks...after it is told this way.

Every child will not do this!!! I do not want to give you this impression. But, this is the risk parents take if kids learn to manipulate at a very, very young age partnered w/out discipline.

When you are folding laundry and she wants you to play her way, she has to learn to wait until you are done.

Have a daily routine...Breakfast, outside play, library playtime, lunch (Let her help prepare sandwiches), Mom folds laundry and cleans while baby naps and you read and play with her the second half of the nap. When baby wakes up, she could give him a with him together...She could "read" a book to him.

While you make dinner, pull out a "dinner box of toys"...I used to do this. It works like a gem until one gives in and does not save them for dinner preparation.

If you feel anxious, they will feel it, too. Have a routine! You received some great replies !!

7 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Your daughter doesn't really need you to "play" with her she just needs your attention and company.
Engage her while you're doing housework, have her help you in the kitchen, folding laundry, working in the yard, whatever. Have play doh. paints and other fun things she can do at the table to keep her busy. And you can cuddle with her and read to her while you sit and nurse the baby.
She will get plenty of attention this way, LOTS as a matter of fact. I hardly ever sat down and played with my kids but they were always nearby. If they weren't interested in what I was doing they played on their own.
You don't want to fall into the habit of having to always entertain your daughter, she REALLY needs to learn how to play independently, otherwise you're going to have a whiner and a clinger, no fun :-(

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

quit trying to juggle them. you have 2 children and they will eventually get used to being a set as opposed to her being an only. It won't settle down for as long as you try to keep giving her as much individual attention as she had before. your 8 month old will nap without you holding him but it will take a couple crying sessions (on both your parts lol) but put him to bed when its nap time. and if you don't have one get a playpen and plop him into it when you need to get something done. I don't know how moms now manage without a playpen.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Muncie on

Play pen.

Section off a safe place in your living room, set baby down with his toys and sit down with your daughter to play her game. If he screams then he screams, it's not going to hurt him. He may not be happy but he will be safe and he'll learn.

Set up regular times to have playtime with your daughter, routine will help her and you to stay consistent. An hour a day everyday will do wonders.

I've had to do this with my 18 month old and my 7 year old, taking a full 2 hours for just her and I has done wonders for her. She wasn't having problems, but she just seems happier.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

it's great that you want one-on-one with both children, but you have to let go of unrealistic expectations at times. remember that playing is supposed to be fun, and that means for you too. if it's a chore that you can't fit into the day, its entire purpose is lost.
i would not know what to do with a baby who could not be put down. my younger liked to be held a lot too, so i obliged but when i needed to put him down, down he went. both my kids learned from the gitgo to sleep where we were. strict nap times and nap places were just never an option.
one-on-one with my older boy (my kids were spaced about the same as yours) meant reading to him while i nursed the baby, or snuggling in front of a movie, and occasionally going for a walk or a little outing while daddy had time with the baby. but i have to say, my time with my kids was rarely about playing with them. playing was something they did on their own, or with friends or each other. i firmly believe that kids need to learn from an early age how to entertain themselves. i was NEVER bored as a child, and my kids weren't either.
cranky and out of sorts sometimes, or in need of some individual focus? yes. and you do the best you can.
but there are family phases where it just doesn't work out in a currier and ives scenario. don't feel bad, and don't beat yourself up.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Williamsport on

Don't feel bad! That's all. You have two kids. Kids really don't suffer from this. So your'e holding the baby a lot and you can rarely play with older child. It's OK to set a playpen down near your daughter and yourself when you need free hands, or even let him wander around a room. He'll be old enough soon to respond to "no" regarding touching things he shouldn't or heading for stairs and stuff, and it's OK to tell your daughter, "I need to help the baby right now" and just do it. They have enough of your attention, neither needs it exclusively all the time. Mine are 8, 6 and 4 now, and when they were toddlers and babies, I just did what I needed to do and realized: It was all I could do. Hang in there and don't guilt yourself. Sleep train your baby to sleep out of your arms. It's will be hard at first, but impossible to sustain if you don't!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

I have three kids 6 and under and expecting #4. I absolutely think one on one attention is important, but around here its rare. Most days it's the four of us(hubby works) doing stuff together. When I had infants I would wear them and we would go to the park, zoo, mall everywhere. We just all do stuff together. The baby would nap in his car seat, stroller, or in the ergo while we were on the go. I even take them all to the pool. You have got to get that baby to nap anywhere other than your arms. I am surprised you have lasted this long! Nap time is when I could do chores, or watch t.v. with my other ones or we color or do whatever other quiet activity. You don't have to entertain each kiddo, you just go out and enjoy it being the three of you. At home you put the baby in the pack and play, exercauser and you can play with your daughter. Why can't he just crawl around and play with his baby toys? I am not too much of a schedule person but we definitely have a routine going. What is yours like?

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

Maybe your daughter can attend preschool more often?
When I had my 2nd child, my daughter was close to 4 years old.
And that is when she went to preschool. Everyday, half days, and she LOVED it. It was HER, time, too. It was not to get her out of the house because I had a baby at home. She, developmentally and at that age, simply needed more social interaction and with kids her own age and she even asked if she could go to Preschool. And the timing worked out well.
And when she was home, I always... made sure to chat with her, and that made her feel bonded to me. I also explained to her, how her baby brother was too. ie: they cry, they can't do things on their own, I nurse him, feed him, they explore, etc. And she understood and it was never about competition for my attention etc. Because, I always chatted with her about things. And about how there is only 1 Mommy and there is a time and place for everything. I cannot be in 5 different places doing 8 different things at that same time. Baby has his routine. And she has her routines. And she was good about, it.

Your baby, also needs to get used to napping in his crib. As he gets older and bigger and heavier, you can't just keep having him nap in your arms.
And he can be, not in your arms. As the others said, get a play pen thing, and you can put him there. It is also for safety. And it is good for a baby and toddler, to have independent time too, to explore and play on the floor etc. That is how they learn. As well. But you need to safety proof your home. For the baby so he can explore safely.

For the 1st year, my son napped 3 times a day.
In his crib.
I also had the family room sectioned off with a Superyard thing. And it was safety proofed. And he could just hang out and play, safely.
And I did things with my daughter too. And we ALL had a routine, daily.
And you also, have to chat with your daughter, and explain things to her, in simple ways she can understand.
But never imply to her that she has to "compete" for your attention. Or she will maybe resent the baby.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

First baby needs to nap in crib. Second, get a playpen. Third, your daughter needs to learn to play independently at times. If you are doing something with them 24/7, you will create monsters. When you get baby to nap in crib, you will have your time with daughter.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

Baby does need to learn how to nap in his crib, put down awake but sleepy.

Also, at his age, he shouldn't need your constant attention. He should be able to happily play in his exersaucer or whatever they have nowadays for a half hour while you play Candyland or do puzzles or color pictures with your preschooler. It's also okay to hire a babysitter for a couple of hours a week to have an outing to the playground or indoor play area with your daughter. Both children need to be able to entertain themselves. When my kids were babies, they loved playing with toys in a gated in area or hanging out in the exersaucer.

Good luck.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Grand Forks on

First of all, I would find another way for your baby to nap other than in your arms.

When my kids were those ages I would put the baby in a stroller and let my three year old ride his bike while we walked to the playground. My three year old could play while the baby napped in the stroller, sat in the sandbox, or while I held him. I never really "played" with my kids, although I interacted with them while they played or gave them direction when needed. If the three year old had a "need" he needed met, I put the baby down, even if that meant the baby crying. I also set up play dates for my three year old so he would have someone to play with, and took him places where there were other children to play with.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

I have to say, I do agree that getting him to nap in a crib is a good start. I know it's hard but it will make things a lot easier for you in the long run, not only with your daughter but with getting things done. At 8 months it's time.

Other than that, I agree with others that it's just hard. Both of them will get used to it, you'll get used to it, and your daughter will learn how to be a sibling. It's just hard.

When playing with her try playing on top of a table or some where he can't reach. This will help at least a little bit. If he'll play with toys and sit for a bit, let him play near you on the floor. If he gets into something just go and get him, redirect and sit back down with your daughter. You may have to do it over and over but that's life with an 8 month old.

When your son is napping maybe you could at least read your daughter some books. She can always turn the pages for you.

She does need to play by herself for a bit, which I'm sure she probably does, it just maybe isn't reflected clearly in your question.

Another suggestion is to get outside. Go for a walk where your son can ride in the stroller and you can interact with your daughter. Look for things, talk about what you see, about her day, etc. She can walk or ride a bike.

It is hard juggling more than one kid…it just is…but you gotta do it. Don't stress over it, just go with what works. Hang in there and have fun!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

I can't imagine sitting and playing with a 3 year old child. They should be playing more independently by now. She may need a more structured environment such as a Mother's Day Out so she can have playmates. Playing with mom, only having mom as her playmate makes it harder on her when the time comes to go to school.


I can't imagine sitting and playing with a 3 year old child. They should be playing more independently by now. She may need a more structured environment such as a Mother's Day Out so she can have playmates. Playing with mom, only having mom as her playmate makes it harder on her when the time comes to go to school.


1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I understand completely - at this age, the age difference makes a big difference.

Will he sit in a whatever and watch you and your daughter play as long as you include him by talking to him? Can you wear him in a sling so your hands are free to play?

Your daughter does deserve some mommy time so you may just have to put the little guy down and let him cry for a minute so you can give big sister some time and attention.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Portland on

You've received a lot of good advice. I just wanted to add that if you are opposed to a playpen/pack-n-play option, that you can purchase a couple gates and childproof one room where you can all hang out easily. We did the living room; made it completely contained and safe with a basket of toys for kiddo in that room and a basket of board books.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Miami on

First, teach your son to nap in his crib. Put him in there when he is groggy, after a feeding and let him work it out for himself. It is okay if he cries or talks a bit. That will give you some time that you are not holding him.

Second, teach your daughter to entertain herself. My son is not quite 3.5 and he acts out all kinds of different scenerios - I know because he is still in the age where he says out loud whatever his "guys" are saying. For example, yesterday he was using his toy grill to make lunch for the Jake and the Neverland pirate gang. He asked each of them what they would like for lunch - then told them all to go wash their hands and take a seat at the table. Then he narrated making each item on his grill and serving it to them and then he made himself a hotdog with pizza (don't ask!) and sat down to eat with the "guys" on the floor. He did this for at least 20+ minutes. He will also sit and "read" for 20-30 minutes at a time in our "cozy corner" and will play puzzles (not as long by himself).

Teach your daughter to interact and play with baby. Have her do songs with motions for him like "wheels on the bus" "no more monkeys jumping on the bed" etc. That will entertain both of them.

At 8 months, you son should be napping at least twice a day. Try this schedule to see if it helps: Scroll down to see the various options.

It gets easier and also more complicated. My son was 4 when baby was born. Big boy didn't mind baby at all until baby started to get into things. Now the difficult part is homework time for a 2nd grader with a 3 year old playing and trying to juggle sports for two kids, elementary school, preschool and play dates for kids of different ages. Hang in there. Everything is just a phase!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

We have 6, ages newborn to age 7.
I cannot be 6 places at once. Throw in naps, for some. Enough said.

I felt bad for all my kids; nobody's needs getting met. I ditched the 2 hour preschool thing; too short and too much hassle. I added full day preschool for everyone 2 and up. In a room with kids the same age, the kids thrived and the older ones got to do big kid stuff, not tied down with my excuse "but the baby."

In your case, the concern would be the 3.5 year-old. I would look at full day preschool programs, where her needs can get met all day, and you won't be splitting yourself in two going crazy. Then you can focus on baby's nap, etc. She will come home happy and tired, and you will stay sane.



answers from Pittsburgh on

You could try wearing the baby so you could spend more time playing with your daughter.



answers from Dallas on

Some babies do not nap in cribs, so don't let others make you think you are doing something wrong. Do you have a play kitchen. You could have you daughter cook you pretend food while you sit on the floor next to the baby. Give the baby a giant piece of play food or some kinda of play kitchen item. Then you will all be playing together. Encorage your daughter to make giant play food for the baby, to start then playing together. You could also try putting a cartoon on while playing with your daughter, so your baby can watch it for a few mins, while playing toys. Yes, TV is not evil. My daughters have always cosleeped and never used a crib. My baby would only nap in my arms until she turned 9 months. Now when she falls asleep, I just place her on the bed. We have toddler rails on both sides, so she can not fall off. It gets easier. Maybe find a play group that has kids the same age.

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