You don't have to have 19 kids like Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar to understand the challenges of raising children who are close in age. After all, not many of us balance the demands of 19 kids between the ages of 18 months and 23 years, as the family in TLC's 19 Kids and Counting does. But as many Circle of Moms members say, there is an art to successfully juggling babies who are born back-to-back. It can be chaotic, but it can be done, they agree.
"Yikes, they are a handful," says Shauna about her son, 2, and daughter, 3. She recently asked other moms in the Stay-at-Home Moms community whether anyone else with closely spaced siblings felt "like pulling their hair out."
The consensus: the first years are the hardest, but it gets easier once the kids hit kindergarten age. Here, Circle of Mom members share tips for making it through the early years with kids who are close in age:
- Get a little mommy time, recommends Rae C., whose two boys and a girl are 4, 2 and 1. Make it a priority to find some time for you even if it is simply a stolen moment here and there, she says. When they feel like a handful, just "breathe real slowly."
- You've got to have friends. When friends or relatives ask what they can do, suggest they take your older child or children out while you stay home with the younger baby. This helps create "special" time for all the children, says Stacey W., a mother of two kids under two with a third baby on the way.
- Ask for help. Stacey W. also recommends relying "on those around you who are willing to help." When friends or family members offer to bring over dinner, do laundry or come over to babysit, take them up on the offer instead of saying "no thanks."
- Stick to a routine, says Chantel M., a mom of four kids under age seven. Create dinner time, nap-times and non-negotiable bed times, she says. Creating structure takes away some of the stress, she says.
- Create special time for each child, says Crystal S. who is pregnant and has three children who are all 4 and under. "I make sure that each of my kids gets their own time with me, and honestly, I found it pretty easy to have them so close together." Another benefit of spacing children closely is that "I stayed in baby mode and so having two in diapers was a lot easier than I thought it would be."
Ultimately, these moms say the intense work of the early years is worthwhile.
"I love it now that they are all getting a bit older," says Marti D. a single mom to a 5 year-old boy, a 4 year-old girl, and a 3 year-old boy. "When they were all babies, it was really tough. Now at least they are a little more independent."
Crystal B., whose kids are now 11 and 10, agrees."The first couple years were a blur," she says, adding that "now it is fun, fun, fun."
Finally, just remember that the chaos is only temporary, says Amber R. You can let the house get a little messy, and not be "perfect," as life will eventually be less hectic.
"After seeing that everything did work out just fine and how much fun they have together I can definitely see the benefit of them being so close in age to their siblings," she says about her 2 and 3 year-olds. A third baby is on the way, and "they will have more in common and always have playmates in the house. It is hectic but we all realize that it can be done. "
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