How to parent a toddler while in your first trimester
... And not feeling like a shitty mom
Tired doesn't begin to describe how you feel, 9 out of 10 food items makes you want to throw up or relinquish to the fetal position in the corner, and your hormones make you irrationally cry throughout the day. Perfect conditions for parenting a toddler, right?!?
Growing a human from nothing is work on your body and mind and taking care of yourself in the first trimester is a challenge, let alone caring for your rambunctious toddler.
My son had just turned two when I became pregnant with our second. Two. The peak of high energy, verbal enough to tell me that I'm the dinosaur and I need to chase him around the playground, and active enough where I actually have to try to beat him in a race to get a soccer ball.
With technology and screens at our fingertips, it's so easy to plop your toddler in front of a screen while you groan in the corner and pop a frozen pizza in the oven for dinner. This isn't terrible and you shouldn't feel guilty for doing this, but I know some of you might. I know I did. Whether the pressure is from within or "so-ciety" (said like a woke college student), pressure to be the perfect mom is there.
So, here's how I survived first trimester (and things I wish I did--learn from my mistakes!) taking care of an energetic toddler while in my first trimester.
Books, books, and more books
Reading books is potentially the best thing you can do for your child. There are studies on how reading to your child gives them a head start when it comes to reading and writing, it improves bonding, and let's face it, there are some pretty woke books out there that teach children some solid life lessons. (I used the word "woke" twice in this article and I've reached my quota for the next 2 weeks). All this to say, reading is great.
And you know how you read? Lying down under the covers in a horizontal position. Perfect.
I would lie down in bed with Zay for hours throughout the day, after grabbing every book in our house, and read every single one with him. Not only was that time spent with him some solid QT, but I got to lie down AND feel like I was a super mom doing the best thing I could for my sons development. Win, win, win.
It was also during the first trimester when I realized that the library was an amazing resource we all have at our fingertips. I know that sounds absurd as libraries are pretty ubiquitous, but I never thought about them previously. We would go, check out 20 books, and have a new stack of exciting reading material. So, if you're like me and haven't been to a library since writing your last college term paper while chugging sugar free Red Bull, libraries are a great resource and save you some serious $$$ on new books.
A good time to teach/encourage independent play
I know that independent play is important for a child's development, but for some reason I would feel guilty when my son would play alone (guilt: the theme of this article and my life).
Self play is an important skill to learn, not only because your toddler is going to have to master it eventually with a new one coming along, but it teaches them creativity and imagination. There are many toys that are good for toddlers to explore this with, including Magnatiles, art suppliest, and legos.
Find your sweet spot time and use it to GSD
GSD: Get shit done.
I know, you probably feel terrible all throughout the day and no time is good, but unfortunately, we still have responsibilities that we have to complete. For me, around dinner time I felt 2% better than I did in the morning where I feel like I could barely move my body. So, I used that time to prepare for the morning, tidy up as much as I could, and play with my son.
Let your house go a little
This one I accomplished with FLYING colors. Your energy is almost nonexistent and you have a human to take care of that doesn't know or care what you're going through. Put the energy that you do have into your child and leave the house to someone else. As Ali Wong says, "I'm not doing jack shit anymore. I'm busy making an eyeball, ok?!"
If you have a significant other, let them take over the household responsibilities for a little bit (and maybe it will earn you a little more respect as it shows them how much you work to keep the house as clean as it has been). And while this is happening, don't forget to follow the next tip as well.
Or, if it's in your budget, get someone to clean your house. It is money well spent. And then tell them that you'll give them a call third trimester!
Don't feel guilty
This is one that I struggled with and I didn't achieve, but I hope you do! You're literally growing a human out of thin air. It's freaking crazy what your body is doing. You're exhausted and rightfully so and you just can't be supermom right now. That's fine. Put your cape away for 2 or 3 months, then dust it off come 2 trimester (hopefully). This time is just about surviving and focusing on yourself (for the sake of your newest little one). The world won't crash and burn around you, I promise.
Like books, picking up a few puzzles that are age appropriate for your child are a perfect activity that you can do together. The pluses are that, first and foremost you're seated, and second, that it's a great developmental tool and quality bonding time. Melissa and Doug have great puzzles for kids with a variety of different themes.
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Find other parents of kids your child's age and schedule as many playdates as humanely possible. Playdates not only took my mind off how terrible I felt because I was distracted by adult conversation, but my son was able to get some solid play in and some energy out (that books and puzzles just aren't able to do). The first trimester is hard because many don't tell others that they're pregnant until the second trimester, but I found it comforting telling one mom that I trusted which made her extra helpful and someone who I could talk to about my first trimester woahs.
Currently, in my third trimester, I'm cooking away, storing frozen home-cooked meals in the freezer as I know once baby girl comes, I won't have the time nor the energy to whip up hearty healthy meals for me and my family. This way, we can all eat well with minimal energy expended.
So why don't we do this to prepare for pregnancy?
For those that plan on getting pregnant, while you're still sprightly and full of energy, make some meals and pop them in the freezer! Hint: you'll probably want carbs carbs and more carbs. I don't think you'll regret it. I started feeling guilty (I told you I didn't follow that tip) about how many frozen meals my family was eating and really wish I could have some home-cooked meals ready to go.
This one was also one I failed at considering I was in my first trimester during the Las Vegas summer (yes I'm saying that to fish for pity points). However, fresh air was all I craved. When we did get the chance to get up to a higher altitude and breathe in some fresh air, It made me feel significantly better. Of course everyone is different, but if you're feeling 0% energy and your toddler is 110% energy (because aren't they always?) try heading outdoors whether it's to a park or on a little toddler-led hike.
Hiking with my boy in my first trimester didn't happen often, but when it did, it was divine.
If it's any consolation, this is temporary. You will eventually feel better. Hopefully by the second trimester, but if not, in just a short 9 months (I know, I'm rolling my eyes at myself too). Your toddler will be fine and will know that you still love him or her dearly. Don't sweat it, don't feel guilty, and make sure to take care of yourself.