How to Make Work and Two Kids Work

A parent asks the Working Moms Specialty Group how they manage working and transitioning from one kid to two...

Original Poster:

"Hi all you amazing working moms!
I'm headed back to work next week, and I can't for the life of me get my head around how any of you juggle a full time job and more than 1 kid? It seems so far from possible for me at the moment.
We have 4 year old son and a 3 mos old daughter. My husband works pretty long hours - he starts taking calls at 7am and is at his desk by 8am and tries to be home by 6:45p. Before we had a second child, I was at work by 9am and then tried to leave by 7pm, but with deadlines stay late til the wee hours. One of us could handle putting our 4 year old to bed solo. But mornings are a challenge getting him ready for school, packing lunch etc.
Now with two and both of us working full time with the hours we work, I can't imagine how our schedules will work. 
How do you superheroes do it? Especially bedtime.
Our 4 yr son has a hard time falling asleep and it's a lot of work each night. We start brushing teeth by 7pm and read 3 stories and if we're lucky he's lights out by 8pm. I try and feed our daughter at 7pm but she's usually had it by then. (She's a cat napper, cluster feeder during the day, but a great night sleeper). I haven't even tried to establish a bed time routine (ie a bath) with the second one!
Any advice or words of support would be AWESOME!
Mom to X, 4 and Y, 3 mos


In this article, you will find tips about:


The bedtime routine

The meal routine

The work routine

Finding help for your routine

Scheduling your routineScheduling your routine

Finding personal and family time


The bedtime routine:


Put children to bed at the same time:

“I put both my girls to bed by myself at the same time in the same room, but I wasn't a model of efficiency--nursing to sleep, etc.--so I'm sure other people have better advice than me. I did find that my girls were each able to fall asleep despite the other's hysterics.”

Similarly, do bedtime routines together:

“For a while we put my daughter down in our bedroom and then moved her to their room once we went to sleep so they could both fall asleep on their own time.  The fact is - she like yours was a great sleeper and didn't need a lot of a routine, she ate, we all played or read together for a bit, she got a cuddle and a song and went down.  Then, once she got a bit older and we didn't want to be moving her, we did story time in the living room with my son after I put her down.  Then by the time he went into the bedroom, it was just go straight to sleep time.   And now that she is able to stay up a bit longer to do a bedtime routine, it was a joint one all the way.  We all get milk, have stories, and brush our teeth together.  On the rare days that my son stays up a bit later, we still do a story on the couch after she goes down, but everything else has already been done together. I know a lot of families that do separate bedtimes with stories for each, but ours were close enough we could do them together and I do think that has helped a lot in making it one process up until the actual bedtime instead of two separate ones.” 

Find a quiet activity to occupy the eldest child while you do the bedtime routine with their younger sibling:

“When my kids were younger, getting them to sleep alone at the same time was impossible. We would read one book altogether and then I brought my older so into his room and gave him the iPad and let my older some watch a 12 minute show (pjanimals or half a bubble guppies or curious George) in his bed while I put my younger one to bed in his room. Now, my older son reads to himself. I come back in and read the big one a special book after the little one is in bed.”

“As the older one gets older, perhaps give him/her a book to "read" while you get the other one ready for bed. I can't remember how I handled bedtime when they were babies so I can't be of help there.”

Go to bed early yourself:

“Bedtime for the parents is at 10 - it's the hardest part to do, but I spent the better part of 3 months at the beginning exhausted because I stayed up working until 11:30 or 12 even though our youngest was up by 6.  And it was just not feasible for me to function well with two children and a high powered job on only 5-6 hours of sleep. So I went to bed earlier and giving myself less time during the day made me more productive or really made me prioritize about what wasn't a good use of my time. It took me awhile to get there, but once I did I was a MUCH happier person.”


The meal routine


Eat dinner as a family:

“Kids eat at 6:30pm and we join them when we can." Read the PSP article "Do You Eat Dinner as a Family? And How Do You Do It?" for more tips about eating all together.

Do online shopping for groceries and household staples:

“Fresh Direct when in a jam and funny enough for bulk orders. The less shopping the better.

“FreshDirect/Amazon prime/ someday I will vigorously repent for my dinosaur-sized carbon footprint but I order everything we need on the train and nanny unpacks most during nap time.

Go out once a week:

“Once a week or so we all just go to a restaurant for dinner. It¹s not always very relaxing, but not having to clean up makes up for it.”

Secure childcare/schools that handle meal prep for you:

“If daycare is your route, look for one with the most days open (rather than being on the public school schedule), and one that feeds them breakfast, lunch and snack (no food prep!).”

“Not sure where your 4 year old is, but if in universal pre-K, let him eat lunch at school sometimes (less food prep).”

Prep food ahead of time:

“On the days I work from home, I cook or order in dinner and eat with the kids and make/order enough food for leftovers, which the kids will eat for lunch or dinner throughout the week. On days I'm in city, nanny feeds the kids. I make extra everything all week and so usually fridge is stocked with roast chicken, cooked pasta/rice/sweet potatoes, steamed veggies, and other stuff that can be assembled quickly throughout the week. Our nanny also makes a big batch of our kids' favorite (curried chicken, pan fried chicken, sautéed tofu, lasagna) each week during nap time.”


Your work routine:

Figuring out the right schedule can feel overwhelming. A majority of our working parents had to cut back hours and come up with creative ways to balance work and the kids. Here are some suggestions:


Cut back work hours:

“I cut back my work hours for awhile after the second was born (I took a shorter maternity leave as part of that arrangement), which helped a lot.” 

“Both partners realizing they need to cut back on working a little (if possible) - all hands on deck. Can you have this conversation before you go back?”

“Just for the record, honestly, if I did it all over again I would have done everything in my power to work less during those early months for both kids rather than going back full time at 12 weeks. It¹s a wild ride as you all know. I think I hold some regret about going back so soon, so

if there’s a voice inside of you wanting something change, I would at least hear it out, if you can!”

“When I went back to work after having my second child, I had to shift my hours so that I could be done at 4:45 to make it to daycare by 5:30, and then schlep to the bigger kid's after school program.”

Work from home regularly:

“If at all possible, I recommend trying to work one day from home. I asked never thinking it would be approved and my boss has let me work 1-2 days from home each week for nearly 5 years now, which takes a lot of discipline but allows me to see the kids more and be involved at their schools in a way I otherwise never could be.”


Finding help for your routine:

Don’t do it alone! Many of our working parents share that hiring a nanny made everything easier - especially when their nanny helps with things like housecleaning, cooking family meals, and other personal errands. If you do decide to go this route, be sure to pay them more. Find out more about nanny pay practices here.

“My phenomenal nanny cooks for kiddo (amazing food - I am often jealous), does all washing for the whole family, cleans technically once a week but the place spotless every evening etc and puts away FreshDirect if I let her know it is coming.”

“People I know who plowed through with intense work schedules had serious help at home: more than one nanny, cleaner, cook, etc.”

“If you get a nanny, hire someone who will do chores and extra help around the house.”

“I had the nanny start cooking meals for the entire family - I'd prep everything on Sundays and then one day mid-week and she would get it started during their nap time.  This was important not so much for the kids, who she already cooked for, but more for me and my husband because by the time the kids were both down, making a meal meant we wouldn't get to eat until 8:30 or 9 and since we both still had work to do, that didn't happen a lot either.”

“Bath time - the nanny started doing baths before dinner and it absolutely works for our family.  We just took it out of the bedtime routine.  I know it seems counterintuitive since they eat dinner and it's messy, but honestly - it's easier to wipe down the faces/hands and maybe switch out pajamas than do a bath when they're both tired. It just wasn't enjoyable for me or them so it made sense to change our approach. Even on the weekends when we do baths (and for us baths are every other night at most - sometimes every 3 days in the winter) it's before dinner.” 

“Nanny bathes kids before dinner (about 3 times a week in winter).”

“This is a great thread and I agree with everything that has been said. I have 2 boys (3 and 5) and work full time. I wholeheartedly agree that a nanny who will cook (at least for the kids), organize and tidy the kids stuff and do the kids laundry is key. A nanny who will do even more as the kids grow and are in school (your laundry/cooking/fresh direct ordering) would be ideal if possible, but I've yet to find that person.”


Scheduling your routine:


Use a calendar to stay organized:

“I send calendar invites to my husband for every little thing. Just bc we both can forget with all the crazy.  He laughs at some of the invites but now when I don't do it, he says "I didn't get an invite."

“I second the spouse calendar invites for EVERYTHING. For example our calendar today says:
PS 39 closed
Pack lunch for mini camp (with address)
And if I have an early meeting or after-work appointment, my husband will get a planner saying “can’t do pickup today.”

“I also totally agree with sending your spouse calendars - I do both for the work day as well as any weekend obligations where I'll be out (for example, hair cut/color); otherwise, he may make plans. And, he does the same, so we are all on the same page. I also use calendars to block out time for me to travel home - for example, I need to leave work by 5:20pm to be home by 6pm to relieve the nanny, so I block the 5-6pm slot so no one schedules over it. I used to have a job that involved frequent calls with Asia, and then I would block 7:30-8:30pm for bedtime routines so people would schedule after.”


A sample schedule:

It's definitely not easy, but you'll find a way to make it work. I have a 5-year age difference btw my kids (girl 6, boy 1) - which definitely helps. My husband is out of the mix most nights. Here's a brief outline of my nightly juggle - if you're looking for ideas. Warning: It's not pretty.
6:30-7: Strap son in high chair and have him watch me prepare dinner (mostly reheats, or stuff that can be "cooked" in toaster or microwave) while daughter plays.
7-7:30 Feed kids. (Start water running for bath before they're done and very quickly change out of work clothes and into pj's myself)
7:30-8 Bathe son (daughter joins in every other night), put son in diaper and pj's (Daughter still at dinner table if not in bath - might move onto dessert on her own)
8-8:05 Put son down in crib with a quick bedtime story
8:05-8:35 Do homework with daughter
8:35-8:45 Daughter gets in pj's, brushes teeth
8:45-9:15 Read to daughter until she falls asleep
9:15 Order dinner from Seamless for husband and myself
10 Eat dinner with husband and talk to him for first time all day
11-11:15 Clean up from dinner
11:15-11:30 Get washed
11:30 Bed


Another sample schedule:

Here’s how we run evenings which works pretty well:
- pickup both kids by six. that means at least one partner needing to rush home, leaving midtown by 4:45 to be safe. It¹s tough, and a nanny would offer more flexibility with this, but you’re both still going to need to/want to leave earlier than you used to, just to get in some time with them. Make family and office expectations and new schedules clear.
- dinner for both kids as soon as we walk in the door, 6:15. That means having things prepared in advance (do Sunday during nap time, utilize microwavable stuff, or pickup up a roasted chicken on the way home, or grocery shop during lunch break and bring stuff home, etc.) While the baby is small maybe you can bottle or BF at the table with your older kid so they’re “eating together.”
- unless they smell like filthy animals, feel free to skip bath time here and there! :) once the baby was strong enough, I put them in the shower together (if it has a flat floor, not too rounded/slippery) and they LOVE it and it gives me 10 minutes of silence.”
- after showers/bath, we have family cuddle time for a few minutes and then baby right to sleep (we do 7:30-8 PM for baby, 8:30 -9 for big boy). We use our family hang-out time before baby goes to bed to really connect and make sure everyone feels loved and baby and big boy get to hang out and bond. Also the extra hour with big boy is very special for him and us (and keeps him feeling like he¹s one-upped his sister, very important in the early days) ;)


Prioritize needs:

“Let the rules slide when it means things go more smoothly and peacefully.”

“I agree on skipping baths. They definitely don't need a bath every night. It was never a routine for my infants because it simply didn't fit into life. Now that they are older, I base it on how dirty their day was (sports, swim or very humid) or how dirty their nails are!!”


Master multitasking:

“We would get home around 6/6:15 and while I would prep dinner (we use a lot of prepared foods from Trader Joe's or Costco), my older one would take out her homework while the younger would play. After dinner, we would do baths (they took one together until my big kid was 7 and decided she wanted to shower on her own) and then get ready for bed.”


Prepare the night before:

“Prepare the night before for the next morning (clothes out, backpacks ready, a plan for breakfast).”

“Sunday night organizing: husband and I figure out what we need, what's coming up during the week, and dinners on Sundays. Good luck! It takes constant patience and organizing but it definitely gets easier.”


Finding personal and family time


Remember to schedule time with the elder sibling:

“I have a memory of having to physically protect her while she was eating because my son was craving attention and trying to climb all over us.  And often there is a period where both are crying and I had to just let one work it out themselves while I finished what I was doing with the other.  It's uncomfortable for sure, but I tried to remind myself that my mom had 4 kids and no help, so there must have been times when she wasn't able to attend to each of us and I turned out ok - I think.”

“The hardest part was feeling like the baby was getting screwed out of quality time with us in a way our older child never was. To remedy that I try to carve out special time with each of them separately. And really do everything I can to foster a friendship between them (I like the book Siblings Without Rivalry).”


Make the time with your kids count:

“No cell phones/internet before the kids are in bed. I recently broke my phone and realized that one of my biggest frustrations is the mental bouncing back and forth I was doing between checking work emails and parenting in the evenings. Feels so much better just to put it away.”

“When my older kid was in kindergarten, her teacher assigned "family game night" which was a great thing that we try to instill now, too. Then, it was one night a week where we all just stopped and played a game (Candyland, Jenga....) before bedtime. Honestly, when they are little, any time you spend with them is quality time. If they are eating at the table while you are prepping for the other child, you can talk to them and ask questions. I find that our weekends are more devoted to quality time and we really maximize every minute.”


Take care of yourself:

“I think that time alone is one of the biggest challenges. So far my remedies are taking a day off of work and sending the kids to school anyway, and scheduling an exercise class once a week that I don’t cancel.”

“The best thing I can say is to BE PATIENT WITH YOURSELF! You will make mistakes. You will not be able to be 100% at anything. But you will do great. Make lots of lists because you will forget stuff. Just do your best and when you arrive home, get and give lots of hugs and kisses.”

“It's hard. It's really, really hard. But if you value your work and you value your family time, you make it all work.”


Each family is different:

“I have two - separated by 14 months - and went back to work when my little one was 2.5 months. It's doable, but I admit it's a lot harder than going back with one was. I learned a lot about myself and how to prioritize my time during this transition (not I didn't say how to find balance, cause I didn't aim that high in this timeframe!) and I think it's a hugely personal thing for each family.”