Organizing and Planning a Nursery
The old saying “it takes a village to raise a child” applies directly to our cause. It takes a group of parents and caregivers to create a functional nursery. Keeping in mind that personal preferences and financial constraints will greatly affect the choices made, I think the best way to offer nursery suggestions is to band together all the advice I have received from the many moms, dads and loved ones in my life. The basics can be found in just about any baby book, on numerous websites and Babies ‘R’ Us has no qualms about telling you what you can’t live without. My goal is to help you side step major rip-offs, avoid some common catastrophes and to save you time and money in the process. Getting ready for a new baby is so exciting, it’s easy to get caught up in. Let’s stay grounded and create a safe, fun, functional space that will assist you through the first years of your child’s life.
Primarily, I would like to substitute the word NURSERY with THE CHILD’S SPACE. Not every home has the option or the room for a nursery so let’s discuss how to create a safe space for your new little one. Whether that space is the corner of the master bedroom, a shared space with an older sibling or if they are lucky enough to have their own room, so be it. Keep in mind that we want to structure the child’s space so that things are simple, serene and have a sense of purpose and longevity. My goal is to offer tips and suggestions that have been tested, and approved by moms and dads before you. I want to help you simplify the tasks and necessities of everyday life so that you have more time to spend enjoying your little one and less time hunting for a clean pacifier.
Design on a Dime, a Dollar, or a Discover Card
Decide on the feel you want their space to have. Do you want it to feel safe? Soothing? Fun? Calming? Serene? Girlie? Masculine? Does it need to suit more than one child?
Once you have landed on a basic design concept, next consider if these ideas are suitable for a newborn? A toddler? A 5 year old? A teenager? The design you choose today will most likely be what they live with over the years. If you plan one changing things in a few years, consider the cost and time those changes will realistically take. I had a friend who slept in a Raggedy Ann bedroom until she was 17.
Remember that quality and versatility are paramount. Purchase items that will stand up to teething, peeing, jumping, learning to color, spit-ups, explosions and everything else your little ones are going to dish out. Choose quality furniture that is still affordable. A $700 crib with teeth marks loses its luxurious feel real quick. Keep in mind that a safe place to lay your child is truly the only requirement. A pack-&-play or co-sleeper in the corner of the master bedroom will get the job done. Actually I’ve seen this method produce some really adorable children.
I need a place to keep the baby”…Crib, corral, or co-sleeper
Keep in mind that children should sleep ABC, (Alone on their Back in a Crib). Granted a crib, a co-sleeper, a cradle or a pack-&-play are essentially the same thing, they will all accomplish our goal of having a safe place for baby to sleep, free of other objects and protected. I will refer to all of these choices as the crib to simplify things.
When purchasing a crib look for quality in comparison to cost. You want the best that your money can buy. Be sure to read up on current recall listings and ensure that the crib you are choosing meets all safety criteria. The furniture in your child’s space is going to take a beating. Despite your best efforts, at one point or another they will be gnawing on the crib rail, shooting a fountain of pee sky high, drawing on your freshly painted walls, driving a train through a poopy diaper and spiting up all over that new rug. Children are amazing, inspiring individuals but they tend to be really yucky!
I love the idea of purchasing a crib that transforms into a toddler bed and subsequently into a full size bed for your little one. Keep in mind that these don’t necessarily work well if you plan on using the crib for more than one child. The new baby will need the crib while his older brother is using it as a toddler bed.
If you are planning on a few children, consider a crib that is simply a crib. When it comes time to move the little one to a bed, skip directly to a twin or full size bed. Many parents are concerned that this transition is too drastic. If you are one of them, you can place the mattress directly on the floor or install a bed rail so tiny tots can’t roll out and hurt themselves. A clever idea is to tuck a king size pillow under the sheet on the edge of the bed and under the sheet half way down the mattress to create a smaller space for your toddler. When they roll over the pillow offers just enough support to nudge them back towards the middle. I would not recommend purchasing a toddler bed that doesn’t offer other size options. It is one more expense that is not needed and is quickly outgrown. Although, who wouldn’t want to cuddle up in a race car bed?
Crib placement is something that bears mentioning as well. It is important to have a clear & direct path to the crib. You want to be able to navigate the space in the middle of the night. It may be helpful to bite off of your kitchen’s design. In the kitchen we have the kitchen work triangle, the stove, the refrigerator and the sink. Let’s adapt this notion to your child’s room. In here we have the crib, the changing station and the chair. Set things up so you can easily navigate your way between the three.
I like placing the crib in the center of the room if there is the space to do so. This offers you 360 degree access to your baby. Centrally locating the crib also provides opportunities for you to set the baby down differently, which may save your back a bit. You can go from the right today then from the left tomorrow. Switching it up will alleviate some of the strain you place on your arms, back, neck, shoulders, and legs…pretty much your whole body.
Crib bedding should be simple. While crib bumpers and matching quilts are adorable and tie the room together they present a suffocation risk. Keep in mind that small blankets and toys offer these same risks. Crib sheets should fit snuggly. Remember ABC- (Alone, on their Back in a Crib). I would keep the crib clear of loose objects or toys until children are able to move around and stand up freely. Be sure to check with your Physician for specific recommendations.
No Blankets? But my baby will freeze!!!!
Loose blankets present a suffocation risk. A great way to avoid this risk, yet keep baby warm is by using one of my favorite baby items, the Sleep Sac. Purchase several because they are going to get abused. Add them to your registry in varying sizes all the way up to 2T. Sleep Sacs are awesome!! They stay in place, keep baby warm and toasty even during late night changings and feedings. The reverse zipper is so clever, you will never accidently zip their neck into it and children don’t figure it out for a long time!
My thoughts are the same about toys in the crib. If they need a special toy to sleep then that’s fine, but too many toys in the crib is like too many cooks in the kitchen. ..More often than not it’s a problem. Avoid issues and dangerous situations by keeping the crib clear.
If you plan on using a particular toy or mini blanket for your child to sleep with every night, I recommend buying 2 or 3. This way one can be in the wash while the other is being loved and chewed on. If you don’t plan on doing laundry every day, it may be prudent to purchase 4 or 5 of them.
T.G.I.R. -“Thank Goodness it Reclines”
Having a comfortable place to sit with your baby in their space is a must in my opinion. You want to be able to read, rock, and feed your child without removing them from their calm space. Chairs that rock, or glide are excellent. They help create that soothing motion with minimal effort on your part.
When looking for a chair, consider one that is easy to get in and out of. While the Lazyboy 3000 works great for the man cave it is not ideal for the baby’s room. You want a chair that you can stand up out of without the help of your hands. Your hands are always going to be full, most likely with a 20- lb. baby.
Another great tip I received was to look for one with cushioned arms. Soft cushiony armrests offer comfort for mom and dad, while doubling as a head rest for baby. More often than not your arm will fall asleep and it’s so nice to have a cushy place to rest baby’s head while you regain blood flow.
The option to recline may seem unnecessary when you are testing out chairs in the store; you sit down, rock back and forth for a moment and decide that “this is the chair”. Keep in mind that a 3 am feeding followed by a 45 minute rocking session is going to be the norm. The option to recline will be something you will be very thankful for. If you never use it, that’s fine. But at least you can if you need to.
A time for Reading, Bonding, Learning, Loving
It’s never too early to read to your children. If you are not already reading to your child I suggest that you start reading to your child today. Even in utero children become familiar with the cadence of your voice. Reading to your child nightly will not only have educational and intellectual gains later in life. Sitting down to read one-on-one with your child offers a bonding experience that is not easily replicated. Start by reading to them, and over the years you can develop this time into an opportunity for them to read to you. A few quiet minutes provides a chance for you to share your days with one another. Nightly reading time also aids in habit and routine formation. I have seen that children who can expect to read before bed have an easier time with this transition.
I like to keep a sturdy basket next to the chair to drop books into after I have finished reading them. This idea keeps the floor and dresser clear while corralling all the recently read books in one place. The basket collects recently read stories, indirectly causing you to choose new reads off of the shelf, thus exposing your child to new ideas and pictures. Conversely, I’ve found that you can also go the other way. By choosing the same book out of the basket time and time again you get stuck in a rut. Encourage children to choose new options and do so yourself. The basket makes for quick clean up as well, simply carry the basket over to the shelf and re-shelve all the books quickly. Replace the empty basket for the next weeks reading materials.
“Do you have any idea what time it is?”
It’s feeding time! There is no avoiding those 3am feedings; all we can do is prepare for them. If you are breast feeding, that’s great, all you will need is yourself, and a stack of burp cloths. For babies on formula, consider keeping bottles in their room. You can pre-measure and scoop the powder into the bottles and store several bottles of water nearby, or a purifying pitcher. All you need to do is pour, shake and serve!
If you would prefer to have formula premade consider purchasing a small dorm refrigerator or cooler bag with frozen icepacks that can stay in their room to keep things cool. Bottle warmers work well but take time to heat the bottle. Keep a stack of burp cloths nearby for the inevitable spit ups. Having things handy avoids the trip to the kitchen, many stubbed toes and makes the process less involved, giving you more time to sit and nourish your child. Being prepared may potentially alleviate some of the stress of those last nights. Unfortunately it won’t necessarily earn you more time asleep. Sorry
Cut the crap!
To quote a Supermama I know “The changing table is a fairly superfluous piece of furniture” It seems illogical to me to purchase anything for $300 that will become useless in a year or two. That being said a safe place to change your baby is a must. My recommendation is to purchase a low dresser- it can even be the one that matches the crib if you like- and place a changing pad on top of it. In this same vain I would suggest purchasing or registering for 2 additional changing pads and strategically placing them around the house, under the sofa in the family room, in the downstairs bathroom, you’ll soon realize that you are changing the baby in more places than their room, and far more often then you thought possible.
The changing station needs to be stocked with all the supplies you will need while diapering. Diapers-either cloth or disposable, diaper crèmes, ointments, powders, pins, and plastic pants, wipes, antibacterial hand sanitizer(I know it’s your baby and you love their poop, but it’s still poop, clean your hands).
Set up a small bin/ basket or tote with a nail clipper, small scissor and nail file, safety Q-tips, an aspirator (aka the Booger Sucker) and other Baby grooming paraphernalia. It’s also a great idea to have baby Tylenol and Advil, maybe even Benadryl on hand. One mother pointed out that invariably her children would get sick or start running a fever on holidays or in the middle of the night when nothing was open. Keeping medicines that you may potentially need on hand with save you a midnight run to the store with either a sick baby in tow or one at home with a fever.
I am not a fan of a diaper pail in the baby’s room; it’s gross and collects far too many diapers before it gets cleaned out. Diaper genies are one of those items that Babies ‘R’ Us pimps out but I am not a fan of them either. They are expensive, and a pain to deal with. The room still reeks from the dirty diapers and the refill bags are too expensive for a poop receptacle. I suggest that #1 goes in the household trash #2 gets wrapped in a plastic bag, zippie, produce bag, newspaper sleeve and then gets a one way trip to the outside pail. Get rid of the diaper, the germs and the smell in one fell swoop. A small wastebasket is a great idea for the baby’s room, just don’t use it for diapers, take diapers out of their space and toss accordingly.
How to distract a Tiny Gymnast
I find it amazing that a one year old who does not want his diaper changed is nearly as strong as I am. Aside from muscling them over so they are face up, or changing an upside down baby, I have found that simply storing a few small toys nearby is a great resource. They are occupied and happy to lay still, they are not chewing on the diaper crème tube and I am calm and relaxed.
Another fantastic notion is to hang a mobile or wind chime above the changing station. You can reach up and sound the chimes to gain their attention, they will watch the floating animals for a bit and when you are all done you can boost them up so they can ring the bell. I have heard of parents relocating the crib mobile once their children are too old to have it in the crib. (You can tell they are too old to have it in the crib because they are able to stand up and ripe the whole thing off of the crib rail.) At this stage it may be helpful to re-purpose the mobile over the changing station. Just be sure to hang it out of baby’s reach.
Create a Kid Friendly Closet
Kids’ clothes are so tiny that traditional storage methods often fall short. Drawers become tangled piles of tights and onesies, closets are underutilized yet overwhelming. There are several small things that you can do to make the best use of the space available to you. Kid size hangers are my first recommendation. They take up less space and are in proportion to the items you will be hanging. Hang all items with the hook facing the same direction on the rod and the front of the item facing the same way as well. You can separate their clothing by size or style. You can use an adult hanger to label the different sizes or purchase inexpensive closet rod separators for about 50 cents apiece.
Secondly, I love installing a second hanging bar. They can be purchased at Target, Bed-Bath-&-Beyond, Home Depot, Lowes, Storables, or the Container Store and typically cost about $10. Installation is easy and future removal is just as simple. For infant clothes I suggest adding two additional hanging rods to all long sides of the closet, thus creating three levels of usable space. Two rods will typically fit in the shorter closet spaces, so only one additional bar needs to be hung there.
Hanging closet drawers and cubbies are also excellent, especially for items that will be folded rather than hung. Blankets, sheets, towels, burp clothes. Cubbies can also be used to store back up diapers and wipes.
Plastic snap top bins or collapsible fabric totes can be lined along the floor or on the shelf overhead. I like to use these for incoming and outgoing clothes. Between the rate children grow and the varying size scale between clothing companies-it is a never-ending juggling of clothes. What fits today may not tomorrow and it’s so nice to have the next size of clothes ready waiting and labeled for you to grab in a pinch. Wash all items when you purchase them and place them in bins labeled with the size. Remember the more you set up today the less you have to do tomorrow.
It’s also a nice idea to have a bin for items that are too small. It’s so much easier to sort things one at a time rather than setting aside a few hours that you don’t have to tackle the entire closet. Bins can also be used for seasonal items, diaper, wipes and supplies, books that are not yet age appropriate or toys that they will grow into to.
Toy, Toys, Toys…
Early on children won’t have many toys, the ones they do have are typically small and will easily fit into one basket or bin. It’s nice to have a toy storage system in place so that when the toys start rolling in you have a place for them. Even with the best toy organizational strategies in place your children’s toys are going to slowly take over your home. Embrace it! It’s important to incorporate their belongings into the existing systems and storage solutions you have in place. Find a system that works for you, which also allow your children to have toys in every room. You can have small baskets or totes strategically placed. This will make clean up easier as well. You can try to fight it but the toys will win. Trust me; find a way to negotiate with the toys.
I am a huge proponent of “sanity savers” sanity savers are my name for baskets with handles that live at the bottom of the stairs or in the main living space. As children leave toys about, you or they can toss the item into the basket to be handled later. Once the basket is full you can grab it and replace all items to their proper place.
A great tip I received from one mama was to purchase canvas totes that can be labeled with your child’s name or even with the name of what they will hold and to use those as sanity savers. Once your child’s bag is full it is his/her responsibility to take it and empty it. This idea is best for older kids but can be applied early on, for the first couple of years mom and dad empty the bag/ basket. Once they are older, the kids can handle that task.
These labeled totes can also be used for PIANO, SOCCER, SWIM, DANCE or LIBRARY, utilize them as grab and go totes for all the activities that are just around the corner.
Drawers, Dressers & Dividers
Utilize dividers, caddies, even shoe boxes or strips of cardboard to separate drawers into multiple sections. Tiny clothes topple easily. I recommend only folding things in half so they are flatter and easier to stack. This also makes shuffling through them easier and results in less of a mess.
A fantastic tip I received was to organize kid’s clothes into outfits. Choose a top a bottom, socks, and underwear if appropriate and rubber band together. This idea is great for days when you are in a rush, kids who want to dress themselves or moms and dads who need to do things quickly. It’ll make it so that grandma, your nanny or a big brother can help your child get dressed in mom/ dad approved outfits. It eliminates hunting through drawers for matching outfits and makes packing a diaper or school bag super easy and stress free. It’ll also help ensure that laundry day doesn’t leave you disgruntled because you are at the grocery store with a miniature Motley Crew.
How Can Someone So Tiny Create So Much Laundry?
Children do a great job of getting dirty. Truthfully, it’s an art. I am certain that if myself and a four year old set out to get as dirty as we could that he would surely win. An infant would win without even having to try. With this understanding let’s focus on dealing with the dirt.
Creating a place for soiled laundry is half the battle. Set up bins, bags or baskets for whites, lights and darks and label them accordingly. This way you can sort items one at a time and you don’t waste valuable time later sorting through dirty laundry before being able to start a load of laundry. Keep Spray-N-Wash or Shout on hand but out of children’s reach to tackle spots right away. For real EXPLOSIONS have a “yuck bucket” handy for soaking onesies that need serious attention. I cannot rave enough about Oxi-Clean Powder and its magical powers. Soak stained items in water and a scoop of Oxi and you will be shocked what it gets out. I’ve yet to meet a stain it couldn’t handle.
What did you eat kid? Explosions, Eruptions, and Other Yucky Stuff
We’ve all been there! You’re not sure if you should cry, throw up, or continue cleaning your kid. Inevitably you always choose to continue cleaning the kid. Hats off super mamas and papas your job is a gross one. I learned the best tip the other day for dealing with these instances. DOUBLE WRAP YOUR DIAPER PAD. It’s so simple, it’s so smart, and I can’t believe I never thought of it. Cover the diaper pad with the absorbent pittle pad, then cover with the soft cover then add a second pittle pad and a second cover. GENIOUS!! This way the 3am explosion or rainstorm from your little man doesn’t have you changing things in the middle of the night. Simply slip off the top set, spot treat them, throw them in your laundry bin or Yuck Bucket and you can go back to bed ready for the next diaper. Rest up it should be arriving in about an hour or so.
Sheets and mattress protectors can be doubled up as well. This way a wet bed doesn’t derail the evening. You can pull-throw-&-go. Many moms and dads store mattress pads and crib sheets in the linen closet with the other linens and towels. Save time and a trip down the hall and back by keeping baby’s sheets and blankets in their room.
Rubber Ducky You’re the One…
Bath time is another great opportunity for bonding with your child. Baths should be a serene and relaxing endeavor where you both leave off relaxed and refreshed. Not a stage five fiasco that leaves you wet, and exhausted and your child sad, cold and crying. Not being prepared for bath time can lead to stressful or dangerous situations i.e., leaving the baby alone in the tub to grab a washcloth from the linen closet, having to hunt for supplies or even having your child wet and cold while you run to grab a miniature bathrobe off of the personalized hook in the nursery.
Creating a bath time caddie is simple, inexpensive and makes the whole process a bit more relaxing. The caddy should include bath soap, lotion, or baby oil, washcloths, small bath toys for your child and a cup or Tupperware to use for rinsing their hair and for keeping baby warm. Grab two towels, because at some point you will drop one in the tub and that’ll leave you holding a screaming, naked, wet baby on a long cold walk to the linen closet. Fair warning, this is precisely the opportunity your child is looking for to pee on you, look incredulous if you will but it’s true. Having an extra towel is useful for drying kids’ legs while they are wrapped in the other one, and the backup works as a great splash guard for yourself.
Another trick I love is storing a gardener’s knee pad under the sink for yourself. Tile floors are not comfortable and bath mats offer little cushioning. It’s also a good idea to bring a phone with you into the bathroom, this way there isn’t a chance of you needing to run out and grab it. I prefer to commit to not answering the phone with a child in the water, but I understand that this is not always possible. Regardless, never leave the baby in the tub alone, there is no reason that justifies providing an opportunity for your baby to drown.
What happens if I stick this fork into that socket? Will my bear fit down the hole in the potty? I can climb up that shelf for sure! Mom won’t mind if I have a small bite of that new soap.
Developmental milestones like crawling, walking, running & climbing happen fast. Baby proofing should be done early. Ideally before your child is able to get into anything. Once it’s necessary, you’re going to have your hands full. Being preemptive alleviates the stress later on. In addition to socket covers, drawer locks, toilet locks, cushioned corners, and gates- install smoke and Co2 detectors in the baby’s room and ensure that batteries are fresh. Fire extinguishers should be up to date as well, label when it needs to be replaced with a Sharpie- so it’s visually easy to know when you need to buy a new one.
Window cords should be tied up and secured, hang cords on a hook or purchase inexpensive cord covers that wind the cord up inside of themselves. Room darkening shades are excellent for children who have a hard time napping during the day or falling asleep on bright summer evenings.
The lighting in a child’s space should be a bit different from the rest of the home. We want to create a soothing atmosphere for your child, and soft lights will help us out. If purchasing new shades for the baby’s room, consider cordless options. Keep in mind that children are typically on their backs looking up at the light. Lay down on the nursery’s floor, close your eyes for a minute until they adjust to the dark, now open your eyes. Does the overhead light seem too bright? Is it off putting or intrusive? Does it make your head hurt and your eyes uncomfortable? Now consider what your baby will feel.
Dimmers are an excellent way to control the lighting in your child’s space. Dimmers are relatively inexpensive and easy to install. Dimmer switches can smooth the transition from a midnight diaper explosion back to bed. Nightlights are also a great way to create enough light to see what you are doing without disrupting the calm space. I love the idea of having a small touch lamp located near the diaper station with a soft bulb. Ensure that the lamp and cord are out of babies reach and will stay out of their reach to avoid injury. If possible, place the changing station in front of an outlet, this alleviates the need for an outlet cover because the furniture blocks it, and makes it so you can plug the lamp and monitor in where you can easily see your tiny tot.
Another thing to consider is a clock that has glow in the dark hands or one that projects the time onto the ceiling. This way mom and dad can know just how much sleep they are not getting but your little one isn’t disturbed by intrusive red blinking numbers in the middle of the night. A projection clock also makes the time visible from every angle of the room.
“Screaming Baby to Sleeping Parent…come in Sleeping Parent, over”
The monitor you choose with be a direct reflection of your parenting style. That being said it is important to choose the one that YOU feel is right. It shouldn’t matter what your friend uses or what your mother-in-law suggests. Purchase the monitor that will make you feel at ease. Monitoring systems range from leaving the door ajar or a simple walkie talkie style to audio/video and full blown surveillance with night vision and noise alarms. Monitors are a fantastic way to give you peace of mind when you are away from your child. Choose a monitor that will offer you enough information for your mind to be at ease.
“Shhh -the baby’s asleep”
“The baby’s asleep, quick!!! Vacuum, laugh, ring the doorbell, slam doors, let the phone ring!”
Creating a serene environment for your child to sleep in is a goal of many parents. I would like to say that a baby that can sleep though noise and commotion is so much easier to deal with than a light sleeper. Your actions and choices will heavily influence which child you end up with.
While I am a huge supporter of the vacuum-while-your-baby-sleeps notion, I agree that soothing background noise offers comfort and familiarity to a child’s sleep routine. Sound machines are a nice way to introduce some white noise into your child’s space. One mother pointed out that for small homes this comes in very handy for softening loud noises and sharp sounds from the rest of the house. Another mother offered some sound advice that I’d like to share directly from her,” If you live in a small space, a white noise machine is a must. But don't buy the Bose sound dock, 'cuz your toddler will get a hold of it one day and yank it to the floor and then you will cry (speaking from experience of course).”
I think this example offers some information that we should consider in all our purchases. Buy things that will last, but don’t go high end for the baby’s room. They are ultimately going to trash it. Not on purpose of course, children learn by trying things out. If we didn’t attempt it, how else would we know that lipstick doesn’t make the best marker? Truthfully, if you’re scrawling a hotel name across a pizza box it’ll work well, but it’s not the best for redesigning a play room. Kids learn through their experience, let’s not let them test their theories on our Bose, or with our Chanel.
Thoughts on Parenthood from someone with no children of her own but tons of experience with moms, dads and kids…take it as you like. Or stop reading here…
Parenthood changes everything. However, it doesn’t need to replace who you were before the birth. Try not to lose yourself – become the mom or dad you want to be by staying focused on what matters and letting go of what doesn’t. Every pregnant mother states that she simply wants “a happy & healthy baby”. They count fingers and toes on their birthday and beam with sheer joy. Somewhere over time things like, reading level, how children stack up to other children, speech ability, vanity issues and developmental milestones become the focus.
Loose preconceived ideas and notions of what children should do and don’t try to mold them into who you want them to be. Cherish their individuality and focus on their CANS. Every child has things they are going to struggle with that are different from their friends. They will all be the best at something, and the worst at something else. Focus on the new things they can do and be proud of their small accomplishments. Display graceful defeat in the situations where they fall short and demonstrate behaviors that you want them to model. Consciously avoid attempting to one up other parents. A preachy “my kid is the best” kind of mother or father comes off as needy, self-absorbed and close minded. Save those talks for your spouse, or the grandparents, they’re the only ones who genuinely agree with you, and want to hear it.
Make choices that feel natural and make sense to you. There is book or guru to argue every point of view and disprove all the other theories. Trust yourself and your community. Find a support system that you respect and trust whole-heartedly and tell it like it is. Invest time in forming relationships with other parents who have children and parenting styles that you admire. ASK FOR HELP!!!! Accept help gracefully and know that even the best Super Mama and Papa out there needs a break. Take care of yourself so that you can take care of your children. “You can’t give from an empty well”.
Find a fantastic Nanny and pay her well. Ensure that her values and approaches to children are in line with your own. Make sure she’s fun, loving, responsible and trustworthy. Be honest and forthcoming with her and create a cooperative flexible system that will work for your family.
Date your spouse and attempt to only discuss the children during the car ride to and from wherever you are going. You won’t succeed, but try to talk about other things, adult things; your own interests, your own lives, your hopes and dreams and fears, your own relationship. Admittedly, your children are central to all these conversations, but attempt to branch out into things beyond the kids.
Lastly, enjoy it! Take pictures, and don’t take one moment for granted. That one year old barnacle baby is going to be wiping off your kisses and pushing you away in just a few years. Cherish these moments but give yourself permission to not enjoy it all, all of the time. You’re not alone in that thinking, and its okay.