An Interview with Kelley Kitley, Therapist & Business Owner | Work Life Mom

Sometimes when you’re a blogger, you receive email about your blog. Often, these emails are random and shady, and I’ll be honest, I tend to automatically side-eye everything that shows up in my inbox. But sometimes, I receive a legit email from someone who sincerely feels a connection to what I’m trying to do doing here and wants to contribute in a way that is incredibly beneficial for me, as well as you, the reader.

The email I received from Kelley Kitley after I published my interview with Abby Brennan of Brennan Spa was the second kind of email. Kelley is not only a mom to four adorable kiddos, she’s also a therapist specializing in the treatment of postpartum depression, anxiety disorders, and couples. And (AND!), she is passionate about helping women navigate the transition to motherhood.

Serendipitous, right? 

Funny you should say that…

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After a few emails back and forth, Kelley and I had a fantastic conversation about the possibility of collaborating. Her passion for helping moms and her holistic approach to mental health and wellness completely resonated with me and the mission of Mommy Sanest. And profiling her for the Work | Life | Mom series seemed like a no-brainer because she is in the process of launching her own private practice, KELLEY KITLEY SERENDIPITOUS PSYCHOTHERAPY. I hope you find her honest and thoughtful responses as helpful and inspiring as I did — I found myself wanting to virtual high-five her as I edited this interview!

Lou: Can you tell us about your family?

Kelley: My husband and I met 15 years ago at my parent’s business. I was bartending while I was an undergrad at University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), and Ryan was in graduate school at DePaul. He was one of my customers. We have four children with vastly different personalities. We are blessed to have two healthy boys and two healthy girls ranging in ages from 3-9.

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Can you talk a little bit about your career as a therapist?

I knew I wanted to be a psychotherapist at a young age after having gone through some of my own personal struggles and receiving amazing help throughout my journey. I have a bachelor’s and master’s degree in social work, and I am a licensed clinician with experience working in child welfare, hospitals, residential treatment centers, schools, and community mental health. I am a cognitive behavioral therapist who specializes in the treatment of depression and anxiety (with a special niche in postpartum), addictions (including substance abuse, eating disorders, and sex/infidelity), parenting and self development, and couples counseling. I have worked in group private practices for the past eight years, but owning my own practice has always been a goal of mine. I am excited for the transition to independence.

Can you talk about why you decided to pursue opening your own practice? What has the process of opening a business while juggling multiple other priorities, including continuing to see patients at your current job, been like?

Balance is something that is important to me. I strive for it daily, but can get tripped up when I have so many plates spinning in the air.

Before I started KELLEY KITLEY SERENDIPITOUS PSYCHOTHERAPY, LLC, we had a “family meeting” about what my commitment would look like. I told the kids I would be working more, which would mean less time at home. They asked questions and were supportive.

The entire household has stepped up to the plate. The older kids go grocery shopping with us and help put away their clothes. They take care of each other. I spend extra time at night snuggling, talking, reading, and tucking them in. Family time is important on the weekends.

My mantra is, “One day at a time.” Sometimes it’s one hour or one minute at a time. If I anticipated all of the energy, time, and dedication that the past year would have entailed, I’m not sure I would have signed up. But when I broke it down, it was manageable.

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If another mom were to ask you for advice about opening a business similar to yours, what would you tell her?

You absolutely can do it! Create a vision board and identify what you want your business to look like. Put it some place where you can see it daily to inspire you to reach your goal. You also have to network and self-promote. For the past year, I have been out in the community giving talks on mental health and self-care. I have set up several meetings a week with other professionals to collaborate. I would rather use wall phones and tape recorders, but I bit the bullet and joined Facebook and LinkedIn. I serendipitously found an amazing office space. Once I opened myself up to the process, and let go of the fear of failure, my stars kept aligning.

And remember, we are all connected and can help each other out in the most incredible ways. I am forever grateful for the powerful women in my life who led the way.

When you become a mom, did you take time off work? Did you take a “normal,” 12-week maternity leave? How did you decide that going back to work was right for you and your family?

I am a fee-for-service provider, which means I was paid when I saw clients, so my maternity leave was never “paid time off,” which created some financial anxiety. We were always able to make it work short-term; however, not going back to work for an extended amount of time was not an option. But, I’ve had four c-sections, so I never took less than six weeks. When you add nursing and sleep deprivation, I’m not sure how I managed to form sentences returning to work eight to 10 weeks postpartum with my mommy brain. In my professional opinion, it would be ideal for every woman to be on paid leave for a year, but I know that is not most people’s reality.

Can you describe your “typical” work day?

I work four days a week and have clinical hours from 6 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. I am a morning person and always found the work hours between 3-5 p.m. to be grueling, so I have been fortunate to create this schedule. My office is located in downtown Chicago at 737 N. Michigan Ave., so I accommodate a lot of professionals before they start their work day. I teach a graduate course in social work so one day a week I head over to UIC after seeing clients.

How do you and your partner manage childcare and the “business” of running a household?

Ryan is so supportive. We are lucky in that we work different hours, but it often times feels like solo parenting as we high five each other at the doorway when I am coming home from work and he is leaving.

We work very hard to keep the lines of communication about our needs open, so we can ask for help in a non-accusatory way. I think we own the household responsibilities that fall on our “shift.” For example, I do school pick up, homework, dinner, pack lunches, laundry, and bedtime. He does mornings, school drop off, all of the maintenance around the house, with the cars, and the bills. We alternate grocery shopping every other week.

We are respectful of keeping the house in somewhat of an order for the pass off — the garbage is taken out, the dishwasher is loaded. We try to leave things better than we found them. As two working parents, we attempt to manage a 50/50 split to help avoid burnout. We also have our sitter, who is a graduate student, with us 20-30 hours a week when there is overlap in our schedules. We also use her once a week to go on a date and reconnect.

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How do you fit in self-care, seeing friends, and staying connected to yourself outside of your professional identity and identity as a mother?

I start my day by lighting a candle, writing down what I am grateful for, and what I need to work on. This activity sets the foundation for my day. I find peace when I am alone in my car, and during my commute, I blast music and sing at the top of my lungs. There is a Starbucks across the street from my office that has become my social escape. I meet a friend or family member there either before work, on a break, or after work several times a week. I try to put my phone in a drawer when I get home from work until after I put the kids to bed so that I can be present with them. I’ve given up exercise on the days that I work because it is an added stress to try and fit it in. I go to spinning classes or yoga 3-4 times a week on my days off. A walk around the block or taking the stairs gives me a pep in my step.

On the weekends, Ryan has a few hours in the morning to do something for himself on Saturdays, and I do the same on Sundays. I am a firm believer in putting the oxygen mask on me first (as they say in flight on an airplane), so I can then take care of my babies to the best of my ability.

In general, does the balancing act you’ve describe work for you? If you could change one thing about how you balance work with other areas of your life, what would be?

I immensely and genuinely LOVE the life choices I have made and how I choose to spend my time, but there never seems to be enough time in the day to accomplish all that I have set out to do. The past six months have been chaotic for my family as I open my practice, write a book, and teach. I could use a couple of more hours in the day. I have to shout at myself to take a deep breathe and slow down. I often give myself time-outs. My kids will also remind me when I need a time-out.

You speak at workshops for Bump Club and Beyond in Chicago about the transition to motherhood. Can you provide a few tips about how to make the transition to motherhood smoother?

Accept help: As women, we try to do it all. Practice getting comfortable with saying YES if someone offers to come over and watch the baby so you can take a nap or go to the grocery store alone. In the first few weeks, a trip to Target might feel like a vacation.

Accept imperfections and limitations: I used to internally beat myself up if I couldn’t get everything done on my to-do list. The more children I had, the easier it was for me to say NO because I am not naturally wired this way. My external barriers gave me clarity of what I could accomplish.

Perfectionistic/overachievers are at higher risk of developing depression and anxiety symptoms postpartum. Having a child/children is absolutely life changing. Try to enjoy the transition, you will find your groove.

Connect with your partner: In the hierarchy of priorities post-baby, many of the men I have worked with report that they feel they are at the bottom of the list for their wives. Nurture that relationship with emotional and physical intimacy. It is a strength that can help you be a team player and get the support you need.


A big thank you to Kelley Kitley for giving us a glimpse into her busy life as a therapist, small business owner, mom to four, wife, and, you know, person. If you are looking for mental health services in the Chicago area, please check out KELLEY KITLEY SERENDIPITOUS PSYCHOTHERAPY, LLC. And this likely won’t be the last you’ll see of Kelley on Mommy Sanest. You can look forward to her popping up on the blog from time to time, lending her expert opinion and advice to some upcoming posts.

Want more working mom inspiration? Check out interviews with Sara Sutton Fell, CEO of Flexjobs and Abby Brennan, owner of Brennan Massage and Spa.

Confessions of a New Freelance Writer

About eight months ago, I concocted a plan to launch a fabulous career/life as a freelance writer and content strategist. I focused in on my goals, took every freelance opportunity that came my way, started writing more, began laying the foundation of self-employment, and set a date to quit my job.

And then, after 13 years of sitting in an office doing “marketing,” I actually quit.

Confessions of a new freelance writer.

Here’s something about me: I’ve never not had a professional job — unless you count three weeks after I graduated from college and about four weeks after graduate school. I realize that makes me very lucky, but it also means that I’ve been very risk adverse, and quitting my job was not something I did lightly.

I’m not sorry I quit — My career in marketing hasn’t felt right for a long time, and I’ve spent years attempting to determine the next step. At my most recent job, I was teetering on the edge of a precipice — I was unhappy enough for long enough that I knew I was dangerously close to jeopardizing my opportunity to leave on good terms after six years of service that (I’m told) “exceeded expectations.” It was truly time to go. And so I went… on good terms and on my own terms.

It’s been two months.

I have no idea what I’m doing.

I wade through each day unsure of where the hours go.

When I worked in an office the days dragged. In some ways, this is better — I’m not bored — but I’m not actually getting a paycheck for being busy, and I have a feeling that I’ve fallen into a trap of working harder, but not smarter.

So what am I doing? I do have a few client projects each month, but I spend a lot of time applying to freelance or part-time or contract opportunities — emails and applications that apparently disappear into the ether the moment I hit send… Sometimes I start to go down the Elance path, but I don’t even know where to start… I consider, then reconsider, how to market myself and to whom.

I knew it would be like this — I knew it would take time to figure it out; I knew the transition would be rough, but I was so secretly hopeful that everything would just work out and the freelance life would be instantaneously amazing. Here are some of the myths that I let myself believe (while at the same time reminding myself that I shouldn’t believe them). Turns out I should have listened to myself — at least the part of myself that wasn’t coming up with a freelance fantasy:

Myth: If I built it (a website), they (clients) would come.

Last fall, I had three freelance clients and a full-time job, which meant I felt like I was literally working around the clock. With three clients, I reasoned that I had a sufficient foundation and could expect a certain amount of income when I quit my job — then one of my clients closed her business and a few projects didn’t pan out the way I expected. To be fair, I knew this by the time I walked into my supervisor’s office to give my notice, but I figured, hey, everything will fall into place. I’m still waiting for those things to start falling.

Myth: I would immediately lose 10 pounds.

Welcome to the land of magical thinking. Why did I think this? I’ll tell you. I thought that once my pesky job was out of the way, I would spend every morning working on my fitness while sipping an ultra-clean, vitamin-infused, super food smoothie in my suddenly-fitting-again Lululemon yoga pants. I would cook myself every meal, sit down at dining room table, and eat mindfully — never again succumbing to the likes of Chipotle or Panera. All stress would just melt away, along with a few pounds, because, you know, I would be living the dream.

Myth: My house would be clean; my closets organized; and the laundry would be done forever and ever. Amen.

This was part of the point after all — to function better as a family. And to me, functioning better means having a relatively clean and organized home, which is, I have learned, 100 percent impossible unless you LITERALLY spend all day, every day cleaning. The minute I think the laundry is done, my husband’s basket is full again (seriously, why does he need to change four times a day?). As soon as I finish cleaning the house, Emme comes home, pulls out 80 gazillion toys, spills her milk, and manages to smash crackers into the freshly vacuumed rug.

Myth: I would create a work-life balance scenario that worked for our family.

Ah… the myth of “work-life balance.” I thought I would have my day totally figured out with plenty of time for work, household management, and self-care; I would spend quality time with Emme from the time she came home from daycare to the time she went to bed; and then I would relax in the evenings. But mostly, we’re still just trying to survive and get to the next thing. And, I’m still sitting on my couch “working” late into the night. What am I even doing? Just like during the day, I’m not really sure, but nothing about it feels balanced.

None of this is to say I regret my choice, but it will take some time before I get this new life and career figured out. And maybe I won’t. Maybe it’s not the right choice for me — but at this point I’d rather know than be sitting in an office still attempting to make a decision about the next step in my life. At least that part is over.

Also, I would like to point out that I have made dinner more in the last two months than I had in the last two years. Small victories — I’ll take what I can get at this point. 

You Need a Content Calendar for Your Blog

It’s been awhile since I blogged about blogging, but I’ve been planning to post this month about how to create and use a content calendar for your blog. How did I know that I’ve been planning to write about content calendars? Because I put it on my content calendar for December.

Full circle. Blog post over.

How to Create and Use a Content Calendar for Your Blog

Not really. There’s actually more than 2,000 words left to read. Feel free to bail now.

Anyway, today I’m going to cover what a content calendar is, how you can create one, how mine is set up, and why all of this content calendar nonsense is important.

What is a Content Calendar?

If you come from a journalism or editorial background, you might be wondering what the difference between a content calendar and an editorial calendar is. The answer to that question is nothing–at least in my opinion. I use the terms interchangeably. Case in point: My content calendar file is actually named “Mommy Sanest Editorial Calendar,” so you do you.

What ever you call it, a content calendar is basically a tool that helps you plan the content that you intend to publish. As far as I’m concerned, beyond that very simple definition, the other details you include in a content calendar are up to you, and you can make it as basic or as complicated as you want.

You’ll notice I said “intend.” That’s because when you’re dealing with a small publication like a blog, it’s likely that you alone are creating the content, designing the graphics, formatting the articles, and hitting “publish.” You want to plan to the best of your ability, but you’ll probably need to move posts around a bit; you’ll furiously write something unforeseen and want to add it in; you might want to move an article to later in the month because sometimes life gets in the way of being a publishing mogul.

How to Create a Content Calendar

The concept of a content calendar was not foreign to me when I started my blog. I am a planner by nature and also do “content marketing stuff” for a living, but I struggled to find a format that worked for me. Every time I searched for content calendars, the examples I found seemed overwhelming and not at all intuitive.

At first, I tried using Google Calendar as my blog’s editorial calendar. I love the visual format, and I’m comfortable using Google Calendar, so it seemed like an easy answer. My plan was to add the name of the post to the date it would be published on. It would be simple and clean–except in practice, it didn’t feel like it was enough information. Moreover, even though I thought I would do best with a visual calendar layout, I found that it wasn’t how I wanted to see this information.

For the record, I see a lot of bloggers offering blog planners/content calendars that can be downloaded, printed, and used offline. Honestly, I’ve never once even looked into using something like this. I wanted my calendar to be online and accessible from anywhere. In addition, there is an editorial calendar plugin for WordPress — I did try it — but it also uses a visual calendar format and populates using your posts, so basically, to add something you had to have a draft started. I didn’t like that. Anyway, I bailed on the plugin pretty quickly, so maybe it’s awesome, and you should ignore everything I’ve said.

Moving on…

One morning, when I was in the process of getting this blog off the ground, I was laying in bed thinking about how to set up a content calendar (sadly, this is a true story), and it came to me–a content calendar spreadsheet built in a Google Spreadsheet with categories that made sense to me. Like the mother of the year that I am, I turned on some cartoons for Emme that morning and got to work.

I tend to get a little spreadsheet happy, so what I use might not work for you. You might do better planning offline or in an actual calendar format. You may find that one of those content spreadsheets I found confusing makes total sense to you. But without further ado, here is a sample of my content calendar from earlier this year:

Ridiculous, right? I haven’t even filled out all of the sections that I came up with. I was going to back fill it, but then I thought it would be more realistic to show you that I don’t have everything planned out all of the time (most of the time). But I do know exactly how I want to use each section, and as I make my way from frazzled blogging novice to slightly-less-frazzled blogging goddess, I will hopefully do a better job of it.

How I Setup My Content Calendar

I plan my content month by month. The month is the column on the far right. Each month I decide how many times I am going to try to post. With the exception of November, I shoot for two to three posts a week at this point. Then I look at a real calendar and decide what days I’m going to post–i.e., I will often post Mondays and Thursdays. I fill in those dates for the month and start brainstorming ideas.

Let’s go through the sections, shall we?

Date: The date that the post is scheduled to be posted.

Status: The status of the post. The options for this field include: Idea, Draft, Scheduled, and Posted.

Post Title: The title of the blog post or the working title.

Post Type: A description of the post type. I’m pretty loosey goosey with this section and have wondered if it’s redundant. But, it might be a good tool if you want to diversify your content. This can be an easy way to see if you’ve balanced the number of “how to” posts in any given month with the number of “personal essays” or whatever.

Author: I added this section in November when I started working with contributing writers.

Categories: The categories section corresponds to the categories I have set up in WordPress (most of which appear in the top navigation bar). I try to stick to three categories or less for each post. Categories represent the major topics I blog about.

Tags: This section gives me a chance to think about what tags I want to include in WordPress. Tags are different from categories–instead of representing major topics, they describe the post in more detail. For example, if a post falls under the category of Recipe, a post about pasta will be tagged with “easy weeknight dinner recipe” and “pasta recipe.”

Keywords: I use the SEO Yoast Plugin as well as the Google Adwords keyword planning tools to try to figure out how to best optimize my post based on searches. This section is where I write the keyword (or words) that I plan to optimize in my post.

Graphics: I describe the graphic(s) I am using/creating for the post in this section.

Promotion: This section includes the social media platforms where I will be promoting the post.

  • Twitter: Two or three sample tweets to go along with the post. This way I can easily copy and paste them into Hootsuite.
  • Instagram: Most of my posts say N/A right now, but I have experimented with adding a photo with an #ontheblog hashtag in Instagram. I haven’t decided if I’m going to keep promoting my posts there or not.
  • Google+: What I plan to post on Google+ to promote my post.
  • Pinterest: The “alternative text” or “alt text” I plan to write for my pin-able image. I usually create one image for each post that is optimized for Pinterest. Pinterest typically (but not always!) grabs the alt text when someone pins your image, so you want to make sure that you write a good description of your post.
  • Facebook: What I plan to post on Facebook to promote my post. Typically this is very similar to the Google+ post.

If there’s one thing I think my content calendar lacks, it’s a spot to identify holidays in advance, but since I sit down and plan with a regular calendar, I kind of just know when stuff is coming up. The other thing I probably need to add is a section that has the actual URL of each completed post. I’ll do that right now. (See? The Google Spreadsheet format is flexible to your needs.)

Again, whatever you choose to do or not do with your blog’s calendar is your call. But I do think it’s worthwhile to check a few different calendars out and think through what makes sense to you and for your blog.

We’ve covered the how; onto the why.

Why You Should Use a Content Calendar

Back in ye ole blogging days, I would have never set up an editorial or content calendar. It never even occurred to me. I was just blogging by the seat of my pants when the mood struck me. And sometimes the mood struck me like 20 times a month and other times the mood struck me like never.

I feel like I should add a caveat here: There is nothing wrong with choosing to not care about this stuff. If you prefer the free form style of blogging what you feel like blogging when you feel like blogging, then that is awesome and you should do that. But if your goals are a bit more lofty, there are good reasons to be more planful.

Here are five of those reasons:

1. A content calendar will help you treat your blog like a business. If you care about people finding and reading your stuff because of love or money or pride or fame or whatever, then you need to accept that running a blog is like running a very small, poorly funded, barely staffed magazine. In other words, if you want blogging to be your business or even just part of your business, you need to treat it like a business and you need to plan your content. That doesn’t mean it will be successful; it just means it will have a better chance of being successful.

2. A content calendar can help smooth the bumps of writer’s block. Remember when I said that sometimes with my old blog, I would write all of the time and sometimes I wouldn’t post for months? It was like two paragraphs ago. A content calendar can help you plan for the times when you feel a bit less creative and inspired. I keep a running list of ideas and half-written posts, and I draw on that to help fill my content calendar. So let’s say I wanted to write about New Year’s resolutions, but wasn’t feeling it… I look at my content calendar, and see that I’ve already started a draft of a post about creating a content calendar for your blog. I move a few things around and ta da! The blog is saved, and a post will go up as planned–just not the post that was originally planned. The content calendar also eases my mind when it comes to posting frequency. It can feel overwhelming to come up with a whole new month of posts, but if you’ve decided to post twice a week, you can look at your calendar and see that you really only need eight pieces of content. Eight sounds doable, right?

3. A content calendar will help manage your audience’s expectations. If you’re using a content calendar, you can easily get yourself on a posting schedule. This manages your audience’s expectations about how often you’re going to post and also builds trust as they see they can count on a certain number of fun new things to read or watch each week.

4. A content calendar will give you an archive that you can use to promote your older posts. Do you promote stuff you wrote a month ago? Or a year ago? You should. And an easy way to keep track of that content is in a content calendar. And, if you’re including social media in your calendar, you can easily copy and paste your tweets and posts for reuse.

5. Because it’s all about the content, it’s also all about the content calendar. How many times have you heard that blogging is all about the content? And moreover, how many times do we need to be told that our content needs to be optimized? If you’re providing good content, you want people to see it. Planning in advance with a content calendar will (hopefully/eventually) get you off the panic cycle of “OMG I HAVE TO WRITE A BLOG POST.” It will help you get a handle on your content mix and plan for new topics, series, and/or guest writers, and it will give you time to think about SEO and do keyword research, which will help boost organic traffic.

I’m sure there are more reasons to have a content calendar, but my word count is pushing 2,300, so I’m going to let all of this sink in. Have I convinced you that you need a content calendar? Do you already use one? Is it way better way, and can you give me your secrets, please?


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Sustaining the Powers

68 Second Baby Gift Ideas

This post includes affiliate links.

Unfair as it may be, the second baby rarely gets the hoopla that surrounds the firstborn—sorry kiddo/get used to it. And barring a special situation (like mom is expecting multiples or there’s a significant age gap between children), some “been there, done that” moms don’t want to put themselves through another round of showers, themes, and thank you notes.

But even if the mom-to-be-again doesn’t want to make it a thing, most moms (and dads) will appreciate friends and family celebrating the second (or third or fourth) child. If you’re not sure where to begin with the family who has five versions of every baby product known to man (it happens), check out these tips and second baby gift ideas.

Not sure what to get the mama-to-be-again? Second babies deserve to be celebrated. Check this second baby gift guide (68 gift ideas!), including 9 tips on what you can give the expectant mom, the big brother or big sister, and the whole family.

Tip 1: Go in as a group.

Second babies are the perfect time for a group of friends or family to go in together on a nice gift for the expectant family. Many of the ideas/items included in this post are more expensive and would be perfect for a group gift.

Tip 2: Be practical.

With baby no. 2, the majority of must-have items will have been purchased for the first child and will be reused for the second. (Crib, check; stroller, check; bouncy seat, check.) As much as it might take the fun out of it, consider a practical gift that meets a need for the family.

  • Gift cards. Where does the family shop, and what do they use regularly? Gift cards to grocery stores, Target, Babies “R” Us, Buy Buy Baby, Amazon, or Diapers.com may not be creative, but will be useful and appreciated.
  • Replacement items. Did baby no. 1 have a blow out on the glider? Is there enough of an age difference that the carseat has expired? Has an item has been recalled? Consider replacing something that was sacrificed to the cause of first-time parenting.
  • Upgrade. Sure, the audio monitor was totally fine for baby no. 1, but a dual video monitor sure would be nice.
  • Mom’s (and/or Dad’s) wishlist. Even if there isn’t a shower planned, the parents may have a registry or an Amazon wishlist you can access. Or, you know, ask them what they want.
  • Diapers and wipes. Give the gift of no late night diaper runs.
  • Clothing for an opposite gender child. If the parents are expecting a child of the opposite gender, stock up on the basics for the new baby like pajamas, onesies, rompers, etc. Be mindful of seasons and sizes.
  • A double stroller. Consider the family’s lifestyle needs. Are they in the city and navigating packed streets? Are they short on space? Are they runners? Not sure? Lucie’s List recently posted an extensive guide to double strollers.
  • A portable crib. It’s unlikely that baby no. 2 will always have the luxury of long naps in the comfort of her own crib. A portable crib will give baby a space to nap anytime, anywhere.
  • A solution to a dreaded task, like clipping baby’s nails.
  • Something ingenious, like a place for your phone on your stroller.

Tip 3: Be impractical.

Like above, the parents-to-be probably have everything they need for the second baby, especially if the ages of their children will be relatively close. If there’s no glaring gaps in their baby needs, consider a completely impractical gift:

  • The latest baby gadget. The baby gear market moves fast. No doubt, even if it’s been less than two years, there is something new and cool and probably completely unnecessary on the market for the newest member of the family.
  • A baby bean bag chair, because duh.
  • A ridiculous onesie, like this onethis one, or this one.
  • Baby fortune cookie booties, because who cares if they stay on the baby’s feet, they’re fortune cookies.
  • An adorable, fancy outfit. Will baby no. 2 wear all of big sister’s hand-me-downs? Yes. Then she probably deserves a fancy, impractical outfit all her own. Check out Tea, Baby Boden, and Hanna Andersson.
  • Something decorative for the baby’s room. Don’t do this if the parents are particular about their decor, but if you have a good sense of their style, check out Etsy for something cute and handmade.

Tip 4: Consider the older child.

Big brother or big sister is about to go through some BIG changes. No doubt mom and dad have been preparing their only, but a little extra attention won’t hurt.

  • Books about being an older sibling. Big brother or big sister probably already has a handful of board books about this, but when baby actually arrives, it will probably be good to have a few more on hand, like My New Baby or I’m a Big Sister. For slightly older children, try something like My New Baby And Me: A First Year Record Book For Big Brothers And Sisters.
  • A big sibling kit. If you’re feeling crafty and able to put lots of thought into your gift, this might be the way to go. Include activity books, small trinkets, and a “toolkit” to “help” mom. Check out Pinterest for dozens (hundreds? thousands?) of examples.
  • Big sibling apparel.
  • A special day out. If you’re close with the family, consider taking the older child(ren) for a day trip shortly after the new sibling arives. It will give the parents time to tend to the newborn, and it will make the older sibling feel special. You could even create an invitation for the occasion. Children’s museums, zoos or aquariums, indoor playspaces, playgrounds, kid-friendly restaurants (like one that is train-themed) are all great choices for an outing with a toddler or younger child.

Tip 5: Give services rather than stuff.

You know what I need? Other people to clean my house, buy my food, and cut my lawn. And I don’t have a newborn. Even if it’s only once or twice, imagine how nice it will be for mom and dad to get a break a time-consuming chore.

  • Cleaning services, because having someone else clean your house is literally the greatest thing ever. The best way to find a good service is to ask people in the area for recommendations, but Groupon also regularly has deals on cleaning services.
  • Lawn care services. Again, ask around for a recommendation.
  • Grocery delivery services like Peapod or Door to Door Organics.

Tip 6: Everyone needs to eat.

But no one wants to cook when they are exhausted taking care of multiple children, including a newborn.

  • Freezer meals. Make the family a meal that they can easily defrost and pop in the oven. Some of my favorites are Cincinnati Turkey Chili, Turkey Meatballs, Individual Meat Loaves, Spinach Lasagna Rolls, and Pasta Bake with Sausage and Spinach. Short on time to cook? You can also find companies will do the freezer meals for you. In the Chicago western suburbs, check out The Dinner Club in La Grange.
  • If the family doesn’t have room for lots of freezer meals, put together a meal train with other friends and family. That way, the family isn’t overwhelmed 300 casseroles at one time.
  • Lactation cookies if mom is nursing.
  • Really any kind of cookie.
  • Muffins. Muffins also freeze well.
  • Gift cards to their favorite take-out restaurants. What’s nearby, and who delivers? Check Grubhub for ideas.
  • Care package of snacks. Make sure they are kid- and adult-friendly. Think crackers, fruit, granola bars, trail mix, etc.
  • Bring lunch for the whole family after the baby is born. Then hold the new little one while mom eats.
  • Meal services. The latest trend in meal planning is services that provide the fresh ingredients, already portioned and ready to be used in a recipe, direct to your door. All mom and dad have to do is put the meal together (think minimal chopping, no grocery lists). Check out Plated and Blue Apron, which provide delivery in various areas around the country.

Tip 7: Give a gift the whole family can enjoy.

Instead of focusing on one member of the family, give something that they can all use or do together.

  • Family memberships to zoos or aquariums, children’s museums, or other near-by attractions that cater to multiple ages.
  • Passes to a nearby indoor playspaces. Most playspaces that cater to toddlers and preschoolers will also have an area for infants and comfortable spots for mom to feed the new baby. If you’re in the Chicago western suburbs, I highly recommend Peekaboo Playroom (but you probably already knew that).
  • A family photo session. Let’s be real, the kids won’t enjoy this, but parents will love a gift of a family photo session with a great photographer (if they have used a photographer for family photos before, go with that person). Make sure they are able to schedule the session when they are ready <– this last part is key.

Tip 8: Pamper Mom (and Maybe Dad).

You know who’s not going to get a lot of a sleep over the next several months? Mom. And with more than one tiny, needy human in tow, making herself a priority is going to drop way down the list at least for a little while. Do something nice for her before her workload doubles.

  • Spa services. Treat the pregnant mama to a prenatal massage or a pedicure.
  • Prenatal yoga classes. I don’t speak from experience, but I imagine that during your second pregnancy, you reminisce about your first pregnancy and wonder how you ever had the space in your brain to Google that weird pain in your side for hours or curate the perfect baby registry. During the first pregnancy, moms have all kinds of time to just go places (like the yoga studio) and do things (like prenatal yoga). Wouldn’t it be nice to relive that, if only once or twice? If mama can get out of the house, a small package of prenatal yoga classes at a nearby studio might be a nice gift.
  • One last date night… for now. It’s hard enough to get out of the house with only one child. Before the next baby arrives, offer to babysit (or arrange and pay for babysitting from an adult the child is used to/comfortable with), and buy the parents a gift card to a nice, nearby restaurant.
  • A postpartum care kit.

Tip 9: Have a celebration, but not necessarily a shower.

Just because there’s no formal shower, doesn’t mean that friends can’t get together and celebrate the second-time mom-to-be. Some of these ideas can be done on a budget; others will be a bit more expensive; some are even worthwhile for the whole group.

  • Stock the freezer party. Here’s an example of how to do this. Make sure the guest of honor knows that she doesn’t have to plan a meal or bring any ingredients. The beauty of this is that everyone gets to go home with meals. Wildtree representatives also offer freezer meal workshops that you can host in your home, if you don’t have the time to plan and organize this kind of party yourself.
  • Host a busy bag swap. You know what is great? Keeping your toddler busy when there’s a new baby in the house. Busy bags can help provide the toddler with activities to keep him… uh… busy. To throw a busy bag swap party, each mom chooses a busy bag to make (there are tons of ideas on Pinterest) and puts together enough of that bag to share with each person attending the party. Like a stock the freezer party, if you’re doing this in honor of a mom-to-be, don’t make her do any of the work upfront, just let her benefit from everyone else’s.
  • Spa party. Many local spas will host parties where groups can relax and visit, have appetizers and beverages (non-alcoholic and otherwise), and get abbreviated/sample spa services.
  • Baby clothing or toy swap. Do the parents-to-be need clothes for a child of a different gender? Maybe their older child could use a few new and exciting toys to keep him or her occupied while mom and dad are tending to the newest member of the family. Consider doing a toy or clothing swap with other moms. Each mom brings clothing or toys they no longer plan to use and swaps them for items brought by other moms. Mom-to-be gets first dibs.
  • A girl’s night (or brunch) out. Get the ladies together and treat the mom-to-be to a nice brunch or dinner.
  • Or sprinkle the mama-to-be-again.

What else? Do you have other creative ways to celebrate or great gift ideas for baby no. 2?