A dear, dear friend of mine who is a new mom recently sent me an email that ended with a sense of desperation as she wrote that she was so drained by the end of the day taking care of her daughter that she simply didn't have time nor energy for anything else, and how can I possibly manage with two?
To put into context, this particular friend is the most ambitious person I know, so incredibly driven when she has a goal, and is an accomplished attorney, so this plea for help is very atypical.
I have two answers (ok, maybe three) for her question. And by no means am I an expert: I remember asking the same question to another friend of mine who was ready to give birth to #2 when I was pregnant with #1 and I simply couldn't imagine how she would handle two, and of course there is the case of the Duggars with their 19 kids, so I am sure that Mrs. Duggar has better answers than I do.
First of all, this is the situation that no one tells you about. Every single person thinks that taking care of a newborn - all of the feeding, burping, changing, napping - just won't take up all day. It just won't - it can't! The math doesn't add up for the very needs that a little baby has. What's interesting here is that it does take all day and no one is yet able to figure out why.
(I think this is an official mystery of the universe.)
So, it's important to remember that everyone goes through this initial shock and there's an adjustment period. Yes, it takes several months to adjust to it all.
That being said, here are my two cents:
Cent #1: The key is being flexible. You need to let go of strict schedules (and I don't mean a schedule for baby here, I mean a schedule for you) and planning. You need to become flexible because you simply cannot control what the baby will do. Once you let go of defining yourself by a schedule, you will be better able to "go with the flow" and set your own pace. This doesn't mean not developing a routine - I actually think that a routine is important - but this means that if you always take a walk at 2 pm, but today the baby is napping at 2 and you're only able to go at 2:30 instead, then that's fine. If you try to stick to a strict schedule then you are just setting yourself up for failure.
The corollary to the "be flexible" mantra is "improvise". Substitute a towel/sweater/blanket for a burp cloth when you don't have one, use a carrot for the baby to suck on instead of the pacifier, wash the baby in the sink instead of the tub if necessary - figure out how to make do with what you've got, given the constraints that you have. 99.9% of the time, the baby will not care.
Cent #2: Be speedy. This doesn't mean that you should always be in a rush, heavens no, since rushing leads to accidents. Being speedy means that you don't have time to dally. When the baby is napping and you have a 20-minute window, you ramp up your pace to get things done. Use Clorox wipes instead of a cloth and spray bottle, use convenience foods for shortcuts, take a 5-minute shower, multi-task in the kitchen. If you want to get certain things done during the day, you're just going to have to take advantage of your non-kid times to do the priority items. (If you're flexible and you don't get everything done on your list, well, tomorrow is another day and you'll pat yourself on the back for you what you did accomplish.)
Not that I figured all of this out overnight. But for you, it's available here free of charge...