Q. I'm a 33-year-old stay-at-home mother of two boys -- 1 and 3 and both in diapers -- and I deeply need a workable routine!

Before the second child was born, I can proudly say I had a very consistent and comfortable routine, with my firstborn taking naps at the same time every day, so I could count on a needed break and get some things accomplished.

Ever since my younger son was born, however, the older one has refused to take a nap in his bed. He just doesn't want to miss anything.

He also won't cooperate with "quiet time" in his room alone. He wants as much attention from me as he used to get. I have to take care of his younger brother and the house and I really need a break from his whining.

My 1-year-old is a happy, smiling, active red-headed boy but he also refuses to nap in his crib. He will scream for an hour when I put him in it for a much-needed nap. It seems like he doesn't want to be separated from me either.

I now have to resort to car rides in the morning and afternoon to get them to fall asleep.

This is very wearing on me and the boys, for we all become tired and stressed when they don't take their naps.

A. Naps -- or the lack of naps -- are a big issue for you, but the arrival of your dear second child may be a bigger one.

The transition from one child to two is a tremendous adjustment for parents and always greater than they expected. For some reason two children multiply the work and the stress by five.

You not only need to get more help from your husband, you need to lower your expectations.

You or your husband have to market, fix meals, wash dishes, change diapers, make beds and pick up the toys, but you don't have to fix fancy meals or change the children's clothes every time they get a smudge. Some vacuuming will have to be done occasionally, but save it for mornings; clean the bathroom when the boys are in the tub and do a little extra housework with your husband on weekends. The rest can be ignored or postponed.

This will give you more time to read to the children, take them to the park and play T-ball and pattycake, which is the work that really matters.

At first you may feel like you're shirking your responsibilities, but actually you'll be building a sturdy foundation for your children, as necessary as the footings for your house.

Afternoon naps are also important, but you shouldn't have to drive the boys around to make them sleep. Instead ease the little one away from a morning nap by replacing it with playground time, guiding him down the last few feet of the slide again and again, while the older one runs around, then take them home for an early lunch. The baby should be tired enough for a long afternoon nap and your 3-year-old will probably be willing to lie down for 40 minutes if you set the timer and tell him that you'll play with him -- just him -- as soon as it rings, but not before. Whether this rest turns into a short nap or not, it will give you the chance to take one of your own.

A daily break will give you the energy to take an afternoon walk with the children, which is probably one reason you decided to be a stay-at-home mom.

In a year or so you'll find time to do one small thing each day, so you will have a greater sense of accomplishment at night, but do something you enjoy, something that can be done in 20-minute segments.

It takes a workable attitude to establish a workable routine with two children and you can never expect this routine to be as easy as it was with one. To get some good ideas, read "Simplify Your Life with Kids" (McMeel, $14.95), by Elaine St. James. Her fine, sensible approach to parenthood will take some stress out of your life.

Questions may be sent to margukelly@aol.com or to Box 15310, Washington, D.C. 20003.