After I had the girls, I took a one year maternity leave from work; that was just about the only family-friendly benefit my job offered. I was with the girls every day, all day (and night after exhausting night) for the first 365 of their little lives.
During that time, I distinctly remember people making remarks like, “Oh, she definitely knows Mommy!” or “See! She just wanted her Mommy.” I can remember being genuinely taken back by these comments. Although I had definitely bonded with my babies, I never really got the sense that they preferred me to my husband or other close family members. I knew, for instance, that I was better at calming Ella than anyone else, or that I had the best method to get Amelia down for a nap. But to say that they knew I was their Mommy? I wasn’t so sure. And it worried me.
When I went back to work part-time, I was sick both emotionally and physically. I cried many times in my cubicle, often cursing out loud while speaking to clients over the phone (relax: I am a quick draw with the Mute button!), lamenting over what I was missing at home while they driveled on and on about the “crises” in their lives. I didn’t want to leave my babies. I didn’t want to miss one smile or laugh or developmental milestone. I wanted to be the one who comforted them when they were upset or not feeling well. My inability to relinquish control over their lives was enough to make me go mad. But, worse still, was the worry that my daughters would not associate me as their primary caregiver, as Mommy, and would prefer my mother-in-law (GASP!) or my husband, who were taking care of them in my absence.
My co-workers often asked me if the babies cried when I left for work. Sometimes. Truthfully, that stopped after about a month or so. And when it did, I was secretly upset. Are they happier staying with my mother-in-law for 8 hours? (For the record, most people tell me one hour is their absolute maximum with her…) Do they like her better: the way she makes their oatmeal, the songs she sings at nap time, her eagerness to chase after them outside? And lest you think this is really about my issues with the MIL, rest assured; it wasn’t just the girls’ bond with my mother-in-law that had me worried. At times, I convinced myself that my girls preferred my husband, my mom, even my father-in-law, to me.
And then they hit the 18-20 month mark. And I quit my job to stay home with them full-time. “Be careful what you wish for.” That’s a direct quote from my husband. God forgive me, some days I wish my name wasn’t Mama. Ella barely has one eye open and she is calling for Mama. Amelia escapes a fall (as in doesn’t even hit the ground!?) and she is screaming at the top of her lungs for Mama. Someone has a poopy diaper and they run to tell Mama. Snack cup runneth dry on crackers? Just throw it at Mama! My personal favorite: when my husband goes to get Ella up from her nap, which is an every day occurrence, and every.single.day I hear her over the monitor yell, “No, Daddy! Mama!” Mama mia! It never ends.
But you know what? I don’t want it to end. As in EVER. Yes, it can try your patience. Yes, it can be exhausting, especially on those mornings when you just cannot bare the thought of another 6am wake-up call (literally) for Mama!, and you realize in your stupor that THIS MEANS YOU, JACKASS! You know what I do on those mornings? I drink a cup of coffee, watch my girls laugh and play, and snicker to myself about the days when I was actually worried that they had some sort of attachment disorder. And I brace myself for the days ahead when the last person on my babies’ minds is their Mama.
I often wonder if multiples take longer to bond with their primary caregivers than singletons. Caring for multiples is hard work; we know this all too well. It’s not easy, emotionally or physically, for one person to provide the majority of the care for twins, triplets, or quads. Having said that, I know that many of us do it. But, I also know that many MoMs have very active husbands or partners. Raising multiples is very much a tag team sport and a task that we seem to divide more equally than parents of singletons, and for obvious reasons. Additionally, grandparents, extended family, close friends, and outside childcare providers seem to play more of an active role in the raising of multiples than is the case for singletons. I wonder what effect, if any, this has on bond formation between mother and babies?
So, when did you become the center of your babies’ worlds? For those of you who also have singletons, did you notice a different bond with your multiples?