We often walk the fifty or so yards from our home to a small neighborhood park. It is a trip we’ve taken hundreds of times and hundreds ever since the kids could barely walk. Oh, maybe we’d take a push cart or wagon when they were new walkers and the distance to the end of our driveway was enough to wear them out. But nine times out of ten, we walk.
Matou and the twins, 13 1/2 months.
We follow the kids’ lead where we might put our fingers in that crack in the concrete where the earth has settled, feel the softness of the bark a dying tree, behead an earthworm, touch the wheels of a parked fire truck, feel the bumpiness of rocks or the stickiness of a pine cone, chasing the black birds in the grassy lot across from the church, bark back at the dog in the neighbor’s window, peek around for lizards that have scampered into the ground cover. Sometimes, it might take forty minutes just to get to the park.
Sometimes? Sometimes, we don’t get there at all.
So you can imagine that after five straight days of raining, we were all ready to get out of the house, even if there was standing water everywhere, an event that caused my partner and mother to want to keep the kids’ feet planted firmly on sidewalk.
But it was me, the Classic Type A Personality, the ENFJ, that announced to my mom and partner, “let them splash!, so what? We have a perfectly functioning washing machine just inside the house.”
(Granted, I had Type A motivations: sensory experiences and neural pathways and the hopes that it would help get them tired before dinner and bed. But, more importantly,) they loved the mystery of it all – the sound of a splash, how the water sleeps and then thrashes when stepped upon, the coolness of the water between the fingers, the heaviness of wet clothes, the changing color from clear to brown, the grittiness of mud.
And as one moment in a collection of moments, we remembered: we remembered being kids, we remembered uninhibited play, the encouragement to try something new, and the security of knowing that our parents would make us warm and dry again.
So today, I am thankful for the unintended consequence of my twins – that I’ve become more patient, more forgiving, that they’ve reminded me to be a kid, allowing me the freedom to be struck by awe and wonder at the simplest things around me.
************** Rachel is the birth mom of a two-working-mom household to 21 month old boy/girl twins that can now open the gate at the bottom of the stairs. This is a problem. She blogs over at Motherhood.Squared
In the ways of keeping things sane at home, we have two things working against us. First, the kids stay at home all day with a nanny. Be it a care taker or a SAHP, it seems to me that the homes of toddlers who stay at home are more cluttered and toy-intensive than their out-of-the-home daycare counterparts.
Second. Christmas! Which means More! Stuff! The worst offender? There’s this mailbox that, when you open the door, a woman’s voice goes “Special DeLIVERRRRRRRRYYYYY!” like right out of Oprah Winfrey’s mouth when she’s announcing a big sit-down with Whitney Houston. Sure, there are volume adjustments, the problem is that the levels are Louder and Loudest. Anyway.
So, given our kids spend the majority of their days at home, here’s what we do to manage the battle against clutter and overwhelmed toddler (and mommy) brains:
Take Stock. Then Put Most Of It Away
We make it a point to not have everything out and available. People are all, “well, I don’t want to limit the creativity of my child’s imagination by selecting what toys are out”. Whatever, blah blah blah. I don’t think that by making an executive decision about the toys that are out (when they’re older, they can participate in the process), that I am shriveling up the right sides of their brains. We probably put a good 60%-80% away.
This is (above) our what-used-to-be-a-living room. Because of the configuration of our home, and the fact that the ‘living space’ is on the second story, this is the room the kids spend the majority of their time in. We have those blocks in the middle (have had them since forever, first to help with tummy time and crawling, later with pulling up, and now with walking over/stacking and helping with balance and coordination), but we move them out of the way when they are playing with their grocery carts.
To keep things fresh, we rotate books and some toys (except the favorites, whatever those might be at the time) every couple weeks or as needed. If I left it entirely to our nanny and my partner, there would be a ton more stuff out, but the general rule is if we’re pulling something new out, something needs to be moved into the storage closet.
Do Not Reveal The Whereabouts Or Contents Of The Hiding Closet To Your Toddlers
This is a very important space that should be severely downplayed should the toddlers remember what goes in. For this reason, I highly recommend rotating and storing toys after the kids go to bed, otherwise it’s “mommy, but I want _____!!!!” and then queue meltdown.
Purge With Purpose
As things get rotated out, I look and decide if (a) they really needit, (b) if they’ll be past interest by the time it makes its way back out, and (c) how many like items we already have. The wheeled-objects in our garage had multiplied like wet gremlins to three ride on-toys, a double-seater wagon, a wooden push cart, a jumpy horse thing, two tricycles (Christmas presents from the grandparents), and two shopping carts (1st birthday gifts that we had kept in storage until we wrapped them up and said they were from Santa. Score!) With so many wheeled objects, guess who took pictures and listed some half of it on Craigslist on Sunday?
Keep A Few Items In Each Room
We try to instill some of the practical nature of Montessori methods in our home, one being that each ‘ family room/space’ has a child’s stamp on it. Oddly enough, we have found that in doing this, the house is less messy because the mess stays relatively contained (or at least we don’t have to walk as far to put things away in their place).
We managed to sorta fit their play kitchen (purchased used on craigslist for $50, retails $180) into the corner of our dining area (above). And we have a small montessori table and chairs (below) for snacks and working on setting tables under the island stove. I will be honest and say that we have to say “feet on the floor” and “chairs are for sitting” A! LOT!, but this is the price we pay for developing independent beings by “teaching them to do things themselves”.
Our house is “shotgun-style,” long and narrow so there isn’t a lot of space to work with in any one room. In the hall that leads to the master bedroom, there is a bookshelf (below). The books are at the top now, for obvious reasons. On the lower shelves are a few small toys: two small puzzles in the basket, that thingy from Ikea that you find at doctors offices, and some magnet trains.
This room (below) used to be the office. It’s the area at the bottom of the stairs that leads to the postage stamp sized back yard. The kids bedrooms are downstairs, too. Didn’t take pictures because the kids were sleeping and we’re rearranging things in there anyway – but by most people’s standards, their rooms are quite bare. Anyway, there’s a bouncy horse that a family member got them for their 1st birthday. It used to be upstairs before we got the shopping carts. We have a basket with books (also the basket where we choose nighttime reading from), and a couple toys. We had that plexi-mirror installed when they were around 9 months to play with/see themselves, see cause-effect relationships.
Have The Kids Participate In Tidying Up
Yeah, so, this doesn’t always work smoothly at all. But we most certainly have them help us clean up and put things away. At the very least, early childhood is all about repetition and if they see us do it enough and if they do it enough, it will become a habit (unfortunately, that applies to bad habits, too, so watch your mouth, mommy). It is never too early to create good habits.
Is something not getting played with? Do you have more than one? Is it causing a ton of fights? Freecycle! Craigslist! Goodwill! Shelter!
We try to keep things very simple at home. Granted, these photos were taken after tidying up and after the kids had gone to sleep for the night (there are plenty of times when our house is more disasterous, though back then, we had a lot more stuff out). Too much stuff at once can overwhelm any adult so I can only imagine that it is sensory overload for developing toddler brains.
What about you? Any parents of kids-at-home with special tricks to keep some order in your house? (Dumping it in a toybox and shutting the door counts!)
************** Rachel is the birth mom of a two-working-mom household to 20.5 month old boy/girl twins that no, cannot ride a tricycle yet. She blogs over at Motherhood.Squared
By the time I was sixteen, through various volunteer activities through church and the community, I had walked among shoeless children living in a ‘town’ of cardboard boxes they called home, served meals to the homeless and mentally ill, and had read books to a hospitalized girl my age who would succumb to cancer a few days later.
I guess maybe because I had been around people with so little, that holiday excess always made me a bit uncomfortable. Don’t get me wrong: I love getting or giving a good present. I’m just saying that gifts aren’t everything, you know? And the holiday season amplifies this for me even more.
As a teen, there are a few truths I learned in these volunteer experiences: more than likely, you actually have it pretty good even when you think you don’t; it’s almost impossible to remain intolerant if you’ve ever ventured outside of your comfort zone and served with sincerity; and, everyone deserves to feel loved.
The kids participated in their first help-our-neighbors experience last weekend when, as a family, we went to deliver a heater to a family who doesn’t have any heat in their home. We also took some diapers and wipes to a woman who went into pre-term labor the day after her husband was murdered. Two days after Thanksgiving. Sure, the kids aren’t really aware of their participation because BACKYARDIGANS! And we bought them those totally unnecessary flashing Christmas light sabers at the neighborhood parade that night. But we intend to foster a commitment to service in the community is the point.
We especially plan to bridle the commercial madness that is holiday gifting. The kids are still too young to know what to do with the gifts (or maybe it’s because we haven’t emphasized the present part that they lack interest), so we are taking the opportunity to cultivate Christmas gift traditions for our family.
Someone in my neighborhood group posted that they manage the potential excess by limiting kids’ gifts to four:
Something they want
Something they need
Something to wear
Something to read
We kinda like that. We’ll also add in adopting a family and/or children with the same ages as Mateo and Harper and get our kids involved in the deciding of what to get them.
As for the rest of the family, we are pretty lucky in that all our siblings are agreeable that each child gets only one gift from each of the other families. So, for example, our kids each get one gift from my sister’s family, and one gift from my brother’s family (and the adults do not exchange gifts). Grandparents, thankfully, are equally agreeable.
Managing the excess isn’t for everyone, however, and that doesn’t make it bad, either. I have a friend who firmly believes in spoiling the kids to the brink at Christmastime and that totally works for them. I just hope our kids don’t grow up to be friends with theirs because THE PRESSURE!
What are your gifting traditions and/or gifting traditions you intent to harvest?
*********************** Rachel is the birth mom and one of two working mommies to twenty month old boy/girl twins. Her blog is: Motherhood.Squared
You know how often I get excited about Monday Night Football? NEVER. Except this past Monday night when the New Orleans Saints were up against the hotness that is Tom Brady. I used to live in New Orleans so I can occasionally care about these things. Oh, and in New Orleans is where I met my friend Anu, a cardiologist. I was a first year graduate student in the School of Public Health, all of twenty-two years old, the same age she had been when she had finished MEDICAL SCHOOL. We worked on a NIH grant together and had the grandest old time and have been friends ever since, even though she now practices medicine in Alabama, a huge SEC football rival to another sometimes favorite team, LSU. See how useful the internet can be?
So I am leaving the office that day and I send a text to Jennifer and I’m all “If I’m watching football, I want Azuma sushi for dinner”, because me sitting down to deliberately watch a football game should be rewarded! She’s all “I want Berryhill”, and I’m all “I’ll get both after we put the kids down” which is something you can do when you can drive downtown for sushi, hit the neighborhood Berryhill, and be back at home in your jammers all within 35 minutes. Sure, there’s been a string of arsons and shootings and whatnot, but the innercity does have it’s benefits!
There Jennifer was, unconscious on the floor because I was sitting down on the couch before kickoff, actually caring about football. Granted, I had my laptop. Midway into the first quarter, I fired up Facebook and posted the following status update: “Azuma Sushi takeout pairs nicely with Saints Kicking A**!”
The “likes” started rolling in – not unexpected since I do live in the Southish. And then my friend, Anu (remember her?) comments: “language, there are children around”, referring to Harper and Mateo, our 19.5 month old twins.
To which I responded: “@Anu, you should hear Harper say the word ‘focus’, or ‘fork’. Let’s just say my language is mild by comparison.” (You can hear it here).
To which another friend chimes in that her twins’ enunciatory challenge – and I can make up words like ‘enunciatory’ because I don’t even punctuate properly – that their challenge is the word “clock”.
The fact that actual words come out of their mouths, sometimes strung along in better 3-5 word structured sentences than their mommy has been known to use, is both amazing and frightening.
Over Thanksgiving, Mateo said “open the door, please” to my mother, clear as day. Of course, the next morning he asked for “missicks” (music), BUT STILL. That these tiny people-looking toddlers are speaking with intent is a bit disturbing. And funny! And a reminder that yes, I really do need to be aware that children, prone to repeating what they hear, are lurking around.
Any enunciatory gaffes in your household?
*********************** Rachel is a working mommy, toy broker, kitchen bitch, and birther to 19.5 month old boy/girl twins. Fodder for her childrens’ future therapy sessions is chronicled over on Rachel’s blog, Motherhood.Squared
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After reading the scenario below, you will be presented with a multiple choice selection to respond to said scenario. You will have three seconds, though usually less, to answer. Answer carefully: your selections are being studied and filed away for future reference by absorbant-minded toddlers. NO PRESSURE.
THE SCENARIO: Barely 17 month old boy riding the giraffe, holding a water bottle, minding his own business. Barely 17 month old girl is apparently not satisfied with the countless other toys/books available and stalks boy. Boy is otherwise oblivious to said stalking. Girl tries to yank water bottle from boy’s hands while simultaneously leaning into him in the hopes he might fall off. Or disappear. Boy screeches, stiff-arms, then slams his flat available palm into the back of girl’s head. Girl digs deeper. Boy falls to floor and starts crying as girl mounts the giraffe with the water bottle.
THE TEST: Do you…?
A: Go to boy and comfort him but also with a “hands are not for hitting” something or other, leaving girl without any immediate ‘consequence’ to her actions, effectively giving her ‘permission’ to have done what she did. B: Go to girl, take back water bottle, say something like “it’s his turn right now, we don’t take things away from each other” or something like that, then take girl off giraffe and help boy back on, then telling boy “hands are not for hitting”. Warning, likely to result in girl melting to floor in a crying heap. C: Laugh. Then either A or B or K knowing it’s irrelevant because they’ve now seen you laugh and you’ve sent a totally wacked out message by doing so, mainly that hitting or taking something might make Mommy laugh so let’s do it again! D: Try not to laugh by feigning eye contact as you pick a point on their foreheads while thinking of something mundane, like laundry, or that last time you had to disinfect a vomitous living room. E: D and A F: D and B G: C, then E H: C, then F I: Grab the camera and take pictures! Warning, usually accompanied by C. J: All of the above, basically achieving the same result as C. K: None of the above, because since they can’t exactly TELL you what happened, you can pretend like it didn’t. And at least get the dishes done before their bathtime so you can sit down after they go to bed for the first time since four that morning. L: Any of the above while trying to figure out how you’ll handle something like this the next time.
THREE SECONDS. Go!
Any given moment in twin toddlerhood is a teaching moment, and most of those moments the parent is the one learning something. At-risk-of-life-or-limb moments are no-brainers in that I’ll do what it takes to make them safe, even if grabbing them abruptly ends up startling them to tears (like when one of them was heading down some playground stairs, backwards, while watching birds, while not holding onto the bars, while generally NOT PAYING ATTENTION to what they were doing). But it’s the in-between stuff that’s difficult. I mean, who to go to first – the offender, or tend to the offended? What if when the offended was protecting themselves in the only primitive toddlery ways they know how, the offended then caused on offense to the original offender? Which actions to address? Which to consequence? Which to ignore? Let them fend for themselves, or intervene?
The weird thing is, I know what my disciplinary expectations are, it’s just that effecting the change IN. THE. MOMENT. is far more difficult in practice than it is in my head. I’m not saying every incident warrants action or learning from, but as a toddler rookie, my learning curve is steep!
*********************** Rachel is a working mommy, toy broker, kitchen bitch, and birther to 19 month old boy/girl twins. Fodder for her childrens’ future therapy sessions is chronicled over on Rachel’s blog, Motherhood.Squared
Rachel is the birth mom in a two-mom household with boy/girl 18 1/2 month old experts at the word “no”. You can read more about them at Motherhood.Squared
I was supposed to write a post during our Childcare Week about childcare back in April, but the death of my grandfather scrapped my posting plans, and, as is the story of my post-kids life, I am just now getting around to certain things. Irreparably long-winded (you should know how much I struggle to twitter!), I’ve stream-of-consciousness written about our childcare journey, but if you are short on time, scroll to the bottom for the executive summary.
Technically, we have used childcare since the day they were born. We took advantage of sending the twins off to the nursery at night, bringing them in only for feedings. Bonding, shmonding. We’d have plenty of time for that later, said the veterans in my mother’s of multiples group.
Major high-fives to all the mom’s who did the newborn period and beyond without any help from family or hired assistance, and especially to those who did that solo while breastfeeding while also being a stay-at-home parent. I am not one of those people. BY FAR.
My mom stayed with us for nearly two weeks, and she was free. My mom, my partner, and I rotated shifts for feeding the kids round the clock while others napped. My mom was a huge support and help, but my sister and I joke that the experience aged her twenty years, and rendered her forever frightened of watching over any of her grandchildren alone. We think she’s afraid they’ll multiply.
Jennifer’s and my original intention was for me to keep the twins during the day until I went back to work (at 12 weeks), at which time they would go to group daycare. But we learned fairly quickly (around 3 weeks, I think?) that it was far too overwhelming for me (major twin reflux, wonky sleeping patterns (of course, they’re newborns!), and utter exhaustion), so we scrambled to find a part-time day nanny to help me during the transition back to full-time work. Through word of mouth, we found someone that we paid $10/hr. It was worth every penny, but not necessarily a bargain in the end.
Of course, as things go, the daycare we had planned to send them was delayed in renovations and suddenly did not have space. The daycare where we had been waitlisted a year before and finally secured two spots three months before birth, confirmed, and re-confirmed within two weeks after their birth. To this day, I still swear up and down that our “practice” day at the place, fueled with the kids’ reflux, scared the bejesus out of them and that’s why they suddenly couldn’t accommodate us. But anyway. Thankfully, the day-nanny was more than willing to work full-time. In fact, she wanted the job full-time, but we felt that for our family, group daycare was the better option. Plus, during the two months she was with us, she proved to be unreliable and I started tuning out her excuses (the bus was late, my kid had a teacher meeting, etc). The ones I couldn’t hear over the steam blowing out of my employer’s ears because of my “childcare issues”.
Scramble some more. Turns out there was a Montessori infant program at a place exactly 200 yards from my office building. Thanks to a second-sibling discount (always ask!), the cost of daycare leveled out at around $1600 per month and I dropped them off before work, and picked them up on the way home. It was perfect.
Until about a month later, when the ear infections began (five in three months for the boy, alone.) I would oftentimes stay home from work, or Jennifer would, but there were days with work that that was not an option. With no available family to help, we often had to use agency care (through an agency we were familiar with, at least that) at a cost of essentially $100-$150/day (averaging 3-4 days of illness per month between both kids), pushing our childcare bill up to an average of $2100 per month. And then add to that all the stress and anxiety of coordinating care and related arrangements. Suddenly, we just weren’t sure that group daycare was the best option. As it was, my work (mostly men who just don’t get it), was already becoming tense and layoffs had begun.
What with all the illnesses and up at nights and working full time, we found a night nanny to give us a few nights of relief the two week run of The Runs. Turns out she was looking for some day work through the holidays, and we were looking at any way to get the kids out of daycare, a stint that lasted from July 28 to Dec 5. We were glad it was a temporary assignment with her, though. As good as she was, she had kids of her own and there were school issues and illnesses for her to deal with. Oh, and that day that I had to talk to her about being on time and how she blew up at me, yelling and screaming, and then crying that she’s sorry and how her husband is traveling a lot and how she misses her kids and I missed the rest of it because my brain was writing “find. someone. else” 1,000 times on the chalkboard of my here-and-now. One thing about hiring individuals is that you have to be willing, able, and comfortable confronting issues as they arise. Having a nanny is not for the passive. Well, unless you are passive-aggressive, I suppose. Ha!
Nevertheless, during the few weeks she was with us, we were able to take our time finding someone to be a full-time nanny, specifically an agency-provided live-in. That was most definitely the least expensive option (only $400 per week). I took a vacation day to show her the ropes, and the next day Jennifer had off from work to do the same. But she was a tiny Nicaraguan who didn’t speak much English (language barrier issue for my partner), she was too short to reach over the crib, my son was almost as heavy as she was, and we have a two-story house that requires constant up-and-down. She was great with the housekeeping but lacked confidence with the caretaking and that made me nervous. I felt horrible for letting her go after only one week, safety first and all.
But what now? Well guess who called a few days into live-in nightmare: flaky unreliable nanny from the beginning. She was great with the kids, when she showed up. I was like “Ok, but this is your last chance. You HAVE to be on time because we HAVE to get to work.” WE WERE DESPERATE! So we rehired the original flake. And then after a couple weeks of stellar performance, she no-call no-shows. And proceeds to not answer her phone for several days. More last-minute agency paid childcare.
Finally, in mid-January of 2009, we were happy to find a full-time nanny, someone who was old enough to be responsible and have experience with multiple children under her belt, young enough to be able to keep up with the kids, and had no children of her own (a HUGE bonus because then there’s none of their kids’ issues to interfere with your own, ironic as that is). We knew what we were getting because for 5 months she had often babysat for us once a month on Saturday mornings so that I could run errands and cook (my partner works on Saturday’s).
Most nannies’ hourly rate for twins runs about $11-18 per hour. I work in a business-hour office, having to leave at 7a and getting home around 6p. At an hourly rate, that can get expensive. My partner is an independent contractor (a golf instructor) and has more schedule flexibility. We wanted an arrangement that would better suit our needs, and we were able to negotiate a weekly rate with our nanny for a fixed amount. Some weeks our nanny works 60 hours, but more often she works far less, but gets the benefit of a steady income stream. Which means we pay right at around what we were paying with daycare + sick day care, but without the anxiety, stress, and hassle of juggling it all. Plus, she does all the kid-related housework. The kids are happy, she sends me pictures and text messages and videos, and we all think we got a deal. It hasn’t been perfect, but it’s the best arrangement we’ve had thusfar. Plus? NOTHING MORE THAN OCCASIONAL COLDS since December 2009. Knock. On. Wood.
We even get out to dinner every once in a while. Most babysitters in our area want $12-15/hr for twins. EVEN IF THEY ARE SLEEPING. So instead, we either ask our nanny to stay (we’ll buy her dinner or some other form of payment), swap with other parents in the neighborhood, or ask our neighbors if they’ll come over and watch TV (and then they borrow our SUV for moving stuff around, or I give them greens for their compost bin, or whatever we can barter).
Is this forever? No. We definitely want the kids in at least a part-time day program at some point. But first, we want to get through this winter/flu season. I still have anxiety over last fall’s experiences. So maybe closer to their second birthday. After crunching numbers a couple weeks ago, we I know that we can’t afford a full-time nanny/housekeeper AND part time programming for two children (for the purpose of expanding their days and play and experiences past our home). We’re not sure our nanny will want part-time work, though she does want to go back to school. Even so, we’re not ready for someone else to drive our kids around. We’re also contemplating a part-time program with one parent working part-time. We’ll see what the future brings.
Our Family: two full-time, out-of-the-house, working parents Kids: boy/girl twins, 18 ½ months at the time of this post Average cost of childcare in area (Houston, Texas): Sitters– $12-15/hr Night nanny – $17-25/hr (the higher range tends to be through an agency) Non-Agency Day nanny – $11-17/hr (to depend on the level of English fluency, whether or not the nanny has a vehicle, whether or not they are picking up your kids, the nanny’s experience, age of nanny, ages of children, who is paying taxes, and whether or not the nanny is also doing any combination of cooking and housework.) Our childcare progression: nanny, daycare, ear infections and stomach viruses ensued, back to nanny in home. Biggest pro: If they’re sick, they’re still home. Very reliable. No rushing out the door. It’s smooth. I’m not on a hit list at work anymore, at least not for childcare reasons. Biggest con: we are paying more than we ever expected to spend on childcare, but at least it’s predictable. Factors in our decision: remaining employed, stress, availability of a nanny the kids and we, the parents, are quite happy with overall.
Oh, eighteen months. Eighteen months is a generally safe distance from which to evaluate That First Year – far enough from twelve months for That First Year not to slap you upside the head unexpectedly, but close enough for you to say Ha! – We Win!
Just last night, Jennifer and I were talking about how incredibly blessed we are to have two healthy, happy 18 month olds, pleased as punch with their development, and generally patting ourselves on our two-working-parent backs. Something that’s really easy to do during a relaxing dinner with kids sleeping soundly. Something not so easy to do when waiting over an hour for the doctor to enter the room for a well-checkup only for him to call out over his shoulder to his nurse regarding the kid he just saw: “yes, he has the swine flu”.
I’ve seen plenty of commentary across the blogs/magazines/books I read about the fun, cute stuff related to infants and toddlers. And plenty about the crappy things, if it’s also funny. (Or maybe that’s the stuff I’m drawn to?) But here’s the thing, it hasn’t been – for me – only that kind of thing. And even in my parent and neighborhood community boards, it seems people only want to talk about the raw stuff in an anonymous post. But screw that, because the entirety of this experience thusfar has molded me into the person and parent I’m becoming:
I was fascinated by the twins when they were born, but I didn’t want to be alone with them Not because I was afraid of them, or that I would hurt them, or that I was insecure. But because I was afraid the reflux would be bad during feeding times and what if they threw up at the same time and they were still hungry at the same time and what if I couldn’t hold them upright for long enough before throwing up? The thought gave me great anxiety.
Of course, my worst anxiety/fears came to fruition. Feeding after feeding, day after day, week after week. There were evenings when Jennifer would have to work late and I would be on the ground, cross-legged, one baby nestled into my lap/knee and the other baby in the bouncy seat, trying to feed both very hungry (because they had thrown up the meal before) infants at once. And then continuing the feeding for one while burping the other. Then the bottle rolling off or me needing to switch positions and then the burping baby throwing up all over me and the sofa and the seated baby screaming and then throwing up over me and the rug, then all three of us crying while trying to keep the dogs from eating the vomit. And though it seemed an endless period of time, turns it out was about two months.
I straight up requested anti-anxiety/anti-depressants (yay for Lexapro!) at my six week follow-up with my OB/GYN. I wasn’t full-on depressed, but I was within emotional distance of the darkness I felt when I took Clomid (depression can be a side-effect), and I just wanted something to take the edge off, particularly with me returning to work. My physician obliged, and five months later, I weaned off it.
There were weeks that the crying jags were so piercing in the evenings, that I was glad I had gone back to work. And there were days when I could have left work at 5:15ish, but didn’t say “no” when the boss asked if I could work on something before I left. The benefit of this was both that it made me look like I was a go-getter post-babies at work, but also that it narrowed the amount of time between the nanny leaving and chunks four hours of baby sleep coming. Many of those days, I would spend the 30 minute drive home praying for strength to get through the next 5 hours.
I made a very unpopular decision and pushed to have the dogs re-homed. One day, after getting home from work, acid reflux sessions, laundry, bottles, etc, it was near 10pm when we were about to eat dinner and the dogs were underneath us. We had both forgotten to feed them. Again. They had been ignored, neglected, and I was completely overwhelmed with the thought of failing two more dependents. So I made the unforgiveable-to-some decision to find loving homes with people we knew that would give them the time and attention they truly deserved. I did this via an email blast to friends and family which were subsequently forwarded to their friends and family. Several of those people felt the need to tell me that I was doing great harm to the dogs, that I was selfish, and questioned what I would do with my own children once things got overwhelming with them.
We hired a night nanny. Yep, scoffed by other parents both publicly and privately, we submitted to their implications that we could not (or would not) take care of our own children. But to be honest, I would have foregone mortgage payments to keep our night nanny had it come to that. We had someone 1 to 6 nights a week, in decreasing frequency, from when they were 9 days old until they were about 15 weeks old. A benefit to this was that they were sleeping through the night at approximately 11 weeks (10p-5a, then). And early on, those nights that we didn’t have someone there at 10pm, I would go to sleep with great anxiety of what the night might bring. What if I slept too hard and didn’t hear someone through the monitor? What if I didn’t get any sleep? How would I manage? And I was glad that at least I had Lexapro.
And yet, I loved them. Would lay down my life for them.
Looking back, are my kids worse off for not exclusively breastfeeding? Not that I can tell. Are the dogs suffering? Actually, they’re both being spoiled profusely. Did taking anti-depressants make me less of a person? No, it kept me sane. Do the twins feel abandoned because it was someone else feeding them during the night? No, we’re just poorer.
All that to say, for the new parents of multiples, don’t minimize your feelings or your response to a given situation just because it doesn’t seem a big enough deal. Your litmus test is not what other parents of multiples/neighbors/friends/family did or tell you you should do, but only what will ensure a healthy environment for you and yours. As for parents of multiples outside the striking distance of That First Year, any confessions you want to share?
Rachel is a number cruncher by day, the birth mom in a two-mom household to boy/girl 17 month old twins. A new website is coming, but for now, you can read more about ‘em at http://rajencreation.wordpress.com/
Last Thursday, the kids started with runny noses. Friday and Saturday was my Mother’s Of Multiples club Garage Sale. Which I co-chair. So I was a little busy. I cooked all afternoon Sunday for the week (chicken cacciatore, oyaku donburi, meatloaf, cod and veggies in a cheese sauce, steamed jasmine rice, mmmmmm!). Work is crazy busy (for me, it’s in an office, for you, it could very well be attending to your kids at home). And we had an urgent and unplanned visit to the pediatrician Monday for what was ultimately for Croup. Not an atypical week in the life of a mom, really.
I was reading Goddess In Progress’ post, Absolving The Guilt, and I SO REMEMBER feeling the feelings those new MoM’s were distraught over. In fact, there are still days that I get that guilty feeling, to be honest. What between being a good partner, keeping the house up, paying the bills, feeding my family, planning garage sales, trying to finalize my new blog/website for launching next week, fighting off a cold, and a full time job.
So rather than fret about not having the time to write the post I intended to write, I leave you with a clip of my kiddos. Because there are moments in each hour that sprinkle our every day that make me swell with happiness that our life is our life, even if it’s different from the ones the books and articles and parenting groups say we should have. In the midst of the chaos and ‘broken rules’, there will be moments to marinate in, moments like this where I am stood still in the wonder that these little beings were formed in my womb. Hang in there, new mom’s of multiples, it doesn’t get easier, but it does get different.
Rachel is a number cruncher by day, the birth mom in a two-mom household to boy/girl 17 month old twins. A new website is coming, but for now, you can read more about ‘em at http://rajencreation.wordpress.com/
In the movie Fight Club, there’s this guy (Edward Norton) with insomnia who wants medication and instead his doctor suggests he visit a support group to witness more severe suffering than his own. Granted, he doesn’t just go and observe. He goes, makes up a story about a terminal illness, gets a bunch of support, and this in turn gives him an emotional release that helps him finally get some sleep.
PARENTING GROUPS SERVE A SIMILAR PURPOSE, PEOPLE.
Irritated that my twins are in a whiny mood? Well at least they didn’t take off each other’s poop diapers and paint the walls with its’ contents.
There. I feel better already.
I’m in two groups (well, three, if you count my waning participation in an online forum of the first cryobank we ever used). Though both are parenting/kid groups, they offer enough differences where my participation in both is beneficial.
The first one is my neighborhood group and it friggin rocks. We have a Kids Group with 635 families, diverse about as diverse in socioeconomics and demographics as you can get in a very eclectic urban area. Everything from vegan earth mamas of cloth-diapered singletons who have time to fret about nursery water to corporate moms and dads with kids in full-time daycare that eat chinese takeout to single parents to same-sex parents and everything in between.
Mom’s Night Out’s are at local hotspots on real adult “go out” nights. Gasp! What’s the name of that guy’s name that does home repairs for a resonable price and he’s the husband of so-and-so? Or the favorite pediatric dentist? Just ask. Wondering what the helicopters were doing overhead last night? Does someone know someone in the Mayor’s Office who can deal with the lights that don’t get fixed at a certain intersection? Is that stranger seen walking down Cortland street a concern? Check the forum.
I’ve lent out PeaPods, borrowed pack n plays, passed around books, all to people that I would have not necessarily ever met were it not for the group. Heck, I’ve lent things out and taking meals to people I hadn’t before then met! But the beauty of the group is its inherent trust. Plus, HUGE BONUS, knowing your neighbors (and I’m not just talking the ones next door, I’m talking the ones a couple miles down the road) decreases the likelihood of parenting by fear, and it gets kids and parents outdoors, talking to one another.
I’m also a member of a Mother’s of Multiples club (on the Board, actually). Because my city is so large, there are four or more MoM’s clubs in our area. The one in geographic proximity to where we live has a very sophisticated, professional, upper income membership (and they STILL let me in!), so there isn’t as much diversity (we’re one of two two-mom households), but it’s an incredible resource for question and answers related to all things multiple.
I often glance through forum posts just to see what I’m headed into. Like, say, I’m less concerned that my son beats his head to put himself to sleep, and I have ideas as to how to keep my daughter’s diaper on (put it on backwards! make sure she’s always wearing pants! use it as an opportunity to foster potty awareness in preparation for training!). Scrubbing through posts and posting my own question there helped me decide to separate our twins sleeping quarters. Twin events like Halloween Parties and Egg Hunts are fertile grounds for adorable photos. Plus, HELLO? MoM’s of Multiples Garage Sales are UNBEATABLE events. (And not just because I co-chair ours).
Both groups have Mom’s Nighs Out, Dad’s Night Out, playgroups, Dinner Drops for new parents, and forums. These groups are places where you can post “my kid won’t eat pasta” or “my nipple caved in” and feel absolutely normal.
You just listen to the crickets chirp if you tossed out that bit of info at a work luncheon.
To my benefit, both groups also use (purely coincidental) BigTent as the group’s online community, so I can check what’s going on with both groups using one login. BigTent offers a Classifieds section where members of each group can buy and sell items to one another. A few weeks ago, I purchased a sewing maching for thirty bucks. And then I signed up for sewing lessons at a place recommended by people in my Neighborhood Group. Net. Work.
How about you? What are your go-to communities? Where do you seek and give support to others?