Re-Entering the Workforce

My last day in the corporate world was Friday, January 2, 2009, before my girls were born on Monday, January 5.  The game plan has always been that I would stay at home with the girls until they start kindergarten, in Fall 2014, at which time I hope to rejoin the workforce in a similar capacity to what I have always done.

This past fall, though, a couple of months before the girls’ fifth birthday, I was presented an opportunity to manage a long-term project for my former employer.  Estimated at 20 hours of work each week, the hours would be flexible.  I would work mostly from home, coming into the office for select meetings, as necessary.  I jumped at the chance to begin to ease back into the corporate world.

I’ve been clocking hours for the past couple of weeks.  So far it’s been both fantastic and challenging…with a few late nights and a dose of humor thrown in for good measure.

The Good

It’s been nothing short of invigorating to put on my business hat again.  I would never trade a day I’ve enjoyed with my girls over the past five years, nor do I want to wish away one second of the next few months before they start school in the fall.  I’ve relished my role as a stay-at-home-mom, but it’s been really energizing to step into a completely different role for a few hours.

The first time I opened my mouth and industry jargon flowed forth, I had to smile to myself.  I haven’t talked about product details and consumer shopping habits in ages…but those rivers run deep, I was reminded.

While I’m working on this project with a different department from where I used to work, it’s also been wonderful to run into a few of my former colleagues.  I’ve gotten some really delighted smiles and welcome back hugs, which has been so nice.

The Challenging

Re-entering the workforce after children from hdydi.comThe most challenging aspect of the past couple of weeks has been parts of the “work mostly from home” portion of the job description.  It’s true that I can do much of my work at any time, and I’ve been trying my best to consolidate that to before the girls’ wake-up time and after they’re in bed.  However, I’ve had a couple of conference calls to attend during the day, and that hasn’t always gone so smoothly.

During my first call, the girls were relatively well-behaved.  I did have to locate the mute button on my phone (which I’d never used before), but all in all, it went OK.

Since then, though, the girls have gotten a little more “brave”.  I cautioned them that only in the event of an emergency were they to interrupt me.  I forgot that “emergency” should have been more expressly defined to my five-year olds.  During my last call, I was interrupted for lip cream (chap stick) and for white drawer paper.  Afterwards, they explained to me,”…but I NEEDED chap stick!  My lips were chapped!”  Yup, that’s an emergency to a five-year old.

My girls don’t require me to interact with them 100% of the day, but I am usually pretty deliberate about saying, “Mommy will read one more book, and then I need to go make supper,” or, “When we finish this game, you can go upstairs and play while I make a phone call.”  The unscheduled interruptions are a relatively new thing for them.

We still have work to do in this area.

The Funny

I had to laugh at myself when I started combing my closet for appropriate business attire.  I found myself wondering if the tags from the cleaners had an expiration date.  Of the 20 or so pairs of slacks I have, most haven’t been touched in SIX YEARS (since I was wearing maternity clothes the winter before the girls were born).  While most of my pants are relatively classic (or that’s what I’m telling myself), I also had to laugh at the fit of a couple of pairs.  Um, I don’t think this will accomplish the has-it-all-together working mama look.

And then I laughed (to keep from crying) the first day I tried to wear heels for an extended period of time.  Since the girls were born, I’ve always said that I wore heels any chance I got…but in looking back, I realize those were very limited occasions.  Sure, I wore heels now and again out to eat, to a wedding, to a graduation…but I hadn’t had them on for a full six hours in many years.  I started off last Thursday, feeling professional and standing tall.  I did fine until I was rushing to pick the girls up from school…I stepped out of the car and tears came to my eyes.  I don’t know what happened, exactly, but my feet had had enough.  I limped into the preschool, but thank goodness I had some ballet flats in the car so I could make the drive home.

Lastly, I’ve laughed at the former colleagues who didn’t recognize me at all.  Granted, my hair hasn’t been this long since I graduated high school, and the last year before the girls were born, I wore glasses instead of contacts.  Oh, and I’ve lost about 60 pounds since I last graced the halls (during my about-to-pop last days of pregnancy).  Well…maybe I’ll grant them a pass, now that I think about that one.

Have you had any deja vu moments harkening back to your pre-baby days?  Have you re-entered the work force after some time away?  How did it go?  And [PLEASE!] tell me you have some magic to keep my kiddos at bay while I’m on the phone???

MandyE is mom to five-year old fraternal twin girls.  She blogs about their adventures, and her journey through motherhood, at Twin Trials and Triumphs.

Twinfant Tuesday: From Two Kids to Four

Looking back on the time that my twins were infants, sometimes I wonder how I survived that first year without significant hair loss and mental duress.

I have four kids. A sixteen year old boy (Trey), a 4-year-old boy (Jonah), and 21 months behind him the twins: 2-year-olds Max and Macy.

Twinfant Tuesday: From Two Kids to Four from hdydi.comI had Trey when I was just a baby myself. I had gotten pregnant my last semester of high school and gave birth to him during my midterms of my freshman year of college. I finished the semester with a 4.0 and nursed Trey a whole year.

After a failed marriage and several failed pregnancies, Jonah came twelve years later. I was a manager at a huge retail store and went back to work within 8 weeks. I nursed Jonah exclusively, so many hours were spent in my office with the horrible sounds of my electric breast pump working itself (and me) to death.

Three months after Jonah’s first birthday, I learned I was pregnant with twins! There was no elation running through my body. All I felt was fear. I couldn’t fathom that I would be the mother to four and I also stressed about pregnancy loss. (I will write my birth/pregnancy story another time.) The further along my pregnancy progressed, though, my fear was replaced with confidence. I figured I survived being a full time student at only 18 and nursing my baby full time. I survived corporate hell and no sleep for a year with a baby and we were great! I could handle twins! Twins were going to be a cinch!

My husband and I decided I’d stay home full time after all the bed rest and child care costs so I was ready to tackle the task! I was superwoman! Ready to conquer the realm of twins with no hesitation.

Well… hats off to all moms out there, but I’ll take my shirt off and give it to you moms of multiples. Infant twins are tough and I’m a proud survivor.

First of all, knowing that it’s going to be twice the work, and executing it are very different. My twins came out with very different schedules and needs. Neither ever wanted to feed together, sleep together, or anything together. I felt my life was a constant cycle of breastfeeding, pumping, changing, bathing, holding and kissing
squirming demons.

I am super blessed my twins came home straight from the hospital, but I wasn’t ready. I couldn’t get Macy to latch on for almost five months. Max was a nursing fool from three weeks on, but my girl needed coaxing. So in addition to eight to ten nursing sessions, I had to pump every three hours. Their toddler brother was very upset he’d been kicked off the mommy milk train and began to throw tantrums at the sight of me doing either.

My house looked like a Babies ‘R Us. I didn’t have much help from anyone because my husband was working constantly and most of my family was far away. My extra hands were swings, bouncers, Boppy pillows and Bumbos. I tried to hold at least one baby at all times because I felt guilty to put them down. I held and rocked my singletons constantly. I cried daily thinking I didn’t bond with my twins the same way.

Sundy with each of her 4 kids.

With twins, I had to learn to just “let it go”. This was the hardest thing to learn and I still struggle with it. My house isn’t the dust free museum of cleanliness it once was. I have relinquished control of laundry, dishes, and pretty much anything that doesn’t need immediate attention. My home is not a pig sty, but my children are evident in every square inch.

The biggest difference of having one infant compared to two was what happened within myself.

I can give lots of advice on what gadgets to use, how to wear twins while pushing a stroller and shopping for six, how to tandem nurse successfully, or how to baby proof anything. I have tons of ‘how-tos’ to hand out.

Those things were helpful to know. The real secret and best piece of wisdom I have though is: Be willing to change.

Be willing to accept defeat. Be okay with crying. Be okay with not being superwoman. You will adapt no matter the circumstances. One baby or three, working or not, single or married. I do so many things I never thought possible.

My twins are now two and it’s a whole new level of difficulty. They run in a dozen different directions every time I blink.

That first year, though… I survived! And so did they.

Mommy is a Person, Too

Did you see this article, “Mommy Is A Person”, circulating on social media recently?  After seeing a couple of friends post links, notated by words like, “AMEN!” in all caps, I decided to see what the fuss was about.

I can’t personally identify with all the examples the author cites as part of her “personhood”…it’s just not feasible for my husband and me to have a date night once a week, or to get 8 hours of sleep every night…but it did serve as a good reminder of something I try to model for my girls.

Until my girls were about 18 months old, I attended to their every single need.  My schedule was completely dictated by their schedule.  I rationalized that they slept so much in a 24-hour period that I needed to be concentrated fully on them when they were awake.

They had my undivided attention, or – if not – the undivided attention of my husband.  I remember how odd it felt one Saturday when my husband was sick.  On week days I cooked supper ahead of time, while the girls were sleeping, but I was in a quandary when Hubby couldn’t play with the girls that particular afternoon and I had a meal to make.  It was such a strange feeling to have my girls playing – by themselves – for a full hour while I made dinner.

Once the girls dropped down to one nap a day, I decided I could (and should) start to peel myself away from them a bit.  I wrote a blog post entitled, “There’s No Such Thing as the Kitchen Fairy”.  That was my move to making breakfast after the girls got up…rather than having it waiting on them, as I had always done.

Over the next few months, I continued to establish time for the girls to spend apart from me during the day.  In addition to meal prep, I eventually instituted “coffee time” for Mommy.  For 45 minutes or so during the morning, Mommy sits down with her coffee (and usually her computer), while the girls play.

It took a little getting used to, but I now see it as a really good thing.

Mommy is always Mommy, but she is a person, too.  Mommy loves more than anything to spend time with her babies, but there are other things she likes to do, as well.

Mommy likes to drink her coffee and edit pictures and journal (and blog!).

Sometimes while Daddy hangs out with the girls, Mommy likes to read a book, or go for a walk by herself.

Once a month, Mommy likes to get her toenails painted.

Mommy occasionally likes to meet one of her friends for coffee on a Saturday afternoon.

Mommy belongs to a Mothers of Multiples group.  She has a monthly meeting during which she learns new things and connects with other moms.

Recently I’ve instituted the policy that we don’t begin eating until everyone is seated at the table.  I’d gotten into the habit of serving the girls first, and sometimes they (and occasionally Hubby) would be half finished with their meals by the time I made it to the table.  Mommy is a person, and she enjoys eating a hot meal, in relative peace, just like everyone else.

Although it was at first hard to work up to, having established this “space” is a real positive.  In particular, the time away is a way to reenergize…to refresh…and to have a chance to miss my babies for a little while.

It’s also an opportunity to model for my girls that being well-rounded, that taking care of ourselves, is a very valuable part of life.

How do you take care of yourself?  How do you show your kids that “Mommy is a person, too”?

MandyE is mom to 4 ½-year old fraternal twin girls.  She blogs about their adventures, and her journey through motherhood, at Twin Trials and Triumphs.

Secondary Guilt

This is my fourth week back at work since the birth of our twins 13 weeks ago.  In the weeks leading up to my return, I had many people offer support (sharing their stories of tearful returns to the workplace) and some asking if I was really going to go back.  For much of my maternity leave, I felt this looming deadline.  I wondered how I would feel once back at work.  I’ve nearly always had two jobs since I was 19 years old, and for just as long, have known that I would return to work once I had kids.  But, I also knew everything could possibly change once I met their little faces.

Four weeks ago now the deadline was in front of me.  I re-entered the office that I left prematurely in June for a month of bed rest.  I chuckled a little at the decaf keurig coffee pods in my desk drawer, and my eggless Caesar dressing in the fridge, along with other things I couldn’t ingest while pregnant.  I noticed outdated paperwork and a card from my co-workers meant to be handed over in a shower that I missed due to sudden bed rest.  But, ultimately, I was shocked by how easily I fell back into the flow of working.  Granted, we did have our nanny start a week early, so that I could get to know her a bit.  That definitely helped to ease back into the work force.

I always thought that I would feel guilt about returning to work.  Instead, I felt guilt about how not guilty I felt.  I mentioned this to a close friend, an attorney who is pregnant with her third baby and a working mom.  She said, “Katie.  I work so that I can afford a cleaning crew and a nanny.”  My mom remarked, “Yes, we do need to work to afford these things.”  My friend clarified: “No, I mean, I work so that I can justify getting help with my kids and cleaning and don’t have to do it all myself 24/7.”  I applaud her honesty.  It gave me permission to be more honest about my feelings on this subject.

Let me be clear.  I am a feminist who is absolutely in awe and support of ANY moms, whether you are a SAHM, work multiple jobs, or have tons of help while you lie in bed and eat bon bons.  I am not here to judge, and believe we need to create a society that celebrates all choices that moms make.  I also recognize that I’m blessed that this is a “choice” for me, and that it’s not for many women.  Not to mention, I’m aware that working a mile from home, with pretty sane hours make all this far easier of a decision.  That said, with all the recent talk about “Leaning In,” and the like, this is one perspective.  I already feel like a better mother when I am able to nurture other parts of my identity, in addition to the newest part called “mom.”  I’m so grateful to have a job where I can go use the skills I learned in graduate school and in my work experience, and then go home and completely shift gears for the rest of the night.  I look more forward to the nights and weekends when I can spend a few hours just staring at our daughter’s face light up or listening to my son coo.   I get more excited to meet the needs of our little ones when (as Sadia brilliantly put it in a previous post about working) I’ve already met some of my own needs and am not looking to my babies to meet my needs.  The whole oxygen mask on an airplane metaphor, you know.

I wonder if it’s reasonable to hope that someday our society will make space for women to say they want to be a working mom.  Period.  Without any qualifiers.  Because, while I can write this somewhat anonymously for a blog, why is it that I’d still feel guilty sharing this around certain audiences?

Taking Back Our Weekends

So this is what it feels like to be a full-time working mom of three. My posts have been few and far between lately… because working has been seriously kicking my ass.

With a three-year-old and two ten-month-olds, attempting to do well at another job sometimes is just. too. much. I am thoroughly exhausted most of the time, both physically and mentally. Teaching 120 high school freshmen is both mentally and emotionally demanding. I am “on” every single moment of every single class period, and I honestly think it’s just as difficult as my first job as a mommy. I am flat out drained at the end of each day. And I usually don’t get help with bath/bedtime, so there is no reprieve for me until 8pm, when all the kids are down. But by then there is no energy left for anything else either.

Which is why we’ve been using our weekends as our catch-all. Laundry gets done on weekends, mail gets read on weekends, bills get paid on weekends, grandparents get visited on weekends, grocery gets bought on weekends, chores and errands and trips to the library and keeping in touch with friends. It was getting so that our weekends were busier than our weekdays. It was getting so that any time we had for a breather we were using as down-time. Much needed time to rejuvenate, to relax, to unwind.

But I started noticing that our kids were getting left to fend for themselves. Of course they were fed and cared for, and their physical needs were met, but beyond that we just had nothing left to give. With time at such a premium, we found ourselves arguing about how it should get allotted to each grandparent, how much of our weekends we could devote to any activities, and just to complicate things even further, we still had to account for all that baby-napping we have going on. It’s just really been stressful.

One day I had an epiphany. I don’t want to live my life this way. I don’t want it to be forgotten in a whirlwind of running here and rushing there. I want to spend it together, as a family, enjoying each other’s company, making memories. My children will never be this age again. Our lives will never be here again. I want to cherish our weekends.

So I sat down with Husband and had a serious conversation about how we could rethink the use of our time. By no means are we any less busy, and our time-budget issues haven’t all been magically resolved, but our mentality has since changed. We are now committed to spending quality time together, regardless of what we’re doing. We are going to be present, in the moment, for our children and our family. We do not allow ourselves to hide in another room surfing our iPhones while our children are awake. We eat together, as a family. No electronic devices during mealtime. Whenever possible, we gate ourselves in with our kids to roll around, crawl, jump, tickle, get slobbered on, and giggle with them in the playroom.

What a wonderful way to de-stress.

Twinfant Tuesday: On the Clock

Hello all-

Our twins are 8 weeks old today, and in the past 8 weeks, there have been countless topics I wanted to write about.  Among them: how it’s possible to have a beautiful birth of your babies even after bed rest, preeclampsia and a magnesium drip, how no one REALLY explains how hard breastfeeding is to you before you have babies (much less, breastfeeding twins), and something about the sleep deprivation (if I had more sleep, I could have said that more articulately).

http://hdydi.com/2013/09/17/twinfant-tuesday-on-the-clock/But, what has been the most difficult adjustment, and perhaps the only thing that has truly surprised me about being a new mom, is the grueling feeding schedule.  Feeding two hungry mouths every three hours was much more challenging than I anticipated.  For some reason, it didn’t occur to me that it would really require two adults to do so, and that it would take nearly the whole three-hour window before the next feeding to complete the cycle.  All this made me start thinking about the timeframes I’ve been bound to in the last two years and how a biological clock isn’t just about trying to have kids before various risks increase.

Pregnancy

  • 40 - The number of weeks all multiple pregnancies strive to get to.
  • 38 - The number of weeks we all secretly could tolerate getting to.
  • 35.6 - The number of weeks I made it to in my pregnancy.
  • 32 - The number of weeks in my pregnancy before being put on bed rest.
  • 28 - The number of weeks in my pregnancy before I really had any complications. (First one was pubic symphysis dysfunction, followed by preterm dilation, then preeclampsia.)

Infertility treatment

  • 16 - The number of months we tried to get pregnant before our successful IVF treatment.
  • 9 - The number of months I was on hormone treatments before getting pregnant.
  • 10 - The number of weeks I took daily progesterone shots during pregnancy.
  • 2 - The number of weeks in a cycle I felt I lived my life on before this: the two week wait to ovulate, then the two week wait to find out if I was pregnant.

Parenthood

  • 3 – The number of hours between feedings.
  • 1.5 – The number of hours I usually have between feedings to shower, feed myself, clean bottles or pump parts, close my eyes for a bit.
  • 1 - The painfully slow number of hours it currently takes my daughter to finish a bottle.

I recall being anxious to get off of the “two week wait to ovulate/two week wait to find out if I was pregnant” schedule. Silly me. I didn’t realize how the scheduling would just take another form.

And I recognize that it will be this way always. It just will be a soccer practice, or school or day camp that is dictating my clock instead of ovulation or weeks of  gestation.

In the meantime, my daily goal is to focus on the moment instead of when the clock will alert me to the next deadline.  To try to appreciate my little ones in this very innocent, sweet time.  To take the time to feel the love and support that has been brought into our house by all the visitors and family support, knowing the visits and support will someday end.  To try to laugh at the things that sleep deprivation has caused us to do (ie, pumping without bottles attached for a good 3-4 minutes before feeling warm milk on my lap).  To open my heart and my life to these two little beings I’m getting to know more and more each day.

What was your favorite memory of being in the moment when you first brought your babies home?

Twinfant Tuesday: A Few Suggestions for Finding Time for Yourself

I’m preparing a class for new and expecting parents of multiples, so I’ve been thinking about how I managed those first weeks and months.  I thought I’d share some here.

  1. Take a shower.  Not only does it help to feel clean and to dress in something other than pajamas, but you can’t hear your babies over the running water.  In that first year after my girls were born, I switched from baths to showers.
  2. Get out of the house (with your partner, if possible).  Our first trip out after the babies came home was to exchange my nursing tops for the next size up. We were gone maybe 40 minutes.  The next trip was to the Starbucks drive through.  They weren’t long trips, but they were a break from the babies.
  3. Enjoy yourself while breastfeeding. I got the complete DVD set of Star Trek – The Next Generation. During evening breastfeeding, I could count on watching an episode or two.
  4. Keep eating your favourite foods.  If you are breastfeeding, you actually need more calories than you did when pregnant. Ice cream and grilled cheese sandwiches can stay on your menu as you continue to eat for three or more.
  5. Sleep when your babies sleep.  Good advice!  Take naps rather than worrying about house cleaning and meal prep.
  6. Accept help. If someone offers to do laundry, prepare a meal or hold a baby, take them up on it.  At the very least, having some adult conversation is a nice change.Find support.
  7. Connect with other parents of multiples.  Whether you join a local MoMs group or connect online, it is helpful to talk to someone who shares your experiences.

What are your suggestions for looking after yourself?

In Which I Find My Limits

Army Wife to Single Mom

When my now ex-husband left me last March, there were plenty of things I worried about, but my capacity to be a single mom wasn’t one of them.

I’d been an Army wife during wartime during my entire career as a mother. Our soldier had deployed to Iraq when our daughters were 5 months old for a total of 15 months. He left for Korea for 12 months a year after he’d returned from Iraq. His subsequent tour to Afghanistan was a nice short 9 months. That didn’t even account for his stateside training-related absences, which could stretch to three months. We divorced when the girls were 6; Daddy had been living at home for under 3 years of their lives. While I would have loved to have had a meaningful co-parenting relationship despite the distances involved, we frequently went weeks or months without being able to communicate, so parenting decisions fell to me alone.

I was fully capable of managing our home and children without another parent around to help. I worried how our daughters would cope with the trauma of their parents divorcing, not living with Daddy even when we was stateside, Daddy’s remarriage and associated step-mom and step-sisters. I worried about how I would manage on a single income. I didn’t worry about whether I could parent my daughters “without help.”

I Have Help

“Do you have help?” people ask me, all the time. What they mean, of course, is do I have family members in the area who will watch my children or perform house maintenance or pick them up from school in a pinch. I don’t have family help, but I don’t consider myself to be lacking in help in raising my children and managing our lives. I usually answer, “We don’t have family nearby, but we have a great community network.”

My help comes in the form of daycare providers, camp counselors, and babysitters whom I trust as partners in raising my girls. Do I pay them in money (and sometimes theatre tickets)? Sure, but that doesn’t make their help any less meaningful. My help comes in the form of J and M’s friends’ parents, their teachers and counselors, and their Girl Scout leader. They give me the context of what is age appropriate and help my girls build their social skills and academic skills. My help comes in the form of supportive co-workers and managers, who make my kids welcome at work social events, who let me telecommute to give me an extra hour or two with my kids every week, who treat my kids like their own nieces. My help comes in the form of the company I pay to maintain my lawn. My help comes in the form of the neighbours who will trade a few hours with my kids one weekend for me taking theirs another. My help comes in the form of the HDYDI community.

I Have Limits

Photo Credit: elcamino73

Photo Credit: elcamino73

I started feeling overwhelmed over the last few months. My home, always messy, began to feel dirty too, something I usually do not stand for. My shoulders and hands began to ache without reason, an early warning sign I’ve learned to recognize as a bellwether of a resurgence of depression. I suddenly started fighting dandruff, despite having made no change to my shampoo or diet. I started dropping the ball on work assignments. I found myself avoiding picking up my telephone messages, a sure sign that  depression was looming. Last weekend, I was so clumsy in the kitchen that, after breaking two plates, I avoided any food preparation that might involve knives or fire.

On Monday last week, the weight of life felt too much to bear. I asked my boss whether I could take the rest of the day and all of Tuesday off. With the kids at summer camp, I spent those hours cleaning my house, going to the gym, getting my eyebrows waxed, napping and reading. I talked to a couple of close friends about how I was doing. When I returned to work on Wednesday, my shoulder pain was gone. The dandruff had cleared. I found myself humming on way to my office. When I received an email inviting me to perform in a local venue that would have been on my bucket list (if I had one), I was excited, not panicked at the thought of adding the rehearsals to my schedule.

The 15 Month Cycle

It didn’t take much to set things to rights. I just needed some “me” time. At first, I thought my losing my Zen was a result of the post-adrenalin slump following the completion of a multi-year project at work, but it wasn’t work that had been feeling overwhelming. It was Life that was bothering me, the weight of the entirety of M and J’s well-being falling on my shoulders.

I had an epiphany. This was the longest I’d ever gone being a single parent. While I worried about whether my ex would come home from combat alive, I always believed that after at most 15 months, my partner would be home. I wasn’t alone always going to alone in raising M and J.

Don’t get me wrong. The girls’ father has seen them since we got divorced, but it’s hard for him since we don’t live in the same state. He’s seen them 3 times since last August, when the girls and I moved back home to Central Texas, leaving Daddy behind in El Paso. (He’s since moved to North Carolina.) Much as I love my kids, I did enjoy the childless days and the opportunity to pick up around the house and to go out for dinners and game nights with friends. I didn’t quite feel like I was off the clock, though. Daddy brought the girls home ahead of schedule 2 out of the 3 times he had them, so I can’t completely turn off mommy mode when he has them, unlike when we were married and he’d take a few days off after deployments to be with the kids. Then, it was important that I did stop being Mom to avoid the temptation to try to teach him how to be Dad. Daddy and the girls needed space to get to know each other again. That just isn’t our dynamic any more.

I had hoped and worked for an ongoing co-parenting relationship with my ex, but it hasn’t panned out. He’s just not a phone and email guy and has a hard time making “theoretical” parenting decisions. He needs to be present in the moment to make child-rearing calls, and he’s just not around. J broke my heart a while back, observing, “Daddy spoils us. He’s more like a grandpa than a parent.”

The 15-month respites I could rely on as an Army wife are no longer available to me as a single mom. So now, I need to use my help, in this case summer camp and an understanding boss, to find my own respite.

I have my mojo back and a much better understanding of where my limits are.

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 7-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, when the girls entered elementary school in order to better protect their privacy and was delighted to have the opportunity to keep a foot in the blogosphere through HDYDI. She also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

Spending that Works for Me

Now that I am on the brink of returning to work, I can start to assess where we have been financially as well as where my income will take us. For the first 3.5 months of the twins’ lives, Husband stayed home on “paternity leave.” Actually a lot of it was accrued vacation time, and then it became unpaid. He went back to work with a new job, and took a slight pay cut for less stress and better hours. I stayed home starting at 28 weeks gestation, so really I was only around for the first month and a half of last school year. After that there was disability, and then unpaid FMLA (but we kept our insurance). I had no idea what things would be like financially after all of that, but surprisingly we’ve come through just fine. Getting the new minivan actually saved us a little money, since the payments and insurance are cheaper than the previous leased BMW, our tax refund helped quite a bit, and of course now that Husband is back at work we have the steady income again.

My working will necessitate some childcare costs though. I will be back to subsidizing my mom for watching the twins, and Toddler’s preschool will be a new expense. My income will be further reduced by the rising cost of health insurance (with the addition of two more family members we also need the next tier of coverage). But I think we’ll do alright. Probably not going to be socking away any impressive amount for that new house we’re dreaming of, but we’ll be okay.

Nevertheless, maybe we should cut back on some things just in case. Although we’re not extravagant spenders in general, we could probably do without spending so much on take-out and junk food. But some things we spend on are really worth every penny.

Cleaning

We have a cleaning lady. She comes every other Thursday for a few hours and cleans everything we don’t want to clean. A long time ago, Husband and I decided it was worth it to get someone to do it for us when we were spending way too much time and energy arguing about who cleaned what when and how often. We go shoeless in our house, but with 3 young children now running, crawling, and rolling all over the place, the floor needs to be very, very clean. Half our house is floor, half carpet. The floor part needs to be swept and steam mopped. The carpet vacuumed. Just this alone is a 2-3 hour endeavor with all the moving around of baby equipment and stuff that’s strewn all over the place. That’s time we’d rather spend with our kids, not arguing (about cleaning anyway) or getting sweaty mopping floors. I still do our dishes and laundry, and Swifter just about every other day, but no floors/kitchen/bathrooms! Hurray! Best money spent, in my opinion, if you’re able to find someone you can trust.

Ready Meals

I’m not much of a cook. In fact, the only meal I actually enjoy making is breakfast. I can do eggs well, several different ways. Toast, pancakes, waffles, fruit, muffins, all good. The other meals? Forget it. One meal a day is enough. I don’t do meal planning, no good at grocery shopping, can’t handle the prep and cleanup. I just don’t like it. That’s why ready-to-eat is made for me. I love the meal-in-a-bag types. And the casserole style ones are great too. I do a biweekly trip to Costco, and maybe weekly to Trader Joe’s or other market for our fruits and vegetables. To be honest we rely quite a bit on our parents and take out as well. I know we should be more focused on nutritious fresh food for our family, but it’s so. much. work. I don’t know how other people do it. I once tried a prepared meal service for a summer, where I would go once a month to a location where recipes and ingredients were provided, using which I would assemble many meals at once, and then take them home to freeze and just pull out and cook. That still wasn’t convenient enough for me. Oh well, can’t be great at everything. What works for now is pop in the oven or microwave and eat. Perhaps I should look into using a slow cooker.

Amazon

I am an Amazon Subscribe and Save member, as well as an Amazon Mom and Prime member. Though Amazon makes it way too convenient to buy other random stuff we don’t need, the discounts, two day shipping, and recurring delivery features can’t be beat. Besides the obvious diapers for two, I’ve bought baby food, jumpers and swings, feeding accessories, toys, teethers, bathing supplies… almost everything baby (and toddler) in our house is from Amazon, except for clothes and strollers. Especially in the early days, getting out the door was an effort of heroic proportions, and getting a delivery of necessities at home was a lifesaver. A click gets me something on my doorstep in two days, sometimes even as fast as the next day. With their generous return policy, selection beyond compare, and ratings from other buyers, who needs to acutally go to a real store these days? (I see that they’re doing groceries now too– need to check it out!)

What other sanity saving ways do you spend your hard earned money?

Twinfant Tuesday: Why Not? (And Earplugs)

zoe girl-1466

Yeah, that look on Isaiah’s face? We all had that look in that first year after she came home..often!LOL!

Famous last words! “Why not?” Those were the words that kicked off my first year as a mom of functional multiples!

It was two pm on Friday, November 18, 2011. I was standing in my living-room-turned-nursery, bouncing my four-month old (then) foster son when the phone rang. They had a little bitty girl, a little bitty girl they had thought about calling us for placement ten days earlier when she was first born, but there was a family who “had waited longer for placement of a little girl.” So, they tried placement there first.Thing is, it didn’t work out for that family. I laugh looking back at it now; I didn’t even ask why! I just said “Sure, why not?”

After all, all of our paperwork as foster to adopt parents said “female 0-2 years of age”. Everything. This was the moment we had waited for and dreaming about for years! I had suffered a pregnancy loss of a daughter midterm over 17 years ago. The desire for a little girl of my own never went away.

Of course, we hadn’t planned on two babies. There was nothing in our paperwork that said “boy”. I have four boys by birth! But when they called us for him four months earlier, we just knew that this was our boy. So, there I stood. Nodding, twinkling, smiling at my husband who was shaking his head in wonder, and boom! It began. Our first year of life with two teeny little people!

First quarter. Year one.

Zoe was a screamer. Yes, really. She was sweet. She was beautiful. AND she was a screamer! I already had some experience with having two. We had another little girl for a month, off and on, as a respite baby. Seriously, I thought we had experience! So, yeah–small detail–that other little girl was not a screamer.

We didn’t even make it back home before we knew why it “just wasn’t working out” for the other family. That foster mom was a single mother and had to work full-time. Dealing with that shriek all night every night was just not in the realm of possibility for her. Heck, it pushed the limits for me!

Yes, really! This is survival man!

So, while the other MoMs here have touched on organization, asking for help, and keeping a positive perspective, (all absolutely critical to surviving the first year. I guess that last one could be a part of my strategy as well.) I, on the other hand, will address ear plugs. That’s right. You heard me. Don’t have any, do ya? Ear plugs!

I don’t know about you, but crying babies have always created a great sense of alarm in me. I am really sensitive to sound anyway. On the flip side of this issue, I am very musical. I can get lost in a melody for hours. I can hear a song one time and sing it back to you note for note, verbatim. It’s of like a photographic memory, but in my case audiological memory, for lack of a better word. Unfortunately, this was no melody!

The incredible urgency to fix.it.right.now.whatever.it.takes has always been an issue for me. And that was before I heard Zoe cry. Zoe’s cry could make the hair stand up on the neck of any parent. We finally dubbed her “Sonic” because we were pretty sure that even after she stopped shrieking 24/7, some of the sounds she emitted were dolphin-speak and could only be heard on dry land by canines! Really.

Once in a phone conversation my sister asked me, “Is that a car alarm?” My reply? “Um, no. That is my daughter.” It made me want to pull my hair out. Honey cried all of the time. The first three months were just torture for all of us. There were moments when I had to just go lay her down in her crib, walk away, and cry myself for a few minutes before trying again.

Epiphany

The earplugs entered the game the first time I was alone on a road trip with both babies. I was delivering one of my older boys to college. Holy-Screaming-Banshees-Batman. They both started in. It was dark. Exhaustion loomed. I had already been crying. Dealing with empty nest feelings while raising two toddlers is an interesting experience, but I digress. As the decibel level began to climb, I simply could not imagine enduring the remaining two hours ahead of me!

It was then that I remembered that I had read about a mom of twins who used ear plugs in the car, among other places. I laughed when I first read her story, but suddenly it made sense! And in my fervor for better preparation, I actually had some in my bag.

At first, I felt foolish pulling off the freeway to dig for earplugs. Then I felt guilty.

After a few miles of relief from the most intense of my physical responses to their crying, I was able to think clearly. I realized that there really was nothing more I could do. I had already stopped and fed everyone; Zoe had cried through most of the meal anyway. They had clean diapers. What they needed now was sleep, and to get home. There were over two hours of road between us and home.

The earplugs remained in use. After a few miles of my being calmer and not fussing about them fussing, there was silence. I have never been a CIO mom. I just can’t do it. I wear my babies. But, I had to learn to separate myself a bit from the crying when there was nothing more I could do to help them. And drive. That was a big epiphany for me.

Today

Earplugs are now a very important part of my life in parenting multiples. I have two-year olds, and Sonic Girl is alive and well! Add to that the fact that there are mornings when my son is obviously going to have more sensory issues than on the typical day–or maybe I am just not really awake yet–and you can see where these could come in handy!

They allow me to ignore two-year old tantrums. They enable me to stay calm when caring for a child who has suddenly gone all “exorcist” on me. Have you ever dealt with a tantrum from a child with seriously high muscle tone? They sort of levitate! And it is usually during a diaper change. Earplugs allow me to step back, think calmly, and make good decisions. And they keep me from adding to the stress/tension/chaos.

Please note, the earplugs do *not* make it so I cannot hear them at all. They just take the painful edge off of the screaming/crying/hysteria.

Of course…it didn’t hurt that they were so darn cute!

So, there ya go. My big tip from the first , and now second, year of life with two little screaming babies: earplugs and deep breathing. It saved my sanity more than once! Try it. It just might save yours!

 

Do you have any unorthodox approaches to handling tantrums? How do you stay calm and ignore two-year old behavior?

 

Jeanene

Jeanene (and her husband Kelly) are raising a “second set” of kids together. They have six children by birth between them, ages 17 to nearly 30 (his two daughters, her four sons) and are now parenting boy/girl “functional” twins, Isaiah and Zoe. Isaiah was 4 months old when Zoe was born. She blogs about foster parenting, adoption, and life with two toddlers at www.amiraculousmess.com.