A laundry story in two parts, with both parts related to twins

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PART 1:

While we try to do loads of laundry throughout the week, with two working parents, we often end up doing a mountain of laundry on the weekend. Jon ran a load on towels on Friday night and we went to bed without putting it away. Saturday morning, Jon opened the dryer to find wet towels.

I’m sure the next part of our conversation drove Jon crazy. I proceeded to ask him if he was sure he had run it, did he run it with heat, was he completely sure. I asked these questions because having twins has ruined some parts of our brains and we have no idea when these ruined parts will show themselves.

Shakes fist in air…. TWINS!

PART 2:

Jon was sure he ran it the night before so he proceeded to test the dryer at every setting. It was still not working. He got out the manual (oh how I mocked Jon when I met him for filing every electronics manual and oh how it has come in so handy) and tried everything they suggested to resolve it. Still broken.

We called Whirlpool and they couldn’t get someone out until Wednesday. That is a problem because we need clean clothes for our trip this weekend and after Dooce’s experience with Whirlpool technicians, we were scared. Instead we called a local repair guy who could be here first thing Monday morning and told Jon he would bring the most likely parts since he has fixed this problem on our model many times.

Monday morning, the repair guy came and fixed it in 15 minutes. We bought this dryer when we moved into the house, and with all the other electrical stuff that’s broken in our house I wanted more info about this problem. The repair guy showed me the broken heating element and told me Whirlpool downsized this particular part during a redesign and it makes it more likely to break. He said, “You’ve had this dryer about 5 years right? That’s what I usually see.” I said, “No, we’ve had it about 3.5 years, that’s weird.”

When I relayed the story to Jon…. light bulb moment… repair guy said this part would last 5 years, ours only lasted 3.5 years, why would ours break earlier? Oh yeah! We did an insane amount of laundry in those 3.5 years.

Shakes fist in air… TWINS!

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Who's Your Mommy?

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Categories Childcare, Development, Family, Mommy Issues, Other people, ToddlersTags 6 Comments

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?

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Your Registry Cheat-Sheet

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Categories Childcare, Products, Safety, SingletonsTags , 12 Comments

This might be a day late and a dollar short for most of you, but I would love your help compiling advice for expectant mother’s for when they are faced with the daunting task of preparing their baby registries.

Personally, I was completely overwhelmed at the thought of buying/choosing/registering for what seemed like a huge amount of baby gear. In fact, I requested a veteran mom walk me through Babies R Us and I took notes while she pointed out the various items I may or may not need. I was so grateful for her help, because it is a huge job to research all of the items for safety ratings/effectiveness/price comparison. And since most of my friends were all having their first baby(s) at the same time, we tended to fuel each other’s drive for baby stuff…especially any item to help with breastfeeding or sleeping!

Would you please leave a comment about what worked or what you would have done differently in terms of baby gear? Thanks!
—————————————–
Krissy’s Registry Cheat-Sheet

  • As far as car seats go: several friends of singletons have since had baby #2. Many of them had the super cute Chicco travel system (stroller and car seat). The problem is, as far as I can tell, Chicco does not make a double front-to-back stroller, and the mom’s are limited to other brands of double strollers that will accept the Chicco car seat. If you hope to have more than one child, you might want to factor this in.
  • Car seat under mats are a worthy addition to your registry. When you first bring home your newborn, it is hard to envision their little feet hanging over their car seats, dripping muddy or snowy water onto your upholstery, but that time will come, likely around their first birthday.
  • In my humble opinion, the one item that I would insist on buying new is the crib mattress. My son has been sleeping and jumping on his mattress for 2+ years, and it has shown considerable wear and tear. The middle is still nice and firm, but the sides have taken a real beating. There is now enough room between the crib mattress and crib slats for a newborn to get stuck. I know, because his stuffed dog (newborn sized) often ends up wedged down there.
  • The big stuff: exersaucers, bouncy seats, bumbos and swings all have a VERY short life span…borrow them or buy them used if you can. The amount of space they will require in your home is enormous, and you will resent their perfectly matched presence even more if you paid full price for them!
  • One of the biggest wastes of money for many moms are infant carriers. The problem is, you don’t really know what will work for you (how it feels, fits, any area’s of back pain, infant head support, etc. ) until you actually have the baby in your possession. For example, I personally hated the Moby wrap I bought during my pregnancy and never used it. The Baby Bjorn worked for my husband, but hurt my back. However, the consignment store Snugli worked wonderfully for me. Several friends have told me they regretted buying the sling/carrier, etc. that they did because it didn’t end up working for them. If you do decide to buy ahead of time-keep the tags on and save the receipt!

IMG_0093
Jonathan in a borrowed walker.
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Faith in a borrowed Exersaucer…I loved it while we needed it, and loved it even more when I returned it to the owner and it didn’t have to fit in my overflowing storage room!

Okay ladies! Help me out! And for those of you researching your baby gear options, here are a few HDYDI product reviews:

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Way Overdue

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Categories Childcare, ToddlersTags , 14 Comments

For all my talk about getting out with (and without) the kids, this weekend provided a way-overdue first in my house: leaving the kids with a real babysitter for a real date.

I briefly had a regular babysitter when my kids were about six months old, a college student who came a few afternoons a week.  And on the rare occasion that my parents or in-laws are in town, they might stay at home after we put the kids to bed and let us go out for dinner.

But, somehow, this was different.  A person quite unrelated to us.  A person we paid (a silly quantity of money) to come stay at our house on a Saturday night.  As we have no family in the area and are relatively new in our town, we don’t have a long list of high school students at our beck and call. But M’s coworker’s fiancée is looking for sitting hours?  Well, that’s all the motivation we needed.

I will admit to some anxiety on the timing. We had tickets to an 8:00 movie, and figured we should get there at 7:30 to get seats. That’s when we’re usually walking out of the kids’ room after stories.  We hemmed and hawed and my husband thought we should put them to bed early so we’d be done before we needed to leave.  I was the one who made the executive decision that the sitter (whom they had never met before) would put the kids to bed.

Gasp! Is such a thing even possible?

Well, duh, of course it is.  They’re nearly two. They have a very well-established bedtime routine. They are, really, quite easy. But we were stuck in that infant mindset of “oh, we couldn’t possibly ask someone else to put them to bed, it’s just too hard!”  Pshaw. The sitter came at 7 and played with them for a little bit. We all went upstairs and I got the kids into the tub.  Pulled out some pajamas, told the sitter where the books were and whose bed was whose, and we left.  Some minor whining as we said goodbye, but by the time we got downstairs, all was quiet.

I will admit that we both sat in that movie theater with our phones in our hands, just in case we didn’t hear it ring or feel it vibrate. We briefly considered calling to ask how bedtime went.  (We did not, in fact, call.)

Being out at the movie was a delight, and we came home to a perfectly quiet house.  If the kids were perhaps a touch clingy in the morning, it was nothing outside the normal range of toddler clinginess.

Was it a lot of money to have someone basically watch TV? You bet.  But the feeling of not being chained to our house after the kids go to bed? Priceless.

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Juggling Multiples In Urgent Care Situations

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Categories Childcare, Medical23 Comments

I talk to my mom just about every day. Which is why I’m scratching my head as to why FIVE DAYS WENT BY before I knew that my 11 month old nephew had been taken to the emergency room for a last-ditch treatment for a case of seal-barking croup.

He ended up there late last Tuesday upon the recommendation of the pediatrician, after efforts to calm his coughing proved ineffective. A long evening, short-term admission, and heavy duty breathing treatments later, my brother, sister-in-law, and nephew headed home. Tired, but on the mend.

As I was discussing the blasphemy of such delayed information dissemination with my partner, the conversation moved quickly from vilifying grandma to asking one another: “What would we do if something like that happened with us?” And I’m talking single event situations, as opposed to longer-term illnesses, because that’s a whole different ball o wax.

As with most readers of this blog, unlike my brother, we have two or more child(ren) to address and waking/taking the doing-just-fine kiddle is not going to pay off. And if you do go as a family, you better have banked the mental cost of jacking with more than one child’s routine. And what we decided – as well as you can go on deciding without going through it -was the following:

For semi-planned urgent care, one stays and one goes. Such as with X and croup, one of us would stay with the better kid, while the other of us (probably me, since i used to work in the healthcare industry) would take the not-better kid to the hospital. We’d keep in touch via calls and text messages. But to us, it would be important to keep one parent and the other child(ren) with as much rest and as little routine disruption as possible.

For unplanned urgent care/emergencies, same thing. This would be something like big falls or a need for stitches or something of the sort. While it would be poopy for one of us not to be there, keeping things moving with the well kid is equally important.

For rapid-onset illness, one stays and one goes, but the one staying is making plans to go. That means the stayed-homer would shore up plans, clothing, materials, childcare, and phone calls to family, then joining the other and sick child as soon as possible.

For critical illness or injury, we’d probably both go immediately after calling upon godparents (we should probably inform them of this, no?) or friends to stay with the well child until the situation was stable.

We also have a good circle of neighborhood friends who could likely step up in a time of crisis, as well as godparents and a set of grandparents that live within 30 miles. Of course, under any of the above scenarios, it’s possible that we’d have no choice but to take the well kid, too. And we’d figure things out from there.

We are immeasurably blessed and grateful to have emerged this side of infancy without major incident [warning: we’re entering toddlerhood], but I also know these things can be inevitable at some point in time. Certainly, there isn’t a wrong way or a right way to handle a childcare situation when one of the children falls ill/injured. But to the extent that we can somewhat prepare, the smoother the chaos can be.

For those who have had an urgent/emergent care incident, how did you handle the other child(ren)? Did you have a loosely organized plan as to how to handle a situation like that? What would you differently?

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Rachel is a mom who managed to survive the first year with twins, but hold the applause because the second year has only just begun. You can read more about their adventures on her blog.

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The unexpected side effect of separating multiples in day care

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Categories Childcare, Mommy Issues, Potty Training, Preschoolers, Working10 Comments

My 3 year old fraternal twin boys have been together in group care since they were 3 months old. One of the reasons we chose our day care was that it provided the option to separate the boys at any age group. Our original plan was to separate the boys for a year before “real school” to give them an easier transition. Over the last three years, changes have taken place that limit our opportunities to separate the boys, so they will be together until they go to kindergarten. As we love love love our day care, we are reluctant to move to a new place just to separate the boys. When it comes to quality care for your kids, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

It’s that time of year that day care transitions happen. To move to the 3s room, the boys must be potty trained. Nate is fully trained while Alex is fully in diapers. As we strive to treat the boys as individuals, we opted to move Nate to the 3s room since he is ready. There’s a spot waiting for Alex when he is trained, and we are not-secretly hoping that being separated from Nate will provide Alex with some inspiration to use the potty.

So far, the boys are dealing easily with being separated all day. They run to give each other hugs at the end of the day. But my husband and I have experienced unexpected growing pains! Water Play is Tuesday for Alex, Wednesday for Nate. Show And Tell is Wednesday for Alex, Tuesday for Nate. On and on. The boys have always shared sunscreen, diapers, wipes, and clothes. Now we need to provide two sets of everything. After three years of doing drop off and pick up in the same room and the boys being on the same activity schedule, all of a sudden we need to remember different stuff for each kid for each day.  It seems minor but with the morning scramble already so crazy, it’s a new challenge for us to continually remember who needs what and when.

Mind you, I am not saying it is hard. It had just gotten so EASY to drop them off in the same room with the same stuff on the same schedule. I always think of these day care years as practice for real school so I’m glad we’re going to have a short period to practice life with two kids in different activities. And believe me, when Alex moves to the 3s room, I am going to celebrate our time back on easy street.

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Highs and Lows of Parenting by: Krissy

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Categories Childcare, Family, ToddlersTags 9 Comments

I have noticed a trend among mommy-bloggers and facebook-ers…either the posts and updates are sugary-sweet and upbeat, with the goal being not to seem ungrateful for their multiple bundles of joy; or they are wise-crackin’ disaster stories rife with sarcasm and self-deprecation. An example of the later would be The Meanest Mom. Have you guys read her stuff?!  Or how about Jen at Amazing Trips?Hysterical, honest and definitely not your regular mommy-blog.

I think I fall more in the first category, putting a positive spin on sleepless nights (time to pray over the kids!); illnesses (it could be worse! at least it’s not serious!), and behavioral issues (must be another developmental stage!). As a christian mom, and a mom who conceived due to infertility treatments, I often craft my blogging posts to reflect the best part of the day, so that I don’t seem ungrateful or ungodly…if that seems silly to you, then maybe “ANONYMOUS” has never commented on your blog at the slightest hint of a complaining attitude!

However, I had a day with my kids last week that got me to thinking about the highs and lows of parenting. (Please forgive the crudeness of this story.)

I woke up excited about meeting a couple of friends to go horseback riding. I only go once or twice a summer, and I was so looking forward to trying to hang on and have fun with out falling off or looking like the untrained rider that I am. The ride itself was a blast, I was some what in control of my horse, we cantered in an open field, I didn’t split my head open or need medical attention…as success in my opinion!

Upon arriving home, coated in horse grit and hot from wearing heavy jeans, I was greeted by two unhappy children. For whatever reason, when I leave them with a babysitter (in this case their grandmother), they choose to punish me for leaving them for a few hours. The whining, hitting and unhappiness was at an all time high.

They had been having a great time playing in the sprinkler until I got home, then nothing would satisfy them, and I could feel all the good endorphins from my fun ride and time alone quickly dissipating. Soon, I recognized the unmistakable odor of toddler poop. Realizing that the kids were in soaking wet bathing suits, which are lined with washable swim diapers, I decided to undress the culprit in the front yard rather than risk a wet, nasty mess getting on my living room floor. Can you see where this is headed?!

Pull down 1st diaper…water logged poop and gravity are not a good combo…poop all over the grass. Gagging, I clean up the culprit and leave the mess in the yard. Anxious to get my kids into the tub, I yank down the 2nd diaper, only to find an equally disgusting mess. Child #2  is scrubbed without mercy with the ever present diaper wipes. Two heaps of poopy swim suits are left in the hot sun.

Cajole naked kids up the steps. Place in tub. They fight, fall several times, get scolded, are clean, dry and put in fresh diapers and clean clothes. Nap time begins 1/2 an hour early.

I head back outside to deal with the mess, only to encounter a hoard of flies which have descended upon my children’s feces. Consider blasting the mess with the hose, but realize that will only spread the mess out further. Dispose of used baby wipes, and carry the mess downstairs to the laundry room. I am really unsure of how to proceed, as this has never happened before! Decide to rinse the diapers out in the deep sink-INSTANT MISTAKE! Did you know watery bits of poo can clog a sink?! S***!

Pull out an old craft paintbrush, wiggle around the stick part, dislodge the mess, comence gagging, and pull out the bleach. Oh, did I mention I had to clean up my lawn with baby wipes?!

Nap time did not help my kids’ dispositions. They wake up hungry, demanding and irritable. Irritable is also a good word to describe the state their mother is in. Call my husband to inquire about his ETA. We had plans to take the kids on a short bike ride. Hubby says he will be home soon, and asks me to bring the biking gear to the front yard so he can quickly load it on the bike rack.

While the kids are eating a pitiful dinner of rice crispies, I dash around to the garage and haul up the necessary bike helmets, bikes and tag-along seats. When I return to the dining room, I am greeted with an abstract art piece made of rice crispies. Milk soaked, these little crackling cereal bits coat my dining room table, chairs and floor. Trying not to get flustered, I decide to wait until later to deal with the mess (impossible to clean up the cereal while wet, better to wait until it is dry.)

I get the kids in clean diapers, shoes, and send them outside to wait for their father, who with any luck, will show up in 2.5 seconds. Thankfully, my knight arrives and quickly loads up the bikes and gear. The kids, who are normally ecstatic to go bike-riding, yell at each other the entire 20 minute drive to the park. We quickly assemble the bike seats, plop them in them, and start peddling. I pulled the short straw apparently, as I have the complaining one directly behind me, issuing orders in a pint-sized voice.

What I did not count on is the effect on my legs and posterior from the horseback riding…I could barely pedal my bike up the hills…my toddler companion is swatting me in the bum saying “Go Mommy! GO!”

Bedtime is nearing, and I call it quits. We head home to the chorus of more whining, and my nerves, frayed from the day, are ready to let loose…we pull into parking lot to pick up dinner (what can I say? I don’t like rice crispies for dinner!) and I beg my husband to let me be the one who gets to stand in line at Chipotle! Anything to get me away from the kids!

We get home, change the kids into their pj’s, brush their teeth, pray with them, rock them and put them to bed with a kiss and assurances of how much we love them. And love them we do!

Now, if I had just blogged about the morning horseback riding, and the evening family bike ride, I would have painted a much less accurate portrait of our day…but it would have been a tidier post! Personally, I relate better to the bloggers who speaking lovingly of their family with a good dose of realism thrown in. Any blogs you regularly read for the honest portrayal of parenthood? Are you a glass full or glass empty blogger?

Would love to hear your comments and see your blog recommendations!

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Twins versus singleton, roar roar roar

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Categories Childcare, Development, Family, Relationships, Singletons9 Comments

This weekend, my husband Jon and I  watched our friend’s son Ben along with our twin boys Nate and Alex.  I learned some valuable lessons, most notably that Jon and I are definitely two-kid parents. I also had a super huge light bulb go off in my head. Twins versus singleton: it is very different, from both sides.

In the past, most of my focus has been on the negatives of parenting two the same age. Nate and Alex always have to share. They always have to wait. They never get alone time. In all of this, I never understood what my twins are GAINING from this experience. They are great at sharing. They have patience.  They have each other. It’s all cliche but it is true.

All of this was highlighted over the weekend when we threw Ben into the mix. Nate and Alex are used to waiting their turn to speak, or when they do speak, they often speak to each other. Ben is used to talking to adults, so even when Nate and Alex talked to him, Ben wanted to talk to the adults. Nate and Alex often have to wait for us to help them, so they’ve learned to try to do things themselves if we are busy. Ben often has the help of multiple adults, so he wanted us to do things for him.

This last point was highlighted frequently in physical activities. Jon and I simply can’t do everything physical for two 30+ lb children, so we rely on the boys to do a lot of the physical stuff. They take off their own clothes, climb into their chairs, climb into the tub, wash their own hands, climb into their car seats, etc. We’ve pushed them into more physical independence because it’s easier for us. It was very interesting to be around another child the same age who could not or did not want to do these things.

In no way am I saying either situation is better. What I took away from this weekend is that it will always be hard for twin parents and singleton parents to relate to one another on tackling issues because parenting multiples and parenting one kid are such completely different experiences. But I’ve always looked at it from the twin mom perspective. As a twin mom I’ve had to do things, so many things, to compromise but I could always justify it because I have twins. I now see things from the singleton mom perspective, where your kid relies on you for so much.

I’m so very glad we had this weekend, for me, for Jon, for my boys, for my friends, and for Ben. I feel like everybody won in some way. Our friends got a much-needed vacation. My boys got to take in another boy like a brother. Ben got to live in a house with “siblings”. Jon and I took away a better understanding of the things our boys have gotten from the experience of being a twin, lessons I will never forget. And I feel like I will be a better friend to my singleton mom friends when they talk to me about their trials and tribulations.

Now who wants to take my boys for a weekend so you can experience singleton versus twins?

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The germiest child care option, yet it works for us

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Categories Childcare15 Comments

I always knew I would never be a stay-at-home mom. I’ve always loved math and science, and along with that has come the understanding that I’m a tad different. Looking through my childhood pictures, you will see me standing there as the lone girl on the math team, the junior engineering team, and the science team, to name a few. As an adult, I have a successful software career and I had always planned to continue that after having children. During my maternity leave, I learned something that was hard to admit: I would never make a good stay-at-home mom. I am a much better mother and wife when I work at a job outside the home. And I feel very good that part of my income goes to people who love being around children all day.

We researched two child care options: nanny and group day care. I telecommute full-time so our first preference was to have the kids out of the house. However we had a backup plan to hire a nanny if the boys were born too prematurely. North Carolina has a star rating system for group facilities, so we used this list a starting point to visit and interview 5 star day cares. When visiting facilities, we were astounded at the differences in equipment, facilities, staff, and general environment. When we walked into the center where my kids would end up, it just felt RIGHT. The babies were happy. The staff was friendly and open, chatting with parents as they passed through. They have an indoor gym so they always get exercise no matter the weather. They were willing to let my twins sleep in cribs next to each other. And most importantly, I felt confident in the director, who plays a huge part in how a facility is run.

I’m happy to report my gut instinct was right. We have been incredibly happy with our day care, and have referred six other families to the same facility. It is a place I know my children are loved, well-cared for, well educated, and happy.

What I love about group day care:

* Teaches me to be a better parent. My day care has taught me so much about caring for my kids! They see such a wide variety of kids so they always have a solution to our problems. From getting the boys to nap to getting them on sippy cups to dealing with a biting phase, they have helped me through some tough times.
* Socialization. My kids have a lot of friends they’ve known their entire lives. They get to experience peer relationships outside of the twin dynamic on an ongoing basis. For example, Alex gets to boss other kids around while Nate gets to be bossed around.
* Convenience. It is open almost every day of the year. If a teacher is sick, there’s another teacher to cover. I can be a few minutes late  or early and it’s okay.
* Structured activity. This was very important to us. We wanted our kids to participate in a wide variety of learning experiences. Every day they have structured music time, reading time, circle time, and outside time as well as structured meals and snacks.
* Access to lots of qualified babysitters who know my kids. I’ve gotten bolder about asking people if they babysit on the side. In this economy, the answer is frequently yes.
* Practice for “real” school.  I’ve learned a lot about communicating with teachers and caregivers, how to handle issues when they come up, and when to make a stink about something or let it slide. I’ve also learned how one of my boys will click with a certain teacher and the other will not. And we’ve gotten really good at the morning scramble. I’m taking all this in as practice for “real” school.

What I do not love about group care:
* Germs.
* Germs.
* Germs.

Make no mistake about it, kids in group care get exposed to tons of germs. I can not stress this enough to twin parents considering this option. When I look back at my blog from the first cold and flu season in group care, I’m surprised to see any posts NOT about illness. You name the illness, my boys have had it.

But! This goes back to the science thing. I believe people build an immune system by exposure. This year was my boys’ third cold and flu season in day care and they barely caught anything at all. The first year, I’m not quite sure how we survived. The second year, it was easier as they didn’t catch quite as much. This year, it was incredibly easy. And I feel conflicted about the following fact, but since my kids have had so many colds and illnesses, being sick doesn’t really bother them. They can cough all night and it doesn’t disrupt their sleep. Only fevers and ear infections really seem to disrupt sleep, both of which are cured by some Motrin and getting in bed with mom and dad.

However, a major factor in our ability to deal with illness is our (awesome) jobs. My company allows me to work with a sick kid at home, and my husband’s company has a very liberal sick leave policy. Knowing our kids would miss school with these illnesses at some point anyway, we decided it was better to do it while we both had jobs that fit so well with being working parents.

As for being a working mom, I love it, but I also feel strongly that I have a job that fits a working mom lifestyle. That is why I so very very very rarely talk about my job publicly – I want to keep it as long as possible! Since I don’t commute to work, I say good-bye to the boys at 8:25 and hello again at 5:05. We have at least 4.5 hours a day together as a family, more if someone wakes up early. While it does take significant effort to achieve balance between working, family, friends, chores, and me time, it is the right choice for me and my family.

And I am so very incredibly thankful to all the women in math and science who blazed the trail before me to give me the choice to be a working mom in a career I love.

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The Role of a SAHM

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Categories Childcare, Family, Mommy Issues, ToddlersTags 2 Comments

As my husband and I were driving home last night, he asked me how my day was. “It was a really good day,” I said. “After the kids woke up and we all ate breakfast, we headed to the gym (which I call the ‘play place” for the kids’ sake.) They said ‘hi’ to the fish at the entrance and played happily for an hour while I exercised. From there, we said ‘good-bye’ to the fish, headed over to Kohls to make a return, and then over to the pet store. I let the kids walk around holding hands while I pushed the stroller, and we looked at mice, cats, birds, fish and turtles. Back in the stroller, over to Target for some shopping and then when we were done we munched on popcorn and then home for a little play time and nap!”

“After nap, Jonathan and I worked on the laundry, and then they both colored while I cleaned the kitchen and started dinner. They got bored with that pretty quickly, so I got out the playdough set we never opened from Christmas, and they played with that for 45 minutes! It was an enormous mess when it was all said and done, but they had fun and I got some work done.”

By now, my husband is nodding enthusistically, smiling as I tell him little stories about Faith’s new words of the day and Jonathan’s insatiable desire to “help.” Yesterday was a very good day. The kind of day I dreamed about when I was a teenager, wondering what I was going to do with my life. The type of day I idealized when going through infertility. The type of day I hold onto when we go through our six months of winter sickness, crankiness and misery! Yesterday was exactly the opposite of Monday, which I wrote about here.

——————–

In 2003, I moved 50 miles north to Pittsburgh, leaving my job as a Program Director of a large senior center. I really enjoyed my job, and was looking forward to searching for an exciting new job after my November wedding. After our wedding and honeymoon, I moved into my now-husbands house and started changing things. Paint went up, carpets were laid down, boxes unpacked and organized. Everyday I would work from morning ’til night, creating a home for my future family. Eventually, after settling into the area, I began job hunting. I held a bachelors degree in Gerontology, had quite a bit of experience for my age and was willing to try just about any position that would allow me to work with older adults. And yet, door after door of opportunity was closed in my face. I simply could not understand why I wasn’t getting a job. Later, I would come to understand that being a homemaker was the time of preperation God gave me to be a SAHM. (On a side note, do you know how embarrassing it is to be a homemaker in this day and age? I was so thankful when I had the kids…my place at home seemed much more legitimate!)

While I was job hunting, I really wrestled with how to structure my days. I had the option to sleep in, not shower, watch morning tv, etc etc. However, I realized that the less structured my days were, the more depressed I felt. So I began treating my days at home like a regular work day (with perks!) I would get up with my husband, shower, dress in decent clothes, and start on my to-do list. Sometimes I would meet my working friends or my grandma for lunch. Tuesdays and Thursdays I volunteered at the Alzheimer’s Association. Tuesday nights and Wednesday nights were reserved for Bible study…one I led for teenage girls, the other I attended with 10 other women who quickly became my dear friends in this new city.

Fast forward, past a job I had at an assisted living facility, past 19 months of infertility and 39 weeks of a twin pregnancy. Next month my son and daughter will turn two. And I am ever so thankful to have been at home with them for the past two years. I hope to remain at home with them until they begin kindergarden, and then I will look for part-time work.

Over the past 5.5 years of marriage and mommy-hood, I have learned a few tricks that I hope to pass on to other at-home parents. It is very, very easy to feel isolated, lonely, bored, depressed and resentful while staying at home. Here are some of the things I have learned over the years, that allow me to enjoy my job as a MoM, that enable me to stay rooted in my field, fulfilled in my day and growing as a person.

* I wake up at a normal time every day. Then I shower. The only exception would be if I am going to the gym in the morning, and then I shower during nap time. There is something about the routine of getting ready that makes me feel awake, and like a productive member of society.

* I dress as nicely as I can. Often, it is in jeans and a t-shirt, but my clothes are clean, ironed and without stains or holes. I wear makeup every day, too. It is just part of who I am.

* I keep a calendar and to-do list handy at all times. Being a stay-at-home parent offers a lot of flexibilty, but it is very easy to let the hours slip through your fingers without having much to show for it. My main objective every week is to complete my tasks through the week so that our weekends are freed up for fun and family time. Granted, I can’t always accomplish everything (grocery shopping, laundry, cleaning, car maintenance, yard work, etc.) but I can do a lot.

Utilize outside help. My husband is a corporate attorney. He works a lot of hours, and they are unpredictable. He often is traveling with less than 24 hours notice. His first work trip took place then the kids were 7 weeks old. I quickly had to accept the fact that I could not “rely” on my husband the way some woman can whose husbands work normal hours or who don’t travel for their job. Rather than resenting his commitment to his job (he is very committed to his family, but the job pays the bills!) I decided to train a mothers helper. Mary started with me when the kids were 5 months old. I paid her $5 an hour and she would play with the kids, empty the dishwasher, etc while I pumped, checked email, made phone calls, etc. I now have two neighbor girls (14 and 15 years old) who I can call on to watch the kids for an hour or so at a time. They have been with me for so long, and know the kids so well, that I feel comfortable leaving the house for an hour while the kids are in their care. This came in very handy last week when I needed to be at the hospital with my mother-in-law. At $6 an hour, their help is invaluable to me, even though I only use them 2-3 hours a week. Jay and I also routinely use babysitters (usually family) for date nights or occasional days off. This has provided us with a much needed balance in our roles as Mom and Dad vs. Husband and Wife.

* Stay rooted in your field. I continue to volunteer for the Alzheimer’s Association. I have taught community programs, helped at the Memory Walk, co-chair the young-onset support group, and belong to two committees. I probably only spend a total of 5 hours a month volunteering, but it is enough to stay connected to my peers and current in my field. It is also very satisfying to dress up once in a while and head out to my meetings, coffee in hand!

* The last bit of advice might sound a bit odd, coming from a fellow Mom. But do not make your entire day/week revolve around your children. Children are a wonderful addition to our families, but they are a part of our families, not the center of them. I am trying very hard to teach my kids that part of being a family is doing things you may not want to do for the sake of the whole family. Going to the gym day care or church nursery may not be what the kids want to do, but eventually they learn, and the entire family is better off.

Being a stay-home-parent has provided me with ample opportunity to care for my family, my community and myself. Self-discipline and an outward focus are key to making the most of your time. I am not the kind of woman who proclaims from the rooftops that being a SAHM is the only way to go…no, I just simply cannot fathom how MoM’s with two jobs possibly get any sleep!

I enjoy my job (most days) and hope that my family, friends and community benefit from my decision to be a SAHM.

Faith and Jonathan aka "sissy" and "brother."
Faith and Jonathan aka "sissy" and "brother."

What is your trick or tip for making your day at home successful? How do you measure that success?

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