Saying Goodbye to the Breastpump

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Categories Breastfeeding, Emotion, Grief, Infants, Mommy Issues, SAHM, Working5 Comments

The time has come. School starts in about 5 weeks, and I go back to work in less than 4. I can’t believe it’s already upon me. I had thought back when the twins were 8 weeks old that I had quite a lot of time to decide how I would handle the breastfeeding thing. Making it to 8 months was always the ideal goal, the one that would happen in the best of possible worlds. More realistically I thought I’d stop when Husband went back to work, or at most 6 months perhaps. But somehow, I’ve been able to keep up with pumping every two hours while I’m awake for over 7 months now.

Of course at times this has been incredibly challenging, like taking the pump with me while on outings longer than 3 hours and pumping in the car/bathroom/other weird location, or pumping while one or two or all three kids need my attention. I’ve woken up in a pool of leaked milk, stayed up late to wash pump parts that I forgot about, and threatened to take a hammer to the darned contraption when I was done (might still do this).

But mostly, it’s just become a part of my life. I have learned to live it in 2-3 hour increments. After that amount of time, I get to take a “break” to go pump, and allow myself 10 minutes of me time. Sometimes Toddler comes along and plays on my bed next to me for a quiet chat– time to spend alone with her. It’s a chance for me to get caught up on the news, read some blogs, check in on Facebook– I’ve recently even started reading Game of Thrones.

Now that this routine is about to change, I feel a bit lost. I weaned the pump when Toddler was 8 months old. Working and pumping definitely took a much bigger toll, and I couldn’t wait to be done. But this time I feel different. I’m sort of mourning the loss of something that has become such a big part of my life. I read somewhere that the pump is like your third child, and in a way it is, and that child is kind of hard to let go. I know I should be excited that I will no longer need to wash all those pump parts, my family can get all that time back, and pumping will not be one of our schedule constraints any longer, but I’m actually more… sad.

Or maybe I’m projecting my emotions about returning to work onto pumping. I think I would happily trade continuing to pump if it meant I could continue to stay home.

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Silver Linings of Bed Rest

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Categories Attitude, Family, Fertility, Health, Other people, Perspective, Pregnancy, Working7 Comments

12 days ago I went in to the doc for my 32-week check up and a half hour or so later, ended up in the hospital for monitoring, due to high blood pressure, having dilated and lots of swelling.  Once hooked up for monitoring, I was told my contractions were about 3-4 minutes apart.  I had been having contractions for a few months now, and never really bothered to time them, as I’d been told it was normal to have contractions early with twins. Before you knew it, I was being admitted, and stayed two days in order to get some meds in my system to slow down contractions and two doses of steroids to help with the babies’ lung development should they come a lot earlier than anticipated. Upon discharge, it was recommended that I stay on bed rest till 34 weeks, at minimum.

12 things I’ve learned in those 12 days that I did not know before

  1. The clock does not matter in the hospital.  I had a nurse come in to check my weight at 3am.  My weight.  I understand that this could be related to ruling out preeclampsia.  But still.  3am seemed a little unnecessary.  Almost like they just wanted to give a job to the night nurse to even out the daytime workload.
  2. After only two days of hospital bed rest, my muscles seemed to weaken.  I have nothing but sympathy and total admiration for you MoMs who endure MONTHS of hospital bed rest, not to mention, people who struggle with chronic illnesses that keep them bedridden for the forseeable future.
  3.  Even nurses in the high-risk OB floor, whose caseloads are probably half women pregnant with multiples, will make the annoying comments like, “Wow, a boy/girl set of twins!  Now you’re done!”  If the nurses in this arena still make these comments, can we really have hope for the rest of society to be more PC?
  4. IVF really does prepare you for the discomforts of being poked and prodded a million times and the lack of modesty that comes with being in the hospital.  Silver linings.
  5.  It is possible to gain 10 lbs of fluid in 48 hours from IV fluid.
  6.  It is possible for it to take 10 days to lose said 10 lbs of fluid.
  7.  The advice from others takes different shape throughout pregnancy, and has followed this timeline for us: Trying to conceive advice- “Just don’t stress about it, it’ll happen.”  Pregnant advice-“You think you’re tired now, just WAIT until you have a baby to take care of at 3am.”  Twin advice (from moms of singletons)- “Better you than me.”  See also number 10 on this list.  Bedrest advice-“You need to just accept it.  It’s all for the greater good.”  I just can’t wait to see what lovely nuggets of wisdom we get once the babies are actually here.
  8. That list of things I’ve always wanted to do that’s piled up for ages can actually get done pretty quickly when I don’t have other things like work, exercise, cleaning that I’m able/allowed to do.
  9. Working from home would not be something good for me.  I didn’t learn this through this experience, but it reaffirmed that I do get so much out of being around others each day, conversing, learning, contributing.  And I’m grateful to have a job I can return to that will allow me this luxury when the twins arrive.
  10. I am so lucky I had no complications in this twin pregnancy until 32 weeks, and even with being on bed rest, this is still a very healthy pregnancy.
  11. Every step of our fertility and pregnancy journey has taught me more and more to surrender and accept the things I cannot control.  Bed rest is just another one of these things to humble me and remind me to live life on life’s terms, not on mine.
  12. I am so incredibly lucky to be surrounded by friends who have texted every day, parents who have driven 45 minutes just to walk my dog for me, a husband who has waited on me hand and foot, family to visit and make us meals, a great hospital system a few blocks from our house, and my general health.

What did you learn from your bedrest or pregnancy complications?

Katie is almost 34 weeks pregnant with b/g twins, currently on bed rest and watching way too much HGTV.  She lives in the Chicago area with her husband and soon-to-be-big-sister canine friend.  

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Third Strike at Summer Camp

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Categories Activities, Childcare, Frustration, Mommy Issues, Older Children, Time Management, WorkingTags , , , 4 Comments

summercamp“Specialty” summer camp logistics has been a nightmare that I can’t wake up from. I told you about the fiasco of our first couple of days this morning. Today was the final straw.

When I went to drop the kids off, I signed them into the full-day program and made sure that the counselors at drop off knew that my daughters needed to get to their cheer and soccer camps at 8:00. At that point, I was informed that this wasn’t an option on field trip days. Since the full-day campers and counselors would be offsite on their field trip, there would be no one available to take care of the children when the specialty camps let out. I could elect either to have the kids go on the field trip and skip cheer and soccer or I could find alternate care for the afternoon.

I wasn’t told when I signed the kids up for camp that specialty camps were essentially going to be incompatible with a work schedule. I specifically told the guy at registration that I was a single working mom, so full-day was a non-negotiable requirement. I’m sure that plenty of kids and parents elect to lose a day specialty camp over time at work, but poor J had already missed a day of cheer-leading on Monday. I wasn’t going to disappoint her again. Instead, I tried to do as much work as I could from my house with the kids there after I picked them up at 1:00 (having been late to work all week thanks to the search for answers at the Y). I was able to get some good focused time in immediately after they got home while they read, but by 4:00, they needed me to focus on them. I’m just so grateful that I have an employer who flexes to the unpredictable needs of two-career and single parents.

Even the coaches at the specialty camps were completely unaware of the conflict between full-day field trips and part-day specialty camps. I can’t help wondering how many coaches have had to stay late, over the years, on discovering that there was no one there to take responsibility for a subset of their kids when they were done with camp for the day.

I must say, in defense of the full-day program, that Sophia, the coordinator, called me as I was pulling out of the full-day parking lot to let me know about the field trip/afternoon care conflict. She apologized for not having mentioned it when we spoke yesterday. I’m embarrassed to say that I landed all my frustrations on her. She’s been nothing but helpful, and I called her later in the day to apologize for venting the way I had.

My daughters and I chatted in the car until shortly before 8:00, when I delivered M and J to their respective coaches. I then stalked YMCA staff until I located supervisors who were willing to talk to me. Specialty camp management was downright useless (except for Casey, who I mentioned yesterday).

The full-day management seemed to take my concerns seriously. They had obviously already discussed my frustrations. They listened to my concerns and recommendations for improvement. They promised to look into both systemic changes that they could implement and why I hadn’t received their weekly emails that outline what we can expect from camp. (There were emails!? This was the first I’d heard of them!)

I made sure that they knew that I had no complaints about the care my children were receiving, and that I’d had nothing but positive interactions with full-day staff. I was just flummoxed by the lack of communication, and the general not-my-problem attitude of the specialty camp administration. I reminded the full-day management that, while they probably get into the swing of things over the course of the summer, there are probably going to be new parents every week for whom the whole process is new and unknown. One of managers let slip that the specialty program doesn’t even inform them of which of the full-day children are enrolled in specialty camps in any given week; I think there’s clearly some federated organization pain going on, which is something I deal with–and try to minimize–at my own workplace.

I had originally thought we could push through the remaining specialty camps that M and J had selected and signed up for this summer, but I think it’ll be better for my blood pressure and the resulting home climate for us to call it quits. The emotional eating alone may be taking years off my life. The friend whose daughter is in J’s cheer camp and my daughters’ Girl Scout troop offered to pick my girls up early on field trip days so I don’t have to miss more work. I’m incredibly grateful for the offer, but she just shouldn’t have to make it.

I think it’s time to stick with the simplicity of the tried and true. Trying to make specialty camps and full-day care work together is like fitting a round peg in a square hole. I’ll leave those special programs to parents who don’t have to balance childcare with a work schedule during the summer. We’ll just stick with the full-day program at an elementary school location. These soccer, cheer, cooking and tumbling camps will have to be another set of things that J and M don’t get to experience because Mommy has a job.

On the upside, both M and J had a grand day. At one point, J’s cheer class happened to go outside to practice, ending up at the same field where M was working on soccer drills. The girls had an emotional reunion, and the coaches agreed to let M skip out of soccer early to visit J’s cheer camp for the week’s performance of the routine they’ve been working on. J, being the lightest kid in cheer camp, gets to be a “flyer,” the girl at the top of the pyramid. She’s giddy about M getting to watch her. I think that the counselors’ sensitivity to J and M’s relationship with each other and their willingness to think outside the box to nurture it shows that they don’t subscribe in the least to the uncaring culture of their management.

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Summer Camp Makes Me Cry

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Categories Anger, Childcare, Fear, Frustration, Mommy Issues, Older Children, Products, Safety, School-Age, WorkingTags , , , , 5 Comments

summercampOur school district has a 12-week summer vacation. I’m a single mom with a full-time job, so I have to find somewhere safe and fun for my 7-year-old daughters to spend the summer months. According to our divorce decree, my ex-husband is supposed to get 30 summer days with the kids when he’s stateside, but he had to decline that right this year, so arrangements for the entirety of the 12 weeks fell to me.

I pored over summer camp brochures. My kids qualified, academically, for the highly rated Summer Wonders program for gifted children, but the full-day program plus extended care (for two) was well outside my schedule requirements as well as my budget. I finally decided to go with a local YMCA program for 11 weeks and Girl Scout camp for 1 week and let the kids pick specific options.

A friend made all the transportation arrangements for Girl Scout camp and kept my daughters after camp until I got home from work that week. The paperwork was more than a little frustrating–why would a day camp require that I provide scans of the girls’ medical insurance cards?–but the kids had a fantastic time.

Most of the YMCA weeks were to be spent at a school location at one of their basic camps. Each of these basic camps has a weekly field trip, weekly swimming outing and fun activities all day, every day. The kids are obviously happy and well-cared for, and the counselors make sure that I knew the schedule, providing daily updates on a whiteboard, a printed schedule, and verbal reminders.

For a few weeks,  we elected to sign up for a few “special” camps: tumbling, cheer-leading, soccer and cooking. These camps last from 8 am to 1 pm. Outside these hours, kids can additionally register for full-day camp, and the YMCA staff is responsible for transitioning the kids from one program to the other.

Once the kids were actually at their special camps, they had a blast. The counselors were fantastic. J, being petite, got to participate in the most fun part of all sorts of cheerleading stunts. She’s a “flyer.” M couldn’t stop talking about her dribbling, defense and scoring skills.

The administrative side, though, was just horrendous. I thought that, once I’d filled out the forms, paid out my $400 deposit ($15 per week per child for 12 weeks plus some base deposit) and paid the first week’s tuition, things would go smoothly.

Not so.

In week one, I was the first one to mess up. I showed up to the school-based camp location instead of the specials place. One of the counselors made some calls to help me figure out where J and M should be. They were signed up for tumbling camp… except that they weren’t. I managed to register M and J on the spot for the school location and left them there while I tried to chase things down. As I said, the on-site staff, the people who actually deal with kids, are professional, accommodating, and infinitely helpful.

What had happened, it turns out, was that when I signed J and M up for tumbling camp (or perhaps when they got around to entering them into their system), the camp was full. So someone took the initiative to move my $30 deposit for the week to be a credit against another week of camp, without ever bothering to communicate the change to me, and effectively leaving me without childcare for that week. When I tried to point out that the appropriate, polite and professional thing to do would have been to inform and consult me, the manager simply said, “Well, I have no idea who did it. Jeff took your paperwork, but he would never do that. I can’t look up who did.”

Great. Thanks. That makes everything better. Obviously, my first impression of the “special” camps wasn’t fantastic. Neither was the second.

What I had gathered from the (incomplete) information on the YMCA website and from several conversations was that I could drop the girls off at the full-day location between 7 and 8 or bring them directly to their special camp at 8. On the first day, I decided on the latter. I easily located M’s soccer coach, signed her in, and began to seek J’s cheer instructor.

I asked for a location at the front desk. I was pointed to a room in the building. We went in and it was empty. It was 7:55. I called out, thinking that I was simply failing to see someone. There was no response. I went to the childcare program offices for help.

“We don’t run that program,” said the ever unhelpful Jeff. “You’ll have to ask at the front desk.”
“I already did,” I told him. “They told me to go to room X.”
“Yeah, that’s right.”
“There’s no one there.”
“Oh, you should take her down to the [location] for the full-day program.”
“Now?”
“Yeah.”

I loaded J into the car and went down the street to the full-day location. Drop-off was easy, and J and I made sure that the counselor knew that J was supposed to be going to cheer camp. I left, my heart easy. I knew Sophia, the woman running the full-day program, and I knew she’d make sure everything was ship-shape.

When I returned in the afternoon to pick up the girls, Sophia was there. “I was so surprised!” she said. “I came in around 9, and there was J! It was so nice to see her.”

That didn’t sound right. At 9:00, J should have been at cheer camp. I mentioned my confusion. Sophia looked at her paperwork and confirmed that J should have been taken to cheer. She promised to look into it. J told me that she’d repeatedly told her counselor that she was in the wrong place, but I imagine that the counselor is accustomed to the petulant and unrealistic demands of 7-year-olds.

Within 10 minutes of our leaving to drive home, Sophia called. She’d called a couple of people. She and her counselors had messed up, she told me. By the time J and I arrived that morning, the posse of kids destined for special programs had already left. I assured her that, while I appreciated her taking responsibility, there were plenty of others who had given us misinformation.

The next morning, we were there at 7:50. M’s drop-off with her soccer coaches went smoothly, but J’s was again problematic. I went to the classroom in question, and it was filled with serious looking types in suits. I again went to the front desk. I tried to express to the man there that I was seeking the cheer instructor, and he informed me that he wasn’t the person I should talk to. I asked who I should talk to. He told me that no one I should talk to was there yet. I asked who, among the people there, could help me locate my child’s coach. He finally gave me the phone number for the head of the program. I went back to my car to get my phone, called the number he’d given me, and left a message. She still hasn’t had the decency to return my call.

On the way back to the classroom (for the fourth time in 2 days), I ran into a friend whose daughter was also in cheer camp. They’d be meeting in the grass that morning because of the meeting taking place in their regular location, she told me. By the time we found them, the other kids were in a circle, stretching with the coach. A woman–Carrie? Casey? I’m ashamed to say I was too upset to have retained her name–asked if I would like to sign J in. No, I told her. I wanted to talk to her.

I told her the whole story. By the time I was half way through, I was sobbing. I told her that I was entrusting her organization with the care of my children, and their behaviour wasn’t filling me with confidence. I trusted Sophia, I told her, to make sure that my kids were safe. She’d earned my trust over months of consistent communication, thoughtful and gentle discipline, and excellent time management. Sophia knew and cared for my kids. I hadn’t gotten an impression of caring from the other administrative staff. The not-my-problem attitude wasn’t winning any brownie points.

Carrie (?) looked into the whole tumbling fiasco. She took a screenshot of the oddball transactions and put it on the accounts manager’s desk for him to investigate. She explained to me that getting full-day kids to their special camps was the responsibility of the full-day counselors. I told her that I had already spoken to Sophia and worked out that part of it. I did ask her why, when J was missing yesterday, I didn’t receive a call to tell that she wasn’t where she was supposed to be. A lot of kids, it turns out, just never show up, so they don’t bother calling no shows. I recommended that the two programs get on the same page about what should be done with kids who arrive in that grey time between 7:50 and 8:00. Parents would understand, I assured her, if we needed to stay 10 minutes. Just tell us that instead of sending us on wild goose chases.

Sophia called me later that morning to check in. I assured her that I felt that she’d done what she could. I let her know, though, that a coworker of mine said that he’d had similar issues at the location 15+ years ago. It was time to fix some things. She listened to my recommendations and promised to follow up. She even thanked me for giving her a parent’s perspective.

  • Assign a person who is physically present to be in charge of parent communication at all times throughout the day, and make sure that all staff members know who that person is.
  • Coordinate between programs so that managers know where children should be taken at what time.
  • Provide clear and consistent expectations for drop-off times and locations to all employees and train them on answering questions with patience and a sense of ownership of the problem.
  • Send email or written confirmation of registration records to ensure that parents have the same impression as the YMCA of their child’s schedule.
  • Along with written confirmation of registration, send parents a list of assumptions. Who is responsible for our child at different points in the day? Where, precisely, are we supposed to go to drop them off and pick them up? What should they bring with them?
  • Train data entry staff on appropriate handling of unusual cases or insist that they check with a manager before making modifications.

Honestly, I don’t have much confidence that they’ll fix anything. I’ll just have to trust that Sophia will notice even if everyone else loses track of my children. And this will be our last year of turning to the Y for special camps.

Edit: June 26, 2013, 11 pm CDT – Things got worse today. Read on.

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Decision Made

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Categories Balance, Childcare, Mommy Issues, SAHM, Working2 Comments

Well, it’s been decided. Not in a definitive moment of inspired epiphany kind of way, instead a slow but sure realization that there wasn’t ever any other option. Who was I kidding? (Myself.) There is no long-term way that we would be happy living on one income in Los Angeles, especially now with three children who are only going to get more expensive as they require activities and demand stuff. And by no means do we spoil our kids, but we don’t want them wanting for anything if we are able to provide it.

So there it is. Decision made. I will go back to work for the next school year, continue my career, strive to impact the lives of young people, and hopefully sock away money for the enough-bedrooms-for-everyone next house.

To be really honest though, I’m not sure I was ready for the uncertainty of taking a few years’ break from my career. As a teacher, my job is comparatively secure. There have been layoffs in my profession in recent years, but it’s not nearly as bad as in others. However, I currently have 10 years in my district, which represents a pretty solid seniority ranking– one I would lose if I left and started working in a different district in the future, not to mention a loss in pay as well for basically starting over. And even if we are able to afford me staying at home full time in the future, am I really ready to completely let go of my career? What will I do when my children all go to school?

I do even look forward to time away from my kids. Not that I don’t love being at home with them, but I do need some time to myself, time that isn’t precariously contingent upon nap schedules and baby mood swings. I can get up in the morning, shower, get dressed, and go on my way like a normal person. I can interact with people who are over the age of 3. I can have an intelligent conversation with someone who isn’t my husband or a mommy friend. And then I can run home and enjoy my more-precious children at the 3pm bell.

But that’s not to say this isn’t a heart wrenching decision that comes with its own dilemmas. I will need to not only part with my 3 year old every morning, but also two more kids who will by then be in the throes of separation anxiety. Their lives will drastically change after almost 9 months of Mommy-all-the-time. What the heck, my life will drastically change and I will suffer baby withdrawals. No more mid-morning trip to the park, afternoon visit to the library, or classes with Toddler. And it will be the end of naps for Mama. No more break while the kids are all taking their midday nap. I will be gone for the relatively easy naps/feeds/happy children during the day but retain the craziness of getting out the door in the morning and dinner/bedtime/cranky children in the evening. All while putting in a full day of work. I’m exhausted just thinking about it.

And I haven’t exactly locked down where Toddler will be going to school come fall. We’ve decided she is definitely ready for more structured socialization, but the preschool hunt has turned up nothing spectacular. My requirement of Chinese instruction is what really holds us back, but that is also the one thing I cannot compromise.

Nor have I really figured out what to do with the twins. My mom has been coming to take over one feeding with the babies two mornings a week while I spend time alone with Toddler. She does great with them, and I always come home to well-fed and back-asleep babies. But she’s only here 3 hours, and they’re napping for almost half of that time. She’s an aging grandma with her own ailments, and I think caring for crawling-in-different-directions twins might break her. Ideally we’d have the exact same setup as with Toddler: Drop them off at her house in the morning, drive 5 minutes to work, and pick them up 10 minutes after the last class. But schlepping two around this time, with stuff for two, up and down stairs with two, two additional cribs, highchairs, two everything… and picking up Toddler somewhere along the way, that’s just daunting. So maybe she will need to come to my house? Maybe I will need to hire an additional helper? Maybe I need a nanny instead?

I am very anxious that this isn’t all worked out by now.

So, it is ultimately with a heavy heart that I will be going to be back to my classroom in a matter of weeks, unpacking boxes from cabinets, putting up bulletin boards, and preparing to meet the 120+ teenagers who it will be my job to mold this year. Maybe I can reassess next spring…

lunchldyd is a high school teacher and mom to 3 kids 3 and under.

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The Online Mother of Multiples Club

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Categories Community, Friendships with Other Multiples, HDYDI Blog, MoM Groups, Mommy Issues, Time Management, WorkingTags , , , , , , 7 Comments

I didn’t seek out mother of multiples clubs when I was pregnant. It never even occurred to me that such a thing existed. However, I had a fortuitous run-in at my daughters’ very first pediatric visit, the day after J was released from the NICU, 22 days old. I was stopped on the way to the examination room by a mother, Laura, who told me that she had twin boys, and would I be interested in joining her mothers of multiples club? It was a small one, limited to the suburb in which we lived. There were fewer than 20 moms in the group. I gave her my contact information, and found myself attending the next meeting.

These women were incredibly nice. One of them, Kara, was tandem nursing her one-year-olds. Formula had never touched their lips. She was an inspiration to me throughout my efforts to breastfeed my girls.

The problem, though, was that I was the only woman in the group with a full-time job. The group’s activities that included kids were all held during the day, on weekdays. They didn’t have any weekend activities; they wanted to spend that time together as a family with their husbands. The monthly weekday evening meetings were child-free. They were intended to be a chance for a bunch of girlfriends to leave their kids with their husbands and get a night off. That worked for me for a couple of months, but then my husband deployed to Iraq when our babies were 5 months old.

I couldn’t quite see my way to hiring a babysitter when I was already away from my daughters 11 hours every day. I maintained friendships with individual members of the group by email. I volunteered to manage the membership records. I couldn’t really attend any events, though.

My “real” participation was limited to the annual family-inclusive potluck picnic. I was the only one at the picnic without a husband. (Since then, three of us have gotten divorced and one has remarried.) It was a great time, though. When I got up from my hotdog to give my girls their bottles, their having rejected the breast months earlier, Kara asked me to hand her a baby. We each fed a child with one hand, feeding ourselves with the other, while she watched her three kids run in the grass. I was dumbfounded. With the exception of my dear friends Sara, whose son was 14 days younger than mine and whose husband had deployed with with mine, and Kaylan, who was living with us, my friends were generally terrified by my children. I hardly knew what to do with this cool, collected and well-coiffed mother who was clearly comfortable handling an undersize baby or two.

I tried reaching out to the much larger mothers of multiples group that served the greater Austin area, but never received a response to my queries. I looked at their meeting schedule, and sure enough, kid-friendly activities were during work hours. Kids weren’t welcome at after-hours events. I was a little miffed, but figured that I had a pretty great support network through work, plus the gifts of Sara and Kaylan.

This whole time, I’d been blogging, trying to provide a place for our relatives around the world, including Daddy in Iraq, to keep up with what M and J were up to. There were lots of photos and here’s-what-we-did-today posts. One day, I clicked a link in a moms’ forum to The Busy Dad Blog. I don’t even remember what post it was, but it had me in stitches and I left a comment. On a whim, I linked my name to my little family-and-friends mommy blog.

Community surrounds usFrom that teeny little comment, people–complete strangers–started visiting my dinky little blog. People starting commenting. I clicked to their sites. I discovered this entire culture of mommy blogging. (Sorry, Jim, but I consider you a mommy blogger; if there were more daddy bloggers like you around, I’d probably graduate to “parent blogger,” but there you have it.) Before long, I was finding my parenting deeply impacted and greatly improved by the observations and recommendations of the likes of LauraC, Goddess in Progress, and Momo Fali. LauraC’s extraordinary boys, Nate and Alex, are only 6 days younger than my daughters, she works full-time, and her husband travels for work. There’s no one else I’d come across who seemed to understand my day-to-day reality better.

Tracey is reading to our two sets of twins.I discovered LauraC and Goddess in Progress right here at How Do You Do It? I’ve since met HDYDI’s LauraC and Reanbean in real life. Goddess and I can somehow never quite make it to the same place at the same time, although we’ve tried. I’ve become close friends with Tracey, also a former blogger at HDYDI. Our families have even spent Christmas together, although her boys can no more tell my girls apart than my girls can distinguish them. It doesn’t seem to negatively impact their play.

My virtual mothers of multiples club online has helped me get through potty training, the Terrible (Horrible Awful Monstrous) Threes, deployment after deployment, school decisions and, most recently, divorce. It’s hard to explain to people who don’t experience online relationships like these how much these people, most of whom I will never meet face-to-face, mean to me. I’ll never be able to repay what I owe them.

Traditional mother of multiples clubs haven’t quite worked out for me, but the blogosphere? That’s my club. Online parenting support has been priceless. My daughters are better off for the community of thoughtful parents who’ve shaped how they’re raised.

Thanks to MarisaB and RebeccaD for kicking off this conversation.

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Summer Vacation? What Summer Vacation?

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Categories Activities, Childcare, Frustration, How Do The Moms Do It, Mommy Issues, Parenting, Perspective, Routines, SAHM, School-Age, WorkingTags , , , 1 Comment

I have a variety of mommy–or rather parent–friends. I’m a single working mom of twins, but the families my daughters and I spend time with run the gamut from large home-schooling ones to two-income families with one child.

When we moved back to Central Texas last August after a year living in El Paso, we reconnected with old friends and also made a number of new ones in our new neighbourhood and at J and M’s school. The majority of these new mommy friends are either stay-at-home moms or teachers. Another friend with whom we try to spend as much time as possible is going to college. All their routines change drastically during the summer. No school, no work.

As the kids’ school year drew to a close, people’s excitement was palpable. Mom after mom talked about the plans they had in place to entertain and educate their kids during the summer. They proposed fun and exciting events and activities. One mom is even going to host Spanish language activities for five kids, including my daughters, so that they don’t lose the huge leaps in Spanish fluency they’ve made this year in dual language first grade.

Although I work at a university, my work schedule is not impacted by the academic calendar. I need full-day childcare for my daughters when they’re not in school. When they were littler and in daycare, our summer routine was no different than the rest of the year’s. Now that they’re in school, I replace after-school care with summer camps.

A letter from J describing her first day of Girl Scout camp

Our old friends quickly learned that our social calendar was limited to weekend activities. After all, I went back to work when M and J were 11 weeks old. Our new friends are learning this now. Just yesterday, I had to turn down two invitations for midweek play dates. I’ll still be at work at the times my friends proposed. A couple of times, we’ve been invited to weeknight events; my daughters’ friends can sleep in the next day, but my girls have to be dropped off early so I can be at work on time.

A complication in our attempts to schedule play dates is that my daughters have a number of friends who, like them, have divorced parents. Birds of a feather, you know. M and J’s dad lives in North Carolina, and we’re in Texas. He sees them when he can. Many of the girls’ friends spend alternate weekends with their dads, and I’m friends with the moms. On the Daddy weekends, none of the girls’ “divorced” friends are open for play dates.

My daughters’ routine gets switched up during summer vacation, but mine remains the same.

Does summer bring a marked change to your family’s routine? Do your kids’ social calendars put yours to shame?

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Can Multiples Moms Have it All?

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Categories Balance, Family, Household and Family Management, Parenting Twins, Perspective, WorkingTags , , , , 2 Comments

Can Multiples’ Moms Have it All?

This is a loaded question. It really depends on what your “all” represents and I think each mom’s opinion of having it all is going to vary.

Having it all to me, in a dream world, would be having enough money to not worry about how to make ends meet, how to pay for extracurricular activities or for special things or healthcare costs, how to get kids to school on time and also make it to work in enough time to sit at my desk and sip my coffee, while I calmly get ready to start my day.

Notice I said “make it to work”? As a woman, I value the opportunity to go to work, to think about things outside of mommyhood, to do my thing and hopefully help those that I work with in a social services environment. At work I get to put on my thinking cap and think about adult issues and problems. Even if I had all the money in the world, I would still take some time away from the hectic life of being a mom.

When I am not at work 9-5, I am at home with my kids. We get a few hours together before its bedtime, which sometimes bothers me and I think I’d like to be at home more with them, and then one starts screaming at the top of his lungs or wailing on a brother and then I think…maybe not! I figure I do have vacation time and a dependable income, which in the long run means I can plan fun times and take time off to spend more time with them throughout the year. I just have to plan my time with my kids a bit more than a mom who stays at home with their kids full time. I really do enjoy the balance of home life and work life.

I think if you want certain things in life you have to go after them. As mothers it can be very easy to find reasons to put things off when it comes to our own needs. We have to learn to prioritize and compromise on our needs and our personal values. You need to set goals to achieve your dreams of having it all, as well as have realistic expectations of attaining them. The best way to do this is to talk to our partners and let them know what we need out of life and check in with them to find out what they’re thinking, planning and needing as well. As a mother, if you’re tired and feeling burnt out, then you have to ask for help. I’ve been there. Completely exhausted and trying to figure out what to focus on and when. It’s so important to ask for help when you need it because it will do wonders for your sanity and long term happiness.

Yes, there will always be bumps in the road and sometimes things will not go according to plan, so it’s always important to have a Plan B, regroup and sometimes reprioritize in order to have your “all.”

Carolyn is a full time employment counsellor working for a not-for-profit social services agency in Canada. She has 3 young boys–a 5 year old singleton and 3 year old twins. You can find more of Carolyn’s thoughts about parenting, twins and prematurity awareness at Twintrospectives.

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Whirlwind Schedule

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Categories Activities, Balance, Community, Diversity, Organization, Routines, School, School-Age, Working1 Comment

If you’re anything like me, things start to whirl out of control at this time of year. Here in the US, the school year is winding down, and the end-of-school events are ramping up. Between recitals and dress rehearsals (dance and piano), awards ceremonies, talent shows, birthday parties, selecting summer camp programs, and the school cultural celebration, I’m feeling a little frayed at the edges.

The fact that J and M’s birthday is next month just adds insult to injury. I confess that, while we’ve decided on a time, location, and theme for their party, I have made no headway toward making invitations or finalizing the guest list.

I am, as my daughter M once put it, “overwheeled.” She says “overwhelmed” now, but “overwheeled” is up there with “lellow” for “yellow” and “yosen” for “used” in my favourite J-and-Misms. (She just looked over my shoulder and informed me that I spelled “favourite” wrong and should “spell it American.” I figure letting my daughters watch and participate in my writing process can’t be a bad thing for anyone.)

I’m not too proud to ask for help when I need it. A huge part of the reason that I hurried back to Central Texas after my divorce was to return to the amazingly supportive community that I am part of. The stuff on my plate right now, however, can’t be outsourced. I need to be the one making sure I get ballet costume photos taken for Grammy and Grampy. Only I can make modifications to my work schedule to get to all these events on time. It’s up to me to make the display on Bangladesh for the event celebrating diversity at our school.

For the next month or so, I need to go into get-it-done mode. There will be less sleep for me. I’ll be working through all my lunch breaks. I’m going to have to figure out each day’s schedule at the beginning of the week. No flying by the seat of my pants for me. This will be a month of checklists and spreadsheets and schedules.

It’s going to be a great month and will leave us with a ton of great memories, but I am looking forward to June.

How do you handle the crazy times?

For those of you with infants right now, how does it feel to hear how completely I’ve managed to forget the feats of juggling I was capable of when my littles were truly little?

Sadia, her twin daughters J and M, and the family cats overextend themselves in the Austin, TX area. Sadia is a recently divorced single mom and works full time in higher education information technology.

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Balancing Work, Home, and Mommy Guilt

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Categories Routines, Toddlers, WorkingTags , , , , , , , , , 3 Comments

Working fulltime with two little ones at home is proving more difficult than expected. It’s been 8 months now since returning to work after extended leave, and I thought we had it all figured out. One thing we didn’t factor in was how busy and challenging my job had become in two years.

We’re doing everything right, or so it seems. Mr. Mama and I take turns cooking and we have someone coming in to clean the house twice a month. Mr. Mama does most of the daycare pickups and dropoffs while I help him get the kids out of the house. We tag team during mealtimes, bathtime and bedtime. We even have extra help from the Grandparents once a week and on the weekends.

Our morning routine is consistent. I usually wake up first to get ready for work and make breakfast. Then I get Little Mister and Little Missy, chang them and start on breakfast while Mr. Mama gets ready. In the evenings, I’m home 10 minutes before the twins which is enough time to warm up dinner. Then follows bathtime and an early bed.

Other things I do to save time and energy: pack my lunch 2 days ahead, write down daily priorities at work, write up weekly “To Do” list at home, set out the twins clothes for the week and set out my clothes for the week. Despite all that, we never see the neighbours, let alone our friends, and barely have time to catch up on the rest of the life.

As another twin mom put it, every day is organized chaos. I know this is for a short time only because the kids are so young. But that’s the sad part! Every day they seem to grow an inch and learn things at an exponential rate. And I’m too tired right now to enjoy it. That, my friends, is mommy-guilt. How do you manage yours?

Ambereen, mom to 2 year old B/G twins, is constantly striving to find some form of balance between all the aspects of their busy lives. Read more on her personal blog.

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