Our daughters were born 7 weeks early. We were somewhat prepared for that possibility. We joined a Lamaze class for couples with May 2006 duedates, even though our twins weren’t due until July. We assembled M and J’s cribs at the beginning of the third trimester. We interviewed and selected our daughters’ pediatrician well before they were due.
We had not, however, made childcare arrangements. All my research showed that we could expect our babies to be in the hospital until around their duedate, regardless of whether they were preemies or full-term. The doctors and nurses led us to believe the same in the whirlwind surrounding the arrival of our 3 lb 9 oz and 3 lb 6 oz newborns.
There was never any question about whether I would return to work after having children. I love being a mother, more than I ever imagined I could love any role, but I also love my job and my coworkers. I am built to be a better, more patient, more creative parent when I spend my weekdays interacting with adults, and my husband was born to be both a father and a soldier. I deeply admire parents who choose parenting as their primary career, in large part because I know I couldn’t hack it.
Once I had taken the requisite 2 weeks to recover from my C-section, I needed to decide what to do with the remaining 9 weeks of parental leave I had at my disposal. If I waited out the 5 weeks more we expected J and M to be in the NICU, I’d have only a month left to establish a routine, adjust to being a mom, and master breastfeeding before returning to work. Almost equally challenging, we would have to make daycare arrangements in a hurry, because we’d been anticipating that the girls would be 2 to 3 months beyond their due date before needing to start daycare.
I’d decided to go back to work while the babies were in the hospital when our lovely nurse, Michelle, stopped me. She told me quietly that our daughters were doing unusually well for preemies, and that they would likely be released long before their due date. They ended up coming home at the tender ages of 16 and 21 days.
We were going to need childcare 4 weeks after their original due date, instead of the 12 weeks we’d anticipated. All of a sudden, we were in a scramble to find the right place. We were absolutely unwilling to sacrifice quality in the interest of expedience. After all, our newborn treasures would be spending 10-11 hours a day in the care of strangers.
We wanted a formal childcare facility, rather than in-home daycare. We just couldn’t afford the possibility of a single careprovider getting ill or having some other emergency that rendered them unavailable when my husband would soon be headed to Iraq and I’d be parenting solo. I started with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services’ childcare search and scoured the violation reports. Only once I’d reviewed each centre’s history did I schedule visits.
We got lucky. Early on in our search we landed our home for the next 5 years. Its inspection record wasn’t spotless, but the only ding was that their infant changing table lacked a safety rail on all sides at their first inspection, a problem that was corrected within the week. The children we met at our visit were well-behaved but boisterous. There was clear affection between every teacher and every child. The facilities were clean, and our questions were answered directly. The older kids’ classrooms were organized, colourful, and proportioned for children, with posters at a child’s eye-level. The infant room contained a rocking chair for nursing mothers who wanted to breastfeed at dropoff or pickup. They would fully support my bringing expressed breastmilk and, later, homemade baby food.
It’s 5 years later, almost to the day, and today is the girls’ last day at their daycare. Their beloved teacher from the infant and toddler rooms is now the assistant director, and still finds a way to fit in a hug for each of them every day. J took her first steps within the walls of the school to which we will only return as visitors. M and J potty trained there, and learned to read. They learned about death, and grief, as well as security and love, and are now ready to move on to kindergarten.
In a lot of ways, it’s harder for me to leave this family of ours than it is for our daughters. Elementary school will be an altogether new adventure, and J and M are bringing with them all the skills and traits they developed at daycare. They’re off to a great start, and the gifts of their pre-school will be with them forever. If their elementary teachers are half as invested in our girls as their teachers have been thus far, we’re golden.
What are your childcare arrangements? What were your options, and how did you choose? What worked and didn’t work for your family? Was it different for each child? Did you experience additional challenges because of the increased uncertainty of birthdates associated with a multiple pregnancy?
If you’re currently expecting, what would you like to hear from parents who’ve been through the childcare selection process?
Recently, between working at home, volunteer work, and family responsibilities, I had one of those days with a to-do list that would take a week. I’m sure you’ve had those days too. I knew my time was precious because my husband was going to be travelling for work, my backup childcare (Nana and Auntie B) were out the country, and my other babysitting options were dealing with their own major issues. Of course, on top of that, our babysitter had a family emergency and had to be away.
I had two choices. First, there was my usual strategy, if I couldn’t get someone else to watch the kids. I would get them started on a craft or game that would keep them busy without much help from me. I would then try to get as much work done between interruptions. I would hope that everyone would take a long nap, and then “let” them watch a DVD so I could get a little more work done before my husband got home. I’d pass of the kids and spend the evening hiding out in my office. By the end of the day, I’d be tired, frustrated and still have lots to do.
But, after a lot of recent exposure to self-help, inspirational talks about embracing the moment and living in the present, I decided to try a different way. I put my laptop away, got down on the floor with the kids and spend the morning building trains and playing with babies. I set the work aside – really, I wouldn’t get that much done anyway – and embraced the chance to spend an unexpected day with my kids. I looked at the time as an opportunity to do things I wouldn’t usually make time to do. So, we made a rice cake faces for lunch. The kids loved the fun lunches and the undivided attention from mom. I admit I did still work frantically through naptime and in the evening, but during the day, we enjoyed our time together.
Rice cake Faces for lunch - Yes, you can do this to. I'll post the instructions if you'd like.
I’ll admit that this approach worked well the first day of without childcare. Quite a few planned and unplanned days without childcare later, I have not really improved my ability to put my work aside and embrace the moment. In some ways, instead of getting easier with practice, it is getting more challenging as the work piles up. In other ways, I realize the work will be there when I get to it, and I’ll get more done in one hour focused on work during nap time than I will in a whole morning of trying to work between dressing baby-dolls, finding missing train pieces, and wiping noses. The most important lesson for me is that when I’m focused on one thing, I am much better at. I feel more productive, I feel less frustrated and I enjoy it more, whether it is playing with my kids and impressing them with my artistic lunches, or working online and supporting my students in their learning.
How do you deal with the inevitable and unexpected interruptions to your plans?
*** The photos are from a recent trip to a pumpkin patch with a our local multiples club. As you can see, my kids aren’t at all worried about the questions that are occupying my thoughts. ***
Later this week, I’ll be finishing up my long career as a student. That means starting to look to the future and deciding what’s next. At this point, I have more questions than answers….
There are questions about staying home: Can our family manage on one income? Will I be bored if I’m just at home with the kids? Will we ever get ahead financially if I don’t work? How will we fill our days?
Enjoying the pumpkin patch
And questions about working: Is it worth the cost and hassle of childcare for three (22 month twins and 4 year old)? How would our children’s existing behaviour and speech problems respond to full-time childcare? How would I arrange all of our appointments (I took the children to 13 medical appointments last month!) and other commitments, and work full-time?
More fun at the pumpkin patch
The logical solution seems to be to look for part-time work, contract work or something flexible that will accommodate my other responsibilities, namely my children. But with this option, there’s the risk that I’ll start my workday when my husband gets home. So that raises more questions: When will there be time for me? How will our relationship manage? Will I have energy left at the end of the day?
Everyone loves the pumpkin patch
Another idea I’ve had is self-employment. I’ve designed some workshops for new moms, including one that deals with career options, and I’ve thought about offering them online. But, working for myself would also add stress since there would be no guarantee of income or financial security.
So, my question to you, is how do you do it? Did you/are you working? How are you balancing family and work? What suggestions do you have?
”Sufficient unto the day is one baby. As long as you are in your right mind don’t you ever pray for twins. Twins amount to a permanent riot. And there ain’t any real difference between triplets and an insurrection.” – Mark Twain
This week I stumbled upon the above quote, thanks to twin mom Lisa Mazzio. I’d never heard it before, and immediately shared it with a triplet mom I know.
Like many little girls, I dreamed of having twins. What’s cuter than a matched set of babies? Even more, I wanted to be twins. I wanted a built-in soul mate.
When our second baby was discovered at our 20-week ultrasound, people told me about how they’d always wanted twins. Once the babies were born, a coworker with three children close in age told me he and his wife were considering fertility treatment because she really wanted twins. He asked what I thought.
My twins are nearly 6 and there have been very few times I’ve been out looking cute with a matched set of babies. I’ve always gotten a lot less “Awwww!” and a lot more “Oh my!” I know this has a lot to do with my twins being bookended by sisters only 26 months older and younger, and I appreciate that my crew is as visually overwhelming to bystanders as they are mentally overwhelming to me. It sets the bar low, and I like it that way.
The reality of my precious matched set of babies is a little different than what I envisioned as a kid. The reality of my first year with the twins was that someone was always crying. My 2-year-old was neglected. She watched more “Caillou” that year than anyone should endure in a lifetime. The babies took turns crying in my lap and in their bouncy seats. The guilt of being unable to comfort both of them and unable to do anything at all for my toddler was crushing.
No, I wouldn’t advise anyone to seek this out. I wouldn’t pray to be given twins. Don’t get me wrong – I feel lucky. I feel like, for whatever reason, God shone His face upon me and sent this curveball my way. “When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required.” (Luke 12:48) I’ve been given a lot, and a lot is required of me. And I feel guilty that so much has been required of my oldest, by me and just by life. She’s a really intense kid – she always has been, but my mother guilt nags at me, suggesting she might be better able to cope if she’d gotten just one sibling at a time, or if she’d been a little older when they were born, or if I’d been better equipped to handle three under 3, or if I had been a stay-at-home mom instead of a work-at-home mom.
And while my boys have their built-in soul mates and I no longer feel as though I’m neglecting them, they must overcome challenges related to looking alike and each being perceived as only half a person among extended family, neighbors, teachers and classmates. My boys love being twins but I think it’s a disadvantage for them, socially.
I don’t know how to wrap this up. It’s been an intense 24 hours in my household and my boys start kindergarten in three weeks, and I’m a little blue. Aside: The boys have requested (demanded, actually) that I take them to the Twinsburg festival this Friday. Should make for an interesting post in a couple weeks!
Jen is a work-from-home mom of 5-year-old twin boys, and two girls ages 3 and 8. She also blogs at Diagnosis: Urine, where she examines the finer points of potty training failure.
My twin pregnancy was diagnosed at our 20-week ultrasound. Our twins were healthy and the pregnancy was low-risk, as twin pregnancies go. We were flooded with congrats and well wishes from friends and family.
I spent the first week after the ultrasound in complete shock. Sometime during the second week, I calculated what our daycare expenses would be. By the end of that week, I was very, very depressed.
According to the multiples pregnancy books I read, this is normal. Knowing that only made it slightly easier to deal with. I felt so guilty for having to fight back tears when people told us how blessed we were. People told me how much they always wanted twins, and inwardly I felt that they didn’t know what they were talking about. We were going to be under tremendous financial strain, as the bonus baby necessitated a move from our apartment and an upgrade from our small cars to a minivan. Not to mention a double stroller, a second crib, second infant seat, etc.
Also, reading the statistics on multiples pregnancies is a terrifying pastime. I hesitated to think much about the babies or the future, especially in terms of happy glowing mommy moments with my healthy babies. I focused on gaining weight and getting through the day. I didn’t get excited about actually holding and meeting and having my boys, until the night before they were born.
To clarify, I don’t think I was in a clinical depression while pregnant with them, or postpartum. However, I felt very depressed and that feeling persisted for quite some time after they were born. By which I mean, there were many happy times, but there were also many, many times I cried and wondered why God had done this to us. When people told me how blessed I was, I thought about the long days listening to the babies scream while I tried to work from home. I thought about the hours upon hours my 2-year-old spent watching cartoons, and how many of her meals consisted of dry cereal or crackers. I thought about how many of my meals consisted of a handful of M&Ms or, if I had the luxury of time, a can of green beans. And I thought, if this is a blessing for me, it is a terrible punishment for my children.
Time has given me the gift of understanding of how quickly and how certainly things change. That first year after the twins were born, I lacked the perspective to understand that this was but a season, and it would change, and I would be able to enjoy my children and my family and my entire life so much more. I was focused on surviving the day-to-day, instead of enjoying the day-to-day. I’m not sure a mere change of attitude would have remedied that, given our circumstances, but it would have been easier to get through that intense first year if I could have but glimpsed the future.
Certainly, life with kids aged almost-three to seven is worlds easier than life with three under three. We still have our rough times, but they don’t compare to that first year. And now, because I have seven years of parenting under my belt watching how quickly kids flip in and out of unpleasant stages, it’s easier for me to let a few bad hours, days, or weeks roll off my back. My first round of having three kids under age three was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but soon after that it got to be a lot of fun having them so close in age. So much fun that I was thrilled to sign up for a second (much easier) round of three under three when my fourth child was born. And I was secretly a bit sad it wasn’t twins.
Jen is the married work-from-home mother of 7-year-old Miss A, 5-year-old twin boys G and P, and 2-year-old Haney Jane. She blogs at Diagnosis: Urine.
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.
Hello Everyone! Enormous thanks go to our wonderful MoM’s who have agreed to “try out” for HDYDI! We are beyond thrilled that so many of you are reading along with us, and we hope you enjoy our contest week. Please vote for the author you would like to hear more from, as the authors with the most votes at 12:00am Eastern Time on Sunday, June 7th, will be invited to write for HDYDI. Enjoy and PLEASE VOTE!
Post #1: Inseperable, by Carissa
Carissa is a reformed lawyer who now stays at home with her 21 month old boy/girl twins. Carissa and her husband, Aaron brought their twins home from South Korea in October of 2008 when they were 14 months old and have been living and loving life with multiples since! While Carissa started out blogging to get through the adoption process, she now blogs to keep track of the daily happens at their house in central IL as well as get advice on everything from childrearing to fitness! Please visit her at Faith, Hope and Love, http://abc123vn.wordpress.com/
I never expected to be a mother to twins, to be honest I was beginning to wonder if I would be a mother at all. See we could not use any of the usual infertility methods and were told we had about a 2% chance of getting pregnant at all and if it was multiples I would have to be on complete and total bed rest due to some of my issues, so we chose adoption. When we started the process we actually said we would love boy/girl twins and the social worker about laughed us out of the room. See twins in international adoption are rare and boy/girl twins are even more rare so we had about as much chance of getting pregnant as we did of adopting boy/girl twins. Fast forward 14 months and we receive the referral of boy/girl twins from South Korea – boy were they tiny in the pictures even though they were five months old, they had been born at 25 weeks 5 days and must have been fighters to make it that far and be in such good health (though not perfect)! By the time we said yes, we knew that they would be about 14 months old when they came home, the whole thing seemed surreal.
Fast forward again to October 12, 2008 – the day we became a family. Little Man and Little Princess had just turned 14 months old but were more like 7 to 9 months old developmentally. No one had prepared me for one baby let alone two. I will never forget that flight home, Little Princess would ONLY go to her new daddy and would scream when I came near her and Little Man wanted to be walked around the plane for the first 10 hours of the 12 hour flight. My husband’s dinner ended up on the floor and some people were giving us dirty looks, though most were offering to help. I begged my mom to have the pilot turn the plane around so that I could give them back, I didn’t want to do this anymore. My mom, who had come with us for this EXACT reason, quietly told me that was not an option and I was their mother through the good and the bad.
Little Man and Little Princess have now been home days shy of eight months – yep I have been doing this by trial and error for eight months! As I am sure every mother of multiples has experienced the sleep issues, the eating issues, recently the double tantrum issue and the attachment issues, but that was more adoption than multiples. And some have experienced the multiple doctor visits and the numerous therapists to boot. But as my husband and I were discussing the other day, the thing we love the most about our babies is their bond with each other. See we learned after we said yes that due to a few issues one of our sweet babies has if we had not said yes our babies would have been separated and adopted by different couples possibly worlds apart. We cannot imagine the two of them apart, they don’t even like to play apart. They have their own language that they use to talk to each other – while we love it we hope this goes when they learn to talk. They learn from each other and compliment each other – see our daughter has NO fear and our son will not do anything until he is absolutely sure it is safe, so while he learned to walk first she taught him how to climb the stairs! I love when they try to calm each other or even try to get the other to laugh so that they don’t have to cry anymore.
I cannot imagine the damage that would have been done if these two had been separated. We are not sure our son would have survived, it took him about 7 months to fully open up to us and really start the attachment process even though he started bonding before that, his sister is the only reason we heard laughter from him before that time. And our daughter may not have been so happy and carefree, she shows us what pure joy is every day! I have yet to separate them for more than an hour or so at a time, mostly because that causes huge fits and massive jealousy (what is the other one getting that I am not) but I know the day is coming when I will be forced to separate them in some way or another. I already am dreading that day as their bond is greater than any siblings I have ever seen and it will break my heart to see them upset because they do not have each other. For now we keep them together and relish the bond that they have and we will deal with the separation when we have to with the help of the moms from How Do You Do It!
Post #2, by Megan
Married in 2000, my husband and I have entered a new chapter in our life: parents to 3 children. Often stopped by strangers with the comment, “Your hands sure are full!” I just smile and remember a quote from an online blogger: “If you think my hands are full, you should see my heart.”
I have soon-to-be one year old boy-girl twins and a 5-year-old son. Recently back to work at a new job after a stint as a stay-at-home-mom, I’m studying in preparation for my massage therapist Board exams, while searching for balance in life, love, and marriage.
This new road in life is sure to offer many adventures, headaches, joys, frustrations…what greater bliss, though, than to love one’s children and see them grow every day.
Birthdays are a time of reflection for me. I’ve never really been one to make New Year’s resolutions; instead, come spring, right around my birthday, I feel the need to take stock in myself, my life, and my goals. The same is true with the kid’s birthdays. We just celebrated my son Logan’s 5th and later this month we’ll celebrate the babies’ first. Some pretty major birthdays in my book. All I can think about is how far we’ve come in the last half-decade since Logan was born, and how different life is from just one year ago before Kade and Addie arrived. Remembering that I was so big that I couldn’t make the walk around our block this time last year or how I would go to my pre-natal appointments just dreaming of hearing the words “let’s induce” make me realize how different life is today. And how both my husband and I were completely, totally different parents and people. So much has changed since we became parents – and then, parents of multiples.
And yet, I find myself fondly gazing forward, too. I can’t wait to get an idea of who the babies really are. Their personalities are blossoming. And every day, there’s something new that they are learning, each at their own pace and own style. It’s the same with Logan. He’s more and more a “big kid” every day; I see him practically growing overnight! Skills that were once hard or challenging now come easily and he is more outgoing and independent than even 6 months ago.
All of this makes me wonder what and who these little people will become. I would take a sneak-peek into the future if given the option. Just to see what they look like, or who they are friends with, or who they choose for partners in life. Is it possible to be completely enthralled with the future at the same time I’m pining for the past? It’s as if these children are each a special little gift to be opened one day at a time. I have to remember to be patient and enjoy the joy of watching them grow.
That’s the goal, isn’t it? To enjoy each day, each milestone for what it is, and not just where it’s leading. What about all of you? Do you feel yourselves missing the stage that’s just passed as you pack up the now-too-small clothes? Or dreaming of what the future holds? Or, are you able to just sit back and take it all in?
Post #3: A Milestone, by Jenna
Jenna is a mom of a 2.5-year-old son and 4.5-month-old identical twins daughters, and wife to another researcher and student. At some point she will get back to her PhD studies, but in the meantime she’s at home learning with, and from, her three children. She has considered starting a blog to record her experiences and to reflect on her mothering journey, and maybe some day she’ll find the time to do it.
Today marks a milestone in our house. Tonight our 4.5-month-old twin daughters will sleep in their own bedroom. They usually only wake for one feeding during the night. Their milestone is about sleeping in their own room. My milestone is about accepting how my life has changed since we found out we were having twins.
I’m a planner and organizer-type person so naturally, before we even conceived the baby, I decided how I was going to balance work, school, my young son, and a new baby About a year ago we decided to have a second child – and I had a plan. According to my plan, I am supposed to be making the final revisions to my doctoral dissertation while I waited for the date to be set for me to defend it….
Instead… yesterday, I found myself at the library with a crying baby in the baby carrier, a crying toddler in one arm, while I pushed a double stroller loaded down with a second baby and a pile of picture books and board books. Clearly my plan is not working out as I imagined it would.
It all changed the day I had my first ultrasound at five months. At three months, and again at four months, I had been thrilled to hear the heartbeat of my baby. My sister had teased me about having twins and even asked the midwife to check for a second heartbeat. The midwife had reassured us that there was only one baby, placing the stethoscope at several different spots to demonstrate that there was only one heartbeat. My plan seemed to be working out just fine. I could finish my research analysis and rough out my thesis before the baby came, relax with my newborn while my committee read through my work – and I’d be ready to make the final changes just as the baby was getting old enough to be eating a little solid food, thus freeing me a little to resume my academic work.
I settled myself on the ultrasound bed ready to see my little one. Seconds later, I was looking at two little heads! We were expecting twins! Immediately, lying on the ultrasound bed, I started frantically trying to revise my plans, to rescue my well laid-out program that would have seen me graduate with a 9 or 10-month-old baby.
Being pregnant with twins turned my plans upside down! I had to give up my academic work so that I could get the rest I needed. I had to shop for all of what a second baby would need, instead of just checking off on my list what I already had from our first child’s babyhood. I had to figure out how to shoehorn two babies into our small 3-bedroom condo that was already overflowing with the accoutrements that our son had brought along with him. Desperately, I tried to preserve my connection to the academic world by maintaining my office in the third bedroom, and having all three children share one room.
Coping with twin girls and a 2.5-year old son continues to be a series of daily lessons in living in the moment. I try not to plan more than one activity, such as a playdate or going to the library, in a day. In fact, a day when I have dinner ready when my husband gets home is a successful day. Many days I also manage to get a load of laundry done, the floors vacuumed or the dishwasher emptied – all endless tasks with three small children. But it is an ongoing struggle not to expect to accomplish more in a day than just keeping them clean and dry and fed and safe.
The reality of my derailed plan is particularly apparent this week. My mom is visiting and with her help, I am converting my office into the girls’ bedroom. Soon after our girls were born, I realized that my office space would need to become the girls’ space, and I’ve spent time moving books, office supplies, and craft materials out and packing files and papers in boxes. But really, I’ve resisted the whole process.
I like what my office, no matter how messy it might be, represents. It is my space in the house. It represents all my years of work as a student and as a researcher, and all that I’ve accomplished. It isn’t about the mundane and repetitive tasks of diapering, feeding and burping babies, and reading and rereading the same picture books. It is about losing track of myself in ideas that interest and excite me.
I don’t want to give up what my office represents. Being a stay-at-home-mom was never part of my plan. But, I’m a long way from ready to be back at work or study fulltime. I’m not ready to be away from my children. I don’t want to be away from them from breakfast until dinner every day. I don’t want to come home so exhausted that we don’t spend quality time together. I need to find a way to focus on the present and the riches they bring to my life, rather than on what I’m giving up because they are here. I love to watch my daughters sleeping, holding hands. They are so clearly completely comfortable and contented. Seeing them smile when I come to get them up after a nap is the most wonderful feeling. At these moments, it is so clear to me that at home with my children is where I belong.
The challenge this week, and in the weeks and months and years to come, will be to, as time permits, create a new approach – one that will truly balance my time, that considers our family’s financial situation, that allows me to be actively involved in raising our son and our two daughters, and allow me to enhance, enrich, build, develop my sense of self in the process.
If you are not familiar with our family, my wife Cynthia and I have four children: a four-year-old daughter Alaina, 20-month-old identical twins sons Aaron and Brady (baby A and baby B, anyone with multiples would get the ultra-sound humor in that decision) and a 6-month-old son Brett. Before Brett was born, we had the three older children in day care full-time. It was a financial stretch. Actually, financial “disaster” would be a better choice of words. Once the baby was born we had no option but to have one of us stop working. Now, Cynthia works full time and I am a stay at home dad. How did we come to that decision? For us it wasn’t that hard.
I own a small Real Estate company. By small I mean just me, (hey the boss is a great guy). As a Realtor most of my hours are nights and weekends anyhow so the decision to be the stay at home parent was easy. We have learned not to depend on my income like we did in the past. The adjustment required giving up many of the luxuries we honestly didn’t need anyway. The life changes we made were tough but in hind site they were the best decision we’ve ever made. Cynthia works for a great company and there is a tremendous opportunity for her professional growth within her company. Besides, her company was our source of health insurance so that had to weigh into our decision.
To be honest with you, I was a little nervous at first. Could I really do it? My wife is an amazing mother and as the father (and as most fathers do) I tended to follow her lead when it came to child rearing. Like a lot of dads, I was the king of short, extreme play sessions with my kids. I would get down and dirty with them. Rolling around on the ground, rough-housing and tossing them up in the air. It was that little thing that they got only from their daddy and both the kids and I loved it. Sometimes it would last 5 minutes, other times maybe 30 minutes, but it was never for hours on end. The general care of the kids always fell on my wife’s shoulders. I didn’t realize how much she did until it was my responsibility all day, everyday. I have a tremendous appreciation of my wife and everything that she does for this family.
I distinctly remember my first taste of being an at-home dad. When they were about 3-months old, the twins were both out of daycare sick. Cynthia had just returned to work from maternity leave and could not take the day off. I was panic-stricken. I was a very hands-on dad but this was a different ballgame altogether. Only a few hours into the day of non-stop crying, I remember calling my wife at work freaking out that she had to come home. “I can’t do this!” I hollered. I was so used to passing off my own children when things went wrong that I didn’t know what to do when I was completely on my own. Needless to say I survived the day. The boys seemed fine too. But I didn’t want to be a stay-at-home dad after that experience.
So how did I manage it later on? Did the children change? Not one bit. I did. I took on a bigger every day role on the weekends. I stopped relying on my wife to do all the “dirty work” and I am not just talking about changing diapers. This prepared me for the big day when we would take them out of daycare and I was on my own. I am not going to tell you it was easy, or that everything came natural but it was manageable. After a week or two I was an old pro.
The key was routine. Guys, your wife probably preaches this to you every day. I was just like you. The weekend came around and I would take the kids out to do something fun, not caring if it was a little past their nap-time. “They’ll be fine,” I always said. Great call genius! Kids are all about routine. Break that routine and they may be fine for a few hours, but it will bite you in the end. It may not be until the next day but you will regret it. You learn fast on this job.
The second key change for me was patience. You learn quickly that you can’t satisfy all of your kids needs (especially when you have three under two years of age) at once. You have to prioritize. You have to learn to let the screaming bounce off of you. Focus on what you can do to make one of them happy. Move quickly without taking short cuts and move on to the next issue. After awhile you get to know each child’s tendencies and you can get them what they need before they need it. Once you’ve reached this point being an at-home parent is great.
Now don’t misread that. I didn’t say “easy”, I said “great”. It is the most rewarding job (and don’t kid yourself, it is a real job) albeit the toughest one I’ve ever had. Work stress and child caring stress are completely different. I also don’t want to belittle the working parent’s role. It’s a team effort. You should both try to appreciate what the other does.
I could tell you a million stories, but I have a short attention span and this post is already longer than I would voluntarily read. I do have a few parting bits of advice. I sensed a collective cringe when I wrote that. Fear not. I am not going to tell you how to raise your kids. To be honest I wouldn’t have the first clue how to raise someone’s kids. I can, however, give you a few tidbits that have made all the difference our arrangement:
1 – Get out of the house, for your own sanity if nothing else. I take the boys to a local children’s museum a couple times a week. We also go to story hour at the library and a playgroup at an area YMCA. Dig around a little, you can always ask other parents you meet what they do. Getting three little ones out of the house is a daunting task but there is a wonderful reward. Giving them a change of scenery is not only fun, but it always leads to a nice long nap for my kids. Hello “me” time.
2 – Appreciate your spouse. We are a well-oiled machine at this point. We both know what needs to be done each evening so we just do it. Don’t wait for your spouse to ask you to do what you know needs to be done. Just do it and next thing you know the kids will be asleep and you can finally relax. As a side note, everyone has a bad day. My wife and I give the other heads up on those especially tough days. Something as simple as, “just to warn you, it’s been a long day and I’m unusually cranky”. It’s simple yet effective.
3 – Try to create “me” time for each other. Take care of the kids solo so your wife can go out with her friends to lunch, shopping, or a movie. Whatever makes her happy. My wife plans to take half days on Wednesdays this summer so I can play golf. Don’t underestimate the meaning of little gestures.
4 – Get the kids on a schedule and stick to it. They may not like it at first but trust me long term you will all be better for it.
5 –Don’t let the little hiccups get you down. Look, things never go as planned. If you can appreciate them for their future humor, you will be better for it. Just this morning I woke up sick as a dog to find Brady buck naked in his crib with you guessed it all over the mattress and crib. Was I in the mood to deal with “that” today? No chance. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t hilarious. Why not laugh about it then?
6 – Enjoy your kids. Everyone you meet tells you to enjoy your children because they grow up quickly, but it’s true. The next thing you know they are going to be teenagers and want next to nothing to do with their parents. Keeping this in the back of your mind will help with those especially frustrating days. Always remember that they won’t be little forever so enjoy them.
For those out there contemplating being a stay-at-home parent. Do it. Don’t hesitate. In fact, you should jump at the opportunity. The first few weeks might be tough but you’ll find a way. I love that I get to see my kids everyday. My wife would love to be in my shoes (most of the time). Granted I am so tired by the end of the day that I have zero social life, but eventually they’ll grow up and I’ll have plenty of time to do that stuff again. You only get one chance to raise your kids.
I am a better person for it. You can ask any of our friends or family if I have changed and they would say with absolute certainty, yes! They don’t see me as much but when they do they notice that I am more relaxed. The little things that stressed me out before bounce right off me now. Just this past Sunday as we were stuck in traffic with the four kids in the car, instead of freaking out about the guy trying to cut me off, I turned to my wife and said, “I’m really happy. We have a great family, our relationship has never been better… things are great”. Pre-stay-at-home dad would never have said that. I am grateful for my amazing wife and beautiful children and I love them more than you can possibly imagine. Pre-stay-at-home dad would never had written that in a public blog either.
Now if you will excuse me. The boys are all asleep and the Yankees have a day game. Off to the couch I go with a cold beer in one hand and the other hand down my pants. I may have gotten a little softer, but hey, I’m still a dude!
(Mom’s edit: no beers were consumed during the writing of this post. I hope. You can read more about our family on our personal blog.)
Dana and Walker live in Seattle with their 2 year old identical twin boys, Finn and Ollie. They’ve been blogging about their life with the “Deuce” since they were just a plus sign on a pregnancy stick. Both Dana and Walker enjoy documenting their family adventures, parenting struggles and hilarious toddler antics… Dana through her writing, and Walker through his photographic expertise.
An Ode to Our Au Pair
Parents, be warned… this might sound like a sales pitch.Over the last year or so, I’ve had many conversations with friends that start with, “So, how’s it going with your Au Pair?” and end with, “Where do I sign up!?”
I realize that not everyone can say they are 100% satisfied with their childcare arrangements.Searching for the right ‘fit’ for your family can be exhausting.I know, because I haven’t always been so happy with our situation. Believe me, I know what it’s like to stress about childcare.
Over the last 2 years we have tried every childcare arrangement in the book.When the boys were 4 months old, they started attending a childcare center that had good references, and flexible hours.The staff seemed kind and competent, and the price was reasonable.And although my hectic workday was book-ended with stressful and exhausting daycare pick-ups/drop-offs, I believed this was all part of being a working parent.
But soon the double-baby-barrel-holds up and down two flights of stairs… combined with serious doubts about the owner’s ability to keep staff members happily employed longer than a month… became too much for us to handle.And so, for the first time we found ourselves in the horrible position that I do not wish upon any working parent: without childcare.
In Seattle, finding another daycare without a 6-month wait list was impossible (especially for twins).So we expanded our horizons a bit and decided to hire a nanny and found an incredibly loving and playful caregiver for the boys.And the best part…coming home every evening (without having to manage the double-baby-barrel-hold in and out of the daycare) and just sitting down on the floor with my two happy babies…made it well worth the extra money we were paying.But 3 short months later we found ourselves scrambling at a moments notice to find replacement care when our nanny decided to return to school.
In midst of my frantic search another twin mom suggested getting an Au Pair.I had never seriously considered the idea, and even then dismissed her suggestion, since I couldn’t fathom how we could fit yet another person in our house.But once I heard the cost benefit, my ears perked up, and we quickly starting thinking creatively how we were going to rearrange our living space to make it work (for example, our once family room is now our bedroom).
Since welcoming Anna (from Brazil) to become part of our family we’ve learned first hand the many other benefits to this arrangement.
First, the cost…When you’re trying to swallow double-tuition at a daycare facility, it is a huge relief to know there is a less expensive option.When you factor in the annual program fees, the weekly stipend, and other expenses (education, car insurance, and food), we are still paying at least 30% less then what were paying at the daycare.And that doesn’t include the savings in babysitting fees.We haven’t paid for a babysitter in over a year, and we go out (are you ready for this??) every weekend for a date night!
Second, the flexibility… Au Pairs can work up to 45 hours per week (regulated by the State Dept.).My job is pretty flexible, and I actually only work 4 days per week.Because of the flexibility of Anna’s schedule I’m able to choose which days I’d like to work, and when I’d like to be with the kids (which is as much as possible!).And then, as mentioned earlier, we work 5 hours into her schedule each week to baby-sit on the weekends.
Third, the ease of our days…If the boys want to sleep in before I have to leave for work, it’s OK, they can sleep in and Anna will get them up and ready for their day.If I need to come home early to cook a big dinner, Anna can watch the kids until I’m finished cooking.Most days when I come home, I just pick up playing with the boys, where she leaves off, and they never have to leave their Lego’s.
Finally, the added love to our children.I am sure that most caregivers show kindness and affection towards the children the care for.But I am positive that Anna genuinely loves our kids, and plays with them like a big sister would play and care for her younger siblings.Also, the boys are immersed in another culture, in their own home.She is always singing preschool songs in Portuguese, and cooks them Brazilian treats.
There is probably not a day that goes by where I am not honestly and sincerely thanking our Anna for all that she does with the boys.But, don’t get me wrong; I am not naïve to what could go wrong with Au Pairs… I’ve heard the horror stories.It is absolutely necessary to do your homework, go with an Au Pair agency that you trust, and interview many, many, MANY people before you find the right fit.I also recommend really asking yourself whether your family is open to welcoming another family member in your home, sharing your lives with them… not just hiring someone to work with your kids.
If anyone is interested in learning more about the agency that we used, or you have any logistical questions, I’m always happy to help a fellow twin parent find the perfect fit for their family.Parenting twins is hard enough… it’s good to know that there’s a childcare option that makes things a little easier!
Mommy, Esq lives in the Boston area (where the winters try their best to get her to move South) with six month old Ned and Penny, and her husband of six years. She is a corporate lawyer by trade, but would love to attempt being a wedding photographer. She says “I love taking photographs and doing storybook photographing – which is why blogging is perfect for me!”
Mommy, Esqbegan blogging during a lull at work during her second trimester. She says “Instead of catching up on professional reading I took a break and trolled the Internet to get excited about having twins. One of the first websites I stumbled onto was Goddess in Progress, followed quickly by Laura’s Mommy Journal. I have to admit I read their entire back blogs! I thought it would be fun to start my own even if only my sisters read it.”
Have your reasons for blogging changed?
Now that I am returning to work next week I want to focus a bit more on how to be a mom while also working at a demanding job. I’m also pleasantly surprised how much my in-laws like the blog. My mother-in-law checks it every day to see photos of her grandkids. I am worried I won’t have time to keep it up or take as many photos of the kids when I’m back at work.
How long have you been blogging? Since April 16, 2008 but it took me a little while to find my “voice”.
How did you learn about HDYDI? Do you have a favorite post?
My sister Allison mentioned it to me – she found it while surfing the Internet. I have re-read (numerous times) posts relating to breastfeeding, feeding solids and sleep – the holy trinity of a new mom. I like how the posts make me feel inspired to be an übermom but when it doesn’t work out (breastfeeding, making my own baby food) the same posts let me off the hook.
Do you remember your first words when you discovered you had more than one ‘in there’?
I didn’t say anything but I got really flushed and hot all over. I’m a triplet so I wasn’t surprised plus we had started Clomid after a couple of years of trying on our own. One thing that stuck with me was that the ultrasound doctor told us “not to get attached” since one heartbeat was slower than the other. I learned later that “vanishing twin” syndrome is very common – as often as 1 in 6 pregnancies – and that with early ultrasounds more moms know when they miscarry. It was a long 2 weeks before I went back to confirm both babies were doing fine.
My husband actually saw both embryos on the monitor before the technician told us about it. He thought there would be more and kept asking them to confirm when we went back for more ultrasounds (“Are you sure there aren’t three in there?”).
If you could go back to the newborn days: Would you do anything differently? Hired a housekeeper who cooked for me. We had a baby nurse for 6 weeks but I was trying to breastfeed and pump and it was so exhausting that really I just wanted someone to pick up my house and feed me.
Did you have a favorite product that you can’t rave about enough?Currently the Fisher Price Jumparoo is all the rage in our house but the most useful product I have is the Dr. Brown’s formula mixer/pitcher.
What is one thing you do really well at as a mother of twins?
I am way more patient than I thought I would be since I’m not a particularly patient person generally. Even when I’m exhausted I don’t take it out very often on the kids – I can still fake happy and enthusiastic since I know they are going to bed around 6:30 pm. Of course it helped I had someone coming to watch the kids twice a week even when I was on maternity leave.
What is one thing you think you are horrible at?
I worry too much and compare the kids too much – to each other and to other kids their “age”.
What is the first thing you do after saying goodnight to the kids and closing the bedroom door?
Help Husband cook dinner and picking up the playroom. When I go back to work if I make it home for bedtime I suspect I will be logging back on to work some more.
If you had an entire day to yourself (money and obligations aside, and no access to kids or the internet): What would you ideally spend that day doing? A brunch breakfast (with a mimosa of course) followed by a massage and then a nap and TV at home.
What do you think you would actually end up doing?
Laundry, reading blogs, laundry.
Thanks for joining us Mommy, Esq!
Feel free to leave Mommy, Esq a comment, and check out our other featured readers:Sadia and Mamie. Also, let us know which readers and HDYDI authors you would like to see interviewed!