[By Jennifer Chandler | You can read my take here.]
Well, having two kids can result in me taking showers at 1:00am, and writing guest posts for my hubby at 2:00am. This may or may not be (but definitely is) how this evening/morning has ended up.
When My Love first asked me to write “my take” on what it’s like having two kids versus one, I instantly balked a little. There is so much to process…so much going on…so much to think about already, and about a zillion things that I need/want to do…how could I possibly compile it into a condensed, coherent list, AND find time to write it?!?!?
But then, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. So, here I am.
I still can’t promise a condensed (really not my skill-set), coherent list, but I’ll give it a go.
Part of me feels a bit like Jim Gaffigan summarizes perfectly what adding a child to the family is like. Granted, he is talking about having four kids…but, the principle is the same, and it still makes me laugh (I like this whole clip, but I’m referencing really about up to 1:23)
Transition is Hard on Everyone
I think it’s safe to say that we all tend to be a little selfish. And, if we’re not selfish, we’re at least very apt to perceive things from our own perspective. That sounds a bit inane and, while I am suffering mightily from post-partum-brain and sleep deprivation, I meant to say that.
Obviously, having a kid is a big, huge, life-changing event. It’s one of THOSE moments. You know, when you’re growing up, there are certain milestone events that you look forward to: getting your license, graduating high school, graduating college, getting married, having kids…those sort of things. The weird thing about all of those events is that they seem ever-distant, always in the future…until they’re not. All of a sudden, there you are at the DMV, having your picture taken, and you’ve got your license (speaking of, I need to get mine renewed…hmmm…). And so on, and so forth. While all of these are big deals, having a kid very well might be the most surreal. I mean, there is a new human being coming into the world, for crying out loud!
Again, it’s my natural tendency to look at the whole thing from my perspective, and how it affects me; What it was like being pregnant, what it was like being pregnant while having a toddler to look after, what it was like being pregnant while having a toddler to look after while coping with sickness and unstable hormones, what my labor experience was like, what it was like being responsible for this new tiny human (in addition to my other tiny human), and what it has been like (emotionally, physically, mentally, spiritually) to adjust to my life as it is now.
And, while these factors are inarguably part of the whole of this experience, I absolutely must remember that it’s not all about me.
I have to try to ascertain what it must be like to be almost two years old, to have your entire life as you know it turned upside-down, to have to share your mommy (who has been completely and solely focused on you for almost two years), and all that in addition to learning to talk and interpret the world around you as an almost two year old usually does.
I have to attempt to understand what it is like to be a husband and father throughout all of this, to see your wife go through all the craziness that is pregnancy, to suffer the mood swings of aforementioned pregnant wife, to go to work to provide for your family and not know what version of your home/wife/toddler you will encounter after the work day is done, and to process the impending changes to your life and responsibilities that are to come as a result of the new addition.
While I was pregnant with Little Man, I found this graphic somewhere online, and it really stuck with me:
This is something that I struggle to remember, especially in these days that tend to blur together in a haze of feeding, cleaning, sleeping, and who knows what else.
But, the bottom line is, everyone is coping with all of our changes in their own way, and it will help me navigate through them better, as well as help me help those I love get through them easier if I attempt to extend extra portions of grace to us all.
Victory and Failure are Minute-to-Minute States
This really applies to parenting in general, not exclusively to adding a new child to the mix, but it is certainly something I contend with daily.
Just using the last few days as a sampling of this point…
- One day, Little Miss was fed, and fell asleep just as Little Man woke up from his nap. That enabled me to have one-on-one time with each of my kids, while on my own! (victory)
- Little Man protested eating food, and threw it on the floor when finished, rather than signing “All done,” like we’ve been working on. When I got him out of his chair, he proceeded to pick up his food off the floor and eat it…and I let him…because I really wanted him to eat more. (failure)
- I was breastfeeding Little Miss inside, with the back door open so I could watch Little Man play in the backyard. This worked fine until the neighbor behind us let out their dogs (one of which is a rather large boxer mix). Little Man loves dogs, and chose to ignore me as I asked him to come toward Mommy instead of the fence. So, I had to throw a blanket around myself and Little Miss and run, indecently clad, through the backyard to rescue Little Man from the unknown dog (victory and failure)
These may seem silly, or trivial but, when you’re the only one taking care of two littles all day, it’s easy to go from highest high to lowest low. Sometimes I feel like I’m handling it well, and getting a hold of things…then something goes awry, and I wonder if I’ll ever figure it out (of course, I’m being melodramatic…I know I’ll definitely hit my stride at some point).
What I mean to say is, it’s really difficult to see or know how you’re really doing as a parent when you experience a plethora of victories and failures in such a short period of time…and they’re usually so emotionally driven. Also, it’s something you have to constantly do. You don’t parent just from 8-5, you’re parenting constantly…24 hours a day…for forever.
Which brings us to:
Somebody ALWAYS Needs Me
Always. With a husband, a kid, two dogs, and myself, something or someone always needed my attention. Now, there’s one more who needs me! Bills need to be paid, chores need to be done, bellies need to be fed, diapers need to be changed, noses need to be wiped, things need to be organized, stuff needs to be purged, spills need to be cleaned up, relationships need to be maintained, etc. From the moment I wake up (or, more accurately, from the moment a little wakes up and subsequently wakes me) to the moment I go to sleep, I’m needed.
Sometimes, it’s really nice to know you’re needed. It’s something I miss very much about the workplace. Especially in my last job, I knew, without a doubt, what was expected of me; I knew, without a doubt, what I was capable of; and I knew, without a doubt, that I did my job well, and was appreciated by others. While I know, without a doubt, that I am needed as Mommy, the appreciation is seemingly much less visible.
Then, I find things like this, bawl my eyes out, and bolster my resolve for another day with two little amazing miracles who need ME. And, like the post said, I am reminded that I need them as much as they need me, because they make me Mommy. “These years of being needed are exhausting, yet fleeting. I have to stop dreaming of ‘one day’ when things will be easier. Because, the truth is, it may get easier, but it will never be better than today. Today, when I am covered in toddler snot and spit up. Today, when I savor those chubby little arms around my neck. Today is perfect. ‘One day,’ I will get pedicures and showers alone. ‘One day,’ I will get myself back. But, today I give myself away, and I am tired, and dirty and loved SO much, and I gotta go. Somebody needs me.”
That being said,
This Time is Precious, and Fleeting
People warned me that it goes by quickly, that they grow up fast. And, I listened. I really did. I did a lot to try to ensure that I savored my time with Little Man as much as humanly possible. I soak him up…or, I try to. Sometimes, I hug him so tightly, it’s like I’m trying to convey my love for him via osmosis. I’ve taken pictures…soooo many pictures, I’ve neglected housework in favor of play time and snuggles, I wrote notes, and documented memories…and it still is FLYING BY! You know that expression about sand running through your fingers faster the harder you try to grasp it? Real talk, apparently.
There’s nothing I can do to stop it. I recently looked back at baby pictures of Little Man to compare him to Little Miss, and see how they resembled each other…but, all I could think of was how big he has gotten, and wonder what happened to my LITTLE Man? And it’s going to happen with Little Miss too…and I am trying so desperately not to miss any of it.
So, despite the struggle it is to adjust to, despite the bi-polar-esque relationship with victory and failure, despite the inescapable fact that I am no longer my own in any sense…I will try to figure out a way to hold the “sand of parenthood” so that it doesn’t slip through my fingers any faster than it has to.
“Right now, your days are long. But the years are short. What you are doing-the burping, the diapering, the chasing, these days matter. Love is not wasted. Loving your babies is the most important thing you can do right now.”
That is absolutely what I intend to do. I suppose, with two, there is just more to love!