It gets easier at two months.
It really gets easier at six months.
The first year is hard, but then it gets better.
Two years with twins.
Y’all, things are rough when you have babies and/or small children. And the best forms of encouragement most people can offer boil down to, “Wait it out.” Sometimes, though, getting through one more minute feels like climbing a mountain, let alone surviving Wonder Weeks, teething, separation anxiety… Sometimes, you need to feel like you can DO something.
I am really bad at deciding to do something that might help because I’m afraid doing something will make things worse.
I have become afraid to stay at home with all three of my children. I feel stuck at home. The kids are more likely to all end up screaming. But to go anywhere, I have to get all three fed, changed, dressed, buckled into car seats, and then I have to drive while the babies scream. If you’ve never had a car seat screamer, you really can’t understand how stressful it is to drive with two babies crying full tilt. So, I’m afraid to stay home, and I’m afraid to drive, and I don’t live in the kind of place where walking anywhere is a viable option.
I’m so sick of ending my day with a list of Things That Sucked. And sure, part of that is about mental discipline. Feed what you want to grow, or whatever. Practice gratitude. But some days, it really does feel like many things are just harder than could ever be necessary. And while I tend to give folks the benefit of the doubt in my “normal” life — you know, in that life where I sometimes get enough sleep — lately, when someone makes my day a little harder, I find my internal voice shrieking, “WTF! Don’t you know I have twins and I can’t take this right now?” Like some version of a famous person expecting special treatment: “Do you know who I am?” Although, to be fair, when my twins are with me, I can’t go anywhere without people stopping me, so maybe some extra kindness should be part of the deal.
Today, I got fifty minutes to leave the house alone, so I went to Starbucks to write and listen to music and not be bothered. They forgot to make my drink. This was my first blip of real Me Time in two months, and they just forgot I existed. Then when I raced out the door to make it home when I said I would, someone parked their truck behind me and went inside. While I was standing there, obviously getting in my car. There was a passenger, so I said, “Could you move the truck so I can leave?” “Not my truck,” he said.
It feels bigger than it should. If I didn’t feel ready to scream several times a day, if I felt like I had control over simple things like getting my family from one place to another without someone crying, I know these minor inconveniences would be just that — minor. But when it feels like everything I have to do in a day, from changing diapers to buying groceries, involves unwanted detours and obstacles and so much noise, every minor thing becomes a major thing. There are more balanced, more mindful people who handle this better than I do, and probably some amount of intentional personal growth could make me more of that kind of person, but can I just scream at the world today that life isn’t fair? Can I get that off my chest? Because I am living, day to day, under the kind of conditions where a person cutting me off makes me want, just for a second, to run them off the road while screaming, “How DARE you! Don’t you know I have TWINS!”
Have you heard the advice to let your house go a little when you have a baby? You don’t really need to vacuum. The laundry can wait. Don’t get your panties in a twist over the dishes in the sink, Miss Type A Control Freak. Sheesh. Bond with your baby. Reeeelaaaax.
Well, let me tell you a little story about dirty dishes. If you don’t wash them today, they don’t disappear. If you don’t wash them tomorrow, they get buried under another day’s worth of dishes. That keeps happening every day that you put the dirty dishes on the back burner. And then there will literally be dishes on the back burners of your stove because the entire sink and all your counter space are full of dirty dishes. This really only takes a few days. And then, you know what you have to do? You have to find the time and energy to clean every dish you own because otherwise you won’t have a plate and a fork for the one small, dependable joy in your life, which is your breakfast of frozen waffles.
I don’t know what people should say instead of what they say. But I do know that Let The House Go probably doesn’t still apply at six and a half months and maybe never did. Because while you’re letting it all pile up, the baby isn’t going to develop so quickly in all the important areas that you will be more rested when you have to finally face the mess. (This is assuming you’re a Normal who doesn’t have a team of hired help to handle it.) At this point, somehow, I should be back to managing things again. And if that’s not the expectation, if it’s still normal to feel like I am surviving each day, barely sometimes, then how are there people exercising off their baby weight and blow-drying their hair and scrambling their eggs? Am I doing it wrong, or am I just complaining more about it? I don’t know.
Yesterday, I was standing outside with two friends while our kids ran around after their gym class. I was wearing the babies in a way that, in order to nurse, I had to take them both out of the carrier. I had to juggle them around a bit and hold them while nursing because the ground was too cold to lay one down. Both women said, “Let me hold one while you nurse.” My immediate response was, “Oh, I can manage.” But then I realized, I don’t have to manage. One held a baby, then the other held one. They helped me pack up all my stuff — snacks, water, blanket, etc, etc — while they both got their own small-child-and-baby cohort ready to leave. They even offered to help me get the babies to my car. It wasn’t because I have it any harder than they do. It wasn’t because they felt sorry for me. And there were no strings attached or judgment or the expectation of my gratitude. They just saw that there could be an easier way for me, and they jumped right in.
I want to look at my day and see those things bigger and brighter than everything else. The Things That Rocked. And I want to be less pre-occupied with the feeling that I’ve got fires burning all around me and I’m responsible for extinguishing them. Maybe it does take time to feel settled for longer than a couple days, I don’t know. But at some point, it would be really great to look past my babies in my arms, my kid at my feet, and see where I can make things a little easier for someone else.
In the here and now? I’m looking at what choices might simplify my world a bit. Maybe there are options that are harder before they are easier, and maybe that’s why I’ve been afraid to do them. But it’s time to stop waiting for some magical milestone where the babies sleep great and the kid can read and the dog can walk herself. It’s time to find where I have choices and make some.