Over the past two months, since I became a mother of 2, I have accepted a number of compliments and much praise from friends, family and strangers, alike, for managing two kids with so much “grace” and “ease.” But today I’m coming clean with a secret I’ve been harboring since my daughter was born – a secret that should, by every stretch, strip me of my “mom of 2” title: I am nearly terrified to be alone with both of my kids. The truth is, being a mom of one, for me, was instinctual. Not easy, but instinctual. I learned a lot about myself, about babies, about parenting, and the experience of having one child was not only life altering, it helped pave the way for my future of having more. But managing two babies at once has proven to have a hefty learning curve – and I am finally accepting that.
Someone once told me there’s a reason babies are made so small and helpless: so we, as parents, have the time to grow and learn with them. I think this is so funny because it’s so true. I mean, for instance, thank God our babies aren’t mobile when they’re born so that we have months to master the art of the diaper. And by the time the little baby grows into a rolling, crawling, running big baby, mama can change a diaper blindfolded! It’s the little things, these little gifts along the way, that make the mommy victories earned and very much appreciated. I remember fondly my fearful tears as we left the hospital with our brand new son, excited yet terrified for everything we didn’t yet know. Yet driving home with our daughter two years later was full of laughter and excitement. We knew this newborn world, and we couldn’t wait to get back to our son, our life and our new(er) normal. I also look back “fondly” on all of my first “mommy victories” I experienced with my son, from the first bath, to the first diaper explosion, and, of course, our first trip to the grocery store. These are the things that can make a new mom sweat and a seasoned one laugh… but with a newborn and a toddler, I find myself somewhere in the middle. And while I no longer flinch at a cry, a feed, or any diaper situation, I feel admittedly slow in earning my true “mom of 2” stripes and colors.
Now, I am in a beautifully fortunate situation with all the help I have around me: I have a very involved and present husband who, on many days, makes parenting look easier than anyone should. I have a mother who lives 2 miles away and begs to spend time with her grandkids. And I have a nanny who watches my son (along with my nephew) during the week, allowing me the time and space to focus on my newborn. In the eyes of many, I have probably built the perfect village, and if there is one thing I learned during my first two years mothering one child, it’s that asking for and accepting help is mom rule #1. But that still doesn’t speak to my mothering of my own kids. So I am taking strides to regain my strength and mom confidence to become a fully formed and realized mom of 2. But in doing so, I’m also accepting that stepping into motherhood looks different on everyone, and what may feel natural to some will feel completely overwhelming to others. It’s all relative, and I’m simply here doing my best to grow into this role, even if it takes me a little longer to find my groove.
With that said, here are some of my proudest moments so far, however minor they may seem…
- First evening alone with both kids while hubby was late at the office: I managed an early bath & pjs for toddler (with nanny still on hand), early dinner, TV time for toddler so I could feed baby, then successfully cuddled, read books, and said goodnight to toddler, all while baby was safely strapped onto the changing table, listening from across the room. Once toddler was tucked in bed and drifting off, I picked up baby, walked out of the room, and gave myself a super proud pat on the back.
- First bath time with both kids (not bathing at once, just under my watch): run water, get toddler undressed and ready, place baby seat in bathroom, and wash toddler in tub, trying to prevent a splash surge from drenching baby along the way. Get toddler out and wrapped in a towel, and grab baby before toddler jumps on her with his naked (albeit clean) body. “And that’s how you do that” I whisper to myself, again, with a well deserved pat on the back.
3. First trip to the grocery store: this one was self-inflicted as my own limit test. Let’s just say, we left in one piece and made it out with what we needed, but I’m thankful we didn’t need a lot. I don’t need to make that a regular thing just yet…
There is a lot I am thankful for in the two year gap I had between having babies, and most can be summed up by the fact that caring for my new infant is now the easy part. I thoroughly enjoy these early days with my daughter (a degree or two more than I did with my son) simply because my mind isn’t riddled with worry or new-mom anxiety (and fortunately I have a healthy and uncomplicated baby to allow for that). I equally enjoy my son because he’s fun and funny, playing games, learning and growing like a real kid by the second. He’s incredibly challenging, but incredibly fun. And I’m finding the artful balance of enjoying the two together when it is just the three of us, even though it’s still incredibly daunting. I’m sure this will all reach another level once baby is old enough and mobile enough to need her own amount of corralling, and I’ll look back on this time and laugh. I suppose the “baby steps” for 2-kid parenting is the luxury of putting baby down to attend to the other. But for right now, I’m just trying to master the basics. There are a lot more firsts I will experience as a mom of two, and a lot more stripes to be earned. And at the end of the day, as long as we’re all alive and well to tell the tale, I guess I’ve done my job. A little trial and error is the best way to learn anyway, right?
It sounds strange, but as more time passes, I ease up on myself, and I feel that the more I admit to my fears and anxieties, the more comfortable I am with facing them (and facing these children of mine on my own). Perhaps this is because deep down I know I am perfectly capable, and will be able to handle it all when I need to. But for right now, I’m gonna take the all help I can get, because I can. I know I’m not the first mom of two, and there are plenty of moms who do this with more kids and far fewer helpful resources. Those women are the real superheroes – I really don’t know how they do it.
I’m just here trying to do the best I can, and figuring it out along the way.
And yet I know I want at least one more baby… God help me!