Monday, August 25, 2014

advice i give myself

It's quiet in my home right now. All I hear are the rhythmic tic-tocs of two baby swings, the whir of a fan...and a toddler bellowing "moooooommmmyyyyy!" from her crib upstairs. So it's not technically quiet, but it's "resting time" for another fifteen minutes, so that's good enough for me. If you were to stop by for a visit right now, you might be impressed. No dishes in the sink (although the stovetop is covered in pizza crumbs). No puddles of baby puke on the floor (the dog is useful for something). And the laundry is done (my mom did it). Although I haven't showered since yesterday morning, I'm pretty sure I smell reasonably fresh because I took a dip in the kiddie pool last night. And I even made time to weed half the backyard a couple days ago. I'm leaving the left half the way it is so that I can see how far the right side has come. It gives a nice before-and-after affect.

But don't be deceived. Although I may look like I have it all figured out (please sense my sarcasm here), this mom stuff is hard. Some days, it's super hard. Like cry-into-the-fridge hard or snap-at-your-biggest-support-person hard. Some days, I'm nauseous and dizzy from tiredness. Other days, I'm full of self doubt and self blame. Some days are just-make-it-through days and other days are catch-up-from-the-just-make-it-through days.


Thankfully, I've got support. If I hit a tough spot and don't know what to do, there are pep talks everywhere - from people who love me, people who have walked this road before me, people who are just straight-up wise. They give support. They give advice. They give pints of Ben and Jerry's Salted Caramel Core. But there are other times when it's just me, figuring this stuff out minute by minute. And during those times, I give myself a pep talk. I give myself some advice. And I probably eat that whole pint of Ben and Jerry's.

So feel free to listen in. This is the stuff I'm learning every day, the advice I have to give myself over and over to keep myself on track when the (albeit priceless) monotony of motherhood starts to become too much.

You might be next - balancing your laptop on your belly as you read this. Or scrolling through these words on your phone as you empty your bladder for the twenty-first time today. You might be freaking out about the fact that you're going to have a tiny little person who relies completely on you. Or maybe you're having twins like I did. If so, I hope you can benefit from these words, not because I'm an expert on managing the littles but because I'm still in the thick of it. It's great to glean wisdom from people who are on the other side - that woman behind you in the check-out line whose twins are twenty-three now. She's got a lot of good stuff to say. But sometimes it's nice to hear from the woman who has a fresh spit-up stain on her shoulder. That's me. Each shoulder, in fact.

So without further adieu, here's the advice I give myself...

1. When you eat, make it count. 

It's hard to find time to eat, so when you do make time to feed yourself, choose something that sticks with you. I never eat breakfast foods anymore. This morning, I had a salmon burger with no bun. Yesterday I microwaved a mini chicken pot pie. The day before that, I think I had a taco. It sounds weird but it helps a ton because it keeps me full longer and gives me a lot more energy than a bowl of cereal would.

2. Remember that dads make lousy supermoms.

Andrew is a fabulous dad, but he's not a baby person. In fact, the other day, he said that if he could just press a button and have the boys be two-year-olds, he would do it. And I believe him. Because all of the baby stuff - it's not his thing. He's more of a wrestling, swimming, bike-riding kind of dad. The other night at about two o'clock in the morning, he was burping Louie, and Louie was screaming. "He wants you to stand up," I said. But Andrew just sat there with his eyes closed and continued to burp him. After another fifteen seconds of screaming, Andrew stood up and Louie calmed right down. "I hate that he gets to pick," Andrew said. And I started to laugh. "He's a baby!" I said. "He always gets to pick! That's how it works!"


Another example - until recently, if the babies didn't need to be held, he probably wasn't holding them. This completely broke my heart in the beginning, but it's getting much better. Mostly because he's getting better about picking them up, especially when he can put them in the baby carriers and stay busy around the house. But I'm getting better too. I have stopped expecting him to approach parenthood the way that I do. I love the snuggling, blowing raspberries on their bellies, singing to them. And I want him to be just like me. But he's not. And in some ways, that's a very good thing. We went through these same issues with Harriet and I actually cried about it a lot. But this time around, I have a better perspective because I've seen him grow and come into his own as a dad with each month of Harriet's life. And seeing that happen reassures me that he will have a wonderful relationship with the boys as well. He may not be supermom when the boys wake up in the middle of the night, but he is certainly Harriet's superhero. Any time we encounter a broken toy, a burnt pancake or a heavy box, she looks to her dad for help. The other day while we were stuck in rush hour traffic, she said, "Mom, call Daddy and tell him to come and move all these cars." I love hearing that. I love that she thinks her dad can do anything. So I'll let him be the superhero, and I'll just be plain mom.

So if your baby is still tiny and you're heartbroken because your husband doesn't hold and stare at her for hours, take heart. Even without knowing your husband, I can almost guarantee - it will get so much better.

3) Get help.

If you have family or friends or anyone nearby who is willing to help, let them. Seriously...LET THEM. Resist the temptation to do it all alone because you will become tired and bitter and your kids will suffer. Here's an ugly truth about me - it's really easy for me to fall into the trap of playing the martyr. But when the boys were born, I forced myself to accept help from anyone who offered it. And I'm so glad I did. I'll admit - it can be tough to have people in your home all the time. It's embarrassing to have my dirty house exposed and have my laundry folded by someone else, especially because I still occasionally wear the massive underwear I was wearing at the end of my pregnancy, even though I'm now sixty-some pounds lighter. (Hey, they're comfortable.) But it's worth it. I have felt so blessed by those who have come over to my house, sat in the middle of the mess with me, and loved on my kids. Whether it's been a one time thing or a weekly commitment,  I couldn't be more grateful.

Do not be impressed. We literally use about four cloth diapers per week. 

4) Don't get help.

Sometimes, you just need to do it on your own. There's going to be crying and nothing will get done that isn't necessary for survival, but you have to do it anyway. When I take the kids out on my own, I often question why I'm doing it. It's usually a disaster. But I need that boost of confidence that comes from facing into the chaos and saying to myself, "I can do this."

5) Don't play the mom-olympics.

One of my biggest pet peeves is when we're out with our kids and somebody says, "Wow! Three kids two and under? You're sure busy!" I don't know why, but it just bugs me. I want to say back to them, "All parents are busy, whether they have one child or ten." Or when another mom starts to share some parenting struggle with me and then invalidates her own experience by saying something like, "Well, I'm sure I have nothing to complain about compared to the work/sleep deprivation/diapers/whatever that you handle on a daily basis." I find myself doing it too - minimizing my problems when talking to a mom who has more kids than me or whose kids are younger than mine. Especially in the multiples community, it's like you get extra points for having more kids or for having them close in age. It reminds me of the "degree of difficulty" component of gymnastics. You get more potential points based on how challenging the elements of your routine are. We act like motherhood works the same way. FYI - it doesn't. And when we think that way, it devalues the experiences of moms who have one child (or two) and are struggling to manage the day-to-day stuff.

So if you're tempted to measure a mom (yourself or somebody else) by how many kids they had in how many years, stop yourself. A woman may have one child and no partner, no friends, no nearby family, no savings account. Or a woman may have lots of kids and two full-time nannies. Thinking competitively makes us unapproachable and makes it very hard to support one another.

6) Don't miss Jesus.

Sometimes motherhood feels really, really hard. Like when I've only had maybe three hours of sleep broken up in four chunks and I realize that the sun is rising and I have a whole day ahead of me. Or when a baby just won't stop crying. Or the toddler seems incapable of obedience. Or when I'm adding things to my to do list with the full knowledge that they will never, ever get done. Those are the times that I can start to feel stuck, almost claustrophobic. But that's where He is. Jesus is right there in the midst of those moments and I have noticed that the more my day-to-day life seems to fall apart, the more I need to lean on Him. I've started to recognize those moments of defeat as gifts because they bring me to my knees in humility and prayer. The opposite is true too...

Two Sundays ago, I got the kids to church on time all by myself. Andrew was up north for the weekend and was meeting us there. To be completely truthful, I got lucky. The boys slept in so that I had time to shower, do my makeup and hair, pack the diaper bag, and dress and feed Harriet. Plus, Harriet watched TV for about an hour. When the boys woke up, I had bottles ready and was able to feed them, dress them and get them into the car in about twenty minutes. We literally hit every green light on the way there and we found a great parking spot. Harriet cooperated like a little angel (an extremely rare occurrence) and neither of the boys cried when I put them in their carseats. I checked the kids into their rooms and met Andrew in the sanctuary. He was impressed and told me how pretty I looked. He couldn't believe I did it all by myself and got us there on time. But as the music started and those around me entered into worship, I had such a hard time finding that place of communion and friendship with God. I was still pretty impressed with myself. And I realized how hard it is to have a worshipful heart when we feel like we have it all together. For me that Sunday, it was impossible. I had to spend the worship portion of the service asking God to humble my heart and remind me to rely on Him. All it took was one "successful" morning to turn me from someone who gropes for Jesus hour by hour into someone who is patting herself on the back while those around her worship. So bring on the tough days, bring on the failures, bring on the train wrecks. I'm not interested in perfection if the cost is that high.

So don't miss Jesus. Look for Him in the most impossible, frustrating, defeating moments and He will always be found. Even better than that? He will give you the strength that you need to face into each and every day, no matter how tired you are, how emotional you feel, or how much you need a vacation.

Every single day, He will renew your strength.

So that's the advice I give myself. Well, some of it. I have a sign on my wall that says "we can do hard things." I intended to use it as a reminder for my kids when homework assignments get tough or when they have to wake up early or face an especially mean kid at school. But I'm finding that I'm the one that needs that reminder on an hourly basis these days.



Hard things...but good things. So, so good.

I'll end by throwing in a few pictures we've taken this summer, in totally random order.

Meeting my grandparents for the first time...my grandpa is over 100 years older than Gus and Louie! Read their story here







impromptu picnic at the park

proud girl right after catching her first fish 
Gus looks teeny in this picture but it's just the camera angle. 




28 comments:

  1. Ahhh- I love this post! I just sent it to my sister's SIL who is pregnant with twins after IF and due in December. It's so real and honest and perfect.

    I had to laugh at the part about the Dad kinda sucking at being a supermom. I couldn't tell you how many times I've told Charlie "he just wants you to stand up" -- and Char would continue to sit there while Stella/Harvey screamed. DROVE ME BONKERS. But he really is so great with S now that she's a toddler. We all have our strengths I guess. :)

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  2. Your children are so precious!!!! I LOVE what you said about Jesus, just beautiful and what a great reminder!!

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  3. your writing always brings me home. i love every post more than words could tell you.
    i want to love on you & your babies!

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  4. Em: This is great stuff. It's been a hard couple of weeks in mom land for me too. It is such a blessing (and I always want to acknowledge that), but...it's also hard. Raising kids is hard. Lack of sleep is hard. Lack of personal space is hard. Lack of break time is hard. Discipline is hard. This is definitely the thick. I'm not sure when we're out of the thick of it -- maybe in many, many years, and what the thick is probably always changes. I imagine it's much like God's relationship with us, sometimes beautiful, often times hard. Thanks for being real and encouraging. Hugs to you!

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  5. "pints of Ben and Jerry's Salted Caramel Core"-YES! I swear Salted Caramel Core can solve so many things.

    I LOVE number two... love. I have a feeling this will be Sam (if we ever get there). He is SO not interested in babies. When he talks about having children he talks about "kids"... I'm sure he'll love our babies, but I can also see him saying that he wishes he could skip those early stages.

    So good to hear from you, Em! Seriously made my day!

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  6. I love this post, Em. Found myself nodding along the whole way. I think all of us can agree with number 2 (Grey's parenting style is definitely different than mine and though we don't always agree, I learn daily from him) and number 3 has certainly been a hard one (I struggle with admitting I need help).

    I do have one thing I want to share, if it's okay to add. And that is "you're doing the best you can." This one comes up a lot for me, especially in moments of head bonks, middle of the night screaming sessions and days that feel like total failures. Even this morning, as I left the Beats in their new toddler room, I found myself second-guessing everything. Only thing that got me out of that room without having a meltdown was knowing that I'm giving it my all.

    Love the photos. They've grown so much!! And, finally, where oh where did Andrew give that amazing baby carrier?

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  7. You are so very, very blessed. I appreciate your words about it is tough on every mom! Multiples or not, being a mom can be really hard!

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  8. I loved this post. It was so REAL and HONEST (like the rest of your blog :) ).

    You are very blessed.

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  9. Oh my cuteness - seriously. every picture - love love! I love this post!! I will have to file this for when it's our turn!! What sweet advice you gave!! And, I love what you said about Jesus. I ask my friends how they make it work and they just always say 'God's grace'. I'm so thankful for this trial, b/c of it I'm more dependent on Jesus - and will need Him so much more when our babies are here! He's prepping us, that is for sure! PS the no eating thing, I can't imagine - I eat every 2 hours now ;)

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  10. This is my favorite post EV-ER!! I'm typing this comment as I feed baby A while baby B is in a boppy next to me :) 1. My husband is the SAME as Andrew- so nice to hear it's not just my hubs whose not a big baby-holder!! 2. Good idea about breakfast foods- need to try that! and 3. My boys have the same monster jammies :)

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  11. I don't even know what to say that can truly encapsulate how much I love your posts. I love how honest and real you are without limitation. YOU are amazing and inspire. me. That sign is perfect. We CAN do hard things! Your family is beautiful.

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  12. I just stumbled upon your blog and this is only the 2nd post I've read but I already feel like I can relate to you. I also have 3 kids under the age of 3-- 2 yr old twin girls and a 7 month old baby. I love the way you write. Straight forward, yet motivational. You have a beautiful family!

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  13. My cousin just sent me this post to read because she knows I've been struggling with my 1st newbie. It really sucks to feel like a failure all the time. Thank you for sharing your personal pep talk in a public forum. It was really encouraging for me to read. I'm also going to share. And I may copy and paste your thoughts into a document that I can print out. Really hit home. Hope you have a good day with your littles.

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  14. I found your blog through Facebook through Andrew (I'm a co-worker of his). I've spent the last 45 minutes reading and throughly enjoying your posts. What an inspirational writer you are. This post reminded me most from when my twins (now 12) were infants. My then husband and I didn't have any family nearby and he certainly was not a 'supermom'. I worked full-time and ran a construction business and cared for our little girls. Now when anyone including my daughters ask me questions about their infancy or early childhood, I look at them blankly. I have zero recollection of it. You are spot on with everything you say. AND you have a beautiful way of saying it....thanks for the lovely pictures. So you know, Andrew will not allow me to walk past him at work without showing me several pictures of his kids---he is a super proud daddy!!!

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  15. Let me tell you a little secret. Don't be worried that your husband isn't holding the babies. Parenting is sort of like that daft tag team wrestling that you might see on TV late at night. One day it will be his turn, you won't even have to tag him, it will just happen. Your little boys will stop telling you all their secrets and wanting to be with Mummy and they will run off somewhere with Daddy and not even turn to wave you goodbye. And at first it will tear out your heart and then you will see that this is the order of things. You nurture them when they are little and then you let him show them how to be boys and then men. Men don't do the baby thing well. When God made Eve, he took that part from Adam and gave it to us. So if He hadn't, Adam would have done all that holding and nurturing and been marvellous with babies...he just wouldn't have had anyone to do it WITH. Woman got the better deal I think, but neither is complete without the other. We have the advantage because our bond grows from conception. Men just get handed this little, tiny squeeling pink bundle that they don't know yet, and they don't know what to do with it. It takes time for them to get to know the baby (or baies). We have had nine months to get to know him or her :) We had the head start, now he has to catch up. It may take him a lifetime.

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  16. We had our twins (#6&#7) when my eldest was 7. So, we got tons of the "wow" comments from people, but the truth is twins aren't double the work, they are at least triple the work! However, our precious baby boys are now hillarious 2 1/2 year olds. I am not sure how we got here so quickly, but it has been so worth it. Keep going momma! You can do it. One day (or minute) at a time!

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  17. I am a grandmother now and raised 2 boys on my own. I always told them I wanted to be good wives, feel all emotions. I had to have Jesus in my heart and soul every minute of the day also. I am proud to say that with Jesus I have 2 wonderful husbands and daddies. Your blog is absolutely wonderful even it you do not have children in the home now. A real inspiration!!

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  18. A beautiful family, just Beautiful.

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  19. Ha! I got to your pic of the twins with cloth diapers and I was like "woah, how does she do cloth diapers with twins?!" but you pre-empted me. But seriously, how do you cloth diaper twins? I want to use cloth diapers, but my husband and I decided that if it was twins, we wouldn't (it's just one, so moot point. But still).

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    1. I thought CD would be super efficient and amazing! My friends raved about it. They had girls. I have a boy. At 5m, he thought changing diapers meant turning over and sitting up. They also have to be changed more. And leak more. After 300 cloth diapers and changing more wet clothes, I threw in the towel. I was told I had to make sure his parts were always facing down. What a tremendous challenge with a squirming boy. I soon discovered Target will put diapers on sale, add in some coupons and I am spending $30 to $40 a month. Good Luck!

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  20. Love your honesty. Mommyhood is seriously no joke! And you've got three, so I admire you for all you do day in and day out. Dad sure puts on a good poker face if he isn't a baby person. Ha! Love that carrier!

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  21. You are absolutely so amazing. I know you are going to brush it off, but honestly take the compliment and be proud. I currently have a 9 year old step son from my husbands previous marriage. No kids of my own per say. However I do have a sister in law with a 5 year old a 2.5 year old and 1 year old. I have offered help over and over again and she continues to drown. She makes motherhood look miserable. I know that just because, she raises her family that way and how she choses to make decisions would be completely different than myself. However it does worry me. You blog brings me strength, guidance and real honesty. Thank you!

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  22. Really real. And really beautiful. My twins are 7 now, so we are in a different phase of parenting, but #6 is true in every stage of life. Keep on loving Jesus and being the Mom He made you to be. :)

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  23. Thank you for this. I just randomly found your blog at the end of a particularly hard day with my 2yr old and 4 month old. I was so encouraged. I think we can so easily make the mistake of thinking we are alone in our struggles and that this shouldn't be so hard since so many mothers have done it before. But I was so encouraged that it's ok for it to be hard (even with only two) and I can do hard things and grow and mature and love Jesus more! Bless you!

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  24. Well said! I remember those days vividly. My daughter is 17 months older than my twin boys. She's about to turn 9, though, and the boys are 7. I don't have many specific memories of the early days, but I often marvel that the Lord has brought us thus far and we all still like each other :-).

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  26. I just want you to know that I found your blog yesterday and I have loved reading what I have so far. Your kids are SO adorable! I'm not a mom or even a wife yet but I hope that one day I will get that opportunity as the Lord leads. I am now following your blog and hope that you would consider following mine. www.luke1136.blogspot.com

    May the Lord bless you richly!!!!! =D

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  27. Really nice blogs, thank you. I agree, all parents are busy, no matter how many children. We have 5 wonderful boys, and only stopped because we ran out of time. Children are a gift from God. It's funny, I have a friend who's a paraplegic. I'd visit and while talking about my day, I'd complain about some meaningless thing about work and he'd say: "I wish I could work" or I'd complain about the taxes I was doing and he'd say, "I wish I could do taxes" Really put it in perspective.- Tom

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