Mary Catherine Starr and I laugh about being moms all the time. Sometimes it’s something our kids have done. Or taking stock of how our bodies have changed. Or just how crazy motherhood is—how it’s possible to feel every feeling there is, whiplash style, and how absolutely impossible it is to prepare for, no matter how much you have prepared for it.
It felt like today was a good time to take stock of my mom life. Samuel is turning four on Saturday. Raymond is 18 months old.* And though it feels like I’ve largely settled into the life of a mom of two—in the same way that one can settle into the life of the wrangler of a lovable but also destructive celebrity or a not-so-highly-trained demolitions expert—each day also brings surprises.
Here are some things that I’ve learned/am learning as the result of being a mom:
Strategize, strategize. Which kid to get in the car-seat first. Which kid you hold and which holds your hand when you walk through a parking lot alone. Which one goes to sleep first / which one will wake up first. How much each kid will eat for dinner. Which parent will prepare each child’s plate. How many snacks to pack for the road. How to give your 1.5-year-old a juice box safely because he will throw a fit if his brother has one and he doesn’t. Do not try to put his juice in a sippy cup. This is offensive.
And going along with this, do not ever assume that your 1.5-year-old is not fully capable of doing every single thing your much older child can do. This angers him. But maybe also don’t think that they’re actually capable of doing every single thing your much older child can do. It’s a fine line, I get it.
Sometimes it’s worth it to have a little mess if it buys you a few minutes of peace first. Have to pick up some raisins off the floor because it was more important to sit on the couch than to insist that your child sit at the table? So what. Enjoy that couch time.
Having a sibling will put a totally different spin on young toddlerhood. Sam had temper tantrums as a 1.5-year-old, but they weren’t about an older sibling taking his favorite toy of the moment or his snack or turning the cold water off in the bathtub or turning the cold water on. This sibling dynamic has been really interesting to watch. Sometimes Sam and Ray kiss and hug each other. Most of the time they wrestle. Sometimes Ray watches Sam like he’s a benevolent God. Sometimes like he’s a vengeful and unpredictable one.
But don’t make the mistake of assuming that the youngest child is always the victim. *shakes head no.*
If you have both kids at home by yourself, bathroom time is a bit dangerous. Here’s my advice: put the tv on, select a bathroom closest to the living room, and leave the door open when you have to use the bathroom. Or maybe put the youngest in the crib for a minute. Or maybe just don’t use the bathroom at all.
You will never, ever get the amount of sleep you think you will. Sometimes you’ll get more than you thought. Most of the time you’ll get less. But try to cuddle with your partner as much as you can. It really makes a difference.
And speaking of sleep, wow, but training your child to go to sleep in his bed and stay in his bed is a _____. There were times when it was easier to let Sam sleep in our bed than to fight him into sleeping in his own bed throughout the night. But I say this to stay at home moms in particular: it's so important to set boundaries, and for me, my bed is one of them. We put so much time and work into getting Sam to sleep in his own bed; he is remarkably stubborn. But it totally changed my life when we broke-through.
Do not buy one of anything when you have more than one kid. See one of my latest blog posts about the Thermos FunTainer. Lesson learned.
You will not be 100% happy about being a mom at all times. First of all: for over a year after having Sam, I experienced postpartum anxiety and depression. I had never felt like that before in my life, and it was all that I could think about. I had the worst thoughts about myself and my life and my future. There was no way that I could have imagined that I’d feel like this—happy and hopeful—today, and that’s because of therapy and medication and also the support of my family and friends. You might not have experienced postpartum anxiety and depression or something similar, but the bottom line is that being a mom is hard. It can feel isolating and confusing and frustrating in moments, and that can produce a lot of guilt that’s hard to let go of. But talk to people and give yourself a break. Those perfect moms don’t exist—and if they do, there are only two or three of them and they only exist on Facebook.
Take your kids' questions seriously. Sam has been asking all kinds of interesting questions lately—about the human body, the Loch Ness monster, animal stories from when Daniel and I were growing up—and I love how curious he is and how he holds onto everything we say. This is also a good place to remind you that you shouldn’t say the word camel-toe in front of your children.
You will love the people who love your kids; you will harbor secret/not-so-secret resentment toward anyone who you feel has slighted them. Thank you to everyone who has taken such good care of my boys.
I think that's good on the unsolicited but well-meaning parental advice front, don't you? *Look for a follow-up post in the future: Life with Three Kids, because Daniel and I are adding to our family again in December 2019. We are excited and happy and scared and excited again.
About the Author
When my toddler and infant sleep--or are otherwise engaged--I write, read, and eat lots of chocolate.