As a mom of two little ones, I count myself incredibly fortunate to have a fantastic support system, which gives me the ability to be at home with just my younger son during the week, since my older one still goes, for the most part, to the child care arrangements we had for him when I was still working. On those few days where I have two tiny people at home, I am amazed at how much more the day takes out of me, and I am struck with admiration for the moms I know who do that every day. So this letter is to them, and to all the mamas out there who have more than one kiddo home with them all day, every day:
Dear Mom of Two Tiny People at Home: I See You
I see you in the middle of the night, hunched over this crib or that mattress. I see you shushing, gently patting and rubbing backs, breathing and comforting as quietly as you can so as to not wake up your other child.
I see you sneaking back to your own bed, fingers crossed for a lasting calm, unable to go back to sleep because you’re primed to respond to any further noises that might mean one disturbs the other.
I see you accepting 5am as the start of your day, and snuggling (with only a bit of a death glare) the little person whose incessant early wakings have transformed you into a zombie – because you can’t nap when this baby naps: the other child will be awake then, needing your attention.
I see you making the best of things and getting some laundry done before 7am to take advantage of the non-peak-time electricity rates, because with two kids, there is ALWAYS more laundry.
I see you greeting your second child to wake, acting as refreshed as you hope they feel so as to ‘start’ the day off cheerfully.
I see you preparing toddler breakfast with one hand and holding a squirming infant with the other.
I see you alternating between each child, tackling one mini-crisis after another, doing the never-ending dance between empathy, discipline, distraction and kissing it all better.
I see you basking in the in-between moments, where two giggling kiddos lay side-by-side on the floor as you alternate kissing their bellies or toes or noses.
I see you arranging tiny people for naps, hoping for even a ten-minute overlap when you might be alone to pee, to shower, to finish that cup of coffee. I see you doing your best to not wallow in disappointment or irritation when this doesn’t happen at all in a day, but sometimes crying about it, because you can’t help it.
I see you walking down the street with a babe in the carrier and a toddler by the hand – neither child wants to sit in the stroller you’re also pushing.
I see you reminding both children to be kind, or gentle, or patient, with one another… repeatedly.
I see you looking at the clock and counting down the hours until your partner will be home so you can devote your full attention to one child for awhile – or maybe, just maybe, have that solitary pee.
I see you carrying on through the thirteenth tantrum of the day, with two people crying in your ear at once, and finally yelling, “Everybody, STOP!” even though you know yelling doesn’t help; sometimes it feels like there is nothing else to do.
I see you eagerly welcoming your partner home, then sensing from their body language that they really need some time to decompress alone after their day at work, and letting them have it, even though you’re desperate for some time like that yourself.
I see you keeping your eye on the clock all evening, as you manage the wind-down dance of dinner, baths, and slightly different bedtimes.
I see you rearranging furniture and making accommodations for a child who is suddenly having trouble going to bed, so as not to disturb the one who is already down for the night.
I see you going to sleep yourself shortly after they are abed, knowing that your odds of night wakings are twice as high as they used to be; even if one has a great sleep, the other one might have night terrors, or a terrible thirst, or just garden-variety wakefulness.
I see you missing your friends and your old life sometimes, even your old life with just one child.
I see you, even though you might feel like you don’t see many people these days, so how could anyone else see you? How could anyone know what it is you spend all day doing, and why you’ve been absorbed into this bubble that is you, and your kids, and daily life, and that is all?
Well, I see you, Mom. We see each other. And I think you are doing a great job.