Welp. Let’s just get right down to it, shall we?*
*Editor’s note: I used to try and begin my writings with a clever line or amusing anecdote that I’d somehow tie back into the end of the piece, making everything come full circle and leaving everyone smiling and nodding their heads wistfully. But if there’s one thing moms don’t have time for it’s cutesy intros; we need hard and fast facts with no fluff and a few curse words here and there. So, jumping right in — because I finally have 47 seconds to myself!
Four whole months after bringing Talley into the world, and this is the first time I’ve chronicled life as a mom of two. It’s taken me a full four months to write this for several reasons. First, at the risk of sounding cliché, adding another child to my roster means there is no time for thoughtfully and eloquently transcribing one’s complex feelings on motherhood in neat little lines of size 12 font. There is also no time for basic personal hygiene, any semblance of real conversation with one’s spouse or eating food at a reasonable pace. (I now have to either inhale my entire meal in seven seconds, or take one bite every 45 minutes. These are my only options. There is no in between.)
Any time I DO manage to get for myself, I spend it either cleaning, meal prepping (these people I live with are so demanding with their three meals a day thing), or cleaning again. You guessed it: I am one of those obsessive, delusional moms who races around the house picking up every single toy and crumb in real time as it litters my house, knowing full well I’ll be picking up the exact same mess a mere three minutes later. Basically I spend 87% of my waking hours trying to erase any evidence that children inhabit my house so, clearly, I’m excelling at time management here. As I’m mid-meltdown during one of my manic cleaning episodes, I try to repeat that silly, nonsensical quote over and over in my head: “Good moms have sticky floors, messy kitchens, laundry piles and HAPPY KIDS!” The sticky floors part worries me most; honestly, this sounds like some sort of health hazard, and I have questions. Lots of questions. But if society is telling me that my kids derive happiness from sticky floors then I’m okay with them having just a mediocre childhood and simply paying for their therapy later.
The second reason I haven’t gotten around to writing about life with two kids two-and-under is because life with two kids two-and-under has sucked me dry of any and all creativity, inspiration and all around general brainpower. I now realize the ability to form coherent, thought provoking and sometimes even funny sentences was something I took for granted four short months ago. Now I feel like a vapid, tired robot whose thoughts and convos center around coordinating nap schedules, poop color and/or consistency and sometimes not even real thoughts at all but just humming the Paw Patrol theme song over and over into oblivion.
Which brings me to the third reason: sheer, deep-down-in-your-bones exhaustion. I’m not taking anything away from people with one kid; when I had just one kid I was exhausted too, and I realize the struggles are all relative. But having two kids (two and under, that’s where things get kooky) is a new level of exhaustion for me personally. I want to go back to 2015 and punch myself in the face for complaining about being tired with one measly baby. For example, when you have one baby, and that (rude) baby doesn’t sleep at night, then you might have the option to sleep during the day when your baby naps. However, with a rude baby AND a toddler, this is what happens:
Your baby is finally asleep, so you rush to put your toddler down for a nap so that you can maybe get a few minutes of rest yourself. Except putting the toddler down entails gathering every single stuffed animal within a 30-foot radius, reading five books, singing 12 songs, re-doing four of those songs because you “sang them wrong mommy,” giving kisses and hugs to every single said stuffed animal now lining her bed, explaining for fifteen minutes why she can’t have a cookie right now, then ultimately promising her an entire sleeve of cookies if she would just please, for the love of everything good and holy, lay down and stop talking. She then climbs out of the crib and escapes her room four different times, so you resort to standing outside her door literally holding it shut and quietly sobbing. You finally finish up the negotiating process which is more intricate and tenuous than relations between the US and China, then head straight to your bed to try and rest for five minutes.
Except as soon as your head hits the pillow, your baby is now awake and screaming again.
And it’s then you realize that back in your carefree, child-free days you used to think misery was when they didn’t sell wine at the grocery store or when you couldn’t get Chick-Fil-A on Sundays or when you saw a guy you’re really into wearing Crocs un-ironically (UGH). But now your eyes have been opened and you know the real definition of misery; you now know there is no crueler Hell on Earth than children who will not sleep at the same time for a mom who hasn’t slept more than a total of eight hours within the last three days.
So yeah, lately I’ve been tired, busy, stressed, un-showered, dull, boring and either really hungry or really full (again, the eating food at a reasonable pace thing is surprisingly tough to navigate). For some reason, going from one to two kids was insanely harder than I was prepared for.
I think one thing that makes everything tough is, from talking to other moms, that my toddler isn’t in full-time school. In fact, she is only in school two days a week. And those are half-days. And probably about half of those half-days I’ve kept her out of school for fear of her bringing home germs/illness to the new baby (my ongoing struggle with postpartum anxiety this time is a whole other dysfunctional post on its own). If Scout was in school more, I’d have more time to focus on the baby and/or focus on not completely losing my mind, whichever seemed like more of a priority that day.
Another part that complicated things and induced all the tears: breastfeeding. When I nursed Scout as a baby, it was a calm, peaceful, almost ceremonial process where two souls would come together as one. We’d sit quietly in her tranquil, magazine-worthy nursery, rocking back and forth in an expensive plush rocker with some soft music playing, gazing longingly at one another and talking (with our eyes) about how deeply we loved each other.
This time around, breastfeeding is a scene out of The Hunger Games. I’m shoving Talley onto my boob with one hand while the other hand tries to keep Scout from killing herself by launching her body off of couches, chairs, tables, our fence, etc. (If you know Scout personally, you know this is not even a slight exaggeration.) I’m shoving Talley onto my boob while pouring copious cups of milk and hurling handfuls of Cheerios across the room at Scout to keep her at bay for five minutes. I’m shoving Talley onto my boob while getting roundhouse-kicked in the kidneys by a jealous Scout while shielding Talley’s fragile head with my entire torso. OR SOMETIMES I’M DOING ALL OF THESE THINGS AT ONCE, while poor Talley clings on to my nipple for dear life, hoping to maybe get some milk out of the experience as an added bonus but mainly just hoping to survive the whole ordeal.
What I’m trying to say is nursing is ridiculously hard in general, especially in the early days, what with the engorgement and the bleeding and the blistering and the whole being solely responsible for nourishing a human every three hours. But adding in an energetic, high-maintenance and understandably jealous two year old had me bawling more than my new baby most days.
Speaking of jealousy, Scout’s reaction to having to share me with this new little alien creature wrapped in her old swaddles might have been the hardest transition of all—for the both of us. I used to think mom guilt was feeding her frozen meals or giving her too much screen time or letting her dad dress her (yikes). Now mom guilt is when I’m nursing the baby so dad has big sister bedtime duty, and you hear her sobbing from her bed calling out “mama” over and over because her little world’s been rocked and she’s out of sorts, but you can’t run and go crawl in her bed with her right then because you’re downstairs nursing and soothing a crying baby. That’s some real #momguilt shit right there, you guys.
But it’s not all bad, really. Over the last four months I’ve witnessed some incredibly precious moments that remind me why I voluntarily embarked on this self-inflicted madness. Like when Talley cries, and Scout runs over to her yelling “It’s okay, Ta-wee, don’t cry!” and holds her hand tight (sometimes a little too tight?). And the sweetest part is Talley actually stops crying immediately and smiles a big, gummy smile up at Scout, and I don’t know whether to smile too or to burst into one billion tears or to just have five more children ASAP. (But by a quick process of elimination I’m able to immediately scratch that last option. I have entirely too many family members under my roof to keep alive right now as it is, if you count my husband and our dog.)
Becoming a mother of two has left me with a lot to say– obviously, since I have managed to write an entire post literally on the reasons why it took me this long to write a post on being a mother of two. But above all, I genuinely feel like the most important thing about motherhood is that we talk about it. From my not so stellar pregnancy experience, to my fears regarding labor and delivery, to the weird, emotional postpartum period I’m still in, I’m a pretty open book (for better or for worse- my husband loooves endless discussions about my pelvic floor, you guys!). If you’re a mom currently in the throes of pregnancy or postpartum, just know you’re not alone. You’re more okay than you think you are and I can pretty much guarantee anything you’re experiencing is normal. (Except for sticky floors. If you have sticky floors in your life right now, you need to get that situation under control, STAT.)
Photo credits – top two images: Meagan Little Photography