True Mommy Confessions 8 – Sometimes I Hate Having Twins

In honor of Dr. Suess's birthday, and out of control twins...

Sometimes I hate having twins.  There I said it.  Computer did not explode, nor did I.

Every week, while I’m enjoying my “vacation time” at work, I tell myself, this weekend, I’m going to really commit to spending quality time with my kids, rather than dreaming up ways to avoid them.  The funny thing is, I really WANT to spend quality time with them.  Part of me genuinely longs for them, when I’m away.  So why don’t I rush home Friday night looking forward to spending a weekend in twin-toddler-land?

Let me tell you why…

This weekend, as I often do, I planned an outing with my children.  I do this to avoid the inevitable consequences of staying home; including trying to impress upon them the oven is not a toy, general destruction to my home, repeated tantrums, and finally, me hiding in another part of the house with my laptop, overwhelmed, and convinced I’m a horrible mother.

After careful research, I concluded the best-timed outing this weekend would be to one of the many story-times that were being run for Dr. Suess’s birthday.  After the usual lengthy period of getting ready, including pleading with them to let me get ready so that we can leave, we drive off.  Mind you, by “me getting ready” I mean brushing my dirty hair, putting sneakers on, drinking a cold cup of tea that I’ve microwaved three times, and making sure my pajamas can pass for “sweats”).

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It Shouldn’t Feel Wrong to Admit I’m Alone and Happy in Hawaii

Hawaii Surf... Ahhhhh

Today, as it has for the past two days, the calendar on the wall in our house says Mama Away in blue magic marker.  “Mama go Auntie” my kids would say as I rehearsed with them that I would be leaving and when I would be returning.  I never expected my newly two year-old twins to get how many days I’d be gone, or even that the blue marker means mama is away and the green means mama is here.  The big takeaway was supposed to be mama WILL be back.

“Mama go Auntie” is toddler for me flying to Hawaii to sing in a close friend’s wedding.  Because that’s why I’m here, to sing, right?  It would be wrong to disappoint a close friend.  I’ve found myself doing a lot of rationalizing over the past weeks when the topic of my trip has come up.  But I’ll tell you the truth – as I sit here in a quiet hotel room listening to waves crash outside my window.  I am not here on some kind of mission of mercy, to throw myself on the sword, leaving my babies to fend for themselves with no one but their totally capable father, as well as grandfather, grandmother and babysitter.  I am here because I won the fucking twin mommy lottery.  At the perfect time, just when I need it most, just when I thought I was going to explode with restlessness and tedium, a close friend asked me to sing in her wedding in Hawaii.

Two days ago I walked through the airport all alone, boarded a plane for a ten hour flight, which I spent deliciously, luxuriously unplugged and alone.  No internet, no phone, no patients, no demanding toddlers, no husband wanting to know why I’m so “prickly” lately.  I can remember 5 hours into the flight, after I had done a crossword puzzle, napped, and read, thinking to myself how happy I was that I still had five hours left.

The last time I rode a plane without toddlers was before my pregnancy.  It felt completely unworthy of comment at the time, even inconvenient.  You would think I would have been eager to arrive in Hawaii, but the funny thing is I don’t think Hawaii was even real to me at that moment.  All that was real to me was time.  This long, delicious stretch of uninterrupted, unplanned time with no demands.

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True Mommy Confessions 7 – Pre-School Edition

Last week I brought my children to a playgroup that meets in the basement of a church in my town.  There were many kids there ranging from infants to 5 year-olds.  The folks were friendly and there was a great, almost entirely enclosed space for the kids to play.  The facilitators had a simple craft for the kids to do.  They decorated “flashlights” (paper towel tubes) and then went on a “bear hunt” around the basement area.

As the other children played inside the enclosed area, my little J dedicated himself, in typical form, to escape.  I’m not just talking about escape from that area, but from the building.  We had come down an elevator, and J ran down the hall toward the elevator repeatedly shouting “press-a the button!”  Had I not chased him quickly enough he would have happily rode the elevator up and exited the building.  In the meantime, O pulled every single book off the shelves, and dumped several bags of blocks which she then proceeded to ignore.  She sat on the lap of most of the adults there, much to their confusion.

When the craft began, I tried to interest my kids in it.  Somehow, someway, all the babies and kids managed to participate but mine.  While the other kids colored (some with parents’ help), mine ran around, jumped on furniture, and attempted to escape up the escalator.  When the “bear hunt” began, my kids were nowhere in sight.

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Twinpocalypse (True Mommy Confessions 6 – Hurricane Sandy Edition)

Flooding from river a few blocks away last year during Irene.

As super-storm Sandy continues her collision course with our area, with storm surges predicted to travel straight down into the river a few blocks from my house, I’m sitting here trying to figure out how to whether the storm inside.

The generator is ready to go, sump pump tested, water jugs are frozen, bathtub is full, flashlights on the counter, fridge filled with milk, and most importantly, a new book uploaded on my fully-powered kindle.  Now who is going to save me, my husband and our property from our children?
I heard a lovely little report on NPR this morning about how to keep children occupied during the storm.  She told me to make tents.  I do plan to make tents, to hide from my children in.
You know what really burns me?  Having to keep hearing about using the storm as a time for quality family bonding.  I get literally all the bonding I can handle.  Typically, tomorrow morning, my babysitter would arrive, and I would skip off to work after three full days of family “bonding.”  Tomorrow, that’s not going to happen, and that, my friends, is a state of emergency.
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Wanderlust 2 – I Survived… Sort of.

A brief respite from the storm - view from our cruise ship.

Sometimes parenting is like walking into the surf during a hurricane.  You keep getting knocked down, you keep getting back up, and just when think to yourself, “I’ve got this one, I’m still standing,” a bigger wave comes along and knocks you on your ass.  I guess I was expecting my kids to get sick a lot in the first few years.  What I wasn’t expecting was the number of ailments I myself would be afflicted with.  It’s one thing balancing toddler twins and working.  I’m pretty sure that alone would be somewhat manageable.  Add in to the mix that those toddler twins are sick, and the odds start stacking against me.  Those giant waves just keep coming.  Now add in that I somehow manage to repeatedly get even sicker than they are, and just for good measure, sprain my ankle as well.  Now we’re moving into the realm of a tsunami.

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Bullying Moms Into Breastfeeding Isn’t Really About “Health” and “Bonding”

A Mom's Gotta Do What A Mom's Gotta Do!

Breastfeeding fanaticism and the bullying of bottle-feeding families typically occurs under the guise of promoting “health” and “bonding” in infants.  I believe this is, quite frankly, a load of crap.  When it rises to the level of strong-arming and zealotry, and overrides or ignores other crucial factors in infant and maternal health, breastfeeding enforcement is really about promoting a cultural norm of guilt and martyrdom in mothers.  This Jezebel article is a rare, honest description of the decision to bottle-feed and the reactions one mom got for choosing what was right for her family.  Making decisions that truly facilitate physical and psychological health for infants requires weighing pros and cons of a variety of personal choices, including breastfeeding, with one’s specific circumstances in mind.

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WanderLust (True Mommy Confessions 5)


Sometimes a woman just needs to wander...

Six years ago this summer, I left the apartment where I lived by myself and walked to a train station with nothing but a large hiking backpack on my back.  I would not return home for almost a month.  After stepping on the commuter train to New York City, a conductor looked taken aback by my luggage.  “Where you going?” he asked.

“Africa,” I said, barely even making eye contact.  It never occurred to me that this might seem odd to him or anyone else.  I went about my business, negotiating a variety of public transportation until I reached JFK Airport.  The next night I was in Johannesburg.  That was the year after my mother died.  It’s a funny thing how horrific pain can lead one to freedom, and joy can sometimes feel like a prison sentence.

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Learning to be Unimportant – My Tribute to Imperfect Parents Raising Average, Unremarkable Kids

A parent's hardest job is watching your kid struggle and not intervening.

“Wow… good for you!”  our family doctor said, looking shocked.  I was taken aback.  I hadn’t actually done anything.  My little J had been doing his usual climbling in the doctor’s office and his body was all twisted up as he tried to make his way down off a chair.  My instinct was to move in and catch him before he fell.  Better safe than sorry.  But instead, I took a deep breath, and told myself, “He’s got this.”  This simple check on myself is something I do one hundred times a day.

The doctor went on to congratulate me on not intervening with J.  He told me how rare it is that he sees a parent let her child take a risk like that without stepping in.  He said seeing a child in action helps him evaluate the child’s motor skills, something he used to do all the time earlier in his career, before parents began to monitor their kids’ every move.  I had come to a conclusion that my kids needed the experience of mastery that comes from trying things and realizing you have a capability you didn’t know you had.  I also knew my kids would fail.  I figured they would need to learn their own limits, rather than assume I knew their limits, and take those on as their own.  I had been down that road with my parents, and subsequently spent my twenties figuring out what I really could and couldn’t do.

A few months ago we were on the playground.  J walked over to the edge of the jungle gym.  I was right behind him.  I had that urge to move him away from the edge, but I reminded myself that neither he nor O have ever jumped off.  J proceeded to jump off.  It was a good number of feet down, and he was pretty shaken up, although not hurt.  I did a lot of soul-searching that day.  I was standing right there.  I should have stopped that from happening!  But the more I thought about it, the more I thought about all the amazing things my kids had learned they could do on that playground without getting hurt.  To prevent that one fall, I would have had to deny them all those experiences.

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The Parenting Olympics – Toddler Class

I was thinking yesterday about the Olympics, and how I couldn’t possibly be more oblivious.  Then I realized I am participating in my own Olympics.  Yes, that’s right people, I deserve a medal!  In honor of the Summer Olympics in…?  Ah well, here we go:

The Parenting Olympics – Toddler Class

PLAYGROUND CHASE - Helicopter Parenting Event


Clothing – Olympian must cloth toddler as quickly as possible

Judging:  Score based on best time.  Missing limbs off of toddler result in disqualification.

Retrieval of Dangerous Objects – Olympian must retrieve objects from a number of toddlers before they become injured, such as sharp items, plastic bags, and items that are small enough to swallow, hot, and or could remove the eye of another toddler.

Judging:  Score based on bodily integrity of toddlers in one’s group at conclusion of event.

Medicine Administration:  Olympian must administer oral antibiotic to screaming toddler with ear infection.  Sedating toddler is prohibited.

Judging:  Toddler who stops screaming the soonest is assumed to have received the most medicine, thus rendering the corresponding olympian the winner.

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Independence Day (True Mommy Confessions 4)

Footprints on the heart can never be washed away...

It’s July 4th, and I’m sitting alone in an old Victorian office building, waiting to see the 1/4 of my Wednesday night patients still willing to come in on Independence Day.  The building is deserted, except for the owner, typically a suited-up lawyer wielding a portable phone, who is spending the holiday scraping the front porch in the sweltering heat.  I walk up to him as I leave, asking if I should lock up, and immediately feel badly.  He seems embarrassed as I stand there in my work clothes watching him drowning in sweat.

I had scheduled two patients that day about four hours apart.  In between I sat in my office working on this blog, doing paperwork, and knocking things off my to-do list I haven’t been able to get to for months.  “Why are you working?” so many people had asked me.  Sure, there are patients for whom it’s tough to miss a week of therapy.  But I am still entitled to days off.  If I don’t maintain my own sanity, I can’t be expected to help others.  The truth is, I worked today because I preferred it to the alternative.

I’ve learned there is no such thing as a vacation for me since having twins a year and a half ago.  I spent our last actual trip fantasizing about coming back to my office and relaxing while kicking my feat up and helping people work through their emotional problems.  This week, my nanny and I mis-communicated.  She assumed she would be off on the 4th, I assumed she would have asked if she wanted off.  When we realized the mistake, I told her not to come in, but she insisted.  Seth left early this morning on a three-day back-packing trip with some friends.

The thought of being alone with my babies for three full days in a row made my organs tremble.  I know myself, and I know I don’t have that in me.  I used to think that made me a horrible, incapable mother.  Now I think it’s just something I need to know and accept about myself.  I reach a threshold before which I’m a totally fine, responsive, loving mother, and after which, I feel like I’m completely shut-down.  The truth is, I’m not.  I do what I need to do for my kids.  But I do it saddled with the feeling that I’m drowning – like someone’s slowly pouring my soul out my ears, and every moment that passes I have to consciously resist the urge to claw my way out of the house.  Needless to say, three full (we’re talking 12 hour) days was way over that threshold.  Thank-you nanny for your mercy!!

After the nanny left tonight, another babysitter came over to relieve her, as Seth normally would.  Two babysitters so I can see two patients.  I think I probably lost money today, but what I gave up in earnings, I more than made up for with maintenance of sanity.

After work, I drive home slowly, stopping at the grocery store, where I spend quite a long time browsing the organic chocolate shelf, and then pile a large quantity of organic chocolate bars into my cart.  These will keep me company tonight, I think to myself.  As I drive, I hear fireworks going off.  The roads are empty, and my neighborhood is eerily quiet.  I pay the babysitter and put my chocolate in the freezer (yes, I know, I’m a freak).  As the fireworks continue, I start thinking about “independence day,” and the years of independence I took for granted.  I always felt tied down to something.  My parents.  Grad school.  But now that I’m a mom, I realize, I wasn’t tied down at all.

After my mom died when I was in my mid-twenties, I packed up a hiking backpack and walked from my apartment to a commuter train.  I got some funny looks and questions due to the backpack.  “Where you headed?”  “Africa,” I replied, like I had said I was going to Staten Island.  I returned after travelling around southern Africa with a friend for a month.  Now, taking that same train into Manhattan feels somewhat exotic.  The term “vacation” has a cruel irony to me.  It means hours on end of hard, manual, emotionally draining childcare labor while also trying to do maintain the illusion of doing the “vacation-like” things I would have done in the past.  No thanks!

Allow me to provide an example.  I spend a week organizing and packing so the family can go to Florida, after which I will spend a week washing and unpacking and re-organizing.  While in Florida, I complete all the usual baby tasks I would as a part-time, stay-at-home-mom, but in addition, I spend the mornings packing up and organizing for the beach.  Food for us.  Food for the babies.  Bottles for the babies.  Baby suits, diapers, change of clothes, towels, tents, sunscreen, hats, beach umbrella, chairs, toys, books, baby chairs, jogging stroller, kill me please.  Between the babies’ naps, we head to the beach where they eat sand and get too much sun for 20 minutes.  We then pack up the hundred tons of stuff and head back home, where we proceed to bathe the babies, wash all the stuff, and put it away so I can pack it up again the next day.

Vacation is an evil to be avoided at all costs.  Give me my nanny, my part-time job, and my mother-fucking computer!  This blog is my version of lounging on the beach sporting a carved-out coconut full of pina colada with a little umbrella poking out.  As far as anyone else knows, I’m on the computer writing testing reports for work.  I like to keep it that way.

So when’s my independence day?  When do I get to rejoin humanity and take a vacation or even a day off where I don’t choose one kind of work over another?  Perhaps in 16.5 years when I drive a U-Haul up to a college campus and leave my children to fend for themselves until Thanksgiving?  Well that doesn’t sound like a vacation at all.  And therein lies the catch-22 of parenthood.  We want the vacation, and yet we don’t want the vacation.  I could take a trip. I could leave Friday when Seth gets home.  He’s gone for three days.  I could do the same. But I won’t.  Because as much as I don’t want to be with my kids for three days straight, I don’t want to be away from them for three days straight either.

When I’m with them, I want my life back, and when I’m away from them, I realize, once again, that they are my life.  Freedom takes on a new meaning when you are a mother.  It’s something you remember longingly, fantasize about, and crave, but in the end, you’d never choose it, because the truth is, for mothers, there is no such thing as freedom anymore –  only life without your babies – and that’s a kind of independence none of us would choose.

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