Since becoming a Mother of twins, one of the most frequently asked questions that I get from others is whether my twins sleep through the night. Although their sleep patterns have continually improved since we brought them home from the hospital, 2 1/2 years later, they each still wake up at least one time per night. I don’t get to spend very much time with them during the workweek and I’m so used to the routine of interrupted sleep that the majority of the time when they wake up in the middle of the night, I really don’t mind it.
So the other night, at 1:30 am, I received my nightly wake up call from my son which started with a warm smile right as I entered his room. Then, he says softly to me: “Hi. I love you, Mama. Can I hold your hand?” So I lay down next to him and hold his hand and almost instantly he drifts back to sleep. Those moments, even at 1:30 in the morning, all add up to why I love being a Mom.
A few short hours later, before we were going to get into the car to begin our day, my daughter runs over to her toy guitar and turns on some music. As a familiar nursery-rhyme-type song begins to play, she excitedly scampers over to me and exclaims: “Dance with me Mama!” Was I already late? Yes. Did I dance? Of course I did. And as we were dancing, in between her blissfully sweet giggles she says: “I’m dancing with my friend, Mama!”
I literally felt my heart double in size upon hearing those words. They actually freed me from the daily grind that wears on all of us each and every day; the rotating hamster wheel where obligations continue to pile up, where you never get a moment’s rest, and where you’re always short on time. During my one-song morning dance with my friend, all of that went away.
As a parent, I’m always thinking about how much my children mean to me but what I don’t think about as often is just how much I mean to them. And as a parent of young children, moments like this make me realize that while I am teaching my kids to become good adults, they are simultaneously teaching me so many equally important things.
They are teaching me to:
Appreciate the most special moments in my day – even if those moments occur in the middle of the night
Not to take life too seriously. Take a moment to just laugh and have fun. Act like a toddler, who doesn’t have a care in the world.
We all have Mommy guilt whether we are working Moms or stay at home Moms. Most of this guilt, we bring upon ourselves and it stems from our unconditional love for our children.
However, I am not here to talk about that kind of Mommy guilt. That kind of Mommy guilt, in a way, can almost be worn as a badge of honor because ultimately the guilt we feel comes from a good place – a place of love; a place of devotion. This guilt occurs because we, as Moms, want to do more for our children but we only have so much time, so much money, and so much energy to do so. Outside factors, beyond our control, contribute and cause this kind of Mom guilt.
But this different kind of Mommy guilt that I am referring to is the guilt that we may feel at the end of the day after we tuck our babies into bed. Working Moms attempt to meet unattainable expectations both at work and at home. More often than not we are the rope in a nonstop game of tug of war as our work lives and our home lives pull at us in completely opposite directions. We never actually win at this game but just play hard enough to stay in it somehow.
I’ve heard stay at home moms say that day after day of caring for their kids with little to no adult interaction while wearing sweats and having messy hair makes them feel isolated and alone; almost forgetting the women that they once were.
Working Moms often count the minutes until it’s time to go home, yet when we finally get there, we have a laundry list to get through – that may or may not include laundry. Who am I kidding? It always includes laundry! We have to make dinner, feed our children, give them baths, and get them ready for bed; making the strongest of attempts to fit into two hours all of the love and hugs that we weren’t able to give them during the day.
But during our nightly chores, there’s a part of us looking at the clock and thinking… just a half hour left until bedtime. And as that thought comes into our head, we smile to ourselves and feel a sense of relief, which helps us to push ourselves to finish our unending list of chores. I know stay at home moms must do the same; craving a couple hours of freedom each evening before passing out from utter exhaustion.
As I sit watching my children drift off into dreamland I feel a sense of accomplishment that I’ve made it through another day and a sense of gratitude that I’m about to get my coveted “me” time. Then, that different type of Mommy guilt that I mentioned earlier begins to creep in. How can I be excited to be getting time to myself when there is nowhere I’d rather be than with my kids? Am I living only for this downtime? Am I wishing their childhood away? Am I missing it all by just going through the motions? Am I a bad Mother? And as a working Mom who just spent the day away from her kids, how can I be craving time away from them? This is the guilt that eats away at us in a different way than the more noble kind of Mommy guilt.
The way that I get over this type of Mommy guilt is twofold. First, I realize that my kids know without a shadow of a doubt that they are my entire world; because they are. They never question that I want to be with them every second that I get. Second, I know that I’m a good Mom – no – I know that I’m a great Mom. But I’m only human and it is totally and completely exhausting to give 100% of yourself away – every single minute of every single day – up until that point that our kids fall asleep.
Whether it be to our company at work or our family at home, Moms are givers. And those couple of hours of downtime before we go to bed allow us to somehow keep our sanity and recharge; giving us the strength to be able do it all again the next day and the next day after that. And yes, time does pass by quickly but if you are working hard for your family, loving your kids, and making sure they know you are there for them totally and completely, you aren’t missing anything. You are living and Mommying exactly how you should be. You are doing your best and your best turns good kids into good people which is our biggest goal in all of this. At the end of the day, before you close your eyes, peel away the layers of the day that don’t truly matter – work, chores, frustration, exhaustion, etc. and what do you have? If the answer is a grateful heart then you are living right and there is nothing to ever feel guilty about.
You stop yourself short of slicing the sandwich you just made for yourself into fours.
You refer to yourself as Mommy and your husband as Daddy even when you’re kids aren’t in the room.
You notice stains on your clothing throughout the day that you, yourself did not put there.
You smell like syrup at 4pm in the afternoon and you weren’t even the one who ate pancakes.
You don’t recognize one new song when you turn on the radio but you can sing every word of both the Sesame Street and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse theme songs.
You drive a minivan. Enough said.
You’ve given 3 other people baths today but haven’t gotten to shower yourself.
You cook food that no one else eats but you.
You have snacks and backup snacks on your person 24/7.
You are desensitized to poop, pee, puke, and snots. Seriously. Nothing really grosses you out anymore.
You accept that Sponge Bob lives in a pineapple under the sea, Toodles can fix absolutely anything, puppies can be more than just K9 cops, and Elmo is the most intellectually gifted 3 year old on the planet.
You drink coffee ALL DAY LONG. There isn’t a time of day that is “too late” to have coffee. You actually contemplate having coffee late at night to avoid going to bed at all.
You are tired 24/7 and want to kill anyone who does not have a small child who claims that they are tired. Trust me. You are not.
You can do more with 15 extra minutes than most people can do in 2 hours. Seriously, you are bionic.
You pack a week’s worth of rations for a quick trip down the street. You can never be too prepared.
The phrase: “I’m tired. I’ll do it later” no longer applies to you. Refer to #12 above. Please note that the odds of being tired “later” are 100%. You only have the option of being more tired later, not less. You might as well do whatever “it” is now while you still have some strength left.
I’m not sure if I am the only one who does this. Sometimes, more often than I’d like to admit, I feel bad for myself. And immediately… and I’m talking seconds after these feelings creep in… I feel an insurmountable level of guilt about ever having had these feelings in the first place.
Then, I have an internal dialogue with myself where I tell myself that I do not deserve to feel badly for myself. I tell myself that my life is amazing. My children, my husband, my parents, and those that I love the most in this world are healthy and safe. I am healthy and safe. We don’t worry about where our next meal is coming from. We have a nice home. I really do not deserve, even for a second, to feel badly for myself. There is nothing to feel bad about so suck it up and stop it…. RIGHT NOW!
This little pep talk that I have with myself, more often than not, gets me out of the momentary funk that I am in, and I table those feelings of self-pity typically for the remainder of the day. But eventually these feelings return and I go through the above process again and again. What I’ve realized recently is that we all have feelings for a reason and I am becoming a believer that the healthiest way to live is to not downplay your feelings but rather to embrace them.
Now, when I feel bad for myself instead of trying to deny the way that I’m feeling, I cry – if I need to. I do. Typically, I cry in the car on the way to work or on the way home. The shower works too but my showers these days last a total of 3 minutes with my twins yelling MAMA! MAMA! at the door so … yeah… I cry when I’m alone in the car.
And during my Tear-A-Palooza, I tell myself that it’s okay to feel what I am feeling. Instead of deflecting my feelings and feeling guilty, I take ownership of my feelings and embrace them. Feeling bad for yourself does not make you a bad person. It also does not undo the fact that the majority of the time you feel blessed, happy, and grateful for all that you have.
I know that I am blessed. That is a fact. And probably a good 80% of the time I am beyond grateful for the many blessings that I have in my life. So the rest of the time I allow myself to feel a little negative – annoyed, tired, sad… you name it. Because you know what? I rock. I totally do! I, like so many women, handle a whole lot of crap day in and day out and I do it with a smile.
I help to support my family financially; I run my house; I provide support and love to those around me, etc. Every single day my kids are appropriately dressed, well fed, safe, happy, are learning, growing and laughing. Go me! Every day, I go to work and I get things accomplished. I make a positive difference in my company and in the lives of my coworkers. Um… go me again! My kids ate on clean dishes today because I cooked something and ran and emptied the dishwasher. My kids are playing on a clean floor today. Did a fairy come to my house and clean it? No. Me again! I cleaned it. My kids are wearing clean clothes because I washed and dried several loads of laundry this week even though I didn’t want to.
So if I feel bad for myself for 15 minutes because at the end of the day I am exhausted, don’t have even a moment to myself, feel a little unappreciated, and cannot figure out how I am going to find the strength to do it all again tomorrow, then I am completely 100% entitled to feel exactly that way! And you are too!
So embrace the bad feelings among all the good ones that you feel everyday. Feeling bad does not undo the good. Allowing yourself the ability to see your feelings through is healthy. I am not a doctor but I am willing to bet that validating your sad feelings probably wards off depression. So my advice is: frown for a little bit in order to be better able to show off that beautiful smile of yours for the long-run!
The key to long lasting relationships is the mutual understanding that at times life will inevitably get in your way. Good friends will appreciate the times when you are able to get together and accept the times when you cannot. Their feelings for you will never be dependent upon the “what have you done for me lately” mentality.
All About Me
From grade school through your twenties you have nothing but time. You are so wrapped up in yourself, that you actually think you’re busy and that your time is limited. You also think that you’re tired and overworked but that’s for another post.
You get your first job and you even keep up the social schedule you had during college and/or your early twenties. Thirsty Thursday – do they even call it that anymore? – was still totally doable. Go to a concert on a weeknight? Absolutely! Go to Vegas for the weekend? Of course! Can’t miss that. It’s going to be epic. Plan a spa day to take a break from… your ME-centric life – You bet
Friends invite you to things left and right and you wouldn’t dream of refusing because every single minute of your “free time” is actually free unless you make actual plans. Also, if you lose some sleep time , you can always sleep later on Sunday to make up for it.
Saying I Do
Then come your late twenties and early thirties. Typically around this time you get married. After the “I dos” you live as a unit of two and you are less focused on yourself as an individual and are subsequently more focused on you as a couple. This mind-shift begins when you are dating / engaged. You’ll notice this change when people make plans with you and you begin changing your typical response from “I’d love to” to “We can’t wait.” But if you’re just a couple, you can still be pretty selfish. Now, life has given you a live-in pal to go on vacation with, go out to fancy dinners with, sit next to at the movies, go on group dates with and go in on large purchases with – like a new car or a house.
And Baby Makes 3
Then you reach your early to mid-thirties and for some this all happens much earlier and/or out of sequence but either way there typically comes a time after you get married where you stare adoringly in each other’s eyes and talk about how amazing it will be to have children.
Some couples are aware of the magnitude of this decision but only up to a point. Others are completely oblivious to the fact that having kids will change every single thing about life as you have known it up to this point.
Like the majority of my friends, I have two full-time jobs: working at my day job and being a Mom to my kids. I have little to no time to do much else beyond those two things. I’m okay with that but some of my friends are not. These friends take it very personally when I turn down invitations to do things.
Take Time For Yourself
I admit it; I turn down invitations a lot. But to be completely honest, I am barely making it. I am exhausted every single night and on the weekends I spend the quality time with my kids that I miss during the workweek. This “quality time” also includes catching up on multiple loads of laundry, housecleaning, food shopping, meal preparation, and countless other household chores. By the end of my day on Saturday, after my husband and I put our kids to bed, we get into bed ourselves. Our additional activities at that point, besides sleeping, include: watching a little TV, reading, or playing on our phones. That’s it.
So, when you ask me to do something and I say “no,” I am not saying no to your invitation because I don’t like you or because I no longer enjoy having fun. I am saying no to your invitation because I want to spend my extra time with my children and because I need to get things done that I am unable to do during the week.I also need some time to just lay in bed and rest because I am exhausted. Did I fail to mention that?
Say No Without Feeling Guilty
I’ve only recently come to the realization that it is not a sin to say “no.” It also isn’t my personal responsibility to make everyone else happy. I try my very best to give of myself to others because that’s the kind of person that I am. However, I am unable to give to them what I do not have in the first place.
Someday my kids with be older and I will be able to have more of a social life. And when that time comes, the friends that understand and do not make judgments will be there and it’ll be as if life hadn’t gotten in our way for these past 10 years. Those friendships are the golden ones. Those friends know that life is hard. They understand that you only have the capacity to do so much. They love you for who you are and have zero expectations. These are the friendships that will withstand the test of time.
Let me begin by explaining that I am a mother of twins.The number one question, second to only to “Are they twins?” followed by the always fun “Are they identical?” – to which I respond “No, they are a boy and a girl”. This is typically followed by a brief pause, a confused look, and then the person re-asking the same question … “yeah but are they identical?” But that’s for another post. Anyway… one of the most common questions I get from people since becoming a Mom is “Are the kids sleeping through the night?”
For the first 18 months, my twins slept between my husband and I every single night. We attempted to start them off sleeping in their cribs and sometimes that would work for zero minutes, 20 minutes, or if we were lucky 3 hours but in the end they would always end up in the middle of our bed. Then a true miracle happened – from months 18 through 20, they both slept through the night consistently. I admit it. This was awesome. But then my 20 month old daughter decided to jump out of her crib at 1:30AM. She was fine but that prompted us to convert the cribs into “big girl “and “big boy “beds much earlier than we had planned Little did we know, this decision resulted in reigniting our sleepless night pattern.
My twins are currently 27 months old and the answer to the age-old question of “do your kids sleep through the night?” is still a huge, fat NO! After I respond with my “no”, the person then typically says “Well have you tried letting them cry it out?” or “I let my kid cry it out and they were sleep trained in less than week, etc.” The best unsolicited advice come from the pediatricians. I’ve had 3 of them so far . My latest pediatrician has not asked me this question nor has she provided me with any advice on this subject, which is probably, in part, why she is still my pediatrician.
The previous two pediatricians, who were not parents themselves,
mind you, have given me disapproving looks and told me that the kids are playing me and that they are old enough to be sleeping through the night.
They also told me that I am not doing them any favors because my kids NEED to learn to self-soothe as sleep is a learned behavior and I am stunting their development. STUNTING! Yes… stunting.
Um… riddle me this wise doctor, do you know of any college students who need Mommy and Daddy to accompany them to college because they cannot sleep on their own? Okay then back off me on this. I am not pointing fingers at anyone who uses the cry it out method. If that’s what you want to do with your kids, that’s fine. But it’s not what I want to do with mine. It just doesn’t feel right to me and I believe that as a parent you have to personally do what you feel is right for your own kids.
I’ve read countless articles by professionals who feel that co-sleeping is not only acceptable but actually a good thing. They say that it results in children feeling more confident, more secure, and loved.
So basically, I think as a parent you should embrace the philosophies of those professionals who agree with your methods and take comfort in the fact that there really are no wrong answers; just personal preferences. As parents we have to do what gets us to tomorrow…
For me on most nights… it’s co-sleeping. For others it might be crying it out in order to get some much needed sleep which makes you a better all-around parent to your kids the next day!
So whatever course of action that helps you to be the parent you want to be – not the parent someone else wants you to be – is the right call for you and your family!