Things have been challenging in this house over the last couple of weeks. The twins have been little twin-somniacs and are not allowing much sleep for mommy and daddy. This whole mess of zombie-like states and days running on fumes (and caffeine…lots and lots of caffeine) have had me thinking a lot about expectations.
We haven’t had much trouble with the twins and sleep up until this point so I never really expected that since we had it so good (and I was so grateful) that things could change so drastically and bedtime and overnight would become, only how I could describe, as hell on Earth.
That’s the thing about expectations; they really screw with you.
So over the last couple of weeks… six… six long weeks of babies waking up all hours of the night and my trying to function as a productive human being aside from this, I came to realize I have been wrong about A LOT of things.
I was the perfect parent…
…before I had children.
There were many things I expected as I fantasized about my role as caretaker of tiny humans. I set standards in my head I was determined to maintain. Guidelines I would not stray from. Have a look at these (now laughable) assumptions naïve, non child-raising me had.
- My baby(ies) would not be exposed to “screen time” before a reasonable age.
Reality: I was dumb. I love television, my husband loves television, and prior to having kids there was often a TV on even if it wasn’t being watched. That was just the world we were living in. So I did some revising and came up with a new standard…
- My baby(ies) would only have access to television shows that are educational in nature and “age appropriate.”
Reality: If the same episodes of “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse” on repeat allows me to get a shower in the morning before work, clean the house so that I don’t feel like we live in a pigsty, or prepare a meal for the twins and the rest of us, then I bow down to you Lord Mickey the Mouse. However, there are other shows that are on pretty regularly because adults still live her and I would be lying if I didn’t disclose that it doesn’t matter what kind of tantrum these toddlers are throwing, the intro to Law and Order: SVU stops them in their tracks and quiets them instantly. Guilty as charged.
- I wasn’t going to try that hard to breastfeed.
Reality: The twins are 14 months old and continue to nurse multiple times a day. 17% of women continue to nurse their baby(ies) after returning to work full time. This is the biggest commitment I’ve made to anything in my life, and while it has exhausted and, at times, tormented me, I am empowered by what my body has been able to provide for these two. Even if it has meant that I am a glorified cow.
- I would listen to all advice provided by my baby(ies) doctor.
Reality: Nope. There have been things I’ve had gut feelings about and ways I’ve wanted to do things that the doctors advised against, or didn’t have a lot of insight to provide. It’s easy to feel bullied in to doing things with my kids as directed by a doctor. But after conversations had between my husband and I, we decided that we would consider all information provided to us but that we would also make our own informed decisions because these are our kids, and we have the ultimate say. As long as our children are healthy, happy, and thriving, we will make the choices that we see fit as their parents.
- I would not return to old, bad, habits I engaged in before parenthood. Like smoking.
Reality: Spare me the lectures on how bad smoking is for my health and livelihood. I know. I’m human. It isn’t rational, and it isn’t healthy, but this is a habit that has been difficult to give up 100%. Sometimes I feel as though I am split in to two halves. There’s who I am as a woman, and there’s who I am as a mom. And sometimes the person I am outside of being a mother needs a minute. My minutes occasionally include a cigarette.
- My children would be read to, daily.
Reality: I wish I could go back and hit pre-mom me in the head. Have you tried reading to an infant? Here… face a wall and read aloud a book that has bright pictures and short sentences. Go on, I’ll wait. That’s what reading to an infant is like and it’s a much better experience when the kid is a little older and can respond and react.
7. There would be no scenario that included a child sleeping in my bed.
Reality: We didn’t consider this for a long time; the twins were sleeping well. And when they were sleeping well, we were sleeping well in our sanctuary of a bed that was our own. By the time it’s 3am and you’re up with Twin A for the tenth time, and you know Twin B is going to wake up if they hear Twin A screech for the umpteenth time and you’re mentally clocking the amount of hours of sleep you can get if this kid passed out RIGHT NOW; options seem limited. Survival mode kicks in and you rationalize your kid sleeping next to you because 1) they will sleep and so will you, 2) if for whatever reason they do become restless they have easy, open access to your boobs which are magic and will instantly calm them. Bed-sharing for the win!
This is just a quick, ever-evolving, running list. I’m sure as we continue down this road as parents, more and more things that I expect to happen will turn out not quite as I had planned. I guess this is something all new parents come to realize. This epiphany has also made me more aware of mothers outside of myself. Never again will I be able to, in good conscience, judge another mother for how they parent their child (with the exception of neglect and abuse, of course.) There are so many unknowns when you’re raising kids and you’re ultimately responsible for how they turn out. There are too many variables and no handbooks. There’s a part of you that’s left constantly open and vulnerable to ridicule, judgment, and guilt and it’s exhausting. Even more exhausting then two toddlers trained by the CIA in torture via sleep deprivation. We are doing our best. We deserve to feel pride in our mothering capabilities. And we need to remember that even when things don’t turn out quite how we had expected them, often times, they turn out better.