Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Terrible Twos

The shock of new motherhood is the feeling that launched a thousand mom-blogs. All over the world, overwhelmed women crept online to vent their feelings, seek help, find fellow travelers, lament "Why didn't anyone tell me...?"

And I've always felt like something of a mommy-blogger fraud because of it. As I mentioned in my 100 things, my transition to motherhood was pretty smooth. Because of my job as an editor for a parenting magazine, I had read millions of words of advice and BTDT tales before I ever got pregnant. I did know what to expect. There was nothing that anyone hadn't told me or that I hadn't read about. I thought it was going to be sheer hell. But—thanks to that combination of low expectations, an easy baby, a generous maternity leave, nursing success, Strollercise, and few hormonal mood swings—it was not, at all. I was a happy mama. Probably annoying to all the other mamas around me.

Well, you know what they say about payback. She's a bitch. Fast-forward three years to when my darling little Opie arrived. I still had the nursing success and an almost-as-generous leave (and only a part-time job to return to). What I didn't have were low expectations. Becoming a mom to kid #1 was a breeze; everyone must have been exaggerating about how tough this newborn thing was. Sure, I figured we'd have some big-sister jealousy, maybe some regression. But the baby himself? No biggie.

Ahem. You can imagine where this is going. Those first several months—5 or 6, at least—sucked big time. I wanted to take the baby and run away from everything else: my daughter, my house, my husband. I saw them only as impediments to what I was trying to do, which was simply get through each day (and night, oh the long long nights) with my needy, gassy, wakeful, sensitive, stubborn little boy. As I think about this now, I can't believe I didn't want to run away from him too, but I know I didn't. I knew how much he needed me and that's a powerful motivator. I just wanted to focus on our tight little twosome, to the exclusion of everything and everyone else.

Why didn't anyone tell me that would happen?

Even though we're over the worst of the transition now, with Opie nursing less and sleeping more and walking and playing on his own, I still find it very difficult to balance the two kids' competing needs. One cries in the high chair while the other dawdles over her dinner. One has to zone out in front of Noggin.com while the other takes 30 minutes or more to settle down to bed. One has to be hauled in and out of the carseat and wait around in a toddler-unfriendly space while the other takes a swim lesson or visits a friend. One wants to laugh and sing but has to shush so the other, light-sleeping one can take a nap. It really doesn't seem fair and I hate being caught in the middle.

I hang on tight to the moments when they both cuddle on my lap, or when Opie lights up when he sees his big sister, or when she showers him with kisses. I try so hard not to wish away these days. Because if there's one thing that moms of grown kids have told me, it's that you can never go back. I don't want to miss the good stuff because I'm so busy trying to get beyond the bad.


Amy (binkytown) said...

Oh dear, I'm sorry you are struggling. I don't have two, so I don't have any magic words of advice on how to transition but sometimes it helps just to hear that it's OK to think it sucks somedays or many days and that you will have better ones ahead. I also have to say thanks for the reality check - it keeps the babylust under control(which happens to be the only thing in control at the moment).

bubandpie said...

Oh, if only we could all find a way to enjoy the good stuff!! My babies came in the opposite order, which I think has to be easier in the long run. And I'd be lying if I said I don't sometimes hope my friends with easy dream-babies have it just an eensy weensy bit harder next time around, just so they know the rest of us aren't making it up!

My biggest challenge with two is balancing the baby's sleep schedule with the toddler's need for activity (ideally, activity outside the home). But the good parts are even better now, like when they're laughing at each other in the car, reaching across the middle seat to hold hands (they were holding hands!). Awww - there's nothing like it.

cloudscome said...

Yes I feel that too. I have often been struck by the way the baby is the cutest and most attractive of my kids.... and they all were that when they were the baby. Maybe I just love babies and hate every other age? No, that can't be it....

mothergoosemouse said...

Well, you didn't annoy ME... (But had we been friends before I got my PPD under control, then perhaps I might have felt a twinge of annoyance.)

A thousand times yes to the struggles of balancing their competing needs and wants. Word for word - that's what I deal with every day too.

For the longest time, I felt as if I couldn't love them both at the same time. One or the other would irritate the living poop out of me, which made me gravitate toward the other, temporarily non-irritating child.

Nancy said...

I hear you. Having 2 kids in different phases of life can be very difficult. Sometimes the only way I can get them synchronized is to turn on Sesame Street and let them plop down together -- hate to do it, but otherwise I'm trying to cut myself in half and run off in two directions at once.

I know what you mean about not wanting to miss the good stuff while focused on the bad. I feel that way sometimes, too.