Judgey Mama

Judging. Shaming. All considered unacceptable when it comes to parenthood these days. Take, for instance, the moment a stupid sentence slipped out of my mouth when I bumped into a fellow mama recently, whose nearly-four year old daughter was sat happily in the double buggy also occupied by her two-year old sister.

“As if you still have her in the buggy!?!” I laughed, without thinking.

“Too bloody right I still use the buggy; you think I’m going out with these pair of nutters without it?!” she responded.

We smiled and parted ways, me secure in my Amazing Twin Mama Abilities because I ditched the buggy a year ago (when the twins began climbing out of it, rendering it useless), her with a slight feeling of inadequacy and shame.

Ok, I’m projecting. She might not have given it a second thought but I’ve been on the receiving end of those types of breezy, well-meaning “helpful” comments to know that eventually, they grind you down and can make you feel like shit on an already difficult day.

Later, chatting in a Whatsapp group with her included, she chimed in with the fact that I’d “shamed her for still putting Kid 1 in the buggy earlier!” – followed of course by laughing crying emojis to denote just how breezy and unaffected she was by my stupid comment… I knew then that my thoughtless chit chat had cut deeper than an innocent bystander may assume.

Innocent bystander… that segways me on nicely to my other Mama Judging moment… except this time, was I right to judge?

Ah, the agony and the ecstasy of soft play. We all have stories, and they’re places I generally avoid in favour of a muddy walk or trip to the park, but this one is situated within an outdoors shop and is particularly challenging for the children. I like to push their boundaries and it meant I could have a coffee on the side and read daft stories on Bored Panda.

This place is on three small but genuinely difficult levels. It’s not for the feint-hearted, and it’s so dimly-lit that as a parent, you have to have the confidence to let them loose and simply hope they come out alive because you’ll hear blood-curdling screams and yelps coming from all directions, without a hope of locating your own children or verifying that they’re OK.

At one point, Twin 1 came to me in floods of tears, telling me the other children wouldn’t let her on the thingy. I felt the Mama Bear stir in me but I knew she needed to learn to navigate the difficult world of childhood, so I said, “If you want to do something then you need to be brave and do it.” Was that too ambiguous? What was I really suggesting there? An argument? Violence? I wanted to protect my child, and I also wanted her to be tough. Thankfully it came to nothing and my vague advice to her wasn’t tested.

Some time later, as I was shouting the twins’ names in an attempt to locate them and encourage an end to their play, a woman we’ll call Mom 1 approached me with concern, presumably worried I was calling my children in response to the crying we could hear from within (I knew that cry wasn’t from my girls. We just know, don’t we, our own children’s crying?)

“Is it the boy in the stripey top?” she asked me. Confused, I responded, “Oh no, I’ve got two girls.”

“No,” she said, “The boy in the stripey top is mine. Is he being a problem?”

I laughed and said no, my two tend to just fight between themselves and Mom 1 sat back down to drink her coffee. It occurred to me afterwards that she was clearly aware her son could be aggressive…

More time passed (I really milked that place!) and I became aware of a couple calling their children. This had happened so often during my visit that I paid little attention, until it became clear that something was happening. Next thing I knew, Mom 1 was on the scene and the couple were shouting at her and then shouting at the boy in the stripey top. Evidently Stripey had done something to one of the couple’s sons – Son 2 – and instead of dealing with it in such a way as to diffuse the situation and teach all the children about conflict resolution, the couple were shouting at Son 2, “Get down here now and batter him (Stripey)!”

And I watched, agog, as Stripey ran in fear behind Mom 1’s legs, while the couple screamed at Son 2, “Come on! Batter him!” And dutifully, Son 2 chased Stripey as he cowered behind his mother, and went to bite him. Mama Bear indeed surfaced in me at that point, I couldn’t simply standby and watch this unfold. I felt the swoop of solidarity as a number of mamas stepped forward with me, as I gently prised apart the two boys with a “Hey, hey, HEY!” and Mom 2 told me “Don’t touch my son!” and I held my hands up in the universal sign of peace – all of this totally unconscious, me not aware I was so anti-conflict – and then I gently put my arm on Mom 2’s arm, saying “Calm down, please, calm down, I understand,” and although she by no means calmed down, she didn’t turn round and punch me (which looking back, surprises me).

The argument continued and carried on, the moms at loggerheads and me in the background, silently judging, judging and judging…

Was there a clear right and wrong here? Hearing the parents of the wronged boy insisting that he defend himself, I can somewhat understand their anger and their hurt but the image of that stripey-topped little boy cowering behind his mother’s legs while two grown adults egged their son on to beat him will stay with me for a long time to come.

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Perspective: a port on the Voyage of Self Discovery

In typical Millenial fashion (though I am reliably informed I’m only on the cusp of this, somewhere in the No Man’s Land of pretentious self-reflection meets identity crisis), I have been spending some time recently trying to figure out who I am [oh, please] and what’s important to me [pretty sure the people in this world with REAL problems aren’t having an existential crisis, because, you know, THEY NEED FOOD/SHELTER/PROTECTION].

It started with the realisation that what I’d mistook for broodiness turned out to be early onset Empty Nest Syndrome. A quick analysis of the timeline confirmed that it kicked off with confirmation of the twins’ school place for September and culminated in an angst-ridden blog post at around the point of maximum hormone craziness in my cycle, coupled with the first trip to the school uniform shop (and resultant bankruptcy). All of a sudden it was becoming real… the twins weren’t babies anymore, and I was losing them. Losing them to a system, the vortex of which they will swirl in until they’re 18 and emerge bleary-eyed into the shitstorm of young adulthood, confused as to what the hell happened and why being a grown up isn’t as easy as they thought it would be. Oh wait, no that was me.

Oh, the true tragedy of parenthood: the dawning realisation that the age-old saying, the days are long but the years are short, is TRUE. And I’m only four years in!

Part of my musings have included a deliberate effort to think more positively and bring more positivity into my life. And so the transverse truth to the tragedy of parenthood is the acceptance they’ll grow and the joy in watching that happen. And not simply passively watching but having input into that process, nudging them in the right direction where you can, and experiencing a deep satisfaction in observing their personalities develop, knowing that you had a part to play. What a privilege it is, when you really think about it.

Another truth: seeing my children laugh and smile with joy brings me more happiness in my heart than anything I have experienced for myself alone. There may be some who think that makes me a complete loser, and/or that I should ensure I’m still an individual and not to live vicariously through my children. Well, that’s just fine. I have nothing to prove. Because the other thing I’m doing right now is I’m starting to really accept who I am, or at least be at peace with it. We recently spent a family week on the coast and I’ve never been happier. It was a week of simple pleasures, costing very little money and consisting of zero glamour. I wouldn’t have traded it for the world.

I’ve read many blogs and mommy books and one of the overarching themes has been “Am I just a mum now?” or “Surely there’s more to life than this?” Being a mum is amazing. It is also really hard, and sometimes bloody awful, but the overall love and satisfaction overrides everything else. It permeates into every part of my life and my children are almost permanently on my mind. I know that if you love something you must let it go… so I encourage my girls to take risks, try new things and be as independent as possible. But I also know I’m finding their growing independence difficult, and that I have a way to go in accepting it. I think that surrounding myself in as much positivity as I can will help with that.

Positivity breeds positivity. Positive Mental Attitude…

PMA! PMA! PMA!

Still so hard…

I remember when the twins were babies and I found everything about our new life completely overwhelming and difficult. I would look to moms of older children with blind hope in my eyes and implore them; it gets easier, doesn’t it? Because they seemed so TOGETHER. So relaxed. So capable.

They never helped. They always laughed and either said “It never gets easier, it just changes.” Or the even more soul-destroying response: “Nope, it gets WORSE.” Though I’d take that ahead of the quizzical look from the mom who didn’t find it difficult to begin with. If you’re one of those parents then you are a far superior human being to me.

I never expected it to be easy. But I NEVER expected it to be this hard.

Have moms always found it this tough? Are we just a generation of whinging, entitled snowflakes?

It’s funny really. The girls have been so challenging the last few weeks that they’ve dampened my broodiness! Small mercies…

Oh well. We’ve all survived another day so I guess I’ve just about passed the Parent Test for today. Though certainly not with Distinction…

Let’s see what tomorrow brings…

Cluck, cluck, cluck… There goes my logic

A brooding hen. Sitting atop her nest of eggs, doing exactly what nature intended, without question.

Cluck cluck cluck. I decided to have some baby chickens so now I’m having baby chickens, even though I already made loads of the cute little buggers. And guess what? I’ll make loads more in future simply because I feel like it. No worries about mortgage payments, chickcare arrangements and social life for me!

So it happened. Four years after pushing two tiny people out of my body, that same body has gone all hormonal and started screaming to be filled with tiny people again.

My poor husband is having heart palpitations. He is at great pains to point out all the reasons why we should quit while we’re ahead. And he is right. I mean, COMPLETELY right. Here are a myriad of reasons for me to keep the coil in (noting that he balks at the suggestion of a vasectomy):

  1. MONEY. We’re not poor, but almost all of our income goes out on bills. If it weren’t for my mother-in-law helping with childcare, to this day I haven’t been able to work out how we’d have afforded the twins. We have everything we need (how lucky are we? So many in this world don’t even have THAT), but we rarely get to do anything nice.
  2. CHILDCARE. This isn’t mutually exclusive with the money problem; MIL made it very clear from Day 1 that this was a one-time-only offer.
  3. SLEEP. We’ve raised our girls by routine. I became military with it the minute I found out I was having twins. Obviously at least one of them wakes up at least once every night, but in general we’ve got sleep cracked. Do I want to undo it all?
  4. GENERAL STRESS LEVELS. The whinging, whining, screaming and fighting sometimes really gets to me. I often feel overwhelmed. Why add to that?
  5. TRANSPORT. The twin buggy was cumbersome. The Mommy Mobile is clunky. Going from two to three kids means a new car. I like walking, but if I thought two meant needing eyes in the back of my backside, three will be NEXT LEVEL STRESSFUL.
  6. HOLIDAYS. We were hoping to try to afford something out of season next year. But what about the stress of travelling with young kids? Add another baby into the mix. Eesh.
  7. PREGNANCY. I didn’t enjoy being pregnant. I felt depressed and anxious throughout much of it, let alone physically uncomfortable. Add to that:
  8. CHILDBIRTH. I lost the plot first time round and don’t know how I I’d have managed without the eventual epidural.

There’s something else that over-arches ALL of the above very legitimate reasons why we should stop now:

IT COULD BE TWINS AGAIN.

Let that sink in for a moment.

All of those logistical issues, magnified. Bye bye sanity.

But.

I want a baby.

I want to feel those flutters and kicks inside me. I want to try childbirth again, with an epidural if need be but just to see if I can do it in a less clinical way, on all fours like I wanted to but the midwife wouldn’t let me. In a birthing pool like they wouldn’t let me with twins.

I want to cuddle a newborn again. I want to give breastfeeding a go. I want to try one of those wraparound slings that make you look like an Earth Mother. I want the luxury of a single buggy.

I want to experience that rush of new exhausting love all over again. I want the opportunity to learn from my mistakes and impart wisdom on myself. I want to see the first steps, hear those first words and not give a fuck about the things I was neurotic about first time round. I want to give zero fucks about what other people think.

And I want all this partly because the twins start school in September. SCHOOL! Aren’t they still my babies? What the hell happened? They need me less and less and I want them more and more. What will fill the void? But if I have another, what will fill the void when they grow up?

My head is all over the place. I feel restless and anticipatory.

I once said I never wanted kids. My ovaries laughed at me and spat out two eggs in one ovulation cycle just to spite me. It turned out to be the best mean trick ever played on me, and it changed me forever.

Now I’m the twin mama who wants more.

Effin’ ‘ell I’m BACK [thanks Mum Face]

No-one is ever going to read this… OK, not “no-one” (who said double-negatives are bad??) I’m BLATES going to read it before and after posting to see if it was witty enough (clue: it wasn’t) [PS pretty sure the young folks aren’t saying “blates” anymore].

But anyway, I’ve realised I have an urge to write that I simply can’t ignore anymore. It’s an urge which is somewhat at odds with my fundamental desire for privacy (particularly since I of course no longer have any privacy, thanks to the twins) and also doesn’t necessarily sit well with my basic hatred of social media. I’ve come to the realisation, however, that the catharsis of writing isn’t in the popularity of the finished article but in the act of writing itself. Because by doing this, I’m keeping my creative juices flowing without a) the need for any PVA glue, b) fake enthusiasm and c) the requirement to write factual reports as dictated in my paid employment. In essence, I can write here for the simple reason that I WANT to, and nothing else.

So I won’t be pushing this on Twitter, obligating family and friends to read [God I lie a lot; I’ll definitely obligate SOME including my poor husband] or worrying about improving my bloody stats. Hats off to those of you with the motivation (and time) to do that but it just isn’t me. Attempting to market this blog first time round made me so anxious and disconnected from real life that I have no desire to repeat that… But if I could reach any audience at all for this blog (without putting any effort in whatsoever), it would consist of the following:

  1. The desperate, knackered, shell-shocked new mum – particularly first time Multiple Mama – Googling “how the fuck to cope with twins” bleary-eyed at 3am. Not because I can answer that desperate question but because there is sometimes comfort to be found in knowing you’re not alone. [OK I can answer it: WINE or GIN.]
  2. My girls in 20 years time, when they fit the above description and consequently find a new-found respect for me for the simple fact that they’re still alive because I managed to keep them that way.
  3. My Creative Writing tutor at university, who genuinely believed I could go places and struggled to hide his disappointment when my first proper job after graduating was in audit services (about as uncreative as you can get).
  4. Grace Timothy, author of Mum Face (a book I will now be encouraging all my mum-friends to read) just so she could know how reading her words finally gave me the push I needed to try again with this blogging malarky. Grace knows what it’s like to lose your sense of self and I feel like I lost part of Me the minute I fell pregnant.

So it’s time to try to reconnect. I’ve spent nearly five years feeling like a Pod Person whose old body was taken over, implanted with aliens and left as an empty shell. I don’t mean that as depressingly as it sounds. I mean I was like a piece of clay, waiting to be moulded into my new shape. Or like The Doctor, regenerating from one flawed character to another, equally flawed but in different ways. I liked the old Me, and I got very used to her, but times change and now I’m trying to get used to the new Me. We haven’t quite worked her out yet; we don’t know if she’ll stay, and we’re not sure her outfits are quite as good as the previous incarnation. But we’re willing to give her a chance (plus the old one buggered off so we don’t really have a choice).

Existential crisis, anyone??

PS yes, it’s bigger on the inside than it looks on the outside.

Bye bye!

After realising how little I blog, how infrequently I check Twitter and how much I prefer reading and commenting on other people’s blogs to writing my own, I’ve decided that this blogging lark isn’t for me. Absolute kudos to those of you who do it religiously, but I just can’t be bothered! I don’t do anything to increase my number of readers, and despite having told a couple of friends and family about imatwinmama, I’m pretty sure none of them actually read my blogs. So what’s the point? To do well at this game, it’s a popularity contest and I’m not interested in that. I’m also not willing to link my identity to this and I think that’s what you need to do in order to really make something fly in this saturated market. There are so many people doing it better than me that I think it’s time to step aside and watch the masters at work!

So on the off-chance that ANYONE is reading this, goodbye!

10 parenting questions I ask myself (aka I have no idea what I’m doing)

I haven’t blogged in a while. What is there to say? Imatwinmama is supposed to be figuring things out with this multiple parenting lark but honestly, I have far more questions than answers. Apart from “Who am I? What day is it?” Here are some of the questions that have plagued me in recent months:

1. Is it ok for the twins to eat peanut butter on toast for most of their meals?

2. Is it bad that I deliberately exposed the twins to chickenpox (and it worked)?

3. Is it bad that I drink alcohol pretty much every night? Talking of which, where’s the wine??

4. Is it normal that I fantasize about my cats – once considered to be my fur babies – mysteriously disappearing and never returning, just so I can get some goddamn peace and quiet (or less hassle) and save money?

5. Why do parents of older children insist on telling me that it never gets easier, it just changes? Can’t they see how effing DEPRESSING that is??

6. When will this end??

7. Why can’t I have more patience? Why do I apply adult norms and values to a 2-year old and then lose my shit when they do what 2-year olds do??

8. When will I be able to take them places on my own, sans buggy, without feeling terrified that they’ll run away from me in opposite directions and something awful will happen to the one I can’t follow?

9. Why do I insist on a clean-as-you-go approach, knowing full well that this means I’m cleaning ALL DAY when it would make more sense to leave the mess and clean up after they’ve gone to bed? Am I a masochist??

10. How is it possible, despite questions 1-9 and many, MANY tear-filled days (them and me), for me to love two human beings SO intensely?

Because that’s the thing isn’t it? It’s so damn hard, and sometimes so unenjoyable, and yet so bloody amazing as well. Parenting means experiencing the spectrum of all emotions in one day, until you flake on the sofa at the end of it all, utterly exhausted, physically and mentally. It’s being climbed up, clambered on, pulled, pushed and dragged all day until you want no human contact (sorry hubby). It’s discovering bruises all over, all unintentional, all battle scars from the crazy day. It’s having hair pulled, clothes bitten, house trashed, nerves shredded…

But it’s also laughter, smiles, singing, dancing, playing, cuddles, endless rewatching of Frozen (getting weirdly emotional at Let it Go), baking, chatting, drawing…

I hate the hard days. But I love the good days. And even the hard days have good bits.

I am immensely lucky. It doesn’t always feel that way, and I’ve never shed so many frustrated tears, but those girls are the best decision I ever made. I just wish I knew what the heck I was doing!!