There is something about being a mother of four boys that really changes you. Maybe it’s the mothering of four boys in very different stages of life that does it. I am the mother to Micah (12), Rowan (6), and two 6-month-old identical twins, Isaiah and Malachi. If you held your breath reading that, don’t worry. I didn’t breathe when I wrote it. A pre-teen 6th grader, a kindergartner, and twin babies all live under one roof, and for the first time, I’m a stay-at-home mother.
Being at home is amazing, challenging, and if I’m being honest, isolating. I am naturally fairly extroverted and extraordinarily Type-A. I spent 14 years working in various forms of communication, even running my own public relations business from my home for five years. With my first son, I commuted 45 minutes to and from work daily and thought about him every second of every minute of every day I spent away from him. I felt guilty for being so far away, but could not afford the daycare prices of a larger city. With my second son, I lived in a smaller town, was running the public relations business, and could better craft my day around baby-sitters, church-oriented “mothers’ morning out” hours, and eventually a day school. When my kids went to bed, I went back to work. It was the only way to give full time effort and hours to a very full time job with many clients. It’s just the way things were. I didn’t realize until I was able to finally stay at home, how drastically different life would become.
I have always been a multi-tasker. This meant I maintained our home, our finances, and our children’s extracurricular activities while working full time. I was exhausted, but I was driven to feel accomplished, to check everything off my list and feel like I did something (ok, many things) well. My husband has always had a commute, so he easily tacks on two hours of drive time daily. This means he’s gone at LEAST 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. Everything fell on me, but I seemed to thrive on the challenges of getting through the day. I love people and I get a ton of energy from being around them, so going 100 miles an hour and 100 places in a day was second nature.
Then came the twins. I found out I was pregnant with them six months after losing my father to lung cancer and four months before losing my mother to COPD and Multiple Sclerosis. I stopped working on all that I described above when I found out my father was sick. I tried to go back to work, to continue handling it all, but I couldn’t. My heart and my mind weighed a million pounds and he was all I could think about. Everything that mattered to me became clear in an instant. With an ache in my chest and a still, small voice leading me, I knew I was leaving the world of communications the moment I heard the word cancer. In May of 2014 I took on a different job- as my parents’ caretaker. Their stories are lengthy and important, and I plan to document them in the future. For purposes of this blog, I’ll just say it was the hardest work. It was excruciating caring for the people who raised you and loved you, who were larger than life and colored your world. It became even harder as I carried the twins. That journey ended April 15, 2016. From that point on, I became a STAY-AT-HOME MOM.
I expected challenges, especially with two. I expected postpartum depression. It happened with my other sons, and it can rock your world. It did rock my world – so I knew to take action the moment the big, black NOTHING seemed to seek me out. Some days are better than others, but for the most part, I’m doing all right. I expected to feel anxiety about being left at home all day without an agenda other than, gulp, feeding, changing, and caring for infants. I’m not great without a schedule, so having infants – too young for scheduling – made the unknown more than difficult for me. It’s not as if there’s not a million things to do, but it was simply so different. Then there was the reflux. Then there was everyone else’s advice about how to treat reflux. Then there was the crying, the possibility of colic (my first two had it), the dietary eliminations. Enter self -doubt – so much so that I felt I lost who I was.
About eight weeks in, my babies refused to take a bottle of breast milk. I thought I had planned it just right – to introduce a bottle as soon as possible so that eventually I would not be responsible for every feeding 24/7 and so that I could venture out and not try to juggle nursing twins publicly (I have no issues with public breastfeeding, but I personally don’t like to expose both breasts at the same time!) That plan went horribly awry and the constant skin-to-skin nursing left me feeling touched out. This continues to be a challenge, even though six months in, we are all pros and I think I could probably nurse two anywhere, anytime simultaneously. I try not to do it at my kids’ soccer games, because it is tough to be discreet, but truthfully if it is what I have to do, then I’ve learned to do just that. Go boobs!
My older boys were so loving and understanding through my pregnancy and through the early days after the twins came home. It was hard on them. ALL OF IT. I could see their struggle to comprehend a new mama. A mama who no longer got up and dressed for work, but who had babies in her arms ALL. THE. TIME. , and who asked them to be patient and wait for just about everything. I could never put them to bed because, well…the twins needed me. My husband had to take on a lot more than he’s ever had to before, and he did it well. I’m certain my family never heard me complain about housework as much as I do now. I’m sure they wonder why their dirty laundry and lost socks send me over the edge like never before. I’ve wondered myself why I tend to lose my cool so easily when I’ve always maintained our home, when the underwear has always been under the bed and the socks always lost. I’m certain I’ve blurted out “I didn’t go to college to become your maid!” more than once…sigh.
It’s possible I’ve never let myself stop and just be present. It’s possible that my mind has always sought out a lengthy to-do list just so I could remind myself what I am capable of when it’s all checked off. It was my way of validating who I was and what I was all about. It’s possible I didn’t value myself until I received acknowledgement from clients, bosses, and colleagues for juggling so much and still meeting deadlines. It’s possible I didn’t understand what life was all about until I watched two lives end.
It’s spring. Life is everywhere. Growth is everywhere. I’m learning to breathe again, to pray through my heartache and dark memories and to be present in them so that I can move on from them. I’m learning to stop and smell every baby smell, hear every baby coo, and see every baby first – with fresh eyes. I am learning to be alone. I’m learning that my home and my children are enough “work” to keep me fulfilled and challenged. Three stages of boy life to nurture and manage is not an easy job, but I’m ready. I’m ready to be who they need me to be, who God created me to be, and to live this life in a new way. I am sure I will fumble and I know I will make mistakes, but who doesn’t?
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 rings true in my life. There is truly a time for everything, and for some of us, a first time for everything.