The First Four Months with Two Kids
I’ve been meaning to write a personal/parenthood update for a while, but I feel like I just say the same things over and over: It’s magical and I’m tired. We are navigating life with two small children, which I liken to this: During the day it’s a pleasant, pretty country road with some twists, turns and maybe an adorable *bump* along the way, but it’s generally pretty happy, and often even so wonderful I could cry.
But at night . . . at night it’s as if you’re driving along the cliffs of Big Sur, in a convertible, not wearing a seatbelt, blindfolded . . . and drunk. It’s terrifying, and you aren’t sure you are going to live through it.
Go ahead, pop that birth control pill, I’ll wait.
While I’m obviously exaggerating, there is a lot of truth to it. How can some thing (children) bring me so much happiness and exhaustion at the same time?
Let’s get into the good first – and let me be clear: There is a lot of good. Elliot is an angel, full of such joy and total engagement. She watches us intently, smiles the second anyone smiles at her, loves her big brother more than anything, and will sit happily and and coo, even while I cook or work. And she loves me. She looks up at me like I’m the only person in the world (a feeling echoed by her dad, too). She makes you feel so special in a way that I haven’t felt before.
Every day is different right now, but I mostly try to spend time with her in the mornings so that Sylvia (our wonderful nanny) can take Charlie to his activities. And this is one of the biggest challenges (which will get much easier even in a year) – Charlie’s and Elliot’s needs are wildly different right now. He’s two and wants to run, play, explore, be social, etc., and she is four months and wants to be snuggled and loved, quietly played with, and shown how secure and predictable life with her mom and dad can be. So, I try to stay at home with her ’til noon when Sylvia gets back with Charlie. Then she takes Elliot while he’s napping, and I work from home, or go into the office. Then the afternoon varies – but often Brian finishes work by 4 so that he can take over. It’s a total juggle, everyday, but it’s manageable. And by manageable I mean every night we realize that we have survived.
Charlie is in a super “mama” phase which is VERY flattering, and he wants me to do everything for him. He wants me to get him his sippy cup, me to put him down for his nap, me to sit next to him while he eats. He freaks out if I don’t and cries/yells “MAMA, YOU FEASE READ DA BOOK, ” and what am I supposed to do, say no? If I’m working from home I simply say “I can’t right now, love, I’m working and work is really important but I’ll be done soon.” I make sure not to apologize for work, because I don’t want him to think that it’s something to be sorry about. It IS important, and he needs to know that. But it’s not more important than him and I try to make that amply clear.
Sleep. AH SLEEP. I have a pretty strong theory, which might even be an unproven FACT, that a parents level of happiness is in direct proportion to the amount of sleep their children let them have. On the “7 hour of sleep days” I’m so happy, and I have basically nothing negative to say about my family life. But on the days where I’m under 4 hours I feel emotionally bankrupt, and I have to remind myself constantly that everything is truly really good.
So what’s the big night time problem you ask? Both kids are up. A lot. They’ve both been really sick for a a few weeks. Just a cold, but enough congestion that they both wake up coughing, and then they wake each other up. And now I feel like bad habits are being solidified by us getting up so quickly with both of them. Charlie begs for milk or a book, and he gets them because we are too exhausted to say no, and too scared he’ll wake up the baby to be firm.
I didn’t talk about it before because I didn’t want to be “that person” but Charlie was a FANTASTIC sleeper as a baby. He started sleeping through the night at 9 weeks. We didn’t take any credit for it, nor did we ever take it for granted. We knew every single day that we simply lucked out and got an easy baby. And he was.
Elliot isn’t a terrible, horrible sleeper, she’s just normal and now has a cold. She goes right back to sleep after feeding and doesn’t really cry, but she is waking up everything at 2am and 5am (AT BEST). I know that all these pretty photos are good PR for having kids, but I swear my staff and good friends are thinking twice after witnessing the daily chaos and nighttime insanity.
I stopped having any good expectations regarding the kids sleeping months ago, and weeks ago it finally sunk in how we were to handle it. We just go to bed around 9pm with the understanding that we could be woken up nearly 7 times between both children. If we go to bed that early we can still clock in around 5 hours, which is doable. Speaking of sleeping you are probably DEAD ASLEEP because talking about child sleep habits is a syndrome that only parents of tiny children can relate too.
During the day, especially on the weekends when I’m not juggling work, it’s so wonderful and beautiful and life is so God damn good. I’m obsessed with these children and look forward to the weekend like a 6 year old does christmas, EVERY DAY.
Brian is an unbelievably good dad that takes on at least 50%, if not more, which makes the weeks and weekends bearable. During the day these kids are happy and fun and love each other so much. While we haven’t lucked out on the sleep thing we have lucked out on the “obsessed with each other and just make each other giggle all day long” thing. It’s unbelievable how seamless the transition is.
They have bonded and it’s starting to help us answer the “why did you have two kids so close together???” question. They’ll be friends. They’ll play. Someday they might even sleep.
But going from one to two is tough. Here’s what it’s like:
Having no kids is like living in a tiny 750 square foot house house that you love but you have to clean, maintain, etc. Despite it’s small size, life kinda still feels like work. When you have one kid and it’s like tripling that size of house to 2500 square feet and every day you are like “woah, this is a lot more work but I’m so glad I have so much more space!” Then, one day you add a second kid and it’s like adding 10, 000 square feet to your tiny manageable home. At first it feels impossible. You are the same people who could barely take care of 750 square feet, but now you have 10K to take care of with the same amount of time. But you start decorating, and getting house proud and while maintaining it is exhausting you wouldn’t go back to 2500. You couldn’t. You love this new life so much.
Then, when someone (grandparents, playdate, preschool) watches one of your kids it feels like all of a sudden you have one room again, and you are like “PHSHAW (AIR SLAP) THIS ONE CHILD THING NOW FEELS LIKE NO KIDS, AND IS SO EASY THAT I CAN’T BELIEVE ANYBODY EVER THOUGHT ONE KID WAS HARD!!!!”
Their tiny hands just kill me.
Every day is different, both schedule-wise and emotionally. The combination of exhaustion and gratefulness is absolutely mind-boggling. I’m sure i’m repeating myself but HOW DO YOU LOVE SOMETHING SO MUCH THAT CAUSES YOU SO MUCH STRESS??? If work caused me this much stress I would do something different. If one of my hobbies caused me so much stress I would hang up my apron. But kids? You can barely tear them from me for an hour on the weekends because I literally NEED and LOVE to be near them at all times. Such masochists. We are all such masochists.
I thought about whether I should even write about the challenges because I don’t necessarily want my clients (both big brands and individual design clients) to think that I can’t handle it, or that I’m distracted by my kids. But then I thought:
1. I shouldn’t be ashamed for trying to be a good mom first, and also manage a company second. Instead I should be (AND AM) proud of that fact. Both are a lot of work, and Brian and I work really, really hard to succeed.
FURTHERMORE (prepare for rant): I’m a firm believer that every person and company should put family or personal lives first, and that men should “lean out” instead of women “leaning in.” I believe that prioritizing your kids over your job is something to be admired, not embarrassed by. I know that the last generation of women didn’t have this option, and instead had to pave the way for us having this luxury. For this I won’t apologize and nor should any of you, male or female. Family #1, work #2.
2. Pretending to you guys that things are really easy is not an option. Charlie was easy, which is why I rarely wrote about being exhausted – we weren’t. He never cried, and he slept so very much. I made it look easy, because it was kinda easy. But two isn’t, so saying that it is would be inauthentic and also a total lie.
3. I’m actually really inspired work-wise. I think it took me 6 months after having Charlie to get creatively back into it, but this time around my brain got back into it faster, strangely. I think that like anything, the second time around you bounce back faster.
4. I have so much help in every department, so even if I were overwhelmed to the point of paralysis, we are all good (which is a luxury, I know). We have a full time nanny. Brady and Sara have really taken control of the editorial calendar of the blog and they keep it moving. We brainstorm together, then I art direct and write a lot of the content, and then they take over. Meanwhile Ginny and our two new designers are tackling all our design clients. I oversee everything, and approve everything that goes to clients but Ginny is really is killing it, and I don’t have to babysit that department at all. I’m insanely lucky to have such talented and smart people work for me that actually care about the future of the business, not just performing their tasks well. Also the professional and personal lines have really been blurred the last four months with most important meeting being held in Elliot’s nursery. So thanks for, you know, sticking with me.
So, clients (and readers), due to points #1 – #4 you can see that despite my personal challenges WE ARE ALL GOOD :) Life is a big, happy, insane snow show. Those kids make us feel both young and old. Brian and I are hanging on by a thread, but its a really strong, happy thread that is actually indestructable despite how tight we pull it. I know its temporary. I know that in a year we’ll be in a different place and thank god I have a almost unrealistic optimistic personality (i’ve been told) which keeps me in a pretty good mood all day most days. I may not look back at these months with nostalgia or fondness, but getting through them is a badge of parenting that I’m going to wear PROUDLY and I’m still enjoying every second of our days together (well, the seconds in between toddler tantrums).
If you have any sleep suggestions please help. As soon as their cold blows over we are going to try the no-cry, or ‘save our sleep’ methods, but if there is anything you swear by please let me know.
Happy Weekend, y’all. May we all get some ZZZZZZZZZSSSSSS.
*All photos by Stephanie Todaro.