Bye bye day nap, hello sanity

We are finally getting to a point where we can say that yes, it DOES get easier.

Our girls recently started resisting their day naps, and initially I thought it was a complete disaster and I fought back, trying to force them to nap. I was dreading not having that little break in the day – I thought it was going to be the end of my sanity for sure. But honestly, our lives have suddenly turned around as we’ve said good bye to the day nap.

mombie-mom-zombiesOne thing we’ve always been strict on since the twins were born is routine, routine, routine. If it wasn’t for this I think I may have lost my sanity a long time ago. But isn’t it funny how we get so stuck on doing something and it’s terrifying to change it – we’re so scared to rock the boat or mess with a good thing – as they say, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But this hasn’t been the case with our girls’ sleeping. It has been broken for a long time. Every day and night it’s been a struggle – from getting them down to nap in the afternoons to getting them to bed at night, and then getting them to sleep through the night. The day nap hasn’t been that bad – they’re usually so exhausted when they get back from school that they happily fall asleep, but then they don’t want to wake up. If they hadn’t already woken up by 3pm then I would wake them up, but this alone could take half an hour as AG really doesn’t like to wake up and they would both be so grumpy if woken from a nap. But if I didn’t wake them by 3pm then the evening would be chaos and it would take forever to get them to sleep, which would leave both IP and I extremely grumpy. But lately they were resisting their day nap, and I lost the energy to try fight it, rather leaving them in their room for a bit of quiet time.

I was so terrified to drop the day nap. I’d been dreading it for months, when that moment came that I didn’t have that little break in the day – my lunch break where I could just sit and have some quiet time or catch up on what I needed to do around the house. So when they started giving me hassles to sleep in the day, I started getting very grumpy.

BUT….

I can safely say that all my fears were for nothing – I’ve decided to embrace it, and just go with the flow – something that for those who know me, especially IP, is a huge challenge.

The girls are now in bed and fast asleep by 7pm and are finally starting to sleep through the whole night. IP and I are finally getting to have some quality time together in the evenings and a full nights sleep. There is enough time in the night to sit down and catch up on our lives, have a quiet meal together, watch a movie or read a book, and just be. We no longer fall into bed in a bad mood and fast asleep the minute the girls are finally asleep, which was often only happening at 9pm. We’ve even been able to get a baby sitter and enjoy a couple of date nights, which has been wonderful!

I’ve been forced to make a more concerted effort to do activities with the girls during the day to fill that gap when they were usually sleeping, and thankfully it’s been a bit cooler so we can get out to the park and meet up with friends, and then there is always the twins’ most favourite thing to do, and that’s go swim at granny and grampa’s house. Otherwise, we read books, do puzzles and art and they love cooking me dinner in their pretend kitchen or shopping with all their toy groceries – they also love real grocery shopping with me sometimes, so if we feel like getting out, we’ll often head to the shops for a little outing. They even play so nicely together without me – happily getting along in their room, which has allowed me to still enjoy that quiet cup of tea.

I’ve really been enjoying our quality time together, and despite all my fears for the moment we’d drop the day nap, I can honestly say it’s been the biggest blessing ever. It’s essential that they still at least have some rest in the day when they get back from school, so I usually make them some tea and they’ll chill on the couch with their tea for a little bit, or relax on their bed or play quietly in their room – that unwinding time after a busy morning at play school is so important, and then gives them that boost they need to get through the rest of the afternoon.

All I can say to other parents in a similar situation is don’t be afraid to make changes, to alter the routine, to do something new, step out of that comfort zone – you may just be really surprised at the amazing results!

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Welcome to the threenage years!

So it’s been ages since I wrote a blog post. I guess life has been rather busy with two three-year olds in the house.

I think busy is not the only word I’d use to describe it – chaotic, hectic, exhausting, crazy also come to mind. But on the other hand, I can also say that it’s been fun, entertaining and a joy.

HJ and AG have really come into their own personalities and it’s been such a pleasure to watch them grow up, change and become the amazing little girls that they are. I can honestly say that I am a very proud mamma.

Here are a few things I’ve learnt so far about having a threenager in the house:

messYour house will never be tidy – ever!

Your wash basket with never be empty – no matter how many loads of washing you do, it’s just a never-ending cycle of stinkyness.

Your bathroom will always be stinky, sticky and just plain gross.

You’ll constantly find random crayon and pen marks on your walls, furniture and cupboards and really wonder how on earth they got there without your noticing.

You may find yourself exasperated more often than not and completely overwhelmed by the task of raising this little being, knowing that from now on they will have memories of life with you.  Whatever you do or say may be remembered and leave a permanent mark on how they think and feel about themselves and the world around them. It’s a huge responsibility!

There will be bits of sand and stones carted through your house on a regular basis and no matter how much you sweep or vacuum it will keep appearing.

Every single toy will be taken – or thrown – out of the toy box on an almost daily basis.

Random bits of play-doh will appear on, under and in your couch, bed, carpet, clothes, cupboards and even your hair – yup – everywhere!

You’ll find weird and wonderful pictures on your phone of tiny feet and the ceiling and the tops of little heads and be amazed that not only do your kids know how to access the camera on your phone, even though it’s locked, they’ve now figured out how to take photos.

You’ll find yourself constantly negotiating with a one-foot dictator over just about everything that needs to be done, from getting dressed, to eating to brushing teeth and getting in the bath. Sometimes you’ll win the argument, and other times you’ll retreat in exhaustion and defeat, realizing some arguments are just not worth the energy.

There’s going to be a lot of noise, and quite a bit of shouting. Most of it theirs, but often your own too. You’ll feel terrible after and vow to try keep your cool from now on, but there will be almost daily situations that will test the limits of your temper. It will be exhausting.

You’ll end up answering the same questions over and over again, and marvel at how many why’s one kid can think of. You’ll certainly get creative in your answers, and as tiring as it can be at the time, you’ll enjoy the back and forth banter.

You’ll be told the most fantastical stories of what happened at play school every day and be amazed at your little one’s imagination and ability to retain information.

It will always take you longer than you expected to get the bags and car packed and everyone strapped in to go anywhere, and by the time you’re in the car, you’ll be so exhausted and grumpy that you don’t feel like going anymore.

You’ll find yourself reading the same story book every single night on repeat until you want to burn it. But then your little one will hold the book and start telling the story to you, turning the pages as if they’re reading. It will completely melt your heart, and you’ll look at your spouse with the goofiest smile and a little twinkle of a tear in your eye, and share a moment of such pride that you no longer mind hearing about the lion and the jackal for the thousandth time.

There is no doubt about it – raising a threenager is a tough gig. But through all the craziness, there will also be lots of special moments to savour.

There will be loads of cuddles, giggles, hugs and big loves.

There will be lots of moments of joy and fun. Opportunities to unleash your inner child and hidden creativity.

You’ll look at your child and be overwhelmed by their beauty and innocence and humbled by the fact that God chose you especially for them, and them for you.

There will be plenty of special memories made, interesting conversations and moments of laughter and tears, and sharing of special family memories.

These are the moments to treasure – the moments that will get you through it all.

Disciplining twins and the battle of wills – a father’s perspective

A guest post by IP.

The long weekend has just come to an end, and I must admit I am looking forward to going back to work. At work I am in charge, I call the shots, I control what is going on, and I enjoy empowering my staff to be their best. When at home, well that level of authority and influence seems to have little or no meaning. My twins don’t seem to understand that daddy is the boss, and the level of influence used at work has little or no effect on 2.5-year-old twins. I have come to understand that your children will not obey and respect you just because by default you are their parent. This is something that I am wrestling with.  Growing up for me was completely different. We respected and almost feared figures of authority. I remember having an overwhelming respect and fear for the police. We were taught that the police took care of bad people, and somehow that involved bad children too.

My memory takes me back to when I threw a tantrum just after moving into my parent’s new home. I was about three. I didn’t want to go to sleep and stamped my fists hard against the wall. I then proceeded to throw myself on the floor and did that well known kicking regime we as parents dread. I also remember my dad coming into the room and swiftly giving me a good hiding. Neither I nor my parents have any recollection of any tantrums thereafter. So why does this not work in my home? I ask.

IMG_2198When it comes to our twins’ personality, one is more pliable and obedient, willing to engage in reason and negotiation, and the other kicks against any form of authority. She is very strong willed, determined to complete what her mind has set out to do and nothing will stop her. This is quite a challenge for any parent when emotion and lack of reason dominates the mind of a 2.5-year-old.

Just this weekend the scene of the battle of wills played out in many ways, which left me feeling rather defeated and threadbare.

For instance, a simple outing to the shops can become a complex web of emotions devoid of any logic. While loading the pair into the car, the stronger willed twin goes ballistic because she is not in the correct seat. I was unaware that there was a seating arrangement in my car! In such cases I am largely detached from my emotions, and I silently whisper my disgruntlement under my breath. Take 2, I calmly, while very irritated, unclip each twin and proceed to put them in their correct seat. The strong-willed twin scuffs her pants on my car rim in the process, soiling her pants. This is proving to be too much, and she does that thing I love to hate by throwing herself on my dirty and dusty garage floor. By now I am really worked up. Back in the house I run, baby wipes in hand to clean dirty clothes and mentally trying to keep cool. The twins are finally buckled up and I am ready to go. The other twin decides she wants her stuffed toy lying behind the driver’s seat from the day before. The other twin is now screaming because that has now suddenly become her stuffed toy and she wants it back. You can picture steam starting to emerge from my ears. I run back inside and get what I believe will be a toy that will calm her down. It works, but now I don’t want to go to the shops anymore. I am beyond angry, and I hate everyone.

On the way to the shop, willful twin decides to climb out of her car seat straps. I bellow for her to put her straps back on. She listens, but three minutes later, the game starts all over again. We finally arrive at the pet shop. We look at the rabbits, we look at the snakes, we look at the birds and we look at the fish. Then, both twins decide to run in different directions and I am left running around a large shop looking for two very fast twin girls. I see one, I run, but this is now a game, and she runs faster. I catch up managing to grab her by the arm and hurl her up to my shoulder line and tell her not to do that again. I now proceed to run with willful twin on my shoulders who is doing her utmost best to do another escape while I am running around frantically looking for twin B. This naturally creates quite a commotion as daddy is running around with a twin that has moved from shoulder to daddy’s ankles while trying to look for her sister. Most patrons stop and stare. Most people say, “Ag shame man, you seem to have your hands full.” Other patrons look at me in disgust looking on very judgingly while I try contain the situation. I finally find twin B. She was hiding under the skinny guinea pig display. Why did I not look there first? I thought.

We proceed to buy cat food, but unfortunately, we had to walk past the dog and cat toys. Willful twin insists I need to buy her a ball. I explain that this is not a ball for children, but for dogs. I can’t explain the amount of whining that proceeded. Now twin B sees a gap and makes another break. Damn it man, and some other words are mumbled as I make another dart to bring order to the situation.

I am now truly convinced it cannot get any worse, when willful twin decides to take her clothes off in the middle of the pet shop with nappy in hand, shouting at the top of her voice, “I need to poo daddy!” What the hell man, I run with a willful naked twin under my arm, willing twin B to follow suite. Cat and bird food dumped as is as I make a run for it. We get to the disabled loo as it seemed most appropriate at the time, while I position willful twin on the toilet. She executes what she told everyone she wanted to do minutes earlier. High fives abound. Twin B sees this as a competition and does not want to be left out. I position her on the toilet. High fives abound. I pick up willful twin to wash her hands. Twin B washes her hands, but willful twin is now super upset because there is no towel to dry her hands. This causes much commotion as she throws herself on the dirty toilet floor. The germaphobe in me is disgusted. Wash hands and repeat….

We leave the pet shop. I proceed to hold both girls’ hands as we cross the car park. Willful twin refuses to hold my hand. I now have one twin holding my hand, another being dragged across the car park as I insist this is for her safety and a balancing act ensues whilst trying to keep my cat and bird food from dislodging from my armpits.

Off to Builders Warehouse. I am now asking what I did not learn from the pet shop experience?! This will be much easier. They have trolleys I say to myself. I can put both in the trolley and push them at pace through the shop’s aisles which will entertain them and minimize damage to all parties. After all, it worked before right!? Out the car, and off to the trolleys we go. Both twins safely loaded into one trolley. Twin B decides that she wants to sit in the trolley seat. Willful twin is now throwing a tantrum in the trolley because she too wants to sit in the seat. She is insisting she has her own trolley. Picture it, two trollies being pushed by one weary dad through Builders Warehouse…I was going to have none of it.

Back home and bed time finally approaches. Mommy and daddy are sensing the anticipation of sitting down with a glass of wine, but not before a struggle through supper trying to keep dirty feet off the chairs and constantly reassuring that one’s bum is meant to be on the chair and not dirty little feet. Twin A tells willful twin that her bum is full of poo. My wife and I laugh. This happens all amid a very important disciplinary lesson, but we cannot contain ourselves any longer and we laugh. The situation is now ruined and a riot starts as one twin starts to chase the other with a piece of meat in hand. This unfortunately leads to a lot of running and chewing at the same time and twin B starts coughing which leads to three strikes of projectile vomit all over the floor, and all over my wife and the clean washing she just brought in from the washing line. Wash and repeat…

The house is in a mess, and smells like vomit. I proceed to clean up while my wife baths the twins. I hear shrieks of laughter while naked bodies dance around the house. Story time and an easy bed time brings on a quiet sense of relief as we strap ourselves into our beds feeling rather weary from a very challenging and comical long weekend.

So where does this leave us? Well, I shamefully admit that my strict disciplinary approach works only 50 percent of the time. It has left me rather confused.

Secondly, two children, same disciplinary approach, two different results. This leads me to a crucial point. Human beings are super complex. One size does not fit all.

Parenting takes work and lots of it. I find myself becoming lazy as I am just so tired of repeating myself. I mean, how many “say thank you” and how many “say please” and “take your feet off the chair” must a parent utter in his children’s lifetime?!

Thirdly, I think one must be constant, and unchanging no matter how gatvol you are. We must follow through.

Lastly, I am encouraged to read an informative book I read some time back called, “The Five Love Languages for Children” by Gary Chapman. The book explains how each person has a different love language and to get the most out of a child, or adult for that matter, one needs to communicate in that person’s love language. I think discipline cannot be a blanket approach. Much understanding and thought needs to go into it.

As parents, we unfortunately do not receive a manual when our children arrive. We are like a deer in the headlights. We lean on our own experiences and upbringing as a point of reference and when that does not work then we become disillusioned. Raising children is complex and our approach to raising well-mannered, well rounded responsible children takes commitment, effort and lots of blood, sweat and tears. I don’t profess to know it all. I write this knowing full well that I have a lot to learn.

Tenaciously I will attempt to do a better job tomorrow, as I venture into the unknown and do it all again.

Being an introverted mom: I love my kids, but I also need my space

Introvert-QuotesI’m an introvert. Something I’m not embarrassed to admit. This can sometimes be misinterpreted as being unfriendly or aloof, or as someone alluded to the other day, that apparently I am not a people-person. No, that’s not true, as that would imply that I don’t like people. Of course I like people, but that doesn’t mean I want them around me ALL the time. I’m happy in my own company, I prefer more one-on-one interactions with people, I don’t really like crowds and I particularly like my own space.

Space…this is something that us mommies get to have very little of, because having little children means that someone is in your space almost constantly. So having children can certainly add a whole other dynamic to life as an introvert.

My twins are now two and a half and are at a particularly clingy phase of their life, where separation anxiety has reached a little peak. HJ is particularly attached to me and follows me around the house all day. AG is a bit more independent at home and is happy to sit and do her own thing for a while without worrying about where mommy is constantly, but HJ is my little shadow, asking “What you doing, mommy?” at least every 20 minutes.

But it’s not only the following me around and the 20 questions, it’s the constant touching me, grimy little fingers messing my clothes, climbing on me, pulling my hair band out, trying to remove my glasses from my face, and wanting to be picked up all the time that go along with it too.

If you’re someone who generally likes their space, you’ll understand that this can be draining. Especially if you are not getting any chance in the day to just take a break, even to go pee in peace. Over the past couple of weeks the girls have been resisting their day naps as well, and it’s been a desperate struggle for me to get them to have that little sleep in the day. I’m desperate for that time so that I too can have a little bit of down time, some time with my own thoughts, some time for a cup of tea in peace – if they don’t sleep, then I don’t have a break all day, essentially being on the go from 6am when we all wake up to when I collapse on the couch or bed, when the girls are finally snoring in their beds and the house is clean, at about 9pm.

It’s especially hard when IP is overseas for work and I have no back up. It is super hectic being one mommy versus two monkeys. He at least gets to have a break from it all. Yes, yes, I know he is there for work, and he is working hard, but he is getting a time out from the struggles of toddler-dom. And I have to admit, I do envy him sometimes, especially in those weeks where he has been in a romantic city like Barcelona or Madrid, sipping on sangria and eating paella, and I have had to deal with a sick child, copious amounts of vomit, washing, juggling work and kids and NO sleep.

When he is home, IP is getting better at giving me a bit more alone time, but it has been a battle sometimes to get it right. Even if I try to escape unnoticed to the next room for 20 minutes while he is playing with them, inevitably, I’ll hear the pitter patter of little feet coming into the room within a few minutes, and a little voice saying, “What you doing, mommy?”. Admittedly, it is rather cute that they care so much about me and what I’m doing, I feel honoured! But, oh my word, this mommy still needs some time out too.

In the very early days my introvert nature took particular strain with the challenge of being out in public with the girls. As most twin moms know, pushing around a double pram gets plenty of attention and people know no boundaries when it comes to personal space and asking a million personal questions. Going to a shop for a quick bag of groceries became a serious lesson in patience, and I became a master of not making eye contact with anyone for fear they would approach me or try strike up a conversation. I would always try be polite when people approached me, but there were times when my sarcasm reached a peak and I no longer tried to hide my annoyance at the interruption to my time and energy. I mean, seriously, navigating that pram around store corners is hard enough as it is without being stopped every few minutes by people who don’t know how to mind their own business.

But being an introverted mom is not only about wanting space and not wanting to be around people. On the flip side, motherhood as an introvert can be an extremely lonely journey, especially if you’re a stay-at-home or, in my case, a work-from-home mom. There are days when you crave the company of others, and are desperate for some adult conversation that doesn’t involve talking about children. But at the end of the day, you’re just too exhausted to make any real effort to connect with people, and it’s just too hectic going out with the kids, so you stay at home, living the same cycle over and over.

Many moms join mothers’ groups for the chance to meet other moms in the same boat and these are a wonderful means of making new friends and getting out the house when you feel like the walls are going to cave in on you. But for an introvert, these groups  can be terrifying. And for an introverted mom with twins, well, this presents a whole other pile of difficulties. An introvert is not naturally going to strike up random conversations with random strangers at these gatherings, and then when you’re trying to run after two toddlers at the same time it’s virtually impossible to actually do any socialising at a mom’s group. So by the time you leave you’re absolutely exhausted, and you realise you didn’t even talk to another mom and never even had a chance to have a cup of tea, so you end up not going back the next week because you wonder what the point was in the first place.

But I also realise that this phase too shall pass. I know there will come a time when my children will no longer want to sit on my lap, won’t come running for cuddles, will no longer ask me what I’m doing fifty times a day. Soon they probably won’t want to know me, will be embarrassed by me, won’t care what I’m doing. And then I’ll probably be writing a new blog post lamenting how my kids don’t want to spend time with me anymore, and I’ll be longing for the old days when they were my little shadows.

I know they will eventually become self-sufficient enough that I’m not constantly running after them, making sure they’re not about to tumble down the steep stairs or fall off the jungle gym because they want to climb the monkey bars. I know eventually there will come a time when I can sit with a cup of tea and relax, have a normal conversation and finally get some “me time”.

So as hard as this current phase is, I know I need to enjoy these small moments while I’m still the most important person in their lives. I’m their hero, I’m their everything, I am their mommy, and I love these munchkins to bits. Although I need space and my own time sometimes, and it’s a constant struggle for me to keep my cool when all I want to do it sit for five minutes uninterrupted, or have an adult conversation, I know it’s more important to give my time to these children.

One day, they won’t look back at all the things I gave them, and thank me. No, one day they will look back and remember the TIME I gave them, the memories I made with them, the experiences I shared with them, and they will know that I was there for them, always.

Today I will count my blessings

It’s been an emotional couple of weeks with the girls starting play school and our move and the new house, and often I’ve felt completely out of control, overwhelmed and just plain exhausted. Change is hard, and it often comes with a price. But it also comes with so many rewards, and in the moments of crazy I’ve been trying to see the good.

But sometimes staying calm during the storms of life is easier said than done.

Alongside all the challenges of the move, have been the general challenges of being parents. Although things are starting to settle, it’s been pretty hard on all of us, especially the girls.

Being a parent is possibly the most challenging thing a person can do. It doesn’t come with an instruction manual – oh man, how I wish it did! countingblessingsI will admit something that I’m sure many other parents may relate to. I’ve had moments where I have begrudged my children – annoyed for the lack of sleep, my lack of a social life, my messy home. Don’t get me wrong, I love them with all my heart, but there are moments when it’s tough, tough, tough being a parent. I wouldn’t change being a parent for a moment, I’m so grateful for these little humans, but sometimes I really need to be reminded that they are truly a blessing.

Last night as I was reading a novel, which is largely centred on a paediatric oncology unit in a hospital, I had a little wake up call. I started thinking of our girls’ first few weeks of life. They were born prematurely at 32 weeks and spent the first three and a half weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit. It was a very difficult time for us, seeing these tiny little beings fight for their life. I was reminded last night of a little baby, Belle, in particular, who was in the incubator next to us, and who sadly passed away on our second night of being there. It was devastating and traumatic and I can’t imagine what her parents must have been going through. The tragedy of losing a child must be the worst pain imaginable. And reading my book, I remembered Belle and her parents, and how I imagine they would love to have a messy house and be constantly exhausted from lack of sleep, because that would mean that their precious little Belle was still alive. That would mean they would have their little girl to look upon, to love, to laugh with. And in that moment, I realised how truly fortunate I am to have my two little girls. How truly blessed I am that God chose me to be their mommy.

It’s so easy to take our children for granted; these precious little miracles. It’s so easy to get irritated and often we feel like we’re losing the battle in all areas of being parents. It is honestly the hardest thing I have ever had to do in my life.  It is a 24/7, unpaid job; there is no break from it, and often no thanks.

If I’m honest, I can look back now and admit that I don’t think I took naturally to motherhood; it took me a long time to bond with my babies, a long time to adjust to the massive changes that being a parent brought to my life. But I think a large part of this was the fact that they were born a full eight weeks before we expected them, and of course there were two of them at the same time, so those first few weeks and months was a whirlwind of feeding, nappy changes, getting babies to sleep and then expressing in between. It was a whirlwind of emotions and craziness. There was no time to truly bond with them – I often look at photos of my friends with their little newborns and they share these precious moments of just holding their babies or having them fall asleep in their arms at a party, showing them off to friends and family. I never had the opportunity to really do this – I missed many precious moments that other moms had to enjoy.

But now, as I look at my little two and a half year olds, I can truly say I have the most fantastic bond with them and, despite the hectic start, all the trials and tribulations have been worth it as I look at these precious gifts that God has given us.

At the end of a tough week, I’ve often felt like I’ve failed in many respects as a mom. But I need to remind myself that it’s all okay, I’m human, I make mistakes and at the end of the day, my kids are happy and healthy, they’re alive! When they put their little arms around me, I know they love me, and I know they forgive me.

Today I will count my blessings, not begrudge them!

Don’t judge a parent until you become a parent

It’s funny how we have all these ideas in our head about how we’re going to parent before we actually become a parent. We look at other parents and how they raise their children and how they act once they become a parent and totally judge them, vowing to not do many of the things we see them doing…only to actually end up doing the exact things when we become a parent ourselves.

judgepicIt’s so easy to look at someone else’s life and judge their actions and words, without really understanding what they’re going through at the time, without truly knowing what they are feeling in that moment, what challenges they are facing or what they may have experienced to get to that particular point. I know I’m guilty of being judgemental quite often, and IP is quick to call me up on it. But we have also been subjected to these judgements along the way.

We recently went to a braai with some old friends and it was so wonderful to catch up with them. It was our old church small group and it was so funny to see how the group dynamics had changed over the past three years from young childless couples and singles to so many children all running around. One of the guys, who had recently become a father, commented to IP and I that him and his wife always used to wonder why we stopped coming to small group and church when the kids were born. He said they just couldn’t understand it, but then they had their own little baby, and finally they understood…and on top of that, after having one baby, they couldn’t imagine how we survived it all with TWO babies at the same time.

It really got me thinking about my own judgements of other people. I too used to think such things of my parent friends and judge them for doing, or not doing, things. But that all changed when I became a parent myself. I don’t think one can ever really be prepared for the life altering adventure of becoming a parent. From your social life to your sex life, your sleep and your sanity – it will never be the same again.

I never really comprehended what becoming a parent was all about. I was so focused on just getting pregnant and having a baby that I didn’t even think about what it meant once the baby was born. I had no idea that being a parent was such hard work. Don’t get me wrong, I love being a mom now, and the rewards of seeing these two little humans grow and develop, have them call me mommy and have them throw their arms around me, far outweigh all the challenges. But, it has been a hectic two years, for which nothing could have prepared us.

But we would not have it any other way. I’m glad we went through all these struggles, I’m grateful we survived all the challenges. We are stronger people for it, our marriage is stronger for it, and our lives are more enriched for it.

If there is one thing I am slowly realising, and trying desperately not to do, it’s to judge another until I have at least a small understanding of what they are going through.

It’s so important to open the channels of communication with our parent friends (and all friends in general), speak to them, ask them how they are doing.  How they are really doing. When we greet someone we always ask how they are, but it’s normally so superficial – let’s try getting to the deeper stuff, especially with our fellow parent friends; let’s not be afraid to be real with each other. Let’s share our thoughts and feelings together on this parenting journey. We will soon realise that there is so much more beyond the surface and everyone is facing their own battles, if we take the time to care, take the time to step out of our own trenches and walk a mile in someone else’s.

Having twins – a father’s perspective

A guest post by IP on the first year of becoming a twin daddy.

img-20140919-wa004Life before twins was relatively simple. I looked after my immediate needs and when I look back I realise I was largely a selfish person. Why my wife and I even planned date nights before having twin girls is a mystery to me. Why do couples without kids need to diarise time to spend with their spouse anyway?! Weekends spent with my wife were blissful and fun times. We had a blank canvas of opportunity…opportunity to do whatever we wanted when we wanted. There were no long-term consequences to our decisions. Saturday mornings were spent lying in bed until whatever time we pleased, and this was largely dependent on what we did the night before. Saturday afternoons were spent walking around markets, going for a hike, and running in the forest.

Then, our twins arrived. We were blissfully unaware of what lay ahead. They were born at 32 weeks, and spent three and a half weeks in the NICU.

I remember the last night of NICU vividly. We were given a room in the hospital with two beds and two cots and for the first time there were NO nurses to assist us. I was petrified! The side wheels had been removed, and I was leaning very much to one side. That first night consisted of feeds every three hours with a helpless little baby on each parent’s lap. Broken sleep totaling three hours at the most forced me to reassess who I was. I cried. I felt weak and helpless. How was I going to be a parent to twin girls with this amount of sleep, I lamented?! I don’t remember going to work the next morning. All I knew was that I was scared, very scared of what lay ahead.

The days and weeks that followed blurred into a haze of routine. Those three-hour feeding cycles were brutal. I assigned myself to bed and bath time routine, and the early 4am shift before showering and going to work. When I look back now I don’t know how we did it, and how we coped, but we did, by God’s grace.

img-20140927-wa002The human body, however, is adaptable if you beat it hard enough. In the same year I was finishing off a business degree, and I had started a new job which involved a lot of travel. The only way I thought to get through it all was to put each task into a box. Fulfilling each task eventually became a habit and coping mechanism, and I subtly sought pleasure in completing all my tasks.

I had many interests before the twins arrived. Hiking, fishing, camping, making beer, and flying model helicopters took up most of my time. Now my life consisted of milk, vomit, changing nappies and sleepless nights. I yearned to have the option of at least deciding for myself what I wanted to do and when I wanted to do it! It was tough. I loved these helpless little beings so much, but nothing had prepared me for this. Nothing had stripped me so bare. I realised I existed only for them; none of my needs mattered anymore.

Then there was my wife, the apple of my eye. I was devoted to her before the kids came. Chaos had erupted in our house and I had battened down the hatches and went into survival mode. All the focus was on the children. We were at their beck and call for every whim and need. They not so subtly reminded us of that during mammoth crying sessions in tandem. Nights were long, and it became easy to think evil thoughts and to act a little strangely at times. Sleep deprivation does that to you.

Weekends were now very different.

My wife was facing her own struggles. Being a mother of twins requires an inner strength and tenacity that no one will understand. My hectic work schedule was also not helping matters. A busy travel schedule coupled with finishing off a business degree and trying to be a parent had me thinking I was contributing towards society, providing for my family, and taking care of the kids needs. In all these “unselfish” acts I had become selfish, driven to complete all the tasks that had taken over my life, yet forgetting the most important person in my life, my wife.

I had realised that I was attempting to take care of everyone else’s needs yet failing her as her husband. This is still a very difficult thing to accept with my driven A type personality that likes to get things done and likes to solve the problems of the world and move on. Woman are not created like that. I felt helpless. I was achieving my goals in all aspects of my life and gaining recognition in my work, yet failing my wife. How could this be?

Weekend chores did not get the response from her that I was expecting. I thought all women are pleased when their husbands do housework! Here I was feeding the kids, spending time with them, cleaning the house and trying to add value to the household, yet my wife was lonely. I had not spent time with her. I had not engaged with her like I did before the children had arrived. She was not the centre anymore. I was distracted with all the chores that had to be completed with having twins that constantly demanded a routine of crying, feeding, pooping, and sleep.

I think most men can relate to the above. We work hard for our families, we do the best we can with what we know, but sometimes it is not good enough. We struggle to focus on many things. I know I certainly did. Our families want us, they want our full attention, they want us to notice them, and they want our time. We as men often fail at this. We are responsible for not just our family’s financial needs, but their physical, emotional and spiritual needs as well. It became too easy for me to fulfill the financial need through my hard work, and long hours away from home, but I had failed to see that they needed me more in the other aspects of their life.

As men, we are to put God first, love our spouses second, and then love our children. I had got it wrong, and it showed. We do our families a disservice when we get the above formula wrong. For one, loving our children over loving our wives is a disaster waiting to happen. Our wives came first, and loving them first will allow our children to grow up in a loving and secure home where everyone benefits.

I know I have a lot to learn, and I still fail, but I am aware that the only way my needs will ever be met is if I unselfishly lay my life down for them. There are moments when I realise I have gotten this simple aspect right, and it is in these moments that I realise that I am the most blessed man alive and wouldn’t want it any other way.