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.

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When your toddler…

We’ve all seen that live interview gone wrong when the toddler walked in on daddy’s big moment. I absolutely love that video and have watched it over and over. Shame, the poor guy must have been so embarrassed – and the way the mom came crashing in to get the kids out of there is just hilarious. I really think they handled it so well, and not many of us could have done any better in such an awkward situation.

It’s just one of those things that I think all parents can relate to in some way or another – that moment when your kid does something funny or totally embarrassing. You really can only laugh about it later, and it’s got me thinking of some of the funny and silly things that my own toddlers have done recently. I’ve been meaning to write some of them down in a little book, so that we don’t forget, as it’s always fun to look back and have a chuckle at some of these months and years down the line.

So here are a few of our recent “when your toddler…” moments that have made us smile (or cringe):

When you’re taking your toddler out of the car at school and she says loudly “Mommy poeped!” as another parent is taking their kid out of the car right next to yours. (Mommy did not poep, by the way!).

When you go to the garage to fetch something and turn around to find the door to the house locked and your toddler on the other side unable (or unwilling) to turn the key back again. (Fortunately mommy was able to pull a MacGyver maneuver to get back inside the house…).

When you’re at the grocery store check-out and your toddler asks the lady behind the counter “What you doing MAN?”

When your husband is overseas and you phone him to have a chat on FaceTime and your toddler walks in and tells you to switch daddy off.

When your toddler catches you sneaking a chocolate behind the pantry cupboard door. “What u eating mommy? U eating chockit! I also want chockit!” Mommy was so busted!

When looking through your phone’s pics and you realise one of your toddlers has figured out how to take photos…and hundreds of them, mostly of random family member’s toes.

I’ll add a few more along the way, and I’d love to hear some of your silly toddler moments, so please do share!

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!

We survived the first week of play school

pawpatrolIt’s been an exciting, but also a rather traumatic week in our house as the twins started play school. This is the first time that they have ever been away from home and not had any access to me or IP, so as you can imagine it’s been a very emotional roller coaster for all of us.

I can honestly say that this has been the hardest thing that I have had to do as a mother – drop my little ones at school and say good bye to two screaming and crying little girls has nearly broken my heart in two. Some days the teachers have had to literally pull them off me. And every morning as I get back in my car I burst into tears myself.

I at least take comfort in the fact that they are at an excellent school, the teachers are lovely and I know they are well cared for in the day. When I fetch them I’m told that they don’t cry for long and they have a fun day, with lots of laughter and running around, so I know they’re going to be okay. In fact, when I fetch them, AG doesn’t want to come home. Yesterday, I had to pull her off the bike and carry her out. HJ, on the other hand, just jumps into my arms and says “I wanna go home”.

Despite the emotional roller coaster that school has brought, we know we made the right decision to enrol them in school. They needed this: getting more stimulation in an organised and structured environment, making new friends, and having more space to run around and just have fun. I know they are going to thrive there. And at least they have each other. It is really sweet as the teachers tell me that when HJ cries, AG pats her back and says “It’s all right….it’s all right”. That just brings another tear to my eye, but also brings a smile to my face.

My babies are growing up so fast. In fact they’re not babies any more. They are sweet, intelligent, caring, funny, amazing little girls!

We are super excited for 2017 and all the changes it will bring. A new town, a new school and new adventures for us as a family. Bring it on, we are ready!

 

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.

We’re moving to the mountains and vineyards

I know I’ve been griping a lot lately about how tough things have been with the girls and this toddler phase. But it’s also been a lot of fun, and we have so much to look forward to in the next few weeks as we embark on a new adventure to a new town.

The anticipation is really building in our house as IP and I have started planning the move and we often fantasise about how life will be in our new house.

stellenboschWe have been so happy in Cape Town and in our current house, but since we’ve had the twins we have started to realise how cramped we are getting here, especially as we don’t really have a garden – and this is something the girls desperately need. So we started thinking about all our options and decided that it was time for a radical change – “Let’s move to Somerset West” I said to IP one Sunday morning. It didn’t take much more prompting than that – the next thing I know we’re house-hunting, and a week later we’ve put in an offer on a beautiful house in an estate just outside Somerset West, and a few days later we’ve sold our house in Cape Town.

Phew….everything happened so fast, it was quite overwhelming. Those who know me, know that I’m not a very impulsive person when it comes to making important decisions – quite the opposite to IP – once he makes up his mind there is no turning back. So I had a few moments of panic once I fully realised what was happening. We were moving away from everything we knew, out of our comfort zone, to the unknown! Eeeek!

But now that most of the legalities are out the way (I don’t want to see or speak to another estate agent or attorney for a long time!!!!) we are starting to get super excited for the big move day. We will be closer to my folks who live in Stellenbosch, which is great as I’ll have some more support when IP travels, and it will also be much easier for IP to get to work from there, as he won’t have all the city traffic to contend with. So it’s a win-win.

But with the move come some big changes for the girls. Our nanny won’t be moving with us so they will be starting play school in January. This is a HUGE deal for me and something I’m struggling to let go of. Even though I know they will be really happy there as I can see that they need something more – more stimulation and more interaction with other kids – it will be a big adjustment for them as they have been at home with either me or nanny for the last two years. So they will totally be moving out of their comfort zone as well, which I’m sure will take a while to adjust to.

My work situation will also improve, though, and I’ll actually get to spend more time with the girls, because instead of working three full days a week I’ll be working five half days – so I’ll be there to pick them up from school and have every afternoon with them, which I’m really looking forward to. It will be so great because now we will also be closer to granny and grampa and we can pop in for tea more often, and my mom and I can go shopping and out for coffee like the old days.

Somerset West is also a very young-ish town with lots of young families and there is so much to do with kids there. From our  interactions with the people there through some of the Facebook groups so far we can see that people also seem really friendly and welcoming – quite a change from the notoriously unfriendly Cape Town southern suburbs where we currently live. We’ll also be slap-bang in the middle of the winelands – surrounded by beautiful vineyards and mountains – and have all the wine farms just a short drive away. The beach is also not far. So there will be lots of exploring in our future – lots of fun family adventures to have as we embrace our new surroundings.

It’s going to be a whole new world for us as a family and the start of a new life. I’m always terrified of change, it’s just part of my nature – I hate the unknown! But I know that this move is for the best, and I’m starting to embrace the change.

I can’t wait! Just a few weeks to go and then the adventure can begin!

But first, the packing…oh boy…wish me luck!

Fairy cupcakes

These delicious cupcakes are my no-fail, go-to recipe for any occasion. Cupcakes are great as they’re so diverse and you can change the flavours and colours to suit any theme. I mean, who doesn’t love a good cupcake?!

I made them a while back for my twins’ spring picnic birthday party and they were a big hit.

The recipe comes from some ancient recipe book of my mother’s from the 60s – but cupcakes never get old, they just continue to be yummy!

cupcakes

Ingredients for cupcakes

½ cup (120g) butter

¾ cup (180g) sugar

¼ teaspoon salt

1¾ cup (210g) flour

2 eggs

2 teaspoon baking powder

¼ to 1/3 cup milk

½ teaspoon vanilla essence

Method

Cream the butter and sugar together. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then add the vanilla essence.

Sift the dry ingredients together and add to the butter and sugar mixture alternatively with the milk.

Half fill cup cake cases with the mixture.

Bake on 180 degrees C for 15 to 20 minutes. (Make sure the rack is not too low as it’s easy to burn the bottom if left too long). All ovens vary so it’s worth testing it out first with a small batch.

Ingredients for icing

100g butter

200g icing sugar

10-15ml milk

1ml vanilla essence

Optional for a different flavour – add 1ml of almond essence

Optional – food colouring

Method

Mix the butter and icing sugar together, adding the milk and vanilla essence slowly to ensure the right consistency.

Ice and decorate the cupcakes as you wish, sit back to admire your work, and then gobble them up!