If you’ve ever flown on an airplane or given birth to multiples, you’ve likely been told: “Place the air mask securely on your own face before assisting your child.”
As the mama of a toddler and twin baby girls, I think this flight-safety pattern is a sensible self-care metaphor for parenting– except when it’s impossible. Heck – this is a sensible self-care metaphor for ANY mom.
Take the “emergency phase” with twins or a new baby — the early weeks home with two newborns. You may be caring for preemies while also recovering from major surgery. Sleep may be a distant memory, you may be crazed with hormones, and baffled with worry. It’s a challenge to get to the bathroom, much less leave the house. “Take care of yourself first” isn’t exactly an option. It’s more like, “Take care of your child, and then your other child, and if need be… your other child.” Nod at the person who is your partner. Rinse and repeat (or just repeat).
Parenting multiples frequently means putting your own needs utterly aside, or at least postponing them. Some kind of self-care is of course essential — but don’t let the pre-flight imperative to “put yourself first” become one more thing that feels like failing. I have tried to be intentional with this and not feel like I was totally forgetting about what makes me “me” but it’s nice to know I am not alone. The other day my friend and I were together putting on a baby shower for another friend and we both stopped and said “We forgot to brush our teeth.” There we were using Q-Tips and toothpaste to get a good brushing before the shower started. Boom! We are killin’ it with busy mamahood.
Self care is challenging with any number of kids, but with twins or more, the adult-to-offspring ratio is automatically skewed against downtime for moms. Those windows of time do in fact open up, but probably not as often as they are needed. Sometimes it’s just a matter of remembering yourself. Obviously, adding extra childcare, going out to dinner or getting a massage are excellent options, but I’m talking about what’s realistic to be “intentional” with in your day-to-day.
I like to think that numerous mini-interventions can accrue over time into self-care, and, I should add, everything does get easier.
Here are some things that have worked for me, but let’s be clear, my twins are 7 months old and I will be forever trying to figure this out as well.
Find other twin moms or mom friends in general: I heard recently that there is a “Tinder” for making mom friends. Sadly, it’s so needed because making mom friends is insane. Why is this so dang hard? I guess that’s for another post- Anyways, make mom friends, or connect with mom friends that may be able to relate to your situation. It can be a Facebook group, a real group that meets, or friends that you know throughout life that you can rely on that make for a community that you never knew you needed. I have a small village of twin moms that I appreciate more than they will know. Some are a phone call or text away, some are a few miles away. I got ridiculously lucky considering one of my very best friends also has a toddler and twins. These girls can be your life -lines. EMBRACE IT and make time for play dates and coffee or a cocktail with them. I know this seems impossible at times, but do it! Let them fill your bucket.
Set the bar lower…maybe a little lower, lower, there ya go! : You can do this slightly, or make it a limbo competition to see how far you can bend, shimmying your shoulders in balance before you fall to the floor. For example, I’ve changed my definition of “neatness” rather than cleaning my house from top to bottom and going to bed with it spotless. This is still NOT easy for me, but my husband reminds me to lower the bar, almost every evening. When the last child is down for the night, he makes it a point to specifically remind me what I do NOT need to do. Let it go ladies! (so much easier said than done, I know)
Do something for your body. Be kind to it- it has been through a lot: Go for a walk. This can be the ultimate reboot for you and your twins/toddler. This is something I can do with all three, so I rely on it quite a bit and hell, I need some sunlight. Small chunks of time are viable. A good shower or even a bath can be down right therapeutic. Do something sanity-promoting, even if it’s just thinking a kind thought directed at yourself or eating your favorite snack. Guilty moment: I did text my twin bestie the other day and told her I ate an ice cream sandwich in my bathroom to hide from my toddler. We have to do what we have to do. Just being kind to my body, ya’ll. I enjoyed every bite. My daily sanity promoting behavior is epson salt in a bath, with silence, a good book, and the door LOCKED! Bye FAM-love you so much!
Ready your replies for unsolicited advice: Almost every parent of twins or more will eventually encounter nosy questions and unwelcome opinions. The speed at which people’s thoughts travel from their brain to speech can be instantaneous upon sighting a double stroller on the sidewalk. I truly think some people have lost their dang minds. I have talked to SO many of my twin mamas and we have ALL encountered the same random thoughts from others. “I’m glad I’m not you.” -“Me too, b*tch,” I said back. OK, I did not say “b*tch,” but I did have the rest ready, and it felt great. Just trying to promote positivity!
Connect with your pet, your partner, the sky… or a snack. Tending twins often demands that you direct your attention outward. Lately I’ve made it a practice to notice small things at the outside of my parenting experience & getting outside of my house — checking out the sky, the trees, nature. Connecting with your partner can also get put on the back burner. Our schedules are insane and we can be like two ships passing in the night. We HAVE to carve out a movie on the couch, dinner at the table, date night out or a weekend away together. Don’t let this slip. Keep them a priority. Indulge in your guilty pleasures– My husband can tell you, my guilty pleasure is a good Cran/Orange Panera muffin. I treat myself to these when I am having a day and I think I burn off the calories just by how much happiness it brings me. Very sad to type this out but, its my jam. Connect with your snack people! Do what makes you happy.
Make lists: These can include a “to-do” list, but also a “might not do” list. This can be crucial for triage. My best friend Nicole has a post-it note with daily things to do in her dashboard of her car. These are “pray”, “be intentional” etc. I love this and it just reminds us to be present, pray, and brush our teeth-lol. Lists can also remind you to do half of these things I am listing for yourself. That’s okay- make it visual.
Give Yourself Some Dang Credit: A mom that I recently spoke to with multiples said she would tell herself she’d done a good job at night before bed; she congratulated herself on getting those kids fed and through another day alive. What we all need to be better at is acknowledging that what you just did that day is AMAZING and focus on what you have accomplished–what you have done right! There are such ridiculous standards set forth for parenting, and our own love for our children drives us to want things to go smoothly & perfect. Give yourself some dang credit because you are a freaking rockstar.
*I cannot believe nothing on my list included wine. Bullet point #8 drink the wine, pour the wine, wine don’t whine, love the wine you’re with. Cheers Hot Mamas!