Living Motherhood: A Reflection on Life with Two Under Two
When I was a child, all I wanted to do when I grew up was to be a mother. After I was twelve, I added being a writer. But still, my vision a worthwhile future: become a mom. I never thought I’d be able to have children so soon, but I spent my last term of university pregnant, and went straight into the mom life. And now that I have two children, I thought I’d spend some time reflecting on the experience.
The Blessing and Miracle of Children
Right now, I have two children under two years old. Little Fox is twenty-two months, and Little Badger is a month and a half. I’ve had a fairly easy time of both pregnancies (tiredness and a bit of morning sickness were generally the worst side affects). And both children have been relatively good sleepers. So that’s two blessings right there.
The real blessing for me, though, is the miracle of pregnancy and having children. Little Fox was a wedding night baby, and, though we knew I was fertile during that time, I had trouble believing I really could be pregnant. My missed period came at the beginning of university finals, and stress had caused me to miss cycles before. So, when the pregnancy test came back with two lines… that was the greatest moment in my life. Well, aside from my first communion and saying “I do.”
I’ve never felt fully able to comprehend the mystery of a child growing inside of me. And now that both children are out, I feel like I don’t really believe they used to me in me. Yes, I was there when they came out… but really… how could these two beautiful children ever have grown and survived inside my body? It’s just too amazing to be true! It’s easier for me to believe in God than that I could get pregnant and have such wonderful children.
And now that they’re out, sometimes I just sit and look at them. And I feel so grateful and so blessed to have these two little miracles in my life.
I think that even if I was good with biology and could really understand how these children grew inside me, I would feel the same way.
The Challenges of Motherhood
Now, talking about how children are such miracles can sound like we’re all wearing rose coloured glasses. And they are such a blessing. But they are also difficult!
The biggest challenge with having two under two is definitely sleep. Before Little Badger was born, Little Fox was sleeping 9-10 hours at night with a 2-hour nap during the day. So even with all the pregnancy middle of the night bathroom breaks, I was still getting enough sleep. But now that there’s a new baby, it is a challenge to get enough sleep.
Some people get by with six hours of sleep… I don’t. I also don’t drink coffee or tea. If I could, maybe I could handle not getting eight hours. But alas, I can’t use caffeine to help wake my brain up. This is especially unfortunate because I’m one of those people who doesn’t function without sleep.
The other biggest challenge in motherhood (for me) is with patience. It’s hard to read the same picture book for the (hundred and) eleventh time in a row. And to wash food out of the carpet for even just the fourth time that day. It’s hard. Even though I can stay calm, it’s hard to smile and to connect in moments like these. Although I have to admit, this challenge gets easier with practice. But I’m no more used to getting through the day without enough sleep now than I was 22 months ago.
Motherhood: What Comes Naturally
While all parents have their challenges (and I expect sleep and patience are common to most), we all have different gifts. There are some things that other moms are good at that I’m not. And there are a few things that are coming naturally to me that others struggle with.
One of the things that seems to be natural for me is staying calm. Little Fox can yell and scream and tantrum all she wants when we’re out shopping (although she usually is quite well behaved out and reserves her misbehaviours for home), but I don’t get outwardly frustrated.
The crying didn’t bother me, even when Little Fox was a little baby. I’m so grateful for this because it’s a lot easier to change a crying baby when you’re not frazzled from the crying.
There is only one kind of cry she made that ever “got” to me. It’s the cry that sounds like her poor little heart was broken. If changing, feeding, and rocking couldn’t soothe that cry, then I’d possibly start crying too. But the “heartbroken cry” isn’t a common one. Thank goodness!
It’s really helpful when your baby is upset and crying, to be able to stay calm and focus on figuring our what the best thing you can do for the baby in that moment is. And it’s just as helpful for getting through the terrible twos if you can stay calm while your toddler rages about the latest “unfairness.”
One time, while I was still pregnant with Little Badger, Little Fox got upset she couldn’t carry a large jug of orange juice around the store. Now, I’ve let her carry things we don’t buy around before, but this jug was heavy and likely to spill if dropped. So, I said no, and then had to take it away. She started screaming and refused to walk, so I picked her up and continued shopping. It was probably ten minutes before she stopped crying. But I didn’t get frustrated, didn’t yell… just kept shopping. Being able to stay calm during tantrums is so helpful at home too. It makes it easier to do what’s best for Little Fox even when she doesn’t like it.
Sometimes my being able to keep a calm decorum soothes Little Fox. Other times it at least doesn’t make things worse. My mind is clear enough that I don’t feel pressured to give into her want of the moment when it isn’t good for her.
The other thing that comes naturally to me is sharing the faith with my girls. A few weeks ago, I wrote an article about what I do to encourage my toddler to grow in faith. It’s so amazing to watch Little Fox ask to do icon corner time, and to take the cross around and bless things. I think that loving God must come naturally to little children as well.
Motherhood: What Doesn’t Come Naturally
One thing that definitely doesn’t come naturally to me is talking to my babies. I’m a reflective person and naturally spend my time thinking. Silently. Even when I am actively working on talking with Little Fox, I’ll suddenly notice something and fall quiet. After thinking about whatever distracted me for a while, I’ll realize that I stopped talking. And then start the cycle all over again.
Talking aloud to my children, even when reading books is difficult. I keep accidentally starting to read in my head. It often starts my reading a little bit ahead as I read aloud.
I wish I’d had to read aloud in school. Then I might have been used to it. I’m definitely planning on having my children practice reading aloud a lot. And not just because then they’ll be able to read each other stories. I also don’t want them to have to struggle as much as I am. Even if my daughters are called to religious/single life insiead of motherhood, reading aloud is a great skill for them to have.
Struggles in Living Motherhood
Sometimes I look at other moms, and feel like they have it all together. Even though I always wanted to be a mom growing up, I never really prepared for it. I have to search online for things like how to scramble eggs and hot to cook a hot dog. Going into my marriage the only things I knew how to make were pasta and ground beef. Three years later I have two kids and am not much further along in how to make meals. I probably should have taken home economics in high school. It’s hard to find the opportunity to learn now.
Not only am I bad at cooking, but I’m also not good at choosing healthy eating habits. I was raised on an income of inconsistent spousal support, so money was tight. Cheap food is often the unhealthy stuff, and my school lunches were the envy of the rest of the class due to their treat like junk food nature. (Although sometimes I traded items for something wholesome like a sandwich).
It’s hard to break these old habits now. My idea of a meal is a bowl of spaghetti and that’s it. I didn’t have vegetables or meat at every meal as a child and I didn’t know that wasn’t “normal.” So along with needing to learn to cook, I’m working on what it means to have a balanced diet. Especially for the sake of my children.
Not being able to cook or understand nutrition makes being a mom difficult. But the biggest struggle I have as a mother is sometimes feeling like I’m not contributing to the household because I’ve never had a job. Not being able to cook properly only makes it worse because it seems like I can’t even do the stay-at-home part well. I’ve never had an income to help support our household. And, of course, never had any maternity leave pay to help cover costs. I don’t know how to drive either, so I can’t even get errands done while my husband is out so that he can relax when he gets home.
I love my children. And I’m so grateful to have them. But sometimes these struggles get to me and I wonder what I’m doing. And how can I give my children everything they deserve when I can’t take them places and don’t know how to cook them proper meals.
The Reality of Living Motherhood
Even without knowing how to cook, I have a basic meal plan that involves ready to go snacks (like yogurt and cheese slice), and easy meals that I cook on the stove top or in the microwave. It’s not perfect, but it’s something while I learn.
And it’s only sometimes that I feel like I’m not contributing the household. If I’ve had enough sleep and my brain is working properly, I can see that looking after children is more than a full-time job.
It’s more than just dressing the children and changing diapers. It’s more than just reading to them and providing safe toys. And it’s more than just feeding them meals and cleaning up after them. When I’m looking after my girls (which is to say, always), I have to be attentive to everything. Has a breakable dish or mug been left in reach? Is there anything on the floor that shouldn’t be? Is Little Fox attempting some dangerous maneuver? What does Little Badger need now… sleep, milk, or a change? What most needs to be done around the house so that everyone is happy, healthy, and safe? And when can I get those tasks done? If I have to go to the bathroom, where is Little Badger going to be, and where will Little Fox be so they are both safe for that time?
The duties on a mother’s mind are endless. And it’s not just for eight hours with a lunch and coffee break. You can’t just leave at the end of the day and do something other than be a mother.
And yes, daycare or sending them to school is always an option, age dependent. But I know that no one could ever look after my children as well as my husband or I can. Those hours I spend with my children are precious, and I’ll never be able to get that time back if I invest it elsewhere.
Motherhood is a lot of work, but it’s more than just work. It’s a live style wherein you are constantly learning and given opportunities to sacrifice yourself for the good of the others in your family. It may be difficult and taxing, but it’s also the most rewarding way to spend your time. There’s nothing more amazing then having your little girl run up to you calling “Mama, mama!” and showing you her latest treasure. Or seeing how happy she is to sit on your lap reading books. Or to see her pretending to read the books herself, copying how you do it.
I can’t believe I’ve only been raising Little Fox for two years. I can hardly remember what life was like without her. My journey of motherhood is still only just beginning. But it’s definitely the most brilliant job I could have hoped for. Better, though more difficult, than I ever dreamed.
The Byzantine Life
If you enjoyed this week’s article, you might also be interested in reading 5 Simple Ways to Teach the Faith to Young Children, or Home Education with a Two Year Old.
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