A Reflection on the Past Year
WARNING: This is a long one. I recommend pairing it with a glass of cabernet sauvignon and a hot bubble bath so long that your skin gets all pruny. (One can dream, right?)
I cannot believe it is April 1st! Where has the time gone? My second maternity leave finishes in just 23 days. The days are flying by faster than ever before. It’s crazy! Miss M will be two years old on May 21st and our sweet, little Mr. C will celebrate his first birthday on April 24th… my first day back to work! It’s going to be tough leaving him for the first time on his first birthday. It will be harder on me than it will be on him and Miss M. They will be in daycare, meeting new friends, playing with other kids, learning to socialize and share and become a little more independent. I will miss them both, especially on that first day back with it being Mr. C’s birthday but I have already promised him we will have a cake and a little party that night after I pick them up after work!
I look at Mr. C, now 11 months old and although he has grown so fast, is eating everything, smiling, saying “Hi!” and “Bye!” as well as “Mama,” “Da-eee”, “ball” and “uh-oh,” waving, clapping, crawling incredibly fast, pulling himself up and balancing his body on his feet, he still seems so small and very much like a baby. I find it hard to believe that he is now the age that Miss M was this time last year, when he was born. I look at him and how needy he is, how busy he is and how tiny he is and could not imagine having a newborn now in addition to him. I really can’t…which seems silly considering that is exactly what we had last year. Miss M was exactly 11 months and 3 days old when we were blessed with the arrival of our sweet baby boy. I suppose the past year is a bit of a blur to me. The past year and a half, actually considering I had extremely high blood pressure throughout the last trimester of my pregnancy and was far more tired and swollen than I was in my first pregnancy. Somehow we made it through. I can’t believe we have been proud and exhausted parents of “Irish twins” for almost a full year. The people we have met along the way who have raised Irish twins (mainly people who would stop and question me while out shopping with 10 month old Miss M and an 8 month pregnant belly in tow) have told us that the first year is the hardest. If that is truly the case, we did it!
It hasn’t been easy. It hasn’t been anywhere even close to easy. At the same time, it hasn’t been as hard as I thought it would be either. I think there is a lot to be said for the power and mystery of the unknown. When you are almost full term with your second baby before your first baby’s first birthday, it is hard to predict what to expect. I remembered how difficult it was in those first few weeks that Miss M was home. I had no idea how I was going to do that all over again with an 11 month old baby who wasn’t walking yet and was still very much a baby herself. She instantly became a “big sister” but when I look at Mr. C, at the same age his sister was at the time of his birth, she was not very big at all. She was doing all of the things he is doing now; crawling, pulling herself up on her feet, clapping, laughing, saying a couple of words…and she was a big sister! Unbelievable. Adjusting from one baby to two wasn’t as hard as I imagined it to be, because with them being so close in age, I was already adjusted to no sleep/broken sleep and I was just adding more diaper changes, feedings and cuddles to our routine. There were at least a million times when I wished I had more than two hands and more than one lap, and sometimes wished I had a clone but I made it through… We did it!
Making the decision to stay home for a second maternity leave was not an easy one. Because I did not work between our babies’ births (Mr. C was born over a month before my first maternity leave was over!), I did not quality for a second maternity leave pay. Money was going to be tight. We had to make some serious adjustments and cutbacks to make this work. We reduced the amount of frivolous spending we were doing, we cancelled our cable television, we put a hold on our home renovation/maintenance projects. We made it work. We had the security of knowing that I could go back to work at any time as long as I provided 4 weeks notice. We figured we would play it day-by-day with one income to see where it would take us. It was important to both me and my husband that I stay home for our son’s first year, just as I had done with our daughter. We wanted him to be breastfed and enjoy being home with endless cuddles from Mommy and Daddy for his first year. I was fortunate to have an employer that was supportive and extended my health benefits for a second maternity leave as well.
My unpaid maternity leave has been difficult. It has been financially straining. It has caused a lot of stress and pressure on both my husband and me. We have been caught in a vicious cycle. He is working long days, often 7 days each week in order to make up for the income I am no longer bringing home. It’s extremely difficult on him to be working so much and to be away from the kids as much as he is but he is doing it because it is what needs to be done for our family. It is hard on the kids because they often go days without seeing Daddy when he is gone before they wake up and not home until after they are tucked into bed. Phone calls and FaceTime conversations help but they aren’t the same. It is hard on me because picking up the slack around the house, caring for two little babies all day on my own, and keeping up with all of the laundry, housework, dishes and meals is exhausting and overwhelming. I feel the pressure of my husband not being around to help me as much as he should be here. He feels the pressure of having to work harder, longer and be away from home more than he wants to in order to compensate for my lack of income. There is a lot of stress and a lot of pressure and a lot of strain both financially and emotionally. I secretly (and sometimes not so secretly) hope that he will come home and praise me for how hard I have worked in his absence so that he can be gone for an entire day without having to worry about anything at home. I think he secretly wishes that he would come home at the end of the day to me all dressed up, well rested, ready to smother him with love and affection while singing his praises for all of his hard work. However, at the end of the day we are both tired. We’re exhausted. We want to be appreciated and taken care of. Sometimes it happens and sometimes we’re both just too tired. We’re both working harder than we’ve ever worked. We’re both making sacrifices. We both feel unappreciated by the other from time to time. It’s easy to do.
Just yesterday, my husband texted me to remind me that it was one of his long days at work meaning he wouldn’t be home until around 10pm. I responded with “I know! It’s my long day too! :)” to which he replied “LOL” thinking I was being funny. I half was and half wasn’t. His long days are the cause for my very long days. They are the days when I can’t count on someone else playing lifeguard while I run and pee, someone else to help clean up the kitchen after dinner, someone else to watch the babies while I lock myself in the bathroom pretending I’m going to the bathroom just to get 5 minutes alone, in silence without worrying about what’s happening on the other side of the door. Our long days are very long and hard but we both agree they are worth it.
The sacrifices we have made and the pressures our life has created for us have caused grey hairs, wrinkles, frustration, fights, anger, sleepless nights, resentment and anxiety. Over the past year, there were times when we didn’t think our marriage would survive the chaos that was our life. There were times when I didn’t like him very much and times I’m sure he couldn’t stand me. The only thing consistent over the past year of pressure and sacrifice was love. Love for each other, love for our children and love for our life, in spite of it all. Love has helped us to get through the hard times and encouraged us to keep pushing forward. Sometimes you love someone enough to tell them when they are being selfish. Sometimes you love someone enough to realize you are being selfish and far too hard on them. Sometimes we get so caught up in our separate yet the same lives that we forget to check in on how the other is doing. It doesn’t mean we don’t care. It doesn’t mean we don’t appreciate what the other is doing. It doesn’t mean we love them any less. It just means we’re busy. And overwhelmed. And tired. Sometimes you love each other enough to move forward and let it go. Whatever it might be.
There are times when I can’t wait until my husband has a day off so he can help me with some of the stuff I can’t do on my own around here, namely household repairs and projects. But once he is here, I want nothing more than for him to spend time with our kids, to play with them, cuddle them, tickle them, let them climb all over him. It is so important and far more valuable than any loose hinge or leaking bathtub. Family time comes first and always will. However, that doesn’t make those neglected home projects any less annoying, especially when you are home dealing with them all day, everyday. It’s a difficult juggle and a delicate balance. It’s sacrifice. And letting things go.
I could have gone back to work months ago and we could have lived far more comfortably from a financial standpoint. We could have gone on a vacation to break up the cold winter months. We could have eaten out more and splurged on new clothes. We could have had a cleaning lady! (Wow! We could have had a cleaning lady!) We could have had money to continue our original home renovation/maintenance plans. We gave up all of those things to give our son a year at home with his mother, and consequently, our daughter got a second year home as well. It hasn’t been easy. Money has been tighter than in the past. Bills and unexpected expenses have made our stomachs flip. It hasn’t been horrible though. It has just been an adjustment. A huge adjustment.
There were multiple times over the past year that my husband decided he was going to sell his pool table. He felt it was the responsible thing to do in order to generate some extra cash to use on household repairs or a family vacation before I returned to work. He bought this pool table just before our daughter was born and set it up in the garage along with a dartboard and beer fridge with the idea of being able to socialize with friends while being close to home in case I needed him once the baby was born. That was two years ago and he has used it under 10 times. It has been used far more as storage for excess baby stuff. (Man, do babies ever need a lot of stuff!) While I appreciated the sacrifice he was willing to make, I was determined that he was not going to sell it. No matter what. He was so excited to buy this pool table as he had always wanted one. I quickly reflected on our younger, richer days (circa 2 years ago) when he found out a friend was selling one, wanted it, we had a 30 second conversation about it and wrote a cheque. It was very different from now. That was a different life. The life with two good incomes and no kids. Sure we had a nicer looking bank account but we are far richer now.
Had I gone back to work sooner, we could have been richer financially but much poorer in terms of a solid foundation for our family and appreciation for the important things in life. There were times when we had to remind ourselves that the stressful, heart-wrenching, overwhelming situation we were living in was a choice. And it was temporary. There are families living in much harder circumstances than we are with no way out. I could have gone back to work at any time to relieve the financial burden and we could have lived more comfortably, the way we were used to with dinners out and frivolous spending. We chose to sacrifice those things and cut back. We quickly realized that those things were not important. They were just habit. Giving them up so I could stay home was a choice. A choice we consciously made and a choice that was worth it. We have been fortunate to not have to ship our babies off to daycare each morning in their first year. We haven’t had to stress over picking them up on time or about weaning Mr. C off breastfeeding before he was ready. I have been home and able to focus on our family 100% without having to juggle my career at the same time. I have been able to be their primary caregiver (with the unconditional support of my husband) and have been able to make all of their meals, play with them all day, teach them about the world, take care of our house and be here when my husband gets home from work each night. This has been a blessing. Through cutting back, we have realized what is important and what isn’t. We have realized how much we were spending that wasn’t necessary. We have gotten by. We have managed to live with less and have worked together to build a strong foundation on which to raise our family. We did it!
The past year has aged us. It has put a lot of individual pressure on us and strained our marriage. At times we lost sight of who we were as we struggled to nurture our relationship while juggling the stresses and pressures of a double baby, single income household. We have become stronger. Over the past year and all that we have experienced in it, we have grown as individuals and as a couple. We have made it through together with our feet on the ground. We did it! And because of this, I feel we can do anything. Years ago, my husband used to always say to me “You and me against the world!” meaning that no matter what life threw at us we would make it through as long as we did it together. Two children in one year and a year-long unpaid maternity leave. We did it and we will do so much more in our many years to come!
Going back to work is going to be tough but it is going to be good for us. It will be good for me to get out of the house and have adult conversations, lunch breaks, solve real problems and have my own life. It will be good for my husband because he won’t have the weight of the world on his shoulders when it comes to supporting our household. He can relax a bit with me contributing financially and we can have the finances in place to plan our next home renovation and family vacation. He will also appreciate me being busy with my own career and less interested in his business. (I don’t ask questions to pry. I ask because I am interested in what is going on in the outside world.) It will also be good for our babies. They will make new friends, learn how to socialize and play with other kids. Miss M could use a little time as a “little fish in a big pond” and Mr. C needs to learn a little independence and not be so shaken up anytime I am not in the same room as him. This is going to be another tough adjustment but it’s going to be good for all of us. We are reaching the end of our double maternity leave. It is the end of an era for us.
While it hasn’t been easy, we are both fortunate and blessed to have been able to take an unpaid maternity leave. I am so grateful to my husband for going above and beyond to provide for us to ensure this could happen and to our family and friends for supporting us over the past year whether it was listening to either of us vent, offering hugs and dinners, picking up grocery items for us, helping with babies, babysitting, offering advice and support, letting me know about diaper sales and coupons, spending New Year’s Eve in our basement for New Year’s Eve instead of going out so we could be home with the babies and socialize or just being there. We are lucky to have you.
I can’t believe it has almost been a year. To sum up the past year, I will quote two of our family’s favourite artists:
“Nobody said it was easy, no one ever said it would be this hard.” – Coldplay
“We did it! We did it! We did it! Yeah!” – Dora the Explorer
andbabymakes3imean4 is one mom’s adventures while tap dancing on the brink of insanity with 2 babies, 11 months apart. If you liked this post, please consider following my blog or liking my page on facebook to be the first to know of future posts. Thanks for reading! xo