A Taste of What Might Have Been

This week I got a taste of how the other half live. Well, a taste of how most people live. Most parents, that is. Sábha has been sick and I've kept her home from preschool all week. So for three days now, while her twin sister was off socialising with her peers, Sábha and I have been enjoying some one on one time.

Since I finished with the day job there has definitely been more opportunities for me to 'divide and conquer' the girls, but it usually means taking just one child with me when I go to the supermarket or post office or maybe on the odd coffee and cake date. Nothing glamorous and nothing planned as 'special bonding time' but still a lovely chance to connect with each child without distraction.


I've mentioned before the amount of times people say 'Oh my goodness, TWINS - I don't know how you do it' and I always answer the same way. 

"Well,  a) I don't have a choice and b) I have nothing to compare it to, I've had two children from day one so it's completely normal for me."

I'm not lying, I obviously don't have a choice. It's not like I can send one back! And it IS completely normal for me to have two children of the same age, clamouring for attention, because it's all I've ever known since becoming a parent. 

Until recently, I have had nothing to compare being a parent of twins to. Tell me having one kid is tough - I believe you! Tell me juggling two kids of different ages is hard - I can well imagine! Tell me having three kids is insane - I know you're right! Tell me four kids makes your head spin and I will not doubt you for one second. My sister-in-law has 8 children... 8 children... (I'll just let that sink in for a moment)... I BELIEVE her when she tells me she can't remember a large portion of the prime of her life.

Raising any number of children has it's challenges and although I'm usually annoyingly upbeat about the joys of raising twins I have got to say - having experienced it very briefly this week - that having just one child is SO BLOODY EASY by comparison.

Now before any of you with only one little lovely at home start wanting to throw things at me - don't think for a second that I don't know this is all relative. Having only one child at home with me for a few hours everyday this week has been amazing - but it's only because it's a novelty for me that I am even aware of it. I absolutely know that it wouldn't be the same if I only had one child from the beginning. Or one at a time. Like normal people.

It's just that this week, I've had a little taste of how things might have been if I'd done what most people do and had one baby at a time and not been greedy by having them all at once. (As if that kind of greed even exists) and I want to bask in it because it's been so unbelievably lovely.

For example, today, I had the time and the patience to let Sábha bake muffins, from scratch, all by herself. I supervised, of course, but I didn't lose my reason when she spilled the flour and started to 'lick the bowl' before dishing out the mixture into the paper cases. Baking is usually a bit of a war zone with  twins. I usually play the role of the crazy General who gets all bug-eyed and twitchy whilst barking orders at his unruly troupe (that's so not an army word) - but not today!

Lile has benefited this week too. I left Sábha at home with her Dad for an entire afternoon while Lile and I went for lunch, for a browse around some shops and for a visit to my sister's new house and it was an absolute pleasure. Having only one child with me meant it was so much easier to chase her out from under clothes rails and I even got to have a conversation with my sister. I will remember that day fondly.

Having had such consistent one on one time this week has made me feel a bit sad too, though. In a way, I never got to be the parent I imagined I would be because having twins sort of ruled out a lot of the things I *swore* I would do when I was that perfect pre-kids parent. Like be patient during baking sessions...

Pre-kids me, like pre-kids lots of people, had parenting all figured out. Looking at it now - the plan seems fairly limited in terms of how it would work once my future baby was past the new-born stage, but I obviously hadn't factored that in at the time.

My pre-parent-parenting-plan looked a bit like this:
  • I would have a drug-free natural birth. 
  • I would breastfeed my future baby, exclusively, for the recommended amount of time. 
  • I would wean him or her on lovingly prepared, homemade, organic food. 
  • I would ‘wear’ the baby to baby massage classes, to baby yoga classes, to baby music classes and baby swimming classes. Basically, to ALL the baby classes. Every week. 
  • I would bring the baby to cultural events like art exhibitions and classical music concerts. Baby and I would snuggle up together at the Mother & Baby cinema mornings and visit the the Zoo and my favourite museums regularly. 
It was a painfully naive beautiful plan, however, I realised very quickly that, if even the best laid plans go out the window when a new baby arrives, they more or less get torn up, stomped on and flung out the window when twins are born.

The perfect plan failed instantly and spectacularly from the very beginning. In so many different ways.
  • The dream of a drug free, natural birth disintegrated as I went into labour five weeks early and ended up having an emergency c-section and ALL THE DRUGS.
  • The exclusive breastfeeding? Yeah… not so much… I managed to breastfeed for two weeks. I completely underestimated the unbelievable relentlessness of being the sole source of sustenance for two tiny babies. I just couldn’t cope with it.
  • I did try to get the plan back on track when it came time to wean the babies. I started out well and prepared all of their very first foods myself. Then I realised that there were other people who lovingly prepared baby food. People who had the ingenuity to package it in handy little jars for me to feed my children.
  • The baby wearing? That so didn’t happen. I don’t think I even need to go into the logistics of that one.
  • The classes didn’t happen either. Not one of them. We were lucky to get out the door for a walk most days. In fact, the closest my twins have ever gotten to baby massage is a slick of baby oil after a bath. And not even after every bath. And I don’t even know what baby yoga looks like.
  • ‘Music’ classes consisted of raiding the kitchen cupboards for pots, pans and wooden spoons. And not particularly for developmental reasons either. Just to distract them for five minutes while I went for a pee.
  • I brought them to the swimming pool for the first time ever a couple of weeks ago. They are four-and-a-half years old.
  • Cultural events? They have been to the cinema three times. Does that count?
See? Totally well adjusted.
Somehow, despite the fact that they are twins, or probably because of it, my girls seem none the worse for wear for the lack of individual attention. There also seems to be no harm done in terms of missing out on all of those amazing parenting must-dos either. Despite the lack of baby yoga they are still WAY more flexible than I'll ever be.

I also, LOVE having twins, and wouldn't change any of  the past four-and-a-half years for the world.

Even so, I do think I'll try to factor in a little more regular one-on-one time with each of them. 

For purely selfish reasons. I kind of like pretending to be the pre-kids me. But just for a few hours.

14 comments

  1. I kept getting distracted by those beautiful photos :) really lovely post. I think the only definite of parenting is that you have to play by ear and take it as it comes. Bit by bit. As long as you are happy in yourself, your babies will be happy in themselves :)

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    1. Thanks Emily :) You are dead-right. It's all a learning curve. A lovely, lovely (mostly) learning curve.

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  2. We had four children. When my eldest was 12 we began to feel she needed extra time. My husband made a pact with her that every two weeks she and he would go out together to the cinema, or coffee shop or a walk. Myself and herself began 'girls night' which I still do today just with a different child.
    Mind you, as you ooh and ahh and think 'Isn't that lovely?'. Two years later the same eldest couldn't be left in the same room as her Dad they fought so much. It was dreadful. But we got through it and now she's at college and very fond of her Dad. Lifes learning curve indeed.
    Enjoy your two little ones together and separately.

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    1. That's just lovely. And I can ooh and aah all I want because I love that it worked out in the end. We all go through the fighting with our parents stage, but you guys knew to put in the groundwork which meant it didn't stay dreadful forever. What a wonderful example you are x

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  3. What a lovely post. You are right that we have to go with what we have, to parent as we can in our own situation and circumstances. Being mindful of what you are doing is the main thing and it sounds like you are a wonderful mother to your beautiful children in your own unique circumstances.

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  4. Your girls are go deas! And you can only parent one way - the way YOU know how. I say to people that it doesn't matter if you have one child, two, four or six, it's still hard. I'm lying of course. One child is EASY! *sssshhhhh dont' tell them I lied* :)

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  5. Beautiful photos and fab post! Don't feel wistful about missing on some bits and pieces because of having two babies instead of one - honestly, ever first time parent (well almost every) is overwhelmed no matter what. And even with one baby, most of us are largely incapable of following the great plans we had pre-kid - I promise you!! But yes, one on one time is lovely - I find that too - if I have just one person to do something with, we have a proper bonding time - even if it's just the supermarket (OK, a coffee thrown in too)

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    1. Thanks so much. I'm don't feel too sorry for myself because I genuinely believe I hit the jackpot by having my two girls!

      I think I must only be coming out of the new baby fug (it takes double the time for twins ok?... they're still new at 2, right?) and remembering things about myself from pre-twin-mammyhood.

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  6. Beautiful post and oh those lovely photos. Looks like you are doing a good job. Nobody remembers what their pre baby plans were as they are so unrealistic :) You can tie yourself in knots sometimes to orchestrate some one to one time with one of your children (or in my case anyway) only to find they are missing their siblings :)

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    1. Thanks Naomi,
      That's so true. They always talk about their 'other half' during one-on-one time - but they still love to let the 'I had treats with Mama' secret slip the minute they are reunited!

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  7. I love this post. I'm a single mother to a 3 year old and I'm always hearing 'I don't know how you do it!' from other people. But, like you, this is my normal - I don't know what anything else feels like.

    I had a perfect plan as well which I did follow for a while, but it turns out that baby music and baby massage are actually not as much fun as I'd imagined. Our first two zoo trips were big let downs too but I think the lesson learned there was to lower my expectations.

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    1. Thanks so much Marie! I'm so impressed by single parents. One of my best friends is a single Mum and I probably drive her crazy asking her the same thing! I'm really glad to hear that those classes aren't that much fun.Pots and pans on the kitchen floor all the way ;)

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