Dear Jenny: Being Home With Two Kids Is A Struggle
Our resident advice-giver-outer Jenny True provides shouty, full-hearted answers to your niggling questions about pregnancy and parenthood in her column Dear Jenny. Warning: This is not a baby-and-me singalong, this is about yelling into the cosmos and actually hearing something back, sometimes in the form of an all-caps swear. Jenny isn't an ~expert~, but she has a lot of experience being outraged on your behalf. To submit your questions to Jenny, email email@example.com.
Fourteen months ago my husband and I made the decision to have a second child. Now we have a five-month-old and a 23-month-old and I'm losing my f**king mind. I'm breastfeeding the newborn, and the toddler is furious. The toddler just started sleeping, but the newborn isn't. Being at home with one child was a gift; being at home with two children is a nightmare. The thing is, tons of my friends have two children with the same "desirable" age gap and no one warned me, so in addition to feeling crazy, I feel like I must be the only one! My partner and I do not have the resources to hire child care on one income, so WTF do I do?
Should Have Stopped at One
I wrote an entire column with practical advice. It had BULLET POINTS. It had RESEARCH AND INTERVIEWS.
Then I remembered: I'm not here to give you advice. I'm here to scream at you until you feel better.
I only have one kid, SHSAO. I love him. He's easy. Or maybe, having had a kid at 40, I'm easy. My stock and trade is "real talk," but the truth is I fucking love this and I want to start a band called I Don't Care How Unpopular It Is I Love Being a Mom.
Still, IT’S FUCKING HARD AND I WILL CONTINUE TO COMPLAIN.
Like another friend says, 'One kid you can do. Two kids is like having ten kids.'
While I was on maternity leave, a friend sent me a chapter of his novel. Another asked me to read her entire novel. A third sent me pictures of a home improvement project.
Each of these people expected FEEDBACK. THESE PEOPLE WERE MY FRIENDS.
These were the things I was not able to do at the time:
1. Leave my house.
3. Change my underpants.
4. Brush my teeth.
You, dear SHSAO, have two kids under the age of 2. Like another friend says, "One kid you can do. Two kids is like having ten kids."
My first year as a parent was my first year being married and my first year as a stepparent. I also worked a full-time job and a part-time job and made 11 trips to San Francisco Superior Court, and it wasn't to use the bathroom! Meditate! someone recommended. Exercise! said someone else.
ARE YOU KIDDING ME ALREADY I HAVE SO MUCH TO DO AND NOW I HAVE TO DO SOMETHING ELSE?
Get a massage! Have a girls' night! Make a mommy friend! Get a baby sitter! Get a night nanny! Take care of yourself! screamed the internet and every fucking baby book on my nightstand.
"Are you writing?" a friend asked me.
"I write a column every two weeks," I said.
"No," this person said. "I mean writing writing."
SOMETIMES I SCRATCH MY LEGS SO HARD THEY BLEED.
Recently a friend's mother died, and she asked friends on Facebook for help dealing with her grief. What do I do? she asked. Can't breathe. I found myself grasping for suggestions of things to do: Take walks! Keep reaching out!
Then I read the comments of people who had actually dealt with a parent dying. There is nothing, they said. We send love and support and will be here when you come out the other side.
And there it was.
Maybe it's unfortunate to equate the death of a loved one with the birth of a loved one. But both events are strange and stressful, with the world refracted and coming out different colors. Blithe suggestions of things to do to mitigate the altered state ignore the fact that once you're done doing those things, the situation remains.
If you want tips, SHSAO, the internet, and mommy groups, will provide. Some will work for you, and some won't. In the meantime, read on:
You are beautiful and smart and under an enormous amount of stress. Look at that small person who came out of your body, or somebody else's body. That child is a gift. Some days it's an upgrade to first class with mimosas and hand towels, and some days it's a flaming bag of dog poo. But you're in this together and no matter what you do you're going to teach each other more about who you are — both of you — than anyone else on Earth, and that is fascinating and worthwhile. The easy stuff is boring. I spent five days on a beach in Thailand with sand like white flour where I had nothing to do but drink cocktails and eat noodles and swim in water the color of Michael Ealy's eyes, and although having a child has made me miss those five days with a wretchedness that makes me gasp like realizing that after hours of research on the National Transportation Safety Board website I have still, in fact, installed my son's car seat incorrectly, I distinctly remember feeling slightly bored at the time.
Earlier today I was at a friend's house returning a chair. We sat on the carpet as my son turned her living room upside down. He rummaged in her bowl of "angel quotes" and handed me two. They said:
YOU THINK THIS IS HARD WAIT UNTIL ONE KID IS 13 AND THE OTHER IS 15 AND THEY'RE EATING CIGARETTES FOR BREAKFAST AND YOU FIND YOURSELF SAYING THINGS LIKE "YOU CALL THAT MUSIC" AND EXPLAINING WHY WE USED TO USE COMPUTERS. YOU GOT THIS.
Got a niggling question for Jenny? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.