Many people have told me, "You are so calm for a mom with 3 kids!" or "You are such an easygoing mom". I think they're mostly being nice, or they feel sorry for me and can see that I need an infusion of positive reinforcement. But compared with myself two or three years ago, I think they're right. I am a calmer parent. And a happier and more involved one. And it's directly correlated with the increasing amounts of "Me" time that I've been able to carve out for myself.
Having twins is a wonderful blessing, but there is no denying that it is difficult, difficult, difficult, especially in their first year. Seriously, there's always at least one baby crying or feeding or pooping every hour of the day. I was breastfeeding twins and caring for a toddler by myself. My daughter's preschool hours left me some time with "just" the two babies, but I didn't think we could afford any other outside help. I was exhausted, miserable, and almost resentful of my situation.
The only time I had to myself was at night, after all the kids went to bed. I would escape to any store that closed at 9:30 (Michael's, ToysRUs, Cost Plus World Markets) or 10PM (Target, Walmart) and just wander around. When the stores closed, I would return home and surf the internet for hours. My husband could not understand it -- Get some sleep! he would say. How could I explain that after a long day of caring for everyone else's needs but my own, I had this desperate desire for a looong stretch of time by myself, for myself?
Finally, my husband put his foot down and hired a housekeeper to come twice a month. That single act made a huge difference in my outlook and began the process of finding the "Me" in "Mom". With each step I felt more like a person. After breastfeeding stopped, I was able to leave the kids with my husband for longer hours. I joined a gym with childcare. Next came an occasional babysitter. Then last September the boys started preschool two days a week. Six hours of time by myself per week! Me time!
Note that I said Me time, not free time. Those six hours are easily eaten away by tasks done better without kids in tow, such as laundry, cooking or light cleaning, or volunteering at school, or errands like grocery shopping or running to the bank. But it's time alone. And I do manage to set aside some of those six hours to do things I enjoy. Like blogging. Or window shopping. Or having lunch at a cafe and sitting quietly in the sun.
The boys are starting a new preschool in September, and today is their last day at their old preschool. That means it's going to be my last "Me" day for several months. Good-bye to those precious six hours (and I've already spent one of those hours writing this post!). I guess it's back to late-night visits to Target again.
But you know what? That's ok. The kids are a bit older now, and require less attention. I'm really looking forward to spending time with the boys at the park and at the Mommy-and-me classes we'll be taking. I have lots of ideas for projects we can do together at home. I've surfed the internet and filled our calendar with events and outings all over the Bay Area. I'm not going back to being miserable and desperate. All that "Me" time I've taken is paying off -- it's making me a better Mom.