How We Kept Our Sanity After Babies Were Born
There’s a growing theory by celebrity gossip-lovers that celebrities getting pregnant with twins is no coincidence. Mariah Carey, Jennifer Lopez, Rebecca Romijn are on the twins list, and then there’s the recent celebration of Beyoncé and George Clooney’s (separate, of course) twins announcements. That’s an awful lot of twins. The theory banging around is that this is an intentional attempt at getting the kids out of the way in one slightly easier swing: “2-for-1.”
Is it, though?! People generally assume that having twins is simply twice as hard as having one baby. As a parent of twins it seems that the math is far more complex and that two babies is THREE times as hard as one. Twins are a perpetual motion machine of lunacy: Finish feeding one, and move to the next. Finish bathing, and then start again (lather, rinse, repeat, and repeat). Just as you finally get the second one to sleep, the first wakes up. It never ends, and sometimes it seems as if you’ll never get a moment to yourself alone ever again.
The first thing that went through my mind when Beyoncé announced happily that she’s having twins was, ‘bitch has money to pay for 24/7 help.’ Truth is, Alex and I quickly realized that to keep our sanity amongst the madness of this life-blasting situation of two living-breathing-pooping bombs dropped into the other room, we must claim some of our lives to ourselves. I know it seems like heresy, but my most important advice to new parents (twins or otherwise) is, don’t let the babies completely consume you. Imagine that you have a show at Coachella a month after your kids are born and act accordingly.
What I’m trying to say is, it took me a while to realize that paying for help, especially during the nights, doesn’t make you less of a parent. Beyoncé and her new “I am Mother Earth” thing, will not provide exclusive 24/7/365 care for Blue Ivy, as well as Lemonade 1 & 2 when they arrive, and there’s absolutely no shame in that.
Obviously, different people can afford different levels of help. Alex and I are not oozing money, but we knew that for the first few months of the kids’ lives, we were going to spend a lot on help. New clothes and expensive dinners would have to wait.
We had intended to get back to work pretty soon after the kids were born. More than anything else, this was to help us reengage with the world and bring home a refreshed and positive attitude toward our kids. We found a wonderful nanny who worked 8 hours a day (8am to 4pm) Monday through Friday.
But we also understood that at the beginning, nighttime’s were going to be the most challenging by far. To preserve our own sanity and so that we could actually barely keep our eyes open at work, we hired a night nurse as well. Another massive draw on our dwindling savings.
Amazingly, we found an incredible woman for the job. A British nurse studying for her license in the US, we secretly called her Mary Poppins, and every night as we could hear her trolley full of books rolling towards our door we’d get giggle with excitement: soon we would sleep! She was Amazing. In addition to basic care and feeding, changing during the night, she helped us establish a “sleep training” plan that did not include having them cry too much (I promise to lay out the plan in a future post). Her goal was to help us ween OURSELVES off of her quickly, where the babies sleep through night.
This sounds like a lot of daily help – almost a Beyoncé-level of support – and, as I said, for the first few months it was somewhat bankrupting. With all of that help, we were alone with the kids 8 hours a day. We came up with ways to split that time up (I’ll explain this in a later post too) so that each of us could do things like go to the gym, nap, or sit in the corner and cry while eating ice cream. Even with all that help, it was exhausting and it shook what we knew about our lives. Nothing – NOTHING – is like that first year. That first year, get all the help you can afford.
Obviously, I can’t speak for everyone. Some parents – straight and gay alike – decided to go the route of no help from day one and they did fine – even thrived. So obviously, I can only relate our experience. Alex and I both have careers and some other aspects of our lives that demand a ton of our time. The question we have asked ourselves from even before our kids were born has been, how much of our lives should we give over to caring for our kids. Remember that they are the ones who came to our lives – and not vice versa; we need to demonstrate to them how full life is by experience it fully ourselves, and not have life surrounded only around them.
Some might think that this is an exclusively selfish question: How can I keep doing the things I like to do even though I have just brought babies into my life? And there’s no doubt an element of that, pure and simple. But even where having help – even “Beyoncé-levels” of help – is about wanting to hold on to these things, we both believe that our children will benefit so much from having parents whose lives are full and rich. Parents who go to the gym and feel good about themselves physically. Parents who work and contribute outside the house. Whose lives are broad and rich enough that they can bring that breadth, experience, and freshness home to their kids.
Also, G-d it’s nice to sleep! 🙂