Monday, April 19, 2010

Why Are You Always So Tired?

Enough said...
My friends without kids ask me this sometimes.  I think even my friends who have singletons may wonder.  And, if you can believe it, my husband asks me constantly if maybe I need to go to the doctor to have myself checked out. I am tired. No, let me correct that.  I am exhausted, wiped out, dead dog tired. Not all the time, but more often than not.  I love being a mother more than any job I've ever had.  I am good at it. Most of the time.  And I put my all into it. Maybe that's why I'm so tired. 

There is just something about my day as a stay-at-home mom (SAHM) that is so much harder than any job I've ever had (and I've had some tough ones). My mom friends with multiples who also work outside of home often tell me that work feels like a welcome break to them. There, in the office, there is the opportunity to zone out for a moment without the possibility that someone may stick a quarter up their nose.  There is a chance to feel completely competent at what you are doing as opposed to constantly worrying that you're preparing your children for years of therapy to undo all you have done to them.  There is acknowledgment for a job well done. There are assistants to delegate to.  Not so for the SAHM.  Oh sure, we may have a nanny or baby sitter.  Grandma may help out or even dad.  But somehow this doesn't seem to change the fact that we, as mothers, still feel as though we are on the job 24/7.

I recently read a very funny article in The Washington Post in which a woman without children had complained that her friend with kids had no time for her and what could a stay-at-home mom be doing all day that was so hard?  The response to her query was quite hilarious and sadly, very accurate:

"...When you have young kids, your typical day is: constant attention, from getting them out of bed, fed, clean, dressed; to keeping them out of harm's way; to answering their coos, cries, questions; to having two arms and carrying one kid, one set of car keys, and supplies for even the quickest trips, including the latest-to-be-declared-essential piece of molded plastic gear; to keeping them from unshelving books at the library; to enforcing rest times; to staying one step ahead of them lest they get too hungry, tired or bored, any one of which produces the kind of checkout-line screaming that gets the checkout line shaking its head.

It's needing 45 minutes to do what takes others 15.

It's constant vigilance, constant touch, constant use of your voice, constant relegation of your needs to the second tier.

It's constant scrutiny and second-guessing from family and friends, well-meaning and otherwise. It's resisting constant temptation to seek short-term relief at everyone's long-term expense.

It's doing all this while concurrently teaching virtually everything -- language, manners, safety, resourcefulness, discipline, curiosity, creativity. Empathy. Everything..."

I was exhausted just reading it and then I thought....and that's just with a singleton!  Add on top of that all of the stuff that goes along with raising multiples and you might just pass out!  

Let me pause here and say that I adore having twins.  I would never trade this experience for anything in the world.  And I am not merely complaining so I can say my lot is tougher than someone else's. I am writing and contemplating these things because I feel there is a lack of information out there for parents of multiples.  We are expected to simply feel joy and excitement about having twins ("how lucky you are!") and when we don't always feel that way we can feel ashamed.  Particularly those of us who have undergone fertility treatments in order to have our children - how can we be so ungrateful as to complain about having twins when we once were crying over not having any children?!

So, having said all of that, let's get back to what we were talking about....WHY AM I SO TIRED???

Perhaps it's trying to constantly connect to two people.  Or more specifically, it's the trying to understand who each of them is in an attempt to encourage their unique personalities so as not to have them grow up resenting being a twin.  I know I can't protect my kids from everything but, as an only child, I have to work a little harder to understand what it's like to have a sibling.  And even more than a sibling - a twin.  There is so much about being a twin that is wonderful, but it can be a burden if one is not careful.  I don't ever want my kids to feel this way and I put a lot of effort into avoiding the labeling and comparing and lumping together that comes with being a twin. There is so much mental exhaustion and guilt that goes along with being a parent of twins that I was unprepared for.  I have guilt when I feel more connected to one than the other (although it shifts back and forth all the time as their personalities develop and change).  I feel guilt when one takes up all of my attention because he/she is going through a trying phase and the "easy" one is ignored.  I feel guilt about letting their nanny spend so much time with them because they are so much better behaved around her.  The list goes on and on.  All that guilt is exhausting!

Dr. Joan Friedman who is an identical twin, a psychotherapist and mother to 5 (including twin boys) wrote in her book "Emotionally Healthy Twins" some very interesting thoughts on this topic:

"...In addition to the expected joy and exhaustion, having two babies unexpectedly ushers in feelings of guilt, inadequacy, concerns about fairness, and overall emotional overload.  Not only are you dealing with the nonstop physical needs of two new babies and being called upon to intuit and decipher two different infant temperaments, but the sheer enormity of the job makes you doubt your competence and effectiveness as a mother or father.  And if such pressures aren't enough, preterm births and complicated deliveries, common with twins, mean that your babies may have required hospitalization in the neonatal intensive care unit.  So prior to coming home from the hospital you may have faced obstacles that most parents of singletons don't have to contend with.  The bottom line is, you are more than entitled to feel exceptionally overwrought and overwhelmed."

Lest you feel that there is nothing but exhaustion and guilt in raising twins please believe me that it is the greatest joy I have ever experienced.  Yes, I am tired often.  But when my son snuggles in with me and tells me about his day or my daughter reaches her hand up to my face and tells me "you are a nice mommy".....none of the exhaustion matters.  That is my reward and my acknowledgment for a job well done.  My children are happy.  And all of that exhaustive effort is worth it.

Thanks for reading!
The Twin Coach
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2 Great Comments Made By Clicking Here!:

Megan said...

What a beautifully written post. It's often so hard to put into words why being a mommy is both so exhausting and so rewarding; thank you for doing it for me!

Cara Maat said...

I needed this. Thank u. Mom of 8.5 mo twin boys. Two months early. And yes I,indeed, am tires all the time. So glad I'm not alone.

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