I was laying on the exam table, legs spread, hands pressing into the table. This was my first ultrasound and I had no idea I was going to be probed with a dildo-like device. I thought the technician would rub jelly on my belly and I would magically see a dot on the screen. That didn’t happen. When it comes to motherhood, the first ultrasound is one of many things that are misrepresented in television and movies.
So there I was. Believing that this discomfort would be the biggest surprise of my visit. Either I was pregnant or I had a false positive on the at-home test. I was mentally prepared for either outcome. What I wasn’t prepared for was twins. Yep. Two dots on the screen with very strong heartbeats. From that day until this one, everything in my mind is multiplied by two or four. I have never had one child.
Once my husband and I brought our babies home, we had to learn very quickly how to manage multiple children and stay sane. Now that my twins are turning four, many of my friends that were pregnant around the same time that I was are having a second child. I send the standard “Congratulations!” message along with my own “Welcome to the two-kid-club!” To which, they reply something like “Thanks. I am so nervous.” or “How do you do it? I need some tips.”
I am by no means an expert, but I have learned many things over the last four years. Here are five of my favorite tips to help save time and preserve sanity.
1. Embrace Online Shopping
I discovered this while I was pregnant and on medical bed rest, which is a lot like house arrest. It was cool at first, but by the second week I was greeting my husband at the door like a puppy. The babies’ room was far from finished, but I couldn’t go shopping. Hello Target, Amazon, and Etsy online.
Online shopping continues to be our lifesaver. We order our groceries online from Walmart and pick them up. My husband makes the list, then I edit it, and he picks up the groceries after work on the way home. My sons are now in pre-kindergarten at a Christian academy where uniforms are required. Instead of combing through stores for ten pairs of khaki shorts and ten polo shirts, I went to Children’s Place online. That way I could get all the increments I needed without wasting time, gas, and patience.
Bonus: Many retailers offer free shipping on orders regardless of amount. Double Bonus: The online tax rate is often less than local sales tax. Thank God for the Internet! Everything from school uniforms to formula can be purchased online, which saves you time, money, and frustration.
2. Only True Friends Need to Visit
When you are laid up in the hospital after giving birth, you will get endless messages and visits from well-meaning individuals who promise to come by and “help out.” I put that in quotations because when they say “help out,” they really mean “sit up and oo and coo at your baby while you try to be polite, but all you can think about is all the sh*it you need to do.”
We had to nip that in the bud around the second week home. Dishes and clothes were piling up, the refrigerator was empty, and our patience was running thin. In addition to that, I developed a hematoma and had to have a second surgery. When I came home from the hospital the second time, we were very particular about who visited. Intimate family and friends only. We needed help, not company. If the person visiting is not willing to actually help i.e. wash dishes, do laundry, cook meals, change diapers, sterilize bottles, clean the breast pump, they need to stay at home.
Being polite is not as important as being at peace. Don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself, your family, and your home. If you don’t want people kissing your kids, be direct. If you want people to sterilize their hands before touching your baby, say just that. If you only want people who have up to date flu vaccines around your children, tell them. Your true friends will respect your wishes. Everybody else can kick rocks with no shoes.
3. Co-parenting Isn’t Just for Single Parents
We often think of the term co-parenting as reserved for parents who live separately. Whether you are married or not, I encourage you to think of your baby-daddy/spouse as your partner. The brunt of childcare is often placed on the mother in married and single parent homes. But times, they are a-changing. Men need to know how to do everything that women do in terms of childcare. Your male counterparts may surprise you. Don’t be afraid to split the duties along non-gender lines.
For example, I totally sucked at swaddling our babies. I just could not make it snug enough. My husband, a big guy I might add, was the king of swaddling. He even innovated something he called “the reverse swaddle.” Adversely, I took on the responsibility of potty training our boys. Because I am a teacher, I am off at various points throughout the year. The boys’ potty training progression can be marked by spring breaks and summer vacations. That’s right. I potty trained two boys during spring break of 2015, and they were in underwear full time by the summer of 2016.
4. Organization Is the Best Policy
Like I mentioned before, I am a teacher, so organization is kind of my jam. I do not like clutter or filth, so I have system for doing many things. I realize I am not normal and I have accepted that. Decide what process you must streamline and focus on ways to make that happen. You will find that planning ahead will save you time and energy in the long run. Also, the organization may not be a need forever. It could be a temporary fix to help your family get through a particularly rough time.
When the Terrible Twos hit the Williams’ house, it was a knockout. Our boys demanded so much attention that it was nearly impossible for me to cook dinner. I couldn’t even chop an onion without someone crying or fighting or arguing or climbing off of something or falling off of the thing I just yelled at them for climbing on, or crying because I yelled at them for climbing…you get it.
I had to start meal prepping all of our dinners for the week. My husband entertained the kids upstairs on Sunday evening and I cooked for two hours. Throughout the week, we just microwaved whatever we wanted to eat. I made many one pot wonders during those months like Hamburger Helper, spaghetti, lasagna, and the like. But it was temporary. Now, I can come in, turn on Paw Patrol, and chop as many onions as I want.
5. Take Everything With A Grain of Salt
If you already have a child, you know that people are not short on advice. Whether you want it or not, everyone has an opinion about how you do what you do. Some of the advice is great. When my sons were infants, they went to an in-home daycare. One morning, I was talking to the owner about how frazzled and rushed I felt in the morning. Between getting myself ready, getting the babies ready, fighting traffic to drop them off, then getting to work on time, I was tired before my day even began in the classroom. She gave me some advice that I have used from that day until this one. She suggested I pick out all of the boys’ clothes for the week, iron them, and hang them in the closet. That would help me in the morning. This is something I do every Saturday after my husband finishes the laundry. (Yes, my husband does the laundry.)
My point is this, do you, boo. Whatever works for you, make it work the very best it can. You already have everything you need to be an awesome mom. You just don’t know it yet.
Erica Williams is a writer and English teacher in Nashville, TN. She has been a high school teacher for eleven years and absolutely loves education. In her spare time, she blogs about music on her site. Erica is also a natural hair enthusiast. She self-published her first novel, Love Lifted Me, in 2011. She is married to her best-friend, William Williams II. They are the parents of three-year-old twins, William (aka Deuce) and Lewis.