The Trickiness of Two

by Thekla Richter

Ever since BabyK was born, I’ve been struggling with something I’d heard about from other parent friends and from some of my playful productivity coaching clients. The struggle is the overlay of logistics for multiple kids on top of whatever other logistics I manage already.

two-bleeding-hearts

When I had one kid and worked from home, I had the privilege of building my schedule around his nap and childcare hours. I knew I was very lucky. It was far from easy, and it had its share of interrupts and disconnects and dilemmas. But looking back on it now, I sigh for how much easier it was. Because now I have two children, and I’ve had to level up.

My husband and I are juggling two sets of schedules + routines + needs plus our own. These routines rarely line up well organically. We line them up artificially with considerable amounts of planning, pushing and a dash of luck. By my estimates, managing two children’s schedules instead of one actually makes me about four times less efficient: an exponential rather than linear change.

Perhaps I could better optimize all this somehow if I were the one who got to make up the schedules. But while I have influence and a lot of flexibility in some areas, school start times and traffic levels and especially my childrens’ bio-rhythms are not fully under my direct control.

It’s guaranteed that assorted drop-offs and pick-ups don’t harmonize the way I wish, and that naptime conflicts with everything no matter what. I have more strange bits of time that are not optimally sized for me to work in. More times when I must hurry one child along, or wake them before they are ready, or occupy them while they wait for the other one.

Twice as many opportunities for someone to get sick when I was expecting they could go to daycare or school that day. Twice as many opportunities for someone small to have a bad day that radiates through everyone elses’ moods. Twice as many chances for someone to go through a growth spurt, cognitive leap or other challenging phase. And of course, I’m going through my second round of kiddo-induced sleep deprivation. I keep waiting for that stage to end, and it keeps on going.

Worst of all, some kind of magical alchemy makes getting into or out of the door a dreadful ordeal. Those threshold transitions sap out some ridiculous amount of my life force each day. It has something to do with how terrible it is to deal with shoes + our front steps, I know that much. Those moments are like my larger schedule challenges written in miniature: each child’s moments of struggle + tantrum + efficiency are always out of sync, each child needing my attention at just the wrong time while the other one then gets distracted + loses momentum. I switch kiddo-focus and the cycle begins anew. The minutes feel like hours. I’m rarely late as I’ve budgeted a lot of time for this, but I always worry I will be late on any given day. I hate being late.

When we finally reach the bottom of the steps, or the living room when we are coming back in, or the end of the week, or the final moments of the bedtime dance, or whatever gauntlet I feel like I’ve just run… I always hear the voice of Count Rugen from The Princess Bride in my head. “I’ve just sucked one year of your life away… How do you feel?”

It feels petty to even write about this, the trickiness of two. It is not a major problem compared to, well, major problems. And I feel like I should end this with some words of wisdom, but I don’t really have any. We organize the best we can. We walk, trudge, flail or dance through the day as best we can. We drink our coffee or tea or coconut water. We take deep breaths. We try not to sweat the small stuff.

We show up for our work + our art + our family + ourselves. We make it through. Despite my complaints, I honestly feel like I’m doing a fine job.

And it should go without saying that there are obviously amazing parts to having two children which I am not mostly writing about here. Of course there are. I do love it.

The privilege of getting to nurture + know + talk with not one but two growing human beings. Feeling like I know what I am doing once in a while. Watching the two play together or love on each other. Sharing magical moments of profound learning and laughter. A periodic upwelling of rightness and fulfillment… a clear sense that yes, this is hard. And yes, this is right where I’m supposed to be. It’s all worth it and so on.

But that doesn’t take away the hard. Some days, it is indeed very hard. Gratitude, I wrote recently online, is an “and” thing rather than a “but” thing. I am grateful, and frustrated. I cherish my kids, and caring for them is hard. I love every moment I spend with them, except for the moments in which I still love them and hate the damn moment we’re all in.

Just know that you are not alone if the minor frustrations of parenting, coming one after another in their relentless + unceasing stream, wear you out some days. I’m going to keep showing up for myself, my work, my creativity and my kiddos. And I know you will too.

And for now, this sweet zone of focused productivity– tagged as #naptimeisforwriting on my Facebook page— has come to an end. I’m going to go wake up the toddler from her nap before she’s ready and then go pick up the 1st grader from school at the inconvenient hour that has been decreed. Because some days, that’s what you gotta do.

I know that after we’re home and we make it in from the front porch, everything will get easier.

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