March 30, 2008

I Don't Know How You Do It

It is common for people to say to me, a mother of five, that they feel they really can't complain about having "only" one or two children. "I can't even handle TWO," they say. "I don't know how you do it."

Once in a while, like this morning, I'm left in the house with fewer than my usual number of children. Right now I'm here for two hours with just Henry: my parents took Rob and the twins out to lunch, and Paul has gone on some errands with William. A rational mind would assume that this would be an improvement: what a treat, to be here with just one child! What a peaceful, relaxing time, to have only 20% of my usual workload!

NO. It is HARDER. It is HARDER to have one child. When it is just Henry and me, he wants my attention all the time. I go nuts feeling like I have to entertain him; he goes nuts feeling like I have to entertain him. He fusses and cries a lot, and that's the only sound in this quiet house.

I don't know what to do with him: when I hold him, he squirms and kicks; when I put him down, he doesn't like that either. I move him from his exersaucer to his playroom to his jump-up, and nothing pleases him. Time goes very slowly: how long until I can give him some lunch? how long until he'll go down for his nap? oh no, it can't be only 11:24!

I'm simultaneously bored and overwhelmed. It's VERY UNPLEASANT. It reminds me of the days when Rob was a toddler and William was a baby, and I used to get weepy because I wanted to have four children but I didn't see how that would be possible when two was SO HARD.

One is HARD. Two is HARD. Really, I don't know how you do it.

56 comments:

jen said...

I totally understand that sentiment - I recently said the same thing to someone with one daughter, who was amazed I stayed sane with 3. Everyone looked at me funny when I said it was EASIER with 2 than it was with 1. And having a baby in the house is easier with siblings who are all too happy to entertain him.

On the other hand I might say that to you because I'd feel pretty silly complaining about my 3 kids if someone had 5 or 7 or 12. I apologize for the tired old line hehe.

Jerseygirl89 said...

That makes me feel a lot better as someone - who's been feeling overwhelmed with two - newly pregnant with number 3.

Sarah Lena said...

That's seriously nice to hear. I suppose it's just ALL hard. Until they're 18.. right?

Moderndayhermit said...

My husband and I have really been up in the air in regards to having a second child. On one hand, if we do it now Alex would be home to entertain. On the other, Alex (2.5 now) would be home and may not be that entertaining.

It is so hard at times having just one and getting enough time to do all the necessary things, it worries me to have two.

It is such a huge decision, sometimes I wonder if I should just let fate decide. If it is dependent on me to make a choice he'll probably be an only.

tulipmom said...

Thanks .... I needed to hear that right now.

Angie said...

This is interesting. Makes me think that we might actually contemplate a third.

Beth Fish said...

I think two is so much easier than one. With one, I spent a lot of my time watching the clock seeing if it was time for my husband to get home yet. With two, I have much less time to worry about it.

Omaha Mama said...

I think too, that it just gets easier and easier with older children. Yes? My kids keep getting more and more fun to be at home with, the older they get. Babies are hard. Having the help with babies, from your older children, that must be nice.

Great post!
(Did you feel better after picking up your son yesterday, after feeling so nervey about leaving him?)

desperate housewife said...

Thank you so much for saying this. People always told me that going from one to two (assuming your first child was fairly easy, as mine was) is the hardest parenting adjustment, and after that it would all be downhill. Seven months in to having two kids, I am now suspecting that this is true. At first I was massively overwhelmed, but now it is seeming somewhat EASIER- I can leave Addy in the living room with her toys and Eli in his exersaucer and they seem to sort of PLAY TOGETHER. Or at least, play alone but in a companionable, side by side fashion which doesn't necessitate my constant presence. It is very nice.

Erica said...

I am beginning to doubt my ability to add a second child to our household. I feel like I have the hang of one child. We have our routines down pat and the thought of another baby in the mix gives me Nervous Tummy. Not to mention the thought of going through that newborn stage again when everything is SO SCARY.

Jess said...

This post is beautiful and makes me simultaneously happy and worried. I think basically all parenting is hard, and everyone is especially good at what they're used to.

Artemisia said...

That's a nice thing to say, Swistle.

Swistle said...

Jen- I find I never get tired of being told how marvelous and competent I am.

Omaha Mama- So far I'm finding that every stage has things that make it easier---and new things that make it harder! It's like how the baby gets out of the newborn stage and starts sleeping through the night---but then they're getting into everything. But older kids can make their own sandwiches, take showers, watch younger kids, and put themselves to bed, which = awesome.

Erica- The second newborn was easier for me: I was way less scared. But I think it might be nicer with a wider spacing---like, a 4-year-old and a newborn would be lovely.

Melissa said...

Thank you!

Jana said...

A HUGE thank you from someone who is six weeks away from delivering #3; I really needed to hear this today. Now if you could tell me how to handle three kids (pre-schooler, toddler, newborn) and the stresses of moving into another home I'd be eternally grateful......

Don Mills Diva said...

Wow - you have no idea how much this post means to me - sometimes I feel like a loser when I find one really hard.

Anonymous said...

Yes! Say this more often! It's exactly the encouragement we mothers need. I come from a large family (7 kids) and always wanted to have at least 4 myself. However, now with one, it's hard and my husband says to me "I don't know how you'll manage even two, if one is this hard!" and I try to tell him that two entertain themselves, and three is more fun and by the time you hit four the oldest can start helping and it's actually better. He doesn't seem to believe me, but I have faith. It's the keeping one solitary child entertained that's tough, not the actual daily care. Here's to having many brothers and sisters!!

Elizabeth said...

This is awesome. This is something I've suspected for awhile actually...I honestly don't know what do with E half the time and I look at him and think "You need some brothers and sisters to keep you busy."
Anyway, now that you have confirmed my suspicions, you might singlehandedly be responsible for me taking the big jump and going for #2.

Jess said...

Well now that's all sorts of interesting. Makes me feel much better really. We too wanted four (hubby five) but after the big ol meltdown we've encountered with two I've all but decided to be done. This is something to think about. Thanks for the great post!

Sarah M. said...

Thank you - I really needed to read this today. :) I have two - a 20 month old and a 2 month old and the days are just so long right now...

AndreAnna said...

I am scared out of my britches to have a toddler and a newborn. They'll be barely two years apart, and it seems everyone is doing this age gap in the blogosphere and every entry I read, they say "OH MY GOD. IT IS SO HARD" and I sit here with this baby in my belly and my toddler eating crayons and wonder how I am going to get through it.

But, we do, don't we?

Erin said...

I know I just said this in your last round of comments, but Awww. This is nice of you to say. Thanks. Because I really DON'T know how you do it. I want more children but the reality of that terrifies me.

Kristin.... said...

I understand that! I just never get 1 to myself. There are always at least two here (usually the twins) and they want my undivided attention~not that easy with only one of me, and two of them. Seems unfair. But, my older two try to play together (most of the time. Ok, some of the time) and sometimes they even slow down enough to play with the twins. Nicely. Which is always nice.

moo said...

You know what? Everyone has it both easier and harder than the next person.

We all make it work, just doing the best that we can. Because, seriously, what the hell is the alternative? Not getting out of bed in the morning?

JK said...

We have 3 and I love it! When I just have one at home, it is hard! I think it's totally EASY at home with 3, but it feels like a circus when we leave the house (hence the tag line on my blog). I like taking one out with me when I run errands. That's fun!

Maybe you can tell us what it's like taking 5 out all at once. Do you do that by yourself? Do you ever do a Target trip with them all and get anything accomplished? I can occasionally manage it, but circumstances have to be JUST right.

Granted, my girls are a bit younger than your kids (as in my oldest one is 6 (then 3.8 and 2.5). I imagine in 2 years it won't be too hard at all. I know everyone says 4 isn't much harder than 3, but I am not up for another pregnancy! (I'm also, not getting any younger, so by the time I might be up for another pregnancy--in about 5 years--my eggs won't be up for another pregnancy!)

JK said...

P.S. I just read Jana's comment. You can let her know we moved when my newborn was 3 weeks old and then again when she was just one year (we moved for a remodel to our house--it's all documented on my blog). My children are spaced closely together too... when we first moved I had a 3.75, 16 month old and newborn.

caley said...

I have been feeling like SUCH a loser lately because of how difficult some (most) of my days with my toddler and newborn seem to be.

This was really, really nice to hear. I needed to hear something like this. I feel encouraged. Thanks, Swistle.

Swistle said...

JK- I do OCCASIONALLY take all five out with me. Usually not, though, since the oldest two are in school. And my mom often comes with me when I go out with the youngest three, so SPOILED MUCH?

Feener said...

interesting, this might push me to have number 3.

Farrell said...

as mommy of a one and only, I STILL don't know how you do it!:) But I also know that she "requires" and I give her a LOT of attention. She is in that "I need help!" and "Get away from me - I big girl - I can do it myself!" stage. And all I can think about is if I had more than one, she'd reach that "I do it myself" stage a LOT faster.

Jen4 @ Amazing Trips said...

I wrote a similar post a few months ago. Yeah, you'd think that if my husband took our (then) two-year-old triplets out and left me home with ONE infant life would be breezy. Yet, I was going NUTS, I could get nothing done.

Now that my Henry is a little older, when I'm left home alone with him, I'll put him on the floor with some pots and pans and he stays completely occupied. Although, I still think it helps to have a handful of kids around to help with the entertainment.

Kristi said...

You are so brilliant for posting this Swistle. When I had my first it was SO HARD, and once you get over the initial learning curve TWO IS SO MUCH EASIER THAN JUST ONE!

I just said to my husband the other day, "Thank God we decided to have another or I'd be batshit crazy by now." Rock on all you mothers of singles....I don't know how the hell you do it.

Linda said...

I think your assessment is accurate. For my first round, I had #s 1 and 2 together (well, 13 minutes apart) and after that HORRIBLE FIRST YEAR, it is way easier. Once they hit the playing together stage it was glorious. Now they're almost 4 and we added a newborn. I am actually a little sad that there weren't 2 of her. Babies should come with an automatic playmate.

I think the more kids you have, the more logistical things you need to worry about. More kids=more laundry, more food prep, etc. It is not a doubling/tripling/quadrupling of the work, though. Making dinner for 5 people is not significantly harder than making dinner for 4 people. The kids play together, true, and that makes everything easier.

JMC said...

Having older ones around to play with the younger ones makes things SO MUCH EASIER. Of course, that's not to say any of it is easy; I just mean in relation to NOT having older ones around. The main thing I've found HARDER with more kids is the chauffeuring part of the whole parenting gig.

d e v a n said...

Hmmm, are you saying that it will actually get EASIER when #3 comes along?!
I think I like this idea...

Alice said...

i was here thinking to myself "see, this is why i need a second cat!" and then realized that i am EXTREMELY LAME. :-)

Saly said...

I feel the same way---having 2 ie easier than one...they entertain each other. Being left home with just one can be crazy!

Amber said...

I agree with you completely. Four was actually my hardest transition (but moving twice before #4 was 18 months old- and then again right before she turned 2 didn't help matters) but now I've got four girls ages 9, 5, 4 and almost three and the younger three play all day with each other and are completely independent of me and it's SO nice! I'm nervous what I'm going to do when #'s 2 and 3 are in school and just my youngest is home. THAT sounds hard to me.

Misty said...

Forgive me. I am drastically skeptical. I had one child for 5 years before having the second one. And the having two thing is way way way harder than just the one. Really.

At least, that is how my life is turning out.

Pann said...

It feels good to have this kind of validation from a mom of five! Thank you!

Some days I think I must be the biggest whiner to have trouble managing my two kids, three cats, and pair of guinea pigs. And a husband. And with a live-in babysitter / cousin.

What I marvel at is the volume of laundry, dishes and food that you must manage. That has got to be harder. Unless you are good at getting your kids to do chores, or something. :)

Shelly said...

Oh God, don't tell me that my husband is RIGHT?! That's his theory - that it gets easier as you have more children. I think I'll go rock in a corner now.

clueless but hopeful mama said...

Bless you for this! I feel like I am overwhelmed sometimes with just my daughter and I think of you (seriously! a total stranger I don't know in real life!) and feel like I must just SUCK.

Nowheymama said...

I *do* think that three is easier than two for me, so far at least. But I understand that there are a lot of other variables besides the *number* of children.

Also, thank you so much for your last post. I really enjoy hearing about the older boys and your relationships with them.

Angie said...

LOL! I have had lots of friends tell me adding a third was a walk in the park and a few friends tell me adding a third was exponentially harder. The ones that complained of having a third have had 4ths and said it is no harder.

KEEP BELIEVING

Swistle said...

Misty- Ha ha! That's because two is HARD! When my secondborn was a baby, that was the hardest time for me.

caley said...

I keep seeing a lot of commenters saying how EASY two is, and I wonder if I'm doing something wrong? I'm having a heck of a time with my two (2 1/2 and 3 months) right now! Am I missing something? Is there some trick I don't know about?

I need a candy bar. And a drink.

Swistle said...

Caley- I don't know! I think two is HARD! Although, it was a TON easier when they got a little older. The toddler/infant thing was like a Hell Dimension.

Steph the WonderWorrier said...

AWESOME post. My goal is three or four kids (at least!) one day... so I like knowing this ahead of time (because I do fear I'll have one or two only and be like, "Okay, this is tough enough!")... but this makes total sense and I'm glad you posted it!
I can also use this to show my future hubby... "SEEE?? We need a whole circus or else this house won't function right!!!" haha.

Kelsey said...

I really appreciate this today. We found out Michael might be coming home at the end of the week and I totally flipped out. Yes, I can't be with him all the time in the NICU, but he has 24 hour nursing care. Wish one of them would accompany us home!

Kristi said...

Caley - Swistle's response about the first year being a Hell Dimension is right on! Just give it a bit - when the youngest hits a year, 18 months, 2 years things get a lot better.

Jenni said...

Exactly! My husband and I talk all the time about how it is so much easier now for us!

Swistle's mom said...

I found having a newborn and a toddler extremely hard. I loved them and had many happy moments, but it was the only time in my life when I sometimes found myself pounding a chair on the floor repeatedly screaming "I can't stand it!" through my teeth and thinking, "I never even knew I had a temper!" The toddler in this case was Swistle, and she was a darling toddler, but still. When Baby Brother was 12 months and Swistle was 3, suddenly -- really, rather suddenly -- it seemed way easier. In fact, easier than having one. But that one year with a newborn and a toddler was the most draining year of my life. I don't know how I did it!

parkingathome said...

You do it because you're amazing. That is how you should reply.
Idiot: How do you DO IT?!
You: Because I'm amazing. Also, duct tape.

SeaBird said...

Ha! As a fellow Mom of twins I've gotten that comment a lot. But I'm starting to realize that having two toddlers is way easier is many ways than having a three year-old and a newborn!

And this morning we had a three year-old friend over for a few hours - which I was dreading - but it turned out really well. Like you said, they all entertain each other!

Glad I found your blog - I'll be back :)

TBG said...

I come from a big family and someday plan to have lots of kids so this was a great post to read. Found you through Indigo Girls Blog.

Buffy said...

You are my hero.