I came across a funny cartoon recently with a mother saying “I don’t have a nine-to-five job; I have a from-the-moment-I-open-my-eyes-till-the-moment-I-close-them job.” Having three-and-a-half-year-old twins, I felt that this described my life quite accurately. It also reminded me of a conversation I heard on the train between two men, a dad of twins and his friend. It went as follows:
Friend: “So how have you been? How is Julie?”
Twin dad: “Julie is fine; she went on a trip a couple of weeks ago with her girlfriends and I was alone with the twins from Saturday till Tuesday.”
Friend: “And how did that go?”
Twin dad: “Well, let’s put it this way: I was really looking forward to going to the office early on Wednesday morning! The 5:30 train couldn’t come fast enough!”
So that’s how exhausting and overwhelming caring for small children can be, especially if you are the “default parent.” According to the author of this blog on the Huffington Post, the default parent “is the one responsible for the emotional, physical and logistical needs of the children.” She funnily describes how her daughter once walked into her parents’ bedroom, past her father and into the bathroom where her mother was showering, to ask her to help her put a necklace on. Of course, the mother was the default parent. I’m sure most of us can totally relate.
I was excitedly telling a friend recently that I finally started skiing again for the first time in five years, and she said that she wasn’t sure she would ski again after having children. She worries about who will take care of her boys if she gets injured while skiing. I hadn’t thought about that before, but it’s a good point. The fact that one does not have close family around is a scary thought, should one get injured or fall ill. But even when one is perfectly healthy, being away from home and not having family support definitely adds to the mental and emotional stress of bringing up children. We all have those days when our patience is tested and we feel we are stretched far beyond our limit, and it does make a difference when we can reach out for help.
On the other hand, bringing up children without outside support does have its advantages. There is a special bond that forms as we share most of the day every day together. I know it sounds weird, but I do miss Giggles and Cuddles when we’re visiting family back home, as I feel I don’t have them all to myself. I would like to think that they feel the same way, too. They also learn to become more independent as they grow because I am simply unable to do everything myself for everyone. And they will eventually grow and need us less, so despite the challenges, we need to cherish every moment now.
During the little free time I have, I try to take care of myself and recharge my energies. I have just finished a six-week clean-eating program that has really helped in putting me on track to cook and eat healthy nutritious food. I also try to exercise at least three times a week. Of course, nothing is more therapeutic than spending time with girlfriends. We eat, drink, vent, and just laugh our hearts out and it’s great.
I am writing this before hitting the ski slopes tomorrow morning for some fun time with hubby and Giggles and Cuddles, while trying to forget the skiing conversation with my friend. She does make a very valid point, but sometimes we need to let go of our fears and worries in order to really enjoy what we have now. I am reminded of Maya Angelou saying: “We spend precious hours fearing the inevitable. It would be wise to use that time adoring our families, cherishing our friends, and living our lives.”
By Didi in Zurich
Didi is an Egyptian mother of twin girls living in Zurich. Before having the twins she worked in the field of economic development. She is currently a stay-at-home mom focused on the growth and development of her daughters.
Illustration by Lara Friedrich
Lara has been a freelance illustrator for Mothering Matters since early 2013. She is in her second year of University where she’s currently working as an assistant in a research project in pedagogy. Lara is also an assistant translator from German to English for various fiction books, as well as being a demo singer for the songwriter Kate Northrop.