I don’t often leave the house, but when I do, I can tell those around me who have had children and who have not.
They don’t have to say a word.
The “haves” make a face of understanding. A sweetish smirk mixed with the slightly raised eyebrows that say, “If it weren’t 10am, I’d buy you a bottle of wine”. They shower me with patience and sometimes acts of kindness. While my two year old is asking “What is that?!?!? Mama, Mama, MAMA !!!What is that?!?!” to each item going down the checkout belt, while my three month old is screaming and puking at the same time, the “haves” smile patiently behind me in line. Sometimes they will talk to Eloise to get her to stop asking so many questions. Sometimes they will pull my shopping cart out for me, or help me with my bags. They turn the other way when my boobs are leaking and my hair is caked solid with spit up and I can’t find my debit card because Eloise dumped my purse out in the car. The people who have had children walk straight into the hurricane of my life in their rainboots and don’t even flinch. They know what my life is like. We have a deep understanding with one another. They know I know they know.
The “have-nots”, however, are a different story. Let it be known that most people are nice when I try to go out in public with my children. They are nice, but their body language gives it all away. While the “haves” act as a weatherman in a tidal wave, the “have-nots” are the people watching on TV: interested, but glad they are on dry land. They feel sorry for me, or are annoyed with the lack of order in my appearance. Some of them keep a safe perimeter, just in case this craziness is contagious. I see it clearly, but I don’t blame them one bit.
I was a “have-not” myself, until a few months ago. Because living life with one chlid is completely different than having two children. People have been asking me what it is like having two, and I haven’t been able to really formulate an answer until now. You “haves” can stop reading now. You already know. So-and-So take note, all you “have-nots”; this is the DL on life with more than one.
Having two children is like doing a triathlon while carrying two children. It mostly impossible and you certainly aren’t going to look good doing it.
Life is like a triathlon. You have to run, swim, bike, work, live, eat, make a career for yourself, move forward, keep basic hygiene intact, maintain relationships, be a good citizen, look good, smell good, grow emotionally, grow financially, grow spiritually, grow an organic garden in your backyard, be nice, be funny, be responsible, etc, etc, etc…
And doing all of these things is hard enough as it is. Being a human is hard work these days. As any good triathlete will tell you, It takes training, sweat, the right equipment, and even spaghetti dinners the night before to be successful. So there I was, just a married lady doing my best to keep up in the triathlon. I wasn’t going to win any medals, but I kept in stride with the pack. My form was okay. I kinda looked like I knew what was doing. I was headed for the finish line.
Then Eloise came on the scene. It was a hard adjustment at first (you can read more about that here, here, here, here, and here), but I slowly figured out a way to keep running, swimming, and biking with her in tow. One child can ride piggy back, over the shoulder or in your arms. This, translated to my real life, meant that I could still work from home (run), maintain relationships and mental capacity (swim), and grow personally (bike) with one kid. I looked ridiculous doing so, and my pace was way slow, but I kept moving.
But, when you add a second child into the mix, motion breaks down. I can’t seem to get a balance to my gait with two kids. One over the shoulder and one in my arms? One on the back and one tucked into my bra? One clutching my leg and one gripping my head like a scared monkey? None of these positions work out so well. I can’t get a rhythm. I can’t gain speed. But I have to keep moving, come hell, high water, or leaky boobs in Wal-Mart. I still have to work from home (run), maintain relationships and mental capacity (swim), and grow personally (bike). I can’t just sit down and quit. So I end my days exhausted and sweating, covered in every bodily fluid imaginable (mine and theirs), dragging the fruit of my loins behind me in an attempt to gain inches.
The “have-nots” breeze by and turn to stare back politely, either in pity or annoyance. My childless friends are crossing their personal finish lines, and looking good doing so. They wear cute workout clothes and listen to their iPods and climb into their Jettas and Miatas and other cars that end with the letter “a” and move on to the next race. Fellow runners with one child are slower, but moving with more ease than I could hope to. They happily share one of their earbuds with their one child, and scoot off in their yoga pants.
And then there’s me, dragging behind with the other “haves”, just doing the best we can to keep putting one foot in front of the other. I look ridiculous in my puke-and-duke stained pajamas that I wear all day. I can’t listen to music since each kid has an earbud. Instead, I listen to the sounds of baby farts and “Mama, what’s that?!?!?”. I don’t have a car that ends with “a”- I have a minivan, and it is full of putrid sippy cups and torn books and melted crayons and granola bar bits. I haven’t crossed a finish line in ages, and there aren’t any coming my way.
But my situation is not hopeless (otherwise, I’d be drinking wine at 10am on the reg). And that is the secret that we “haves” all share. It’s the rainboots in which we walk into the hurricane. We know I know we know: carrying the weight of children doesn’t make you a better triathlete, but it definitely makes you a stronger person- the strongest of people. Who cares if we suck at running, swimming and biking if our hearts and souls are getting stronger? Who cares if we never cross a finish line again, if we are getting the workout of our lives inch by inch?
The greatest lie I have to do battle with on a daily basis is that I am nothing if I have no accomplishments to show for myself- no finish lines crossed, or medals won. My four-years-ago self, the self that started this blog in her cute workout clothes and Toyota Corolla, would be appalled to see the me of today, dragging along, looking ridiculous, with two kids in tow. My four-years-ago self would have breezed by, glanced back at the chaos, and felt pity and a desire to keep a safe perimeter. I had things to accomplish. Finish lines to cross. Earbuds to listen to. There were dark corners of disappointment and unaccomplishment I didn’t have the stamina to visit. Dying to yourself (just like running a triathlon with two children in tow) is really, really hard work. Stupid hard. But stupid hard work makes you stupid strong, and the “haves” know this.
So-and-so to my “have-not” friends, that is what having two children is like. You can’t truly understand it until you are strong enough to be there with us other “haves”, sweating and creeping along in this triathlon called life. But rest assured, if you get brave enough to leave the house, we will be there for you. Just look for the rainboots.