Two weeks ago, I returned to a full-time job outside the home for the first time since my twins were four months old. With my fraternal twin sons busy
partying studying at college and my singleton occupied with high school, the timing of my position as an elementary school librarian couldn’t be better! A steady paycheck to help offset the staggering cost of sending both twins to college is a true Godsend. Although I loved being home all these years (it gave me the opportunity to build a freelance writing career), it certainly was a sacrifice both emotionally as well as financially (few freelance writers can actually support themselves). So if you’re thinking about staying home full-time with kids, go in with your eyes wide open.
In hindsight, here’s what I learned.
1. You are in the minority.
In 2013, nearly 70% of women with children under the age of 18 worked outside the home. By contrast, only 47% of moms worked outside the home back in 1975. The difference between “then” and “now” will have an impact on you. If you choose to stay home with your twins, you’ll clearly be in the minority as I was. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, mind you, but consider this: the days of neighborhoods teaming with at-home moms and preschool kids are over. More than likely, your girlfriends will be working; your neighbors will be working. And from 9 to 5, Monday through Friday, your neighborhood may resemble a ghost town. (I know mine did and it was a bit disconcerting like the time I lost power in my home and headed outside to see if anyone else had lost theirs except no one was home to ask! It was a true Twilight Zone moment.)
2. You need to actively seek out a posse.
Although 70% of moms are working, 30% are home with the kids just like you. The trick is finding them. For moms who are “joiners,” establishing a posse will take just a few weeks. For others, however, finding the right people will take time. But make no mistake—you will need support! You need to surround yourself with other moms (and dads) who have chosen the same path in life as you. Although your friends who work full time can be very supportive and sympathetic, few truly understand the challenges that the stay-at-home mom of twins faces every day.
So join a play group or Mothers of Twins group, attend library story time, get a membership to an indoor playground or kids museum. For it’s at these types of venues where you’ll meet and connect socially with other stay-at-home parents just like yourself.
3. Even though there’s lots of noise, staying home with the twins can still be isolating and lonely.
There will be days—cold rainy days, everybody-in-the-house-is-sick days, waiting-for-the-repair-guy-all-day days—when it’s just impossible to go out. And after about eight to ten hours stuck at home alone with the kids, you’ll be ready for a stiff drink or a straight jacket. Some of us don’t mind getting down on the floor and playing Barbies for four hours straight. But others (me!) can’t handle play time for more than 30 minutes at a stretch and crave adult interaction, some adult conversation.
Now, reread #2.
4. A little TV never hurt anyone.
Before you have kids, you think, “I’ll never let my kids sit in front of the TV all day!” And then you have kids, and think, “I used to watch TV as a kid and it didn’t hurt me, so what’s the harm?”
Hey, if you can truly live without TV (or XBox, PlayStation, Nintendo DS), then more power to you! I am truly in awe of those families but we were never one of them. Although we were an active family with lots of indoor and outdoor imaginary play, when I had had enough, I would turn on PBS or a video and in a matter of minutes, a sense of calm once again reigned over my domain. As my kids zoned out to Big Bird, I had time to regroup, or at the very least, make lunch in peace.
But as most things in life, everything in moderation.
5. Don’t let twins stop you from venturing out.
Many new moms of twins are simply too overwhelmed at thought of packing up two infants and heading out for the day. So they stay home for that first year wishing for the days when they will be mobile again.
Don’t be one of those moms.
Not only are you wishing away the most precious time in your twin’s lives but your fear is a bit overblown. Sure, it’s tough for one mom to maneuver two infants. But you can do it! And the payoff is significant.
Every time I headed out for the day, I came home refreshed and rejuvenated. I returned believing that there was nothing I couldn’t do. I was an independent stay-at-home mom!
So start small. One mom told me that when her twins were infants, she used to head to the drive-through coffee kiosk. Once she had her hot cup of joe, she’d park and read a book while her twins peacefully snoozed in their car seats. You can do that, can’t you? Once you feel confident, graduate to the mall or even the beach! Heck, I even took my toddlers to see the Space Shuttle land at Edwards Air Force Base. (It was a crazy day that we still laugh about.)
6. You need a schedule.
For me, the monotony of the everyday minutia got to me from time to time. But once I got my twins and myself on a schedule, things changed significantly. For instance, knowing that my twins would nap from 9 to 11 every morning and then again from 2 to 4 every afternoon, helped me to hang on to my sanity. I could plan my day accordingly—I knew when I could shower, or eat, or even write. Having my twins on a schedule made me feel “normal.”
7. Don’t forget your exit plan.
Hard to believe but your twins will grow up. Even harder to believe is that very soon, they won’t need you on a minute-to-minute basis. And then what? What will you do? Many moms would like to head back to the workforce but quickly learn that it isn’t easy finding a job that matched the career they gave up all those years ago to stay home.
In addition to keeping up with the kids, you’ll need to keep up with your skills. At the very least, subscribe to journals within your chosen field so that you can stay current with market trends. Or, take a night class or class online to learn a new skill. And all those volunteer hours that you put in at your twins’ preschool? Document those too as they are valuable skills that future employers look for. (i.e. Organizing the school book fair, taking on the task of PTA treasurer.) Stay in contact with former colleagues, too, by meeting for lunch every few months.
Staying home is a noble profession. Time with your children is so important as they truly grow up very quickly. Make it enjoyable. Make it count.