When I recently read a new report that found working moms, in particular those working part-time, are healthier and have fewer symptoms of depression than those who stay home with their kids full-time, it didn’t surprise me. Although I’m a big supporter of one parent staying home while the kids are little, I also know firsthand that it can sometimes be lonely, isolating, and with twins, a lot of hard work. During the ten+ years that I was a full-time mom, there were many days when I questioned my decision.
When I found out I was pregnant with twins I was working at a travel magazine. The commute was long and the pay was low but I loved my job. It was creative and fulfilling. After I gave birth, I took a long maternity leave but when I finally returned to work when my boys were four months old, I didn’t last long. The pull to be home with my babies was just too strong. Luckily, my husband had just started a new job with a decent paycheck so we could swing the change financially.
So I quit my job and the next day I officially became a full-time mom. I was truly home alone. All day. With two infant twins.
I didn’t take long for me to realize that my Ozzie and Harriet dream didn’t match the reality. Don’t misunderstand—I loved being with my boys and watching them grow but there were many days where I was lonely. Very lonely. I’m missed the day-to-day interaction with other adults. I missed the creativity that working outside the home offered. Further complicating the issue were the demands of two babies. Learning to nurse, bathe and put two down for a nap at the same time—by myself, no less—took practice and patience. None of my other girlfriends were around for moral support and companionship as they were all working full-time. Ditto for extended family. Even my neighborhood was a vast ghost town from nine to five. (I remember once when I lost power in my home, I walked outside to see if it was widespread. As I stood in the street and looked from house to house, I realized that I’d never get my answer as no one else was around. It was a sobering moment.)
And there in lies the difference between my mother’s generation and mine. My mom had a huge social network of friends all with children around the same age. They frequently met at the local pool in summer or New York City in the winter where they’d take advantage of free cultural events. Even my mother-in-law talks about her thriving Southern California suburban neighborhood back in the mid-1960s when most women stayed home with their kids and the streets were always abuzz with activity. The neighborhood ladies got together often, corralling the kids in play yards or the backyard, and held pot-luck lunches and even played a few hands of cards. There was never time to feel melancholy—if you felt lonely or blue, you headed next door for a cup of coffee and some fellowship.
But unlike my mom and my mother-in-law, I had a career prior to becoming a mom so I knew what I was missing. For me—a very social person—I knew that if I didn’t get out of the house on a regular basis with my twins (and without), I would begin to feel trapped. So I got out. Often. I never shied away from taking my kids anywhere when they were young. From the supermarket to kid-friendly museums, we were constantly on the go from the time they were six weeks old. I also had a schedule of regular outings so I’d always have something to look forward to—Monday was errand day (in the supermarket, I employed the “two shopping cart” technique where I’d pull one and push the other), Tuesday was play group, Wednesday was library story time (I shopped around until I found the cream of the crop complete with craft and snack), with the help of a local college student who baby-sat a few hours every week, Thursday was “me time,” and Friday was excursion day (museums, picnic lunches with dad at a local park near his office, and even a last-minute dash out to the desert to see the Space Shuttle land). It was all these activities that kept me sane and focused on raising (and loving) my boys.
So if you’re pregnant with twins and thinking about staying home full-time should you change course and head back to the office? Absolutely not. The benefits to your kids are too great. Instead, try adjusting your expectations and be proactive in crafting your destiny. To help you get started, follow these tips.
- Build a network of support. Join a play group or Mother’s of Twins Club. Even before your babies are born, check out the options in your neighborhood and make an effort to connect with other moms. Interacting with others in the same stage of life as yourself is enormously beneficial to your overall mental well-being.
- Use social networking to reach out to other parents. Join Facebook, Google+ or blog. Hit the twin message boards at TWINS Magazine and Twiniversity.
- Find your passion. For you it may be singing, music or art. For me, it was writing. And fortunately, when my boys were about six months old, a publisher contacted me looking for a writer to pen a book about twins. (I was lucky. In those days, with the twin explosion just about underway, publishers were scrambling to get books written on the subject, and the creative process involved in writing Double Duty was extremely fulfilling.)
- Find a part-time baby-sitter, mother’s helper, family friend or relative who can come over on a regular basis so that you can get out of the house.
- Invest in a double stroller like the BOB Sport Utility Duallie and take your twins out for a daily stroll. Exercising on a regular basis will not only help get rid of your postpartum belly but it also stimulates chemical changes in your brain to help improve your mood!
- Find a part-time job. According to the report, women who work part-time had the best of both worlds—they reported fewer symptoms of depression during their children’s infancy and preschool years than moms who didn’t work outside the home. Furthermore, part-timers reported less conflict between work and family than mothers who work full-time as the former were more free to engage in their children’s school life.
- Never say never. Develop a can-do attitude and you can tackle the world…with your twins right by your side!