In the midst of this chaos, there are a few routines I hold dear for myself and my kids. I swim twice a week before work and go on a run on the weekend with my husband. I cuddle the twins in the morning and greet my oldest before she goes off to school. The twins keep me company (and get into absolutely everything) in the bathroom as I get ready for work. Most nights, we eat dinner together as a family. I bathe the twins and read them stories. Before I settle in to finish what work remains from my day, I usually get to hear one middle school anecdote from my elder daughter.
During the week, this never feels like enough time with my little ones, but we can usually catch up on some quality time on the weekends. Then, I get to play outside with the twins and have at least a few shouting, door-slamming altercations with my soon-to-be teen. What's hardest is twofold:
1) Remembering last fall - This time last year I was at home on maternity leave, enjoying the coming season with my new babies and taking long walks with my husband and napping kids.
2) Not remembering last fall - Thanks to biology, sleep deprivation, and age, I can barely picture what my babies looked like and how they behaved last year.
When my oldest was one, I mourned each passing month and drove myself crazy trying to squint backwards to recapture what she was like as a tiny baby. I felt enormously guilty spending time away from work focused on other pursuits, like applying for new jobs or taking statistics at a local community college to prepare for business school. In hindsight I see that the guilt was not only misplaced but useless.
This time around, I shrug off similar thoughts more easily. I focus on being present with my kids for the short time that I have with them during the week. (Though it feels short, apparently it's 21% more than my 1965 doppleganger.) It has brought me peace to remember that as one door closes in my babies' lives, another opens. They may no longer be breastfeeding, but now they are learning to communicate with me, giving way to a new satisfaction.
To new mothers who want to relish absolutely everything in their new babes' lives, let me offer these words: Life will get insanely busy, but slow down and give your kids what you can of yourself. Some weeks you may not be able to give as much as you'd like, but your smile will keep them going just as theirs does for you.