Lea, an elementary literacy coach in Chattanooga, TN, is experiencing the tug of being in “the sandwich generation” at only 32. Her mother-in-law suffers from bipolar disorder and requires a lot of attention and care from Lea’s husband — which places more of the child-rearing burden on Lea. Because of this, and being somewhat taken aback at how hard having a second child was, she cut back from full-time to working three days a week. She also took on a brave new hobby in her spare time (like that’s a thing). You will not believe what she manages in a day — on how little sleep — and that she still considers herself a “low-energy” person. Ahead, Lea takes us to school.
My job: I worked full-time when Avery was a baby and felt that we spent every day working and then just getting ready for the next day. I hated missing the best part of his day (the morning, when he is the most playful and pleasant) and knew that I wanted more time with him. Then, Jordan's mom had an episode and had to live with us for a while. It was a crazy time! After that, I decided to try working part-time. However, these early years with my kids will be gone in a blink. It's almost every mom's struggle. This balance works for me: I work three days a week, doing what I love, and then spend the weekend and two weekdays with my kids; we get to do fun things together, get housework done, etc., without it getting too chaotic. It also helps me not to feel like doing stuff for Jordan's mom is a burden or taking away from rare family time. It's not perfect; having two kids is still challenging, but this is what works for us right now.
Before kids, we both slept as long as possible and got up at the last possible second.
Our toddler gets up between 6 and 6:30 a.m. My husband gets up with him. He gets him his breakfast and turns on the TV for him. (I actually don't love this, but since Jordan does it every morning without complaint, I try not to say anything.) I typically sleep until 6:45 a.m. or so on workdays, then my husband gets the baby dressed while I get ready. Lunches, bags, etc. have been packed the night before. I shower the night before, too, so all I have to do is get dressed. I'm pretty minimalist, so it doesn't take long. (I have gone to the capsule wardrobe concept, because it saves me time shopping and time thinking about what to wear.) Before kids, we both slept as long as possible and got up at the last possible second. We didn't have coffee every morning, because we didn't need it. We are not morning people. That was our biggest adjustment to parenting!
Everyone needs something from me at the same time.
I just feel like I need to justify this and prove that I'm not a bad parent, because my kid doesn't sleep through the night.
"This is just the season of life we are in."
We divided the duties like this mostly based on the baby. I am still up with him several times a night, so that is why my husband gets up with our 3 year old. Then, I have a very set time that I have to be at work by, so that's why I have to leave earlier and my husband can wait to get ready until I leave. I bring the baby with me, mostly because of nursing. He started refusing a bottle, so we're pretty much attached! Before we had our second baby, we would rotate mornings to get up with Avery. I'm sure gender stereotypes have played a part. I do all of the cooking, Jordan does the yard work, etc. We split the inside cleaning most of the time. I have more time to do it, but Jordan is a neater person than me...so, he does some of it for his sanity, I'm sure! I do the laundry right now, but at other times he's done more of it. He also does the dishes 80% of the time. How do you feel about your body now and how is that different from your self-image pre-baby?
After baby number two, I feel pretty good about my body. I was always fairly self-conscious of my figure before having kids. After my first, I felt self-conscious about my stretch marks and different shape. I finally got to a place where I liked how I looked after about a year-and-a-half. This time, I lost the weight sooner (thanks to eliminating dairy and soy, because of the baby’s allergy) and was already used to my post-baby shape, so I felt more confident. My stretch marks don't bother me anymore, but I think it's because I'm too busy/tired to notice them! What have you felt the least prepared for so far?
I was not prepared for my second child to be so different from my first. I mentally prepared for how going from one to two would be more work, because there would be two, but I did not prepare for having to do all of the problem solving and worrying all over again. I also was not prepared for the challenges of mothering as an introvert. I really love having quiet alone time, and with two kids, it doesn't happen — especially with a very verbal 3 year old. Honestly, that's one of the things I look forward to coming to work for, the quiet I sometimes get during the day!
What do you do truly for yourself?
Not much. I haven't had a haircut in 10 months (I'm embracing the long-hair look)! My husband and I do a three-month workout rotation (he gets to focus on working out for three months and then I get to), but we are currently not in my rotation. Some friends convinced me to join a 30-plus women's soccer league. (I had never played before.) Jordan handles the boys while I play a game. It’s tricky to work in Alex's feedings around the games, but I am loving getting to do something for me and having a built-in workout for the week. What is your sex life like now and how has it changed since before you had kids?
Before kids, we just tried to have sex pretty regularly. We went to bed at the same time and would talk before going to bed. It was a nice way to stay connected and would sometimes lead to more than talking. Now, it's not as regular and when it happens, we feel rushed, in case a kid is going to wake up. I think it's okay. Neither of us is thrilled about it, but we know it's just the season of life that we are in. Ed. note: Names have been changed.