Count to 10. Take a deep breath. Give an extra Eskimo kiss.

Motherhood is hard.

People tell you that before you have children. People tell you again and more often when you get pregnant the second time. Then, their voices seem to raise and they seem genuinely confused when they find out you will have two less than fifteen months apart. Didn’t you understand that parenting is HARD?

Two under two became reality for me on April 10. With a babbling, mischievous son who runs and gets into everything he shouldn’t and a newborn daughter who needs me non-stop, I have been in survival mode since my husband returned to work. Not only am I at the beginning of trying to figure out how to mom two kids under the age of two, I am completely isolated out here in Hawaii. Motherhood is isolating, whether or not you live 4,000 miles from family and friends.

The newborn phase is not for the weak. You’re waking at all hours of the night and are completely exhausted. You’re figuring out a new dynamic either for the first time or trying to figure out how the new addition fits in. With a toddler, you are left to rediscover the newborn worries while trying to keep the older one from waking the new baby, getting into a jar of shortening, or breaking the remote or iPhone you keep forgetting he can reach now.

I’m in survival mode every day these days. I’ll be honest when I say it doesn’t feel enjoyable because everything feels like a chore. Everything seems difficult. When I am in survival mode, I am irritated and exhausted on a higher level. I don’t like the mother I am in survival mode. I feel inadequate and inexperienced. Right now, I’m bad at being a mom of two under two. I haven’t even done it a month on my own, but I’m not acing it. Sometimes I feel like I’m barely surviving it.

Today, my 15-month-old son seemed to be trying to make my day difficult (which I know sounds absurd). I know he isn’t purposely trying to anger me or frustrate me. He is simply being a toddler. Between pulling our dog’s tail, trying to understand the difference between petting and hitting his sister, coming close to breaking a few things that I mistakenly left within his reach, I was more than ready for his nap time.

My three week old was sleeping and once my son was down for a nap that meant I could go and have a few moments to myself. And lunch. There was leftover sesame chicken in the fridge, and that was also making me speed things along. I rushed through our two stories and skipped through one verse of our song. But when I went to put him in his crib, something made me sit just a moment longer.

I’m not sure if I thought his blue eyes looked a little sad. Maybe it was the silence in the space babbling usually filled. Whatever it was, I turned him around in the rocking chair and studied him for a few moments while I talked about how the transition to a family of four had been hard. It was hard for him. It was hard for Daddy and me. It was hard for baby sister. It’s hard to be new, too! I said I was sorry for not being as fun, not being as patient, and not being as happy because I was too busy being tired, too busy being worried, and too busy being overwhelmed. He babbled back to me some. I’m not sure how much a 15 month old can understand, but a smile appeared that hadn’t been there earlier.

I leaned in for an Eskimo kiss that earned a hearty giggle from my son. We hadn’t ever done Eskimo kisses, but in that moment, it seemed like a great time to practice. So we sat, face to face in our rocker, Eskimo kissing and giggling for ten minutes past naptime and ten minutes into my quiet time and lunchtime. The sesame chicken and the quiet could wait. I had tapped into a joy that had been muffled for the past few weeks.

Something magical happened for me while I sat there and held my son. The frustration and stress I felt began to melt away. Everything that overwhelmed me seemed a bit trivial. Sure, I was at the beginning of figuring out how to be a mom of two. But to expect perfection of myself was putting unnecessary stress on myself. Yes, parenting is hard. Toddler tantrums are frustrating. Newborn cries are heartbreaking. Sleep deprivation feels downright torturous.

But, it will be okay.

Today, my son taught me that sometimes I just need to count to ten, take a deep breath, and give an extra Eskimo kiss. It’s when I step back and enjoy my children that motherhood ceases to be a chore and survival mode gives way to real joy.

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