Through Charlotte’s eyes.
April 15, 2013

A couple days ago, Charlotte asked me if I could take a picture of her singing to her sister.  These opportunities do not present themselves very often – and, truth be told, lately I have been acutely aware of how many fewer photographs (and blog posts) there are of Evelyn as compared to her sister at the same age – so naturally, I acquiesced.

Then she asked if she could take some pictures of her sister on her own.  Giving Charlotte the camera is one of my favorite things to do; I love to see the world as she sees it.  So I secured it around her wrist, reminded her not to touch the lens, and let her have at it.

I am finding parenthood with two children to be immensely challenging.  I feel like I am always a step behind.  Several of my neighbors and close friends have three, four, five, six children and they somehow seem to have their act together.  Then there’s me, always twenty minutes late, always a few hours behind on sleep, one child or another seemingly always sick.

But when I see these pictures, I don’t see any of that.  I don’t see the time Charlotte was traumatized by my complete oblivion to Pajama Day at school.  I don’t see the time I downplayed everyone’s concern about Evelyn’s symptoms, then took her to the doctor and found out she had bronchitis, a raging ear infection, and strep throat all at once.  I don’t see the time Charlotte told one of her friend’s parents that Momma and Daddy “like to watch adult movies” (and sadly, she informed them, we don’t let her join in) or the time she screamed so loud that passersby on a walk stopped in to make sure I wasn’t killing her (I wasn’t, I just didn’t have the right color hairbow available when she wanted it) or the time I didn’t notice that Evelyn had thrown up while being carried on my back until long after it was dried and crusted into my hair.

No, all I see when I look at these pictures is joy.  My babies laughing together, cooing together, enjoying one another’s company.  And when I see that, the failures don’t seem quite as bad.

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  1. By on April 15, 2013

    Oh hunny, they don’t have it all together, they have just learned to cope. you will too. life with more than one isn’t easy, and it shouldn’t be. if it was or is… well then in my opinion you aren’t doing it right. Its chaotic, one needs something but your feeding the other, one needs a diaper but the other has a booboo. (hint… always do the oldest first…they are quicker). give yourself time, and laugh at the mistakes.

    Things got easier around here, when Makenna turned one…granted she wasn’t an easy baby, and she cried for 365 days all day, no matter what, but the kid turned one…and finally I felt like I knew what I was doing.

    Not realizing there was throw up in your hair, just means you were enjoying the moment, that something like that didn’t get on your radar.

    as for down playing the kiddo being sick…been there. Makenna was a month old, Arianna had bronchiolitis, so to try to protect makenna from it, we sent her to my moms….she was gone almost a week when my mom called me and told me something wasn’t right with Makenna, I told her to stop it…she was fine, I had to deal with Arianna, who was on steroids and breathing treatments every 2 hours. next night she calls me in a panic, at 11pm telling me NO in fact something IS wrong…so I drove 45 minutes to go get her.. I get there, and the kid seemed fine. until that morning, rushed her the ER and there she stayed for 3 days (granted the hospital did nothing for her, and told me she wasn’t wheezing…when she was) she too ended up on steroids, and breathing treatments every 2 hours, now I am fairly certain she has asthma from it (she would have gotten sick either way I learned later, so sending her to my mothers did nothing…it was too late at that moment).

    my point being.. never beat yourself up, your a mom, a damn good one. we all look back and think “ok…seriously? wtf did I just do that?“ or “how did I miss that????“

    the pictures are fantastic, you should frame them!

  2. By Desiree on April 16, 2013

    These photos that she took are awesome! What a great idea! My little one, who is 2, always asks me to put the camera around her neck when I take it out. It being a pretty expensive DSLR I try and convince her it is not a good idea. Although, I do have a point and shoot I could give her to take pictures of her world with. That would be interesting! Thanks for the inspiration!

  3. By on April 16, 2013

    Maybe my data sample is too small, but you seem to be rockin’ the double child thing. Both kiddies seem so content and you seem so relaxed. :) :) Gave me hope! :)

  4. By Sarah Christensen on April 16, 2013

    Desiree - Yeah, I only give her the point-and-shoot.  And she actually has a relative’s cast-off dysfunctional point-and-shoot that is all hers, but it’s really limping along and frequently doesn’t record the images she tries to take.  Oh well; she still enjoys it!

    Mary Ann - LOL, well I definitely don’t think you can count that Thursday when there were like ten people there to help me out!

  5. By on April 16, 2013

    I’ve heard that it gets easier after two… One child to two children is a harder transition than two children to three, or five children to six. I’m feeling less stressed about #3 than I was about our #2, so, so far I think it’s true. It’ll take time to get to the place when you feel like you can handle two… I just got to that place a month or two ago, so I’m just relishing it and trying to stay on top of the laundry and dishes until #3 comes and throws a wrench into our well laid plans.

  6. By on April 16, 2013

    How big is Charlotte now?  I remember you saying she was a massive baby but she looks really tall in that first picture!  And how is preschool and weaning going?

    And don’t beat yourself up!  You were probably too busy loving your girls to notice the barf in your hair.  I remember the first time I nannied overnight and I went to preschool with the girls (2&3 yo) the next morning and wondered, how did all these other moms do it?  How are they not dead?  It’s hard but you’ll get the hang of it.

  7. By Sarah Christensen on April 16, 2013

    Julien - Charlotte is pretty tall, but I’m not really sure what her exact height is because it’s been a awhile since we measured her.  We scheduled her three-year well-check at Evelyn’s first doctor’s appointment a few months ago and she was 42 inches and 35 pounds at that point.  In the last couple months she doesn’t seem to have grown much taller but has leaned out a bit and developed more muscle, especially in her legs.  She’s almost exclusively in 5T clothing with some 4T - particularly in the pants, since her legs don’t seem to be quite long enough for all 5T yet.

    Preschool is going really well - we love it!  I keep waxing on and on about it to my husband lol.  The community is really great and supportive and her French is coming along very well - she recently started to sight recognize a few words in French, so one of the teachers asked me to pounce on that with her this summer.  We’ll see how it goes =)  We also recently had a school concert and she was so stinking cute.  She ended up backing out so she watched the concert with us instead of participating in it, but it was just so sweet to see her playing with her friends and hear all the kids singing and speaking French.  My heart can’t take the cuteness lol.

    Weaning is a bust, seriously, it’s a total fail.  I thought we’d succeeded and we planned a weaning party and AT THE WEANING PARTY she crawled into my lap and asked for milk.  Sigh.  It’s just not coming along at all right now and is actually a huge topic of conversation between Donald and me at the moment - I still want to nudge her toward weaning and he wants to keep at it for as long as she will.  So we’ll see how it goes.

    Are you still a nanny?  I imagine taking care of two so close in age must be exhausting!

  8. By on April 16, 2013

    Hi Sarah!

    Yes, I’m still a nanny.  It’s something I stumbled into after graduating college (three years ago)  It’s actually how I found your site.  I was researching potty training for one of the kids I was watching and stumbled upon a post of yours… I remember the picture of Charlotte’s legs while she was standing outside.  You so perfectly and poetically capture so many ideas and feelings I had regarding raising little ones. I was hooked and maybe a year or two ago I read back through your whole site.  It’s always the first blog I check in the morning.  Basically, I crush hard on your parenting style.  : )
    I’ve watched one family for 3 years with kids who are 8 & 9.  I pick them up from school and help with homework, piano and EVERYTHING until their parents get home around dinner time.  I’ve been with that family almost daily since I started nannying.

    Morning families tend to have younger children and their needs change faster than school aged kids, therefore I’ve had a bunch of (well loved) families for morning work.
    -I had a morning family with boys aged 16m and 2 (when I started) that I watched for a year. 
    -Then a family with girls who were 2 and 3 which I still watch on occasion.  They were the ones I referenced when I was quite sure all moms were secretly robots because seriously, HOW CAN ANYONE DO THIS 24/7??  It is sooo much work!  Sometimes I watch them when their parents go out of town and last time the younger one decided she didn’t want to be potty trained anymore so I also did about 10 loads of laundry in 3 days.  Everybody swears it’s easier when they are your own kids, but I kinda don’t believe it because when I go home at night, my house is clean and I get to pee without an audience.
    -My current morning job is a baby who just hit 10 months.  She was a premie so adjusted she’s only 8m and I’ve been with her since she was a month. She is amazing.  She is the most high-needs baby I have ever met, so that’s a new challenge.

    Come to think of it, all the children I’ve ever watched have been extremely close in age.  The greatest spread is 16 months and that’s still pretty tight.  It’s nice because they are generally pretty evenly matched for skills and you can entertain them in really similar ways.

    I’ve potty trained, sleep trained, loved, taught, disciplined, fed, rocked, hugged, played, kissed away pain and celebrated the joys of many kids.  I feel so honored to have landed in a profession that I love and work with people I respect.  I have learned so much from all these different great families who all have something special to offer as people and parents.  I try to stash away all my experiences and I hope when I’m blessed enough to have kids, I’ll remember all these awesome lessons.  I can’t wait to be a mom.

    Sorry for the novel!

  9. By on April 17, 2013

    Paragraph 4 is my life completely!  I have 2 (3 and 1) and I don’t know how everyone else seems to do it and they do it so much better than me!  I always feel so relieved after hearing that other people feel the way I do.  I love the moments that you describe so well here where all the failures of the day fade away.  Thanks for the post!

  10. By Amanda Brown on April 17, 2013

    This post is so lovely, so honest and true. I also really struggled with parenting two kids. Because it’s HARD. My toddler was very strong-willed and challenging and I felt lost at sea when it came to parenting her, all tile battling zero sleep and a cranky newborn. Those years at home for me are the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and I lost myself a little while I was so mired in sleeplessness, feedings, tantrums and laundry. Now we’ve got three kids and there is still the exhaustion and challenges, but we’re making it and finding our way and you will too. You really are in the trenches, Sarah, and you are doing a marvelous job. Truly. Your girls are so beautiful, you are so devoted to them and your marriage, and everything is going to be OK.

  11. By Nadine on April 18, 2013

    Hi. I have two little ones as well. They are both 11 month old. It is a balancing act. Even though mine are the same age they have different demands and seem to demand them at the same time. :) Don’t let others make you fell like you don’t measure up. You never know what truly goes on in someones home and so they may not have it as “together” as you think. I love the pictures your daughter took. :)

  12. By on April 18, 2013

    “I have been acutely aware of how many fewer photographs (and blog posts) there are of Evelyn as compared to her sister”

      I have a friend who came to the hospital with a camera when my second child was born. She took some pictures and said laughingly, “Just in case you don’t get around to taking some yourself.“  She was a second child and was “acutely aware” of how many more pictures there were of her older sister than of herself. Of course she was honest enough to say that there were even fewer of her baby sister.  That tells me that the struggle of caring for multiple children has been going on for decades. It also tells me everyone will make it just fine. It is hard work, without a doubt, this job of raising fine human beings, I wish society gave it more honor, but I was pleased enough by it’s worth to be proud that I was a mother, as all of you should be as well. Well done ladies.

  13. By Sarah Christensen on April 18, 2013

    Julien - Novels are always welcome here!! =)  It’s so awesome to see how much you love your job.  I nannied for a family with three children for about 18 months, but never overnight.  Sometimes there was a late night if the parents wanted to have a date night, but usually I showed up around 6ish in the morning and was out before dinner.  It’s such a demanding job; my hat is off to you! =)  I really did love it, though, and although I still see that family frequently, the kids have grown so much that it’s not the same, you know?  I really do miss them the way I knew them.  (This is making me weepy thinking about it).

    I also think that nannying really prepared me for parenting in a way I could have never anticipated.  I remember when Charlotte was potty training, everyone around me who was in the same boat with their kid was freaking out and I was like “no biggie, I’ve done it twice already, I’ve got this” lol.  You’ll be a great mom when the day comes!  All that experience and knowledge, and all of that community and support…what a lucky little one =)

    Also, thank you for the kind words about my blog and parenting.  You made me smile!

    Amanda - Thank you so much!  I know what you mean about losing yourself; sometimes I feel that way too.  I was actually thinking the other day about how much I miss some of my pre-baby “me” - like I don’t read the same books, engage in the same activities, etc, and I really miss it.  I feel like that period of life where I dove into parenting with blinders on really served us well in setting up a family groove that worked for us, but I’m ready to slowly edge out of that and reclaim parts of our old lives.  But the caretaking of such small children is so time- and labor-intensive that sometimes I wonder if it’ll ever happen.  We’ll see, I guess!  Fingers crossed!

    Mitzie -  LOL I was talking to a third child the other day and she described herself as “the lost child” when it came to photos and video…I comforted myself with the knowledge that she didn’t really hold it against her parents or seem any worse the wear for it as an adult =)

  14. By Charlotte on April 19, 2013

    Kids forget those small things, they remember the love and safety you give them :)

    Lovely girls!

  15. By on April 21, 2013

    I just read your comment above about how Charlotte’s weaning isn’t going well. To be honest the comment about how you want to stop and your husband wants you to keep going made the feminist in me rise up a little (sorry!) I think since you are the one providing that milk, and you’re the one at home with her all day, and you’re the one who admitted you are a better mother when you don’t nurse her that the decision should be yours, or at the very least you should have more say in the matter than your husband. You’re the mama and you know what is best for your sweet babies and you!

    Why did you give in at the weaning party?

  16. By Sarah Christensen on April 21, 2013

    Kara - Don’t be sorry.  When he mentioned it, the feminist in me was a little riled up too =)

    When it comes to the weaning decision, I have always tried to give Donald an equal say in the matter for a few reasons.  First of all, his family places a much higher premium on full-term nursing (well, on breastfeeding at all actually) than mine.  And secondly, I place a high premium on co-parenting as equally as possible; I want our children to view their father as an equal player in the household and in their lives.

    That said, shortly before Charlotte reached 3.5 years old I felt a sort of switch turn off on this front.  I just started to feel very strongly that I wanted Charlotte off the breast.  When we were discussing it, I actually said something to the effect of “I made it 3.5 years.  That’s a long time and the only reaction you SHOULD be voicing right now is support for whatever decision I make.  I understand you having reservations about me weaning a baby or a toddler, but Charlotte is neither any longer.  At some point, I think that it is totally fair for me to reclaim bodily autonomy from my child and we have reached that point.  It upsets me that you are not as excited about this big transition as I am.“

    Only when I said it out loud it took like ten times as many words because I’m not the most concise person on the planet =P Anyway, when I put it like that, Donald’s response was something akin to “I didn’t mean to upset you and I’m sorry.  This is your body and I trust you to make the best decision for Charlotte and you both.  I support whatever you choose.  I’m really just surprised; I assumed it would go on longer and I thought that you really enjoyed nursing her so this feels like it is coming out of left field.“

    And that’s sort of where the discussion is right now.  I believe that Donald understands how I feel about the matter and that he will stand by my choice.  He is certainly aware of the fact that I am continuing to nudge her towards weaning and he has helped me (just this evening when Charlotte started asking for milk, he was more than happy to help me redirect her attention and to discuss with her that Evie needs the milk because she’s still a baby, etc).  We don’t seem to agree on the matter 100%, but I think that after the age of 3 or 3.5, we take my lead on the matter…at least until my husband starts lactating lol.

  17. By on April 25, 2013

    Don’t you wish men could produce milk?! Lord knows I wish my husband could sometimes.

    I am so sorry if I came across as judgmental. The comment was truly more of a question and defense of you and your body than anything. I am absolutely pro doing whatever is right for your family - so if you want to breast feed Charlotte until she’s 12 because that’s the right decision for your family then I’d support it.

    I love your perspective and transparency here. Thanks for answering my question and again, apologies if my earlier comment came across in a negative light. Not my intention at all!! :)

  18. By Sarah Christensen on April 25, 2013

    Oh my gosh, you do not need to apologize!  You didn’t come across as judgmental or out of line or negative or anything, I promise!

    As an update on the weaning front, I was able to convince Charlotte to take my milk expressed the last two days so that might be my window to weaning success.  She usually refuses pumped milk but she was actually totally cool with it the last two days.  So.  Fingers crossed!  Expressed milk seems to me to be the perfect solution - I can do that until the cows come home, so she’s still getting the milk that Donald thought she’d have, and I don’t get all touched-out in the meantime.  Win win!

  19. By on April 26, 2013

    I have a question about being touched out.  I know the feeling you’re talking about, I’m just curious if you felt that way when Charlotte was younger or when you were only breastfeeding one child?  Is that a fairly new thing for you?

  20. By Sarah Christensen on April 26, 2013

    Julien, it started happening toward the end of my pregnancy.  I never felt that way when Charlotte was younger - or if I did then it must have been fleeting because I don’t remember it (but since having Evelyn I have noticed that my memory with regards to Charlotte’s infancy is a little selective and biased toward only the warm, fuzzy memories so who knows?) - but I did start to feel that way off and on throughout my pregnancy.  I think at first it was because I was so fatigued and nauseated that I just didn’t want to be touched so any amount of constant touching like nursing requires felt like a bit of an intrusion and as I became larger and more sensitive to touch through my pregnancy it became more common to feel that way and I reached my snapping point more frequently.  After Evelyn was born, it completely vanished for the first couple months.  I was less patient with Charlotte when she made loud noises and woke up the baby, but endlessly patient with her nursing and her touch needs.  And then a couple months ago it started to pick back up again.  Once I got the feeling that I wanted to be done nursing, breastfeeding Charlotte became very difficult for me from a physical touched-out standpoint.  I’m in physical contact with Evelyn almost every minute of the day - she sleeps against me, is worn all day even while sleeping, etc. - so really my only breaks from being touched are when someone else holds her or when I’m driving.  But that doesn’t really bother me.  Even the act of nursing Charlotte isn’t a problem for me, it’s her hands.  She wants to run her hands along my neck and collarbone while nursing and I just can’t handle it, I want them still.  That’s a fairly new thing for me and Charlotte doesn’t get it.  She doesn’t understand why something I was totally cool with for 3.5 years suddenly drives me crazy.

  21. By bronwyn on May 02, 2013

    I only have one and I feel like this most of the time. I am always getting her to bed late, to school late and oh, clean clothes? Really? But then she tells me she’s a lucky girl and when I agree and ask why, she says “Because you are my mama” and i melt into a pool of “who cares about being on time to first grade anyway?“ and we snuggle on the couch and are late to bed. Again.

    I read some of the comments re: weaning - my plan was always to let her self-wean and I assumed that would happen around age 2 or 3. Ha! I was vaguely over it by age 4, but the need for weaning wasn’t that strong, mostly because I am away from her during the day while at work so I was never touched out. But yeah, the hands do get grabby, don’t they? She FINALLY weaned just after turning 5 for 2 reasons – I think kindergarten on the horizon made her aware of her big kid status and also, I just stopped making milk. She got very little at each feeding and it irritated her. We had a conversation about where the milk went and that was it. I cannot imagine trying to wean while still producing milk and feeding another child. I wish you the best of luck. :)





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