Otherwise known as: the twin newborn stage.
There’s a saying in the service industry: in the weeds.
Your shift starts easy enough; a few two-tops out for date night that are relaxed and in no rush. A table of four, but they order straight from the menu, no substitutions or extras to remember, and they’re drinking water. One table is a couple of regulars returning from a trip, so you haven’t seen them in a while. You want to give them extra attention, because you know, they do the things that make you feel human, like looking you in the eye, smiling when they see you, and using words that can often be rare in the service industry, like ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. You’ve got time to chat with them a little, tell them the specials, and generally provide the service they should expect. They’ve been craving the nachos they usually get all week, with extra sour cream of course, and as you walk to ring their starter into the computer you see that your four-top’s entrees need clearing and your other two-tops beers are almost empty. As you punch your code in and ring in the nachos you get distracted momentarily when another server walks by and whispers, “We’re out of potato skins.” Feeling glad your table got nachos, you hit submit, then see if your other two-top wants another beer. They do. You ring the beer in and circle back to clear the four-top. You see if they want dessert. They do. This is good – you want them to order more. You want them to enjoy themselves. One of them orders tea and two of them order coffee, one with milk, one with cream. You try not to openly cringe when they order tea, knowing that the bartender is about to get to your beer ticket and you need to get cutlery and side plates to your other table. There’s nothing wrong with tea, but you know it requires waiting for water to boil, and getting a mini tea pot along with the cup, saucer, and milk.
But, when you reach up to grab a tea bag, there isn’t one, the box is empty. You fight a small burst of frustration and quickly rush out back to get a new box. A minor set back, no big deal though, you just have a few tables. You can grab the tea box and be back in time to get the beers to their table and cutlery and side plates to your regulars. But on your way back to storage you pass the host who is leading a table of six into the restaurant. The host makes eye contact with you and mouths, ‘Yours’. Good, you think. Bigger tables usually mean bigger bills and therefore, bigger tips. You’re smiling as you walk into cold storage but then, when you try to get to the tea you see the boxes haven’t been stocked back up. You scan the room and see the big cardboard box from the tea supplier under a couple of others. And just like that, something that should have been easy and simple, all the sudden isn’t – and your service will suffer.
While you’re in the storage room wrestling off an obscene amount of packing tape from the box, it all seems to hit at once. Your buzzer starts vibrating – the kitchen is letting you know your food is ready – the dessert for table 9. Apple crisp with a scoop of old fashioned vanilla ice cream that is melting with every second. You finally free a box of tea bags and rush back through the kitchen, grabbing your apple crisp with the other hand, just as you get buzzed again. “I’m picking up now,” you tell them, but it’s not for your desserts, it’s the nachos that are ready. You rush the crisp out, circle back to finish the tea. You still have two other desserts to pick up to go to the same table as the crisp, but the beer you ordered is sitting at the bar, it’s once frothy foam head now completely depleted. The kitchen buzzes you again. You reluctantly ask the bartender to top up the beers and tap your foot anxiously as they oblige with only one eye roll. You deliver the beer then rush past your new six top who is eyeing you to the kitchen to get the other desserts. You see the nachos under the heat lamp and move faster. As soon as you drop the desserts off you see the host is seating another table in your section and you still haven’t got to your new 6-top yet. Your buzzer vibrates aggressively and you finally get the nachos – but they don’t look nearly as good as they did minutes ago. You feel bad… your regulars were craving the best, but you know the kitchen won’t make a new order. You carry them out, grabbing their cutlery and balancing their side plates on your wrist, and as you set them down you realize you forgot to order the extra sour cream. You let them know you’ll be right back with it, but on your way back to the kitchen you first swing by to check how the desserts are (great, but could they have some hot coffee?), and check in with your 6-top. They order a bottle of white wine (okay, I’ll need to get the ice bucket and stand) and three cocktails. You look back at your regulars who are watching you, and keep moving to the kitchen for the extra sour cream. You ask one of the line cooks for it – “You didn’t ring it in. You gotta ring it in first.” You fight the large “ARRGHHHHH!!!!” that you want to let out and instead, leave and move briskly to the closest computer. Your finger stabs in your code – denied. You try again – denied. You take a breath and go slower – it works. When you finally deliver the sour cream they comment on the nachos, “They’re not as good tonight”, and you feel a pang of guilt. Meanwhile, your other two-top is half way through their new beers and motioning for the bill, you still haven’t got to your other new table, and your four-top is sitting in awkward silence with their empty dessert dishes and tea and coffee cups (frig, the coffee refill!).
It’s not that you’re moving slow or that you’re incompetent. You’re just busy. And you care. You WANT to do a good job, and knowing you aren’t, adds to your stress. You don’t have time to think, let alone articulate what you need to any other staff nearby that offer to help. You’re flustered. You go to grab the coffee pot and turn with it too quickly, slamming it into the cups stacked beside it and, in slow motion, one falls to the floor and shatters. You feel the heat on your face. You’re flustered. The panic is rising in your throat. You have a horrifying moment when you think you might actually cry. You are sweating. You are on the brink of snapping at someone. You are…. “in the weeds” – bad.
And this folks,… is what parenting two newborn twins, a 3 year old, and a 5 year old is like. You are in the weeds every damn minute of every day. Even when you are sleeping – which as the joke goes – is barely at all. Even when you are sitting down, perhaps appearing relaxed, the hamster wheel is spinning in the back of your head. But unlike serving tables, there’s no 15 minute breaks (even the bathroom is not sacred) and instead of clocking out at the end of your miserable shift, it NEVER ENDS. Instead of reaching for a tea bag that isn’t there, it’s an empty clean diaper bin while you’re hands deep in a stage 5 diaper blowout. And of course, the stakes are higher. Instead of forgetting a coffee refill, you forget to give your infant vitamin D drops. Instead of being responsible for a few diners and their experience, you’re responsible for helping to KEEP SOMEONE ALIVE. Actually, four ‘someones’. Oh, and making sure they all turn out to be decent people and have an amazing childhood full of every opportunity possible and all that. And instead of disappointing your regulars with cold nachos, you’re disappointing your kids…, like when they fall asleep waiting for you to finally come read to them. And you WANT to come read to them, to lay with them and take in their stories and be there in the moment with them before the moments are gone… but you’ve been trying for over an hour to get two babies to sleep, juggling their little bodies, alternating feeding them, burping them, and holding them, just as they alternate their cries.
You’re constantly pulled in different directions, you’re multitasking and managing at a level that might rival the President’s Chief of Staff, while simultaneously experiencing the most torturous sleep deprivation of your life. You’re drowning in the mental load and every night you still lie to yourself and say you’ll get to that one thing you didn’t get to today, tomorrow. Then you wake up and lie to yourself all day when you tell yourself you’ll get to that same thing, or have a bath, or exercise – as soon as the kids are asleep. Except as soon as the kids are asleep, YOU ARE ASLEEP. Hell, sometimes you are asleep before they are all asleep, let’s be honest. It. Is. Impossible. One kid is starting school and needs extra attention to navigate the change of two newborns added in the mix, the other flies under the radar cause she’s so ‘easy’, but now all the sudden starts saying no to you and mimicking everything you say. Also, she wants a snack. Meanwhile, not one, but two newborns are in a full on meltdown while your firstborn asks you how to spell “camera” for the fifth time in half an hour while the dog barks incessantly in the background and your three year old whine-chants from the kitchen, “I want a snack! I want a snaaaaack!!”.
Nevermind that you want a snack too! Or that you’ve had to pee for two hours because you’re trying to drink as much water as possible to help produce as much milk for the babies as possible – which you can’t. Which you can then somehow zone out, amidst the shushing and rocking and “cccc…. No, C, not K, C!” and start thinking about again. But, don’t think about that too much! Anyone will tell you, it will affect your production. But, you really should be able to produce enough for two, the female body is amazing! So,….why can’t you? Stop stressing about it! Are you eating well? Try baking these lactation cookies! Oh, but you can only get their ingredients at one location that currently has reduced hours due to the pandemic. Oh right, the pandemic! That’s right, there’s a pandemic. And you can’t take your kids into stores because they might catch the virus, which would be so awful in itself, but then they could also bring it home to the whole house. Oh, and they won’t be able to go to school or daycare for a week if they get a sniffle at any point this year, but you’re home already, right? No biggie.
We. Are. Struggling. It’s HARD. There’s straight up no way around it. And it’s not for lack of help either! Our village has rallied around us and my retired mom is back to working 30 hour weeks – at our house, for free. But unless you have an army there every second… there’s no stopping the feeling of treading water with no life raft in sight. I love my family. I love them so much. And we have been so lucky. As excruciatingly hard as this is some days, I would never, ever give it up. And it’s so nice to be needed, to be their mom… and yet this kind of need is massive…. overwhelming… consuming….. and as heavy as a rear facing car seat you’re trying to install in the third row of your VAN at 9pm because when else will you be able to??!
THIS. This…. is the newborn stage, times two, set in the ridiculous demands and expectations of 2021. And we, are in the weeds. We are soooooooo in the weeds.
Feel free to drop off some snacks.