Yesterday, I was in the drug store with both kids, buying Halloween candy and bottle nipples with a faster flow so I can feed Ira in under 45 minutes. We’d already had a lovely trip to the hardware store and the grocery story. The stroller was loaded with cider, a pumpkin, and the three bags of candy I was about to buy. Then the baby, who was riding on my back in an Ergo, really needed to fall asleep but couldn’t quite do it on my back. So I put down the giant bags of halloween candy, took off my babywearing coat, took the baby out of the Ergo, strapped the baby into the stroller, and tried to figure out how to carry the halloween candy, push the stroller, and answer my daughters incessant “But why aren’t we ever going to buy it?” questions.

The baby was on the verge of sleep and I was wandering around, exposing my three-year-old to more products we weren’t going to purchase when I finally found the bottle nipple aisle. I set the giant bags of candy down again, parked the stroller right next to them, and walked eight feet or so down the aisle to the get the nipples. Nipples in hand, I came back to the stroller, but then had to deal with the Q-Tips my daughter had aquired. Back at the stroller again, I was ready to step two feet away to buy the stupid candy from the cashier. This series of obviously neglectful acts got the three cashiers up front freaked out, so the highlight of my shopping trip became getting told what a bad job I was doing as a parent by exposing my baby to all those potential kidnappers by stepping 8 feet away from his stroller.

You can imagine what that did to my mood for the day. Just in case you can’t, it sent me into something of a tailspin of bad parenting. Back at home the stroller tipped over with the Ira in it (he was unharmed). Then everyone needed lunch at once so I had a screaming baby as I warmed a bottle and got something filling but non-nutritious ready for Leigh. Later I neglected a very fussy Ira so that I could have Leigh help me make dinner. I turned my back and my daughter was hitting my son over head with a toy. I got angry and frustrated while trying to put the baby to bed and was then mean to my Leigh. I left Leigh in rest time a little longer so I could watch “Supernanny” on Hulu. When Ira started crying in the bedroom I felt glad he was doing it in there and not out in my space.

Most every moment of the rest of the day reminded me that I can’t do a really good job as a parent of two children, if “good job” means meeting their needs, having them both directly under my watchful gaze at all times, making sure they’re moderately presentable and behave well (especially in public), protecting them from everything, keeping them happy, and helping them to develop — all things expected of parents these days, every moment of every day. I guess I really couldn’t do that with one child, but with two I’m totally out of my depth.

Having two kids isn’t easy, and I’m still holding myself to the same standard of parenting I had when there was just one kid. Somehow I have to cut myself some slack without just deciding to throw in the towel (or to never go to a store again with two kids, which I was seriously considering yesterday). What I need is a community that gives me a hand, supports me as a parent, and provides extra sets of ears and eyes. I guess I should consider myself lucky, because I get that with my friends and in my neighborhood park. But in much of the rest of the world that extra set of ears and eyes seems to be concentrating on finding my flaws rather than helping watch over and care for my children.

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