What I've Learned About Parenthood
Sean Szeps, wrangler of twins and the man behind the Bringing Up Gaybies blog, reveals the lessons he’s learnt since becoming a parent.
When you put your head on the pillow you should think ‘I did the best I could today’.” Sean and his husband Josh are parents to girl-boy twins, Stella and Cooper, now 14 months.
“I’m in one of the most rewarding phases. It’s as if the speed dial on their learning is turned up. We’re seeing the parenting lessons starting to have an impact, like the children responding verbally, pushing chairs in when they leave the room, cleaning up with our cleaning up song. Those are the moments I want to carry with me into the difficult phases,” he says.
It hasn’t always been an easy ride, Sean offers honestly, as he explains his vision of parenting pre-kids, versus the reality. “The rude reality is there are a lot of monotonous boring moments in this first couple of months. I was completely unaware of that aspect.”
In March this year, the media personality spoke about his own experience with post-natal depression on podcast The Baby Bubble, saying he wrongly believed it was something only experienced by the birth mother. Having come out the other side, he now proudly lists his parenting fails, which have included running out of nappies and thinking he could create makeshift versions from shirts and shorts, ruining $200 worth of clothes in the process.
“We take parenting so seriously and we actually should, but they’re tiny humans, a lot of stuff is out of control,” he says, adding, “Put the book down and stop Googling. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the right way to parent. But there’s no right way. There are just different techniques. You can get really stressed out and obsessed, but trust your gut, lean on people you can confide in the most and be comfortable adapting along the way.”
Sean says it’s his husband’s advice, which he’d pass onto any parent.
“Treat your first like your last is what Josh says. Parenting is stressful, especially the first time when you’re juggling relationship changes and friendship changes. With your first kid, you’re completely obsessed, overanalysing everything and stressing. Whereas say by the third, they bump their knee and you say ‘you’ll be fine’. The most important thing when it comes to parenting is that you and your partner are in a calm mental space, even when there is chaos around you.”
Of course, parenting twins is a unique experience, which Sean recognises, saying it’s incredible to see gender stereotypes in action with how people treat boys versus girls, and the difference between nature versus nurture. “It’s a blessing with twins. We are raising them the same way, but they are completely different people and personalities. Yes, some of it is on you, but a lot of times things are the way they are because they were born that way. It’s a relief,” says Sean.
He loves the simple moments of observing them play, learn and grow together. It’s in the dead silence, where he often finds Stella and Cooper lost in a book, the most special and rewarding, as well as their Saturday morning family dance parties, where they play music and groove.
What Sean has found most valuable in being present as a working parent, is actually a practice inherited from his father.
“I remember when I was a kid my father mentioned his commute home was an opportunity to leave work behind. It’s the greatest lesson and I challenge myself to do that everyday, whether 10 minutes or 40, so when I arrive home, I am present with the children and ready to focus on job number two.”
Sean's Top Parenting Hacks For Couples With Twins
1. Stick to a schedule no matter what
Your sanity relies on your twins sleeping, eating and playing at the same time. If one wakes up, wake the other one up too. Do your absolute best to ensure they have synced schedules because that’s the only way you’ll get a break to nap or clean in peace!
2. Invest in high-quality swings or bouncers
In the first six months, you’ll be thrilled that you can continue to bounce one child with your foot while you feed or change the other one.
3. Prioritise alone time with each of your twins
That means pushing through the tears when one is getting one-on-one cuddle time and explaining to them why they can’t always be with you. This will make parenting so much easier as they get older and will help them gain the confidence to play by themselves. Take them on solo trips when you have support to do so. This will help you in establishing individual relationships with your twins, which is likely to result in less separation anxiety when it’s time for day-care.