The last year has been the most difficult of my life, without question. My emotions have been all over the place, and I chuck them at my husband, P, like plates that will smash if he doesn’t catch them. He’s nearly dropped a few, but quite often they come hurtling at him when he’s not expecting them. Luckily, he coaches cricket on Saturdays, so he gets some catch practice in.
I look at my mum and my sister and I wonder, “How on Earth did you manage to do this so gracefully?” I was with my sister when she grew her two babies; I was there every chance I could get. They were my first loves. They were born just over two years apart, and my sister made it look easy. My mum had my brother and I 18 months apart. Of course, I was there, but I was the baby, so I wasn’t observing her, marvelling at her parenting skills, but when I talk to her about it now, she loved that time. She loved it so much that she decided to have two more!
Two more! That’s FOUR! I’m looking at my two like they’re a stampede of wildebeest, and doubling the amount makes me feel like passing out.
My life was pretty plain sailing when I only had one child. I struggled a little with the loneliness of SAHM life, but then lockdown happened, and my husband was forced to stay home with us 24/7, so I was keen to be lonely again. I’m kidding. I loved having him home. So much so, that we decided to make another bebe! It seemed like an excellent idea at the time… said every parent who had a lockdown baby.
My youngest son, S, really mixed things up. He was no different to my first son, R, when it came to babyhood, but just his presence made everything more challenging. Although R was in awe of his brother, having to share his parents was too much for him.
Sharing anything to be honest.
Whenever we wanted to put S down for a nap, R would climb into the cradle and declare, “Mine.”
He was nearly two, so we probably hit him with this huge life change while he was about to go through a time of emotional difficulty anyway. So, jokes on us.
“Oh, he’s about to go through the terrible twos? Let’s give him a baby brother exactly at that point, so that he can add that emotional rollercoaster to his already GARGANTUON feelings. That way, we can go through the sleepless, relentless, confusing newborn phase at the same time as dealing with the tantrums and meltdowns. Ideal.”
Now, my eldest hit that phase hard. Maybe he would have anyway, without having a new brother pop along, we’ll never know. But what I do know, is that it was not an easy phase, and I couldn’t be there for him 100%. I also know that my newborn needed all of me, and I couldn’t give that to him either. Oh, the guilt. The guilt was heavy. The guilt plates were hurled at my husband hard and fast.
Here are six big differences to life with two rather than one:
Getting out of the house
It’s a nightmare getting out of the house with a newborn. Everything that they need at home, they need everywhere else as well, so it all comes with you.
But, you’re also carting around a potty, spare clothes, a bike, a helmet, a robot, 3 dinosaurs and a backpack of random nonsense as well. So, popping to Morrisons to get some bits becomes an entire day’s focus.
During our pre-baby lives, P and I were loose cannons. We were ones for getting up whenever and seeing what the day would bring. We weren’t too keen on tying ourselves to timings on our non-workdays.
When our first son was born, we subconsciously continued this attitude.
R was a content baby who could fall asleep anywhere; on us, in his bed, in his pram, in the car seat. He was a deep sleeper, so was easy to transfer, and he came with us on whatever adventure we fancied going on.
Our social lives didn’t change too much. I remembered trying to arrange things with other mums and they would say, ‘I can’t meet you at 10 because that will be nap time.’ And I would think, it’s nap time for R too, but he’ll be happy sleeping in the sling, why can’t we all do that? I had no idea.
When S came along, a routine was a must. Although he was a content baby who was happy to sleep on the move, I didn’t want to move.
I needed his naps as much as he did.
I needed R’s afternoon nap like you wouldn’t believe. It took a long time for R’s nap to sync up with one of S’s naps, but when that finally happened, it was a piece of heaven. I hadn’t felt peace quite like it. I watched This Is Us and cried for the whole hour. I needed it.
I now understand the importance of a routine and the desperate need for nap time, at home.
My life is dominated by time.
You want me to go to an appointment at 9.30? Are you mad? Are. You. Mad?
The 90 minutes between 2.30pm and 4pm are sacred. My toddler no longer naps, but he does need to be alone during this time. He likes to watch a movie, or play quietly by himself, listen to his Toniebox or read stories. If I try and disturb him, I’m asking for a meltdown. So, I leave him to it. FINE BY ME! S sleeps happily, and I do everything I need to do:
I clean, I write, I plan lessons, I fix, I cook, I exercise, I wash!
Don’t come over between 2.30 and 4, my friends. I won’t be nice to you.
Well, that’s obvious. When you have a newborn they say, “sleep when the baby sleeps.” Sure. OK. But what about the toddler still haring around, climbing cabinets, eating potpourri and crying over milk on his chin? Do I sleep while he’s doing that?
Until the little egg sleeps through the night, you’re awake. All the time. Even when you fall asleep, you’re on high alert, so it doesn’t really count.
We showered R with attention. If P had held him for a while, I’d ask to hold him, like, “It’s my turn now.”
With S, we bought a skin-to-skin top, so that we could wear him for a lot of the day. There was very little time to sit and cuddle him because having a nearly-two-year-old (full of energy, needs and emotions) hindered that time, especially when it was just me looking after them.
It got to the point where P and I started to feel guilty about how R was still taking up most of our attention, even though S was the baby! But that’s when we realised that baby S was getting all the attention he needed, it was just in a different way.
Once R had gone to bed for the night, S had us all to himself…. All night! In the dim light, hunkered in the corner of the room, staring at each other.
And any attention we couldn’t give was topped up by his big brother.
When S was lying down on the bed, or in his jungle gym, R would be straight there. He’d be smooching him, and stroking him, and booping his nose. Then, of course, we started to feel guilty that R never had an older sibling to boop him!
I make sure I see some friends every week. I make plans, sometimes they fall through, but I make lots, so that at least one will happen. Very rarely do I live a week where I haven’t seen one of them. I need that time. It’s never drinking, or doing anything other than watching Bridgerton, having diet cokes and chats, or hanging out with the kids at softplay, but it’s important for my mental health. They keep me topped up.
I never needed that before. P and I had enough opportunity to have date nights and hang out with our friends, with R still there. Now, P and I have the odd date night on the horizon to keep us going, but our socialising is separate, because one of us needs to be home with the boys.
Yes, I am moaning about life with kids, how cliché of me – but!!! It feels gooooooooood. And, it’s OK to have a little moan from time to time. It doesn’t mean you’re ungrateful, it just means you’re being honest. Raising two small people is incredibly challenging, all consuming, emotionally draining, life changing and hard… just hard! But, every now and then, life is beautiful.
I don’t think It will ever be quite so innocently and authentically beautiful ever again.
One day, in the near future, my husband and I will sit and have a coke and crisps at the pub while our boys run off and play. We will watch them, and talk about the early days, the hard days, the ‘hunkering down parenting years,’ we will cheers each other and smile knowing that we did good, and I know a piece of me will miss it.