Motherhood is hard. Its tiring, long hours with very little credit given to you for picking up the same pair of sodding socks 3 times that day, wiping noses and arses, and feeding/watering keeping the small humans you created alive. It is also lonely, and exhausting. Especially when you have children that wont sleep. We had this with Primrose where she woke up ALL night, every night. In the end we had to get professional help, in the form of a sleep therapist. Link here [http://www.blissfulbambino.co.uk].
After the sleepless nights come the terrible twos. And then the even more argumentative threes… So imagine this, a nappy-less horizon in the near future and BAM- baby number 2 is on the way. Is there a right time? An ideal gap? I don’t think that I know the answer to this and many people will have entirely their own opinion on it too. Close together is nice because its almost like having twins and you get it all over with in one hit. Further apart is good because in theory it means only one lot of nappies, and only one child waking in the nights- also having a little helper is really useful. I can tell you though, that even if you think you have the optimum timed age gap- Its hard.
I was not prepared. I had lots of people warn me that two children is difficult. But naively I just brushed their comments aside. I did the baby bit and survived. And my 3 year old was clever, independent and really excited to be a big sister. But in hindsight I should have listened. Because it is a shock to the system that I wasn’t prepared for. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not only coping but some days I feel like I’m thriving too. Olive is just the greatest addition and fits in perfectly with her contented nature and patience. She needs it to survive with her fiercely loving (slightly overbearing) big sister. And yes getting up in the night with a new born is difficult but its the up at 6.30am the next morning with the 4 year old that kills me.
The second child often gets dragged around, never having set nap times, simply having to adjust to the life and regime that the older sibling set before they arrived. This I imagine wasn’t a problem in the olden days of your, or for people bringing up children in jungles (although snakes, poisonous creatures and natural disasters are enough problems to contend with I’m sure). But in the society we live in where our lives are planned out to almost every hour in the day between preschool, food shopping/deliveries, gymnastics and swimming clubs, doctors appointments and play dates, the addition of a new life adds a great strain to the order of your day. For example how Olive always manages to poo RIGHT AS WE ARE LEAVING for pre-school pick up always amazes me.
I feel like I am in a constant state of lateness and rushing. Dragging two not always willing companions with me. As I try to keep up to date with the regular check ins and obligatory dates of the modern mum. When actually most days I want to say F*%# it lets stay in bed and binge watch Jane the Virgin whilst handing the iPad to the 4 year old and sticking the baby on my boob. Alas this parenting style wont help her learn her phonics like she does when we read stories together, excel at hand eye coordination like climbing trees does, and learn to be friendly and polite like socialising with friends does- although somedays it seems like a much easier option.
Once you have managed to corral the older child into getting dressed, often using bribery and light threats of cancelling play dates/treats if they don’t suck it up and help you- You have to the lug the car seat often containing the crying baby to the car (she’s meant to be napping but we have 45 mins to get to gymnastics and we are already running behind schedule because 4 year old refused to finish her lunch). Then check that you have spare clothes for each child, snacks, drinks, nappies, wipes, muslins, bribes (in the form of hairdo or toys), your purse incase additional monetary funds for bribery is needed. Usually you end up having to run back inside because you’ve forgotten two or more of these things and god forbid the mum brigade catch you when the baby has pulled off her socks and you don’t have spares in your Tardis of a changing bag. Seriously though the stuff that goes into that bag and then disappears! I found a cream egg that had been in there for a month yesterday- under an odd sock and umpteen shopkins. You arrive at your destination late, panicked, sweating and usually one or more of the children is hungry.
Then there is also the ‘leaving baby unattended’ problem that didn’t arise the first time. I could happily leave Primrose on her mat on the floor and make a cup of tea (that I’d have to microwave 3 times before eventually giving up and drinking it cold). However this time round if I have to leave the room for a split second or turn my back I return to find Primrose mounting Olive and using her as an accessory to her vet game or attempting to change her nappy/ feed her her lunch/ partake in forced tummy time.
Picture this. First time round- Baby goes down for a nap. Perfect! Stay silent in the house, browse Instagram, catch up on washing or cleaning, have a nap (very rarely does this happen without all kinds of mum guilt stepping in about unmade beds and unhoovered corners of the house) but staying dead quiet is essential and largely achieveable. Second time round- Baby goes down for a nap. And immediately starts the giving of undivided attention that the first born has been craving all day long and you now must do despite needing a sit down. Otherwise they will tantrum and wake the sleeping baby resulting in you having two children over tired, jealous and with neither of their needs being met.
‘Family bath time’. Forget it. It ends in near drownings and tears. Bath them separately to avoid near death incidents.
The biggest change that I had underestimated was how Primrose was going to be. She is the most loving big sister. She is helpful, clever, funny and kind. However having her whole world turned upside down by a new member of the family has been so difficult for her. We used to bake together, walk the dogs together in the fields, regularly go to the park when she wanted, pop shopping or go swimming. Now its ‘after Olive has napped’ and ‘Olive just needs feeding’ or ‘once I’ve changed Olive sweetheart’, even sometimes the most accurate ‘Mummy is bloody exhausted from running around after you two all day long and I actually need an afternoon inside before I can muster the strength to do dinner and bath time’. She deals with this change in the way that four year olds do. She gets more angry than before, she yells that she hates me or my personal favourite ‘You’re not my real mum’. I inform her that I am, and that I have the stretch marks and wrecked pelvic floor to prove it. Some days are fine, but other days are harder.
Despite my grumbling, I couldn’t imagine my life without either of them. I love them and their different challenges that they both bring to my life. Joy outweighs the exhaustion. And fun, smiles and laughter outweigh the tears. When I see Primrose making Olive laugh- my heart feels full and contented, and I wouldn’t change a thing. Being a mum to two beautiful daughters is different, and harder work but also- so so much fuller.