You have FINALLY just gotten your little cherub off to sleep after spending two solid hours of screaming (you not her), nappy changes, two-minute-at-a-time feeds, wide-awake laughing and endless renditions of “twinkle twinkle” whilst pacing the length of the bedroom half a million times.
Finally, you can rest your head upon that heavenly pillow, close your eyes and drift off. Bliss! Only at 5.30 your older little cherub appears at your side and announces to the world (oh so loudly) that she wants to go downstairs to get some breakfast.
“Sleep when they sleep.” – Shall I just cook when they cook too?
After four months of having two children, this scenario is all too familiar. Despite all our preparations and talking ourselves into how ready we were to have a second child, the reality of it was that – just like our first – nothing in the world could prepare us for the onslaught of having two little dependants in our home. During those first months of having our oldest girl, we would chuckle at the “sleep when they sleep” advice. Obviously, we would “clean when they clean” and “cook when they cook” too right?
When those miraculous pieces of essential advice would come in just after our second-born, we didn’t so much as chuckle as snarl ferociously at these well-meaning but ultimately useless snippets of advice.
I (vaguely) remember the first months after we had our oldest. Through the hazy tiredness I remember being able to do basic things like pop out to the shops, shower alone or even (heaven forbid!) catch up on sleep with a finely timed snooze on the sofa.
If I tried to do that now, the snooze would be interrupted with a finger shoved up my nose, a shower is always punctuated by the sounds of toy boats being smashed against the bath and if I announce that I am going to the shops I receive a scream of: “DEAR GOD TAKE A CHILD!!.”.
Before and After having our second child
Before: we could gang up on our baby, with one parent being responsible for the monster child whilst the other does important things such as regaining their sanity.
Now: we are very evenly matched, or we even feel – particularly during teething – outnumbered.
Before: if my wife had almost reached her breaking point with our darling little cherub, she could hand her over whilst saying (through gritted teeth), “Your turn, daddy!”
Now: when my wife has almost hit her limit and turns to hand over the baby, I am usually dealing with our oldest. Somebody has to give her a drink (which obviously meant cuddles and all of my 6 foot 2-inch frame falling asleep in her tiny cramped bed).
Leaving the house takes military precision
Going somewhere is always a problem too. We got quite good at going out to places with our oldest child. In fact, we even congratulated ourselves on being able to take our little lovely to restaurants and despite there being a few wobbles, it often went well. Now it is impossible to go anywhere without military precision.
“But this one will LOVE babywearing which will make things so much easier!” we told ourselves a couple of months before she was born. Nope. This one fights it too, drawing out the tuts from passers-by as they see your wife ‘oh-so-cruelly’ trying to wrestle your child into a ring-sling.
So many times, we have arrived back at home several hours later than intended, red-faced, exhausted and declaring that we are never, ever, leaving the house again. Those nightmarish times when child #1 is shouting for snacks and child #2 is shouting because she has vocal chords. Never again!
But you know what? We do it. Again and again, we go out, despite knowing what the outcome is 9 out of 10 times. We do it because that 10th time can be the most miraculous of days.
The day where it only takes 45 minutes to get ready and leave the house instead of 90 minutes.
A beautiful day where our youngest child only goes through 3 sets of clothes instead of 5 and only has one nuclear-level nappy, with our oldest child only wetting herself 2 times instead of 4 or 5 (honestly, though, she’s doing amazing).
That day could be a day where we only get a few tantrums and only get things wrong once or twice.
Most of all, that day could be like the many other days in that we look at our girls with fierce pride, admiration, and wonderment and imagine what they will be like in one, five or even ten years’ time.
As we marvel at their budding relationship and the love in their eyes when they see each other we can forget how hard it is having two for just a moment, rejoicing in the beautiful family we have created. We can then ask ourselves, “Should our family have one more?”.
What do you think? Is it that much of a step-up having two? How do you deal with more than two?