We all know that the transition from childfree life to parenthood is going to be hard... but no one prepares you for the leap from being a mum-of-one to a mum-of-two, argues writer Katherine Bebo...
About a year ago, I was at a gathering – my six-month-old, Toby, BabyBjörned to my front and my two-year-old, Josh, precariously close to a pond – when a family friend asked me how I was getting on with the two boys. While I was contemplating my response, he answered for me: “It’s a bit like being waterboarded, isn’t it?” he said, while nodding towards his own two boys, aged five and seven. One of who was dripping wet and shivering after having actually just fallen in the pond.
“YES!” I cried, just as Toby did a poo.
While the waterboarding description is – let’s be honest - a little dramatic, it’s pretty spot-on. You do feel like you’re drowning, you do feel like you have no control and, yes, looking after a baby and a toddler does sometimes feel like torture. Sleep deprivation and incessant crying, anyone?
Going from no kids to one kid is, obviously, a huge, life-changing experience. But I was expecting that. OK, I may not have been expecting an audience every time I went to the loo, but I knew my life would never be the same again after having a baby.
With my second, I thought, “I’ve got this. I know what I’m doing. I can change a nappy with my hands tied behind my back [so to speak].” But, you know what, I didn’t have this, I didn’t know what I was doing. And as for the nappy/hands-tied thing: completely irrelevant. I went into having two children with my eyes closed, which, in hindsight, was actually rather nice as I don’t get much shut-eye these days.
While I love my boys more than anything in the world, becoming a Mum Of Two knocked me for six and made my head spin. With one child, you have good days and bad days; with two you have a good 10 minutes and a bad 10 minutes.
One of the biggest things that I wasn’t expecting was my temporary personality shift. I like to think of myself as a laid-back person: I don’t mind automated phone responses, I laugh in the face of traffic and I really like flip-flops. But there were a few months when I was anything but laid-back. My stress levels were through the roof and my patience was as thin as Victoria Beckham’s arms.
When you have one child, most of the time you feel #blessed; when you have two, #stressed.
I got very good at breastfeeding on the move. With my first, I got through the whole series of Breaking Bad because, hey, I’m breastfeeding so I can’t move. But when your toddler is demanding toast/water/the orange beaker NOT the blue one, you realise that, actually, you can move and you can butter toast one-handed while resting the baby’s head on the counter. And if you do experience the rare treat of breastfeeding while seated, forget about following Walter White’s antics – it’ll be Peppa Pig et al getting lost in the fog that’ll keep you ‘entertained’.
I was also taken aback and, frankly, rather irked that my boys didn’t coordinate their ‘difficult’ phases. Unfortunately, Toby was going through his put-everything-in-his-mouth phase at the same time I was potty-training Josh. A particularly low point came when, at a leisure centre, I was cleaning up a #2 accident courtesy of Josh while Toby was crawling about all over the place. When I caught up with him, he had someone else’s chewing gum in his mouth. Horrified didn’t even come close.
Another unexpected aspect of life with two kids was the bickering with my husband. Oh, the bickering! We would bicker about the house, we would bicker about work, we would bicker about food (who knew I had such an opinion on the best way to slice a courgette?). Heck, we would even bicker about bickering. I guess being Just. So. Tired doesn’t really bring out the best in people.
When I wasn’t squabbling/breastfeeding on the hoof/retrieving Wrigley’s Extra from my infant’s mouth, I was attempting to tackle my to-do list. But not only did I never reach the end of my to-do list, I never actually reached the top of it because I was too busy with the above tasks and, also, laundry. How one extra little person creates 17 times more washing is a quandary I’m still trying to figure out.
Despite all of these unexpected obstacles, now that Josh has started nursery and Toby is sleeping a little better, I feel like I’m ‘out the other side’ (kinda). Even though I have felt ‘waterboarded’ for the past year, I’ve had frequent gasps of lovely air – like when Toby beeps my nose, or Josh makes me a pasta necklace – that have kept me (somewhat) sane and my head (just about) above water.