Wednesday 20 May 2015

So, what's it REALLY like having more than one child?

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What's it REALLY like having more than one kid? I get asked that a lot. Slightly traumatised parents-of-one raise the question tentatively, as though I am a spy on the other side, able to inform them of whether it will be worth their while to step into the great unknown of multiple offspring.

I have asked that question many times, longing for someone to tell me what it's that it's ten times easier with two children, as though that's what we're all truly aiming for as parents. Parenting, by default, is not easy and I'll admit that up until six months ago the thought of having more than one seemed, quite frankly, unbearable. On top of the general hard work that my firstborn brought with him was the fact that I didn't have a mumsy bone in my body; even hearing a baby crying brought me out into a cold sweat. Some people were understandably surprised when I got pregnant again, others implied they'd long awaited it. Some warned me that it wouldn't just be twice the work, it would be ten times the work. On top of not knowing what I was letting myself in for I also felt a traitor to all the parents of only children I had previously confided in, sharing in our agitation about being constantly asked whether we were 'having another.' 

didn't want another. And I did want another. And I wished someone had written an honest post about what it was really like. Well, this is that post. Kind of.

Some people are perfectly happy with one child and I feel a strong defence for them every time someone asks me if I feel more complete for having more children. No. I do not. I might feel more content, or happier, but please do not ask me if I feel complete, as though parents of only children are walking around limbless. I'd go as far as to say that my eldest child is no more complete for having a little brother either, as much as he cherishes him. He does not need his brother to be any more of a person than he was already.

Do I have regrets? Yes. In the same way I have regrets about marrying my husband or having had any children at all. I regret marrying my husband on the occasions he doesn't change the toilet roll properly, or, worse, does something I find hurtful (and none of us are exempt from doing hurtful things). I regret having children when my four year old jumps on me at 6:30am, or when he refuses to eat the nice sandwich I bought him with the last of my Costa gift card credit (times are hard). Within a few hours (or on the harder occasions, days) my faith in love will be restored and my heart will flutter over a mere text message from my hubby, or I will feel a deep sense of satisfaction when my child squeezes me so tight that I could burst with all the love in the world. Regrets are a choice. Life is hard sometimes. Difficulties are a given. 

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Admittedly, life is harder. My washing pile is frigging huge; I never get to the bottom of it, ever. The mere thought of it gives me butterflies in my stomach - I hate unfinished business. I'm learning to accept it and just do what I can. My house looks like, well, it looks I have two children. Ten, actually, if you call in at 6pm. Some people might maintain a level of house-proudness: I don't. I don't for the fact that I can't bear to do work that I'll only have to do again in an hour or so. I consider acceptance a better approach, and it's doing me good too. The bonus of this is that I care less what others think of me. I choose to do fun things over tidying. I'm off the hook, to some degree, providing there is a certain level of hygiene. 

I expected as much when I had another child. My time is pressed more times than Robinsons does lemons. I always have a handful of unsent text messages on my phone, after being distracted by a child who needs his bum wiping or a baby that has vommed all over my top. I compensate by cutting out things that normal women do, like wearing make up everyday; preferring the practicality of getting my children fed over giving my cheeks some colour. People have stopped saying 'you look tired, are you alright?' Because I always look tired. The other day I caught myself unawares in a mirror and literally made myself jump. I think I've aged ten years in six months. 

The benefit of this, though, is that in some ways I definitely have more freedom. I've become like one of those old women who doesn't give a crap what she says anymore. I accept that I may not be as well presented but I am a less hurried person. People still love me without makeup or with an untidy house (or if I forget to edit swear words out of my blog). And if you don't then great; you are one less person to forget to send text messages to. And sure, my time is limited, but I'm used to that with one child. Parents become experts at finding five minutes to do things like unload the dishwasher in-between making breakfast; time you previously took for granted. I can safely say I never take time for granted; time to me is like cake when you've been on a diet. The moment you take a bite of it again it tastes oh. so. sweet. All the better, in fact, for not having it as much.

And time is helped too by the fact that my children, even with four year's difference, entertain one another. Admittedly sometimes that's by my eldest seeing if breadsticks fit up his brother's nose, but mostly it's all good. The reward of having another child is that they look at each other and burst into fits of laughter, just because they're brothers. There is a lot more laughter in our house, and there are a lot more tears. The highs are higher, and the lows are lower. 

The biggest low of having kids is the freedom that is wiped from under your feet the moment you leave the hospital with them wrapped up in some ridiculous bear onesie that's three times too big for them. I wasn't sure how I could possibly lose any more freedom after I'd given most of it up for one child. Well, here's how: For starters, babysitters now have to look after two of your kids, not one and to be honest I think I'd even feel a bit awkward asking supernanny to take on the task, let alone someone I do actually intend to text back (eventually). You find yourself dropping children off to different places, or have one child tagging along uninvited to kid's parties. Eventually I'll have to cook double, if not triple, the amount of food I do now. I will have to help with two sets of homework and have countless friends over for tea. But by then, hopefully, I will have more sleep to cope. The sleepless nights are still bloody horrible – no parent will ever get used to them (if they say they love staying up at night, they're liars. LIARS). 

Like sleeplessness, though, many things are often a lot worse in foresight than they actually are (Okay, so maybe not the sleep thing). But seriously, the amount of things I was dreading beforehand have faded into insignificance compared to reality. Getting out the house with two kids takes a bit of adjusting, but you do it because you have to and then you think, that wasn't so bad. Bathing them both at the same time? Not so bad. Bedtimes? Not so bad. Your baby does an explosive poo while your eldest is pouring salt all over the cafe floor? I can deal with it. Both children crying at once? Tra la la laaa. A whole night of no sleep? Bloody horrible. 

Is my life more fulfilling? I have to be honest and say that I'm sceptical of people who have kids in order to find some sort of fulfilment; kids are not fulfilling – unless you mean filling your life full with plastic toys and cbeebies. But I am honestly happier – Note: happier, not more complete. Admittedly it helps now that boy no.1 is nearly at school and boy no.2 just opts for smiling over screaming for the majority of the day (Winner!). God knows how parents cope when the rogue gene of 'I'll scream until I get what I want, but I'm giving no clue as to what that actually is' happens to be in the DNA of baby no.2. I am incredibly lucky that baby no.2 is pretty easy going and I have very few bad days. I'd go as far as to say that I'm enjoying myself, which, considering that the first year of my firstborn's life was the slowest year of my life to date, is a pleasant surprise.

So I can't tell you how life will be for you if you choose to have more than one child. I can guarantee it will be harder and more exhausting (sorry). But no one ever became a parent for an easy ride, right? For me the highs have outweighed the lows. My life is better for knowing these two little people. It may be possible for me to regret having kids, but It's not possible for me to regret having them.

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