1 – To embrace the chaos. With one child, I could just about maintain a sense of order at home. I felt fairly in control of the laundry pile, the toys were put away neatly every night, and I was able to stay in touch with friends and family pretty regularly. Baby number two was, as they say, the straw that broke the camel’s back. Most of the time, I am totally winging it. I don’t know whether the boys have got clean clothes for the next day, what they will be having for dinner that night, or whether I have replied to the text I received from a friend a few days ago. My mind is a complete sieve, but it’s OK. I have learnt to embrace this chaos and to enjoy it. I love my afternoons with my little family – and the fact everyone is happy is far more of a priority than whether the books are lined up nicely on the living room shelf.
2 – Life really does get easier. Rewind 12 months and I wouldn’t have believed you if you told me life would get easier so quickly. With feeds to fit around nursery runs, a toddler to watch like a hawk, and a baby to tip-toe into the nursery whenever he fell asleep (closely followed by the noisiest toddler on the planet), life was a complete juggle in the early days. But yesterday, as I was stood in the kitchen cooking dinner and listening to the boys playing together in the nursery next door, I realised that we had found our groove. And a lot of the time, shock horror, it wasn’t even me entertaining the baby.
3 – My guilt surrounds number two. When I was pregnant with number two, I worried all the time about the effect it would have on my precious first-born. I felt guilty about how his life would change and how my time would suddenly be split in two. However, I can safely say that I have rarely felt guilty for him in the 12 months he has had a sibling. Life pretty much continued as normal for Stanley – but for his little brother, the first 12 months has been so different to how it was the first time. He didn’t get the luxury of Mummy and Daddy exclusively for the first few years of his life and I have very rarely had time to take him to play-dates or classes. I can rationalise this guilt as I know my love for this little person is just as strong as it was the first time, but it is something that has played on my mind at times during the last year.
4 – Life is on fast-forward. It’s such a cliché to say that time passes quickly when you are a Mum – but I have to say that it ramps up another notch when number two arrives on the scene. We have been so busy these past 12 months that each milestone and month has passed in a flash – and suddenly here I am with another toddler on my hands. Where did my baby go? I have no idea, but the headstrong, hilarious little man that has replaced him has taught me to enjoy every moment as it just goes too quick.
5 – Tiredness is a way of life. One child is tiring. Two children is exhausting. I can only imagine what it’s like to add another one or two into the mix. I quite literally can’t remember what it feels like to not be tired. Even if the boys have a good night (which is a rarity these days to be honest), I would need another 30 of them to catch up sleep. Tiredness burns the back of my eyes every morning, every afternoon, every evening – but I am so used to it that I don’t even really notice it any more. Also, I have learnt that coffee is often my very best friend.
6 – To accept help. With my first baby, I felt that I could and should do it all alone. Being an expat meant that I had very few people around to ask in the first place – but accepting help from paid nannies in the UAE and grandparents in the UK didn’t come naturally. In fact, I didnt even like leaving Daddy to it at the weekend to focus on myself for a few hours – essentially, I wanted to be superwoman. With number two, I realise this is totally impossible and I have had to learn to accept help. I understand now that I can’t do it all – I can’t work pretty much full-time hours, whilst being a full-time mum, keeping the house running, being a good wife and mother, and having time to relax and be myself occasionally too. I do now understand that there are limited hours in the day and I can’t do everything on my own.
7 – The sibling bond is intrinsic. Despite being 21 months apart and at very different points in their development and abilities, my boys really are best friends. They argue at times (the little one has finally started to defend himself and his toys after a year of having them snatched away) and they often compete for my attention, but when they start playing together and I hear them howling with laughter, I realise there is nothing that can compare to that sibling relationship. It seems intrinsic – and on days when everything is a bit of a struggle, that is worth its weight in gold. It makes me realise that every little effort has been worth it – not just for me and my benefit, but for our family as a whole. This second little person has a very real place in our family unit and it is so wonderful to see this sibling bond develop and grow. I can’t wait to see what happens over the next 12 months.
Happy birthday for tomorrow my little Wilfred. We love you very, very much.