Tales from the crib

Looking after two kids isn’t easy. But Emma Milner thinks it could be much worse

I’ve been having nightmares recently. They started about a week ago when I watched TV until way past my bedtime, which is usually pretty early. This was not some sort of late-night horror flick. I can cope with Freddy Kruger, Dracula or any of the usual horror ghouls. No, it was something much more terrifying. It was a show about a couple with eight children and it gave me cold sweats.

This early evening family viewing had me diving for the duvet. Jon and Kate Plus 8 is possibly the scariest show on television. In case you’ve not caught the programme before, it is about a couple who had twins then sextuplets. Sorry, I sprung that on you a little suddenly didn’t I? Let me reveal the full horror to you again: this is a television show about a family with eight children. If it were fiction it wouldn’t be so bad.

(I was always a secret Sunday morning The Waltons-watcher). Maybe if it had been some sort of English period drama about big families that struggle through hard times, but triumph because they love each other, it wouldn’t have filled me with quite so much dread. But this is a documentary. A reality television show about an unreal life.

I’m only one month into life with two children and my head hasn’t stopped spinning. The first three-and-a-half weeks were tough, but at least I had my mother staying with me. That meant help with cooking, cleaning, shopping and laundry. But now she is gone and I am the only mum in the house. I am in charge. The buck stops with me. And during the waking hours I am expected to single-handedly clean, cook, shop and wash, and mop up after the daily – or more like hourly – dirty protests instigated by both my sons.

It is relentless. No day is the same. The usual routine has gone out of the window. It most certainly has not been a walk in the park. Our first day alone was preceded by a panic attack in a mall, which ended with me, Sam and Joe all crying. It didn’t bode well as my husband had only left us for half an hour to go and buy nappies. The next day wasn’t as bad as it could have been. The morning went pretty well: we had a picnic in the front room – which was mainly spent trying to explain the food was plastic and no amount of chewing was ever going to change that – I had a well-earned nap when Sam and Joe both went to bed without a whisper at midday, and I actually managed to eat something at lunchtime. The morning had clearly given me a false sense of security.

I felt ready to go pro, so I shoved them both into the car for a family outing. In hindsight it is very clear that I made a few rookie mistakes that day. My first was leaving the flat and going to the beach (of all places). The second was not taking a pram, and my third, after failing miserably at the beach – Sam did not want to go and took himself back to the car – was going to the supermarket. Like some demented contestant on Supermarket Sweep I practically ran round the aisles with Sam in the trolley and Joe in the carrier both muttering and crying. It finished us all off and, to top it all, they then did a synchronised poo. Once again, all of us were in tears, or close to it. Tired, deflated and defeated, I drove home in a very smelly car.

Since then I have been more realistic. I just keep it simple. Now it’s about baby steps, literally. And tomorrow is always another day. Hopefully not another disaster, but another day all the same. Somehow, it is working. It is the hardest thing I have ever had to do, but it is beginning to come together. And I am actually starting to enjoy it.

My hat goes off to Jon and Kate, and if they can do it with eight, then I am determined to do it with two. Maybe Sam and Joe won’t always get a bath, maybe the TV will stay on for a bit too long some days, but as long as they get food, some fresh air and, above all, fun, then I think we’ll be doing just fine.

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