Two’s a crowd?

Louise Emma Clarke wishes motherhood came with a warning…

Being a mum gives you free membership to a special club. It’s not the kind of club I used to like frequenting, with loud music, low lights, and long lie-ins the next morning. Nor is it a club I would like to be a member of now, with sofas to lounge on, glasses of bubbly, and free massages on tap. But at least this kind of club allows us to moan about how tired we are without eyes rolling, discuss the contents of nappies without attracting disgusted glares, and compare milestones without the other party falling asleep in boredom. We’re all in it together, right?

Well kind of. Because since having my second child, I am a bit horrified by the things that other club members neglected to tell me. In fact, I feel totally cheated. Nobody told me having two children was going to be this hard!

Nobody told me that I would be stuck on the sofa feeding a newborn for hours on end, while the toddler worked tirelessly to wreck the apartment around me. Like the moment he dangled a wet paintbrush over our cream rug (he had chosen black as his favoured colour that day) while I had to make a snap decision about whether to endure a screaming baby or accept that our rug had a new design of splatters. It seems home furnishings can survive the birth of a first child, but there is little hope after the second. The blue crayon marks on the walls, red playdoh stuck in the cracks of the windowsill, and coffee splashes on the arm of the sofa are testament to that. I have given up caring.

That’s not all, because no one warned me about the times I would tip-toe into the nursery to lower the sleeping newborn into his Moses Basket, only for the toddler to run behind me shouting ‘NEE NOR NEE NOR’ at the top of his voice and waving a Fireman Sam DVD wildly in the air. And even that isn’t as frustrating as the times he sneaks past me, runs into his brother’s room, and shouts his name in his face as he lies peacefully asleep. Whoever coined the phrase ‘never wake a sleeping baby’ forgot to pass the memo to their siblings.

It’s not all bad, of course, as having two kids has its special moments too – although I’m ashamed to admit these usually come at nap and bedtimes. I would gladly exchange a wad of cash for the blessing of coordinated naps from my two boys. Only fellow mums will understand the pure joy of silence and chance to sit down with a cup of coffee.

Oh the caffeine! Why did nobody tell me to arm myself with ample supplies of the strongest coffee ever brewed? Forget play dates, mothers meetings, and baby classes; caffeine is my new best friend. If I thought that having one child was tiring, the addition of this new creature is quite something else. We ran out of the strong stuff recently and my husband came home to find the kettle in the fridge and the milk on the kettle stand. That just about says it all.

Out and about, there have been surprises too. My first child liked being in the car, but my second views it as a form of torture. Driving fast gets him off to sleep, so I have come to regard traffic lights as my enemy. If I see a red light ahead, I slow down to a crawl in the hope a green light may magically appear. If it doesn’t, I stop a few meters behind the car in front and ‘bunny hop’ forward to keep the motion going. This keeps the baby asleep, but has the major downside of reducing the toddler to excited squeals (which wakes up the baby anyway).

I’d much prefer to head out on foot, but the buggy poses a whole new set of problems. I spent a lot of time researching double buggies when pregnant and asking other mums for recommendations. Why did nobody warn me about how bulky, hard to steer, and heavy to lift these things are? There’s no need for a personal trainer to lose this baby weight, as I’m sure the double buggy will do just as good a job. My biceps might be bulging, but I’ve managed to bruise my shins, trap my fingers, and crush my toe – and that’s just trying to get the thing into the boot of the car.

So when I next see a pregnant woman dragging a toddler around, I feel it’s my duty to warn her of the fun that is in store. But until then, you will find me counting down the hours until bedtime…

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