Two weeks ago marked a year since we became a family of 5! 365 glorious, sleep deprived, up-to-our-arms-in-baby-poo-and-giggles filled days since baby Ted joined the madness of the clan! 52 weeks of chaos!
So, a chance to reflect on what being a family of 5 has actually been like…
In April I wrote a blog called New Addition Transitions– we were almost 6 months in and it felt like a good time to take stock and sum up how life had changed and how our approach to parenting had developed over the course of three children. Back then, we seemed to be doing ok! We had a sort of rhythm that we’d fallen into and no child had had any limbs severed, nor had we appeared on the radar of social services so I was happy to take that as a win!
I had however forgotten that babies at that age lull you into a false sense of security! They usually start to sleep a bit better at that age and you begin to feel a bit more human. You start to wonder what all the fuss is about; piece of cake this baby raising business! But (and this is the important bit)… Babies at that age don’t move! You can put them down somewhere and unless you have laid them in broken glass or they have a helpful larger sibling trying to catapult them out of the bouncy chair, then they are unlikely to come to any harm! They are also quite happy to just be stationary and watch the world go by while kicking their little chubby legs and waving their rolls of bingo wings!
But… now we have a mover I am perpetually on edge at all the potential dangers! I need eyes in the back of my head to stop him climbing the stairs or emptying the pan drawer on top of himself or licking the plug-in air fresheners! He gets everywhere! I lost him the other day… he managed to climb into the gap under one of our kitchen stools and was wedged into little baby jail! I’m not ashamed to say I passed him some toys and left him there for a few minutes while I whipped the hoover round!! (In my defence he loved his little baby prison and regularly climbs back in for five minutes peace from his siblings!!!!)
It’s really hard when I look back to not focus on the extreme highs or lows. There are hours and days where it all feels bloody insurmountable! The big two bickering over every bloody little thing drives me to distraction and I don’t always deal with it very well! Ted has gone from the healthiest baby in the world to starting nursery and picking up every bug under the sun! And yet again we do not have a sleeper! He did sleep, briefly; now he doesn’t! The difference this time round is that we’ve had five years of acclimatization to sleep deprivation and function much better without sleep than we did first time around! I am however currently struggling to remember a time when I didn’t feel bone crushingly tired! I also do think that you come to realise third time round that all these things are temporary- I know he’s not sleeping because the little poppet is struggling to cut new teeth (12 down, 8 more to go!) Our big two were exactly the same at that age and other than the occasional night terror they are both pretty good now (early morning rising excluded!) He is in pain and I think 3 babies in now makes me realise that he just wants a bit of comfort and is not some kind of small ninja assassin sent to kill me through sleep deprivation like I genuinely believed the other two might have been at times! It will pass; we will sleep again; there will be good nights in between the bad and I’ve perfected the art of a micro snooze at traffic lights that just about gets me through the day!
The biggest challenge continues to be finding time for everything. I have so far only written about the anticipation of returning to work after Maternity leave; the reality of work has actually been ok. The time I spend in the four walls of work is good- I like feeling useful again for a purpose other than wiping ‘things’! And I thrive on the pressure and busyness that my job demands. Being back at work has brought a good balance of being able to be me and a mum and I do like that but it remains really hard to avoid feeling like you are spreading yourself far too thinly in all areas of life. I cannot work for 4 hours on a Sunday afternoon like I used to without serious sacrifices to family life; sacrifices that I’m not prepared to make unless it is absolutely vital! Likewise I cannot take time off work to do all the things I’d like to as a mummy. Last year was Georges first year at school and we were spoilt- being on mat leave meant I could help out on school trips and take him to school every day and attend the Christmas Fair. Now I’m entirely dependant on the school calendar fitting in with my working hours and inevitably it doesn’t. I find it so hard to fit in homework and reading with George and am really hard on myself when I spend my days off at home running round doing housework or washing while Esme is stuck in front of the gogglebox or Ted is asleep. On the odd occasion that I get an hour ‘off’ from looking after the kids, that time is usually spent sorting out birthdays or wrapping Christmas presents or decorating! Despite my best efforts and intentions I still haven’t found time to exercise or read or really do anything that is for me (I started writing this blog 3 weeks ago!) My mummy stress blog had a list of things I was going to do to push back the balance but best made plans… it’s something to strive to as the kids get older and I get more than 4 hours sleep a night!
We’ve added in additional challenges along the way! I’ve written about clutter and the mess that small children bring and that has definitely been something I’ve found a challenge since having 3. So much stuff! We decided to convert part of our internal garage into a playroom which is almost finished and will make a huge difference. However keeping three small children safe and entertained in what was basically a building site for the last month has brought new challenges! Ted had great fun playing in the bowl of wallpaper paste I’d stupidly left on the hallway floor (multi-sensory play yes??) and the dust and mess has almost broken me! We can see the light at the end of the renovation tunnel now though and the space that we have created and gained will make all the difference! I also find myself the chair of the PTA at Georges school- basically I couldn’t bare the awkward silence that happened in the meeting when no one else volunteered so I stupidly filled it by offering my own services and time that I don’t have! I am happy to do it- the kids are going to be part of the school for the next 11 years so I would like to be able to give something back myself- it was possibly not the best timing though!
I’ve just read this back and I sound like a right moaning Minnie! It is really hard but there have been plenty of laughs and highs along the way! Watching our 3 little people grow into slightly bigger awesome humans is amazing! Ted is such a little dude! He is totally chilled out but is starting to develop his personality and knows what he likes and wants. His little walk is brilliant and he loves to sit on your knee and look at books. He has no words but thinks he has thousands and jabbers away with instructions and conversation, oblivious to the fact we have no clue what he’s saying!! Esme remains bonkers! She is still a feisty little madam and pushes us all to breaking point at regular intervals however she is also hilarious and wonderful and entirely original! George is all of a sudden this cool kid who knows everyone at school and plays football all the time! I feel like I’ve blinked and lost the shy, timid little boy who I was terrified to send to school and replaced him with this incredible little learning machine who embraces opportunities and doesn’t always need us anymore!
My favourite thing about our new addition is watching the relationships that have developed over the last year. Esme and George have a love/hate relationship that properly tests my patience! They are both so feisty and quick tempered (although only with each other!) And the interactions between them often spill over into scrapping! They are both infinitely more patient with their baby brother and watching them with him melts my heart! Esme is a mother hen and generally bosses him around and bothers him! He however loves her to bits and is usually quite happy to be bossed, dragged, rolled on or squeezed!! He bit her bum the other day though so maybe he is starting a fight back! Ted and George have a beautiful relationship- ted seems to be so grown up when he’s around his big brother, the four and half year gap melts away as they find common ground in the things that they enjoy and find funny! George has a range of brilliant little slapstick sketches that make Ted belly laugh so much that he can’t catch his breath! I flutter between wanting to pause this moment in time and relish the waves of chuckling, to wanting to fast forward 20 years and see the two of them stood propping up a bar, mercilessly ribbing each other in a way that only siblings can! (As an aside to this sketch, I envisage Esme being somewhere in Said bar chatting up their friend; probably the loveable rogue/bad boy of the group!!)
It’s been hard! It’s been knackering! At times, it’s pushed and strained all the relationships within our house while we’ve found our feet and new rhythm! I think at this point I’m supposed to say that I wouldn’t change it for the world; but I would! I’d get more sleep! And a lottery win so I could not work (I’d volunteer and stuff- don’t judge me!!) and I’d wave a magic wand to stop the big two falling out all the time! But have I ever regretted our move from a 4 to a 5? Not on your nelly! We hadn’t realised, but the universe knew there was a massive Ted shaped hole in our lives and that our family jigsaw was not yet complete! Fate had it all in hand! (But just for the record fate, that jigsaw; totally and utterly finished now!!!)