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toddlers playing with paints

the messy truth from a mum of two.

Jade Chilton

5 minutes


“Smile!” exclaims my friend as she captures a tiny glimpse of my life as a mum of two on her iPhone. I’m plonked on her sofa, breastfeeding my newborn, holding a much-needed cup of tea while my toddler is precariously hanging off my neck because she’s terrified of Benny the Maltese Shih Tzu playfully jumping at my ankles. “Don’t worry, I won’t post it,” giggles my friend. I join her in her laughter. If I didn’t, I’d cry. She later says to me, “I thought it was wonderful – all three of them crowding around you on the sofa. Until you sighed, ‘I just want everyone to be still…’.

For the past five months my two-and-half-year-old and my new born have been by my side constantly. With my husband back to work two weeks after the birth and our families 4,000 miles away, it’s been relentless. Putting the oldest to nap while jiggling a squirming baby in my arms has become the new norm, while finding a safe spot to lay the newborn in a nanosecond after my newly toilet-trained toddler shouts “POO POO!”, is a glimpse at my expert navigational skills. Now, insert a tantrum, a hungry baby and a tired mum and the result? A delicious mess of crazy, along with hair pulling and tears from all.

Here’s what I’ve noticed since becoming a mum of two…

I’ve become superbly time-poor, so much so that I don’t have time to overthink anything and, with that, there’s been no reading of parenting guide books and sleeping manuals to tell me that I’m doing it all wrong, which has allowed me the chance to follow my gut with a lot less Googling of what that rash/yawn/hand chewing means.

And on that note, the newborn angst didn’t rear its head this time but instead was replaced with new levels of all-encompassing guilt. “The newborn needs more bonding time but, oh, the toddler feels left out…” and so my mental commentary goes on and on.

This time around - thanks to COVID-19 - I had that precious four-week grace period of no guests, which meant I felt no pressure to rush out of the house to prove I was back in the game.

This time around - thanks to COVID-19 - I had that precious four-week grace period of no guests, which meant I felt no pressure to rush out of the house to prove I was back in the game. There was plenty of lounging around in my nursing bra and not much else, all of which allowed my family of four to adjust to the new dynamic.

I laugh to myself daily, “Ha, you thought one was hard!” Disclaimer to all first time mums: I do believe the transformation of going from none to one is still the most challenging time of my life and merely adding an additional child has amped up that drama.

There should be a recording of my voice saying, “Gentle hands with your little sister” through our sound system all day long, in readiness for that one moment when I turn my back for a second and all hell breaks loose as my toddler swings a left hook.

I can see the second child becoming a natural born chill-out star. There’s no surprise there, given that, with my first, I was picking her up at every grunt, snort and giggle. This one, however, gets to live her emotions without them being extinguished quicker than I can say, “Shhh baby”.

The same goes for sleep. I thought babies who slept were mythical creatures that didn’t exist. Then Alba Chilton appeared and gave her best shot at sleeping through the night. Apparently, this is a typical trait of a second baby – and long may it continue. Please note, I’m not gloating, I’ve more than paid my dues with lack of sleep with my firstborn night owl.

When Alba arrived into the world, the all-consuming love didn’t hit me like a ton of bricks like it did with my first. Instead, it seeped in steadily until, before I knew it I was bursting with love for this little pink bundle I’d just birthed.

As I watch my toddler grow in to a confident little girl, and slowly see the baby leave her face, I relish that I’m lucky enough to do it all over again with Alba and I won’t wish for a single phase to be over. I know what’s to come, and I know she will go at her own pace. I also know that this golden time will disappear in the blink of an eye and I will try not to take a moment for granted.

My husband likes to think it’s our second chance to do an even better job. We did okay with number one, he says. We plunged in head first and hoped for the best. She was fed, cuddled and cared for and we all survived. But now, here’s number two. It’s our second shot. Could we do a little better? Could we be more patient? Could we read more books with them? Yes, we could. We’re the parenting equivalent of a squad of Green Berets right now. But, as parents of young children know, days, weeks and years fly past and taking five minutes to reflect and plot how to finesse our parenting skills is difficult. We both agree the best we can do is trust our instincts – which are now sharper after baby number one. We’ve learnt what to do and what not to do. We’ll be fine and so will our baby.

I once heard this line, “Having one child is like having a pet, two is like running a zoo” and I couldn’t put it better myself. As I type this, I glance up to a view of my garden covered in toys, there’s yellow finger paint on the arm of our white sofa, I see a breast pump half-full with milk stood on the coffee table waiting to be knocked to the floor, there’s drool trickling down my baby’s torso, and my eldest is emptying a packet of WaterWipes to clean sticky ice lolly off her Wonder Woman costume. Motherhood is messy, but mothering two is, quite frankly, filthy.

Back to my friend snapping photos on the sofa. “It is wonderful”, I agree. “Crazy, relentlessly, joyously wonderful. Now, can you take the baby so I can pee alone?”

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This article was originally published on GRAZIA on October 20th, 2020 and re-published here with publisher's permission.

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