Toddlers, two under two and doing it all

I often find myself part of a conversation around how hard it is adjusting to life with two children but ‘nowhere near as hard as adjusting to the first baby’ someone says. At this point I am quiet and smile, sometimes I nod in agreement but feel like an absolute fraud because this was absolutely not my experience but for some reason I don’t often feel I can share that.

So today in recognition of Maternal Mental Health week I will, just in case there are others out there who feel the same. The truth is that becoming a mother for the first time was one of the best times of my life. Before you give up now, this is not going to be a #smug #soblessed post; stick with me. I don’t know exactly why I didn’t find this phase of parenting as hard as people seem to describe it. There are lots of logical reasons I can give; Sophia’s birth was not easy but it was amazing and the endorphin high I felt afterwards was honestly the most incredible feeling I have ever experienced. Sophia was born at the beginning of a glorious summer, the weather was great and were out the house 3 days after she was born. My husband was around a lot, even after his two week official leave and he was there with me, waking up for the night feeds and night changes. Breastfeeding was straightforward for us, and although Sophia was a frequent waker, who didn’t sleep through the night until she was 10 months old, we shared a bed so I actually got a passable amount of sleep. This was new motherhood for me and it really wasn’t as difficult as people had talked about. It’s quite easy to see why by the time Sophia turned one and didn’t feel like a baby baby anymore I was more than ready to have another baby.

Imagine my surprise when Arthur arrived four month before Sophia turned two and was just reaching the beginning of the real tantrums. My business had grown in the eighteen months since Sophia had been born and the six months ‘maternity leave’ I gave myself after her birth was non existent. I had a marketing meeting when Arthur was two days old. It makes me want to cry when I think about that but there wasn’t anyone else to run my business in my place so there it was. Unlike the first time round, when the baby slept there was no fifteen minutes to collect my thoughts and have a cup of tea, there was a beautiful toddler struggling with the world around her and this new person who had burst forth into it. She needed me and unlike when she was two months old and what she needed came naturally to me, this time it didn’t.

I have realised over this last year that for whatever reason being a mum to a baby comes quite naturally to me, being a mum to a toddler does not. I am the least patient person I know, and with no time and space to process my own emotions I often haven’t known how to help Sophia handle hers. I know I cannot be alone in finding the toddler years even harder than the newborn ones. How many times has a friend or stranger referred to the ‘terrible twos’ with an eye roll, a smile or a even chuckle. Why does society laugh about it like it’s amusingly difficult? It has taken me down from the inside but somehow nobody talks about it like that.

Of course everyone’s experience is totally unique but whilst there is a lot of talk about new mothers, there is relatively little conversation about what it’s like to have a baby and a young toddler, let alone two toddlers at the same time. The extent of this conversation, mostly consists of strangers smiling nervously whilst saying ‘You’ve got your hands full’. WTAF!

I sometimes wonder if I’ve struggled with Post Natal Depression but if I’m really honest with myself I know the tears and the strain that rear their ugly heads on bad days are just the natural result of having taken on too much. I didn’t set out to start a business, renovate a house, have a baby and then another one, with a husband who works long hours, no family nearby and 6 hours childcare a week, but one step at a time that’s what I’ve done. I left no space to learn to be a better toddler mum, or even take stock of how I’m feeling.

“We are the daughters of the feminists who said, “You can be anything,” and we heard, “You have to be everything.”
- Courtney Martin

We don’t have to have depression to feel awful. Sometime (often) we pile so much pressure on ourselves that of course we crumble. This is true of Mums more than anyone, I think. The reason I have become so passionate about simplifying and minimalism is because my motherhood has been so overshadowed by too much. Suffice to say we’ve put things in motion to gain some much needed space for our family and big changes are on the horizon. 

When I look back at the blissful new mum days I realise the bliss mostly came from the fact that I had space in my life. Space to think, to take care of myself and space to enjoy the moment. To anyone else who took on way too much, you are not alone, you are not supposed to be able to do it all and your best is always good enough and to anyone struggling with the reality of how hard it is to mother a toddler, I’m right there with you. As my husband said the other day ‘Don’t worry, if it’s any consolation I think you’re going to make a great teenager Mum’. Here’s hoping!

Emily Rollings