By Lauren Edwards
I am the proud Mum to three children; my eldest son is 17 and I have 13-year-old boy/girl twins. Having more than two children can be a struggle and a blessing, so for those of you who are in the same boat with multiple children, or if you are considering trying for a third, please allow me to provide you with some insight on what a challenge it can sometimes be.
One set of hands is never enough
When I had my twins, my eldest son was only three, past the age of reins but still needing to be kept in line from running amok and so needed a hand to hold, which often had to be my elbow as my hands were always full. A double buggy is wide enough on its own without an extra child hanging off the side and how can people use buggy boards without 8ft long arms?!
With a twin baby in each arm, I became quite adept at using other body parts to do simple tasks. My feet became more dexterous than a chimpanzee when picking up items from the floor, I had to rely on the strength of my teeth to grab stuff and balancing became an art form when trying to hold children whilst simultaneously opening a door with a phone cradled under my ear. In fact, multi-tasking became an essential way of life. Whilst talking to a friend on the phone I could sort a wash load, find a missing Barbie hairbrush, clear up a mountain of Lego and make a cup of tea.
Not built for a family of five
Cars, hotel rooms, rollercoasters, bus seats, the list goes on of places that are better suited for a family of four. When I had my first scan and was given the very unexpected news that twins were on the way, my husband’s first words were, “We need a bigger car” … Bigger car! I need to find a way to grow two babies!! But he was right. Our beloved four-seater car just wouldn’t cut it for a toddler and two baby seats. And nowadays we have the constant negotiations of who is stuck in the middle seat as they all fake car sickness to be by the window.
A day out to a funfair/theme park often creates a situation of ‘taking it in turns’ of who will sit next to each other on the rides whilst me or husband fill the seat next to third child. There has been many a situation where I have shoehorned the three of them into a two-seater dodgem/rollercoaster car to save on arguments/queueing which also doubles up as an extra safety measure as they can’t actually move their limbs!
Late for everything
Three or more children can mean that one-to-one time with a child becomes nigh on impossible! Before the arrival of the twins, me and my son used to go everywhere together. I’d prepare a packed lunch for us, sling on a backpack and venture out somewhere for the day with him.
When three children are in the mix, a day out can look like you’re preparing for a school trip with packed lunches, coats, toys, etc. Just finding three pairs of matching shoes is a challenge in itself. In fact, spending a night away as a family of five can feel like you’re packing for a week’s holiday.
Parent guilt x 3
I used to spend many a sleepless night worrying about how I should be playing with the children more. How I need to be making the most of every minute because it goes so quick and that I really should be doing more, making Lego creations with my youngest son, creating art collages with my daughter, or talking through feelings with my eldest. I did manage these tasks but never as much as I wanted to.
Each day seemed filled with cooking, cleaning, washing (endless washing), school runs, cooking, finding shoes/schoolbooks/special toys, cooking, cleaning, drop offs to brownies/football/tennis, washing, homework, cooking….
Budgeting is impossible
A ‘big ‘shop for a family of five often costs the same as a European City Break. A full cupboard never lasts, and a packet of biscuits disappears within a day. My eldest son now spends most of his time looking into an open cupboard/fridge with disappointment. When there are any snacks, he will bring a tray’s worth to the sofa for the evening as if he is camping out for a few days.
However, having to constantly put your hand in your pocket does mean you find ways to become thrifty. When the children were younger, I would often be presented with the challenge of fashioning three lunchboxes from the contents of an unexpected empty fridge, cold pasta, cut up cheese, raisins and Worcester Sauce flavoured crisps anyone?
I want to be alone!
Beds, bathrooms, and kitchens are all places that you will miss spending time in by yourself. With small children around, you need to give up the luxury of a solitary wee or a bed with less than three bodies in it. Date nights can be few and far between and if you manage a night away, it can soon lose its appeal when you came home to find exhausted grandparents surrounded by chaotic children.
It can feel like you’re a bit of a mob when you arrive somewhere. It’s not easy to ‘squeeze’ into a corner table of a pub when you are a family of five or when visiting an elderly relative with a small sitting room, it becomes standing room only. The house is a lot untidier with three children but there is more help at hand (after a few bribes normally). They do argue, naturally, and I have to be aware that there isn’t one always in the middle, feeling ‘ganged up on’, which is often the accusation, but with two siblings, each child also has someone new to hang out with.
It can be hard/expensive/exhausting having a big family but every now and then, when we are walking in our group across the park or all squeezed together on the sofa laughing at a movie (once we finally agree on one), I feel incredibly thankful for having my three children, all unique in their own little way.