Mummy stuff

Coping with two: How hard can it really get?

Easy as pie, right?!

Easy as pie, right?!

After 15 months of virtually no sleep, my friend D and his wife decided to call in the big guns: a sleep trainer had been appointed, and finally, rest returned to the sleep deprived family.

I an attempt to be funny, I suggested to the panda-eyed father that now would be a good time to get #2 going – only to be almost knocked over by his answer, yes, the question was definitely out there. With a pleading look in his eyes he asked me “how hard can it really get?”

Well, dear D, the answer is VERY HARD.

We have been unlucky in the way that the Pea has been ill for the first three months, not sleeping and not feeding properly. But in the grand scheme of things, we have been incredibly lucky, of course. A spot of undiagnosed reflux is annoying but a far stretch from being a serious problem. And as soon as she was on the meds, we all started to get better.

Still, having number two was so much harder than I could have ever imagined. Emotionally, I found it much easier to adjust to adding another child to the family than the adjustment from no child to one child; but I haven’t been prepared for a long list of side effects nobody seems to tell you about. Like:

  • There might be moments you are resenting your firstborn, who so far has been the one and only apple of your eye. E.g. when she screams and shouts while her baby sister is trying to feed/fall asleep
  • Your firstborn might fall in love with her baby sister, but she might have moments she is resenting you for not being there for her exclusively (cue sobbing mother, wailing “she doesn’t love me anymore”)
  • If you’ve been so far spared from mother’s guilt, now is your time to shine. Guilty will be your new middle name. Let the baby cry a little to finish the puzzle with firstborn? Guilt! Tell the firstborn to play alone (again!) to feed the baby in peace? Guilt! And so it goes on and on
  • The physical exhaustion is undreamed-of. Looking after a baby plus chasing after an active toddler is unbelievably tiring. Like being hit by a bus, then a tractor, then a lorry, a van, a 4×4, same bloody bus again… You get the drift
  • The mess. Oh. My. God. The. Mess. Two children don’t double the mess one child makes. They raise it to the power of infinity
  • The concept of time to yourself completely flies out of the window. Whereas I used to write when L was sleeping, I now find myself spending quality time with her. And if I don’t, I clean up the perpetual mess (see above)

What would you add to the list?


  1. The mess. The mess. I found everything else manageable, but the constant mess and futility of tidying really gets me. And to see the judgemental look in the other parents’ eyes (who only have one and think we are a chaotic family). I even loathe visiting families with just one child because it’s so tidy in their homes, it does get me down. And I’m not a super tidy person, mind.

  2. Yup, the guilt of thinking life would be so much easier if we had stopped at 1.

  3. Everything you have said is so true! Our first child a boy Sydney is 3 and we have a month old baby Ronnie. I am trying to be more organised but still end up with washing,ironing and toys everywhere 🙂

  4. Sabine says

    You nailed it. That’s just about all you need to know about “how hard could it get”.

  5. I think I was so shell-shocked after #1 that the 2nd one (2 years 9 months later) didn’t really faze me. However, one thing I realise now that I didn’t do was try to give them “individual time”; as you said it’s very difficult so I just made sure that they fitted in with being a family with two kids. When the 2 year old was in the bath, I simply lay the baby on the rug and attended to her – that became a nap for him, and we soon got into that routine. (Sounds awful having a baby nap on the rug but he fell asleep a lot!) When it was bedtime for the two year old I would put the baby in his cot/crib and see to her; no harm could come to him and if he cried, he cried (he didn’t, much);by the time I came back he had fallen asleep on his own. etc. It was still knackering but there’s only so much of you so don’t kill yourself and bugger the mess.

  6. cheryl says

    Oh my god, reading this was like reading my life! I am sat on the sofa today, knackered from a child with chickenpox ( grr nursery I am sure) , an irritable coldy baby who may also be getting it! Mine are 3 and 1, the mess in my lounge is well, uh, how do I decribe it? A toss upo between, chuggington train set, sofa cushions chucked everywhere, a smeared tv screen from little hands, lego bricks everywhere, various toys, walker, scooter, play tunnel…the list goes on, I could clear it up but I KNOW within 5mins it will be back to the same mess! So I’ll wait till tonight…I feel shattered today, I am off work for a few weeks on ‘hols’ hahahaha..sorry whilst I pick myself up laughing…no make up, not bothered making an effort with myself, gen looking a total mess and a lot older then 33….I couldn’t give a toss to be honest….I’ve shut the world out and I am getting through alone (hubbie at work) as best I can….motherhood is NOT easier, its harder with more then 1….I don’t know how my own mum coped being a full time mum to 4kids!!! Aah. I’m def happy with two…I love my kids but I am done with no time with my husband, no sleep, not being able to have a coffee uninterupted, go to the loo alone…the list goes on….so no you are def not alone!

  7. Next time I hear the question: SO, are you having a second then?
    My answer will be, please read this blog post!
    Honestly, add to that: have no family around a proper bad back and no money for childcare…I couldn’t do it.
    Mums out there who have gone beyond the first child, you are heroes, or maybe you ‘re just a lot braver than me 🙂

  8. Jules says

    It gets easier! Hang in there. My two boys are now 5.5 and 8 years old. They are the best of friends. We actually can sleep in on the weekend because they will go downstairs and play–build forts, build Legos and laugh, laugh, laugh. There is a constant companion.

    I have friends with onlies and they never get a break. They need to arrange constant playdates or be the other player in every single board game.

    Unfortunately—you have are in the thick of the battle right now:). The girls are adorable!!!

    (just don’t go for number 3). Ha!

  9. I concur with Jules – it does get a lot easier. My two constantly entertain each other now – age 6 and 8 – they are never bored because they always have a playmate. I do find friends with only children have many more problems with their kids being demanding.

    But yes, the early days are hard…and I’m afraid the mess does NOT improve!

  10. Kate Allott says

    Oh no, I’m pregnant with No. 2 and reading this has made me a little worried! No turning back now though! My first child is 4 1/2 and at school so I’m hoping it will be a little easier than having a toddler + baby – am I right?

  11. Kate – yes, it will be easier than toddler and baby. The age gaps between mine are 3.5 years. However, you don’t reap the rewards later on, of having them be totally best friends and playing together for hours on end. Sometimes, yes, but not as much as I see in other families.

    I actually found the jump to the second easier. There was an established routine for him to fit into. I didn’t feel I had to spend my whole time being the perfect mother – in fact, found it rather liberating when circumstances dictated that I couldn’t be, rather than feeling it was my own adequacy at fault. But yes, I recall the tiredness, and the chaos, and the mess…

  12. Well it’s been a long time since I’ve read a blog post let alone leave a comment…but I just had to! Oh my God I so remember those days. We always used to say ‘Having one child is like having a pet, having two is like running a zoo’. And judging by your post I’d say you agree! But it does get better. I promise!! xxx

  13. Like all the other mums with 2 slightly older kids (7 and 10 in my case), all I can say is that it will get better – and probably sooner than you think. Not because the tiredness or the mess go away, but because, somewhere around the age of the youngest hitting 2-ish, they will discover each other, and that is a beautiful thing to see. Mine are 2 years 4 months apart and whilst I likened the arrival of boy #2 as being like the wheels falling off our lives, I don’t regret the age gap for a second. x

  14. David says

    How aptly timed this post is 🙂 my wife gave birth on Monday to our second. A beautiful little girl. Our first, at 2 yrs and 4mths is finding it a little hard so is being hugely demanding and challenging. Really hard to watch. She is also making sure I spend as little time with the new one as possible. Tough. Very tough. The comments are reassuring though 🙂

  15. Lucie says

    Being a mummy to twins, we experienced all this from the word go! Looking back I now know it makes for much happier, well adjusted children. They learn sharing, turn taking, patience and empathy, fast – great friend making/life skills. You give them the gift of each other, which is immeasurable. However, at the time (as I’m now recalling with my newly arrived third in tow!) it’s relentless and exhausting.

  16. Elliotandme says

    OMG! We are expecting #2 in 9 weeks time. This is scaring me quite a bit. Our eldest will be 3 the same month. Coping with the guilt I think is going to be the biggest challenge – I’m already feeling awful that I just don’t have the energy to do as much with him at the moment. I can imagine that’s only going to get worse… Eek!

  17. April says

    Dear Metroplitain Mum,

    I’ve read your blog for about 12 months PLEASE stop with the guilt it’s a waste of your time and energy, you are doing a great job look at the lovely pictures you post of the girls you can’t tell me that you are anything but a wonderful Mum, you can see it in your posts and pics,enjoy this time as its so me I know I have a wonderful 16 year old who is six foot tall and I’m wondering where the time has gone! Don’t sweat the small stuff as they say!

    A. x

  18. Katharina says

    Oh, Reading all of this makes me feel a bit better about the exhaustion I am Feeling since our #2 aka “the Twins” aka #2 AND unplanned #3 were Born 7 Months ago…! 😉

  19. I hear you! Mine are already starting to gang up on me at the tender ages of 1 and 3! The joys 🙂

  20. Loved this. We have a 5yr old and a 5 month yr old and I’m also pleased to hear that other people’s homes look like toys r us too! Makes me feel normal to have such a crazy house and that’s with DD1 at school all day. Hats off to you folk with 2 at home all day- it’s so much harder than you realise from outside x well done ladies!

  21. We spent the weekend with childless friends and goodness, have they got some shocks ahead! I hated it when friends with children said that to us, but it’s the lack of sleep that I don’t think I’ll ever get used to. That and the wanton destruction of all my clothes and possessions.

  22. Suita says

    I can’t even imagine how difficult it must be to have more than 1 child ! Hats off to all the mums who try to juggle both children and give them each love and attention !

    I don’t think only children are demanding and need constant attention though ! Mine five year old is very happy to do a drawing or read a book on his own or build some fantastically absurd Lego vehicle and doesn’t need me to constantly plan playdates for him !

  23. Hello…I felt compelled to comment as I can sense, even through your wry observations, that sometimes it gets too much. I totally get it and have to say that the phase of having two small children is the hardest – mine are four years apart so basically I spent 8 years looking after pre-school children. There is a lot to be said for having them close together, probably challenging at the time, but you come ‘out the other side’ sooner.
    It does pass – and I think it’s entirely OK to say ‘this sucks’. I openly admit that the toddler/baby phase was the worst for me and I feel like now, parenthood is a wholly different (for me: better) thing. I am always sceptical about women who say they love this stage; the mess, the bottles, the sleep deprivation. It gets SO MUCH EASIER! There are other challenges for sure – homework, friendships, academics, overuse of the mobile phone, and on and on but the difference is that when I go to bed at night, I stay in bed and asleep until morning and there is outside chance in the day, when they are at school, I can clean up, get some ‘me’ time. It’s bliss. And I am not talking spa appointments or time with friends; I am simply referring to the basic life events like laundry and shopping and cleaning surfaces in my kitchen And when they finish school, spending time with them is a treat, they are funny and interesting and thought-provoking. Just keep the faith!! Family life is a gift…but I found it gave more and more the older they got. Lou x

  24. Kirsten says

    I absolutely agree with all of this. We even had the same health issues with our second as petite pea has, so can empathise on that side too.

    There have been many, many nights where I have been found sobbing, “he doesn’t love me anymore!”

    I think we may be coming out the other side on the worse of it. I hope. Certainly the health concerns. Thanks again for your support way back at the start of the year. 🙂

  25. I’m with you! I have a four year old and a one year old now. I work part time but we’re currently on a family holiday in Cornwall and its day 4 and we’re both looking at each other and going “wow – how do people do the stay-at-home-mum/dad thing?? It’s SO exhausting!! I think right now its the differing (constant) demands of the two different ages – the one year old is into everything – hot ovens, knive drawers, out through open doors/gates, etc, etc, so you need to watch him like a hawk, but at the same time the four year (September baby so not starting school til Sep 14) is needing more stimulation and talks *constantly*, asking continual ‘why’ questions and needing constant feedback (when he’s not testing our boundaries to the limit and throwing mega-tantrums!) – you really do just want to run away sometimes!! I must say it is very comforting to read the comments of people with two who are that little bit older and have it confirmed that this is the worst bit and things will get easier!

  26. I find myself constantly clearing up after the kids. Non-stop laundry, non-stop washing up, non-stop picking up of toys.
    It’s exhausting.

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