So off we go. If you have just found out you are going to be outnumbered by little people, chances are you could be at risk of developing a madhouse. When you are ready, you need to consider how you are going to successfully manage your madhouse. I believe that there are eight factors that all contribute to a madhouse. Consider each factor individually, understand how they work together, then you can work out steps to help you manage them and your madhouse.
What kind of person are you? This is a key factor in determining how successful your madhouse house will be. I am a chartered accountant (not something that often has a great public perception) but generally as an accountant, I have a logical mind, like a challenge and a to-do list. When I was working, one of the keys to a successful job was time management. And I was good at time management and making lists. I have used these skills in the home and I honestly think that path helped me significantly. So if you sound like that, I reckon you are half way there.
If not, time to start practising. If you are going to have four children under two, or even a singleton, time management is the key. I say to my husband that I run my house like a ship. Obviously I am the captain (although at time I think he tries to assert himself in that position, as if). But I need to run it like a ship.
So start looking at your time management. And List List List – you will need to be on top of what you need to successfully manage your madhouse, who has medicine when, when you last expressed, who had how many ounces of milk and when, health visitor phone numbers and so on. You will need to be super-organised. The more organised and in control you are, the smoother the next few years will be and the more you will enjoy them. So that is how you operate. Next, what do you look like when you operate.
People always commented to me that I always looked calm and in control but how you actually are and how people perceive you to be are two very different things. Some people want to see you like a mad woman out of control – that poor woman trapped in the house with four boys under two – how does she do it. Some people expect you to be running down the road in your nightie, to turn up at playgroups with greasy hair, pale and dishevelled. So don’t. Believe me, the fact that people think you look great and are coping really well will soon give you the boost and in turn you will start to believe that you are doing a great job. And you will be. Turn up looking like some dogs dinner, you will get the sympathetic looks, ‘Oh that poor woman’ and it really won’t help matters and you will just want to go home, cry, and eat biscuits. It is simple, Look great, feel great.
You don’t need lots of time to do little tricks to make you feel and look better. I painted toenails and finger nails whilst expressing milk. No one expects a mother of four under two to have painted toe nails. The fact that I did used to make me that bit more cheery in the morning when I got out of bed and saw my toes, and the comments I received when people were aghast that I had time to paint my toenails gave me a little spring in my step. Something as simple as that.
This is where I am extremely fortunate (although I am not sure he always reciprocates the feeling). My husband has always shared the responsibility of the large family with me. He too has surrendered himself to his family. We never discussed this, it just happened and we have both taken on everything as a team. He has given up social activities, sport, nights out for bath time. Luckily he works 20 minutes away so always able to be here for breakfast and bath time, and this is so fortunate for me, although at times he probably doesn’t see it like that as those times are probably the most stressful. I have often suspected him parking round the corner for a quick motivational talk or power nap before coming home and succumbing himself to the regular chaos of bath time and bedtime (which he always diligently got straight into after the usual array of expletives from me for being just those few minutes later than I needed him to be. None of those smiles and ‘Have you had a nice day darling?’)
Depending on who your partner is, where he works, his other commitments, and also his personality (including those time management skills) will shape your next few years. My husband too is a chartered accountant. Need I say more.
I have noticed over the years that the advantage of having the higher end multiples is that my husband’s employers are more understanding of his needs at home. As you will come to read, in the first few weeks, he was often arriving at work half an hour or so late. This seemed acceptable, as his wife was at home with baby triplets. I often think if I had a toddler and a new born, that tardiness wouldn’t have been acceptable.
So in preparing for the new arrivals, you should start thinking about how your partner is going to play a part. Is he likely to see for himself that he may need to be more involved than if you were just having a singleton, or do you need to prepare him for this. Depending on his personality, he may need more managing, as may his expectations. He is part of the madhouse, and could either play an important part in successfully managing it, or he could end up being a factor that you need to manage.