Another area in which I have been lucky is family. My parents live ten miles away and my mum has always been on call when I need her. One of the first things people always asked is ‘What are you going to do for help?’ which always irritated me as it was always accompanied with often a panicked incredulous look. All in all, not very helpful, particularly when I had no idea what exactly I was going to need help with. You will have plenty of time to think how you want to do this and look at the resources available to you. I knew from the outset that I wanted to be able to do this myself. Great that Mum was around and I would use her when I wanted to, but I wanted to know for myself that I could look after my four children myself.
In-laws are also another area which need to be considered, and managed if need be. You may be lucky and have a great relationship with your in-laws, or you may not have a relationship with them. I consider that I am lucky in my relationship with my in-laws, and that this has developed as I have grown up and started my own family. From my experience over the years, I have found that my in-laws just want to be involved. A mother is usually closer to her own mother than her mother-in-law and would normally be the first point of call when seeking advice on baby issues. At times, I can imagine this is hard for a mother-in-law and in the future years when I am in that position, I am sure I will understand more than I do now.
If you are not so lucky to have family help locally, start thinking who else may be of use. Maybe someone from a playgroup you know, neighbours or friends. Different people can help in different ways, for example neighbours can pick up the odd groceries for you (formula milk, nappies). Other local mums can drop siblings at school or playgroups. There are also other services you could consider. Homestart are a charity providing support and friendship for families, see home-start.org.uk. NEST (Newborn & Nanny Education Services & Training, see newborneducation.co.uk) can help by providing students needing work experience who can help with a range of tasks from bottle washing and sterilising to night feeding. And you could also consider cleaners to help you manage your house. I was of the opinion not to have a cleaner as the stress of having someone come into the house on a certain day and having to think about which room we could go in whilst they clean around was really not worth the reward of having a clean house. The housework always gets done anyway. It really does and never takes as long as you think it will. You just need to accept that you will never have the whole house clean at the same time. You may have a wonderfully shiny bathroom but the rest of the house will look like it has just been burgled.
Although not part of the madhouse itself, family and external helpers can help you manage your madhouse more successfully, so start to consider who can help and how, and to manage those expectations that they may have.
An external factor which can impact how you successfully manage your madhouse is your community. Where you live and what facilities you have around you makes a big difference. We are lucky in that our village we have a local park, convenience shop, post office, school and a petrol station with pay at pump (so as not leaving children unattended in car). All these things were going to make my life a bit easier over the next years. Again, no need to think you need to move, but start looking at what you have around you, what you don’t have, what you think you will need elsewhere, and how you could go about getting it.
The layout of your house can make a huge difference in the first few months mainly in terms of sleeping arrangements. More on what we did later, but something to start thinking about before the home coming. That said, there is no need to think ‘Oh we are going to need to move house’, but you will need to plan a few things and visualise things in your head to ease pressure and prepare you for the stages to follow. And so when people ask you, open eyed ‘Where are they all going to sleep?’, you can calmly discuss your options.
They say money does not make you happy, but it can make things easier. If you do not need to worry about money, a lot of everyday stress will be taken away. Babies do cost money, and lots of babies will cost a lot more. But they don’t actually need a lot and certainly not three of everything. Obviously you will need two or three of some things, which unfortunately seem to be the most high value items – car seats, high chairs, cots. But you really don’t need two or three times the usual amount of breast pads and two or three times the usual amount of maternity pads (luckily I was allowed a credit note). And you really don’t need lots of toys and clothes (especially as you will be washing everyday they can literally wear it again the next day). There are also many opportunities these days to purchase good quality nearly new items (more on this later).
As any new mother-to-be may do, I created a spreadsheet (remember I am an accountant) listing out all the purchases I ‘needed’ for my new singleton baby, down to matching tie backs for the curtains. I also did a similar list for my multiple pregnancy, but this time with the benefit of hindsight. I will come on to share this in a future post.
So there you have it. Those are what I consider to be the factors you need to consider and manage over the next few years. Not all factors need to be managed equally well. You may struggle with one factor, such as ‘Partner’, but find that you are stronger in the ‘Self’ category. Or you could find that you are limited in the ‘Family’ category, but stronger in the ‘Partner’ and ‘Community’ categories.
You will have a madhouse for sure, but how successful you are at managing it will be a result of how successful you are at managing these factors.