Another child

Dear Dave,

Congratulations! It’s great to hear Sam has a little brother or sister on the way. I’m glad the scan went fine and Liz is doing OK. With luck, she’ll stop being sick at the mention of broccoli soon.

In your email it sounds like you’re somewhere on the border between Excitement and Panic. This is, of course, a fantastic locale to visit, full of unexpected career changes, lifestyle choices and sky-diving taster sessions, but you wouldn’t want to live there. Take a deep breath. Resist the siren call of olive farming in Tuscany, of difficult to explain Visa bills and of mysterious women named Svetlana. Come home to the land in which every housedad should start his day – the land of Hopeful Trepidation. You may end the day in Rage or Despair but it’s more likely that things will simply muddle along in the eventual direction of A Beer On The Sofa In Front Of CSI. (Don’t confuse Hopeful Trepidation with Blind Optimism, however – always travel with a pack of baby wipes, a change of socks, three spare nappies and a big stick.)

Which is merely another way of saying don’t worry, you’ll cope. Trust me. I’ve got three under-sevens and I’m still sane... OK, I admit I’m recovering from depression and I’ve just described your emotional state in the style of a housedad version of Pilgrim’s Progress but I’m not yet entirely crazy and I still have my health. Apart from the bad back from lifting Fraser, this flu Marie gave me and a touch of conjunctivitis I picked up from Lewis...

Hmm... I’ll come in again.

Two children? You’ll be fine. I’ve got three but I’m still clinging to the last vestiges of reason and I’m not dead yet. No worries.

Perhaps this isn’t as reassuring as I’d hoped. The truth is, you are going to have your hands full for a while. I used to know a guy who had five kids under nine years old. He was a somewhat busy man but he and his wife sailed around quite serenely in a sea of children. He told me that one child changes your life, a second child changes your life again and, beyond that, there’s not much more left to change.

He was probably right. Looking after a baby takes plenty of time. When Fraser was small, I calculated that taking care of him took eight hours a day, nine days a week. It wasn’t necessarily hard or constant labour, though. I could sit in an armchair and watch re-runs of ER while giving him a bottle, and then get on with other stuff while he had a nap. Lewis made things busier. There was always an awake child to be entertained and I was doing eleven days a week. That may not sound like a vast increase in workload but think of it more in terms of the drastic decrease in time left for anything else, including looking after another child. When Marie arrived, she simply had to fit in.

So, yes, your life is about to change again but not as much as last time and you’re on a roll now – you might as well keep going. Nonetheless, having another child always seems daunting. You look at a dad with two children and wonder how he copes. He looks at me and my three in bewilderment. I look at a mum with four kids and break into manic giggling while my eye starts to twitch. She smiles sweetly and glides off with more composure than Mary Poppins on Prozac. Bah...

Don’t be discouraged. She doesn’t have superhuman powers or an extraordinary level of patience. She’s smiling because she’s going to be home in fifteen minutes and then she’ll be able to lock the little blighters back in their cage, put her feet up and watch some TV show featuring sunshine, make-overs and Peter Andre.

You see, children expand to fill the time you have available for them. If you’ve only got five minutes, they’ll settle for that but, if you’ve got all day, then they’ll take it. One of the most immediate advantages to having multiple children is you quickly learn that a crying child doesn’t explode if you leave him for more than ten seconds. Trying to play Snakes and Ladders with one, while you change another and feed a third is clearly going to end in some form of misfortune. They have to wait their turn, no matter how much they whine. The more children you have, the more time you will spend ignoring most of them. Once you’re good at it, you can spend some of the time ignoring all of them and sneak off for a cup of coffee and a quick surf.

Got to look forward to something... (Don’t worry, you’ll cope.)

Yours in a woman’s world,


P.S. Wish me luck on Monday – Scary Karen is after me.

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