'I hadn’t realised how much of a 360 my life would take'

‘You’ve got your hands full!’ exclaimed the lady in the chemist, as I clumsily tried to manoeuvre my double pram out the door, with three kids in tow, and enough luggage for a week’s holiday – all just to go to the park for the morning. I hear those words from strangers on a daily basis, and sometimes wonder what they think of the harassed mother in front of them.

But it wasn’t always like this. My husband and I were together for 16 years before we had children. We met young, and although it was always part of the plan, the time hadn’t been right. When our first son was born in 2014, we decided to try for another straight away – why waste any more precious time? Our first daughter was born 16 months after he was, and another one 16 months after that. Although slow to the pass, we certainly made up for it!

I was clueless about parenthood before I joined the club, and wondered what people with babies did all day. Perhaps I could write that novel I secretly desired, or maybe I could finally do some art classes just for fun. How naïve I was!

The biggest shock, certainly with my first, was the sleep deprivation. Nothing could prepare me for those endless night feeds - I was permanently shattered. Every day felt like wading through mud, and I put my pants down the loo more than once, mistaking it for the laundry basket. I also remember feeling an overwhelming surge of responsibility for this tiny being, and wondering how one earth I could ever live up to the task.

Those early days were brutal, I won’t lie. But with each developmental milestone –first smiles, those drunken baby steps and joyous first words – the love deepened and I soon adjusted to a new normality. With babies two and three, I was still a frazzled wreck, but knowing what to expect was like pressing fast forward and both of those first years passed in record time.

Of course, each phase has its highs and lows, and although my toddler alarm clock wakes me far earlier than I would like, I no longer have the night feeds. Instead, I have to negotiate meltdowns and act as referee for the inevitable squabbling. Because the children are so close in age, they constantly vie for attention, and screaming levels often reach fever pitch. My sanity is frequently pushed to the limit, but when I watch them playing together - acting as mummy and daddy, dressing up in all their winter hats and scarves so they can go to the pretend beach, or giggling furiously as one of them puts a pair of pants on their head while dancing around the room - my heart just melts.

I hadn’t realised before having kids how much of a 360 my life would take. As the stay-at-home parent, it’s pretty relentless but I’m fortunate that my husband takes the lead at the weekend, giving me snippets of much needed me-time.

Life in our household is crazy, messy and loud, and we don’t get anywhere fast - how I will get my son to school on time when he starts in September is still a mystery - but now I can’t imagine my life any other way. The kids are feisty but they are also spirited, loving and funny, and seeing them grow into little humans is a privilege – even if it does mean foregoing my lie-ins!

Author credit: Dominique Woolf