My husband is a wonderful father. He winds babies, changes nappies and gives piggy back rides. He takes the big one to football, giving the little one and I lazy Saturday afternoons at home, and blows gentle raspberries on the little one's tummy so I can read the big one's bedtime stories in peace. Pretty good eh? He does however have one major failing. An insistence that my maternity leave is a 'holiday'. Dare I open my mouth to complain that the baby has been grumpy, or the toddler obstinate, and out it comes ... 'you think that's bad. I've been at work all day!'
No amount of persuading will make him see that a full day at home with a baby-with-cold and toddler-with-attitude is probably not a holiday in the traditional sense. For the next 10 months or so this is my job. I don't have an office or an identity badge and it doesn't pay well. Yes I enjoy it, but I resent the suggestion that it's easy. So here, for his benefit, is a day in my life as Mum of Two.
I say a day in the life, there are also night feeds of course, but for the purpose of this post I'll start at 7.45 am, when (following a couple of hours of playtime at 3 am) the baby woke.
7.45 am - Breastfeed the baby. She has a cold so this involves liberally squirting saline to clear her nasal passages and allow her to breathe whilst latched on. It's not perfect of course and she's gulping in air by the bucketload. The feed takes so long as I have to stop every few minutes to wind her or mop up my over exuberant milk supply.
9.00 am - Take the toddler downstairs. Assemble Weetabix and fruit concoction and allow him to eat in front of CBeebies. Breastfeed the baby whilst he eats.
9.45 am - Wash up the breakfast things. Dash back in from the kitchen at the telltale sound of the toddler playing with the Christmas tree when I realise it would fall over onto where the baby is napping.
9.50 am - Having been moved, the baby is awake again. Shhhh and rock her whilst operating Early Learning Centre play toaster with my free hand and 'eating' plastic toast.
10.00 am - Take the toddler into the kitchen and give him a bowl of sprouts to peel whilst I finish the washing up. Start assembling the fishcakes we'll be having for lunch.
10.15 am - Regret letting the toddler spoon chopped vegetables from the food processor into a pan. Set him up with Ballamory on Sky+ and a snack of cheese and crackers whilst I clean the kitchen floor and eat my own (very late) breakfast standing at the worktop.
11.00 am - Let the toddler help add the now cooked veg and fish to the mashed potato and build fishcakes. Clean the kitchen floor again when he waves his coated hands around in excitement.
11.15 am - Breastfeed the baby whilst the toddler unpacks the contents of the downstairs nappy changing box.
11.25 am - Put the baby in her crib under her mobile. Desperately hope the occasional squawks wont turn into full-blown crying before I've washed my hair. Strip the toddler who demands the potty. Shower with one ear on the baby and the other on the toddler (adjacent to the shower screen) shouting 'I'm doing a big poo Mummy!'
11.28 am - Realise baby meltdown is approaching in T - 2 minutes. Clean out the potty (bleurgh!) and shower the toddler. Taste soap and realise I have forgotten to rinse my facewash off.
11.30 am - Wrap up the toddler and sit him on the (closed) toilet seat to clean his teeth. Grab the baby and rock her whilst cleaning mine.
11.33 am - Realise a crying baby is incompatible with a lack of breastpads. Despair at the two large wet patches forming on my towel and throw it in the wash.
11.40 am - Dress the toddler. Put the baby down to much screeching. Dress hurriedly in ill-fitting unflattering clothes.
11.45 am - Remove the fishcakes from the oven and assemble lunch.
11.50 am - Eat quickly, jiggling the baby in one arm.
11.55 am - Reassemble the nappy changing kit and change and dress the baby. Start the 'one more mouthful and you can have ...' routine.
12.05 pm - Breastfeed the baby.
12.15 pm - Provide the toddler with fruit and yoghurt for dessert.
12.20 pm - Breastfeed the baby whilst fending off requests for chocolate buttons.
12.45 pm - Round up the toddler's week-late library books.
1.00 pm - Arrive at the doctor's surgery for the toddler's appointment with the Orthoptist. Spend the next half an hour shamefaced as he stage whispers 'I no like the eye doctor!' and whines 'she's hurting me!' whilst resolutely refusing to name the pictures on the cards she is holding up.
1.30 pm - Comfort the screaming baby who has been accidentally bashed on the head by her brother
1.35 pm - Change the toddler's nappy on the cold floor of the disabled loo
1.45 pm - Run (carseat in one hand, toddler in the other) in the rain from the doctor's to the library. Return week-late books and beg forgiveness from the brusque librarian. Try to persuade the toddler there's no need to borrow books we already have at home. Breastfeed the baby and wave a series of stories in turn until the toddler's distracted away from the Bumbo seats (I don't want a repeat of this performance). Grab the entire back catalogue of Judith Kerr then realise I can't control both children, changing bag and books.
2.15 pm - Ignore pointed stares from little old ladies as the toddler entertains himself with the automatic library doors whilst I check out the books. Turn slightly puce when the librarian reminds me four times what date the books are due back.
2.20 pm - Run back to the car (still raining)
2.30 pm - Arrive home. Quietly place the sleeping baby in her carseat on the dining room floor. I daren't remove her snowsuit or she'll wake so I leave the vestibule door ajar so she wont get too hot. This of course means the house quickly becomes freezing.
2.40 pm - Read one of the new library books to the toddler as he demolishes a fruit snack, snuggled into my side for warmth. Feel intense guilt that we can't do this more often.
2.50 pm - Realise the toddler, who insists he no longer needs a daytime nap, is asleep. Gently carry him up to bed and shuffle silently out of his room before he wakes.
2.55 pm - The baby is awake again. Breastfeed her on the sofa whilst typing this with one finger.
So there we are. It's only 3 pm and I'm already exhausted. The afternoon stretches ahead of me. Five full hours until the toddler's usual bedtime of 8 pm. The baby falls asleep, still latched on, and in my head I hear my husband's voice ... 'you can't be that busy, you still had time to update that bloody blog'.