When my twin girls were nine months old and my son was two, my husband packed his bags and left. To say it was a tough time would be an understatement. I wasn't a one parent family by choice. I had never intended to bring up my kids this way. But you can't change the circumstances- all you can do it make the best of what you've got.
Here's what I learned during those early days:
Ask for help
Asking for and accepting help is the biggest learning curve I've ever been on. In the beginning you think you can do it all yourself. To a certain extent you can, but it's exhausting and you end up tiring yourself unnecessarily. I remember the first few times I was offered help, I was too proud to accept it.
An hour later after my would-be assistant had left I'd think: "I wish I'd said yes to that person who offered to do a load of washing for me. Now I'm knackered, I still have a sink full of dirty washing, and I still have two babies and a toddler who are screaming. The only person I've shot in the foot is me."
Staying connected and supported is key when you're bringing up children as a one parent family. At Tamba, we recently surveyed almost 200 one parent families with multiples. We found 60% of them became one parent families while pregnant or during the early days. The first year with multiples can be really difficult, so as a one parent family, asking for help is the kindest thing you can do for yourself.
Also, remember that we all get ill. If you get the flu and you haven't already got a support network, it means you won't have the people in place if there's an emergency. If you ask for help early on then, if you do really need it, you know who to call and it will be easier for it all to click into place.
Getting organised and finding a routine that works for your family
The first few weeks after my twin girls were born, I organised a rota so each evening one of my friends or family members came over to help me. This continued for six weeks. Even though my husband and I were still together then, he was working shifts so he wasn't around much. My friends would arrive with a casserole at about 6pm and stay until 8pm to look after my girls.
Sometimes the babies would sleep; sometimes they'd spend two hours screaming their heads off. But it was important for my older son, because he got to spend some time alone with me, and his precious bedtime routine was protected. It also gave me a chance to sit down and eat a meal, which was a Godsend in the early days.
Stay calm and stay positive
This one isn't always easy! I remember about a week after I bought the twins home, my older 2 year old son decided to grow up overnight. He said he didn't want to wear nappies anymore, because nappies were for babies. I remember sitting on the stair sobbing on the phone to my mum saying "I'm not ready for potty training!" In typical matter-of -fact fashion, my mum told me to pull myself together, get a potty and get on with it. So I did.
The problem was, I had this set idea that my son would be potty trained in the summer- because that suited me. You soon learn: babies and children don't stick to your plans! You have to learn to stay reactive and be flexible, which can be something of a mental challenge!
Being mum of a one parent family is both the toughest and the most rewarding thing I've ever done. Those early days were tough and, although things do get better as a parent as your children grow up, you are often faced with challenges along the way. But these days I'm calmer, more flexible and adaptable, and I've learnt how important it is to enjoy the time I have with my children.
You can find more information about being a solo parent of multiples in Tamba's new one parent factsheet. This fact sheet includes stories, tips and frequently asked questions about being a one parent family with multiples. Tamba also has a Facebook group for one parent families with multiples.