Are Two Kids Double The Work?

Two sisters, ages two and one, sit at a table with tea cups. They're wearing pink dresses, and their tea-time companion is a pink pig. In this photo they're clinking their teacups together.
Two sisters, ages two and one, sit at a table with tea cups. They're wearing pink dresses, and their tea-time companion is a pink pig. In this photo they're clinking their teacups together.

There are those times as a parent when you feel euphoric: you're smiling, laughing, in control - even for a brief moment – and parenting just makes sense.

Then there are those other times, when you find yourself chasing your permanently-runny-nosed 16-month-old, who's been sucking on something illicit (only you aren't quite sure what), only to find that once you do pry her tiny fists open, she's been eating dog food.

And your reaction is a mixture of horror and amusement because this is just one moment in a day full of hilarity, laughter, tears and screeching, and there's no point in getting too stressed about it because it's only 6:45am.

This is why I've started trying to wake up at the crack of dawn, circa 6am, when my husband leaves for work, just to give myself time for a cup of coffee and perhaps 10 minutes of alone time before the chaos begins.

If they wake up before me, I have already lost.

I've heard (well, read about – considering we live in London and my husband's not 30 yet, we still don't have that many friends with one baby, let alone two), that "two kids is more than twice the work of one," which is something I've been thinking about lately. A lot.

Some days, I think it's true – especially when I've had broken sleep and a lot of work on. In fact, sometimes I think two kids is about five times the work of one.

But I know that rationally, that's only because there aren't enough hours in the day (especially when you're also awake at all the wrong ones). So even though it's all manageable – and enjoyable, most of the time – it often feels overwhelming because you're tired and trying to negotiate all of these different demands at once, all the while ignoring your own. No wonder you're hungry, grumpy and cranky a lot of the time.

D, who's turning four this summer, is into lots of lovely activities, which involve sitting (mostly) still: puzzles, memory games, reading, drawing, sticking, mosaics by numbers... It's kind of amazing.

Until I remember that attempting to get a 16-month-old Liv involved – without her trampling all over what we're doing (the dog also loves nothing more than to run through and trash an almost-finished puzzle on those ill-fated occasions when we lay them out on the floor) - is challenging, to say the least. Although trying to prevent her from playing the too-old-for-her game is a surefire guarantee that she will crumple and chew every puzzle piece sitting between you and her chance at getting involved.

Another reason the workload of two kids feels like four sometimes for me is because of the increase in accidents and illnesses, which has us in the GPs office – or worse, A&E (yes, all injuries and scary illnesses must occur on a Sunday) – often, and is a source of energy-sapping stress and exhaustion for everyone involved.

I also think people find two kids of different ages double the workload of one because of what's to come as much as what's already happening. Gone is the blissful ignorance - although lots of my memory from Diana as a baby seems to have been wiped clean - and in its place is a reminder that you will need to survive potty training/two-year-old tantrums/sleepless nights/the stage when kids put everything into their mouths all over again. Added bonus? The mystery of whatever new stages the older one will be going through by then!

Having two kids is the best thing that's ever happened to me. That doesn't mean I don't feel like a lunatic every now and again. Although, truth be told, I had my losing-my-mind moments long before kids.

In fact, there are times when I even get blissful glimpses into how having two children is actually LESS work than one: those moments when the girls find a game they both enjoy, that doesn't involve terrorising one another, and they are giggling and laughing and playing. And you find yourself sitting on the couch, taking in the view and enjoying it all.

Those are the times when you start to think about those other things parents of multiples tend to say, like: "Three kids is no more work than two."

Until your unruly bulldog (aka my third child) breaks you out of your reverie by flinging his drool-covered, filthy rubber chew toy in your lap and you remember that you shouldn't always believe everything you hear. Especially when it comes to personal parenting choices.