Last night, I tried as usual to put my three children to bed.
First, I told my oldest Rafael to read while I settled the two youngest into their beds but he quickly got bored and crashed into his sister’s room, whining at me for taking so long before starting a play fight with his brother on the landing.
My husband Phill managed to whisk Rafael away before any damage was done but then Zevi and Zeabella started arguing about who mummy should read a story to first.
Fast forward an hour – yes, a whole hour later – and the children were dozing off into their own little dream worlds while I was collapsed in a heap on the stairs, tears pooled in my eyes, still reeling from the precarious balancing act of managing three young children.
I know it’s too late for William and Kate but, boy, three children are a nightmare. People always laugh and say how chaotic and fun it is, but look a little closer and you will see the madness beneath those parents’ eyes. As a parent of three, there are never enough of you to go round and certainly not enough time to give to each of the children.
Bedtime is just one of the many hurdles that become tricky to navigate when your brood outnumbers you. There are the cinema trips where one child is always left without a parent at his or her side, which leads to the constant shifting of seats and raised voices.
There are the ballet classes my daughter Zeabella can’t go to because taking three children to three after school activities logistically doesn’t work and someone has to miss out. There are also the friends, grandparents and school mums you barely know that you need to rely on for lifts and help when all three go to different schools and nurseries which start at the same time and you’re stuck.
And of course, there are the dreaded car journeys where the kids are squished into the back, jostling for space and attention, shouting questions over the top of each other, fists sometimes flying as each of them demand to be heard first. These I find the most intolerable – and I’ve even made a point now of not being in the car for any journey longer than 45 minutes, which meant travelling to Cornwall separately by train for our summer holiday last year with just one child in tow – bliss – while Phill had to battle the traffic and two squabbling siblings in the back seat for five hours!
The truth is, I love all three of my children and feel very lucky I was able to have them without any difficulty. But I never really wanted three. Growing up as the middle child with two sisters, I was sandwiched as neither the youngest nor the oldest and often felt neglected and unloved, and definitely suffered from ‘middle child syndrome’. But then I had two boys and quite liked the idea of trying for a girl, and Phill was definitely up for having a bigger family. Time wasn’t on my side, so I didn’t think too much and just got on with it, but the leap from two to three was enormous and completely life changing.
Zeabella only slept through the night properly at four and even now, Zevi sometimes wakes in the night so that’s years of broken sleep which, as any parent knows, takes its toll on everything – including your marriage. And yes, William and Kate, having three does put a strain on your marriage. An entire decade of our marriage has been spent with a baby or toddler at home and that’s very wearing. Phill and I find ourselves so caught up with the children we never have time for each other and are perpetually exhausted, arguing over who’s more tired (of course, it’s always me!) and often preferring to slump on the sofa in front of some mindless TV show after a busy day rather than making an effort to dinner-date and go out.