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Caution!! This post is LONG, so grab a pot of coffee, a wine, a beer or a carafe of water and be prepared… This series of blogs is a work in progress, so ultimately have no idea of how many parts it will end up being… ahhhhhh the joy or writing!
Running a Facebook page for Multiple Dads has allowed me the privilege of seeing men of all ages join up to share their wisdom, and often reminds me often of my own experience. Secondary to this is the fact that I can see what they are in for as Multiple Dads. Since there is no handbook, a lot of the new guys ask the same questions we have all asked…What are we in for?
Seems easy enough at a glance, but then once you start to reply, the list seems to grow quicker than Rapunzel’s hair on steroids. There’s always one more thing that leads to another, then another and before you know it, you could have written a complete Masters Degree Thesis on the damn thing!
So, aside from all the usual questions like, what capsules, prams, car, and other practical items you will need, I have seen a glaring hole in actually preparing yourselves mentally for the profound shift within your current relationship with your husband / wife / partner. I don’t know of a couple who haven’t felt more than a little bit nervous, through to downright blind panic, on how they will cope. An inordinate amount of pressure arrives from day one and most have no idea how to prepare for it to a certain extent.
Mum is usually on leave, the household income halves and the bills seem to triple (no pun intended), a new Dad is not 100% sure of what he can do to help or in some cases is pushed out of the picture when the parents (on both sides) can get a little too over excited. This isn’t to say that they don’t care, yet they may not realize the unintentional impact and the ripple effect that flows from this. We were blessed in the fact that both our parents were awesome when it came to letting us raising our boys our way, but it didn’t just happen that way. We invested time and effort in discussing things, and dropping not so subtle hints, about what and how we were going to do things so when the time came, it took so much stress off our shoulders.
With the wisdom of hindsight and now the joy of seeing nervous new dads arriving daily, I thought it is about time someone has a crack at filling in some of the gaps on what all Dads (yes Mum, you can read it too!) need to know and to see if things really are on track for when the twins, triplets, quads or more arrive.
This blog is NOT about critiquing the in laws, parents, friends, family, work colleagues, strangers or your relationship. It’s simply a means to show you what to be ‘aware of’ before you find yourself in the naughty corner through stubbornness, unintentional consequences or sheer dumb luck.
Think of it like a map and your planning a holiday. You can see all the places (topics up for discussion) and all you have to do is tick them off like saying ‘been there’ and wondering what this other place is all about. Now when I say ‘been there’, I don’t mean you think you have it all worked out in your head…..I mean you’re ‘BOTH ON THE SAME PAGE’ with the who, what, when & where details. More often than not, you both think you have the same idea, but when it comes time to put it in to practice you are both pulling on opposite ends of the same rope. It’s not a tug of war…you’re supposed to be pulling in the same direction. Sound simple? Well it’s not…trust me, I’m still working on things myself that we hadn’t even considered to be an issue at that time!
So here is my amazing weird list…yes you may scoff now…of the best tips that I can hand any new Dad of Multiples.
Is it complete? No
Is it infallible? No
Is it insightful? I hope so!
Is it really THAT important? You bet your sweet tush it is….. So on with the show….
The questions first: (answers later)….
1] What can I do as a Dad to help out without being under foot?
2] The in laws / parents are taking over!
3] My wife is crankier than ever, what did I do?
4] How do we survive having twins, triplets or more?
5] How do we cut back on expenses?
6] How can we prepare for the kids to come home?
7] When should I take time off work?
8] People drop in all the time, how do we stop this?
9] How soon before we can get out and about as a family?
10] People keep touching the pram, kids and making stupid remarks and asking personal questions….why & can we harm them if they do it again??
11] Where can we get help?
These are the top 11 questions I see on a regular basis. Please feel free to comment or ask if you have others.
Answering these questions will be the key to a strong foundation once the kids arrive. You won’t have time to think for the first few months when you get home (in most cases), so get your scouts uniform on and have a go at setting some boundaries now. You’ll need it later when you set boundaries for your kids, so treat this as a trail run!
Here is a little precursor to what I mean. I saw this a while ago on one of those crazy E-Cards:
Dressed…yep, well enough to not get arrested anyway.
Sleep….tooth picks at the ready!
And we have a runner…….
I found this without a doubt one of the funniest things I have ever read. Not just because it is funny, but because I can relate to it being oh so true! 😉
Now to the answers, oh, and be warned, this is NOT the be all and end all of friendly tips. This is not professional advice, it is the culmination of a Multiple Dad who is still on his journey, combined with other great ideas from other great Dads as well as the said missing sanity…..ears ready?
Q1] What can I do as a Dad to help out without being under foot?
A1] A fair bit actually if you’re willing to have a go. There will be variances since some Dads are FIFO / DIDO (fly in, fly out or drive in, drive out) for work, some ladies can breastfeed, some cannot and some, like us, did Surrogacy.
Gents, here is your new to do list:
A] Restock anything and everything. You are the new champion of hunting down bargains and food for the next 3-6 months. You are a hunter gatherer by nature so here is your chance to prove it. Get used to having a shopping list on your phone every time you leave the house. There is nothing more painful than running around at 11pm on a Sunday night trying to find nappies or baby wipes & forgetting your wallet as you go to pay….
Doing a ‘little but often’ approach will help keep things manageable. The flip side is stock up! We had 14 boxes of nappies and 10 boxes of wipes stashed in the spare room and always grabbed more when they were on special. Don’t worry if you think you have to many…you wont. If the kids out grow the ones you have, keep your receipt and most supermarkets will let you exchange them for another size.
Restock the change table daily with nappies, baby wipes, scented disposable nappy bags.
Empty all bins daily. Trust me, your house will smell worse than any garbage compactor you have seen on Star Wars despite how many Dutch ovens you may have created or endured in a previous life.
Get the cots ready,….learn if you have too. Kids vomit & you’ll have to suck it up as the wife tends to the kids while you change all the bedding. Invest in a few good mattress protectors as well….you’ll be glad you did. A good time to do this is while the kids are being bathed. They, like you, will love fresh sheets to sleep on.
Empty the dishwasher, washing machine, clean bottles, learn how to pay bills online and learn how to cook a few simple, freezable meals.
If your wife is Breastfeeding, get 6 small containers, ask your wife what she likes to nibble on and prep food like you’ve never prepped before. When feeding, your wife is immobile and having a water bottle and healthy snacks handy will give you the time for a shower, a shave or time to anything mentioned above. Even the midnight or 2am feed will be as simple as get snacks, water bottle and fresh nappies ready so you can get some sleep as well.
If you are bottle-feeding like we did. Set up a separate area, if you can, with a two-tier draw. Put clean bottles in the bottom drawer & teats, lids and covers in the top drawer. Make 1-1.5 litres of formula at a time, let it cool on the bench for an hour and put it into a clean glass bottle. Any smaller leftover amounts go into 4-6 bottles with a lid so they can simply be reheated later.
Some people reheat bottles and others don’t but if you do, a neat trick is to 1/4 fill a slow cooker with water, switch it on low and put the bottles inside with a screw top lid on it (not a teat, it gets to hot!), so the bottles are always ready to go and don’t get hotspots like you do when reheating in a microwave.
If you are bottle-feeding, I personally liked doing a feed when I could. This allowed my wife to have a shower or get some sleep. We watched our boys natural rhythm and they were feeding every four hours on average. So we set the routine of feeds at 7am, 11am, 3pm, 7pm, 11pm and 3am from about the fourth week onwards.
Little but big tips:
– Put on a double layer of mattress protectors & sheets so that if you have an incident overnight you can just strip the sheets back and put the kids back to bed ASAP.
– A microwave steriliser for bottles is really handy in the early days. It’s a time saver and once you’ve set it going, you don’t have to hang around and wait for it to finish.
Routine is a saving grace and the second one is synchronizing the kids to do the feeds at the same time.
My nightly ‘Dad Duty’ consisted of restocking between 6-7pm, doing the 7pm feed while the wife had a shower and went to bed. I then used a portable video monitor sitting on the bench while I did the other things listed above. By 8:30-9pm I was usually done once I had the routine (there’s that word again), down pat. I am a night owl by nature so I finished at 12am and went to bed. The monitor went back on the recharger on my wife’s nightstand and I slept 12-7 before getting up and off to work. This meant my wife went to bed at 7:30 and could sleep until 3am in one solid block…and there is the winner! Getting solid blocks of sleep help you BOTH function. Miss your REM sleep and the Cullen Family (Vampire Family from the Twilight series) will look positively radiant compared to you if you don’t get it.
Even if your wife is breastfeeding, if she can express breast milk into a few bottles and they go into the slow cooker, you can do at least one feed a night without any trouble. You’ll be glad you did as well. Feeding is more than that, it is a time to bond as your kids look into your eyes and you will, find yourself smiling for no other reason than that these precious kids are yours and you will love them to the end of your days.
Ok, before I sign off on this rather long post, I asked for your wife’s point of view and this is what I got…so, buckle up lads….!
1] Don’t ask if mum needs help just do it. Be prepared to go from 1st thing in morning until night sleep for bubs.
2] Don’t expect too much socially emotionally or physically from your partner for the first few months other than providing for the children.
3] If a dad really can’t think of a job by himself, then have a chat, and write down a list of daily or weekly jobs that need doing, and pick one, two, three…. Then make like Nike, and “just do it”.
4] Don’t look at your wife who is feeding two babies and entertaining two children, and cooking dinner, and contemplating the washing, and say “I’m going for a run, if I’m not back when you serve dinner, then just leave it out for me, for after my shower “. This may breed feelings that aren’t good for a relationship. Just saying
5] Remember that dads are important as well. Support your wife emotionally and physically she is going through so many changes hormones etc possible PND.
Wash and sterilize bottles if bottle feed. As bubs got bigger my hubby showers them and feeds them dinner he is also amazing and get up in the night to feed one bub :-))
6] Take the bubs to his parents for a couple of hours on the weekend so mum can have time out
7] Always assume, unless told otherwise, that there is something to be done. If you don’t know what it is, ask. Don’t disappear into the shed or play a video game and then say, “But you didn’t ask me to do anything!”, especially in that evening busy period. The more you get in and do stuff, the more familiar you’ll become with what needs to be done.
8] Support your wife on Breastfeeding. You are her biggest support. Encourage her, hire lactation consultants if necessary and praise her. It is hard work so so worth it.
9] If Dad is finding it really stressful and you feel like you can’t cope, tell someone! Go talk to a counselor or psychologist (a good one, not one that says suck it up as your wife is going through a tough time) it’s a massive shock to the system even for the most amazing helpful hands on dad, try and get any support that you can that your wife feels comfortable with and slowly ease back into everything. It may come to a point where your wife does say “ok you are going to have to deal with this now as this situation isn’t changing” (lack of sleep two babies) and give you the helpful kick up the butt to get back into it fully.
10] Don’t become the extra child. Mum has enough to deal with when picking up after the babies and possible other siblings, she doesn’t need to pick up after you too. For gods sake put your dishes in the sink, rubbish in the bin and dirty clothes in the hamper! It’s the little things guys. 🙂
Lastly, depending on the size of your yard, it may become a bit of a jungle. Get a mate to mow it for you in exchange for a beer or some lunch, it’s worth it. I’ll be back with more..(yes there is more), once my brain stops hurting….
May multiple madness bless you home with multiple laughter, hugs and kisses…always!