I have two kids and things are insanely busy! I am well known to be the Mum who doesn't really know what's happening from day to day and just manages to fluke it most of the time! It does make me wonder how Mums with a brood of kids manage to 'keep it all together!'
I caught up with Olivia Anderson who has four boys, including a surprise gift of identical twins. Together with her partner Shane Crawford their life is one big juggling act... Here's what I had to ask:
You are a Mum to four boys including identical twins. With your youngest two now in kinder, this year you launched Flat out Mum, a blog that outlines your ‘insanely busy’ life but has a refreshingly honest feel. How do you fit everything in?
I am very efficient with my time and I work best under a deadline (3pm pick up!) and that is probably a skill learnt from year’s worked in busy advertising agencies.
Compared to the past few years, this year I have felt like I have a lot of time to myself to really commit to Flat Out Mum.
My twin pregnancy was very draining and the first few years with them I was focussed 100% on raising happy, healthy children. The twins went through a particularly dangerous stage when they were 2 when they climbed on everything, ran very fast in opposite directions and were generally very busy, energetic boys. So while they were awake they needed constant & close attention.
Now I have a few days completely to myself when they are at kindergarten, it seems like a lot. Having said that, I rarely sit down (except to write my blog) and my days are long.
For Mums of twins who are just starting their journey into parenthood with Twins, what advice would you give them?
That is such a big question because I have found that for people who have twins, there is normally a long (& often stressful) journey to get to even the day the babies are born. There is often year’s of IVF and multiple pregnancies are very rarely straightforward. On top of that, twins are often born ‘premature” and have different complications so by the time you get them home you are much more exhausted than normal and emotionally drained.
Then, the first 6 months with twins is exhausting and parents really need to go easy on themselves. They need to take time to recover physically and get sleep at all costs. A tidy house and a small washing pile should not be a priority. There is always time to have a clean and organised house, so the early months with twins are about surviving each day in the best way you can.
With our twins I learnt to ask for help. What I found is that your close friends LOVE to help and love to be given a specific task to do. It is not a sign of weakness and Mothers in particular should become better at asking for support.
I actually created a product just for this purpose, called Very Valuable Vouchers. They are little customisable books, designed to make asking for help easy.
What’s on your parenting cheat sheet?
Lower your standards. I mean this in the nicest way, but the more children you have you realise that they are not all going to eat 3 perfectly balanced meals each day, wear a perfectly clean and co-ordinated outfit, or be happy 24/7. That is OK. As long as they are healthy & happy the vast majority of the time, you are doing a good job.
What do you know now that you wish you had known just before you became a Mum?
The days are long, but the years are so short. When you are suffering through sleep deprived nights or bad ‘phases” of teething / fussy eating / not sharing etc etc you think that it will never end…but before you know it, you are through that “phase” and onto another so you just need to go with the flow sometimes.
This too shall pass :)
Every day on social media we see Mums being judged for what they do, or don’t do, and I know you have also had some of this directed at you. What’s your advice for new Mums who are struggling, who feel they need to be the ‘perfect’ Mum but are not living up to their own expectations?
Don’t believe what you see on social media as people most often only put up their “show reel” of great moment’s. Everyone goes through high’s and low’s and people are not always honest unfortunately. You are NOT the only one with a baby that wakes all night, doesn’t eat everything or bites their siblings. Find friends who you can really relate to, can be honest with and make you feel better when you’re with them, not worse. Try to see the rest for what it is - a bit of a facade.
I laugh at your mentions of both your and Shane’s parenting styles, as it sounds just like our household. You mentioned in one of your posts what you have learnt from Shane’s parenting style – which really centred around living more in the moment, having blinkers on and reveling in the little things. What do you think Shane has learnt from your parenting style?
That is a very interesting question! He say’s that I am a “one man band” so hopefully he has learnt to plan ahead a little (especially when going on outings) and be organised to pre-empt any disasters. (Like over tired or hungry, exhausted children!)
What’s your kids favourite songs?
I have Avicii’s song “Hey Brother” on my iPhone and they always want to put it on. Obviously that’s an adult song but they really do a have a strong brother bond and it is beautiful to watch the moments when they admire and adore each other. They take my phone onto the trampoline, put it on & all sing at the top of their lungs.
My youngest is now 6 and I still sing her a lullaby (hush little baby) each night before bed. What songs do you sing to your kids?
I love “You are the sunshine of my life” (Stevie Wonder) and although they act like it annoys them when I sing it to them, I think they secretly love it.
“So too with “You are my sunshine”
It takes us to our happy place :)
What’s your favourite thing to do when you have a spare 30-minutes to yourself?
I have really enjoyed getting into Pilates since the twins have been little. I find it physically and mentally demanding and I am so “in the moment” of what I am doing (just getting through each move!) that I truly zone out from everything else.
30 minutes would also allow me a great one-on-one coffee chat with a girlfriend and I am always up for that.
What does a typical morning look like in your house?
In short, week days are pretty crazy busy, especially between 7-8.15am. On three week day mornings I need all four of the boys fed, dressed and in the car by 8.15am. Remembering homework / library days / sports uniforms and all of the other school things on different days. On those days I have an Au pair (young traveller who normally lives with you) help me. That way one of us can just focus on making sure the kids all eat a healthy breakfast while the other does lunches, school bags & helps get them all dressed when they would rather be sitting on the heating duct and watching TV! It’s a pretty intense hour but the reward of a good coffee to myself by 9am is worth it! I take a moment to get myself together before the rest of my day starts…….
Do you have a question for Olivia? Let us know and we will ask her for our next catch up. Just email me!