When you think you’re set in terms of family planning but end up with twice the number of kids, how would you handle it?
We have previously introduced the Loo family who gave us a glimpse into how the family handles triplets and a toddler without the help of any grandparents or domestic help. Today, “Supermom” Ermita Soenarto of www.craftyacademic.com shares more on raising 4 kids under 4 and what she has learnt through bringing up triplets with us.
You and your husband have bravely done all the caregiving on your own, with no helper. What about in-laws and relatives/friends?
My husband’s parents have passed away and my parents still work full-time. All our friends pitched in their small little ways like buying us diapers and bringing us food during the initial newborn period but after that everybody went back to their busy lives.
Why did you choose this path instead of sending kids to infant-care/childcare centers?
There are three main reasons:
- The heavy financial burden. Four kids in infant care/childcare centres would have come up to $3000-$4000 and these were lower-end centre estimates (after full subsidies). Parents with kids spaced apart will never understand how financially burdensome this is, even for twins. Thus, it made more financial sense to stay at home and do everything on our own.
- The quality of daycare that were around our budget did not meet our caregiving expectations. Firstly, they gave children very little outdoor time. Secondly, 0-3 years old kids are much too young to follow a strict schedule every day. It’d be very stressful for my husband and I to get them ready for school, the logistical nightmare of sending/fetching four kids on a daily basis and at peak hour traffic, dealing with separation anxieties, coping with illnesses from being exposed to diseases at daycare, and just trying to keep track of school activities for four kids. As a family, we were just not ready to deal with an overly scheduled life, getting to places at specific times, and being in a rush all the time. All that can wait till Primary 1 when they are more emotionally adjusted for school. Incidentally, our eldest daughter requested to start kindergarten. We were a little late in enrolling her because we weren’t sure if it’s what we really wanted to do as a family but we found a kindergarten that was only four hours long and the fees were affordable. She started in April. In two years’ time if the triplets are ready, we’ll let them go to the same kindergarten too but if they prefer to stay at home, we are okay with that as well.
- We felt we were capable to do it ourselves. We really, really believed it from the outset. When people told us to hire a helper or find a nanny, we were extremely reluctant because we were more comfortable managing our children and household ourselves. My mother and father raised three kids without helpers. Before them, my maternal grandmother raised 16 kids (no multiples) without helpers too. I felt like I belonged to a long line of women who could do this.
What’s the toughest part of being a mum to 4 youngsters?
My husband and I were a simple couple with a simple home and we wanted a really simple life. Then these four little girls came along, and three of them were growing at the same developmental rate. Suddenly, our simple life became incredibly super-sized and complex. The day the doctor told us I was carrying three babies was such a monumental life-changing event. We had to let go of the life we currently knew and the future we planned and do a hard reset.
While I was more of a ‘I-want-to-know-everything-about-having-triplets-to-help-me-plan’ kind of person, my husband was more of the ‘let’s-wing-it’ sort. I don’t think having triplets really hit us until they came home from hospital and our washer and fridge broke down – even the house couldn’t take it.
So I’d say just redefining everything we knew about life was the biggest shock to our systems. I went from this person everyone knew, to that person with triplets. Even our identities were no longer ours to define.
What have you learnt about bringing up triplets so far?
- Everyone else sees them as a set but we really see very different people who just happen to be born together.
- Unfortunately for me, my triplets really do look identical even though only two are identical. I am often seen talking to one girl or calling out the name of one girl, only to find out later I was talking to the wrong person. These days, they’ll tell me but when they were babies, we’d sometimes feed the same kid twice and wonder why that one kid who hasn’t been fed just won’t stop crying.
- Life is more efficient when you have three kids at one go. I have embraced an ‘economies of scale’ life. Tandem bottle-feeding, tandem baby-wearing, cooking meals in batches, bathing kids in batches, hugging kids in groups, dealing with en masse meltdowns etc. While other parents have to manage four different schedules if they had four kids, I only need to keep track of one.
- In-built companions. Yes, they do squabble like any other siblings but the bond and closeness is also really intense. They tend to manage things on their own as a group before they approach my husband or I for help. They are also intensely protective of each other so if you mess with one sister, you are going to face the wrath of three other sisters!
- It is impossible to stay at home the whole day with 4 small kids. They get really loud and rowdy.
- Going out with four small kids is like herding cattle. There is always one kid straying off and you have to bring them back to the group. And we always have to do a headcount when we enter and exit lifts and places. There have been several instances we would leave one kid behind.
- If you think people go crazy over twins, they go bananas when they see triplets. Their reaction is like seeing Bigfoot. So being out in public can be really tough because of the attention, plus our girls are really shy. There were many incidents where people approach us, only to cause all four girls to break down in tears.
- There is no such thing as personal space anymore. There are kids everywhere – on my bed, on my table, on my lap, in the toilet, on the floor, in the kitchen…like kids are just everywhere.
- We had to super-size everything: big washing machines, big dryers, big fridges, big pots and pans, invest in a dishwasher etc., to cope with the day-to-day management of living as a family of 6.
Now that your family planning has obviously changed, what’s the best part of it?
At one shot, we cleared all the difficult parts about having babies and toddlers in just two years; for an average parent, it would have taken ten years or more if they had four kids. I feel though we had children later, we’re at the same pace as adults who had kids in their mid-20s. I’m now 34, and most of my friends are only starting to be pregnant with their second child. For those who wanted more, it would have taken up the rest of their 30s and eaten into a part of their 40s as well.
This article is written by Stella Thng for singaporeschild.com.sg