Zoe Fuimaono is a 27-year-old, Auckland mum of four who welcomed her second set of twins this month. She will be sharing her and husband Junior's story of raising four kids under two with us - including all the ups and downs.
The number one thing I hear the most as a mum of four is: 'I don't know how you do it.'
I often struggle with my response because the truth is: I don't feel like it is a constant struggle and I absolutely love my children.
To us, as it is for many families, having four kids is a huge blessing. Our way of thinking is that we are getting the hard stuff out of the way all at once so that we can enjoy our children even more when they are that little bit older. Of course, we have our bad days, and life certainly isn't all roses, but I'm pretty strong willed about not letting four babies define our life.
Firstly, I need to be honest and say that part of the reason why I'm not struggling is because my husband Junior has been off work for a while now. He's lucky that he's in a position where he can be around 24/7, helping with the babies. He does as much, if not more than me for the kids, and if he wasn't with me I know this would 100% be a different story. Talk to me when he goes back to work - I'm sure I'll be a little bit nuts!
There are certain things we swear by that have got us through, and I'd like to share these tips with all the other parents out there.
Be a united front
My hubby and I work as a team, and we are one unit. Having children can either make or break you so we make sure there is lots love, unconditional support, no judgement and a huge amount of communication between the two of us to keep the ship sailing smoothly.
When you are sleep deprived everything is 100 times worse than it actually seems so you need keep the lines of communication completely open. We all handle no sleep in different ways and it's knowing that you're going to be a bit snappy, and forgive the other person if they are, that'll get you through.
Learn to say no
Some days you just need to take a deep breath and say no. Say no to the things that are causing you stress or that you feel like you can't cope with in that exact moment in time. Saying 'that can wait till tomorrow' or just no to visitors will give you time to yourself and to get the things that you want and need done. Once you learn to say no you will start to feel a huge weight lifted off your shoulders, it's liberating!
We plan our meals and snacks for the week so we know what we're having every single day. That might seem like a daunting task, but not only does it save money, it also takes the stress out of that daily 'what are we going to do for dinner' question. Recently we've tried My Food Bag which we've found very convenient, and I've also tried My Bargain Box that we also found a steal.
Tidy house, tidy mind
My mum's favourite saying is 'cluttered house, cluttered mind' and it is so true. I'm still working on this one myself so I will let you know when I get over it. When we have a messy house it just sets the tone for my day so the less things you have the better then there's less to clean up.
We rotate the boys toys in storage boxes then there's only a few things out at once and they don't get sick of what they do have. Our boys are like mini tornadoes. Our house will be spotless one minute and then in seconds it's a bomb site again. Sometimes I don't even know why I bother and then when I have a clean house that's when I realise why it's amazing - even if it's short lived.
Accepting help is a hard one for lots of people, but honestly it isn't as big deal as you think it is. When people ask if they can do something, say yes! If you have a to do list, this actually makes things even better, as you can just point them to an item on the list and they can feel like they've helped you out. With close family, it's things like chucking a load of washing on, unstacking the dishwasher or just minding the baby while you do the vacuuming.
There are also a lot of brilliant services out there now, like Bellyful, a charity that brings new parents or those with sick relatives home cooked meals free of charge. We got one delivery recently and it felt so amazing knowing we didn't have to worry about cooking for a whole three nights.
Be the old you
Still doing things that we did pre kids reminds us that we're people, a couple and not just parents. We try to do what we can like getting out for a meal every now and then, and attending events occasionally without the kids, just so we can still be us.
Easier said than done, you might say! It sounds stupid but honestly, trying to relax is so important. If you have to lock yourself in the bathroom for five minutes and have a breather - just do it. You are not a bad parent for craving a break - you're human. Also if you need to have a good cry just bloody do it. I don't do it often, but when I do it feels like such a relief.
Take time out
You're a mum, you're a wife, but you're also still you. Take time each day - even if it's just ten minutes to read a magazine or sit outside and feel the sun on your face - to just be you. It's pretty incredible what five minutes of peace can do for you. If I'm feeling extra horrible, I jump in the shower and try and steam it out.
I really hope some of these tips help some of you out there. The hard times do not last, and you can totally do this!"
You can read Zoe's column each week on Womensweekly.co.nz.