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Saturday, 20 May, 2000, 15:25 GMT 16:25 UK
A father's advice to Tony
Jim Todd's children
Four can be a handful at times
By News Online's father of four Jim Todd

Gauging from his happy but occasionally halting news conference outside No 10 after the birth of baby Leo, Tony Blair is already suffering from the biggest problem affecting new parents, sleep deprivation.

Even though Tony Blair knows all about the night-time shift from his earlier children - he said in an interview with a New York newspaper last week that only a minor nuclear explosion could wake Cherie at night - it's all rather a long time ago now.

The Todd family
I remember the easy days when it was just two
His youngest child is 12, a decade on from night-time feeds and dirty nappies. And he has a somewhat busier job now than last time, when he was merely an opposition front-bencher.

Parents of new-borns have to get used to that dazed feeling that accompanies broken sleep, as we did when our twins arrived in 1998, younger by several years than our two eldest children.

You learn to limit your horizons and just survive through the next day. Unfortunately, that's going to be difficult in the prime minister's case.

My wife took on the lion's share of the night work, but as numbers three and four came together she just didn't have enough hands to feed and change the nappies.

Four's a crowd

It takes a fair while for the reality of life with four children to sink in. The fact is that the family forms a bit of a crowd wherever it goes.

Jim Todd and twins
That dazed feeling: Proud father
In these days of fewer children, you stick out like a sore thumb.

You start to rehearse your arguments in case you come under attack for being irresponsible, for taking up too much of the world's resources.

Friends' houses where you could comfortably spend a weekend become limited to those with enough room to take a mixed bag of ages and sexes.

And then there's the money factor, though with Cherie's big legal salary that shouldn't be too much of a problem.

Many hands

Aside from his day job, Tony Blair will no doubt be coping with teenage angst from his older children and the demands of the world media for interviews about the new baby.

Even teenagers can feel put out by the birth of a new baby if they don't receive the attention they think they deserve.

But large family size is also a strength.

Our elder children, a boy aged 10 and a daughter of seven, provide much-needed support in fetching and carrying, dressing and feeding babies, and, dependent on stink-factor, changing nappies.

If the Blairs can mobilise Leo's siblings, it'll be all over, bar the shouting.

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