I have a 5 year old, a 2 year old and a 3 month old. Sometimes I have to pinch myself to believe it, too. I’m the mom I used to stare at in awe when I saw her in Target wrangling a gaggle of children. Yesterday, I stood in line a the post office addressing a package while consoling a toddler tantrum and simultaneously breastfeeding in a baby carrier. I didn’t have a second thought about it until the mom in front of me, who had her screaming 7 month old baby in a stroller and was trying to calm her with a bottle, asked me how I did it.
Well, there’s no secret to having three kids. I’m a hot mess much of the time. Quite often, I spend the day in my pajamas and don’t even get to brush my teeth. Sometimes I take a hot shower while all three kids are crying because mama deserves a little sanity break. But we get through the days and now after three months, I can say that we’ve hit a groove and it’s like three was always meant to be and my older ones can’t remember anything different.
It’s debatable whether going from one to two or two to three is more challenging. I’m still not sure on the answer. I’d probably say they are just different. Dividing one’s attention from the first born, who has captivated the world since birth, is life altering. It’s a big adjustment, but after a while two children feels quite natural. To be able to hold one in each arm, let one sit on each knee, to use peripheral vision to see everyone at once.
Adding a third child is a game-changer. My friend Erin refers to the third child as “The Humbler” and I couldn’t agree more. Whatever I thought I knew after five years of mothering and whatever I thought I did well was called into question with baby #3. But by this point, I was already used to dividing my attention. My kids were already used to the fact that they weren’t going to get everything they wanted all the time.
After having three children, I realize that I don’t have enough hands to hold everyone at once. I don’t have enough patience to make it through the day without getting frustrated. I don’t have enough eyes to know where they all are at all times. I don’t have enough room in my lap for everyone to sit. I don’t have enough creativity to manufacture opportunities for play. I don’t have enough time to ensure each child gets one-on-one attention each day. I don’t have high expectations because just getting dressed, brushing our teeth and eating three square meals takes superhuman effort some days.
With whatever I thought I might lose in time or attention by adding more children, our family has gained back tenfold with laughter, giggles, empathy, independence and love. Now that I am a mother of three children, I can easily see how having six or eight or ten children wouldn’t be much different. The older children learn to help and the babies are forced to go with the flow.
People ask me all the time how the baby sleeps or if she’s a good baby. The honest answer is that I’m too tired to remember and too busy to care. When my oldest was a baby, I tracked her feedings and sleep times and timed her naps perfectly according to infant sleep charts and her age. I was a little more flexible with my second baby and he took naps on the go or in the carrier more because we had stuff to do. With baby #3, I honestly have no idea how much she wakes up at night.
When the kids go to bed around 8:30 p.m. I jump into “me” mode. It’s the only time of the day I have to catch up on chores, Instagram, Grey’s Anatomy, school prep or hang out with my husband so I make good use of it and usually stay up way later than I intend to. I usually fall asleep between 11 p.m. and midnight and then I’m up for the day with my toddler by 6:30 a.m. so when the baby wakes up during the night I’m basically sleepwalking to pick her up and nurse her and put her back down.
I *think* she’s a pretty good sleeper and usually only wakes up once or twice. But maybe after five years my body has finally succumbed to the sleep deprivation and I’m just used to it now? My older two kids still wake up pretty regularly and my husband has graciously taken over caring for them in the night even though he gets up for work at 5:30 a.m. I’m pretty sure he’s more sleep deprived than I am. God bless him.
Jumping into motherhood the first time is a shock. It’s like being thrown into the deep end and being forced to sink or swim. Somehow along the way, all of the little things that took so much effort become easier and easier. Getting out of the house, bedtime, dealing with meltdowns, giving up my own desires … it’s all second nature now.
So even though I have more little hands and hearts needing my attention, I’m more adept at the sacrifices of motherhood and have honed the skills I need to survive.
Three kids has been the magic number for me. I know how to let the little things go and forget about clean faces and matching outfits and themed crafts. I know how to focus on the big things like raising adults with kind hearts and compassionate spirits who will make the world a more beautiful place. These three little people bring me so much joy.
In our family, three children is definitely a case of the more the merrier. More work, but more fun and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Are you nervous about making the transition to three kids? Do you have any tips to share that make life with more easier to handle? I’d love to hear from you in a comment or on our Facebook page!