As a new mom of 3, I look back to when I had my 2nd child it took me almost 18 months to adjust to having 2 kids. It was (at the time) the hardest adjustment I had to make as a mother. When we were pregnant with our 3rd I was terrified and had a difficult pregnancy for several reasons. You can read about my 3rd pregnancy journey here.
When my 3rd was born (he is 4 months old now), I then realized having 3 kids was a whole different ball game. I knew it was going to be hard, but I could have never imagined how hard. My eldest was 1 month shy of turning 4 years old, so I had 3 kids 3 years and under for a month. My youngest had bad colic the first 6 weeks and my other 2 were having a hard time adjusting and me, well I was going through baby blues, so needless to say it was a very very hard first few months. I can’t say it’s gotten ANY easier, however you live and you learn. You adapt and you find ways to keep it going and make the best out of it. So in saying that, I wanted to answer everyone’s questions on “How it is to have 3 children 4 years and under” in this post.
Disclaimer: This post is not meant to scare anyone into not having a 3rd child, however, there is a reality to having 3 kids and sometimes being mentally prepared can help! Everyone’s situation is different, my thoughts are based on the first 4 months of having 3 kids 4 years and under with minimal support and no childcare. I wasn’t prepared, so if this can help even 1 mom out there, that would make me happy.
1. Your 3rd Child will be Your Favorite (at least until he/she starts talking back)
There is something about the 3rd child. They don’t talk back, they just look at you with love, and they stay put (until they are crawling & walking of course). Don’t be surprised if you love this child so much you want to cry. There is something about my 3rd, I Don’t know what it is, but he is just so so so so special.
2. You will Feel Overwhelmed More Often
My mother visited when our 3rd was born for about 5 weeks. Despite her help, there was just that feeling of constant overwhelm. A newborn and 2 young toddlers aged was not an easy mix. 4 months later, I can’t say I feel any less overwhelmed. There are days where it gets to 4 pm and I am wondering how the time went so fast and how I got nothing done. There will be other days it will only be 10 am and I will be counting the hours to bedtime. Somedays I feel like I am drowning, and I want you to know that it’s normal to feel that way. I have heard it gets a little easier after 6 months, but then that’s been suggested by a mom of 3 where the eldest is 7. So it really depends on your situation. So if you find yourself in overwhelm constantly you’ll know it’s time to slow down.
3. You will Feel Outnumbered
When the kids are all crying, and need something I feel outnumbered. I never knew what that felt like until one morning everyone woke up at the same time and everyone was asking for something at the same time and I just wanted to shut off the sound and crawl back into bed. With 2 it wasn’t so bad, but this…this is hard.
4. You will be Needed Constantly
When you have 3 kids so young, you are bound to be needed. For snacks, for diaper changes, for attention, for playing, for reading, for feeding, for potty trips, for comfort, for changing clothes, for everything. I realized that even though they might grow up to be super close, the beginning is so hard because they are so young and not independent in any way.
5. You will Need to Rely on Some Screen Time
As much as I hate this, it has become my reality. I will never forget when a good friend of mine came over to visit when my son was born. We had just gotten past a huge meltdown with my 4 and 2-year-old and I told my husband to take them to play so everyone could calm down. Her advice to me was, “You are a mom of 3 in survival mode Afra if you need to put something on to get a break while you take a nap or attend to a newborn IT’s OK!”. Something about that word “Survival Mode”, we never think of it that way right? I was beating myself up for screen time decided to try detox for a few days but in reality, we really need it. All I ever did was put things like Daniel Tiger or Alphabets and Letters or other Islamic Shows so it wasn’t like they were watching anything bad! To this day, even though we go through many days without screen time, I still remember her words as she was so right!
6. You will Need to Take the Kids out EVERYDAY
To maintain your sanity, to calm yourself, to feel normal again, and to just get that breath of fresh air and remind yourself of God’s creation while the older 2 play and you just hold the little one, you will NEED to take them out every day. Everyone will be happy for it!
7. You will Need a Schedule
I was that mother that took over 2 years to figure out a schedule that worked for us. My husbands work schedule was long hours but flexible always and due to that I found that with no routine we couldn’t make it through the day without World War. So prior to my 3rd baby being born, I made sure we had the morning, nap and bedtime routine down. And later we just added things in as per each child’s needs. Iman from And Then She Said created an amazing printable which you can print and laminate to use to set a visible routine for your kids. This has helped although I have to admit we have lagged behind and on days when things are hectic, I forget to use it. I am considering finding another spot for it so that it is in our view daily. You can see how I have used this in my Toddler Room Tour. So try to plan your days/weeks strategically.
8. You will Need to BabyWear
I wear my youngest on daily basis. We can’t go anywhere without a carrier, even just walking to the car. I love to use my Ring Slings from Sakura Bloom, Wildbird and my structured carrier from Ergo and switch based on my need and what I am doing. It helps keep my hands free and allows me to do things like shop, carry my diaper bag, groceries, and hold my 2 toddlers hands without any difficulty. Of course if its a long wear, it might strain my back a bit, but that’s with any long activity.
9. You will Lose Your Cool
After 3 kids I started to lose my patience and yell more often. Especially the first 6 weeks. I found that if I was left alone with them for too long I would lose my cool. So what I tried to do was plan something during that time, or strategize how I was going to manage that time alone with all 3. The following points are suggestions for helping you keep more calm.
10. You will Need More Naps than Before
4 years and 3 kids later I finally realize I cannot function with 3 littles all day on my own without a nap. If not everyday at least every other day. The difference in my mood is almost magical. So don’t try to be supermom, take those naps! Thank my husband and the gazillion mothers that encouraged me to take this step.
11. You will Need to get Yourself Together Behind Closed Doors
When each child is crying/screaming/having that dreaded meltdown, the only way to get yourself together without breaking down in front of them is to go to the bathroom/bedroom and close the door. Of course this is only if you know they are safe.
12. You will Need to Take Care of Yourself
Even though I take a few naps here and there, if I don’t get even 30 minutes to myself on a daily basis I find I am more irritable and miserable. When you are giving so much, you need to take. For your sake and your family. So wake up earlier and get that cup of tea in, take a shower and change before the kids wake up or get that work out in. If you didn’t manage to do all that, then after they sleep treat yourself with a nice bath, or a cup of herbal tea. My favorite tea right now is Morrocan Mint tea at the end of the day.
Check out my post on the 12 things every mother needs to be doing in 2018 to take care of yourself!
13. You will Breakdown, More than You Wish
It’s ok, it’s ok to cry, let it all out and continue with your day. That’s just the struggle of motherhood especially postpartum. If it happens more than usual you will know something is wrong and you need to talk to someone to avoid burnout. Don’t do it alone, read the next point to see why.
14. You will Need to Find Your Mom Tribe
There’s something about finding that person who just gets it. Who you can text and vent to without explaining yourself and they just support you no matter what. And when you really need awake-up call they give it you, very gently and thoughtfully. Even if its 1 or 2 people, it is so important to find your tribe. I am so grateful for my tribe here. Even though I might only get to see them once every 2 weeks, we text almost every day and it really helps to be able to communicate with someone.
15. You will Need to have More Playdates
Plan to meet friends at least once a week if not more. I love going on playdates with my friends but I especially love playdates when the husbands tag along. It just feels so complete to have friends who you consider family together enjoying together and understanding each others struggle together. If your kid runs off and your hands are full, you just know that friend is going to sprint and get your toddler back! Try to plan one with your husband and then one with your friend during the week. That’s 2 things to look forward to every week!
16. You will Need to Accept ANY Help You Can Get
Prior to having 3 kids I was always trying to manage everything on my own. I would always be like “no its ok, I can do it”. One day my friend came over to drop something off, she saw me flustered, and asked me what was wrong, I broke down crying, and said “I just don’t know how to manage them”. She gave me a big hug, dropped everything she had planned, and stayed with me and the kids and then forced me to go nap while she took the kids out for a few hours. It made a world of difference. Another time I was chatting to them about how overwhelmed and sad I was about my mother leaving and asked them to say a prayer for me to manage after she left. They immediately set up a meal train to run for 3 weeks for us. If only I could, I would thank them everyday. It helped us SO SO MUCH!
17. You will have Outbursts of Love
Despite the tantrums and difficulties you will look at all 3 children and feel so much love your heart will burst. How did you give birth to 3 beautiful children? Is it possible to love 3 little beings so much you would do anything for them? It is possible, and it is such an amazing gift from Allah (God). When I hear “Mama I love my little brother”, it just melts my heart and that makes it all worthwhile.
18. You will Celebrate Minute Mom Achievements
Every little thing I am able to achieve with all 3 kids and no help, Everyday I am able to get through without yelling or crying, I celebrate. I brag to my family and tell myself how proud I am of myself. And I thank Allah (God). It’s such a boost to be able to celebrate your achievements because hey, mothering 3 little’s is NOT easy! So why not pat yourself on the back!
19. You will Love & Hate Going out & Shopping with 3 Kids
I have to admit some days I tell my husband I will never go out with the kids again. Then the next day, I am planning a trip to Costco with them. So this is a hit or miss. Some days are so easy to shop provided they are fed and not sleepy. Someday’s no matter what you do, you cannot please them. So if its possible leave at least one child aside when you have to do a long shop. I am that crazy mother who just takes my kids everywhere I go because I hate to be indoors.
20. You will Hear “You’ve Got Your Hands Full” ALOT
Almost every time I go out I either get a sympathetic look or a smile from someone who will say “Wow You’ve got your hands full”. I always feel like responding “Yes I have 3 kids, my hands are full, my brain is full, my body is aching, are you going to help me or just stand there and make statements”. I know it’s not a big deal and some are just either impressed or genuinely sympathetic but I have grown to hate that statement!
21. You will Need to Work on Your Marriage
As with any relationship, you have to put in time and effort to make it work. And with marriage, especially after becoming a family of 5, things will change. As parents, you will feel outnumbered on most days and be too exhausted to exchange more than a few words. However, it is so important to do at least one thing together every day. Even if it’s a 5-minute conversation to catch up on your day, or a cup of tea or dinner together once the kids have slept. Those moments will allow you to bond and reduce any distance that might have accumulated postpartum.
I really hope this post if anything makes you feel like you are not alone mama. Whoever tells you that having three kids is easy is having a laugh! (as they say in England) Here’s to each mom of 3 (and more) out there, you are my hero!