“I don’t know how you do it!”
This is probably the most frequent comment I’ve received since having a third child. And I get it because it is probably the comment I make most frequently to anyone I know who has more than three ;).
Life with three kids feels like a circus most the time, there’s no way around it. But circuses can be fun, right? And crazy. I never imagined myself as a circus manager, but… nevertheless!
So for anyone who has asked the same question, I thought I would share a few thoughts on how I have (kind of) been surviving this season of motherhood:
1. Two a day
Not to be confused with workouts, my “two a day” rule has to do with our overall appearance. Since my husband leaves for work at 8:15, most days I have to get all three kids and myself ready and out the door. I’ve realized that I just can’t make all of us look cute AND be on time. So my general rule is that two of us can look cute each day. If Piper is in an actual outfit and Riley’s hair is in a braid with a bow, chances are I’m in a ball cap with no makeup and in need of a shower. If I have makeup on and my hair is done, at least one of the kids probably has food crusted on their face and may or may not still be wearing yesterday’s t-shirt (most likely Copeland because he is the hardest one to get ready!).
2. Embrace limitations
I think one of the reasons that Americans in particular struggle with the idea of more kids is that we are not into limitations. We are into doing it all. We are into appearing like we have it together and being in control. With each child I have had, I’ve come into more direct contact with my limitations as a person. Each time, I try to fight it. I try to deny it. But I’ve learned that embracing my limitations is both crucial to my survival as a mother, and to my growth as a person and follower of Jesus. Although it does not initially feel this way, limitations are a gift to us. They make us acutely aware of our inability to save ourselves and help us recognize our need for a Savior. We tend to think we are limitless and we try to live like we are the gods of our own lives. When we come face to face with the things we cannot do, or with the end of our energy reserves or our patience or our ability to give – we realize afresh our need for something, someONE greater than ourselves. I can honestly say that my limitations in this season of life have pushed me straight into the arms of Jesus. Repeatedly.
Our limitations also force us to acknowledge the fact that we are not meant to do life alone. Which leads me to my next point.
3. Take people up on offers to help
Having three kids has made me more inclined than ever to take people up on their offers to help. My quality of life and ability to function increase exponentially when I have help and do life in community with others. I think a lie that we often believe is that receiving help means that we are weak or that we are burdening other people. Of course there is a way that people can abuse receiving help from others, but that’s obviously not what I mean. God designed us to need each other. When we get to the point where we feel like we just can’t do it, sometimes it’s because we actually just can’t do it! We need community. We are built for it. And often when people offer help, it’s because they actually want to help. Let’s not forget the joy that sometimes comes with service. There have been times in the past that I have offered help to a friend or family member and it legitimately brought joy to my heart to do it. I realize that not everyone has access to help and some are struggling to find community, so I don’t mean to make it sound so simple. I’m just saying that if someone tells me they would be happy to watch my kids for an afternoon, I’m going to say, “OK!” Then I’ll grab my bag and be at their front door step in 10 minutes ;).
4. Find time for Self Care
I got together with a friend recently and she asked in a loving and concerned way, “So now that you have three kids, what do you do for yourself?” I had to laugh a little bit. Not because there was any folly in her question, but because it was me that she was asking. No matter how chaotic life may be, for better or for worse – I’m always going to find a way to rest. I told her, “Hey, don’t worry about me. I take long bubble baths on Saturdays with a book or a TV show and a mimosa.” That’s my weekly luxury. My “spa”, my battery recharge. For other people, it may look different. Going on a hike or being involved in a sport or hobby, developing a skill or going to social events, or… I don’t know because I don’t roll like that. I like warmth and quiet and being by myself. But whatever it may be, I think it’s important to figure out your battery recharge and then find a way to make it happen.
After we went through our miscarriage 4 years ago, I came to value laughter more than ever in my life. I suddenly recognized not only the beauty, but the necessity of it. During that time, Jordan and I really got into comedy TV shows. Laughing with him during episodes of Parks & Rec or laughing with a friend sometimes felt like a balm lathered soothingly over the pain.
When life feels too heavy or too dark, a deep gut laugh can really minister to the soul. What a gift it is to be able to laugh! Seeing humor in the mundane can be a life raft in the midst of it.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that humor is one of the most vital things in this season of life. I am so thankful for girlfriends that I laugh with! Sometimes I’m having a day that feels endless or impossible and then a friend will send me a GIF that perfectly fits one of our inside jokes and it just turns my entire day around. I’ll think of it throughout the day and laugh out loud, to no one in particular. Or a friend will text me and tell me she forgot to brush her teeth or dropped her kids off to preschool with her shoes untied or ate goldfish crackers for breakfast or that she wiped her body down with baby wipes in place of taking a shower (ok fine, that last one was me). But these kinds of things remind me that I am not alone in this season, and it’s really all so funny when you stop and think about it. I like to imagine us one day 10 years down the road, hair dried and styled, makeup on and no spit up on our black blouses, laughing when we look back on the days where we were mostly a hot mess.
6. Lower standards
After having my third baby, it was hard for me to come to terms with the fact that I can’t have my cake and eat it too. I wanted to have another child, but I didn’t really want my life to change any more than it already had (ha!). Ever the idealist.
About a month or so ago I posted a poll series on Instagram stories. I listed multiple different categories and under each one, people could vote “I fight for it” or “I lower my standards.” The categories included:
-maintaining healthy eating habits
-staying on top of chores
-maintaining a social life
-going on dates with your spouse
-keeping up with the news
-keeping the house clean
-staying on top of the “to-do” list
-working on your appearance (hair, makeup, nails, etc)
-making home cooked meals
-working on your appearance (hair, makeup, nails, etc)
-making home cooked meals
I was able to see who voted for each one and this is what I found: no one voted “I fight for it” in every category. We all have to lower our standards in some places – we cannot do it all perfectly.
So I have learned to consistently re-evaluate these categories to decide what I’m going to fight for, and to acknowledge that it is going to come at the cost of lowering the standards in other areas.
7. Employ the 3 most effective parenting strategies:
Outside, baths, and Daniel Tiger.
If the kids hit a hard point in the day, are really whiny, or are having trouble getting along I have found that taking them outside or sticking them in the bathtub works like magic! I don’t know what it is but almost every time I have done this, everyone is suddenly happy.
And Daniel Tiger is just awesome. If you haven’t already discovered the magic of Daniel Tiger – they have an episode for almost everything: potty training, anger, frustration, sadness, jealousy, being left out, fear, sharing, having a new sibling come into the family, starting school, etc. They have cute little songs for each issue and I have found it to be pretty effective to use these songs when the kids are working through things.
So there you have it! I do want to mention that my eldest is in Kindergarten from 9-4 Monday-Friday, and my 3 year old is in preschool 2 mornings a week and spends one day with my mother-in-law. I know that some of you have three or more kids and you don’t have those outlets or you homeschool and to you I say, “I don’t know how you do it!” 🙂
(Now here are some recent family pictures that lie to you about how well we are handling this whole 3 kids thing):