Friday, January 23, 2009

Three 3 and Under---The Ups and Downs

Wow, in less than a month I'm going to have to change my series to Three 4 and Under! Ali's birthday is coming up!
If there's anything I've learned in the last couple of months of parenting three little ones 3 and under it's that there are ups and downs and it's truly hard to define what it's like to be in this stage of parenting life. I will say that having three 3 and under is ENDLESS....ENDLESS...ENDLESS.... (get the idea yet?) work. Now to those of you, and there are always some, who are rolling your eyes and thinking to yourself, or saying out loud to me (yes, I've been asked this) "You do know how it happens, right?" I want to say that this post is not for you. I'm sharing in honesty with fellow mothers in the trenches who believe that children are blessings from the Lord but also need to hear the whole story. I'm not trying to be a complainer or a whiner and I don't at all regret having 3 or even regret having them all 21 months apart! In fact, my hubby and I want at least one more and we love the 21 month spacing and watching our kids be best friends and play together.
Sometimes, because of the comments we get, we mothers of 3 or more little ones tend to gloss over the hard days or put up a brave front with people around us because we are afraid of hearing "You made your bed, now you're going to lie in it." We don't feel like we have the right to talk about our hard days because we chose to have all of these children. But it would be unfair to my mommy friends out there for me to cover over the rough days. Anyone who has even one baby knows that it is life-changing and an incredible amount of work. Triple that and your hands are very full! So, I'm not going to pretend in this series that it's always been a piece of cake for me!
Having Three 3 and Under is incredibly easy some days. Some days, and I'm guessing a lot of it has to do with how much sleep Mommy and kids got last night, how long baby naps, and what's planned for the day, everything seems rosy and you bask in the wonder of watching all these little people around you, running around, filling your home with toys and with joy and giggly smiles. A lot of days we have a nice, home-cooked supper on the table when Daddy comes home from work or soon after. A lot of days we go for walks and get out to playdates. A lot of days I have a whole evening free to read, sew, surf the web, relax, etc.
Yet, some days, the little girl is screaming for you to wipe her while you are changing a nasty poopy diaper and the baby cries for food and the phone is ringing with an important call and you have a headache and feel more than a little overwhelmed. When you've spent all day trying desperately to get the house clean and the dishes done and you survey the mess at the end of the day and feel like a complete failure as a homemaker. When your kids seem to fight and cry and whine non-stop all day, requiring countless discipline sessions. When you're peeling your eyes open in the morning because the baby kept you up half the night and you know there will be no chance to rest for another 15 hours. When you work, day after day, after day at your job, realizing that you are a workaholic of sorts and will never get a day off, and probably not a night off anytime soon, even though you love your job more than any other. When you are sick or upset or hormonal and you realize that the kids are still needing and demanding from you and will never stop (at least not for several years). Days when the kids throw toys at other kids, have an accident in the store, or days when one kid dumps a gallon of flour all over the kitchen while you are nursing the baby and another kid tries to clean it up with a bucket of water and makes paste (this happened to my friend, not me!) Some days the enormity of the tasks that loom before you threaten to crash over you and you feel like you are drowning and just trying to survive and stay afloat.
The good news is that we have a loving Father who has gifted us with these precious little ones and will sustain us in caring for them. One verse God brought to my mind this week is, "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Matt. 11:28
These feelings and trials go up and down. So, if I'm having a horrible day with fussy kids, I know that naptime or bedtime is coming and things will look brighter after they sleep and after Mommy has some quiet time. I have a husband who is always willing to pitch in and help with feedings, bedtime routine, and who gives me nice massages =). I have friends I can call or e-mail to share my tough days with who totally understand. Kids get over their sicknesses and their crankies before you know it and even though it may seem like an eternity when you are trying to get dinner ready and all 3 are demanding food NOW, they are learning patience right along with you. Once their bellies are full, they are back to being little giggle-boxes.
Most of the time, I love being a Mommy of Three 3 and Under and wouldn't trade it for anything on earth. But there are definitely days of feeling trapped and feeling overwhelmed with the continual needs. I could give you the "typical" practical advice for preventing some of the hard days:
Having a regular quiet time
Getting your rest
Keeping a good routine
Being prepared and organized
Not planning too much in your day
Being flexible
Getting rid of perfectionism
Finding support-A Bible Study, Accountability Partner or a Mother's Helper
However, in giving you these basic ideas, I have to say that you WILL have hard days. There will always be trials of various kinds. It's not IF, but WHEN they come. Even if you try to follow the tips in the list above, your kids will be cranky, sick, disobedient at times and things will come up that threaten to overwhelm you. Combine this with the fact that mommies of babies don't get a lot of sleep and have a hard time with the other things on the list when they are in a haze of fatigue and you have a recipe for some rough days as a Mama. But know that this hard season, is just that: a season. Before you know it, they'll be grown and won't need us nearly as much and we will miss these days. It is an incredible blessing to have these little ones and they are worth every minute of the hard work. So, be thankful for every moment with them and ride out the hard days by God's grace.


Lesley said...

Amen!! Sometimes I feel like you've been inside my head :=) So, all I can say is, yes, yes, yes, and thanks for the encouragement and honesty! This is one tough and amazing job we have!

Thia said...

What I'd like to know is how you even have energy for those evening activities. Once I get my three settled down for the night (or rather, a few hours, lol), I find myself falling asleep on the couch!

Mrs. Jo said...

I relax by reading, sewing, or surfing the web. I don't go to bed until 11 pm (or sometimes way later!)

I've never needed TONS of sleep like my hubby and his side of the family.

The Three 22nds said...

After reading your post, I started thinking about my 3, and how my oldest just turned 5.

I suddenly realized that yesterday, the 22nd was the baby's 20 month birthday...and that my 2nd born was exactly 20 months old when Lincoln was born!

It is really weird to me because Lincoln is the baby. When Roman was his age he was a big brother and we treated him as such.

And my baby, he is pretty much the spoiled baby. We do plan to have more kids, but it is clear that it will probably be much harder to be usurped as an older child then for a 20 month old :)

I am always super tired in the afternoon, but as soon as the kids get in bed I get a major second wind and couldn't go to sleep if I tried.

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