I wish I could tell you that as a mom of three I am now somehow wiser and calmer, or something like that. But I can’t. Because I am still pretty much my usual, disorganised, chaotic self. Which can be bad news (You don’t get wiser from having three children! Why do you have them?) or good news (you’re still yourself!). But a friend of mine asked me for advice (she’s expecting her third child very soon), and I decided to put together this little list of things I have learned from my life with three children.
1) It’s Ok to feel unprepared or scared or panicky!
When I was pregnant with Markian, I often got asked: ‘Are you ready?”, to which I always replied: “No”. Sure, we had all the baby stuff at home, but from getting pregnant to giving birth, there is nothing that can prepare you for having a child. NOTHING. Sure, you can say: “Let’s try for a baby”, but when (or if) you will get pregnant is a totally different matter. The same way, you can buy baby beds and clothes and bottles and pacifiers, but nothing will prepare you for the child you’ll ultimately end up having. Nothing can prepare you for having your first or your second or your third child. Does it sound like bad news? No, because you can start dealing with having three children once you actually have them. Less worrying, more fun.
2) There will be good moments and bad moments
Having three children is like having one child times three, so everything will be more intense. You know the song: “ If one of us gets the measles, the other ones gets the measles, then all of us get the measles, and mumps, and kroup!”. Which is totally true. There will be moments when you may want to escape to a warm sunny island with a book, a cup of tea (or make it a bottle of wine) and no children. When you may have a temper tantrum yourself because all your children scream at the same time and there is only one of you. But then, there will be other moments. Like the ones where you sit on the couch, baby in your arms and each of your other children on your side, cuddling and laughing and reading. And you will look at these beautiful little faces and you will feel as if you were hit by the Huge Hammer of Happiness because how can life be so perfect? And you will feel like the luckiest mom alive.
3) Don’t feel guilty because you don’t have the time to do all the things that moms of one do with their children. In fact, don’t feel guilty about anything. You have three children. Which means that sometimes, the baby will have to wait until you’re done changing your two-year old’s diaper. And he will also have to wait until you finish your tea. Yes. Finish your tea. The other children will have to wait, too because, as I say, there is only one of you. Besides, you don’t have the time to feel guilty because you’re too busy playing with your three year old or explaining colours to your two-year old or feeding your baby, or just on occasion, doing sweet, sweet nothing.
4) Your standards will get so low that you will feel like a great mom just because your children are dressed, fed and alive. Did you know that bathing every day is optional- no, not you. Your children. Did you know that they can have sweets sometimes? Or play with the iPad? Or that you don’t have to play with your children all the time when you had a rough night and just can’t stand any intellectual activity at the moment? Educational activities, wholesome food, laundry they’re all optional, at least for a while. There is always tomorrow. If your children are fed, dressed (outside, of course, who cares what they wear in the house), and loved, life is good. You are good.
5) You will remember some of the things, and will have totally forgotten the others
I can now change a diaper in a matter of seconds, something that took ages to accomplish with my first. And I can do it with one hand. Changing diapers is easy. But you know what’s hard? Remembering to not put your child on the floor because he won’t sit and he won’t walk. Trying to remember not to give him bread because he can’t have it yet. Trying to figure out when they should be doing what. You totally forgot how little sleep you get with a baby. But you also totally forgot how good his head smells, and how soft and warm he feels in your arms. The way he smiles at you. And then, you’re actually pretty happy to experience this again.
6) Don’t try to be a supermom. Unless you want to.
I often get asked “How do you do it all?” The truth is, I don’t. I have daycare for my children, a cleaner who comes in every week, a supportive husband and a great network of expat friends and professionals. I also have an extremely supportive family back home (Poland, my other home). No, I don’t do it all. Sometimes I skip the things that I don’t think need to be done. Sometimes I ask people to help me out. Sometimes we have take-away food for dinner. I am no super hero. I am just a mom who tries to figure out how this three-children-thing works out. A mom who also wants to keep her brain well and working so she keeps on blogging because it keeps her sane. A mom who loves playing with her children. Speaking of children, I realised that Klara can do many things by herself. That she can help with many activities. Amazing what you get when you’re not able to always help your child.
7) If anybody asks you if you need anything, you’ll need diapers and baby wipes. Yes, I’m serious. If you’re anything like me, you have three children in different stages of being diapered. Klara’s out of diapers during the day but still wears them during the night. Julia wears diapers day and night, but she’s only two and besides, she’s just learned to walk so it’s too early to potty train her. And then, there is my newborn who needs tons of diapers every day (and night!). So yes, you will need diapers and baby wipes. You’re welcome. Thank me later.
8) You’ll appreciate the other children even more.
The very cool thing about having three children is the fact that you can experience three different stages of development at the same time. So, I have my intense, vibrant tornado of pink frocks and blond hair that is Klara. She asks lots of questions, requires my full attention at all times and challenges me every day- in a good way. I have my cute, carrot blonde Julia who also has the world’s most perfect little nose. Seriously, it should be illegal to have a nose this perfect. She is calm, and the most smiley baby in the Universe. And then, I have my baby boy who is well, a baby and does all the things that babies do. Did I say he’s cute? I love watching them and I love seeing the relationships that already begin to form between themselves. Klara and Julia playing together on the iPad. We have now moved Julia to Klara’s room and they both sleep better. Klara trying to nurse her little baby brother. Julia has just learned to give kisses, and practices her newly acquired skill on her baby brother’s head. I love my children, I really really do. All of them.
9) Laundry and other chores will still refuse to do themselves
I wish I could tell you that with your third child comes the privilege of no longer having to do laundry, make beds and clean. But I can’t because if I told you so, I’d be lying. While I get help, I still have chores to do. I don’t enjoy doing them but they have to be done, so I do them. Except for cooking but that’s no chore, that’s fun, at least for me. This one is sad, I know. I’m sorry.
10) It’s not the end of the world.
You know how when you have your first child, you’re convinced that life as you know it will end? That you’ll never get a good night’s sleep again or will be able to finish a task or have an adult conversation? Suddenly, your child gets bigger and goes to school or daycare and you realise that you can actually enjoy many of the activities you missed from your former life. Then, you have your second child and are now totally certain that life as you know it will end and you will never be able to have fun again. Or work. Or travel. Again, you find out that you can still do all these things. And then, your third child comes along and again you find yourself thinking: “Now this is the end. No fun, no work, just children.”. Not true, either. You will be able to do other things. It just takes some planning, reorganising, and willpower. And time.
What have you learned from having children- regardless of how many you have? Besides, stay tuned for next week’s guest post. It will be about the same topic, but coming from an experienced, wise mom of three wonderful children! Now, she can give you some real advice!