Surviving 3 Under 3

I was getting ready for a new post and saw that a year ago I started but never finished this post entitled, “I am no longer a mom of 2 under 2”. I had written:

“Big baby turned 2 last week. And I am no longer a mom of 2 under 2.

I feel like I’m having an identity crisis!”

I suppose that sums it up and describes my feelings now, a year later. I’m still having a bit of an identity crisis. I feel like I reached a big milestone, my oldest child turned 3 years old last week! I no longer have 3 kids under 3 but I do still have 2 under 2 so I suppose I can’t loose my identity just yet.

Apparently I’ve survived having 3 kids under 3. It may not have been easy or looked pretty, but I did it. With a lot of help from my friends.

Now that I have 3 kids I realize that I pretty much know nothing at all about parenting. Every kid is unique and each stage is completely different. Each child has reached development stages at different timing and handles things quite uniquely. Everything that I said in my post about surviving 2 kids under 2 still applies, even more so. Here’s what I wish I would have known a year ago when I found out I was pregnant with mini mac #3.

1. Don’t “should” on yourself.

Remember how I said you have to lower your expectations when you have 2 little kids? Its true to a greater degree with 3 little ones. Lower your expectations for your standard of cleanliness in your house. Lower them for the number of activities in which you expect to participate. Lower them for the amount of time in which you’d like to loose the baby weight. And lower them again for other things like the amount of television you allow your kids to watch, the amount of gourmet meals you prepare for your family, and etcetera etcetera.

I know that this is a hard one, because every time you let your toddler watch one more tv show per day than you used to do the voice of guilt is LOUD. You feel like you SHOULD be cooking more, you SHOULD be spending more time creating pintrest worthy crafts, you SHOULD NOT let your child watch tv, you SHOULD, you SHOULD, you SHOULD. Few things will steal your joy more than when you constantly feel like you’re not living up to your expectations for yourself, like you’re a constant disappointment. The truth is that these expectations most often are internal rather than coming from our children or partner.

Don’t let the disappointment of what you think you SHOULD be doing steal your joy from what you ARE doing. 

There are certain things you may choose not to compromise on, and that’s fine, but there are probably things you can let go of a little bit. Choose what works best for your family. Are your children fed? Check. Relatively clean and clothed? Check. Safe and loved? Check. Take THAT pintrest!

2. Don’t wish “this phase” away.

Now that I’m doing this for the third time, I have a new appreciation for how quickly each phase passes. My son will soon grow out of his sweet little baby goat sleep sounds, jerky arm movements, and baby coos. My daughter is quickly stretching out of her chubby baby thighs and and her toddler feet are turning into little girl feet. My older daughter is suddenly wearing high water pants and 3/4 sleeve length shirts and suddenly has a much longer attention span. When I look at my middle child and am at my wits end with her tantrums, I know that she’ll soon (I hope!) grow out of these and mature into someone who can handle her emotions more appropriately. I see it happening with Lucy so I know it will happen with Addy too. Jack will soon be rolling and trying to crawl all over the place. Just look at Addy, I thought she would never walk and now she wakes up and hits the ground running!

I used to wish that this phase, these “little years” would pass quickly, and sometimes I still do. But now I’m trying to appreciate this time for what it is. As much as I want to get through some of the challenging parts of toddlerhood, I also want to be present in the present. Once one challenging phase is over another challenge is sure to pass my way. There will always be challenging situations in parenting. If its not tantrums, its sleepless nights. If its not teething, its potty training. I might as well settle in for the long haul and give up wishing that things would be easier. Plus, I don’t want to miss the sweet things about these little years, like the funny things toddlers say (“Whoa, I almost fell. That was cwazy!”) and do (wearing underwear on the head, anyone?) to sweet cuddles at the end of a long day.

3. Love your children as they are, warts and all.

I’m learning to love my children as they are, where they’re at, in the stage they’re in. I don’t want to keep wishing my daughter wasn’t so strong willed, and then realize one day that I missed out on reaching her heart during her formative years because I was too tired and selfish to realize that’s part of who she is. I don’t want to ignore my other daughter as she has difficult tantrums because I’m tired and busy with other things. I also don’t want to compare them to each other because they each have completely different personality types and strengths. During this season, I really want to love each individual child in the way they each need to be loved, and hope I can learn to do that now so that I can continue it for a lifetime. This is hard, it falls under the SHOULD category because I feel like I SHOULD be doing things differently with each of them that I’m sometimes incapable of doing but I’m trying.

4. Find another new normal. 

For us, going from 1-2 kids was a bigger adjustment than going from 0-1 or 2-3. I know everyone has a different experience of this, but it felt like if we could handle two little ones so close together, we could handle 3. We moved from “man-on-man” to “zone defense”. It did, however, take a bit longer for us to find a new normal this time around. I’ve heard others say that with each new kid it takes a bit longer to adjust to a new normal, and that’s been true for us. Jack is 4 months old now and it was a few weeks ago that I felt like I started to surface from the newborn haze and feel a little more in control of the situation. In many ways we’re still operating in survival mode, and we probably will be for a little longer. I’m okay with that, and I know eventually things will get easier.

5. Rest as much as possible.

By nature, I’m a night owl. No one will EVER say that I’m a morning person, no matter how much coffee I’ve started drinking. But I have to get up and *gasp* be NICE not yell function at an ungodly hour these days. I’ve started going to bed early, like really early. The other night I was actually in bed before 9pm (sob…). I feel so sad about this because I love being in a quiet and cleanish house after everyone is sleeping and I can catch up on a show or surf the google machine. Going to bed early makes me feel old and boring and out of touch with the rest of the world. But it also makes me feel more functional the next day. I realize that the my patience with the kids at the end of a day is directly related to the quantity and quality of sleep I got the night before. I can’t always predict how the night is going to go (no one told me that toddler sleep is WORSE than newborn sleep?!!), but when I actually attempt to get a good night’s shut eye, I’m better able to make it through the next day with a little more un-wilted fruit of the spirit.

Resting doesn’t just mean sleeping when the babies sleep, but doing things that help me relax. I know it can be hard for us busy mamas to relax, but I find that when I take time to do “productive relaxing” (i.e. blogging, exercising, catching up on emails, chatting with a friend, taking a shower), my batteries are recharged and I can make until the kids bedtime. Of course, I love a good Netflix binge or pedicure, I’m not gonna lie, but I feel especially recharged when I do something that’s productive but not a requirement.

So there you have it, 5 things I’ve learned since having 3 kids under 3 years old. I’ve also posted this on my “Surviving kids close together” page so if you have another crazy friend with a bunch of kids close together, send ’em over there.

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