Everyone told me that the transition to three kids would be easy compared to transitioning to one or two. “Barely anything will change,” they said. “You’ll hardly notice a third,” they said. They, as it turns out, are liars. Maybe it’s the spacing in between each kid that matters. Maybe it’s their ages or personalities. Maybe our little family is just the weird one among a bunch of well-adjusted families of five. Whatever it is, all I know is that when our third baby was born, shit hit the fan and everything changed for us.
For us, having three kids meant a whole host of new and different things we had to adjust to:
We stopped dining out at restaurants, except when we absolutely had no other choice.
My husband and I consider ourselves foodies. Before having kids, we ate out often, and we continued to do so after the birth of our first and second children. I like to give myself a little pat on the back for that because it wasn’t usually fun or easy, but we felt it was important, for them and for us.
But when the third came along, it suddenly felt impossible. There were more children than there were adults and keeping them happy and quiet for the entirety of a meal so as not to disturb everyone else dining at the same restaurant was overwhelming. Never mind not being fun. It was terrifying. Not to mention, expensive. And so now, takeout it is. Usually silently in the front seat of the car (while the kids munch on their home-prepared lunches), or even better, in front of the TV after the little ones are tucked into their beds for the night.
For the first time in my life, I became addicted to coffee.
Since college, I had loved coffee, and I would sometimes order a mocha or caramel macchiato as a little treat for myself on a really hard day. In my early parenting years, coffee was a financial and emotional luxury. A reward or a consolation prize. Not a necessity.
But give me a third baby who had a far more sporadic sleep schedule than his sisters ever did? Suddenly, I was having coffee every day. Often, multiple times a day. And I became less picky about where my coffee came from. No longer was a fancy espresso drink from the corner organic coffee shop the only thing I would drink (because what mom of three kids can afford that twice every day?), but instant coffee in a mug at home (because I didn’t even want to wait for it to brew) was just fine. I just needed caffeine, and lots of it, if I was going to have the patience and restraint required to parent three screaming, crying, demanding (but oh-so-adorable) little energy-leeches from sun up to sun down.
I stopped trying to make a new, home-cooked meal every day.
Now, we have something from scratch(ish) about two or three times a week. Because let’s get real: Who has the time or energy for more (even with caffeine running through my veins)? On the other days, we mostly have leftovers from the freezer or fridge (I now make large batches of my home-cooked meals for this purpose), with an occasional frozen meal from Costco or Trader Joe’s or takeout from one of our favorite restaurants thrown in. And on a really desperate night when I don’t even have the motivation to make a run to Chipotle or stand over a stove to heat some frozen pasta, we throw a few crackers and nitrate-free pepperoni onto a plate with a pouch of applesauce beside it and call it “good enough.”
Our screen time allowance slowly progressed to the max allowed by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Before our second kid came along, there was no TV time at all for our first child. That changed to allowing her to watch an occasional PBS show or two (never more) once she had a baby sister. But with our third kid, I yearned for a distraction for the big kids while I nursed the baby, or cleaned marinara sauce off of the walls, or just caught my breath while sipping my coffee.
Having three kids at my feet in the kitchen while I cooked one of those home-cooked meals I mentioned was a test of parental patience that I failed over and over. I just needed a little peace and quiet. And so we now have a four-shows-a-day limit. And when someone is sick? All bets are off. All rules are broken. Two hours of TV? Try 12 hours of TV. Anything to help us survive the Great Stomach Flu of 2017.
And speaking of the stomach flu, by the time I had my third kid, I became very wary (okay, petrified) of germs.
You would think I would become pretty darn comfortable with them considering how constant they are around here. You know those Luvs commercials where the second-time mom doesn’t give a stink about the hygiene of the person about to hold her kid? Well, that mom has obviously never survived a winter like we just did. Two rounds of the flu, countless fevers, three cases of pinkeye, two kids with ear infections, one case of pneumonia, and one case of vaginal strep (yes, you read that right; who knew that was even a thing?) has me now shaking in my boots at the thought of what might come next.
I have spent an incredible chunk of money on vitamins, elderberry syrup, and other natural “tools” as a preventative measure, and it still wasn’t enough. At this point, I’m about to throw my dry, cracked hands (sore from all the hand-washing, obviously) up in surrender. Let those germs have their way with us! I’m tired of fighting. Except, the alternative is too terrifying to fathom.
I stopped choosing what my kids would wear on a daily basis.
In fact, I stopped doing a lot of things for my kids that they’re capable of doing on their own. Did you know that a 3-year-old can actually dress herself? And that it doesn’t really matter if your kindergartener chooses to wear her yellow and orange floral dress with purple heart leggings and a dozen barrettes in her hair? I didn’t, until our third came along and I realized it was time to just let some things go. Letting go is not something I’m particularly good at, but letting go of these things that really, really don’t matter has lightened my physical and emotional load immensely. It’s as though I’ve lost 20 pounds, except all the hard work has been done by my three kids!
This list isn’t all-inclusive. For that matter, it probably doesn’t even scratch the surface of the ways our lives have morphed and transformed since the arrival of our third child, sweet, smiley, stubborn, and vocal gremlin that he is. Everything has changed for us. Everything is changing still. Life is harder. Days are sometimes longer, and simultaneously, not long enough. We’ve all had to adjust in big ways, ways that we didn’t expect. Ways that no one warned us about.
But all those people who lied and told us having three kids was no big deal? Well, they got one thing right. Our lives our richer. Our hearts are fuller. Having another kid has only meant more laughter, more joy, and more love than ever before.
The good times are enough to even make us whisper about having one more.