This Is The Hardest Thing About Having Three Kids

by Ashleigh Wilkening
Parents happily sitting on the couch while playing with their three kids in their home
William Perugini / Getty

As I unloaded the dishwasher, I heard my two-year-old say, “Make a zoo. Sit down. Mommy, make a zoo with me.” Eager to finally have an opportunity to put away the dishes, I told him, “As soon as mommy is done.” Before I could finish, my eldest was yelling from the bathroom requesting my assistance to wipe his butt proceeded by my youngest demanding to nurse. Additional improvised moments followed until I completely forget about the dishes and making a zoo altogether.

Sometime later while tending to a laundry basket that’s been plaguing me for days to fold, I once again hear my toddler asking me to make a zoo. My response was the same as before, “As soon as mommy is done”, and just as before, I was interrupted by my other children requesting my immediate attention.

Closing in at the end of the night, dinner finished and with bedtime routines commencing, my son asks one last time for me to play zoo with him. He and his bin overflowing with animals have been waiting all day, ready for his mom to finally join him. Only in that moment do I remember his previous requests and realize how desperate he is for my attention. It was truly an “aha” moment opening my eyes to how much I’ve been sucking as a mom lately.

This life of chaos is my reality at the moment, especially as of late with the recent addition of my third child. Since her arrival, survival mode has taken over my life as I operate on autopilot, just moving through the motions. While combating constant sleep deprivation, I’ve been unintentionally tending to whatever problem unavoidably lies in front of me at that moment — not able to think or consider anything else. More often than not, I feel like I’m barely keeping my head above water, sometimes even overwhelmed with it all.

It’s an ugly juggling act of bouncing from one child to the next. Sometimes there’s a free moment or two to tend to a household chore. Most times, I’m clamoring to find time to pee or track down a lost cup of coffee that’s most likely still in the microwave from the numerous attempts of reheating it back to life.

With this newborn phase coming to an end, my consciousness is starting to return along with an overwhelming amount of mom guilt. As I slowly regain my ability to think clearly, it’s become obvious my middle child is earning that title and then some.

My second born has always had a mild-mannered disposition. He goes with the flow, is easy-going and naturally independent. His ability to easily occupy himself in play has been appreciated but now wonder if I’ve taken this trait for granted. Add in two demanding siblings and it’s obvious he’s becoming lost in the noise.

The phrase squeaky wheel gets the grease or oil, depending on which version you’re familiar with, has the same meaning — the loudest or biggest problem receives more attention. In my situation, my eldest and youngest are the squeakiest.

Maybe there holds some truth to the middle child syndrome. Feelings notorious with this syndrome are ones eerily similar to that of my son. Those associated with being left out and invisible. This is in contrast to the first born who’s often praised for those notable first accomplishments. Then there is the younger children and babies who are notorious for being spoiled and coddled. Where does that leave the middle child? For my son, it leaves him sitting at a table with a bin full of animals asking their mom to play with them all day long feeling ignored.

Regardless if the middle child syndrome can be considered valid, I do know my children’s personalities, strengths, weaknesses and limitations. I know I must work harder to equally divide myself amongst my three.

New to the game of parenting three children, this is now something I need to be extra conscious of. Each child is in desperate need for me, but for different reasons. I’ve never had to make such an intense effort to carve out time, but now I do. I refuse to let him feel lost and definitely don’t want any feelings of resentment to grow.

His voice isn’t loud and even if it was, he doesn’t know the words or emotions to voice his feelings. He’s not direct with his demands for time with his mommy, but as this fog associated with newborn phase lifts and I regain life, when my son tells me to make a zoo with him, you better believe, I’m putting everything on hold so I can spend the one-on-one time he craves and deserves.