Life with 3 Under 4
To say life in our house is chaotic at the moment is an understatement. Bringing home our third child has definitely changed things. That’s not to say the changes are bad, but for me it has been a challenge.
I am the type of person who likes routine, patterns, structure, and organization. Life with a newborn throws all of these things out the window. Life with a newborn, a 16 month old, and a 3.5 year old throws these things into utter disarray.
After having the baby, I spent just one night in the hospital and then we came home. I was eager to get home, have all of us together, and start to figure out this new “normal”. Of course I knew everything would change in some way but I don’t think I was mentally prepared for how much it would all change. Or for how challenging some things would now be.
My biggest challenge has been balancing the needs of all three kids.
Our oldest is quite self-sufficient. She can get food & drinks from the fridge so I always try to have things prepared and portioned out for easy grab-and-go. We tackled potty training awhile ago so she can get herself on & off the toilet and rarely needs help in the bathroom. Plus she can communicate with us, so we can explain that we will do things for her in a few minutes and she understands.
Our middle daughter, being only 16 months old now, is a bit of different story. She is currently learning to walk which leads to many falls and tumbles and tears. From diaper changes to being put in her high chair for meals, her needs are higher. She is also in a stage of huge intellectual development and wants a lot of interaction during play. To top it off, she doesn’t quite understand when we explain that she has to wait while we take care of the baby.
Our baby, well she’s a baby. She needs everything. And she needs it often.
I aim to give each child at least a little bit one-on-one attention every day. The baby gets a fair bit, especially since she breastfeeds most of the time. And our oldest gets some solo time when the middle one (and often the baby) is napping or gone to bed. I find it hardest to get that time alone with our middle child. There is always someone else around. So whenever I get that time alone with her, I make the most of it and treasure it while it lasts.
What I quickly realized after coming home with this baby, was that I needed to adjust my expectations. Especially about what was reasonably going to be accomplished each day. I was not going to be able to tackle all the things I used to do in a day, or in a week even.
During these early months, my daily goals are currently:
- One hot meal, which is usually at dinner time.
- A cleaning task or load of laundry each day.
- Keeping up with the dishes, since we don’t have a dishwasher.
Aside from that, I aim to bathe the kids a few times a week. And I like to leave the house on occasion, though that is easier said than done.
Babies are so tiny, yet they come with So Much Stuff. As they get older the Stuff just keeps multiplying. I have always been an organized person, even as a child. But having kids has put my organizational skills to the test time and time again. These are a few of my tips on staying organized with kids:
- Start Early – ideally before your first baby is even born. Think about what space you will use to store your babies things. Measure it, then find storage bins that fit to maximize the space. Label all bins so you can easily find what you need. For clothing, sort by size especially if you plan to buy ahead, or save for future siblings.
- Change It Up – I have lost track of how many different ways I have organized toys & books. As kids grow, learn, and change, your organization will need to adapt to their new needs and abilities. We started off with bins and baskets on the floor, then moved to cube style storage shelves, later adding bookcases.
- Memory Boxes – if you are a sentimental soul like I am, you will want to keep a memory box for each of your kids. Give this some thought early on to decide whigh items you will hold on to. For me, I chose key pieces – coming home outfit, favourite stuffed animal and book, cards from their first birthday party, and their baby book. I’m sure I’ll add more as time goes on, but that is my starting point.
- Clear It Out – as soon as you can. Once you know you are done having kids, start to sell or give away or donate whatever you are not keeping for your memory boxes. All those large baby items, think swings and saucers and high chairs and strollers, take up a lot of space and never store in an orderly fashion. So the sooner they are out the door the better.
With each baby, I have become more and more willing to accept help. Help with anything and everything. Do we need some groceries dropped off? YES. Can I take the older kids for a walk? YES. How about I hold the baby while you shower? YES. Wash the dishes? Colour with the kids? Fold some laundry? YES, YES, and YES.
Some days I am pretty sure we should just install a revolving door. Between the kids going out to play and friends & family coming over to help, the revolving door would get some good use. Other days no one stops by, and those days are okay too. Sometimes it’s nice to have the quiet. Or as quiet as it can be with three kids in the house.
At our house there is an understanding with all our family and close friends: They do not need an invitation to stop in. Nor do they need to call or text ahead, they can just show up. We always use our back door and they walk right in – no knocking, just in case someone is napping. And it goes without saying that you never know what you might find when you walk in the door. It might look like a bomb went off in the living room, aka toy central. Or we might all be able to enjoy an impromptu nap, though I rarely get to participate. We might be baking up a storm, or everyone might still be in PJs at 4pm. You just never know, and that’s half the fun.
Enjoy The Snuggles
Above and beyond all the items on my never ending To-Do list, every day I make sure I am soaking in all the newborn goodness. I am consciously reminding myself to cuddle and snuggle as much as possible. To etch all these precious moments into my memory. That the dishes and laundry and cleaning can wait. Letting her sleep on my chest a little longer is perfectly alright. These babies are not little for long, so it’s important to enjoy these moments while we have them. Every. Last. One.
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I am a busy mom to 3 kids, so my days are typically filled with tea parties & story books, singing & dancing, crafts (for as long as a 3yo’s attention span will allow) & cuddles. All the while trying to keep up with laundry & cleaning & meals (we have PB&J sandwiches for dinner more often than I’ll ever admit). The days (& weeks, & months) seem to speed past so I try to soak up as much as I can each day.