All throughout my most recent pregnancy, I was constantly thinking, “how? just HOW are we going to manage another child?! Three. Children!?” My husband and I would ask ourselves this redundant question over and over again. It just seemed impossible to wrap our brains around, not to mention logistically, HOW were we going to manage? I felt my plate was already beyond full. To be honest, most days, I felt like I wasn’t even a very good parent at all. Just surviving. Part of it was that I was still in a turbulent emotional state from our move from California, which was only one month before we found out I was pregnant with him. I cried. A lot. And not just from the hormones, although I’m sure they didn’t help.
Shortly after Diego joined us earthside, I wrote this post about what having three was really like for me then. In a word, chaos. Which is pretty much what I expected but was no less traumatizing, challenging, or overwhelming. And since I am being honest, a whole lot of our day-to-day life still is chaos. I saw a quote recently which described it perfectly: “motherhood is a series of things not going according to plan.” As a planner by nature, this has been my hardest lesson of motherhood to learn. It is a lesson I continue to work on daily, but I am learning it, little by little.
Even though it is chaos and so, so hard [like the hardest thing I have ever done, hands down], I decided I wanted to take a moment to share what is working for us now. Just a few little things that have helped life feel a little less chaotic and a little more manageable. Three kids later, I have fully come to terms with the fact that my life will never “go back” to normal. Instead, we are finding our new normal. And since we have a pretty good groove going right now, I figured I’d let you in on it. It has it’s own beauty, rhythm, and dare I even a sense of peace.
First of all, ask for help. This phrase really urked me for a long time. I thought, I AM asking for help! I felt like shouting, “SOMEONE HELP ME. I AM DROWNING.” The world felt really heavy and I felt really powerless, like it was all just spinning out of control around me. But what I really needed to do was figure out exactly what it was I needed help with, and then how someone else could help me out, and then ask for that help. When everything else felt out of control, this was the thing I could control. I had to sit down and look at my day-to-day and find the places where someone/something could make life for all of us a little easier.
Ok this is obviously a really broad statement and may even seem obvious. But I say it because again, it took me a long time to get to a place where I could logically think about what I needed help with. When I did do this, these are some of the small things I found that helped in our daily schedule.
1 // start sweating [preferably at a facility that has childcare]]. Ok so we all know exercise is important for our overall health + wellness, it produces endorphins, reduces stress, balances hormones, and hello shedding a few baby weight pounds, right?! But think about the other benefit of just having some “me” time back. An hour a day can totally reset you and your kids. If you are a stay-at-home mom like me, this also gives your little ones a chance to socialize away from you which they might not otherwise get. If you are a working mom, this allows your regular childcare provider a break and still allows you some “me” time [because you DO deserve it and no work does not count!]. Take your time and find a facility that works for you. When I started looking, I already knew of a really nice health club in our area but had sort of ruled it out because it was pretty pricy to join. But then when I compared the cost of the membership + childcare there to hiring a nanny or babysitter to come to my house a couple of times a week, the cost of the gym membership was far less! And if I had hired a nanny, I still wouldn’t have really had time to work out much. So the cost was more than justifiable. And again, we are lucky that the place we go is really nice, not just your standard noisy, bright, loud childcare you see at one of the larger chain gyms, if you know what I mean!
2 // get organized [as much as possible]. I used to try to clean up after us throughout the day and grab snacks on the go and just throw clothes on the kids so we could get out of the door. Our mornings are frantic and always include going back inside about a hundred times for something we forgot. Now, I reset us at night, after the kids have gone to bed. I unpack all of our water bottles, snack cups, everything from our day, at the end of the day. It all goes in the wash and then I start re-packing for the next day whatever we need. This makes our mornings go so much smoother with far less yelling on my part and a much lower occurrence of lateness. Because of course there is always still at least one thing we forgot that we have to go back for.
3 // allow extra time for things to go wrong. “OMG I got here early today,” said no mom ever. I like to give myself a 15 minute cushion of time and I almost always end up needing it either for the running back to get something, or for potty stops, stroller shenanigans, etc. etc.
4 // find your routine. Not only will this help you with #3 [get organized], but kids also really need structure and predictability in their lives. My oldest asks me every day, “is it a gym day or a school day?” [he goes to preschool 3x per week]. He loves both and we talk about each one, who he will see there, what he will get to do, etc. On the days that he has school and I take the little ones to the gym, they love to recap their days to each other during after school snack. It just makes my mama heart so happy.
5 // don’t forget to play. I remember in a mommy + me class I was in after my oldest was born, the teacher recommended that we spend at least 30 minutes per day one-on-one with our children, down on their level, just playing. To be honest at the time, as a working mom, I felt horrible that I really didn’t think that was even possible for me. But it is sound advice. Even if it’s not 30 minutes, 15 or even 5 minutes of just really engaged time with your children can be so rewarding for you both, at any age. I had this fantasy when I became a SAHM that I would suddenly have all this “free” time and we would do a million fun things together. But of course, that is not the reality. So I do still have to work at making sure I get play time with each and all of them everyday.