That was the subject of an email I recently received from a dear friend. She had just had her third child (mazel tov!), and was now juggling the responsibilities of life with three small children. I think her oldest may be three? Something along those lines.
Her email continued:
Okay, Rivki…you’ve been managing with 3 kids for a while now….so…yeah, tips on managing with 3 kids. Go.
I wrote about being outnumbered by my progeny a while back, and, over time, it *has* gotten easier to care for my brood (4, 2, and 1 years old!). I was happy to share the tips I’ve learned over the past year. Of course! Anything for a friend. Last week, my friend suggested that I share my advice in a post, so that’s what I’m doing today.
Since you all are the best readers out there (I was so impressed with the discussion in the comments of my last post), I would love if you would share tips and tricks you developed when in this hectic stage of life (even if you don’t have three kids close together, you probably still have some practical advice to contribute!). What worked, what didn’t work, what would you do differently? Looking forward to reading your comments!
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Dear mother of three wee ones,
Yes, three children can be tricky to manage sometimes. Boy, can they! Sorry I wasn’t quicker to respond. I was obsessing over Candy Crush Saga.
1. Designated kid time. One thing I’ve noticed is that when all the kids are home (my oldest is in playgroup from 9-1), it’s best when I really don’t try to do anything but be with them. No dinner-making, no laundry, nothing. The best is when I take them somewhere, like the library, or a playground, or various other free and somewhat interesting activities. The zoo. Whatever. Then they are not bored, so they fight less, and I’m not frustrated at home, where I can look at all the domestic chores I need to be doing. This means that the house is messier, dinners are less fancy (or from the freezer), and I cross fewer things off my to-do list. But it’s worth it for me. Of course, sometimes I need to be in the kitchen, or whatever, so I try to engage them. They helped me make tuna patties today by pouring the ingredients (which I measured out) into the bowl. Also, when I give them a decent amount of attention (10 minutes, maybe), they will play longer on their own.
2. Get help. If you have a friend who can watch your older kids for an hour, do it. Or find a seminary girl who needs chesed hours (okay, it’s the summer, so that might be trickier to find). But anything to just take the edge off for even a small amount of time. Playdates can help, even if it means someone coming over to your apartment. When my oldest has a friend over, he really doesn’t need my attention as much.
3. Expect a certain amount of chaos. Now that you are outnumbered, chances are there will just be more crying. You can’t get to everyone, and so you have to do triage. That’s hard sometimes, especially when two or more kids are all crying/whining/pulling on your skirt. For me, this is the most challenging aspect. But since they are kids, they will be crying hysterically one minute, and five minutes later, they are fine. So just try to remember that you can only attend to one, maybe two kids at a time, and it’s okay if they have to wait. They will learn about patience, and that’s not such a bad thing.
4. Teach your girls to be helpers. Maybe because they’re girls they’re already helpers, but I have really made an effort to get my boys to help. When I was sitting on the couch nursing and I needed a tissue, I would ask my oldest to get one for me and then heap on the praise about how he is SUCH A BIG HELPER and so on. Same thing with my younger son. If I can ask them to help, I do. They get each other’s shoes, sippy cups, etc. They can get the wipes and the diapers, they can get the baby her pacifier, or a toy, etc. It’s good for them, and it’s good for us.
5. Take care of yourself. If you’re really run down, it’s just harder to manage. I’m sure this is not a revelation to you, and you’re probably better at this than I am anyways, but it’s important to get enough sleep, take your vitamins, drink lots of water, take showers (oh man, showers), and maybe go out to coffee with a friend.
6. It may take a while to adjust. Honestly, I think I felt fairly overwhelmed until my baby was nine months old. Yes. That long. Sorry. It’s just a lot of shlepping with three little kids, a lot of clothes to put on and take off, bottoms to wipe, etc. etc. Thank G-d, it’s wonderful, but it’s very physically tiring, and there were many days that I just felt tired, cranky and overwhelmed. But it does get easier, it just may take a little while, so don’t worry if it’s taking longer than you would like. Many people have told me that this exact phase is one of the most challenging because the children are all so little and require so much physical care. So know that it’s okay that it’s hard, and that it will eventually settle down.
I hope these are helpful tips. If you ever need encouragement or have questions, or anything like that, I’m happy to help if I can. You can do it! IY”H, it should just be a smooth time for you, and all your kids should give you a lot of nachas.