If you want a real life snapshot of what our life is like with 3 kids under 4, then keep reading. Since the arrival of our third baby just one month ago, I’ve been trying to process how going from 2 to 3 babies is different than 1 to 2. Each addition has felt really hard and then gotten easier, so I’m hoping that is true with 3!
It feels so much harder now for some reason. That could be in part that my husband was gone 13 hours a day 6 days a week for his hardest residency rotation called House Staff. Or it could be that three under 3.5 is just a lot to take care of after recovering from birth. As my hubby says in basketball terms, we have gone from man to man to playing zone.
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I love seeing these two stare at their baby brother. They take good care of him already.
What it’s like having 3 kids under 4
My kid’s abilities at this point:
My oldest boy is 3.5 years, newly potty & poop trained, speaks well, is super kind to his sassy 2 year old sister, and still naps 2-3 hours a day. (Which I plan on continuing till he turns 18 btw, lol) I adore that boy. He does not know how to get dressed alone yet.
My baby girl just turned 2, was not trying to potty train until last week when she verbally told us she wanted to go on the potty… mind blown! She talks just as much as her brother, does not watch TV (so no break for mama if she is awake), and can pretty much dress herself. She also takes a nap at the same time as her brother, so their nap is my free time…if the new baby happens to be sleeping.
I figured that having a third baby would be easier, as the first two had just started playing well together and being friends without me intervening every single moment of every single day (ok, it felt that way for a while). But it is actually way harder to me, and I’m trying to process what feels SO different than having two kids.
Going from 1-2 kids
The most shocking thing going from 1-2 kids was losing the ability to nap “whenever baby naps”. I really missed that, since even if my newborn was napping I had an 18 month old awake. For a while the baby was just before and just after my toddler’s nap. This allowed special one on one time with each. I combined their naps after the baby turned 1, so for about one year I enjoyed a lot of free time during their 2-3 hour mid-day nap.
Another adjustment for me was taking more time to get out of the house, and just not being able to follow my toddler around all day or play with him as much since I’d sit and nurse a lot.
I also found the need to get a diaper backpack instead of a purse, so that my hands could be free to hold two kids if needed.
Related Post: My secrets to getting out the door on time with 3 small kids
What changed from 2-3 kids
This became clear as soon as we came home from the hospital! I remember sitting on the couch at bedtime nursing, and not being able to help get the kids ready for bed (already way past their bedtime). Peter was awesome and did it all but we usually both help, so it just took way longer and we were both more tired than usual.
He would feel like he couldn’t do the baby stuff, and I felt like I couldn’t do anything for the other two kids. They need wiped, they need water, they need shoes on to go outside, and mom is holding the baby, nursing the baby, or trying to make everyone something to eat. It’s just hard.
I did utilize my Boba a lot with my 3rd. That helped me to carry him if he needed and have my hands free. But man having a third baby made me feel like my hands were always full and someone always needed me.
Related Post: Boba vs Moby Review: What’s the difference
It has taken me 4 weeks to be ok not having anything get cleaned how I like it. Nothing gets done when I’m sitting on the couch nursing, holding the baby, changing the baby, dressing toddlers, making food for toddlers, trying to nap in the 45 min where all three happen to be sleeping at the same time…
I still try, I can’t help it. But it is clear how much stuff I used to pick up that’s not getting picked up. It just has to wait unless the older two can follow directions enough to help, like “Put this dirty diaper in the garbage” (they have that down)!
It’s the spills and dirty dishes that seem to stare at me for hours or days. I can’t seem to get to it all. No one expects me to, but then it just sits there and bugs me.
I just started making a game of “how fast can we go”, where my oldest two put something away “fast” and then come running back looking for what I tell them to pick up next.
Cleaning up with them teaches them to help as well as to be aware of the messes they make! So glad we got rid of 10 boxes of who knows what crap just before the baby came because less stuff = less to put away!
If you have someone in your life having a baby and want to gift them something, give them a one-time house cleaner. Someone to clean the toilets and kitchen at least. They will love you forever. I wish I had that.
Related Post: 10 baby shower gift ideas under $10 that will be her favorite
With 3 under 3.5 years, someone ALWAYS needs mama it seems. Potty, poopy diaper, hungry, thirsty, changing clothes, lots and lots of questions, requests galore and then lots of nursing on the couch. I feel like I am giving instructions all day, especially from the couch where I nurse.
My oldest two are better at waiting now, and used to hearing “after I’m done nursing”. And to save my sanity, I don’t cater to many special requests anymore. If I hand them cold milk, and my two-year old says “warm it?” then I say “drink what I gave you”.
No free time
For the first two weeks, I slept as soon as the older two went down to nap since my newborn slept practically all day. I moved the baby bed to the living room in the day and my bedroom at night. That was my time to nap after being so tired and up at night! But since I’d nap during my only break, I woke up rested (yay!) but felt like I lost ALL my free time.
Related: 5 basic things stay at home moms need to help avoid feeling depressed.
One month in now, the nights are better and I don’t feel I need to nap as often so there is more time for “me” when the house is quiet. I usually opt to do something relaxing rather than chores, so my house is messier 😉
But between the needs of all 3 kids, I feel like I’m constantly going like the energizer bunny except for my batteries are low or dying.
As much as I do miss having more free time, I try to focus on being thankful for my babies. Soon enough they will all dress themselves and be so independent. I don’t want to throw away this beautiful time of life wishing I could just have things be easier.
I get more flustered
Sadly I admit I get really flustered when the walls all crumble at once. Baby starts to cry and needs to nurse, and at the same time toddler pulls out her 50th kleenex, and the same time my 3-year-old bites his tongue while chewing and is now also crying. I’m learning to take a deep breath and do one thing at a time. I have to decide who needs me the most at any given moment.
It’s hard to let go of my expectation of perfection that doesn’t exist in real life. Especially with a third baby. Like being in control of every situation with 100% obedient kids who never cry. HA! That is so silly to say out loud!
And to be completely honest, my kids have watched more TV during this transition time than ever before. I don’t intend to keep that up, but it has been a lifesaver for me because they leave me alone a little bit more, and the volume of the house decreases a LOT. I feel like I’m in survival mode with our third baby, and this just helps have a moment of quiet and they love it too. A bit more TV for them has helped me feel a less stressed as I figure out how to do 3 kids.
Cooking went out the window
What a blessing it was to have some people bring us meals. But when that ended, I hadn’t figured out a good routine for when to make dinner. It was like everyday 5 o’clock crept up and stuck it’s tongue at me saying “neener-neener, you didn’t plan ahead”.
Thankfully Peter brought home hospital food a lot after work and then I’d steam up some veggies to go with it. The other thing that saved me was utilizing our Instant Pot pressure cooker for the first time.
Dinner can be ready in 20-30 minutes with no prep. I use it for perfect rice by pressing the “rice” button, or I’ll put some frozen chicken in with Montreal steak seasoning and press “poultry”. It’s not fancy but it’s food.
Leaving takes longer after you have a third baby
Seriously SO proud of myself! One month in with our third baby, and I just took my 1st outing with all three of them…to visit daddy at work at the hospital! To a veteran mother of three kids or more this is probably no biggy, but for my confidence as a new mom, this was HUGE!
I planned (my key to getting out on time is planning way more time than I think!) 45 minutes to just get them all dressed, hair done, diapers changed, and in the car. And squeezed in a nurse. I felt like a rockstar! Even with two kids, I would give myself an extra 30 minutes if I wanted to be on time…and we always needed it.
Do you recommend having a third baby???
Yes, I love it. I’m in no place to tell you if it’s right for you or not, because I don’t know your unique challenges.
But let me tell you how I feel: Every day is crazy hard at this point, and most days I feel worn out and a bit crazy. But I know when I look back on my life this will all be worth it. If I only cared about it being easy here and now, well three is far from that.
But someone once helped me to glance at what I want my dinner table to look like when my kids are older, or even grown with their own kids.
That made the decision for me to have a third a lot easier, and it makes these long days worth it too. I’ll never know what it’s like to have had spaced them apart farther. Probably easier in some ways and harder in others. But this is how we did it and what it’s like.
Very, very small accomplishments help me gain confidence too.
- First week I was so proud to have kept my kids safe and not burn down the house. (Lots of T.V. while mom adjusted to a new baby.) Check check.
- Second week, made some real food. Check check.
- Third week, got all three dressed and outside by myself to play and ride trikes. Check. check.
- Fourth week, took my first trip out with all three to see dad at work!
Overall, I love having them close together. Yes, I’m more tired. I don’t feel like I’ve got it together like I used to, but I do see my kids as a huge gift and they deserve a mama who is loving and patient and present more than a mama who is angry and stressed! It’s a great thing to be a mom of three, and I’d do it over again in a heartbeat. 🙂
And, whenever baby-cakes is sleeping I feel like it’s back to “normal” life with just two kids. And new babies sleep A LOT!
Monday 30th of December 2019
Imagine what your dinner table will look like in twenty or thirty years... Yes! That's gold!! I haven't thought of that, but I will definitely keep that image in mind whenever I'm worried or stressing. We just found out we are pregnant with baby number three. By the time he/she gets here we will have three under three! It's very scary, but thoughts like that will help me get through the very worst hormonal freakouts!! Thanks! God bless you!
Monday 30th of December 2019
Congratulations on baby #3! You can do more than you think when times get hard, and there will be a day everyone can dress themselves and even pour their own cereal. Just take lots of pictures and videos to look back on...I treasure all of them, especially the video!
Sunday 7th of May 2017
I really enjoyed this! I'm about to welcome our third child in a month and currently have two toddlers (3 & 2). Much of this is very relatable. I wrote a blog post about my worries with adding the additional family member and sounds familiar to some of your experiences - being outnumbered and difficulty leaving the house. Feel free to check it out: http://blessthisbeautifulmess.com/worries-about-having-third-child/. Thinking about the difference of three kids versus two - especially considering the demanding needs of a newborn and two toddlers - I have to admit, I'm a little nervous. Thanks again for sharing this article!
Monday 8th of May 2017
Ashleigh! Your blog post was so touching! I can't wait to see how things go for you. Your fears are SO real and I was right there 1.5 months ago. Ok, for the down and practical: Grocery shopping...Just did my first trip alone with 3 THIS week (6 weeks in). Baby on a front pack, other two either in the firetruck cart thingy(cause ya otherwise no room for groceries, lol). Nurse before you go ANYWHERE to give you the advantage of time! Get over everyone staring at you( I hate that!)...but just plow through the store and get your stuff and get out...thats my motto. I saw you plan time to get places on time. Add 20 minutes to that. Not joking! I add about 15-20 min per kid at this point since Im still dressing them, packing them, buckling them in the car, diaper changing, ect. Lastly, take the pressure off yourself by not expecting to go anywhere till you feel confident at home with 3. This took me almost a month. I'm still not there. Take advantage of the newborn sleeping ALL day the first couple weeks and sleep if there is ANY overlap of all 3 napping. And, take comfort that as that precious baby sleeps all day, life will again feel exactly as it did with just two. Just don't worry about going out and don't put pressure on yourself to do a ton, or anything but keep your kids fed and alive. I let my 3 year old watch SO much TV first couple weeks after baby came because it gave me a sense of calm and quiet in the house (so over the mom guilt from that!) This is a phase, and you will get really good at it as you go. You can't be everywhere at once...older ones will wait. And cereal and milk for breakfast and dinner are fine till you can add some cooking back in, lol...the kids won't care. You got this mama!