|My girls aged 3, 19 months and 3 weeks old|
We had three children under four at one point, they were the hardest but most rewarding years of my life and although the challenges are still there we have adjusted to life as a family of five. I have noticed some big changes since increasing our brood from two to three and in no particular order here they are (bear with me - there are positives amongst the challenges - see point 10!):
1. Not Enough hands and being totally outnumbered!
This for me has been the trickiest part of having three. Sometimes there isn't enough of me to go round. I can only do so much at anyone time. There have been numerous occasions when all three have been upset and I've had to choose who to comfort first or try and comfort them all at once and sometimes being completely honest I have even cried with them. I can just about cuddle them all at once, one on my knee and one under each arm on the sofa!
Only having two hands is a major disadvantage, I always feel really edgy when we are out and about or crossing a road as I just can't hold everyone's hand. My double pushchair was a godsend in the early days when I could pop two in as was my sling but it's getting trickier now the littlest ones don't want to be in them anymore. We often feel completely outnumbered and at first it feels a little weird that the adult to child ratio is out. You do however become a master of multitasking and just do find a way to split yourself between your children.
2. Life is chaos
We are always busy. Someone always needs something, or needs to be somewhere and life can feel a bit chaotic. Our house is noisy, there is constant chatter, a lot of squealing, talking over one another, and sibling rivalry and that's without Peppa Pig or the Trolls soundtrack on in the background. I am always late, my house is quite often a complete mess and some days I don't know what day it is and my five year old has to remind me to bring her PE kit to school. I respond to text messages about 5 days late and sometime I think my friends and family might wonder if I have fallen off the face of the planet. We juggle three children with running a household and working and practically never stop, parenting three small humans is no mean feat. However, I do think this is just parenting in general regardless of how many children you have. I have learnt to embrace the chaos, let stuff go, not sweat the small stuff and now that it's what I'm used to I love it.
3. It comes at a cost
Everything is more expensive. Not perhaps initially as when the third is a baby they don't cost all that much especially if you can rely on hand me downs from baby one and two as we have been able too. But as they get older the food bill definitely increases as does the Christmas shopping bill, shoe bill, school trips, extra curricular clubs and there is an extra birthday each year to think about and don't even get me started on holidays... Family tickets for days out are often aimed at 2:4 families meaning they soon add up, but then that is where Tesco Clubcard vouchers and some smart budgeting come in handy - there is always a solution and although sometimes financially challenging we make it work.
4. Space is an issue
A third child for us meant having to buy a bigger car that would accommodate us all, the children's car seats and all the stuff! My eldest two now share a bedroom which would only be resolved by moving house. Now our youngest is over two we also really struggle to find hotels that will accommodate us and now go for self catering options which have more flexibility. Coming up with the solutions to these problems was the hardest part and we have found what works for us in each instance. We are now also purchasers of 6 pint milk bottles, giant boxes of washing powder and loo roll seems to disappear at a ridiculous rate meaning even our cupboards and fridge are extra full! There is no limit on the amount of love that we have though, you don't have to share your love between your children, you just make more of it.
5. One on one time is at a premium
Finding the time to spend one on one time with each child can be really challenging with three children and as lovely as a whole day out with one child can be it's not realistic for us and actually it doesn't have to be a grand gesture. Little stolen moments become really precious and things like reading a book together upstairs when the others are downstairs with daddy, or a movie during the littlest one's nap time, baking a cake together, or a quick 15 minutes to the park are more than enough. This is one of the main things I worry about and something we strive to offer each child during the week. There is more than enough love to go around, I hope our children know that.
Time on your own is almost impossible but something I'm trying hard at, although at the moment I can relate very much to the mummy elephant in the book '5 minutes peace' who also happens to be a mum of three! Then there are date nights or weekends away... asking people to look after three children feels a much bigger ask than when we had two as it is really hard work, so we very rarely do. We cook together at home, watch a movie or get a takeaway and then truly value our time out when we do have it.
6. Triple the worry
I worry that our eldest is having to be too independent or feels forgotten whilst I'm sorting out the little ones, I worry that the second is the middle child and might feel a bit lost, I worry that they baby is just having to fit in. I worry about how they feel, I worry when they are poorly, I worry when I leave them and all three times over. However, this is parenthood, third time round I definitely knew what I was signing up for and the worry will not go away, only change, as they grow and become more independent and dare I even say it do things like drive cars, or have boyfriends and grow their wings as they navigate the big wide world. Thankfully, this is all counteracted by triple the love and triple the wonderful moments of raising children.
7. Less Sleep
With more children there is a much higher chance that someone will wake up in the night, in fact we rarely go a night where someone doesn't wake for a drink, a cuddle, has a nightmare, needs a wee, their covers tucking back in or are just awake! I remember in the early days the girls each waking up every three hours, but an hour apart, which meant I pretty much didn't go to bed. It was hard and we were exhausted - but we survived.
8. The Washing Pile
You wouldn't think that one extra tiny person would make a huge difference to the family washing pile but things like nappy explosions, baby sick, mealtimes, painting, playing in the garden, play school, or school mean that most members of the family may have gone through several outfits in one day. We are most definitely a two washing machine load a day kind of family and that's not including towels and bed sheets. My poor washing machine most definitely gets a work out, as does my tumble drier (which incidentally I couldn't live without with this volume of washing to turn around) and we very rarely get to the bottom of our washing mountain.
9. The things people say...
Whenever I am out with all three children on my own I am regularly told that I have my 'hands full', asked if they are all mine and even if they are triplets! Yes seriously! Three children really isn't that many but it seems to be a talking point with strangers. I have am now well rehearsed with answers to all these questions!
10. I wouldn't change it for the world
Having a third baby has been a wonderful addition to our family and something I wouldn't change for the world. Despite all of the above (which I hope doesn't come across as negative as it's only meant to be honest) I have found it the easiest transition when growing our family, they really do just slot right in. Third time round we were confident in our parenting ability, we are more relaxed and to be honest we had to be. Siblings are already used to being siblings and sharing their parents so there is far less adjustment all round. I love watching my three together, there is always a willing playmate, someone to share an experience with and someone to laugh with. Our children make us so happy, our family means everything to us and they are our greatest joy.
I'd love to hear your experiences, or if you have any questions about life with three, please do share them in the comments below.