A good momma friend with one lovely babe asked me recently, “How do you meet all of their needs? Some days I feel like I’m failing to meet the needs of just one!”
First and foremost, there is not such thing as “just” one. Things are certainly different, perhaps a bit more chaotic, than when we had only one babe; but I was definitely winning and failing just as much now as we were then. Just in different ways. So whether you’ve got one kiddo or 12, you’re still just as deeply in this as the rest of us.
But how do we meet the needs of three kids daily?
Well, some days we don’t.
Most days we do though.
Sometimes, oftentimes, we have to put ourselves aside. I feel quite strongly about self-care, but I also know that this season of life is so terribly short, so many times I just don’t get to come first. Some days I have to run off of fumes and one measly square of dark chocolate and delicious wafts of my husband’s coffee (thanks, Sweet M, for not loving caffeine as much as Momma does).
We’ve rearranged our lives for this current season (the parents of three children, one a young infant), to best meet everyone’s needs. We decided early on that working out would not be a priority until M is at least 6 months old. I feel much better when I exercise each morning, but M and his siblings feel even better when they get adequate rest and snuggles (and they wake if Momma gets up).
We made budget cuts and changes to allot for a housecleaner. It sounds really luxurious, but when you’ve got control issues like I do, it’s super helpful, but slightly stressful. But this is what we need right now so that we can spend more time focusing on our babes, on our marriage, on ourselves, as opposed to cleaning toilets. The time will come around soon enough when we’ll be back at it ourselves, but for now, this is it.
Meeting the needs of three kids means some mornings I accept being Groot for my four-year-old and spend over an hour saying nothing but “I am Groot” no matter what is going on. Actually, this is pretty entertaining for me. I accept this role as often as possible.
It means spending longer at the Farmer’s Market in the hot sun than I personally want in order to let them play music for the second time.
It means that when I am super looking forward to a solo grocery shopping trip, I am the one who sucks it up and realizes that B really needs some special Papa time and change my plans to accord for taking M and H with me so that J and B can go to the Wonderlab for two hours. And then when we come home I have to tweak our media rule so that B can play quietly for an hour while I nurse and love on a teething M and J appeases H by making a very fancy dinner with her that she chose all the ingredients for while we were shopping.
It means dressing up in the fancy clothes my daughter chose for me even though I’m exhausted and haven’t showered in two days because she insists on it in order to eat the delightful meal she and her papa prepared.
It means reading an extra super hero book to B at bedtime, and taking a deep breath and telling my tantruming six-year-old that I really need a hug and to cuddle when all I want to do is flee downstairs and mentally check-out for the night.
It means sleeping (well, laying mostly awake during night hours) with a baby on my chest for most of the night and loving on him while he fusses through sleep because of those dang teeth ripping his gum tissue as they push their way to emerge above his flesh.
Now don’t get me wrong. This doesn’t mean J and I are chopped liver who never get our own needs met. As I said, self-care is really important to me.
It just means that sometimes we don’t. And we have to be okay with that in this season.
And sometimes our babes don’t get their cups filled either.
Some nights, I admit, I’m not as loving as I should be. I don’t make allowances for extra books and stick with our two book rule because I just have nothing left to offer in that moment. I know I’m hanging by a thread and that my need for some solo quiet time is greater in that moment than my child’s need for an extra book (welcome to parenting as an introvert!). Some nights, most nights, it’s reversed, but it’s okay that some nights it is this way, too.
Sometimes I am not half as patient with my feisty, vivacious daughter as I wish I were. When she is crying at me for the umpteenth time because her swimsuit is the wrong color or she’s misplaced her favorite hair bow or the pencil isn’t sharp enough or the bandaid is crooked or, or, or…yeah. Some days I just sigh and walk away until I can collect myself to be the loving, patient momma she needs. And sometimes, not often, but sometimes, as much as I dislike it, I can’t be the momma she needs at all. And I really hate that. But it is what it is.
So how do I meet the needs of three kids? I don’t. I do. I try.