My parenting style has definitely evolved over the years. With my first I tried attachment parenting, and was absolutely exhausted by my constant attempts to breastfeed, bed-share, and babywear. After my second child was born I was a helicopter mom who became a "trying to survive" single mom. Now that my third baby is here, however, I have found my stride with "third-child parenting." Turns out, there are so many things this third-child parenting mom wants you to know. Seriously, you guys. You have to know about this option... and hopefully way before I did.
The main thing I've learned being a mom of three is that it's not necessary to try so damn hard. Motherhood doesn't have to mean martyrdom and it certainly doesn't have to be as difficult as we sometimes make it seem. Instead of slowing down and figuring out what's really important — like healthy kids and a healthy mom — we spend a lot of time stressing about things that, in the big scheme of things, mean very little. And after my third child was born I realized that I didn't have time or energy to devote to beating myself up about things I couldn't control. As a result, and thanks to my lowered expectations, I started actually enjoying being a mom.
I'm not saying being a mom to three children isn't hard, because it is. I think taking three kids to the doctor's office at the same time is an un-named level of hell, for example, and I definitely feel outnumbered on a daily basis. But in many ways having three kids actually seems easier than having two, or even one, baby. I sort of wish I could go back in time and give myself some magical "third-parenting" advice, which would definitely have included the following:
After my first two kids were born I entered a state of high stress and anxiety. I constantly worried about every decision I made, including the ones that were completely outside of my control. I discovered that you can't really exist that way for a long period of time without eventually negatively impacting your mental health.
After my third baby was born, however, I was finally able to relax and, for lack of a better phrase, calm the you-know-what down. Now my parenting style, and overall mood, is so different. I am able to breathe, let my children be children, and cut myself some slack.
It Will Be OK
Being a first-time mom was so overwhelming. I put so much pressure on myself to do things the "right way" that I completely negated my needs. And when things didn't go as planned I felt like I had failed as a parent.
It took about nine years, but now I'm finally able to get over the idea that there's only one way to be a good mom, and if I don't live up to that "one way" I will fail my children. It's just too bad it took three babies to get here.
You Don't Have To Try So Hard
With my first two kids I obsessed over trying to be the "perfect mom." I set the bar impossibly high and tried to parent in a way that was simply unattainable and definitely unrealistic. As a result, I felt like a horrible mom almost all the damn time. Now, however, I am way more chill about things... like letting my kids play independently, mealtime, and bedtime. I kind of have to be to make it through the day, after all.
Three Is Easier
In many ways, having three kids is easier than having two or even one child. I always have an extra set of hands, and my older kids entertain each other when I simply can't deal. My older kids adore their baby brother, too, and he'll never remember what life was like without older siblings helping him learn the ropes. It's pretty magical.
You Don't Have To Hold Your Kids All Day Long
I've learned, by sheer necessity and having a third child, that you don't actually have to hold babies 24 hours a day, seven days a week, all the damn time. Well, unless you want to.
Let Them Do It Themselves
I've given my third child a way larger playing field than my older kids had when they were little. He is the first baby I've sleep trained, as well as the first that I've let play by himself. I think I might lose my you-know-what if I had to play with kids from breakfast to bedtime, so it's awesome that he's learned to be independent.
You Can Do This
I'm not going to lie, I wasn't sure that having three kids was a great idea at first. I had to completely change my approach to motherhood, because it was not going to work to try to be a so-called "perfect" mom. But it works, and I realize that I am way more capable than I thought I was. So are you.
Figure Out What's Really Important
At some point between the newborn months and the tween years, I've learned that the kind of birth you had doesn't really matter, how you fed your baby is entirely up to you, and whether or not they went to daycare won't make a big difference in the big scheme of things. When you've spent years worrying about things that you later find out really didn't matter, it can be a harsh wake-up call... but it is one that all moms deserve to experience (in my opinion).
When my older kids were little I felt like I had to constantly explain and apologize for my parenting decisions. As some point in the past year and a half of my youngest child's life, however, I realized that there's really no need to apologize. So I don't. It's something I hope other moms can figure out a lot sooner than I did.
Let It Go
If you are anything like me you spend many nights lying in bed, replaying conversations, events, and life-choices and wishing you could have done things differently. Third-child parenting has allowed me to forgive myself. I can't go back in time, I can only move forward, so it's time I let that past stuff go.
You're Doing Great
While I am not going to claim that it's calm, quiet, or easy to be a mom to three, I definitely feel more confident as a mom than I ever felt before. When you have your third baby you feel three times as tired, three times as busy, but also three times in love. At some point after having your third baby you realize that you knew the secret of third-child parenting all along — in the end your kids won't care if you had an epidural, breastfed them for three years, or only bought organic foods for them to eat. In the end they will think the world of you because you are their mom.