Four-and-a-half years ago I became a mom for the first time and my life was changed forever. Of course there was the beauty of knowing I had grown a person who was a literal part of me and the sweetness of sleepy baby snuggles, but mostly it was completely overwhelming — and a bit hellish if you want to know the truth.
I was exhausted, I was crazy hormonal, and I had absolutely no clue what I was doing. I still remember going to the grocery store as a first-time mama — struggling just to get out the door in-between nursing and burping and blowouts and outfit changes — and seeing those moms with two, three, or even more kids. I would wonder what could have possibly possessed them to make them want more than one. The idea of juggling more than one tiny human seemed completely inconceivable to me at the time. How did these crazy parents do it?
Fast-forward and here I am with three children under the age of five (a 4-year-old, a 2-year-old, and a 6-week-old) and honestly … it’s not that bad. Four-and-a-half years ago I would’ve laughed in your face if you’d told me I would have three children and yet here I am doing it with (most of) my sanity intact. In the brief six weeks that I have been a mother to three, I have had countless wide-eyed strangers exclaim, “Whoa! You’ve got your hands full!” and had other mothers with fewer children call me brave — proclaiming that they “could never handle that many kids.”
But the truth is, I think having three kids is easier than having one. Yes. You read that correctly. It sounds completely insane, but it’s actually not. Here’s why …
1. You already know what it means to be a parent.
Becoming a parent to one child comes with a laundry lists of adjustments. You have to adjust to an entirely new identity — that of a mother — while deep in the throes of sleep deprivation and crazy hormone fluctuations. By the time you have three kids, you’ve been a parent before and you’ve figured out what that looks like for you, so the transition feels far less shocking. You know what things are important and when to let go and you feel confident in your role as a parent.
2. You’re better at asking for what you need.
For some reason when you only have one child you feel less justified asking others for help … or at least I did. There’s this illusion that you can “do it all” and that asking for help would make you seem like a failure, because you only have one kid. The truth is that one kid or three (or more) … it’s all hard and it’s all exhausting in different ways. Now that I have three children I no longer delude myself by thinking I can do it all by myself. I need more help from my friends and family and I have no shame in asking for it. It really does take a village and by the time you have a brood of kids you’ve figured that out.
3. You’re coming into it with more experience and parenting hacks galore.
While all babies have different temperaments and needs, there are plenty of basic parenting skills you already have under your belt by the time you get to having three kids. You already know how to make a bottle and how to swaddle and which type of coughs are worth fretting over. You know when to call the doctor for a head bump and all the soothing tricks and maybe even the number for poison control. You’ve already read up on all the parenting approaches and have figured out which ones work for you and which ones do not. I remember as a first-time parent Googling ALL THE THINGS and trying to do it while barely surviving on four hours of sleep. It was exhausting and overwhelming. By the time you have three you Google far less, because you remember things from your first (and second) time around.
4. You have completely given up on sleep.
Some people are blessed with babies who magically sleep really well or sleep train like a dream, but I am of the belief that this is more the exception than the rule. I still remember as a first-time parent that the lack of sleep felt like cruel and unusual punishment. I legitimately Googled “can you die of sleep deprivation” while dissolved in a puddle of tears one night because I was just SO. FREAKING. TIRED. By the time you have three or more children though, you no longer stress yourself out over sleep training if it didn’t work in the past, because you’ve realized that (most) kids learn to sleep eventually. Also, you have gotten really good at functioning on very little sleep. It’s a special skill really.
5. You don’t have to entertain them as much.
With one kid you want to do everything as perfectly as possible. You have reading time every day and you take them to special baby music classes. You plan fun craft activities and play dates and you feel guilty for leaving them in their baby swing/crib/room to be by themselves for too long. With three kids, there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to keep everyone engaged all the time. Sometimes you just leave them to their own devices and they actually come up with some really fun ideas and games. There are siblings in the mix, and although they make it a whole lot louder and crazier also make life a lot more fun. Built-in playmates for the win.
6. You have built-in helpers.
Moms of one are often flying solo when it comes to accomplishing tasks, but moms with a brood have their own little helpers. The degree of helpfulness obviously increases as children get older, but even with really young children like mine there are plenty of tasks they can help with. They can dress themselves and get diapers for the baby. They can get their own snacks and even clean up a lot of the messes. Even though getting loaded and unloaded in the car when we leave the house feels like an epic task now, they make up for it by all the time they save me helping out during the day.
7. You know it’s not forever.
I think the biggest difference about having one child versus three is that you have very clear examples (three of them actually) to remind you that this doesn’t last forever. As a mom to one child I felt like every stage was never-ending. The cluster-feeding, the sleepless nights, the toddler tantrums … they all feel like they’ll never end when you have nothing else to compare it to. But when you have three kids, you’ve been through quite a few stages and know that it really doesn’t last forever and it helps you get through those challenging stages with a lot more ease.
So parents of one: don’t feel like those of us with more carseats in our cars are any braver or more skilled than you are. There are certainly plenty of challenges that come with having three or more children (being outnumbered for one), but in many ways it actually starts to get easier. And while having more than one or two kids isn’t for everyone, it’s certainly possible and maybe not as overwhelming as you might think.