There are a lot of tongue-in-cheek memes that float around parenting circles about how when you have three kids, you let things slide a bit with each consecutive child. An example might be something like: Your first baby only eats organic homemade food, your second eats store-bought baby food and your third eats crumbs off the couch.
Most days, these types of jokes make me smile knowingly, as once you’ve been through the ringer once or twice you often get a lot more relaxed in your parenting. And for the most part that is a good thing! However, there are some days where these jokes hit a little too close to home.
It’s those days when I feel like having three kids has made me a bad mother.
The problem with having three kids is that someone needs you all the time. Most likely, multiple someones need you at the same time leading to the feeling that you never quite manage to satisfactorily meet anyone’s needs. Ever.
Someone is always sick or tackling a developmental milestone or having trouble at school. Often these things coincide to make the perfect storm.
While they are a pretty tight knit group, my three kids squabble a LOT. There are the usual age and gender differences, but also they vie for my time and attention. Even simple things like bedtimes can be fraught with angst as I rush through two lots of goodnights to devote more time to the youngest and most resistant sleeper.
All in all it’s bloody exhausting.
The exhaustion from constant competing demands leads to the inevitable forgetting of who has a dentist appointment, who needs which form signed for school and who likes carrots but not corn.
They also get less opportunities than kids who have fewer siblings. My middle child would like to play every sport and instrument under the sun, however logistics and finances make that nigh impossible. One instrument and one sport each is still a scheduling nightmare between three kids and a mum with finite time and resources.
Then there is the situation where my youngest is exposed to things that I wouldn’t have dreamed of letting the other two do at that age. Things like screen time and content that is that much harder to monitor and enforce because the older ones are allowed. Not to mention the eating of crumbs off the couch!
I try to convince myself that growing up with two siblings is teaching each of my children resilience and independence. But on the tough days, I just feel like I’m letting them all down.
I know every parent faces their challenges and none of us have it easy. Each of my children are very much loved and cherished. I truly couldn’t imagine life without them. But on those really hard days, the days where I feel stretched so thin I can hardly breathe, I do wonder if I would be a better mum if I wasn’t so outnumbered.
Do you have three kids? Does this sound familiar?