Being a parent can be overwhelming and exhausting. Being a parent of THREE seems to multiply that exhaustion and overwhelmed feeling beyond just 33% more. It is exponential. The driving, the consoling, the snacks, the lunches, the baths, the tears, the re-directing…it can feel endless. Not to mention the three completely different little personalities that are all vying for the attention of the adult(s) they outnumber. There is also the guilt. How lucky some are to have three children (or more) children to cuddle, love, and watch grow.
So, then why do we long for the pre-kid days of laying by the pool reading a book for hours? Or why do we begrudge the three year old for wanting another glass of water? Or why do we sometimes (often times) wonder what we were thinking when we thought three kids would be that much more fun? Because we’re human. Because it’s ok to not always love parenting. That’s not always easy for parents to say or admit, but it’s true. We may not always love parenting, but it doesn’t stop us from loving our child.
Parenting isn’t easy and parenting more than two can feel like a special challenge. Here are a few simple strategies this mom of 3 has learned along the way which have helped bring a sense of ease and balance to the world of feeling “out manned” as a parent.
Find your tribe and hold them tight.
Navigating three children in isolation can not only feel hard, it can be impossible at times. Don’t be afraid to ask yourself, “What is it that I need right now?” and then reach out for it. Your need might be help with carpool for your oldest, a playdate for your middle who just wants to talk and talk and talk, or a walk with a friend who can push the double stroller while you give your back a break. Relying on family, friends, or people in your community will not only lift some of the burden off your plate, it will also give you a connection outside of your family’s bubble. Connecting with others helps us to feel calmer and supported in our feelings and is crucial to our well-being.
We often spend so much time taking inventory of what is not working in our family and often forget to take stock in what is going well. Did you know that simply expressing gratitude can raise our happiness levels? Each day, try to find several small things to be grateful for and take a moment to either express gratitude verbally, in your mind or even in a daily journal. Maybe it is the sound of your children getting along for 5 minutes, your favorite song on the radio in the pick up line, or the bright pink sunset. When you take the time to acknowledge something and express gratitude for it, studies show that you will feel greater joy!
Offer Yourself Compassion
You are doing the best you can with the tools you have. It’s okay to feed the kids cereal for dinner. It is okay for the baby to nap in the carseat. It is okay for the kids to watch a show so you can get something done (or just sit and drink a cup of coffee.) You may lose your temper. You may forget someone’s birthday. You may miss a friend’s dinner party. It is all okay. Try talking to yourself kindly and offer the same support to yourself as you would to a good friend. A little positive self-talk and giving yourself a break will go a long way to lowering your stress levels and increasing a sense of calm.
As cliche as it may sound, taking a few slow, deep breaths lowers your heart rate and blood pressure, in turn lowering your level of stress. Set an alarm on your phone reminding you to take a few breaths throughout the day or focus on your breath while at a red light, before falling asleep, or even in the bathroom. Practicing this tool in times of calm will help you remember to breathe when your toddler is screaming, dinner is about to burn, the baby needs to be fed, and the second grader is whining for help with his homework. The payoff of taking that pause so that you are better able to choose your response will allow you to move forward with better intention.
You can’t pour from an empty cup. Taking care of yourself is not a luxury, but a necessity for gaining balance in your family. There are many ways to practice self-care. It’s all about finding what speaks to and works best for you. For example, take a walk in nature and notice the sounds you hear and what you see. (Bring your kids if you can’t get away without them. You all can benefit from some time in the great outdoors.) Mindfully drink a cup of your favorite coffee, noticing the aroma, flavor and temperature. Go to a workout or yoga class. Get a mani/pedi. Take a nap. Take a bath. Read. Whatever it is that brings you a sense of fulfillment and calm. Schedule it into your week and put yourself back on your to-do list!