I always knew my time would be much more in demand when I became a mother of three, but I couldn’t have imagined just how hard it really is to cater for all their different needs at the exact same time (without losing my mind).
And then there were three
I was passionate about having a third child, it’s something I’ve always wanted and luckily I got my wish and was blessed with another gorgeous little boy to make our family complete. Given it was my third time around the merry-go-round I knew it wasn’t going to be a complete walk in the park; but I was ready to embrace the chaos, put a few things on hold and fill the house up with love instead.
So far, we’ve been managing really well as a family of five. My husband has been hands-on too, which has been really helpful. However while this is great, it still doesn’t make it any easier to spread my already limited time evenly between them all, making sure they each receive the love and attention they deserve from their mum.
Different ages, different needs
My first two children are only 19 months apart but then there’s a gap of over four years with my last baby, who’s not far off turning one. When he was born the eldest was at kindergarten and the other in preschool three days a week, and it was hard to juggle the different ages.
Firstly, it was a big adjustment with the introduction of school into our lives – the strict drop off and pick up times (as opposed to the more flexible daycare hours), homework, home readers, remembering what things were needed in the bag each day, making lunch, etc, etc … And then I had my eager beaver middle child wanting to do heaps of craft, games and writing practice, plus a crying newborn with terrible reflux requiring constant breastfeeding and naps – all while I was surviving on pretty much NO sleep.
It was tough and to be honest, I didn’t really have the time or energy to think too much about what everyone specifically needed beyond the essentials.
The guilt factor
Almost a year on though (with a bit more sleep under my belt), I’m more aware of how important it is to really dedicate individual time with all my children and make sure they’re not missing out in any way.
My second boy is now in kindergarten, which is great for allowing one-on-one daytime activities with our baby, but outside of school hours it’s a constant struggle to meet all of their different needs. And mostly I just feel guilty ALL THE TIME.
My baby rarely gets a goodnight story, as opposed to the others who were getting read to from when they were in the womb. I’m constantly saying “not now” or “I don’t have time” to my middle boy, who wants to play games or read when I’m cooking dinner or breastfeeding. And I rarely get to have decent conversations and ask the right questions of my eldest, who I think is still struggling a bit with adjusting to school life.
Even though my husband helps share the load, there is still so much to be done around the house, plus work; so it’s a daily battle and I always feel that someone has missed out.
How I can spread the love
Aside from getting a clone, how do you spread yourself around? I think the first step is I’ve got to stop feeling guilty. As mums we constantly berate ourselves, when really we’re doing the best we can in our circumstances.
I’ve read that even spending ten minutes a day with your child one-on-one, where you are completely present (so no phones or other distractions), is incredibly beneficial and much better than an hour or two where there are lots of other things going on. In the case of my baby, I don’t think I’m doing too badly. I probably just need to make sure I stop the chores for a moment and try for some more stories in the day.
Ten minutes each, per day – surely I can spare that? Perhaps before bed is the best time where I can take each one off separately once the baby is down, so we can chat on top of our reading, or whatever it is they want to do. Then as far as bigger activities are concerned, perhaps my husband and I can do weekend rotations where we each take one child out to do something one-on-one every now and then – on top of other family activities.
The main problem will be making sure we make the effort to make this actually happen, but all we can do is try, and not beat ourselves up when we get it wrong. For now, that’s my plan.
Now, on to finding that extra time for myself and my husband …