Depending on who I’ve talked with, I’ve heard both that the third child makes things easier and that the third child is the hardest transition period, but the fourth child becomes easier. Being just one mom, I can’t really say which of these would be more true on average, but I can share a little of my own experience.
Child #3, an adorable, now nine-month-old baby girl, has been, above all a blessing. All our kids have been. But things definitely got more challenging too. Our other two (best buds – 4 and 3 year old boys) are still young enough that they take a lot of time attention and energy. With the arrival of our baby girl, we had plenty of love to go around, but not as much time. Here are a few things we’ve found helpful in transitioning to three kids.
2. GET a routine by six weeks to two months. At least, that timing has worked best for us (not only with baby #3, but with the first two also). If we wait much longer than that, things get too out of whack and it’s too hard to get back in the swing of a normal routine. By around 6 weeks to 2 months, the baby still wakes up a lot, but has usually hit upon a predictable schedule, which makes it possible to get certain family basics in place again. This routine gives the parents sanity and the toddlers’ security. Baby is still oblivious to what’s going on, and will be a happy camper if they get fed, changed and played with regularly.
3. Bring the toddlers into the baby’s routine. Sometimes, when a new baby arrives, sibling jealousy rears its ugly head. A child that has received a certain amount of attention from the parents now gets much less, and sees the rest of the time and attention going to a new arrival. It’s easy to resent the new arrival. Make it a family thing. From the beginning, my kids helped, to varying degrees, with feeding and changing the baby, so it became an activity they could participate in instead of time that took mommy away from them.
4. Don’t underestimate your freezer and crockpot. Keep quick meals at your fingertips. If you have a community that supports you by bringing some meals around the time of the birth, and there’s extra, freeze it. If you have some time before the birth, prepare some meals in advance and freeze them. Have things ready so you can just stick them in the crockpot and have an easy “real” meal without needing to put a lot of time into it. Seriously, you can make great meals that would normally take a couple of hours to cook in only 20 minutes (prep time) if you use a crockpot. On the other hand, don’t feel like you have to have “real meals” all the time. If you don’t have the time or energy, don’t sweat it. Frozen pizza and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for a little while won’t scar your kids for life and might buy you the extra time you need to take a shower or just play with the kids.
5. Let the older kids take on more responsibility – in a kid friendly way. Sometimes we get used to doing things for our kids that they are really old enough to do on their own. Yes, maybe we can do it “better”, but letting them start doing more things both encourages them to develop their capabilities and frees us up from things we don’t need to be doing. Putting a little thought into child-friendly systems in advance can save a lot of time in the long run and, even more importantly, foster awareness from a young age of the importance of contributing to the family. For example many 3 and 4 year olds can do things like:
- Put their dirty clothes in the hamper and then (with supervision), move them from the hamper to the washer.
- Clear/set the table if you’re using plastic dishes or disposable ones.
- Get their own snack (if you put kid-friendly snacks like cheese, carrots, raisins, crackers, etc. on reachable shelves in the refrigerator or pantry.
- Make their bed.
- Clean up their toys into sorted bins or cubbies.
6. Remember: BABIES DON’T KEEP! The laundry, dishes and endless to-do list will always be there, but pretty soon your baby will be walking and talking, then going to school. Embrace the chaos – it won’t last forever, and you’ll never regret the time spent just being with and loving your kids.
Babies Don’t Keep
Mother, O Mother, come shake out your cloth,
Empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
Hang out the washing, make up the bed,
Sew on a button and butter the bread.
Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She’s up in the nursery, blissfully rocking.
Oh, I’ve grown as shiftless as Little Boy Blue,
Lullabye, rockabye, lullabye loo.
Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
Pat-a-cake, darling, and peek, peekaboo
The shopping’s not done and there’s nothing for stew
And out in the yard there’s a hullaboo
But I’m playing Kanga and this is my Roo
Look! Aren’t his eyes the most wonderful hue?
Lullabye, rockabye lullabye loo.
The cleaning and scrubbing can wait till tomorrow
But children grow up as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down cobwebs; Dust go to sleep!
I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.
~ Ruth Hulburt Hamilton