As much as we might want it to exist, there just isn’t a magical list or routine we can implement to make it an easy transition to have a second or third kid. And once they are here, it can quickly become overwhelming and seem impossible. Today I share some tips and advice to help make parenting more than one kid a little easier
In this episode I discuss:
- Prepping your first-born for a new introduction in the family
- Some of my own tips and ideas, as a mother of three
- Managing sibling dynamics and conflict
- Lessons from the Playroom: Sibling Rivalry
- My commentary on some crowd-sourced advice
All the fun links you might enjoy
- Emotional Intelligence (and improving relationships with your kids through emotion coaching)
- What moms of toddlers need to hear
- How to deal with the emotional struggles of being a mom of babies and toddlers
- Real-life advice on having two kids under two years old (blog post)
- Planning the day (reactive vs proactive)
- Four steps to manage overwhelm in motherhood
- When motherhood can change you but you can’t change motherhood
- Settling in motherhood
- Is a third baby harder than the second?
- Enneagram + Motherhood Series
- 11 things that make my mom life simpler
- More posts on motherhood
Sign up for Simple Saturdays email (a fun email, twice a month)
Hey friends, it’s Shawna, your Nerdy Girlfriend and counselor from simpleonpurpose.ca. Welcome to another episode of The Simple on Purpose podcast.
If you are following me on Instagram, you know that this past week I went away for a work retreat. Do you remember back in the day, if you’ve been around for a while I used to go on work retreats quite often, I used to also go on work retreats with a community that I had started with one of my besties called a little late. And we used to do them with a great group of women, we’d rent an Airbnb, we’d get food brought in. And we would just all hunker down and do work and kind of brainstorm together. Some of my favorite memories are those work retreats. And then in this, since then I’ve gone on my own, I’ve gone with a bestie. And I haven’t done it for a few years. So I thought, I have this big deadline coming up to move my email service. So I’m just going to send myself away for a couple of nights, you might have read about it in the sublime purpose, or the simple Saturday’s email.
So I went away to work on my email, my email service, and then sent out that week’s simple Saturday’s and the email was broken, the email program is not working. So I’m still working with tech support to get that back up and running. And either way, I spent a lot of my time prepping for this, you know, this email to be moved over.
So whew, all right, the work retreat was still a really valuable experience. Because I could just be selfish with my time, which I think it’s a bad thing. I think we need to do that sometimes, if I’m working from home, which I always do, and the kids come home from school, and even though I say I’m gonna keep working till like maybe four or five, they’re coming in, they’re asking questions, I can hear everybody out there in the hall, talking about things and I’m like, oh, I should go like, tell them this or tell them that. And it’s just it doesn’t work, right. And then I don’t feel like I can ever come back into work once I’ve gone out and you know, been with the fam. But when I’m alone in this hotel room, and I go from my computer, to the bathtub, back to my computer, again, to a snack platter of cheese and crackers, back to my computer. It’s just a time where I don’t have to be accountable to anyone but me. And I can just be all in on whatever I need to get done. So it was a really like, I didn’t just hang out and watch Netflix the whole time. I was getting my work done. And then watching some Netflix for fun. I’m all caught up on love is blind if anyone wants to talk about it.
So while I was on my work retreat, I had this really amazing checklist in my notes app of everything I needed to pack. I was adding things to it throughout the week. And I was so proud of how proactive I was, and how I wasn’t going to miss a beat. And I get a whole bunch of my work done at this work retreat. And I’m like, Okay, now I have time to record a podcast episode. I go to record it. And they realize because I have my laptop, I don’t have a USB port to plug in my microphone. So that was game over for me. So this is coming out a little bit later than I wanted it to. But let’s just jump in.
I have a question that was sent in through the simple Saturday’s email. This is the question. I’m having a third baby in January. So I’d love any advice around that hacks, helpful routines anything. And I think this is a great question. It’s one that I had myself when I was welcoming in baby number two and Baby number three. But before we kind of get into this, and if you’ve read the title of this, and you’re wondering, like, is this gonna just talk about having three kids? No. And yes.
But one thing as I was writing this episode that was just coming into my heart was I need to acknowledge that the motherhood journey doesn’t look the same for everyone. So I aim to honor all caregiver journeys, all motherhood journeys, maybe you wanted three kids, or two or none. And it didn’t look that way for you. I don’t want to use the premise of this episode to exclude any certain motherhood journey, or to exalt any motherhood situation we find ourselves in. So I don’t want the title of this episode. I don’t want this episode to feel exclusive, because I think you are a mom or a caregiver or grandma or whatever. But there’s just ideas here that could work regardless of the number of kids you have. So let’s talk about some of those ideas, some of those strategies.
And I’m going to start by sharing some strategies that I tried. When I had, my first baby was eight months old, and I found out I was pregnant, and that my kids would be 16 months apart. And my first reaction and the reaction that actually stayed for a long time was panic, panic, lots of panic, because I just figured out one baby, I don’t know how I’m gonna do too. And I started Googling all of the things that I would need to do to make sure my transition was seamless. I joked at the time that I went to the ends of the internet and back but you know, it was 2011 so I probably did. Pinterest made that pretty easy. Back in the day. I googled I pinned I listen to podcasts. Because I’m an OG podcast listener, I was going to find the answer to make having two kids look and feel easy. Ha ha, joke’s on me, because there’s no magic routine, there’s no magic strategy. And I had a baby who cried all the time. So even if I did have some magical agenda, forcing that onto us all, would have just been such a defeating exercise, in my ultimate lack of control over other people. And circumstances. PS, I did try it didn’t work. I did try to force that agenda, I did have that defeating exercise.
I was reading back on a blog post, I wrote about preparing for having two kids under two and I wrote it 10 years ago. And I was rereading that I’ll, I’ll share it in the show notes. But I think one big takeaway from that, that I would still promote is this idea of prepping your firstborn, or your only child to become more independent. And some ways is just having them wait a bit longer for you to come to them, encouraging them to play more independently. And one thing that I did with my oldest at the time was we I started to try to think of games, I could play with him that were hands free. And we would practice, like just play these games so that once I had a baby in my arms, like once I delivered, and I’m holding a newborn, that these games felt normal to him. And we could just like kind of pick up, in my opinion, the transition from zero to one kids was hard expectedly.
So the transition from one to two was the hardest. Adding a third one, for some reason was not as hard for me, I saw this as well echoed in the Facebook group. And I think a reason for that is I felt like, you know, if you have one kid, you can give them a lot of attention, anticipate their needs, support them, engage with them, and then they go have a nap, or they go to bed, and you kind of like exhale, when you have another baby in the mix. And you’re dividing this up, you never feel like you’re doing it really well. And I’m pretty sure if you have more than one kid, they’re having secret baby meetings, planning whose turn it is to go on a sleep strike for the next three days, going from two to three kids was less hard. It was like we had this flow as a family. We knew it was our last we probably parented with a lot more grace and grit, and wisdom.
But to prepare you for how things change when you were our family of five, when you bring in that third good, here’s some things I want you to be aware of that are going to change in your life. The first one, you need to pay your babysitter more, because part of the battle is finding a good babysitter, and finding a good babysitter who’s willing to take on three kids, if you find this, pay them well, they are hard to find, cherish them. And then the next thing depending on the age range, you’re probably going to need a bigger vehicle. I know for us, we had a small SUV, we could not fit three car seats in the back of that. So that was a little bit of a bummer. Like oh man, now we think it was another vehicle. Another pro tip from moms with three kids, if you cannot book a standard hotel room, if you put in we have three kids with us, I always put down, we’re a family of four. And then I find us a room and we just figure out how to make it work. If you put in family of five, you might not get any rooms showing up in your search results. So put in family of four, see what’s available and figure out a way to make it work floor bed, sofa bed, you know, a travel God, the older they get, the more you’re going to have to get creative. Another thing that changes as you bring in a third kid is you’re never going to get a family photo anymore of everyone looking and smiling at the camera at least with out extensive bribery. This was another point that was made in the Facebook group. When I asked for advice on this topic. I can think for us personally my youngest son, he went about a whole two years, refusing to be fully engaged in a family photo. Like our last Christmas photo is me my husband, my two older kids in front of our Christmas tree, and we’re holding up my youngest son’s hockey picture. So he can be in the photo, we’re all standing in front of the Christmas tree holding up his photo and he’s actually on the floor at the bottom of the tree. He just refuses to be in these family photos. And then a final thing that I’ve noticed having three kids is you can expect to become an HR manager in your house. So instead of two relationships between two kids, you now have six relationships between three kids to consider. And here’s what I mean by that every kid has their own relationship with their sibling, they have their own thoughts, experiences, feelings, judgments towards that specific sibling, and it’s different than what their sibling feels towards them. So each of these relationships matters and each of these relationships needs to be paid attention to. I think it’s really helpful to be aware that the third wheel dynamic does come out. And I find it personally helpful to try different pairings of kids so that they get to be alone with the different sibling from time to time without the other one around.
I feel that sibling dynamics has taken up the majority of my parenting in this kind of stage where they’re transitioning from toddlerhood into childhood, managing conflicts and grievances. That has been a majority of my parenting work the like this past maybe decade. And for years, this really ate away at me seeing sibling conflict, stressed me out. So, so much. I know this is a type nine problem. If you listen to the Enneagram episodes, I’ve lived most of my life as a type nine thinking that conflict was poison, instead of opportunity. But over the years, I listened to a really great podcast on how conflict between siblings actually grows our children and, and that there’s benefits to it. So I’m going to link that episode in the show notes. Because it really changed the way that I viewed sibling conflict. I think I’m very passionate about creating a really supportive sibling bond. I don’t want them growing up thinking that they are in competition with one another in any way. Because I felt that growing up and I hated that feeling. I think it made me anti competitive. It really like the type nine to me, was really just like, No, we’re not competing.
I personally like the idea of my kids being collaborative, being partners in crime, and some sibling advice that has helped me over the years that I think maybe if you have three kids might be something worth thinking about is don’t compare, ever. Even if you think you’re being nice, or helping them understand something when you compare your kid to another, it tells them you’re not acceptable at this stage being them being you, you need to be a version of your sibling, you need to be over there, you can’t be where you are right now. I personally don’t make my kids share with their siblings. Really, I have two rules about sharing. One is if you share with one sibling, you need to share with the other like we’re not playing favorites here. And the other rule is you’re always allowed to say no to your siblings, you’re allowed to say no, that they can’t use your stuff or sit beside you or come in your room, you’re allowed to say no here.
And finally, as they get older, I tried to let them hash out more things. I know smaller kids, they need guidance and how to resolve the conflict together, we need to lay that groundwork, we need to give them the language, we need to give them the framework for what it looks like to resolve a conflict. But then for me, the next part is to step back and let them practice those skills and start doing that work on their own.
So those are some of my takeaways, my experiences, I know, I’m still early in the parenting game. My oldest is 11. My middle is 10. My youngest is eight. But just from what I’ve experienced so far, those are some things that have helped me in parenting three children. I personally really like the idea of crowdsourcing parenting advice, because I think what works for one might not work for another. It’s kind of like cooking, I like to look at maybe five different recipes. I’ll look for the themes, the techniques, and then I just make my own version. My husband teases me a lot like why do you even have? Why do you have recipe books? What are you looking at a recipe for? I also think that I have a skill that I can eyeball measure things. So it’s just like, why are you Why do you even have recipes? Why do we have measuring cups, and to me their ideas, right? I’m brainstorming, I’m just getting ideas. And then I’m going to, you know, add limit as I go.
So I did this here for you. I asked the Facebook group, I asked some Instagram friends for their advice on managing life and parenting more than one kid. So here’s some rapid fire advice with my unsolicited commentary. The first one, teach your kids independence, help them learn to dress themselves and help themselves in praise them for this, praise them for their independence. Great getting those kids set up so that they don’t need you or turn to you for every little thing. And I would caveat this with something I’ve learned by coaching for sports, what I observed in my eldest. And also in myself, being someone who grew up to be very independent is don’t swing too far. One way here. I think it’s helpful to encourage the independence but still help them out still step in, still do things here and there so that they can learn that they can ask for help that it’s okay to ask for help. They don’t need to become hyper independent, because we all know people or we are people who struggle with this later in life. But I still think this is really valuable to encourage independence in our children.
The next tip is to try to carve out time for a special date with each child rotating months, and some one on one time daily if you can make that work. This was the biggest game changer for us. There was a season of my parenting where my oldest was mad at me and not working with me. And just so mad at me all the time. And then I became mad at him. And eventually, I was able to realize that he just missed that one on one time with me. He missed me. And we started spending more one on one time together and it made a world of difference. I’m going to link a couple episodes in the show notes about that and about emotional intelligence because that was a big factor of the conversations that we were having in light of this.
The third tip is overwhelm is very normal and very real with three small kids at home. I, me personally, I get overwhelmed, so easy, when there’s over talking when there’s questions when there’s more than one person talking at one time. So I find comfort in hearing other moms say, overwhelm is normal. Overwhelmed, doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong, it just simply means you’re probably doing it. So if you are overwhelmed, let’s normalize it. Let’s stop and acknowledge it and have compassion for that part of you. I think, when overwhelm comes up that emotion, we kind of panic, we or we ignore it. But if you can stop in those moments of overwhelm, and just validate it, feel your feelings, guys, that’s what they’re there for, then it doesn’t scream so loud at you. And you can maybe just clear your head a little more each time. So check in with yourself more often. How am I feeling? What do I need, don’t let overwhelm build up to where you snap. But also know that sometimes you will snap because there’s overwhelm you can be proactive about and then there’s overwhelm that’s going to happen as part of living life.
The next tip is hang in there know that it gets easier as the older ones become more independent. And yes, oh my goodness, babies and toddler years are so hard. They’re hard. I mean, older kids are hard in a different way. But you’re getting sleep, you get your body back, you personally have more tolerance and emotional resilience. I’m going to link an episode in this or a blog post in the show notes about what moms of toddlers need to hear if you want to hear more about that.
The next tip is sometimes you have to triage their needs. And that’s okay. This will challenge you as a mom, I think especially if you feel the responsibility of meeting all the needs of all the people, then you have given yourself a job that will be an uphill battle. So don’t give yourself that job. I love that they use the word triaging hear like a nurse in the ER, like, who’s the most injured? Let’s start there. Not only will this kind of mindset give you the skill of prioritizing. It also helps our kids understand that we live in a world where sometimes we have to step back and help out those who have some big needs. Again, a caveat with this is to watch for patterns where someone’s needs are overshadowing the family. And then we might need a new approach for handling that person’s needs.
Tip number six put them to bed at the same time. Lots of cuddles one on one time. This is something we do in our house too. Like I told you, my kids ages they range by three years, but they’re all getting tucked in at the same time. There was a time when they were like We want justice for age, we want a later bedtime. And we were doing like staggering their bed times like five or 10 minutes. But then eventually they forgot about it. And we’re just like, Okay, everyone has time for bed. And what’s so helpful about that whatever age your kids are, is bedtime is bedtime, and then the rest of the time is your time. I think that’s really important.
Which brings another good point about bedtimes is to have a bedtime routine. Anytime that you do the work of putting a routine in place, you have freed up your future self, a lot of headache, because the kids know the routine, the parents know the routine, the cues for sleeping time are there. And another really good point that a parent made is this. Sometimes we have one parent for all three kids. So we can’t be doing this huge, big, elaborate bedtime for each kid, we need to have a routine down. That allows us both one of the parents to go out and continue to do something that they need for the night. And the other parent at home can be putting the kids to bed because there’s the routine in place. I think it can be tough if you set up the parent, like a certain parent locked into the bedtime routine. So I thought this point was really really valuable. Because if both parents can step in and do the routine, ideally, then that frees up the other parent and it frees up a lot of emotional and physical and space and time for you guys.
The next piece of advice is to get a sitter and cleaner sometimes. Yeah, your energy is precious your energy and time is precious. When I was having number two, I was struggling with this idea that Why does it feel so daunting? Why does it feel so hard? Because modern moms have it’s so much easier than moms back in the day used to have it like we we can just press the microwave and cook everyone dinner. We have water in our tap, like everything is so easy, but there are unique expectations on us as mothers that generations never had before. I remember asking my husband’s grandma when I was expecting the second I was overwhelmed by this idea and I was like how am I going to make it work? And she so sweetly said something to the effect of I never had it as hard as you modern mums do – yeah, I was bringing up water from the well and I was boiling diapers in the basement. But the kids were just off doing whatever you mom’s now you are expected to be with your kids, playing with your kids and just engaging with them all of the time. So I think that’s worth thinking about the amount of time and energy that we’re spending on all of the cultural expectations of us. And just give yourself a little break, like you can outsource some things sometimes.
The next point of advice, each person of the family has their own color for the calendar. The lady nerd in me sees the lady nerd in you. So you know, I’m a big fan of the Google Calendar, I’ll link the planning episode where I talk about the Google Calendar. Color coding is just like, it’s, it makes you not have to think so hard, you just see the colors and you know what they mean? So helpful. Moving on, treat each child according to their age, they are they their own person at their own time of life.
I really liked this one, it felt really deep to me, like when I hear it, I feel like I need to step out of this chaotic presence and step back and look at these little people in my life and ask, what is it like to be them at four? At seven at 10? What’s it like to be a 10 year old right now? What’s going on? With them being 10? How can I meet this tiny person where they’re at right now really like that question, just keeping it in the back of your mind.
Another helpful approach that was shared is embrace the joyful chaos, lower your standards, then lower them somewhere, let go of the guilt of not being able to be enough or do enough. This is the work in progress, paying attention to what you think should be happening versus what is happening. Because that disconnect between the two is what causes us pain and suffering. So there’s the work bringing these two things closer together. And I think this piece of advice has some really tangible ways to do that. So thank you for that.
And a final nugget of truth. It needs no explanation. It just needs reckless faith. And this is just decide you are going to be okay. I needed this one I needed to remember I needed to remember, this is the long game. This is the puzzle that we haven’t finished putting together yet. I need to remember that I’m going to mess up some things. I’m going to aced some things, there’s going to be highs, there’s going to be lows, but if I don’t think in the long run, if I don’t have faith and hope in this entire experience, that we’re going to be okay, then I’ll just be operating in fear and doubt. So it sounds simple, not easy. Just decide you’re going to be okay.
Looking back on all of this advice that was submitted, I noticed there wasn’t like use this routine and this plan and this checklist and life will be fine. And then you’ll have time to shower and make full meals and go to the thrift store and to the exercise class and read all the books. And I think it’s worth acknowledging two things. On one hand, routines help, there are ways to simplify your life. But on the other hand, we need to also acknowledge that we can do anything but we can’t do everything. And even saying that some of us really don’t want to believe that we don’t want to admit that. We don’t want to have to make choices, we don’t want to have to we just want to be that person who finds the trick, or finds the willpower or finds the time strategy that allows us to do all of the things. But motherhood is really a crash course in having to choose and prioritize the important things. And it will be messy and it will be hard.
For me and my own opinion. I think so much of what I do as a mom comes down to understanding how I want to show up right now what my values are. As a mom, this is where I can make the shift into intentional parenting to being a parent on purpose, and not reactive parenting, which I’ve spent many years and still find myself doing. It’s all about being intentional, showing up on purpose. You know, that’s really the whole existence of this podcast, and specifically the content of this episode. So if it needs its whole podcast, and it needs it’s a whole platform, it should tell you something. It isn’t easy. Like I said it’s simple but not easy. So let’s keep working on it together.
I would love to hear your thoughts, your takeaways, any strategies that I’ve missed, bring them into the Facebook group, the simple on purpose community, that is a group that is there for you. There are hundreds of you in there, and I hope that you will use it and share your ideas, your thoughts, your tips and your takeaways there. Also, make sure to check out the show notes. There are always a lot of helpful links that I aim to put in the show notes that just branch off on all of these different topics. If you can’t find the show notes go to simple and purpose.ca click listen and all of the episodes they’re all the show notes are there. If you scroll to the very bottom of the post, you’ll also find transcripts of the episodes. If you prefer to read sometimes people like that too. Alright friends thanks so much for joining me for another episode. Have a great day.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai