Truth Bomb: Mothering Three Kids is a Lot Harder Than Mothering Two

We are incredibly blessed to have brought our third daughter into the world last year on April 7. She is a complete delight—the most smiley baby you have ever met! “Lightbulb” and “Happy Feet” are among her many nicknames that allude to her glowing nature. But Y’ALL… meeting the demands of three kids has proven to be much harder than two—at least for me. I have been teasing my friends with three kids about not warning me, so here is my truth bomb for all of you with some tips that help me.

This is not to say that I regret having a third child. I truly believe life is the most precious gift we can give, and I felt deep in my bones that our family was not complete until we had our sweet little Emmy. Now that I am in the thick of three, I can confidently say that I am done having babies. So what about the transition from two to three is so difficult? Am I the only one who feels like one is one, two is two, and three is 37?

In my experience, the times I am feeling most overwhelmed pretty much always come down to a situation that is requiring me to divide my time and/or attention. Whether I recognize it in the moment or realize it later while processing my day, the most stressful times are when I feel like EVERYONE needs something from me, and they want it immediately. Sometimes, it even gets backed up and multiple people need multiple things from me. (If you have ever been a server at a restaurant, it’s like the feeling of being in the weeds when you’ve had four tables seated in your section all at once.)

For example, I was cooking dinner yesterday and my husband was still working. I was in my kitchen where I could see a sink full of dishes and the dishwasher with the word “end” written across the top, taunting me that I had not yet emptied it. The baby wanted to be held, and she was crying every time I set her down to work at the stove. My three-year-old was also hungry and had asked for a snack. I wanted her to wait until I had dinner ready, but hunger + big feelings tend to = a tantrum. Finally, my six-year-old was at the kitchen table asking for help with her homework. The baby crying and toddler tantrum were both triggering for me, and I was worried about burning the food. I felt my (already high) anxiety level rising and had to take a deep breath to calm myself and figure out which child needed my attention first.

In these moments, I have to repeat to myself in my head that I am doing the best I can, and toddlers have tantrums. When I verbally remind myself that staying calm is the best response, it is easier for me to act with calmness. Identifying what triggers my anxiety and making a point to notice that it is causing me to feel overwhelmed makes it easier to tame it and respond to my children with love and logic instead of yelling.

Along the same lines of dividing my attention, I really try to give equal amounts of attention to all three girls, but this is difficult with a breastfeeding infant. There are times when my children will literally walk past my husband watching videos on his laptop while sitting on the couch, come up the stairs, interrupt me doing laundry, and ask for something. Even though I find this utterly infuriating, it helps to remind myself that this is often their way of asking for my specific attention. They know they could ask their dad, and sometimes they do. Other times, I will respond with, “Why did you not ask Daddy when he was sitting right here?” Their answer is always, “I wanted Mommy.” Instead of getting irritated with the fact that I was pulled away from whatever I was doing, it helps to remind myself that my attention has been split between them, and everyone gets less of me now that there are more children, more loads of laundry, more dishes, etc…

I do believe that the ages of your children makes a huge difference. My children are all young, and they all still need help managing big feelings. My oldest understands reasoning better, and she can typically wait if I explain to her why I cannot do something immediately. In typical three-year-old developmentally appropriate nature, my middle one struggles with that. It’s these times when I just have to remind myself that she IS only three, and she is acting like a three-year-old should. Making a point to spend time with each of them individually always helps them do better in the times when I cannot give them my immediate attention.

This is probably the best strategy I have found for making things run smoother, and it is two-fold. First, I need to make time for myself and fill my own cup. When I do this, the one-on-one time spent with my children is always better quality time. Then, I make a point to chat with them about something they would like to do with me. Sometimes I feel guilty that I wasn’t able to read for 20 minutes per day with them, work on reading sight words, or teach the difference between a cone and a sphere. Then I remind myself, my job is to be their mom. If they want to do puzzles with me instead of reading for a day, that is totally fine and it will mean more to them that I let them choose the activity and was engaged and present.

The bottom line is that by adding another family member, our lives are so much more full of love and joy. And, my days are also more full of meeting the needs of all of my children.  It is a difficult balancing act, and it certainly became more difficult for us in our transition from two children to three. However, I know it is only a matter of time before my baby is walking and running around with her sisters. It is only a matter of time before my days open up with more time for myself and household tasks. For now, I will leave the pile of laundry on our guest bed and spend my time playing with my kids, because they are, in fact, only little for a little while.

A grateful San Antonio transplant that fled the midwestern winters at the first opportunity. Driven by her core values, faith, family, and knowledge, Stephanie and her husband are passionately raising their three daughters - Nikoletta (2017), Eleni (2019) and Emmelia (2022). With a husband from Greece, travel is a big part of their family life along with their Greek Orthodox identity. Stephanie has a Masters Degree in Educational Psychology and is a licensed teacher, school principal, and dyslexia therapist. She is also the CEO and Founder of The LD Expert, a nationwide company that brings the best academic tutoring and dyslexia intervention to schools and families through virtual instruction. Favorite Restaurant: Jets Pizza Favorite Landmark: Marriage Island Favorite San Antonio Tradition: Cascarones