I know I'm only a month in, but I've picked up a few things being a mom of three. Here's what I've learned so far:
1. Sam's Club is Sam Walton's gift to parents. We buy our paper towels in bulk now. And wipes. And now, coffee (I've switched from medium to dark roast, too). And occasionally (when they are on sale) diapers. (Otherwise, we buy diapers with coupons at Target. Which brings me to my next point...)
2. Coupon is a verb. My grocery shopping now consists of hunting down the best way to combine coupons with Cartwheel and iBotta. Also, as a parent of three, I've learned what iBotta actually is. In fact, I now have a section of apps on my phone dedicated to saving me money on groceries. Bonus points if I buy items that are discounted or rebated on all fronts! (And yes, when you are a parent, you get excited about that $4 you saved on a box of diapers!)
3. It's okay to be a hermit for a while. Since I've had Eva, I've gone maybe two places with the three kids, including mandatory pediatric checkups. I'm tired, y'all. I feel like at this phase in my life, I have nothing really to offer to anyone except my family, and sometimes you go through seasons where you need a respite before you start adding a social life back in to the mix. Don't take it personally, but I just want to be home in my jammies with no makeup doing nothing but vegging out with my kiddos instead of breaking a sweat loading up them and all their stuff in the car. And I'm learning that's okay. The world can wait a bit.
4. Survival mode is legit. I've been intentional about spending one-on-one time with all three children at some point every single day, and also cleaning at least one thing. Those are my main goals for the day. Survival mode is about prioritizing what HAS to be done and buckling down, instead of being Super Mom. Not every meal has to be homemade, the kids can wear their PJs all day, and Netflix can be our main entertainment for a little while. The kids don't need baths every night (or every other night...). There are a lot of days where we knock it out of the park: everyone gets dressed, meals are all healthy and balanced, we do crafts or fun activities...I even have time for a shower while the kids are all awake can I get an amen?! But some days feel like being on an assembly line. Everyone gets fed, cleaned (somewhat), and ready for naps in an orderly fashion, but that's about it. And that's okay. One day we will switch to thriving mode again. One day.
5. The rules are whatever you say they are. When we found out we were pregnant with our first child, my husband's reaction was classic: "We're going to need some books." We celebrated the pregnancy by going out to eat and then perusing the bookstore, selecting a stack of the best parenting books we could find. Among my favorites are Babywise, HypnoBirthing, and Loving Your Kids on Purpose. My husband picked out some "dad manuals." I devoured these books and was careful to follow everything written in them. And then I looked to other parents, and our own parents, to validate and approve our decisions. But I fell apart if they didn't jump on board, and I questioned my own intuition, turning back into a child myself who needed to be told what to do. By baby number three, I've learned that there is no manual for parenting. You pray and decide as a couple what your family rules are, what's important to you, what God's vision is for your family...and then you work toward those goals. You free yourself from the need for approval instead of being enslaved to the opinions of others. No one can parent your children like you can, no one can be your Holy Spirit, and no one has ALL the answers. (Except God, which is why the only rule book I really go by now is His Word.)
6. Just because someone has children the same ages as your own doesn't mean y'all should be best friends. It's important to surround yourself with positive influences—people who add to your life instead of drain you, judge you, compete with you, or run all over you. Friendship is more than just convenience and commonality. Find friends who will be honest with you, sharpen you, respect you, support you, and encourage you, and who you can bare your soul to. I have learned I am so drained by surface relationships, but people who can go deep refresh me. And my energy is too limited to be wasted on exhausting or confusing relationships. I need friends in my life to call me out when I'm being crazy, who know when to show up with dinner and play with my kids while I put on makeup, or just understand who I am underneath when I am feeling ALL the feelings on the outside. My circle of relationships is becoming narrower and deeper instead of wide and shallow.
7. Date nights now consist of eating cinnamon toast in bed while watching Netflix. Pausing the movie every few minutes to make the kids get back in their beds. Playing rock-paper-scissors to see who will get out of bed to make the late-night ice cream/Chick Fil A cookie/doughnut run (which may have to stop at least until I fit back into my pre-pregnancy clothes). Conking out by 9 p.m. Don't lie; you all do it, too. We recently had a friend who offered to keep the boys while I was still pregnant so the Mr. and I could have a date night. It was a few days until payday, so we ate appetizers at a chain restaurant nearby and then sat in the parking lot with our seats reclined, taking a mini nap. (Seriously, that's all we did!) One day we will again paint the town on our dates, but this is the stuff marriages are made of.
8. I am not in control. It's so true. I have lived with the impression that I am in control of our kids up until this point. My husband and I are both systematic, methodical people and like to structure our day according to what system works best, but I have realized that our kids are little people, not robots. They don't always respond to our systematic approach to life. I can't force them to sleep or eat their veggies or be in a good mood all the time. The best thing I've been able to do for myself is relinquish the need for control and take things as they come.
9. Me becomes we. You may not know this, but I'm quite the introvert. I love being around people, but it takes a lot out of me, and every day I need some time to myself to recharge or I feel like I'll go crazy. My kids' naptime is a sacred time for me; I am hardly flexible when it comes to them missing their naps because I need that time to breathe. But life doesn't always run like clockwork, and with three kids, that window of time is starting to close. I may have 30 minutes of solitude instead of the three hours it used to be. The time it takes me to get ready for the day, or the time I have to invest in hobbies and passions, has also gotten A LOT shorter. This phase of life is about family, and I couldn't be more thankful!
10. The days are long, but the years are short. I heard this a lot when we just had one or two kids, but this time it really has sunk in, especially being our last pregnancy. When I'm up in the night feeding Eva, or when the boys are arguing over a toy or running circles through the house, or when my oldest asks me to lay down with him at night, I've noticed my perspective has changed, and I embrace these moments instead of becoming unglued. These years go by so fast, and pretty soon my boys won't be begging me to play cars with them or hold them. Next time I blink, Eva will be sitting next to me at the dinner table eating her food instead of looking into my eyes while I nurse her. I'm learning how to cherish every second as it flies by.