8 Ways My Third Child Has Changed The Way I Parent
While going from one child to two was the ultimate shake-up in terms of everyday logistics (Coordinating nap times? Ugh!), going from two to three has had the most profound effect on how I parent. The reason? I just don’t have the time and energy that I once did. (So. Many. Kids.) Occasionally, I feel a little guilty about the fact that it’s physically impossible for me to shower each of my children with undivided attention on a daily basis, but beyond that, the laissez faire attitude I’ve seemed to adopt with my third — and last — child has been full-stop liberating.
Here are eight ways having another baby has changed the way I parent.
1. I let my two older kids “work it out” more. My 6-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son love each other to death — but also, they’re siblings, so sometimes it seems like they’re going to love each other to actual death. Before their younger sister was born, I often found myself intervening whenever they’d start to squabble with a “Let’s hear both sides out” when I was feeling virtuous or a “Just stop it already!” when I was short on patience. For the most part, I pretty much just hang back now when they start to bicker — usually because I’m tied up with the baby or just too tired to deal. And guess what? Nine times out of ten, they work it out themselves.
2. I'm less involved in my older kids' schools. When I was younger, my mother was super involved with the PTA and any and all school-related functions (I’m pretty sure she chaperoned every class trip I went on). So of course I assumed I’d be the same way when I had kids of my own. Not exactly. While I still generally consider myself an involved parent on the school front, I find myself declining a lot more invitations than I used to now that I have a baby again. And those DIY holiday goodie bags and from-scratch cupcakes? Not happening right now. With a job and three little ones, I’m a store-bought-or-bust mom these days.
3. I'm more laid-back with bedtimes. Before my youngest was born, I was a stickler for bedtime — so much so that I’d often have everyone sitting down to dinner at 5:30, so it gave me enough time to clean up, bathe the kids, and read stories in order to have everyone in bed between 7:15 and 7:30. Now? Not so much. I certainly still prioritize my kids’ sleep over other things, but most days I don’t even know what’s on the menu come 5:30 — so a 7:15 bedtime is a long shot.
4. I embrace the mess (a little bit more). Full disclosure: I’m a card-carrying neat freak. Clutter is my kryptonite and my brain just doesn’t seem to function very well when my floor is littered with Magna-tiles, trains, and broken crayons. Now, though, instead of trying to maintain a tidy house as often as possible, I let things go and clean up (or have the kids clean up) at the end of the day — even if walking through a battlefield of Legos does make me a little twitchy. After three kids, the old Phyllis Diller quote seems to have finally sunk in: “Cleaning your house while your kids are still growing is like shoveling the sidewalk before it stops snowing.”
5. I’m much less concerned with “dressing my baby cute.” While my 9-month-old’s style may not speak much to the type of parent I am, it does speak to my general laziness and/or the things I prioritize now. When I had my first daughter, I loved getting her dressed up in cute rompers and dresses and tights. (Her hair bow collection was on another level.) And after that, when I had my son, putting him in adorably “handsome” clothes was a treat. Now, though? I grab whatever (hand-me-down) is clean for the baby and we’re good to go. Spoiler alert to my new mom self: Everything looks cute on babies. Even spit-up.
6. I let my two older kids take on more responsibilities. Ideally, my 4-year-old wouldn’t pour his own milk into his cereal in the morning and my 6-year-old wouldn’t butter her toast, because the mess potential is high. But I’ve accepted the fact that, with three kids, I can only do so much, so pouring milk and buttering toast is just how it goes. And on the plus side, I’ve realized that, while these things may be making more work for me now (Read: So many spills!), my kids are honing skills that will come in handy in the long run.
7. I rely on other people more. When I was a mom of one, I did everything myself. When there were two, I accepted a little bit of help, albeit guiltily. With three, bring on the outsourcing! Truth be told, part of this is likely due to the fact that my eldest is nearly 7 and extremely trust-worthy, but still. Enlisting help is a game-changer. When a mom friend asks if she can take my daughter to gymnastics or if I want to drop her off for a playdate, you best believe I say “Yes.” Not only is it fun for my first grader, two kids at home is akin to a massage and seaweed scrub at the Four Seasons compared to three.