Life with Three Kids: 1.5 Years In (Part Two)

Hey friends! A little while back I put out a call for questions related to life with three kids now that we’re more than a year and a half into this crazy mayhem! I shared my first post answering your questions back in January and focused on your questions related to time management, schedules and sibling dynamics.

In today’s post, I’m addressing questions related to marriage, motherhood/me time, fitness, work and knowing when you’re “done” having kids. Let’s dive in!

timberline mountain skiing

Additional posts about life with three kids: 

Life with Three Kids: 1.5 Years In

  • What can you do to prepare your life before the third child arrives? 

From a practical standpoint: Sign up for grocery delivery/pick-up if you don’t have it already. I count Instacart as one of my biggest blessings on a weekly basis.

From an emotional standpoint: Understand that it will feel like you have so many different balls in the air and inevitably some will feel like they’re dropping at all times. Lower your expectations for what you think you can and should be doing. Be prepared to let some things go. Anticipate feeling overwhelmed and needing help. This is NORMAL.

I realize this may sound like not-so-helpful advice but, honestly, I think it really, really helped me in the transition from two to three kids. I had some very honest conversations with friends who went through the transition from two to three children a year or two before me and I am forever grateful to them for not painting a perfect oh-so-easy picture. Ryan and I were anticipating a hard phase of life when we had Rhett and I think that knowing we were in for chaos and new challenges helped prevent us from feeling defeated all the time. We expected it to be hard and when it was, we weren’t shocked or upset. During the times when everything was clicking and it felt semi-easy, we were pleasantly surprised!

My friends all told me (in a loving, encouraging but very honest way) that something about adding a third baby into the mix was a game changer in terms of chaos. Understanding that down time would be nonexistent and that I’d have to get more comfortable letting things go was something I tried to prepare myself for going into the transition from two to three.

  • How do you find time to get things done around the house? Like normal household chores? 

One thing I randomly found myself doing when I first became a mom was saving chores I could accomplish when the kids were awake for when they were actually awake. Using their nap times and bed times to do certain chores like laundry or doing the dishes is something I try not to do when they’re asleep because I can do these things when they’re awake. I often use bath time to fold laundry and have Rhett “help” unload the dishwasher because the dishwasher is one of his very favorite things at the moment. Other tasks I can often do when the boys are awake: Vacuuming, wiping down counters, putting away laundry, cleaning toilets and sinks, etc. The boys love helping with certain chores like cleaning windows or pretty much anything that utilizes a spray bottle so I’ll often have them “help” with these tasks. Ryan and I save some of the deeper cleaning for weekends when we can tackle these things together while the kids play so one of us can jump in if the kids need us here and there.

I also feel like it’s worth saying that letting go of expectations of having a sparkling clean home 24/7 has been crucial in this phase of life. If you come over to our house at any given time, it is never perfectly clean. I’d much rather have dusty floorboards and stains on our carpeting and enjoy motherhood than feel like I’m fussing at my kids about their messes and feeling stressed by the pressure of maintaining a perfectly clean home.

  • When does it get easier? This is hard. 

It IS hard. And I don’t know the answer to this question because it is still hard. I believe every phase of motherhood has its challenges so I wonder if it ever feels easier or is motherhood just continually hard in new ways?

I will say that I’ve never felt more physically needed than I have in the past 1.5 years and I’d imagine this will lessen over time. The boys still need my hugs, my arms, my boobs, my cuddles, my non-stop attention, my time… a LOT of me. That can feel very draining.

Comparing life now to the newborn days, I can say it’s easier because sleep is better. It’s harder because Rhett is now into everything so sibling battles have escalated. It’s easier because we got to the bottom of Rhett’s lip tie issue. It’s harder because now every kid has preferences and opinions and desires and they don’t always align.

It’s hard in new ways but it’s better in ways I never could’ve anticipated, too. Seeing our kids grow up and watching their relationships develop and our family bond grow stronger is something that makes all the hard worth it over and over again.

  • How you you fit in fitness with three kids in the mix? 

Burn Boot Camp Live Workout Julie

Postpartum fitness is something that changed a lot for me after the birth of our third child. After I had Chase and Ryder, sticking to my fitness routine was admittedly fairly easy for me because I work for myself from home and have a lot of flexibility in my schedule. I utilized the times when the boys were awake to go to the gym and take advantage of gym childcare. That was great and definitely helped me keep my workouts consistent because it felt like my “me time” and gave me a break from mom life while I focused on something important to me and my overall health and wellbeing.

Add another child and a pandemic into the mix and my mindset around fitness shifted fairly dramatically. (You may read more about this shift in this post: A Shift in My Fitness Mindset.) I cannot remember the last time I worked out five or six days a week and now consider three (occasionally four) workouts a week my new normal. And that feels GOOD.

Giving myself a lot of grace and recognizing that working out as much as I did before kids or even after one or two children was no longer realistic helped me lean into this new phase of motherhood. I feel a lot more relaxed about fitness these days and have zero guilt if I go several days or even a week without any traditional form of exercise because I am pretty sure all moms out there would agree that motherhood IS physical. Motherhood = Movement all day long.

In terms of how I fit my workouts into my schedule, they typically happen before the boys are awake or, occasionally, when Rhett naps. Chase and Ryder are old enough to entertain themselves while I work out (HUGE perk!) and if they’re home and awake while Rhett sleeps, they’ll play in the driveway or front yard while I workout out in the driveway. (Working out while Rhett is awake is impossible so I don’t even try.) I’m also now occasionally going back to in-person Burn Boot Camp classes once a week or so and utilize their childcare for Rhett while the big kids are at school.

I rarely work out on the weekends and my weekday workouts almost always focus on strength training. I also absolutely count walks with the boys as exercise and love that this is something we can all do together. I truly believe walking is one of the very best things you can do for your body!

  • I want another baby but I’m worried my husband can’t handle it. He’s already so tired and his patience is thin. Thoughts? 

This is so hard but I also think it’s really great that you and your husband are recognizing the effects parenting can have on your patience, mental health and relationships. Truth be told, Ryan and I have had a very similar conversation when we talk about adding another child to our family. We want to be our BEST selves for our children. We want our kids to feel like Mom and Dad are understanding, patient, fun yet serious about the important stuff, present and available. Would another baby alter this for us too much? Would another baby make us less patient and take away from us parenting the way we want to parent our children? It’s not an easy question to ask and it’s an even harder question to answer.

I cannot weigh in on anyone’s personal situation and feel fortunate that Ryan and I have been on the same page when it comes to growing our family but I know this is often not the case. In one breath I fully believe the saying, “You’ll never regret having another baby,” but I also know that kids put stress on every aspect of life and if that stress is something that will bleed into your marriage and parenting, that is something I would not take lightly. Just because one parent is not overwhelmed by parenting six kids doesn’t mean we should feel inadequate if we’re overwhelmed by parenting two. The way everyone responds to parenting is personal and unpredictable (don’t we all WISH we knew how kids would effect us before having them!?) and worth assessing thoroughly before deciding whether or not to try to grow a family.

  • What kind of a car did you get to accommodate a larger family? 

We got a used 2018 Lincoln Navigator (the extra-long edition) and I LOVE IT. I drive my cars for-ev-errr and plan to drive this thing until it dies! We opted for captains chairs in the middle row so the big kids can walk through to the back row and buckle themselves. Ryder is still facing backwards so I actually help buckle him in from the trunk if he needs help. (Ryan says this was one of my more genius “mom hacks” since it means I’m never crawling into the back of the car.) Worth mentioning again is this Unbuckle Me tool that helps our big kids unbuckle themselves! Rhett’s car seat is in the captain’s chair behind the passenger’s seat so I can still throw him a pacifier, snack or a toy if he needs one.

We’re able to fit most things in the car for our road trips but also bought this overhead bag for trips when we have a larger load. One thing to consider: I cannot for the life of me figure out how to get the Double BOB stroller into the trunk of the car but Ryan always finds a way to get it in standing upright without trouble so it IS possible but it’s admittedly a pain. The Double BOB stroller is HUGE and our other double stroller (the Chicco Bravo for 2) fits in without a problem. The only time we really bring the Double BOB with us in the car is on vacations so it’s not a huge deal but still worth mentioning.

  • Do people still ask you if you’re going to “try for a girl?” I have three boys and hear this often.

YEP. I shared more about my thoughts regarding people hoping were having a girl when I was pregnant with Rhett here.

To be honest, most of the time these comments roll right off of me. Truly. I know people mean well when they ask us about our desire for a girl but sometimes, on the days when I’m feeling a little more emotional, the comments can get to me. I know this is rooted in the fact that we found out we actually did have a girl at one point and lost her.

I can then also feel defensive over the three boys we DO have because they are awesome. They are enough. We are not lacking for love and we know our family is beyond blessed by our dude crew. Having all boys or all girls is wonderful. Ask anyone with only boys or only girls and I think they’ll agree.

When it feels like everyone else out there wishes we had a girl, I ask myself what I want and what I want is what’s right in front of me: My boys.

  • How did Ryan find the time to train for a Half Ironman during this phase of life? 

You may read more about Ryan’s training in this post: Ryan’s First Half Ironman Q&A

  • We recently had our third. We’re so unsure about whether we are done or not. Do you feel “done?” Thoughts on this? 

I understand this deeply because THIS IS US. I receive some version of this question multiple times a week. I’ve honestly thought about writing a whole blog post on this topic because my feelings around feeling “done” are so complex.

I continue to talk myself out of writing this post because I think back to how I would feel seeing a post like this on a blog when I was going through my miscarriages. It is my hope that I can eventually share a post about this topic in this space from a place of understanding that it’s not a post everyone will want to read nor is it a post everyone should read. My heart is telling me to dive into this further because it is a really important thing many people struggle with (myself included!) and I think conversations in the comments section from you guys could be very beneficial for others as well. Stay tuned because I think this is something I may eventually share.

  • How do you juggle working from home? Do you work when the older two are at school? How does this work with Rhett and his nap? 

This is an ever-changing beast. I work during the small moments I have to myself in the day. My work windows usually look like 5 – 7 a.m., Rhett’s nap time (2ish hours in the afternoon if Ryder takes a nap or has quiet time at the same time), an hour or two before bed at night and then catch-up time on the weekend during Rhett’s nap while Ryan hangs with the big kids.

When Rhett transitioned to one nap a day things got really, really stressful for me on the work front. Couple this transition with the fact that I’ve had to keep Ryder home from school more than usual this year due to runny noses and I felt constantly stressed by my lack of work time. Some weeks it felt like the only time I had to work was before dawn and late at night when I was completely exhausted.

Eventually I realized I could not manage to do everything I had to do in a day and hired a wonderful woman to come watch Rhett one to two mornings a week while the big kids are at school. These 3.5-hour work windows have been GAME CHANGERS for me and my sanity. They allow me to have uninterrupted work time when I’m not worried about Rhett waking up or the big kids needing something. They’ve also served as the perfect reminder that I truly LOVE what I do. This blog is so incredibly important to me and realizing I cannot raise three kids and work the same time without help was a pivotal realization that has increased my happiness in both my job and motherhood by about a million percent.

  • How do you handle lack of sleep? 

UGH. This is hard. I can say with 100 percent certainty that I have not slept straight through the night in more than 6 years. Motherhood altered my sleep for the worse and it’s a battle.

I will say, however, that this is one area that improves dramatically for me as my kids get older. Once Chase and Ryder weaned (when they were a little over one), both slept through the night and now they typically do not come out of their room after we tuck them in unless they’ve had a nightmare, accident (Ryder), their sheets get twisted (Ryder) or they get a bloody nose (Chase) or leg cramp (Chase). Rhett is still up once to nurse in the early morning (between 5 and 6 a.m.) and this isn’t a big deal because I’m often up already working or working out.

The best thing I do for my sleep is try HARD to get into bed early. If I don’t need to work after the boys are in bed, Ryan and I try to get into bed by 8:30 p.m. I will often read (a highlight of my day and my “me time”) for an hour or two before falling asleep by 10 p.m. I think early bedtimes are crucial for my energy levels and my ability to wake up early before the boys are up.

  • Is there anything easier about having a third child? 

Julie Ryan Ryder Rhett Chase

The fact that the kids have each other to play with makes things feel easier. They primarily look to each other for entertainment rather than me and Ryan and that takes some pressure off Mom and Dad. Rhett still wants me the most but he’s becoming increasingly interested in hanging out with his big brothers which is great! Chase and Ryder are super close and play very well together so the fact that they can entertain each other is so helpful. Rhett is now at the age where he just wants to follow his brothers around and copy them non-stop and I can already see things shifting and Rhett becoming a pivotal part of his brothers’ playtime!

  • Do you ever have time for yourself? 

Kind of. Not really? I know this sounds horrible but it’s also my reality and I think it’s a reality for many moms out there. The only time I feel like I have to myself is often my work time (early mornings, Rhett’s nap time, after the boys’ bedtime and the mornings we have Annemarie watch Rhett) but I am fairly protective over the hour or two I have before bedtime. Though I find myself working before bedtime more than usual these days, the time I have to read before bed feels like my “me time” and really does a lot to fill my cup. I don’t really watch much TV so reading is an escape for me and something I deeply love.

  • How do you prioritize your marriage with three kids?

It seems like “date night” should be my answer here but… it’s not. As someone who feels like the answer to this question is always “schedule date night once a week,” I’m here to say we don’t do weekly date nights nor do I feel this this is the answer to maintaining a healthy marriage for us. (It might be for you and that’s awesome!)

For us, this looks like spending intentional time together every single day. This feels more cumulative and important to us as a couple than a nice dinner out once a week. We’re pretty on top of getting our boys in bed before 7:30 p.m. every night which gives us some time to ourselves as a couple in the evening (assuming one of us doesn’t have some work we need to wrap up). We’ll often sit on the couch and just unwind together — no TV, no phones — or we’ll get into bed ridiculously early and hang out together until we want to read. (No phones in bed is a rule we have that helps so much!) We genuinely love downtime together and choosing to talk and connect with each other after our kids are in bed works well for us.

Now that the boys are older and I’m winding down on my breastfeeding journey, we’re hoping to do more solo weekends away here and there as we LOVE traveling together. Exploring new places together always seems to breathe life into our marriage so I’m hoping this is something we’ll be able to prioritize now that we’re out of the baby phase.

Questions of the Day

I’d love to hear you answers to any of the above questions. Please pick any that interest you and chime in!! 

Here are a few if you’d like a prompt…

How do you prioritize your marriage with kids?

How do you fit fitness into your life with kids in the mix? 

When do you tackle household chores? How do you get them all done with kids to care for as well? 

 

The post Life with Three Kids: 1.5 Years In (Part Two) appeared first on Peanut Butter Fingers.