Most people plan to have kids- when, how many, and how far apart. Sometimes this plan works out, but not all the time. My husband and I had a plan, but it went slightly off the rails. We planned for two-we had three. We didn’t have an exact spacing idea- all three are 18 months apart. The idea was two years or so- we weren’t that far off. We are done- I had a tubal ligation after our daughter was born in 2008. This was the best idea for us, and I have not one single regret.
How Does This Work?
Humor- This is a very popular thing at our house. Thankfully, Matthew and I both have a great sense of humor. I’m very sarcastic, and he’s mainly goofy. This helps us keep a light-hearted view on things when it’s hard because there have been a lot of hard days, weeks, and even a few months. The kids have inherited our sense of humor in some way- one is sarcastic, one has a dry sense of humor (he is on the autism spectrum), and our youngest is goofy.
Letting go of perfection- There is so much pressure to be the perfect parent. What is “perfect,” anyway? I don’t know, and I no longer care. I tried this for years, and I ended up being miserable. In the midst of Julian’s issues and getting Lily’s needs met, I felt like I couldn’t control anything but how my house looked. I spent hours cleaning, making sure the kids looked spotless (a waste of time, because what kid is spotless?) and that I was as calm as possible. This didn’t work well for anyone involved. Letting go of perfection is not only better for your mental health but better for those around you. You’re not so anxious or preoccupied and have time for more fun things. The house can be messy. The kids aren’t perfect and never will be. There will be disasters in parenting- they happen no matter how many kids you have, no matter the spacing, and I have had many.
Organization- I’ve often joked that getting my kids dressed is like a small military operation. I’m not kidding. Cameron hates getting out of bed, Lily takes forever to get dressed, and Julian is done in about 10 minutes, but then gets into something and may not want to stop it to leave. I’ve developed tips to get around all of this, but it took lots of errors first. Learn what your kids are like and go with it accordingly. I carried two diaper bags and kept a checklist because I have an awful memory. I keep a written planner and a Google Calendar, which help me keep track of everyone’s appointments. I have a running to-do list on an app- the kids know if it isn’t on my to-do list, it may not get done. I check my calendar as soon as I get up.
Stress Relief- This is very important in parenting. All parents need a way to blow off stress. Kids are a lot of fun and bring us a lot of joy, but they can also stress us out a lot. In order to remain somewhat calm, we need a way to be ourselves and escape for a while. These ways can include:
- spending time with family/friends
- sports (walking, running, tennis, yoga, etc.)
- arts/crafts (coloring can be a very soothing activity)
- getting out in nature
There are many more ways you can relieve stress- these are just a few ideas.
Support- Raising three kids, especially as close in age as they are, would be almost impossible without support. My kids have all of their grandparents. All but one are very involved in their lives. Their grandmothers have been very helpful from day one and have pretty much spoiled them, which is pretty much in the grandmother description. Support can come in other forms- other family members, friends, etc. You can even get emotional support online, and that can be very helpful.
Remembering that every child is different- Each child has their own personality, quirks, and differences. What works for one child will not always work for another. One of my kids is more sensitive than the others, and I have to approach them differently. One thinks more concretely, and I have to break things down for him a bit more. It can be a bit draining sometimes, but it is well worth it. It shows your child that you do care about them as a person and that you don’t think they are all assembly-line cut children.
What is it REALLY Like?
My kids are full of adventure – the boys once created a slip and slide on the kitchen floor when I was putting Lily down for a nap. I heard thuds and laughter downstairs and went running. I was not pleased with what I saw. They were immediately told to clean it up after I nearly fell and broke my leg.
Before his diagnoses, Julian broke an arm and foot. He had also had a concussion and gotten stitches. Thank goodness for ADHD meds and a very understanding pediatrician. Since the diagnosis, his injuries have slowed down. The last big one was staples after a collision with Cameron on a trampoline. That was not fun for anyone involved.
Lily has been her own adventure – she does not do anything until she is ready and this started at birth. She was born three weeks early. If she’s not ready, it’s not happening.
There’s also lots of food and Wi-Fi involved. These kids eat a lot and will continue to do so until they move out. The Wi-Fi comes with the territory these days. Two of the kids are picky eaters, and that is an issue that I stopped fighting long ago.
If you put all of this together, it equals lots of fighting, sometimes over things as small as the last cup of apple juice or the last two cookies. (The house rule is if there’s less than four, Mom or Dad get them.) It also equals clashes of personalities, a bit of chaos, but somewhere in the middle, lots of laughter. There is also a lot of fun and love. My husband brought home a stray kitten two years ago. She was a tiny 4-pound cat, and we loved her the second she came into our house. The kids helped feed her, played and cuddled with her. She’s been with us ever since. Cameron named her Miss Purr, which fits because she purrs a lot.
This is just a glimpse of what it is like to raise kids close in age. The hand-me-downs are great to have around for the boys, but it’s even better to see them as each others’ best friends. I wouldn’t change the number of kids I have or the spacing, but I might turn the volume in this house down a bit.