As of this writing, I’ve been a father of three for just over one month. Ever since we knew our third was on the way, I kept asking my wife, “Are we crazy? We’re crazy, right?” And while life is certainly even more frenetic and tiring, it doesn’t feel (too) crazy. Dare I say, it actually feels somewhat normal now.
First, two bits of good news: 1. You will get a minivan, and you will love it. 2. You’ll still know how to change diapers half-asleep in the dark. But that’s not all.
If you’re about to jump from two kids to three, here are a few things I learned since it happened to us.
1. The hospital felt like a vacation
About 24 hours after our third was born, my wife and I were caring for him in the hospital recovery room when we both looked at each other and said, “This is kind of nice. Kind of feels like a vacation.” It wasn’t the deflated mattresses or the cold, soggy chicken finger lunch; it was the quiet. When our newborn was asleep, there wasn’t any other noise. Our recovery room was an oasis of zen.
For two days, we had no chores and no whiny, needy toddlers. And if we wanted help, a nurse was there!
That guilt we had with our first and second when we weren’t the ones caring for them at the hospital? Gone. No guilt. It’s 1am and you want to take our newborn to the nursery so we can sleep? Go right ahead.
Some days I miss the hospital.
2. My bed never felt so great
I’ll never forget the feeling of that first night of sleep back home after the hospital. That couch/bed thing at the hospital? If I never see one again, it’ll be too soon.
That first night home, once all the kids were asleep and my wife and I sunk into our mattress, exhaled, we said to each other, “I don’t remember our bed ever feeling this nice.” And then we promptly passed out. (For three hours.)
3. Divide and conquer
My wife and I cultivated a unique lifestyle wherein we pretty much did everything as a whole family. The grocery store, Target, library visits, camp drop-offs, swim lessons, just about everything we did as a foursome.
But as a family of five? It is truly divide and conquer. Part of this is out of necessity: my wife should be home healing and not lugging grocery carts. But part is out of a quest for sanity: three kids, all of whom may cry for no reason at a moment’s notice, just doesn’t work for a quick morning drop-off or library book run.
The hardest part is that we’re always on. No matter what, one of us has at least one kid with us. There’s no downtime. Ever.
We’re beginning to find a rhythm as a family, and that rhythm relies on us dividing and conquering.
4. Nothing is fast
In #3, when I typed the phrase “quick morning drop-off,” I laughed (and cried) because nothing is fast anymore. I used to add ten minutes to every daily transition. Now it’s safe to add thirty minutes, sometimes even an hour.
To leave the house, a family of five needs to pack snacks, check the diaper bag, get shoes on, go potty, get buckled into car seats, unbuckle car seats, go potty again, find the sunscreen, feed the baby, change a diaper blowout, get buckled back in to seats, take out a stray bag of trash, make sure the dog pees, turn off a light in the car that one of you can’t reach, re-close the trunk, give one of you a toy on the floor, locate sunglasses, and eventually leave the garage.
Yeah, nothing is fast anymore.
5. I know why there aren’t as many photos of the third child…
I always thought that each subsequent kid had fewer photos because the parents weren’t as enthralled, weren’t as obsessed and doting. The third kid is old hat, just another mouth to feed and butt to wipe.
But that’s not it. We’re obsessed with our third as much as the other two. We love him so.
The reason he won’t have as many photos is because the other two kids take up so much time and space and energy. We just can’t block out time for photos because we’re too busy taking care of the other two, plain and simple.
So baby #3, don’t blame us for a lack of photos. Blame your siblings.
6. Your current baby (the new middle child) becomes a grown-up overnight
You’ll get home from the hospital after having held a baby for 48-72 hours. You’ll go to pick up your former-youngest-now-middle child and think, “You. Are. Huge. Wasn’t I just walking down the stairs with you on my hip without a care in the world? Weren’t you just a chubby little toddler when I left?”
That baby of yours who is now the middle one will suddenly feel like a solid kid, full of independence and strength. The change is instant and surprising. Get ready.
7. There’s so much laundry
There’s only five of us. We only added one tiny, little baby, and his clothes for a week are the size of one of my t-shirts. How is there so much laundry? I could do a load of laundry every day and still fall behind.
I really don’t know how there’s so much laundry to do. But I fully believe that the symbol that looks like a sideways figure-8 is the symbol for laundry.
8. The fuse is shorter
I’ll readily admit that my fuse isn’t too long to begin with. But with interrupted sleep, too many chores, and three needy kids, my fuse is even shorter.
I hope that my children don’t remember much of my short fuse. Being a young family of five is just tough sometimes. Kids can be irrational and unrelenting. On a normal day, I’m okay at managing the ups and downs. But with a new baby and living with sleep deprivation, I know I’m more irritable, quicker to snap.
I’m also more ready to apologize, especially to my kids. When I calm myself, I talk to them about emotions and dealing with frustration. As a new father of three, I’ve never been more aware of the need for mindfulness and emotional intelligence.
9. Our house is slowly eroding
Piles of mail, toys on the floor, unmade beds, dishes on the table, and a floor that hasn’t been mopped in a month. As much as it pains us, my wife and I have come to terms with a slowly eroding home.
We’re not messy people, we’re just tired. We get perhaps two waking hours each day without our kids. Most days, the last thing we want to do is clean.
Once a week we usually get energized for a bout of cleaning and organizing. But that’s it. So if you come over to visit, please excuse our mess. Or, even better, bring a mop and help!
10. The noise level doesn’t matter
Remember when you had your first kid and you’d flip out if the wind blew while she was asleep? Or how you’d cringe when you stepped on a squeaky floorboard two floors away from your napping angel?
With baby number three, you’ll scream at your kids while vacuuming during baby nap time. You’ll use the ice machine, do the dishes, and have a dance party to the Trolls soundtrack while baby sleeps in your arms.
Remember when you left a sign on the doorbell during nap-time that said, “We have a sleeping newborn. Please be quiet!” Now you’ll stomp and play pretend dinosaurs while on FaceTime with your partially-deaf great aunt all with the sleeping baby strapped to you in a carrier.
Noise is the new normal. Celebrate the cacophony. Love the loudness. Viva la volume.
I’m sure there are ten more things that I could tell you about going from two to three, but I’m too tired to remember them. And my kids need me.