You might as well say "party of 20." Or better yet, just give us a party room, preferably outside where the birds will eat our mess and where screams won't echo off the rafters. We are like a circus in constant motion and I feel like a ringmaster most of my minutes. Clean up the mess we just made (meal time), get ready for the next act (craft/creative play), prep all costumes for performances (laundry), and make sure the
animals children are not mauling each other. Now, where did I put my whip...
Seriously though. I'm talking to my mama friends who have three kids. And I'm talking to my mama friends who have friends who have three kids. And I'm talking to the wide-eyed observers who stare at families with three kids as we shop at Wal-Mart or take up a whole bench at church. We know we have a big family. We know how babies are made. And we are not stupid. We might be tired, stretched thin, in need of a date with our husbands, and staring at a mountain of laundry but we are not stupid. Or regretful. Let me explain by sharing some secrets of the trade:
Something inside our dreamy hearts can see ourselves in 20 or 30 years and it makes us really happy to know we'll have a big family. *This* is what drives us - not the need for constant confusion, chaos, or chatter. We know that one day we'll pack up the diaper pail, trade in the minivan, and Craigslist the double stroller. It's the vibrant crazy of having grown-up kids that motivates us to stop buying condoms. We'll sit at movie premieres of PG-13 movies with our slew of teenagers, relieved that we don't have to learn the name of another Disney princess. We dream of a thirty-foot-long dining room table to accommodate all our kids and their girlfriends & boyfriends...then one day their spouses and children will have a seat there, too. We are gonna rock the grandparent thing because anything and everything is easier than being a mom to three kids. It's our dreams & visions for the future that pull us out of the mundane and remind us that we are building a legacy. A very big legacy.
We're also guaranteeing ourselves the biggest amount of stress. I caught a few minutes of a segment on The Today Show that shared some not-so-surprising information:
"Mothers of three children stress more than moms of one or two, while mothers of four or more children actually report lower stress levels."
My first response is "Duh." but quickly followed by "Here's why & give me grace."
1. It's hard for us to ask for childcare. Three kids is a lot for a doting mother to handle and we know what it takes to be in charge of our kids for a couple of hours. Even when people offer to help, we hate the idea of being a burden to anyone. So we grocery shop with our kids and we make returns with our kids. And we unload all three to go into Hobby Lobby for one frame that is 50% off this week. We're having a hot flash by the time we're in checkout and contemplate leaving the kids in the car with the windows rolled down so we can run into Ulta to buy mascara.
2. Our every hour is broken into 10-minute increments so our day feels loooooong. If each of my three kids only "needs me" twice an hour, that's six times an hour - every ten minutes - that I'm responding to basic needs. Sippy cup refill. Diaper change. Snack time. "I need help buttoning my jeans." "He stole my toy." "What does this word say?" "Can we watch a show?" It's basically non-stop and nobody's fault. Just so y'all know, my kids need me a lot more than just twice an hour & it's usually at the same moment. Do the math. Getting dinner on the table is a bona fide miracle.
3. We've seen most of the worst sh** when it comes to parenting. By the third kid, you've probably had at least one unexpectedly hard labor & delivery, one bad sleeper, one strong-willed hellion, a picky eater, a screamer, a bully, one kid with rage problems while another has a sensory disorder, an early talker & a late talker, and definitely a kid that is hard(er) to love than your others. We have loads of compassion for other moms, new moms, and struggling moms. We don't have all the answers but we are so willing to listen and cry with you. In some ways, we probably make the best of friends so don't be scared of us and don't be afraid to crawl inside our lives: there's always room for more.
4. We crave conversations with girlfriends. We used to meet for playtime at Chick-Fil-A, eventually moved to parks, and finally just gave up. You should see when just two of us moms get together with our six kids. We stopped trying to talk and just started drinking margaritas at 2 o'clock in the afternoon. Don't worry, our kids are safe in the backyard with the door locked and ice pops in hand. We'll tend to them in 5, 4, 3...
My BFF left my house a couple weeks ago (right after remembering the pack of Straw-ber-Ritas she'd brought) and I texted her to tell her how much I love our crazy lives and crazy times together. I keep telling myself that some day, we'll meet for brunch wearing white pants and carrying purses that don't have diapers & wipes, and we'll complain about our wrinkles and 401(k). We'll reminisce the days when even a minivan seemed too small, no washing machine was big enough, and no amount of coffee (or wine) could get us through the day. But we'll also be sharing stories of choosing colleges, engagement rings, and bragging about our first (of probably twenty) grandchildren. I'll drink to that.