Soon after I gave birth to my third child, one of my friends, who had just had her first, asked how I managed with three. Adjusting to one was hard enough was her declaration; she couldn’t imagine having more than one to think about.
I told her two seemed easy when three came along, and one seemed easy after two – but “easy” must be taken into context because there are challenges and difficulties that exist within each adjustment – and nothing in motherhood is easy - except love.
With one, you learn how to relinquish eight-hour blocks of sleep and how to complete all of your daily tasks holding a baby in one arm. You learn how to be a parent and to adjust to the responsibilities – not only the caretaking, but the responsibility to love, to worry, to teach, and to provide for this separate piece of you. You learn about living a life that doesn’t fully belong to you anymore. You are it – you are playmate, you are on all the time, you are the center of the universe.
When two comes along (and my two are close together), you learn how to keep number one quiet so you can rock number two to sleep. Or, even more importantly, you acquire patience to keep it together when you are unable to keep number one quiet. You learn to balance time – occupying the first child, for example, while feeding the second and still providing adequate supervision for the older one. You plan schedules around two nap times which often means that at least one child is napping at any given hour of the day. You might find yourself staying home more often.
When the third child comes along, you simply learn to exist with no rhythm and all chaos. You have to let go of all the controls you created while managing a life with two. You learn to go with the flow and live in the present (and a daily calendar to remind you of all your present moments will do a mom some good). But, you’re at ease about being a parent. You know what to expect even if the differing personalities continue to strike you on a daily basis. The chaos is a rhythm embraced; it’s organized and can be managed. You have it down – you’re just always moving and doing something. The non-stop action of one child is magnified. It’s like playing pinball with three balls going at once. They don’t care if you’re busy attending to another ball – they need your attention – NOW.
One or two, four or five – every parent has a most difficult and critical task before them. In the midst of teaching, being a good role model, encouraging and inspiring our children - our children have been employed to push our buttons, challenge us beyond anything we’ve ever been accustomed to before, and make us question every move, every choice, every action, and every belief we’ve ever had.
Not too long after our conversation, my friend emailed me again – what did I think four would be like? “I think four children”, I answered her then, “would put me in the insane asylum… but, lately, I’ve wanted a place of my own”.*
* Author’s night: I do have four children, and I’m happy to say I haven’t been locked up – yet.