I’ve been a mother to three small ones for six weeks now. This week, I seem to have kind of hit a wall. I’m so, so tired, The adrenaline has worn off, and the energy is waning. But the part that is really most frustrating to me is how little I am able to get done right now. For a type-A mama, ending the day with just as many items on the to-do list as I started with is NOT a great feeling. I’d been advised by lots of well-meaning friends to just stop trying to get things done. But truly, my bar is so low right now and some things just need to be completed. Like the preschool application that has been sitting on the kitchen table for a month now. Or the intern evaluation that I was supposed to mail back before my maternity leave, that is still on the counter because I haven’t had time to buy a freaking stamp.
And let’s not even talk about my toenails and how those look.
It sort of feels like survival mode right now. That’s a little hard for me because I am someone who really likes to do things the right way. But with three kids this small, there is no right way. It is just managing chaos. Every man for himself. He (or she) who cries loudest, wins.
I am convinced that every baby book ever written, was written by someone with only one child. Advice like “sleep when the baby sleeps” or “put your child on a sleep-eat-play” schedule do not really apply when you have three running around. I would seriously love to see the advice book for parenting multiple small ones. It could have helpful tips like “how to pee while holding a baby” or “managing a toddler’s time-out while breastfeeding in a different room”.
I spend a good portion of my day strategizing how to be efficient and stay on top of things. I realize this is a little insane, because no amount of planning can make order of my life right now. But I’m always trying to figure out how I can outsmart these odds. Because dude, I am outnumbered.
I have said several times: I don’t get how stupid people do this.
I have come to the conclusion that until some of these kids mature a little bit, someone in this house is always going to lose. There is no possible way for all of us to have our way all of the time. In an ideal world, my day would include a shower and makeup application, three healthy meals, a good walk/run, time to check email/facebook/blogs, time to read, a quality conversation with a friend, a clean house, a couple cycles of laundry completed and a few errands run. Surprisingly, none of these things are on the priority list for my kids. Karis’s ideal day involves breastfeeding, sitting in my arms during a milk-coma, sitting in my arms while she sleeps, and sitting in my arms while we make googly faces at each other. Again, not exactly items Jafta or India are really thrilled about. Poor Karis just loves to be held, and her favorite activity is what I call the “afterglow” – that moment just after nursing where she cuddles down and sighs with contentment. But she rarely gets this moment because as soon as she is done eating I am usually ripping her off because we are late to pick up Jafta, or India needs a diaper change, or my assistance is required in breaking up a screaming match over who gets to play with the Lightning McQueen car.
The one time of the day when everyone is happy is our evening cuddle time. It’s my favorite part of the day (and not just because it means bedtime is next, but that helps). After the kids have their baths we all crawl into my bed and sing some songs, and say prayers with the kids. Mark and I used to “divide and conquer” and do this alone with each kid but once Karis came along, again, we were outnumbered and had to adjust. We decided to do it all together out of necessity but it turned out to be such a sweet family time. After all the chaos, it’s a nice reminder to me that it is all worth it. The kids are really enjoying loving on Karis and singing to her at the end of the day, and Karis seems to be enjoying it, too.
To elaborate the “you just can’t win” theory, here is the ending to my grocery cart dilemma. I did what most of you said you would do: I left the kids strapped and locked in the car while I crossed the street to get a cart. I’ve tried crossing the street with all three of them and it is a nightmare – India refuses to hold hands and if forced, often takes to laying down in the middle of the street. She is kind of a safety liability, and I am a wee bit sensitive to car stuff since Mark was actually hit by one. On this particular occasion, I was strategizing how to get into the store as safely as possible, so I intentionally parked as close as I could to the bigger cart, and rushed across the street and back to the car to fetch the kids. There was a woman standing nearby and she watched the entire thing. As I walked by her with all three kids in tow, she started screaming at me. She said she couldn’t believe I would leave three small kids in the car, started going off about how unsafe it was, called me lazy, and threatened to call the police.
The irony, of course, is that I though my choice was the safer choice. But when you have someone threatening to call the cops on your parenting, it certainly makes you question yourself. I would love to say that I handled this altercation maturely. Alas, I did not. I got extremely defensive, and a wee bit loud. As Mark would say, I “got a little Kissimmee” on her. (This is in reference to the loud, confrontational style of most folks who live in my hometown in Florida. Mark likes to make fun of me for that). I tried to explain myself, and when that didn’t work, I made fun of her for smoking and then mockingly suggested she be my parenting mentor since she looked like she had it all together (which she did not).
I am the pinnacle of self-control.
But the story doesn’t end there. I shopped for my groceries, and then unloaded them into my car. After the Great Confrontation, I was not about to leave my kids in the car again, so I just parked the cart right next to my car. And as I was getting in my car, an employee walked by, rolled his eyes at me, and huffily took the cart back o the front of the store.
Sometimes, you just can’t win.