Baby Thomas turned 11 weeks old this week, and in the past 11 weeks I’ve often wondered when life with three kids will feel “normal.” I keep waiting to get used to this new rhythm and pace of life, but I’ll be honest: things haven’t felt normal or manageable for a while.
Since Thomas was born, I constantly feel like I’m the kid running into class just as the bell rings. Then I slide my homework on the teacher’s desk just in time, and she looks at me over her glasses and says, “Oh, you did the work from page 57. The assignment was for page 68.”
Having a new baby has both slowed us down and sped us up. We’re slower because the baby needs to sleep or to be held, and everything stops when the baby needs to eat. But in the midst of that slowness there’s also more; there’s another child to consider and an extra set of needs to meet. I have to move faster, all day long.
All night long, too. Somehow three kids that don’t sleep is exponentially more than two.
Every day, every moment, is full of choices. There are immediate needs I have to take care of — the baby needs to eat, a bumped head that needs ice, a toddler walking straight toward my white couch with blackberry jam on her hands — and then there’s everything else. Once the immediate needs are taken care of, there are piles and lists and stacks of everything else, and each day feels like a giant choice. Should I let the baby fuss for a few minutes while I finish this load of laundry? Should I let that fight play out while I look for my coffee? Should I unload the dishwasher or draw with David? I know which is more important, but it all has to get done.
Suddenly I have a to-do list that includes things that were never there before because they just happened on their own, but now I have to carve time out for them:
- brush my teeth
- feed the cat
- say hello to Tom
I realize this is still all very new. Again, Thomas is only 11 weeks old. Not only is this new, but Thomas is in a unique, high-need, fleeting stage. And then there’s my high-need two-year old who, wakes up every morning and asks me for milk, a vitamin, a Twizzler, to read a book, to play Play-Doh, and to hold baby Thomas all without pausing to take a breath.
Every day we’re making our way and carving out a new normal for our family. I’m figuring out what normal means for our family, and I’m slowly realizing that the chaos that feels more manageable as I make peace with it. The laundry will never be completely done, there will always be more books to read to my children, and I will always be a lot behind on sleep; realistically, my house will only get dusted if I hire someone to do it. There is a lot to do and no matter how quickly I move it won’t all get done. Not in this season, anyway.
There’s a beauty to it all, though, isn’t there? In the exhausting rhythm of the days. There’s beauty in the time it takes to gather shoes before we go outside, the process of wiping sweet, sticky hands and mouths after meals, in the reminding, again, and again that we hold hands when we’re crossing the street. It’s wonderful because it’s not just mess and monotony it’s life. It would be easy to reduce my days to my to-do list, but if I did that I’d be missing the point. These long days so much more than something to get through; they’re my kids’ earliest memories. Everything is overdue and halfway done, but we are so very happy.
When people ask how we’re doing, I answer honestly. We’re doing really, really well. We’re tired, but we’re making it, one day at a time. I just don’t want anyone to think that when I say we’re doing well I’m implying that I’m caught up on even one part of life.
We’re doing well because I’m enjoying my kids and my husband is amazing. My house might be falling down around us, but our family structure is strong and God is good.
I’m annoyed by the mess but I love the chaos and wildness of having three children. When I look at my living room, there are books all over the floor, doll toys scattered in the corner and bits of snacks all over the carpet. But I see my three, beautiful, thriving children and I feel so blessed and rich it’s otherworldly.
Things are undone and we are deliriously tired. I’m always busy, and when I’m not, I should be. But that’s the way it is. There are five of us.
It’s messy, but it’s supposed to be this way. Because there are five of us, and life is so very full.