I am often asked how I do it with three children under the age of four. And usually my answer to this question is some variation of “Who me?” I don’t really know how I do it. But I do do it because I have to, and because, really, there’s no alternative when you think about it.
I get asked a lot if I would recommend having children close in age. I can’t really answer this question because what may work for my family may not work for your family. However, I can always share what I feel are the five best and worst things about having children close in age.
Let’s start with the best things.
1. Your children will be like best friends. And this is a good thing. Because good friends play together, show each other how to use the potty and throw food on the floor. But I digress.
2. You will be done with diapers sooner. Sure, in the midst of the baby and toddler years, you’ll feel like you’ll never be done wipes and poo, but as time goes by and you watch your children pass through milestones one after another, it’ll happen.
3. You can remember more about what you did with each of your children. When you have a child every year like I did, what you did with each child–your arsenal of parenting tips and tricks–is very fresh in your memory. Now this isn’t to say that with each child you won’t need to adjust your arsenal, because you will. But remembering what may have worked and the feeling of sleepless nights after many sleepless night makes doing it again feel more intuitive and dare I say…easier. No, not easier. Forget I said that.
4. It is easier to stay in the moment. When you have more than one little one, more than one child running away from you, pulling knives out of the cabinets, and spilling milk on the floor, it’s like a shock to your system. Because your life will be so busy trying to stay on top of your life, you won’t have time to be as bogged down in things like guilt, anxiety, how to parenting manuals, and the allure of the pantry.
5. It’s kind of fun. Yes, having children close in age is stressful, but the experience becomes fun when you find your groove and learn to see the beauty in your very full life.
The worst things
1. Remember how I said that your children will become the best of friends? Well, at times, they will also be the worst of enemies. They will fight over everything, like who got ketchup on their hot dog first, who got more ketchup, whose hot dog bun is more perfectly shaped, and the size of their hot dogs.
2. You won’t have just one baby. So, in having two or more babies, your attention must be divided. Your hours will feel long. And your patience? Well, it will be tested, often. You will, with time, learn to make time for each of your children and remember to see them as individuals, who while close in age, are still at their own developmental “moments.” But this takes time and intention.
3. It’s really hard in the beginning and hard again. Things will get easier with time, but in the beginning with one or two toddlers and a newborn, your life will feel impossible at times. For me, the impossible phase happens when a new baby is born (up until week three) and with any shared illnesses. As a note, you will not feel this way forever, but in the beginning, or when everyone is sick, or in moments when your newborn is crying and toddlers running in opposite directions in Target, it will sure feel that way.
4. You won’t feel like you have much “me” time. In having children close in age, much of your “me” time must become “we” time. You will, with time and creativity, find time for yourself, but because your children will seem to need you all at the same time, it will be tough.
5. Your body will never get a break. I’ve had three kids in four years. Writing this out and reading it back, feels insane, like “whose crazy life is that?!?” My body does seem forgiving through all the stretching and de-stretching and pulling and all that that goes into a pregnancy and breastfeeding, but I think if my body could talk it would say “we need a break!”
Do you have children close in age? What are the best/worst things in your opinion?