There’s a TON of content out there for first-time moms and even for moms looking for insight into life with two kids but as the number of children in a family increase, the content out there for moms with more kids seems to decrease. (Maybe it’s because we’re all just exhausted and have no time? Haha!) I always enjoy answering your questions about motherhood and when I put up a Q&A box on Instagram Stories asking if you had any follow up questions you’d like addressed now that we’re approaching 1.5 years into life with three, I received way more questions than I anticipated! Many of them were repeats and I figured I’d address the most common questions on the blog. My initial plan was to share one follow up post, but as you’ll see below, I got a liiiittle wordy, so I’m going to break this one up into a couple of posts for the sake of not completely overwhelming you guys!
Today’s post focuses on questions related to time management, schedules and sibling dynamics. In an upcoming post, I’ll address questions related to marriage, motherhood/me time, fitness, work and knowing when you’re “done” having kids. Let’s do this!
Life with Three Kids: 1.5 Years In
Time Management / Schedules
- Can you share your bedtime routine with all three? During nights when Ryan is there to help and also during nights when you do bedtime alone?
For the exhausted parents of three kiddos out there who have a baby in the mix, this is one area I am happy to share we have seen get dramatically easier over time. We’re in a set routine and nighttime is relatively smooth most evenings. Most nights our bedtime routine is a divide-and-conquer routine where Ryan is in charge of the big kids and I put Rhett to bed. Since I am still nursing, this make the most sense for us.
After bath for all the boys, Rhett and I usually hang out in the big kids’ room with the rest of the gang while Ryan reads stories to the boys and then Rhett and I say goodnight and I leave the room to then brush Rhett’s teeth, breastfeed him and put him to bed while Ryan reads another story to Chase and Ryder and oversees teeth brushing, prayers, tucking in, etc. I will usually then pop back in to say a final good night to the big kids before bed time is all done.
On the evenings when I am solo, I try to start the whole bedtime routine earlier. This means early dinner, early bath, etc. I also always put Rhett to bed first when Ryan is not home. Rhett usually goes to bed around 7 p.m., but if I’m in charge of bedtime alone, I will try to get him down closer to 6:30 p.m. so I can turn my attention to the big kids and get everyone tucked in at a reasonable hour. While I’m nursing Rhett, I tell the big kids they have to stay in their room and can pick out the books they want me to read when I’m done. Sometimes things are crazy and the big kids get to stay up at little later than usual but for the most part I mean business at bed time and keep everyone trucking along toward a reasonable bedtime.
- Can you share your morning routine? What do school drop offs look like?
I set my alarm for 5 a.m. most mornings and use 5-7 a.m. to work. Sometimes, if I don’t feel like I’m behind on work, I’ll sleep in until closer to 6 a.m. and then squeeze in a quick workout before the boys are up.
Rhett still nurses in the morning sometime between 4 and 6 a.m. and then will typically go back to sleep until 7 a.m. The big kids usually wake up between 6:30 and 7 a.m. They know they have to get themselves dressed and brush their teeth before they can come out of their room. Chase and Ryder truly seem to love their morning time together in their room and, more often than not, I have to go into their room around 7:20 a.m. to get them to come downstairs for breakfast.
While the kids eat breakfast, I make the big kids’ lunches for the day and then we’re out the door at 7:45 a.m. for Chase’s school drop off. After Chase’s drop off, we have an awkward hour to kill before Ryder’s preschool drop off and usually fill this time with a stop at a local park, returning books at the library, a quick trip to the grocery store, etc. Then, after Ryder is settled at school, Rhett and I head home or meet a friend for a play date and hang out and play until his nap time. Rhett is often very content to play with toys around me before his nap, so if we’re home I’ll often us this “happy awake” time to prep dinner. Then, when Rhett goes down for his nap, I do as much work for this blog as possible.
This is how our mornings go most mornings but there are exceptions! When Ryan doesn’t have a 7:30 a.m. start to his day, he will take Chase to school and this usually happens once a week. The other exception is when Annemarie watches Rhett in the morning while the big kids are at school. On these mornings, I’ll head back home with Rhett and Ryder after Chase’s drop off and then leave Rhett with Annemarie before taking Ryder to school myself and heading to a coffee shop to work.
- How do you manage various needs/interests when you’re all together on the weekends?
Weekends are our favorite and we really prioritize family time and being together as much as possible. I have a semi-crazy rule where I refuse to sign the boys up for sports or activities that take place on the weekends right now because they are so precious to us and I know that eventually our weekends will likely be taken over by their friends, outside activities, etc. I’m sure this isn’t something we’ll stick to long-term, but for now we love having a clean slate every weekend.
As I’m sure you can tell from my weekend recaps, we often do something as a whole family in the mornings before Rhett’s morning nap. Then, during Rhett’s nap time, Ryan will often take the big kids on some kind of an adventure (like fishing!) or will entertain them at home doing something that wouldn’t work as well with a 16-month-old in the mix. This gives me some much-needed time to work while Rhett naps and is crucial to me keeping this blog afloat.
Afternoons are often spent closer to home or out and about if we have plans (or if we had a more low-key morning). Thankfully all of our boys share similar interests and seem to enjoy the things Ryan and I enjoy as well so many of our weekend activities center around being outside in some capacity. If you get our boys outside and in nature, they’re happy!
- At what point did you feel like you had a good rhythm with three kiddos?
In my experience with my babies, life always seemed to get noticeably easier and more predictable around 9 months postpartum. This tends to be when I’ve seen my babies fall into a more predictable nap time pattern and when I’ve seen better nighttime sleep emerge. (Note: This does NOT necessarily mean this is when my kids have slept through the night because that was definitely not the case with all of them. Gotta love babies who love to party at night.)
As far as establishing a rhythm with three kids, this ebbs and flows. 2020 + Quarantine meant things were absolutely bananas for a while there since it felt like school was very unpredictable for the older two and that often made any routine we had feel shaky. Outlets that usually gave us some routine/schedule in the past (like boot camp, MyGym, kid sports, etc.) were out and that also contributed to things feeling so up in the air. (For what it’s worth, school still feels unpredictable but at least our kids are there for the most part and it’s somewhat predictably unpredictable.)
Fast forward to 2022 and I feel like we’ve found a groove since Chase is in kindergarten and Ryder is in preschool for four hours Monday through Thursday. Various school pick-up times makes having a real routine challenging with Rhett’s nap so in some ways life still feels all over the place but the more I’ve leaned into embracing this normal kind of chaos, the more relaxed I’ve felt as a mom. I say all this to say that I feel like we’re in a rhythm now but it’s a VERY, very flexible rhythm.
- How do you handle varying nap times? What about school pick-ups?
This is so tricky. I wish I had better advice for this but it can be a struggle. Rhett (16 months) takes one nap every day and NEEDS it. His nap is a non-negotiable but when his nap happens is up in the air. Ryan is still working from home several days a week right now and the major silver lining to this is that when he’s home, I can sometimes rely on him to be on baby monitor duty while Rhett sleeps and I head out to pick up Ryder from preschool. In an ideal world, Rhett’s perfect naptime cruises right through Ryder’s school pick up. When no one can be home with Rhett while he sleeps, I try hard to get him down for his first nap earlier than usual so he’ll be up before Ryder’s pick-up but 9 times out of 10 I have to wake him up.
As for Ryder’s naps, he doesn’t nap every day anymore. (He’s 3.5 years old.) He still definitely needs a nap here and there (1 to 3 times a week) and I plan his nap days around Ryan. If I know Ryan will be home and can be on baby monitor duty, Ryder will go into his room about 30 minutes after preschool for nap time/quiet time and stay there through Chase’s school pick-up. He’ll often nap once or twice during the week and one time on the weekend if our weekend plans don’t overlap with his nap time.
Brothers / Sibling Relationships
- Were Chase and Ryder excited about another baby when you told them you were pregnant?
Chase was definitely excited! He flat-out asked me if there was a baby in my belly at 15 weeks since I was showing already which blew up our plans to wait to tell the boys until I was farther along in my pregnancy! (More details for how we told the boys may be found in this post: Baby #3: All the Details (So Far).) Chase was was four years old when we told him I was pregnant so he understood the whole baby thing a lot more than Ryder did at almost two years old. Ryder mostly just said “baby” over and over and then was just bored of baby talk. When we brought Rhett home from the hospital both boys were so sweet and anxious to meet him! Since we waited to find out the sex, they loved the surprise of finding out they had a baby brother and I think Chase’s genuine excitement really rubbed off on Ryder and helped him understand that the new baby was a big deal and something really special.
- How do they all interact? Are any two closer than others?
Now that Rhett is getting a little older, there are some aspects of sibling interactions that are harder and some that are easier. To be completely honest, brother interactions feel harder now than they did when Rhett was an infant. A three-year-old’s intense emotions and a 16-month-old’s lack of understanding about sharing, knocking down towers, etc. can be a pretty powerful mix.
In the same breath, we feel very, very fortunate that our boys genuinely love each other and seem content to play together all day long. Because of their ages, Chase and Ryder naturally gravitate toward each other and look to each other for entertainment more than they do their littlest brother. The big kids are definitely BFFs right now and this is such a blessing since a 16-month-old is into everything and definitely requires a lot of attention. (It’s also worth noting that no one would every use the words “chill baby” to describe Rhett. Ha!)
For the sake of total honesty, there are times Chase and Ryder really don’t want Rhett near them. This is truly only because Rhett wants to do exactly what they’re doing and will try to take the toys they’re playing with and often destroy their games or the things they work to build together just because he’s still too young to understand what he’s doing. The big kids have learned that when Rhett is awake, if they’re playing with something they don’t want him to touch or knock down, they need to do it on a higher table and this has helped a lot.
One thing that has recently emerged that makes the whole sibling dynamic feel a little easier is the fact that Chase and Ryder love “private brother time” with their baby brother. They will often ask me to leave them alone with Rhett so they can “watch him” and I leave the baby monitor on Rhett while the big kids entertain him and it’s just the sweetest thing… until it’s not. Then Mom goes in!
Age seems to play a big factor in their relationships right now because Chase, at six, is much more capable of playing with Rhett safely and understanding what he likes, doesn’t like and what will make him laugh. (Chase proudly says, “No one makes Rhett laugh harder than me,” and that’s very true!)
The Ryder/Rhett relationship is admittedly our most challenging dynamic right now and I know full well that this is because of their ages. Every single day I find myself intervening in a battle between these two in some capacity, whether it be removing Rhett from Ryder’s space because he’s grabbing at the toys Ryder is playing with or correcting Ryder’s behavior when he acts a little too aggressively toward his brother because Rhett wants what Ryder has at the moment. Rhett doesn’t understand that he can’t grab the toys Ryder is playing with and Ryder doesn’t understand that Rhett isn’t grabbing his toys to be mean. It’s exhausting and intense but I know it’s just a phase and I sometimes have to remind myself of this fact 5,000 times a day.
The older Rhett gets, the more obvious it becomes that he wants to be able to do everything his big brothers do and doesn’t want to be left out of their fun. He follows them all over the place and the big kids are slowly learning ways to incorporate Rhett into their fun which is so wonderful to see. I fully believe it’s only a matter of time before these three become inseparable like Chase and Ryder are right now.
- Can you share more about transitioning Chase and Ryder into the same room? Did you move them together because Rhett needed his own room?
We planned to have Chase and Ryder share a room soon after we found out I was pregnant again. We knew the baby would need to have their own space and kept Chase and Ryder separate until we were ready to transition Rhett out of our room and into his own nursery. (Ryder was 2.5 years old and Chase was 5.5 years old.) We hyped up room-sharing big time to the big kids and honestly they were psyched about the idea from the moment we mentioned it. They looked at sharing a room as one big brother sleepover (we did a few “sleepovers” at home leading up to the real room transition which they LOVED) and knowing they’d be getting bunk beds only added to their excitement.
As for the transition itself, it was pretty seamless. For a week or so, they stayed up later than usual talking/singing/laughing and woke up ridiculously early together (we’re talking 5 a.m.!) but eventually the novelty wore off and more normal sleep habits resumed. The only real downside to room-sharing right now is the fact that they seem to wake up earlier than they otherwise would since they’re together and aren’t as likely to ease into the day. Sharing a space also makes it harder for Chase to have solo quiet time like he used to since Ryder is in their room for his quiet time (and “quiet time” together defeats the purpose) but he doesn’t seem to need it quite as much and is also fairly content to entertain himself quietly downstairs if he needs some downtime.
- How do you not get caught up in ALL the feelings all the kids have? It’s so exhausting.
It IS exhausting. So exhausting. And why does it seem like all the kids have ALL the feelings at the exact same time!? This is one of my biggest challenges as a mother of three. When everyone is upset or melting down simultaneously, attending to all three kids at the same time is impossible. Addressing each of them the exact way I want to is impossible. I just try hard to breathe and respond with as much patience as I can muster in the moment.
I’m going to share what I wrote in my first post about the transition from two to three kids because this struggle still rings true for me:
When everyone is screaming and crying and I’m the only one able to help, soothe, comfort and love on them, I feel my heart race and sometimes want to just begin crying myself. I also struggle with occasionally feeling like I’m not able to discipline exactly the way I want to in the moment when brother battles escalate and I’m already in the middle of helping one of the kids. I am all about communicating and talking about feelings and consequences and taking Chase or Ryder aside to discipline from a place of learning and when I feel like all I can do is yell out, “Stop!” or “Don’t do that!” it doesn’t feel like I’m parenting from my heart and my best place which can be very defeating.
- How do you keep the older kids occupied when the 16-month-old age is so demanding?
Honestly, this is one of the blessings about having multiple children. Our older two are truly best friends and entertain themselves so well. While sibling dynamics can be one of the most frustrating and intense aspect of parenting three kids, the fact that the boys have each other as playmates is one of the very best parts of having multiple children. We’ve been pretty into fostering independent play and self-entertainment from when the kids were very young and fortunately Chase and Ryder don’t seem to struggle with finding ways to entertain themselves. They have some crazy-active imaginations!
- Was 2 to 3 harder than 1 to 2?
Please see this post for my response to this question! It’s the first question in the post and one that still pops up frequently.
- Do your kids ever fight?
Yep! They’re good kids and best friends but know exactly how to push each other’s buttons.