This photo used under Creative Commons license from Vicky TGAW.
A few weeks ago, the kids and I were driving out of our neighborhood on some errand when we saw a doe with her three…yes three…spotted fawns. They were standing in the grassy center of a round-about, grazing the way suburban deer do as they pass through neighborhoods, aware of the human presence, but perhaps so busy getting something to eat that they don’t pay it much attention. With her large blank eyes, the mother watched my car come around the bend and drive right past them, and they all continued on their way as we did ours.
If seeing one fawn is delightful, seeing three little ones with one mother–something I’ve never seen before–is astonishing. I read that it’s common for does to have triplets when the habitat is good. But three fawns, I thought, that’s a hell of a burden.
Of course, once my brain got past the sight of the three fawns, I remembered my collection of sweet little burdens in the cramped back seat of my Jetta. As of March, I have three children–an eight-year-old, a three-year-old, and a six-month-old. Obviously, if it takes me a minute to feel the familiarity in this mother doe’s situation, I can say that mother of three is a state I’m still getting used to. In my defense, I’ve only recently gained the third.
Anyways, whether I immediately recognize it or not, I have become that woman people see and feel bad for because she’s got her hands full. I know this because I was in the grocery store one day over the summer with the baby strapped to me in the front carrier, the three-year-old sitting in the driver’s seat of a shopping cart that’s souped up to look like a spaceship, and my eight-year-old tagging along behind me, navigating his own little world in which he’s fighting off some beast that occurs in some video game. This is how I roll all the time–me and my crew of three little people. We did our grocery shopping, existing in some loose sense of order the whole time, and made our way back out to the car with a cart-full of cereal, crackers, grapes, Danimals, and other kid-friendly foods. When I was loading everyone in, a woman pulled into the parking space across from mine, saw me, and said when she got out, “I have to tell you, you are so brave. I can barely handle coming to the store with my one kid and you have three. Can I help you?”
When I’m out with all three kids and people want to talk to me, I try to be polite but I don’t engage much. I can’t. I have three kids to keep track of. I’m sure this woman is one of the sweetest people on earth, asking someone who visibly has their hands full if they need help. But in the moment, I just smiled and said something like, “Oh, no thanks. I can do it. Thanks, though. And have a nice day.” Then I got all the kids and groceries in the car, double-checked that I had everything in and everyone buckled, and drove home.
Since having the baby last spring, I have been asked countless times by my friends and acquaintances: What’s it like having three? And I’m sure the answers I gave them depended on the level of chaos my life had reached on that given day. But this post will serve as my official, written answer.
Having three kids is not unlike having one. When I look at any one of their little faces, I feel the same swelling of loving energy within myself that, when I let myself experience it fully, overflows within me and moves me to tears. When they’re demanding my attention away from any of the tasks I must accomplish with a request for food, comfort, a different television show, a nonsensical question, a little-person concern, I feel challenged. And when they melt into tears or pee on something or break something or tell me they hate me (All kids do that, right? It’s not just mine?), I feel annoyed and nostalgic for the days when getting out of bed was an option, not a requirement for averting certain disaster.
The only real difference between being a mom of three versus a mom of one or two is that there are three of them–three times the love, three times the chaos, three times the mouths to feed, three times as hard. Every time you get one taken care of, there’s another one who needs something. It’s astonishing. And I love it, but I’m still getting the hang of it.
Are there any more-experienced-than-me-moms-of-three who can weigh in on this? How do you manage the chaos?