Twelve weeks ago, our third child arrived and I am not coping.
There, I said it.
Friends and family keep asking how it’s going “now that you’ve got three” and the truth is, it’s tricky. The juggle is real.
The main thing I’ve learnt since having my third child is that it breaks the back on any pretense that I’ve got everything under control. Life is now undeniably chaotic and there is no hiding it!
It’s not the baby, Jesse, that’s the problem though. If anything, he’s my respite.
I almost get the opposite of PND when I have a baby – I fall into a ‘love bubble’ as I truly adore the newborn phase (sleep deprivation not withstanding). Anticipating his needs is simple: milk, sleep, cuddles, repeat. I enjoy sneaking of to my bedroom to settle him and cuddle and stare at his cute head for an hour, while I watch Real Housewives and ignore the rest of the world.
So when people ask how it’s going, I respond honestly – that the baby is wonderful. His requirements are so simple compared to his big sisters, aged almost-3 and 5, with their emotional and complex needs. Just sitting together on the couch to watch cartoons can devolve into a screaming match in a hot second, over something important like whose turn it is to have the yellow cushion.
Sarah's three children. Image supplied.
But, even that I can handle. It’s everything else I can’t cope with…
As in, everything else. How do you other mums do it? Who takes care of everything?
Things like getting quotes for home repairs (our roof recently got damaged in a storm), or organising to buy new car tyres?Or refilling the dog’s medication – then remembering to give the dog said medication every morning?
Booking in doctor’s appointments, or printing recent photos of the kids, or researching treatment for a much-needed root canal – which you’re dreading because although it’s necessary, it’s also the most evil appointment of all time (painful + expensive for the win!)
Or responding to emails from friends overseas, who have sent generous gifts for the baby? Or remembering to pack my preppy’s library bag on Mondays? Or finding 10 minutes of spare time to pay bills?
How do you get all of this stuff done?!
My husband is amazing and very hands on with our family, but he works full time and has about as much free time as I do.
Sarah and her family. Image supplied.
I feel like our days are full to the brim and I’m just covering the bare minimum: showering, preparing meals, doing laundry, herding cats looking after the kids. After an exhausting day of getting that essential life stuff done, I collapse into bed and barely make it through half an episode of The Walking Dead before I crash.
The next morning, after a night of stitched-together sleep in between tending to the baby every couple of hours, I’m up between 5 and 6am to do it all again.
I’m trying, in the midst of it, to enjoy time with my baby, rather than just giving him the bare minimum of affection and attention so I can put him down and get more stuff done. I’m so aware of how quickly they grow. There’s always more washing to do, more food to prepare, more emails to return, more bills to pay… it’s all unimportant in comparison to beautiful newborn smiles and koala cuddles, so I’m soaking in every moment with him.
But still… My daughter’s school uniform ain’t going to wash itself. Dinner isn’t going to magically appear. And my bills sure aren’t going to pay themselves!
Before baby no.3, I could muddle through the day and then begin shift two at night: you know, the two to fours hours you spend on the computer after the kids have gone to bed. That’s the only sliver of time remaining to get shit done, confirms Dr Libby Weaver, author of Rushing Woman’s Syndrome.
Sarah's three-year-old. Image supplied.
She believes that modern women live a perpetually busy, frantic and stressed life, due to a combo of reasons, including diet, people-pleasing tendencies, perfectionism and juggling family life and work life. She goes on to state that the constant stress response we live in is like being in fight or flight mode, which is so very bad for our health.
“There’s this frantic double life where you work day and night with very little rest,” she says.
“We’re very capable, we can completely match it in the office but our bodies have never done this juggling act before.”
Oh, how that resonates for me. And I’m not complaining, so I apologise if this comes across like I am. I love my kids and all the chaos and craziness that goes with having three kids aged 5 and under. We wanted a big family and we’ve got it!
But again, I ask you mums: how do you stay on top of everything in your life while raising kids, without sacrificing all of your sleep, and while maintaining your marriage?!
My best friend’s advice was on point: “Hire a cleaner for the next 6 weeks and just take that as expenditure that needs to be done. You have 3 kids! Take the pressure off as much as you can! So to summarise – throw money at the situation. You are WELCOME!”
Point taken: We’re in the process of hiring a cleaner. Other than that, though, I’m all ears for any and every tip you want to share. Without it, I fear I will forever be one of those duck-ladies: calm on the surface, but frantically paddling underneath to avoid drowning in a sea of life admin that Just. Never. Ends.
WATCH: The funny fails of sleep deprived mums.