Being a mom of three kids under 5 is tough. Being a work-outside-the-home mom of three is no picnic. Being a work-at-home-mom of three is a struggle. Doing all three? Including keeping a clean house, managing friendships, and making time for my partner? Virtually impossible. Yet I juggle all of these things.
Do I “have it all?” If that means “do I have it all on my plate?”. . . the answer is a resounding YES! If that means “do I have it all under control?”. . . the answer probably is not so much.
I have three kids: Spiderman is 5, Ballerina is 3, and T-Rex turned 2 this month. My job is entirely computer-based, and I have the flexibility to both work at home and in the office (three days at home, two in the office). This is a great thing, most of the time.
I’m able to be with my kids almost all the time and childcare expenses are a little less (but they still exist). I get some time away, with just adults, at my job. Those office days are a bit of a break — I get time to focus on just one thing, work — and a bit of a challenge because the kids, especially my oldest, do not really like being away from me that much. My husband works at least two jobs, and therefore most of the housework falls on me, as does the cooking, almost anything involving the kids, and various errands and other miscellaneous tasks.
Juggling all this isn’t easy, but I’ve been doing it since my first was born, and believe it or not, it’s actually gotten easier as the kids have become more independent and able to play together. Along the way, I’ve learned a few things…
Even the Best Multitaskers Still Have to Prioritize
You would think kids come first all the time, but they don’t always. Sometimes my work must come first. Sometimes our marriage needs priority attention, or the housework. This is true for any mom, no matter what her job is — you have to prioritize the things that need attention. Laundry can wait. Dishes can wait. They can’t wait indefinitely; but feeding hungry children, or taking an important work call, or going on a much-needed date night . . . depending on the moment, those things take priority.
Compromise is Key
It’s important to realize you may not be the mom you thought you’d be. When I first had kids, I didn’t think they’d watch TV so much. In our house now, the TV is on ALL day. Do they sit like zombies in front of it for hours on end? No. At any given time there may be one kid paying half a mind to it, another playing in the fenced patio area, and another in one of the bedrooms playing. If I saw they were zoning out and not participating in other activities, I would definitely limit their screen time, but right now it isn’t a problem in our household.
Other compromises? Food. Ideally I’d love to cook breakfast and lunch, and make sure every meal is a healthy, made from scratch, as organic as we can afford, and an all around delightful event. This mama ain’t got time for that. Breakfast is frozen something, heated up in the microwave, and served with fruit. Lunch is often grilled cheese or chicken nuggets or leftovers. Dinner is the meal I expend a lot of effort on — and it’s often served later than I’d like. Good meals take time, after all . . . especially if you have three kids “helping” or screaming while you do it.
It Really Does Take a Village
Don’t be afraid to accept help. By the end of the week, I’m a bit frazzled, to say the least. My mother-in-law often takes the older two kids for one or two nights over the weekend, leaving me with just the youngest. This allows me time to run errands mostly kid-free, do some sort of uninterrupted cleaning, and sometimes, get a date night with my husband. At first, I did not like the idea of our kids spending so much time away from us, but I had to let go of that need to control everything and just let “what happens at Nana’s, stay at Nana’s.” It helps to focus on the fact that the kids love spending time there and she loves having them.
Determine What Works Best For You
I don’t pretend to have all the answers — too often I’ve let the housework ball drop because it is MY lowest-priority item, or weeks will go by and I realize the kids and I haven’t spent any time with friends. It happens. I’ve discovered if I want to go work out, I need to wake up earlier (meaning less sleep) and do it before the kids get up. When the oldest starts kindergarten this fall, I’ll have another ball to juggle. I’ll adjust.
I’m still finding the right balance, and I’d love to know what tips YOU have for managing this juggling act.
What’s your advice for keeping it all together? Share your tips in the comments.