05/10/2013 06:40 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

What I Know About Motherhood Now That I Have 3 Under 3

Lea Grover

I was pregnant at my twins' second birthday party. As I surveyed the mass of happy, squealing, running, and mess-producing toddlers that had invaded my home for the occasion, I suddenly realized what was about to happen to me.

I was about to have more babies than I had hands.

It was absolutely terrifying.

There's something remarkable about having three kids under 3-years-old. It doesn't last long, by its very nature, even with triplets, there's a three year maximum. But during that time you must learn to be omniscient. To manage nursing an infant and potty training simultaneously. To equitably create and enforce rules that can be understood by children who by all evidence have no connection whatsoever to logic or reality. You have to learn to improvise, to let things roll off your back, and to just let some other things go.

These are the things I've learned about motherhood now that I've been a mother of three under three.

You're not weird.
No matter what you're doing. YOU might think it's odd to be feeding a 2-month-old in a sling while you wipe a 28-month-old's butt, but it's perfectly normal to them. Whatever you do, it's what you do. Your kids, at least while they're little, have no basis for comparison. So wiping a 34-month-old kids' boogers with the size 3-6 month sock in your hand? No biggie. You're just being mom. It's pretty much what they expect, even if you feel like a lunatic while you're doing it.

This is going to change. Overnight, practically, one of your kids will suddenly decide that THEY are cooler than YOU, and the worst part is they might be right. And it's contagious -- one kid thinks you're old news and the others catch on and then it's like overnight you're the last kid picked for basketball. That still doesn't make you weird. It just means they've forgotten how to appreciate your ingenuity. They'll come back around.

Take care of your body.
The healthier you are, the more energy you have. And no matter how much energy you have, it is less than theirs. It will always, forever, and eternally be less. So take care of yourself. Stay healthy. Chasing after a 3-year-old who's decided to take her dress off in the middle of the park, while pushing a stroller and heaving forty pounds of kid in a fireman's carry takes some muscle. You want to be in practice enough not to sprain an ankle. Likewise, when it's time to turn up the music, kick off your shoes and dance your sillies out, you'll all have more fun if you can keep up for a while. I've heard it said that kids keep you young, I think keeping up with them has a lot to do with it.

This is also an excellent excuse to go get a massage. Like, now.

Your kids are capable of more than you think.
At first, they want to help with everything, and letting them "help" makes every task take ten times longer. But then, suddenly, you can actually delegate. You might not be able to get them to clean their own rooms, or even clean their own armpits, but you can count on them for more than you know. "Keep an eye on your brother," little things like that, they work. When you ask for something they know is important, when they see that you're trusting them and giving them a task that you actually care about, they treat it as though they care. Because they do care. They care about you, and they care that you believe in them. That's something they'll never outgrow.

Chores can wait.
Kids have short attention spans. Putting off dinner or laundry or what-have-you by 15 minutes to play a game of tag or hide and seek, or to read a book out loud, it doesn't really make a big difference most of the time. And letting them know that when it doesn't make that big of a difference you would like to play with them, that matters.

It's amazing how easy it is for adults to forget that, too. Which brings me to...

You're going to forget things.
No matter how important you know they are, you'll forget them. You'll forget that you promised to let them wear their favorite shirt to Grandma's house, or that they were supposed to have a play date. Or a doctor's appointment. But you'll forget more than that. You'll forget things like how unbearably soft the skin on their arms was when they were babies, or the smell of their hair on a sunny day at the beach, or that they used to sleep with their fingers wound into your hair. It's heartbreaking to imagine it, but you forget these things.

You forget them because as beautiful and important as they are, there are always more beautiful and important things coming to take their places. So while you don't remember how it felt to lay your cheek against theirs as you took their temperature, you do remember the look of pride in their eyes as they climbed to the top of the tallest tree at the playground, and the way their hand felt in yours as you waited with them for their SAT scores, and the tearful smile of your daughter as you helped her choose her wedding dress, and the familiar smile on your son's face as you held your grandchild for the first time.

The most important thing I have learned about motherhood is that there is always another amazing thing to take in. There is always more love, and more joy, and more gratitude to experience. And the human heart simply doesn't have the space to contain all of it.


For more posts in our What I Know About Motherhood series, click through the slideshow below.

What We Know About Motherhood Now