THE BLOG
05/22/2015 10:40 am ET Updated May 22, 2016

6 Lessons I've Learned While Parenting 3 Young Kids

Rachel Garlinghouse

I have three kids ages 6, 4 and 2. This statement alone should make you, dear reader, tired.

There are plenty of articles, blog posts and mom conversations about the hardships of parenting multiple young children. For certain, the hardships resonate with me: the never-ending spewing of snot and puke; sleepless nights; potty-training and binky-weaning. My BFF is a grande latte. I live in yoga pants and sport a ponytail that rivals Kimmy Gibbler's. I'm a WAHM trying to balance editors' demands, kissing boo-boos, my chronic disease and occasionally, showering.

As difficult as day-to-day life with three young kids is, I've learned some important lessons:

1. I know what matters. When I was diagnosed with a chronic disease nine years ago, I hit rock bottom. I realized that without good health and the love of my family, nothing else would align or succeed. When my children were born, I became aware of how much they needed me to be happy, healthy and present. They depended on me to meet their physical and emotional needs and without prioritizing my health, I couldn't be the mom they needed. Since my diagnosis, I have grasped unwaveringly to what I know matters. Having a firm focus has helped me decide what to say "yes" or "no" to in life.

2. I say "no" often (and don't feel guilty). I simply do not have time (or the desire) to do everything that every person asks of me. With each additional child, I've found more and more pleasure (yes, pleasure) in saying "no" to the things that do not match up with my priorities. I have no desire to "do it all," because the moms I know who always say yes are depleted and miserable (and complain about being depleted and miserable!). I do not volunteer for every single class party. I don't join organizations or committees that I'm not passionate about. I can tell my children they cannot enroll in five after-school activities due to the time commitment and expense. For me, saying "no" is often far healthier than saying "yes."

3. I value my spouse. My husband and I were married five years before our first child arrived. Pre-kids, we slept in every Saturday morning, took long road trips across the United States and watched R-rated movies. Once our children arrived, every decision had to be made with their needs in mind, and our desires for sleep, sex and unhealthy snacks gradually moved toward the back burner. Now, we can't leave the house with any fewer than three bags full of food, toys, extra clothing and a case of wipes. We schedule our once-a-month date nights from 5:00-7:00 p.m. so we can be home to put the kids to bed. (I would never, ever ask a sitter to put my three children to bed. I need those sitters, desperately.) We are an imperfect team, but we are a team. My respect for my husband and my appreciation for our union is stronger than ever before.

4. I've lowered my expectations. Once upon a time, I was punctual, organized and driven (to the point of anxiety). I would easily become unglued if things didn't go according to my carefully-laid plans. Nothing shatters a Type A personality like having children. 90% of the time, nothing goes according to plan. When trying to leave the house, one of my three will inevitably throw a tantrum, decide it's an ideal opportunity to to poop or, on cue, start puking. We cancel 50% of playdates. All plans are tentative until we arrive (or not) at our destination. Lowering my expectations has saved me so much disappointment and frustration. Go with the flow, bend with the wind and just see what happens!

5. I find joy in simplicity. During the first years of wedded bliss, before we had kids, we dreamed of buying a house and going on exotic vacations. We worked hard to climb our individual career ladders. With each passing year, we accomplished our goals, but we weren't necessarily happier just because we were making more money and owning more "stuff." My kids, on the contrary, need very little to be happy. They find pleasure in going on a walk to find acorns, eating an occasional sprinkle donut, splashing in a puddle, flushing the toilet 20 times in a row or drawing a picture. A tickle, high-five or hug from me brings them immense pleasure. Watching my children blossom and being part of their daily relishing in the seemingly smallest of occurrences has re-introduced me to the beauty of simple pleasures.

6. I realize and respect my own strength. Like many first-time moms, I was overwhelmed with the choices and responsibilities that came with raising a small human into a healthy, responsible adult. There were so many decisions to make regarding diapers, schooling and much more. Which parenting style is best? What about discipline? How do I balance my marriage with child-rearing and working and managing my disease? As my years as a mom flew by and we added more children to our family, I realized how much I could endure: sick days, tantrums, dull seasons in marriage, career changes, buying a house and moving with young kids. I am stronger and more capable to overcome challenges than ever before.