Desperate For Balance

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I am a mother of three children.

I am a mother of three children, and I spend my days changing diapers, kissing boo-boos, and giving hugs.

My job of raising these beautiful children bring me joy. And sometimes, it breaks my heart.

My oldest is 6, my middle child is 4, and my youngest is 12 months. My oldest is in her first year of homeschooling, and I have yet to figure out a good way to balance my time between all three.

It’s very easy to spend time with my oldest, since we spent a lot of time studying together. And my youngest, well he’s just a baby (at least to me), so we connect with nursing and cuddling and co-sleeping.

But my poor four year old. It’s hard to find time to spend one-on-one with her.

The other day she asked me for some crayons and paper, and even though I had tons of stuff to do I sat down and doodled with her. She immediately hugged me, thanked me with all her heart for coloring with her, and as I looked into her sweet face I saw that she had tears in her eyes.

That’s when it hit me: My daughter is so thankful for one-on-one time with her mother that it brings her to tears.

Talk about feeling like the world’s crappiest mother.

I need to find more balance. I need to find more ways to connect with my sweet, thankful daughter.

I need help.

For those with more than two kids, how do you keep your balance?

I am a mother of three, I spend all my days kissing boo-boos and changing diapers…and I desperately need to know.

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Author: shelly

Shelly is a mother of two and a birth and postpartum doula. When not blogging, she homeschools her children and is involved with her local La Leche League chapter. You can find her daily here:

11 thoughts on “Desperate For Balance”

  1. Oh I feel for you!!! I have the same situation. My three kids are similar ages and my oldest just started HS’ing too! There’s no perfect answer for balancing it. It’s tough for sure. I struggle with it a lot too.
    What’s working best for us is that I keep the hs’ing very flexible and unschooly and involve the middle child whenever possible. We don’t have a ton of study times, we keep it really light. A lot of the best “study time” comes at bed time when I play spelling and math games with my oldest as she is winding down in her bed and we talk about other topics we’re covering.
    I also occasionally sign my oldest up for a class or something she’s interested in and during that time I can spend more time with my littler ones too.
    Also, I’ve started having granparents watch the other two kids for an hour or so and we take turns having “mommy days” which has gone great. I love those days as much as they do I think!
    But even still, I wish I could do it more often and I had more of me to give. It’s so hard sometimes.

  2. Well I haven’t been falling API long enough to know you…but if you have a husband…when he returns home set aside one night a week for girls night. You and your girl can go out hiking or to a movie or shopping…or whatever she enjoys doing with you.

  3. While the youngest is sleeping or in the baby carrier, explain to the 6 year old that he/she is going to read/watch a movie/play with toys alone for a while so that you can play with the 4 year old. Set a timer so that the 6 year old can watch the time moving and see when it will come to an end. Then let the 6 year old know that he/she will get a turn tomorrow. You can also enlist the help of another adult with similar age children to take one or the other kid out on an adventure or to stay home with one while you go out with the other.

  4. I do a “date night” with each of my kids every week (and my husband does as well) Date night came from explaining to the kids that their dad and I needed to spend time together to help us be happy and connect. They began asking for their own “date night.” So, I figure out how to schedule things so that I run and errand or do something fun with just one child along. I focus on them while we’re out and really connect. It can be a short time or a long time, the point is to feel connected. Whenever I feel that one of them is acting disconnected, my husband or I will spend some one on one time doing a task or going somewhere with that child, too.

    And when I have all three, I do my best to really key in and be fully present. It’s difficult, but I strive for it.

    Finally, I let go of my guilt as best I can. Every time I feel guilt rearing up, I use it as a cue to give some over the top affection: kisses, hugs, tickles, and giggles.

  5. Well I’ve only got2 girls, a 4 year old and a 17 month old, and thats hard enough to balence. Is there something you do everyday that you could share with your 4 year old, like cooking dinner, or lunch, or having a shower?
    What does she do while your doing schooling with your oldest daughter, can you find a way to include her in that? At 4 she could be doing her letters and numbers, find some pictures from online on the same subject as her sister’sdoing so she really feels involved.
    As long as your aware of the problem, or potetial problem, then you can do something about it.

  6. Bless your heart. I appreciate your honesty. Be proud of the self-awareness that allows you to seek a change! I think a schedule that the kids don’t know about, bit that keeps time in place for both older ones might help. Also, the four yr old could do some home-schooling alongside you and oldest. Have her pick some work books at a learning store or puzzles. Mostly I just wanted to offer some mama love.

  7. Shelly, I have been where you are- parenting 3 children and feeling as if there was not enough of me to go around. Young children can be demanding, however, often it’s our own beliefs about what it takes to be a good mother and our comparing ourselves to others and those beliefs that causes so much pain. You’re making your daughter’s tears of joy to be spending time with you mean something they might not. Connection is always good, and I applaud you for seeking more connection with your child. Balance? It’s not a concept I’ve found very helpful and was thankful when a dear friend suggested a different concept. Balance means you’re in a constant state of trying to prevent falling- it’s exhausting, it takes effort and concentration and vigilance. What I’ve learned to look for is flow, and to identify where my thoughts block the flow of connected joyful living, and simply question them. Some of what you’re experiencing is a natural result of having 3 young children- but it is possible to experience 3 children as either competition for resources (you) or a team that ultimately wants everyone to have connection and support and love. When I made that shift, it made all the difference for me. And my children.

  8. I am in a similar but slightly different situation-we have a 4 year old daughter and 9 month old twin boys. The boys are demand fed and even managing to share myself between the 2 of them is a challenge. Our poor daughter is very mature and we seem to take advantage of this by expecting her to sit quietly alone while we put babies to bed etc. I mean to then use their sleep time to connect with her but because they sleep so little I am also pushed to catch up on errands etc and the time just gets away. We usually realise that she has been coming far to short when she starts playing up and seeking attention in that way. Does anyone have a similar family set-up? We are hoping to home school but at this stage I feel llike I’m completely not even managing this properly.

    1. Aimee,
      First , be gentle with yourself. Keep in mind that this is a short period of intense mothering in the whole picture of your parenthood. Then, get some help. Can you afford the extra $5.oo for Peapod grocery delivery? Have you heard of Simplicity Parenting? Great book, but you might not have time to read it right now. The basic idea is to keep life as simple as possible -even down to the “things” that you believe you need, the obligations you feel you must meet,etc. Is there a teen who needs volunteer hours who might be able to help with chores? It takes a little creativity, but gettin some assistance to free your hands and time so that you can meet the needs of your older child will pay off in the long run.

  9. Oh , Lesley, I like the idea of flow and just being aware that your thoughts are blocking the flow of joyful living. I do find myself thinking that the chldren are competing for my resources adn I can see how negative that might be.
    Shelly, date nights away from home didn’t really work for me when my oldest five were little. What did really help was piling on the couch for read-alouds and trying to find games that the four-yr old could play with me and the six yr old – Candy Land, Sequence, memory games,etc.
    the best thing you can do is stop, breathe, and brainstorm which things you value most adn then figure out what your resources are that can make it happen. Is there a teen who can help with the other kids while you give the 4 yr old mommy time? How can daddy help? Is there really a deficit felt by the four yr old, or it is your own perception? Were you a middle child? Just wondering if that might have something to do with it? With many children (6 here) I have had to learn to take the moments as they come and schedule a few as well…..We make a plan , and then we flex as life changes!

  10. Oh my WORD I feel the exact same way.

    My husband is away for several months for work, we have a 6.5 yo a 3.5yo and a newborn baby (born after Daddy left for long work)…things are crazy and it’s a rare night that I don’t go to bed worrying about how I’ve shortchanged one of the older two girls. We have a couple of neighborhood teenagers rotating mother’s helper duties this summer (thank goodness!!!!) and I love the idea of the timer for one while the other gets 1on1 time.

    Just glad to know I’m not alone!

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