The 10 biggest lessons I've learned from having 3 kids

Life is louder, busier and messier, but despite that, I am somehow calmer and more confident.

The 10 biggest lessons I've learned from having 3 kids

I remember so vividly the moment I found out I was pregnant with my daughter, my first child. I spent hours daydreaming about what this whole new world was going to be like, researched everything, planned everything (or at least, I tried to), and set out to be the absolute most ideal mother I could be.

Then I had another kid. And in an unexpected plot twist, another one after that.

And now motherhood looks pretty different than it did when I first started.

I have evolved as a mom so much—partly out of necessity, partly out of desire. When I reflect on "new mom" me, I am so grateful for everything that she did and learned. But I'll be honest; I think I prefer "seasoned mom of three" me more.


Life is louder, busier and messier, but despite that, I am somehow calmer and more confident.

I do not have it figured out by any stretch of the imagination, but there are some big lessons I've learned along the way.

Here are 10 things I did with my first kid that I definitely don't do with my third:

1. Trust Google more than myself

When my daughter was born, I Googled ev-er-y-thing. Everything. All the time. Every day. Google.

I really appreciate what I found: articles, studies and expertise put out into the ether to help me be the best parent I could be. But it got overwhelming, and it began to fuel some anxiety. For every study I read that proclaimed one finding, there was another study that stated the exact opposite. I found mountains of articles that said THIS is THE way to fix [fill in the blank] problem—each with a very different solution.

While reading varying ideas and opinions can be helpful, it made me start to lose touch with my own maternal knowing. My head was filled with so much noise that I couldn't pay attention to the one voice I needed to hear—my own.

So, I stopped. Now when something (non-emergent) is going on with my kids, I check in with myself first. I spend time just thinking about what's going on. Then, I take the questions that come up to the internet or my pediatrician. Nine times out of ten, what I find is confirmation that my initial intuition was pretty close.

2. Stress about milestones

Every time my firstborn reached a new week or month, I went (once again) to Google to investigate which milestones to expect. I even found (and visited often) a website that shared which milestones were typical and which were "advanced" for her given age. In truth, I was a little bit obsessed.

I don't think this is bad. I was a new mom wanting to make sure my child was developing healthily, and I was proud of her every time she reached a new milestone (still am).

But it was stressful.

Now I rely heavily on my pediatrician and sprinkle in some occasional research. We go to our well-visits and the pediatrician checks in about milestones, and if I have a concern, I do my own research. But I've learned that children develop on their own timetable, and in different ways. My firstborn spoke way sooner than my middle, my middle walked way before my third, and my third slept through the night way before his older siblings—and that's all okay.

One more thing: My youngest did not hit all of his milestones. He had some gross-motor skill delays that turned out to be caused by an underlying medical condition. And you know what I learned? It was okay. We discovered the delays when we needed to, we addressed them, and with the help of ever-advancing services and research, he is doing great.

I think with my first I had this idea that if I worried about the milestones enough, we'd hit them. Turns out worry does not help much there. To new mom me I wish I could say, "Be on the lookout, yes. But don't worry. What will be, will be, and if there is something you need to address, trust that you will be able to."

3. Sanitize everything

I was the mom continually wiping down the table, the shopping cart, the baby's hands, my hands, and everything else I could think of that might have a germ on it.

And now? Yeah, I just… don't.

They are going to be exposed to germs—a lot of them. I try to keep them from licking the doorknobs at the doctor's office, and they know that the "five-second rule" only applies to the food we drop on the floor at home, but I've realized that it's just too hard to keep every germ off of them. (And, for the record, maybe not the best idea—turns out that letting kids get dirty has some pretty awesome health benefits.)

So now, I make them wash their hands when they get home, and before they eat, I give them baths (every few days), and try not to freak out when I realize the "crumbs" around their mouths are from dirt and not cookies.

4. Buy #allthethings

Oh, the number of adorable outfits that I have passed down to friends that still have the tags on them. Sigh. I bought my firstborn so much stuff. It was all so cute, and such a thrill to buy! And unfortunately, also so expensive.

Now with my third, I get a thrill from finding deals or from getting a bag of hand-me-downs from a neighbor. I still do buy them stuff, I'm just more selective, and have a better understanding of what works for our family. White t-shirt? Nope! Toy with 1,000 little plastic pieces? Sorry, love.

Matching family pajamas? Yes. All the time.

5. Sweat the small stuff

It took me longer than I like to admit to learn that perfection is unattainable—in life, and certainly in parenthood. I used to get consumed by the "small" stuff (though to be fair, I didn't realize it was small then—it takes time to figure out what's small, and what's big).

Forgetting to order favors for the birthday party? Small.

A kid breaking a full bowl of cereal and milk two minutes before we need to leave for school? Small.

A little misunderstanding and disagreement with my husband? Small.

My husband often says, "You know what? If a [broken bowl] is the worst part of my day, I've had a pretty good day." And he is so right. I am sad to say that I know enough families who would kill to have a broken bowl or a little disagreement be the worst part of their day. So I try not to sweat it.

6. Clean

Kidding, not kidding. I clean. Just...not as much.

When people ask what it's like to have three children, I often share that there is a lot of freedom that comes from knowing that things are just going to be a little chaotic and messy. With my first, I tried hard to keep the house in order (and stressed when it wasn't). Now, I realize it's just not going to happen. Don't get me wrong; I still prefer to have the house clean and organized. It's just that now when it's not, I am not as hard on myself as I used to be.

"You have three kids. It's okay. Go to sleep and worry about the dishes in the morning."

7. Over-commit

Three kids and two parents means that we are officially outnumbered. And that means we say no to a lot.

Often, saying yes is simply impossible—we can't be in three places at one time, so we constantly need to choose which activities we can do, and which we have to pass on. I've also learned that when we say yes to too much, we all suffer. My kids get tired and grumpy, and um… their mom does too.

So, we try to be very intentional with our calendar. We spend time thinking and talking about what we need to do, what makes us happy to do, and what we can feel okay with letting go of.

8. Take everything personally

When my daughter was about one, I took her to her first music class. I won't bore you with the whole story, but over the course of the class the teacher had to say to my child, "Maracas are for shaking, not for throwing," and "We don't sit on baby's heads, please."

I remember vividly saying, through tears, to my husband, "I don't know why I couldn't control her! I'm such a bad mom."

Now I think about that story and I laugh and laugh and laugh (sorry, music teacher and baby whose head my daughter sat on). I've learned that the moment-to-moment actions of a child are so rarely a reflection of my parenting, and almost always a reflection of them simply being a child.

Yes, of course, it is my job to guide them, teach them, and tell them to stop throwing maracas, but not every misdeed is my fault. They are kids, and it's okay to let them be little—and to not take it personally.

9. Forego self-care

One of the reasons I have focused so much of my career promoting the importance of self-care in motherhood is because I was terrible at it when I first became a mother. I felt guilty, I felt selfish, and I didn't really even understand what self-care meant.

And I suffered because of it. I was anxious, unhealthy, and at times, unhappy. None of that is okay.

So I have learned to prioritize self-care, even if getting here has felt uncomfortable and, at times, forced.

I now know what I need to be at my best: I need sleep, I need a fair amount of quiet alone time, and I need to get out in nature at least once or twice a week. So I make a point of scheduling those times in.

And you know what? My kids don't hate me for it. They get a mom who is happier and healthier, and therefore more present and peaceful. I also believe that it's a gift to have a mother who says things like, "I am going to take care of myself for a few minutes," because they will eventually embody those words and learn that it's okay to take care of themselves, too.

10. Take the little things for granted

When my daughter was little, I worked hard to create magic. I planned special trips and events to create memories that would last a lifetime.

Can I tell you something? I don't remember any of them.

Here's what I do remember: The time my daughter got into the flour and beamed with pride at the "art" she made with her handprints all over the floor. The time my middle son turned to me while we were trick-or-treating and said, "Mom, is this my real life or just a great, long dream?" The way my youngest hogs my pillow when he climbs into bed with me in the morning.

I can make plans for us, but the magic comes from the moments when I least expect it. So, I've learned to open myself up to those moments. To unbusy myself enough to be able to notice the little things.

I've learned that the little things are actually the big things.

14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.


Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!


Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.


Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.


Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.


Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.


Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.


Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.


Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.


Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.


Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.


Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.


Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.


Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.


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Time-saving formula tips our editors swear by

Less time making bottles, more time snuggling.

As a new parent, it can feel like feeding your baby is a full-time job—with a very demanding nightshift. Add in the additional steps it takes to prepare a bottle of formula and, well… we don't blame you if you're eager to save some time when you can. After all, that means more time for snuggling your baby or practicing your own well-deserved self-care.

Here's the upside: Many, many formula-feeding mamas before you have experienced the same thing, and they've developed some excellent tricks that can help you mix up a bottle in record time. Here are the best time-saving formula tips from editors here at Motherly.

1. Use room temperature water

The top suggestion that came up time and time again was to introduce bottles with room temperature water from the beginning. That way, you can make a bottle whenever you need it without worrying about warming up water—which is a total lifesaver when you have to make a bottle on the go or in the middle of the night.

2. Buy online to save shopping time

You'll need a lot of formula throughout the first year and beyond—so finding a brand like Comforts, which offers high-quality infant formula at lower prices, will help you save a substantial amount of money. Not to mention, you can order online or find the formula on shelves during your standard shopping trip—and that'll save you so much time and effort as well.

3. Pre-measure nighttime bottles

The middle of the night is the last time you'll want to spend precious minutes mixing up a bottle. Instead, our editors suggest measuring out the correct amount of powder formula into a bottle and putting the necessary portion of water on your bedside table. That way, all you have to do is roll over and combine the water and formula in the bottle before feeding your baby. Sounds so much better than hiking all the way to the kitchen and back at 3 am, right?

4. Divide serving sizes for outings

Before leaving the house with your baby, divvy up any portions of formula and water that you may need during your outing. Then, when your baby is hungry, just combine the pre-measured water and powder serving in the bottle. Our editors confirm this is much easier than trying to portion out the right amount of water or formula while riding in the car.

5. Memorize the mental math

Soon enough, you'll be able to prepare a bottle in your sleep. But, especially in the beginning or when increasing your baby's serving, the mental math can take a bit of time. If #mombrain makes it tough to commit the measurements to memory, write up a cheat sheet for yourself or anyone else who will prepare your baby's bottle.

6. Warm up chilled formula with water

If you're the savvy kind of mom who prepares and refrigerates bottles for the day in advance, you'll probably want to bring it up to room temperature before serving. Rather than purchase a bottle warmer, our editors say the old-fashioned method works incredibly well: Just plunge the sealed bottle in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes and—voila!—it's ready to serve.

Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices. Or, follow @comfortsforbaby for more information!

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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My 3-year-old is eating peanut butter toast with banana for breakfast (his request), and we are officially running late for preschool. We need to get in the car soon if we want to miss the morning traffic, but he has decided that he no longer wants the food that he begged for two minutes earlier. What started off as a relatively calm breakfast has turned into a battle of wills.

"You're going to be hungry," I say, realizing immediately that he could care less. I can feel my frustration rising, and even though I'm trying to stay calm, I'm getting snappy and irritable. In hindsight, I can see so many opportunities that fell through the cracks to salvage this morning, but at the moment… there was nothing.

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