Three Parenting Lessons I Learned By My Third Kid

Monday, April 26, 2021

I vividly remember one evening when my first born was somewhere between 12-18 months old, she flipped over the plate of food I had prepared for her dinner in a protest of epic early-toddlerhood proportions. Kneeling in a ketchup-y pile of "brinner" (breakfast for dinner - i.e. eggs, potatoes carefully chopped to bite-sized, minced sausage... you get the picture) while my daughter shrieked, I burst into tears of my own. Yep, there we both sat in the dining room of our townhouse, crying in unison. It's actually pretty comical looking back on it, but I remember how defeated I felt in the moment. I think I actually asked "why would you do that?" as if the tiny human who had been on the planet for one year carefully thought out her plate-flipping move or would give me some logical explanation, lol.

All that to say that with time, experience, and hard-earned wisdom come (some) clarity. Seven and a half years and two more kids later, when my third kiddo flips her plate or turns her baby pouch into a fountain, I reach for one of the 7,000 packets of wipe I keep handy and wait for her to be done making her mess expressing her creativity. 

Here are three lessons I've learned that have helped make life a little easier on this rollercoaster ride of heart-exploding love and "I don't know what the hell I'm doing" called parenting:

1. Keep your standards high... but your expectations low (I mean, low low)

For people like myself who value having some or most of the control over things, parenting little ones can feel like one out-of-control day after another. I get it! When you're a new parent, that can be a tough adjustment. You might, like me, try to cling on to every last ounce of control you can possibly have in order to make it seem like there is some sense or order to things. 

But here's the secret you learn as time goes on and, if you choose to have them, with subsequent kids: stuff is going to happen no matter what. No. Matter. What. There is no amount you can plan or prep and no grip tight enough on that last shred of control that will keep the inevitable messes, sicknesses, and other stressful - but normal - parts of parenting littles at bay. The challenges and stressful moments will come, and you will want to make sense of them, but the truth is... sometimes it just is what it is.

It's taken me quite a while to accept that parenting is an exercise in letting go, but once I did accept it, my life, mood, and outlook on this super important gig have all changed for the better. And it's because of this: I lowered my expectations. Don't get me wrong! Having standards for your kids and yourself and how you'd like things to go is great and necessary. So keep those standards high... but if you can, while the standards remain high, lower your expectations from perfection to reality. The reality is, we aren't dealing with miniature adults here. We are dealing with children who have only been around for a couple of years and who are learning every single day. If you can look at your kids as kids (yes, kids that are accountable... but also human!), then the next time you're staring at pizza on your wall you might just reach for the wipes while conveying the lesson to your kids, instead of melting down in a puddle of tears. ;)

2. You cannot (I repeat, cannot) do it all by yourself

While we're on the topic of letting go, here is a lesson I am still learning but have finally *finally* realized: you can not do this all by yourself. If you're a stay at home parent, keep in mind: parenting little kids is a full time, round-the-clock job. If you work another job, too, then you also have that on your full plate. I know you want to be your best for your kids, but you won't be able to be your best without asking for help when you need it and delegating where necessary. 

I'm a work-from-home mom and have been since my first kiddo was born. Honestly, when I had one baby who napped consistently, I could fairly easily handle both roles: momma and employee. But I quickly learned after having my second child that more time didn't just magically  appear just because I had more kids: I needed to ask for help. My husband was grateful when I clearly asked for what I needed from him, and our parents began a routine of coming every other week (one set of parents one week, the next the following week, and so forth). This allowed me to carve out time for work and other responsibilities.

Another important part of this is making/having friends who are also parents. I can (and probably will!) write an entire post about how crucial finding fellow parent friends is, especially in the early days of parenthood, but for right now I can't emphasize enough how much it will improve your daily life if you have a support system (it doesn't have to be huge!) of other parents who can understand the phase of life you're in, who you can vent to, call on, lean on, and meet up with. This made all the difference for me when I got to know a handful of other new moms when my first born was around 6 months old. Having a baby can be lonely (something people don't always tell you!), so my advice would be to not allow yourself to become isolated. Friends are more important than ever during this season!

3. These are the days

I know it sounds cheesy, and I don't mean to downplay how hard and tiring some (most?!) days can be, but something I've learned over the last seven years is this oft-repeated saying really is true: the days are long, but the years are short. They are so, so short. There is a finite period of time that our kids will be so small and will need us so much. Yes, they'll always need their parents. But believe me: the dynamics of families change as they grow. They will change for the better in many ways -- I was just telling my husband how cool it is to come to a place in our parenting journey where we are genuinely admiring the individuals our kids are becoming -- but there will also be far more complicated problems than a meltdown over the wrong flavor juice, and many days when we're not the first they turn to. 

I try to keep this in mind, as I find perspective is everything. Yes, these days are messy. They are unpredictable. They can be overwhelming, busy, exhausting, and sometimes lonely. But they are also full of fun, cuddles, learning, playing, and the kind of pure love only little ones can offer. Though I've always been aware of how lucky we are and super grateful, it really took until my third kid to realize how fast this time goes and to enjoy it for all it is, realizing how quickly it really goes. 

It's my hope that by applying the first and second lessons I learned by my third baby, this last lesson will be an easy to realize and embrace... whether you have one child, or ten. ;) We're already aboard the rollercoaster of parenthood -- we can hide our eyes and wish for it to be over, or we can throw our hands up and enjoy the ride.


  1. This is so true. I only have twins, but I know that if we had another, things would be different and I would be more prepared. I wish I would have read a post like this before kids. You soooo need help and have to let things go. I had high expectations and realized quickly that I needed to set them lower otherwise I would be disappointed.

    1. It's amazing what a little experience and perspective does! I'm glad I'm not alone in these lessons! xo


CopyRight © | Theme Designed By Hello Manhattan