Survive or Thrive – Home Alone with 3 Children

Survive or Thrive – Home Alone with 3 Children

Me. Three kids. At home all day. Every day. I still pinch myself in disbelief sometimes… Is this a dream? (Nightmare?!) I don’t just want to survive in my new temporary role as a SAHM of three; I want to thrive. It’s that whole overachiever tendency that gives me an all-or-nothing, go-big-or-go-home outlook on life. But let’s be real for a moment. Survival is the name of the game on some (most) days right now…

It’s been 30 days since my first day alone with all three kids. I’ve never been home with my kids day-to-day (yeah, yeah, I know. Woe is me… Not whining here, just laying out the landscape), and until this past May we have nearly always employed a nanny to care for our children in our home while my husband and I are at work. When I was home on maternity leave after Holden was born we had a wonderful nanny whom we did not want to lose, so we juggled our finances quite a bit to be able to keep her while I took an unpaid maternity leave. For my current maternity leave, we opted not to have a nanny while I was home – a lot because our last nanny wasn’t the right fit, but more because we needed the cost savings to reduce the financial hemorrhaging while I’m on unpaid leave again. My employer doesn’t offer a paid maternity leave so other than partial short term disability pay, any time beyond 6 weeks was unpaid.

So here I am. It’s summertime and school is out. Since I’ve never been a stay-at-home-mom in even the slightest way, going from never-ever to 3 kids nearly overnight has been a bit of an adjustment, to say the least. Every day is getting easier (when it’s not getting harder because I keep trying to do more), and we’re finding our groove. Some days I just want to bow down to some of the other SAHMs who are caring for three and four (or more) children —> while also homeschooling, cooking from scratch, tending a garden, keeping house – ok, I’m tired just starting to write the list. Other days I start looking for my superhero cape because I’ve made a healthy breakfast, packed lunches, gone on an outing, managed naps, and then had dinner on the table. What.what!? Can I get a gold star please?!!

Beyond the gold star days, I’m still in the new baby trenches a bit, so I cut myself some slack on the not-so-commendable days – those ones where I want to go back to bed and have a do-over. And since I can’t do that, I catch myself sending mean-ish texts to my husband pointing out all the ways his actions have made my day harder (not so nice of me, I know. I’m working on it). In any case, I can also see that things will improve immensely over time as our youngest gets older and more predictable. As the saying goes, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel – even if it is only a pin prick. Regardless of any light, this staying home with children and keeping house thing is NOT for the weak or faint of heart.

All that aside, what’s going on in our house? Here are 30 things I’ve learned in the last 30 days:

  1. I raise my voice less when I sleep more.
  2. I must accept that there will be crying. Some days, lots of crying.
  3. Reinstating and enforcing the nap, even for my 5 year old, was crucial for my sanity – at least for now.

    A group selfie just before nap time. It's like the calm before the storm.

    A group selfie just before nap time. It’s like the calm before the storm.

  4. Never count on that quiet moment, it can only lead to frustration and disappointment.
  5. Prioritize carefully – the next moment may not be mine to keep.
  6. 30 seconds is a measurable amount of time – crying, planking, picking up toys, wiping pee off the toilet seat…
  7. Sometimes I’m counting the moments until Dad is home. Don’t. Traffic happens – especially in DC (Learned that in week 1).
  8. If I want warm, let alone hot coffee, the insulated mug is a necessity.

    My Contigo - the vessel which gives me warm coffee rather than cold coffee hours later. And yes, that was a cookie for breakfast.

    My Contigo – the vessel which gives me warm coffee rather than cold coffee hours later. And yes, that was a cookie for breakfast.

  9. Packing lunches at breakfast is brilliant, even if we’re staying home.
  10. Don’t forget to pack one for mom, too. Just one less thing to worry about.

    Our lunch packed in Yumbox lunch boxes. Life-saving way to get lunch served in seconds.

    Our lunch packed in Yumbox lunch boxes. Life-saving way to get lunch served in seconds.

  11. Laundry is never ending. Folding and putting it away is my challenge.
  12. If I’m not going to fold the laundry, then it’s crucial to put it out of reach. Otherwise, the chances of mixing clean and dirty is high. Unmatched socks, especially.

    Laundry is the bane of my existence.

    Laundry is the bane of my existence.

  13. Sleep trumps a shower on some days.
  14. Keep a snack bar and/or nuts in diaper bag and near where I nurse most often. Sometimes I’ll need it.
  15. Don’t forget to replenish my snack stash.
  16. Keep a bottle of water near nursing stations as a backup for times I forget to grab a glass before sitting. Chocolate waiting there doesn’t hurt either.
  17. If I’m going to cook, double up whenever possible.
  18. It can take 40 min to actually get in the car and leave the driveway with all three kids.
  19. Plan for no more than one outing a day.
  20. My bodily functions may sometimes (often) need to take a back seat.
  21. Use the restroom whenever an opportunity presents itself. Even if I don’t think I have to go. And ALWAYS before we leave the house.
  22. If I’m going to cook, start doing whatever I can do ahead whenever there’s a moment. Even if it’s just measuring out spices at 9am.
  23. Don’t clean when the kids are napping. Cleaning is something they can (and should) watch and help me do. It’s better to have them see the time and effort it takes to clean up.
  24. I may forget what day it is (Planning outings and playdates helps).
  25. Three year olds can never be trusted near a baby swing. No.Matter.What. It is just too tempting whether empty or occupied.
  26. Finding a time to pump breast milk to create a freezer stash is pretty freakin’ difficult.
  27. Working together as a team with my husband makes everybody happier and more gets done.
  28. The only way I can look past crumbs on the floor (a little So What!?) is to wear house shoes.
  29. I still have a lot of work to do on learning to let things go (understatement), and that everything doesn’t have to be just so (but it does! doesn’t it?!?)
  30. I never doubted, but now I know…I’ve got this. Of course, I can do this mom thing.

Do you have a tip or suggestion for me? My brain is mush. I need all the help I can get! Share in the comments below please. Or just leave me an attaboy, since all my children are still alive and clean. Mostly.


  1. I’m impressed! The transition was so so hard for me. Of course I got to add snow, but I digress.

    Packing lunches at breakfast is my favorite.
    Also, I have the kids bring in a load of laundry from wherever when I start cooking breakfast or dinner. It certainly helps that those two are right next to each other.

    • Good call to get the kids more involved with laundry. It’s tough though because our laundry room is on the top floor – I used to love it, but now I wish it were near or attached to the kitchen sometimes. Well, that’s until I’ve got to carry everything up and down the stairs 😛

  2. So glad you started a blog – it’s entertaining and I like keeping up with life in your household! :) (and I miss you!) way congrats to Aaron for the postpartum awesomeness.. And good for you for being home with the kids and making it work! I love your comment about cleaning when the kids see and can help, what a good point. I read somewhere that “stay-at-home mom” and “work mom” are no different as far as one being easier – they both require balance between getting things done while teaching, learning and overall keeping a sane (and thriving!) mind. Sounds like you are definitely are on that track! :) Of course, a fun thing is the goal is always new and different every day…. Cheers!

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