I wrote this post for (in)courage twelve weeks after the birth of my youngest, which put me at mothering three kids under age 5 (they were 4, 16 months, and brand new.) That was over a year ago now and they’re clocking in at 5, 2 and solidly 1, but many of these lessons still apply!Mothering in softness, by Anna Rendell at girlwithblog.com

In my twelve weeks as a mom of three I’ve learned more than I have in all my 33 years, like: I can do almost anything while nursing a baby, I need less sleep to function than I thought, and friends who bring meals are gold. But more lasting are these five lessons, and I wanted to share them with you.

1. Parenting three kids is no joke. My husband and I are on constant zone defense, chasing one up the stairs and pulling another off the piano bench before it falls over and feeding another one – all at the same time. Seriously. And bedtime? Bedtime is like playing whack-a-mole. One kid will go down and another will pop up. The first kid will go back down and another will get up. This goes on forEVER and involves songs, hugs, stories, cups of water, kisses, and all the patience. When daddy and I fall into bed at night we are spent, without energy and stores of stashed kindness nearly depleted. We draw deep draughts of patience, kindness, joy, gentleness and peace from His reserves. Our house is full of dust and life, tiny shoes and board books, so much noise and so much love.

2. #thirdchildproblems are real. My firstborn has two baby books, both entirely filled in. My first daughter has one baby book, kind of filled in. My newest girl has a baby book, but it’s been buried in the garage for months and remains in its box, unopened.

3. The more kids you have, the more practice you get, which may lead to a more relaxed parenting experience. When my son was two weeks old, he had a cold. I googled childhood diseases and took him to the doctor and literally lost sleep… all over a cold. Last month at about five weeks old, my sweet girl had her first cold. When she sneezed I said, “Bless you!” and wiped her nose on my shirt, or hers, whichever had long sleeves. I can’t remember. I’ve got a dozen more examples, but this one sums it up well.

4. I’ve stopped fighting against the grain and grit of mothering. A few years ago my word for the year was ‘soft’. I still call upon this word when I feel my heart settling into its familiar hardening, willing my soul to soften and my flesh to embrace its weakness and need for others. Mothering has forced me to soften. It’s provided me three tiny sponges, ready to soak up and absorb whatever I pour out – whether sweet or bitter. It’s provided me three tiny mirrors, reflecting the good and the ugly of my actions. It’s provided me three tiny humans, sometimes grating against me as sandpaper, and I’ve found that softening comes more easily when I give into the grit.

Hardness happens when we fight against that which is intended to make us soft.

My son didn’t like to sleep. He fought against it his whole first year of life, with screams and cries and pathetic, red-rimmed eyes peering at me in the dark hours of the night. My heart would break for him, because I knew how much better he’d feel if he only gave in to rest.

It’s the same with mothering. As a working mom of three, my life is pulled in many directions – often all vying for me at the same time. But my kids? In this season, they come first, and I’m learning that when I give into the rhythms of my family instead of fighting them, we’re all happier.

5. I am a selfish woman. I want to eat whatever I want without impacting the way my pants fit. I want to steal away and read or write. I want to eat a hot meal, sipping and savoring slow. I want to spend money on impulse buys at Target. I want to sleep in and take a shower. I want to use the bathroom without little fingers poking under the door (dream big, right?)

But in this season of mothering three kids, I don’t get to come first. I get to love my kids first, and in doing so I learn to love my God even before them. In this season where selfish is impossible, He is drawing me closer to His heart and replacing my own wants with His. It’s a slow and exhausting process but the results are pure sweetness.

So many lessons from such tiny people. Grateful for the One who makes reclaiming ourselves possible only and all by His grace, and for the three He is using to refine me in the very best way.

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