Two months ago I had a baby girl. She’s my third child and our second girl, and 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. 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 for hours 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.

Anna Rendell at incourage.me

2. #thirdchildproblems are real. My firstborn has two baby books, both entirely filled in. My first daughter has one baby book, mostly filled in. My newest sweet 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 little cold. I googled childhood diseases and took him to the doctor and literally lost sleep, all over his 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’ve got a dozen more examples, but this one sums it up well.

4. I’ve stopped fighting against the grain and rub of mothering. Two 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, rubbing 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. 

Anna Rendell at incourage.me

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?)

Anna Rendell at incourage.me

But in this season of mothering three kids age 4 and under, 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.

photos by Sarah Ann Photography
  • Bev @ Walking Well With God

    I love this – giving in to the grit. As selfish humans we often want to go against the flow instead of gently going with it…at least that’s what I do. It makes me tired just thinking about three under the age of four – my prayers are with you sweet momma. My children are grown and their problems are complex adult problems. The same principle remains – I can let rubbing up against them make me hard or choose to let it soften me. Often easier said than done because they aren’t so stinkin’ cute anymore. The difficulty always leads me back to God, however, because I realize I can’t do this in my strength alone. Great post!
    Blessings and a prayer for being able to use the bathroom in peace :)

  • Marilyn

    It always feels so good to know we are not alone! Thank you!

  • Kate

    Thank you for this. I have 4 babies under the age of 6, my youngest being 5 months. As i checked my email this morning, after yet another sleepless night with my littlest one, i felt so weary not sure how I could give what is required to mother my children today. Then i read your post. It was exactly what the Lord wanted me to hear this morning. This season is extremely difficult and I am drained physically, emotionally, and at times spiritually, but I know God is using it to refine me and force me to draw on His strength and not my own. Thank you for being used by Him today to comfort this tired, weary momma!

  • A

    Thank you, Annna, for this beautiful and gently convicting reminder to let the Lord soften us, to let go of the things that keep our hearts hard. Hard hearts pull us into selfish places instead of focused on and cooperating with the Lord and all the love that He wants to share with us and others. As I go through a tough season of healing and loneliness, there are times I want to hide and protect myself. I pray that He keeps us all turned toward the light of His love today and each day, doing His will in all things :) Please pray for me.

  • Angela Nazworth

    Oh Anna! I just love this. So much truth in the title alone. Thank you for sharing.

  • Kathy Cheek

    Well, I am an empty nester but I thoroughly enjoyed this portrait of motherhood. Those
    tiny people everywhere are so precious to God, as are their mothers, sleep
    deprived, unshowered, through it all! Blessings to your family.

  • Webbgurl2000

    Sometimes, it doesn’t end when they are young as a mother of three with Adhd, Giftedness, and Autism. It’s no room for selfishness.
    It’s harder to know when and how to back off, or step up because they are very unique people, and will need me for more than most the rest of their lives.

  • http://ChasingHoliness.com/ Brenda

    How sweet. God bless your growing family. Every stage is a gift, but they’re only little for such a short while. Enjoy those tiny fingers and toes. Congrats!

  • Diana

    I love this too. I am now a grandma to 10 kids, but I had twins when my daughter was twenty months old. I learned to sit in the midst of a messy room and hug/hold/comfort/play with one kid/baby after another. I learned that when I was exhausted at night to just rake all the toys to one side and go to bed to SLEEP when I could. BTW, love the Whack-a-mole comparison :D. I learned to assembly line getting the toddler/babies all ready to go outside. I learned to go for slow walks, or into the back yard, etc when there were dishes in the sink. Later I learned to let the kids wash the dishes standing on chairs [lots of towels on the floor beneath them] I learned to forgive myself when I was cranky or sharp and to let it all go and move on.

    I could go on but I won’t. My daughter now has five children aged thirteen to four. I see her beauty and grace and love and the incredible multitasking and I think, I did all that and didn’t give myself enuf kudos, enough grace.

    God bless all Mommies.

  • Amy Holland Dunham

    Oh Anna, this was so beautiful. My husband and I have been talking about having a third child and we likely will try later this year. We have two girls two and under right now. I feel myself relating on every single point. I will be tucking “soft” in my back pocket. I have a feeling I’ll be needing it soon enough…if not tomorrow. ;)

  • https://www.nighthowells.wordpress.com Jenny Howell

    Congrats Anna!
    So so true! Selfish is IMPOSSIBLE with tiny ones.
    Isn’t it exhausting and amazing all twisted up together? I’ll never forget sitting on the toilet after coming home from the hospital with 2nd baby in a lineup of 5…and the 3 year old was calling out “MOMMMMY lets read a story!”. I balled. I couldn’t get off the potty, let alone have another person in my arms. Thankful that time will sort out the hormones and the nonstop. Soon a moment of sipping hot drinks and thumbing through a book will happen! Until then…He’ll continue to replace all the hustle with His love. Go Momma.

  • http://www.lisajobaker.com/ Lisa-Jo Baker

    Oh this is so so good. I can feel that ache like it was yesterday. Girl, you’re doing great. hang in there. Brave mama!

  • Beth Williams

    May God give you the strength and patience to mother three littles. I have been in a season of learning also. God has been teaching me patience for the last two years. I’m not a mother, rather a daughter dealing with aging dad and his many medical issues. Like you I can be selfish. I want quiet days of peace and rest-not errands and paperwork.
    Blessings :)

  • http://www.joyfullythriving.com Kristen @ Joyfully Thriving

    I’m expecting my second little one next month, to join her big brother who is 23 months old. I know there are big changes to come and that I will be learning all these lessons anew with a second one. Thank you, Anna, for sharing so honestly about the challenges – and blessings – of motherhood!

  • Selfish non-mom

    As an invisible single woman without children, I would give anything to have babies to love. You may think I’m selfish but I basically spend my life going to events that celebrate married people, mothers and children. I enjoy your writing (except for the cutesy words like “husby”) but sometimes wish you could be more inclusive to women without children.

    • http://www.girlwithblog.com/ Anna R.

      I don’t think you’re selfish at all. You are also NOT invisible. If I made you feel that way, I do apologize, and hope sincerely that there’s another (in)courage author with whom you feel a deeper connection. You chose to hide your name so I’m not sure if we’ve connected before (I’m guessing we have, since I didn’t use the word ‘Husby’ in this particular post), but I want you to know a few things. First, as one who didn’t know if she’d be able to have children (we had years of infertility and have two babies in heaven), my three here are incredible blessings I never take for granted AND a constant reminder of the days I too felt invisible. But the Lord did have a different plan for my life than I thought, and right now I am consumed with my kids and write to encourage other moms. It’s both my heart and my season. I want you to know that there are so many women in all walks of life that both write at and visit the (in)courage community, and ALL are welcome here! And I deeply want you to know that simply by being identified as His daughter – not as a wife, not as a mother, not as a friend or sister or employee or anything else – you are incredibly loved.