Confessions of a Mom with 3 Kids Under the Age of 3

My husband and I recently had our 4th child and I have to admit, it’s rocked my world. But I would hazard a guess that it has a little less to do with the fact that it’s our fourth, and a little more to do with the fact that three of our children are under the age of three.

You heard that right. Our first two children were 3 1/2 years apart due to several years of secondary infertility.  Our second two were 15 months apart, and our last two are 16 months apart.

Maybe you have children close in age and you can relate. Or maybe you’re just curious about the craziness that ensues with having children close in age.  Either way, read on to get a glimpse of what life is REALLY like when you have three under the age of three.

I’m always counting. 

Whether it’s mentally double-checking that everyone is buckled in their car seats when we’re heading out in the minivan, or making sure everyone is either in the Target cart or at least nearby, I’m always counting to three.

The house is constantly a mess. 

If you have at least one child you know how quickly the hurricane can hit. Multiply that by two toddlers and it becomes a Category 5. Often there’s not enough time to empty the dishwasher and pick up the kitchen, let alone the toys. Some moms can NOT go to bed and leave the mess. I am not one of those people. My theory is it’s going to get destroyed first thing tomorrow anyway. I might as well head to bed and get a few hours of shut-eye before one (or all) of my children are up in the night.

3 under 3 messy kitchen 2


Sometimes bath time is less about getting clean and more about keeping them contained and entertained.  

I love bath time! Why? Because for a precious half hour of time they are having a blast and are all in one place! Throw some towels on the floor to soak up the mess, give them some toys, and let them go to town! It’s a happy time for all!

Laundry is my nemesis.  

I’ve never enjoyed laundry. Oh, I don’t mind throwing clothes in the washer.  It’s just remembering to put them in the dryer that gets me. And after I’ve rewashed them for the third time because I forgot to switch them over (oops!) and miraculously finally put them in the dryer, there’s that pesky matter of folding the laundry and putting it away. Good thing my kids enjoy helping with this task.

3 under 3 laundry helpers 2

There are So. Many. Diapers. 

I have a confession…my almost three-year-old is still in diapers. And I’m thankful. My oldest was potty-trained at 2 1/2. A few months before my youngest was born I thought, “I really need to get K potty-trained before the baby comes!”  Then one day we were out and my oldest needed to use the bathroom. After trying to keep my toddler from playing in the toilet and crawling under the partition into the occupied stall next door, I began to have visions of wrangling all of them plus a baby. And decided to let her potty train when she expresses interest. Until then, I am ok with changing a few more diapers, thank you very much!

Amazon Prime is my lifesaver. 

Three kids in diapers. Enough said. I love Amazon’s diaper subscription service. I also love the free 2-day shipping. What’s better than having the things you need (and want) delivered right to your door? I’m all about saving that extra trip to Target whenever I can.

3 under 3 amazon prime 2


Being close in age means my children always have a playmate. And learn independence.  

Our oldest had our undivided attention for 3 1/2 years. Because of that she always expects to have our attention. On the other hand, our two middle children have always had to share our attention. And they are much better at entertaining themselves (and each other) because of it. If mom can’t be there right away because she’s feeding the baby, then sometimes they have to figure it out for themselves. Which can sometimes be disastrous, but other times it leads to ingenuity. Like using the baby’s bath tub as a step stool so they can brush their teeth.

3 under 3 brushing teeth 2

Screen time is ok.

Listen, if you’re a mom who has a no screen-time rule, I wholeheartedly respect your decision. But most days this mama needs a little help from Daniel Tiger or Sofia the First. Or Barbie. My two-year-old has a serious Barbie obsession–as in we own almost every Barbie movie known to man. Sometimes bringing out a new set of toys while mama is feeding the baby works for a while. But every mom with kids close in age knows that the instant you sit down to feed the baby is the instant your toddler will climb in the tub and turn the water on. (I’ve tried to babyproof the doorknobs…to no avail.) Or try to climb up in your daughters’ bunk bed. Or find a spare crayon and create a masterpiece on the wall. (Have you read my post on the Not-So-Wonderful Ones?!) 

If turning on Netflix means you can feed the baby in peace, or make dinner without the fear of your toddler feeding M&M’s to the dog, then embrace it. You’ll all be happier for it!

I’ve learned to let things go. 

When my oldest was a toddler I was much more careful to follow her around and make sure she wasn’t getting into things or making a huge mess. By the time my third came along, I’d developed the attitude that as long as they’re not injuring themselves or others, and as long as they’re occupied…let it go. My toddler LOVES water and will literally spend hours playing in the sink. Might as well let him. He’s occupied, and bonus for me: he’s not climbing on the windowsill AND my dishes get relatively clean!

3 under 3 washing dishes

The days are long, but they are so precious. 

I’ll be honest and say there are plenty of days when I am ready to pull my hair out. When my two-year-old is throwing an epic tantrum because she didn’t get to go with dad to drop her sister off at school.  When my toddler is getting into anything and everything he possibly can. When my baby is fussy and refuses to be put down. When the dishes are piling up and the toy bin just got dumped all over the floor.

But then my sweet boy climbs up on my lap and falls asleep with his baby brother. And my darling daughter picks me a bouquet of dandelions and is so proud to give them to me. They smother me with kisses and say, “Mommy you look beautiful.” And I’m reminded that they aren’t little forever. And I might as well soak it up while I can…chaos and all!

3 under 3 sleeping boys


Kaitlyn Swaim
Kaitlyn is the owner of Cedar Rapids Moms Blog and is an Iowa girl who has been married to her husband, Joshua, since 2007! She’s a busy work-at-home mama to their 5 children: 3 girls and 2 boys! A true Hawkeye, she graduated from the University of Iowa with her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, something that comes in handy on a daily basis while trying to raise 5 kids! Her favorite things to do include spending time with her family, cheering on the Hawkeyes, reading a good book, shopping (of course!), and checking out all the activities the Corridor has to offer!


  1. I can totally relate! I have four as well. First three 20 and 22 months apart which is 3 kids in 3.5 years. And then the surprise baby at age 40. Now I am a single mom with 3 teenagers and an 8 year old. Please be aware that what you see in the toddlers you will see again in teenagers. The personalities are the same – just the stakes are higher as teenagers. I would love to be here to talk to you as you progress through all of this. I wish I had a mentor right now! Three in High School next year – feels like the same blur that was the preschool years with those three….best wishes to you…Britt

  2. Great job! I love the specific examples (so true), mixed with the right amount of wit. I have three in 17 months, so I know you speak the truth!
    And congrats on your fourth!

  3. Great article! Although I didn’t have three under three, I have four and two were 15 months apart and I can relate to a lot of this! One thing I would suggest is a travel potty. We got it at right start but see that Walmart carries it now. It uses regular gallon ziplocs and had proven very useful for us! I often found it easier to have them use the car potty rather than dealing with them all in a public restroom. Some people have said it’s gross but with so many little kids there is a high tolerance for gross things!
    It’s called Cool Gear Travel Potty.

  4. As a 40 year old mother myself I understand the piles of laundry, busybody toddlers and clingy babes but I’m sorry I do not agree with just letting the house turn into a disaster or giving a two year old technology. That type of mothering is very new and exclusive to weathly western societies. Just because we can post these photos and others feel the same way doesn’t make it OK. Instead of blogging about your life perhaps living it (cleaning up, entertaining your children instead of plopping them in front of TV) would be a better choice. I’m just getting sick of all these mommy blogs at the expense of good child rearing.

    • My wife forwarded this article to me and I’m glad I read it. I read your post too Julia and I never respond to stuff like this but got it in my blood to do so this time. Times certainly have changed an incredible amount over the past decade or two. I thought about your comments Julia and think they were hasty and without much reasonable thought – here’s why….

      Those amazing women out there choosing to have kids like yourself Julia, my wife, and Kaitlyn face challenges your moms may have not.
      1) Extended families often live in multiple states due to the shifting job market. Employers don’t just look across the state now but across the country for employees and fields that might have previously planted you for life in a city with a consistent support network are becoming more mobile.
      2) Extended families are separated by distance leaving many of you moms to face numberless hard days without grandma and grandpa to occasionally give a hand.
      3) As the world has become a less trusting place for kids to play around neighborhoods without your supervision, the playground has moved from down the street to into many of your family rooms. And heaven knows that keeping a bright kid occupied without toys to play with or an occasional show to watch would be as difficult as trying to get your husband to fold laundry during the Super Bowl. So sure you’re probably like us, accumulating more toys in the house – and rightly so they are cheap now days, and just maybe you don’t get around to cleaning it all up before going to bed because you choose to read your kid a story instead.

      If you can’t tell, I think the most of you moms! You do an amazing thing in the home and I think you should feel no guilt for the good you do. Keep on keepin on! I work in the medical field and often I think that what I do someone else could, what my wife does (and the rest of you moms), no one else can, many don’t even make an attempt. Keep it up Lady’s, us dads and certainly your kids couldn’t do it without you! Couldn’t say it enough you are so so good! And Julia I hope understanding and support can replace criticism. Mom’s get enough crap from the world they certainly don’t need it from one another.

      • Hello there and thank you for the thoughful response. My thoughts
        1. It is a choice to move around the country. I have lived in Chicago, NYC, London and more but before I had children I chose to move back ‘home’ to be close to my parents. I wanted a lifestyle that brought support from family. If career choices direct location to live then I do agree family will suffer.
        2. See above. We also have a ‘nanny’ which is an older woman (loving retired woman who has raised her own kids and loves our kids) who comes over to support me with my youngest when I work a few hours a week or need to run an errand (I am a practicing Architect as well as a Mother, my husband is also an Architect)….in addition to one set of grandparents nearby and one 4 hours away. This is our choosing and our making….
        3. I’m not sure what you mean by ‘the world becoming less trusting’. I think you mean ‘the world less safe and people less trusting”. I get what you are saying but i don’t subscribe to this type of fear. we moved to a neighborhood where I would be fine letting my kids run around when they are the appropriate age and I have a strong support network with all my neighbors where we watch out for eachother and our kids. I think parents are more fearful rather than the world becoming less safe. We are so worried that our precious perfect kids will be harmed that we limit their time outside and their exposure to reality and instead we sit them in front of the Tv. don’t get me wrong, I’m not unrealistic or unsafe when it comes to my children I just think it is a dangerous course to not allow children outside due to fear, and if you are in Iowa city i’m guessing you don’t have that much to worry about compared to larger urban areas. And regarding your point about toys accumulating – no i don’t have this issue. i carefully store toys and cycle through various items for my kids, never having tons out at once. My house has toys but they all have a place and every few weeks I change things up which delights my children – it’s all new even if it was simply in storage for a few months. win win.

        Thank you for your kind words but behind them i can tell you are displeased with my post. I also find the midwestern passive agressive attitude tiring, in the same way i find these mommy posts exhausting….like i said before, just because moms post all their trials and tribulations on these sites and others commiserate doesn’t mean that the ‘looseness’ of the childrearing is the right path for all.

        and to respond to rebecca, i respectfully disagree that a messy house equals a ‘lived in’ house – it just means the house is messy. Our house is full of tons of laughter, silliness, love, kindness, creativity, quiettime, crying, happiness, saddness, joy and pain…..and it is very clean and organized. it is how we function best as artistic parents – we need a ‘clean canvas’ (our home) on which the gorgeous and deep messiness of life can happen……

        just my two cents…and since this is a blog where people can post, if you decide to blog about your life, be prepared to hear from those who don’t agree. which is why i don’t blog (or at least on a blog with comments) since i know that most don’t agree with my parenting but i could care less! it works for me and those i love.

      • BTW my intentions with my posts are not to be hurtful or mean, more to bring up a different perspective. I’m feeling sorry I even posted (lesson learned) as I’m afraid I’ve hurt feelings in the process. I have a very thick skin and I know some don’t. My parenting is not for everyone and although yours is not for me if it works for you and your family you should keep doing it. Just remember that misery loves company and try to be honest about why you are posting these personal stories and glimpses into your life for all to read. Doing so may feel good but it does open the door to critique as well as commiseration. Take care and once again I’m sorry if I hurt feelings. Best, Julia.

    • I am a 55 year old aunt raising 2 year old a 11 month old and a new 2 week old ! If someone told me I would be doing this in my 50s I would have said yeah right … but here I am barely holding on ! I never knew I could juggle so well ! Blessings to all you you parents and beautiful little people ! I am just taking thing moment by moment

  5. My best friend has 4 and is pregnant with her 5th. The first three are all 14 months apart, and number four is 17 months later, and number 5 will be born 15 months after number 4 was.
    So by he end of this year she will have 5, ages 5 and under. I look up to her daily, with her patience and love for all of her children, and friends.
    I love going over to her house, although it is messy and crazy, I can see how much they are all in love with eachother, and she actually ‘lives’ in her home 🙂

  6. I loved your article! We have our little over 2 year old son and are foster moms. So the count changes constantly. We currently have a 2.5 year old, my son, and a 6 mos and 4 mos old. I am beginning to understand the things you were talking about like, maybe I shouldn’t have potty trained the 2.5 year old when everyone else is in diapers. Amazon Prime is my BFF as well, gotta love the subscribe and save to know there are always diapers, wipes, rash cream, toilet paper, and paper towels in the garage. I, like you, subscribe to the why make it clean for no one to enjoy while we sleep when in 10 minutes the next morning it’s going to look exactly the same. As the older boys get a bit older, they are starting to understand helping clean up and my son does love putting things away, heck he picks up more stuff off the floor for me to throw away than I do. The only other thing I have that adds to my sanity is a dog. No really. I don’t understand how anyone has little ones without one. They are better than a Rumba at picking up thrown pasta, spilled milk, licking faces clean, and warning me when someone is doing something wrong. I have a saintly Weimaraner we call the German Nanny as she tattles better than an older sibling on the kids. Thanks for the fun read and don’t pay attention to naysayers who think taking the probably 10 minutes for your to write this blog was a neglect to your children. Sometimes mommies need a little mommy time and an opportunity to express themselves. I know, selfish right? I say that as there is a load of clothes in the dryer, a room full of toys and one 2 year old who will not give it up and is watching, gasp, the Mickey Mouse club.

  7. I have three daughters under three. My youngest is 8 months old, and my oldest is almost 3. I will have two 2 year olds for 14 days. My house is my enemy, my dishes are always stacked up, and sometimes I find myself smelling jammie suits to see if they are clean enough for the evening. My husband and I haven’t had a date in well over a year but we still seem to be on the same page every night when we go to bed. We are a team. That’s what you need when you have this many toddlers. It is a nightmare sometimes and you feel like you’re going to lose your mind. As I am feeling today especially. Someone is always poopy, someone is always sick, someone is always spilling something, someone is always climbing something or getting hurt. It is an endless cycle of the “oh s**ts” but in all we are a loving family that make things work. My husband sees me struggling and offers me to go shower, or to go to the store with myself or just one of them. Separation time for each is so hard as I cannot be 3 places at once. Jealousy is always a thing and someone again is always crying. I love my beautiful babies so much but I am telling you my journey has been so difficult. Having a child in January 2016 then again in December of 2016 is like sometimes so hard for people to understand. We absolutely have no support system. No babysitter has ever entered our home. WE are constantly struggling financially and friends… a thing of the past. BUT that all being said I get to spend so much time with my babies and my family. We are a happy family but there isn’t a day that goes by that I am wishing for a small break. Ever see a mom struggling to shop with a bunch of kiddos? Tell her she’s doing a great job and her kids look beautiful, because let me tell you… sometimes just getting out of bed is a difficult. Love is a big thing in our family. And yes… Yelling happens.


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