Most days having three kids under the age of four is EXHAUSTING. Having to leave the “safety” of your own home (all by your lonesome) with multiple kids is something else entirely. It’s enough to make a grown woman cower in fear.
I will be honest with you: it takes some major planning ahead. When you have this many children — who frankly can’t do much of anything for themselves — leaving the house on a whim isn’t something you do. But never leaving the house is mind-numbing. And a great way to isolate yourself from the outside world. You must get out, especially if you have school-aged children starting little social lives.
I am here to tell you that it CAN be done. You have to manage your expectations, as well as your calendar. Know your limitations, and plan accordingly. Here are a few tips for getting out of the house with multiple kids while maintaining your sanity.
1. Get Dressed!
This may sound counter-intuitive or even self-centered but start with your own appearance. You do not always have to look perfect, but you should try to get dressed (most of the time).
You know, at least brush your hair and teeth, and maybe even change out of your spit-up-stained pajamas before hitting the carpool line. A good shower can work wonders for your spirit and dirty mom hair. Many moms say that when they take the time (or have the time) to put themselves together, they feel better about themselves and the day.
I try to get dolled up when I can, mainly because this helps me feel less sloth-like and more like a grown-up adult. I’ve realized that my days go a lot more smoothly when I take a little time for myself. I usually try to get up approximately two hours before my girls. Mommy needs some me-time and an occasional shower without little people on top of her.
2. Keep the diaper bag packed and ready.
A great diaper bag is worth its weight in gold. I recommend packing your diaper bag with all the must-haves, like plenty of diapers, wipes, and snacks. Just make sure not to over-pack your diaper bag. I’ve found that it’s helpful to restock my diaper bag every evening in preparation for whatever the next day brings. Waiting to do it in the morning doesn’t always quite work out. Without fail, this will be the morning that everything goes wrong — giant spills at breakfast, fights about clothing and shoes and getting stuck in traffic for 40+ minutes on our way to school. You name it, and it’s going to happen.
I pack backpacks and lunches at night and lay out everyone’s clothing and accessories for the next day (including mine). This may sound a little extreme, but you HAVE to be organized. Getting things done beforehand will help you have much easier mornings. Otherwise, you will never survive. Life will run you over.
3. Invest in a good-quality infant carrier.
That infant car seat is too heavy to lug around after about a month, and using a stroller is not always convenient. Real-life example: I have to walk my older girls into preschool and Mother’s Day Out to sign them in — I strap the baby to me and hold hands with the older two. There are many cute options to choose from. Just make sure you select something that you can easily maneuver (in and out of) yourself! Some of those baby wraps can be tricky if you aren’t familiar with how they work.
4. Double down on the stroller.
A double stroller is a necessity with multiple kids. If you can find one with a kickstand (for the third child), that’s even better. We also have a single stroller for those rare occasions when we bravely venture out as a family — my husband pushes the double stroller (he’s significantly stronger than I am), and I follow with the single.
5. Always pack extra.
Keep spare diapers, wipes, and a changing pad in the car. An extra change of clothes is always helpful to have on hand.
6. Have milk, formula, and snacks on hand.
Because one of my babies is still so young (only two months old), I always make sure I have a nursing cover, as well as a lunch bag (freezable) with a bottle or two of pumped breastmilk on hand when we head out. Even if I’ve just fed the baby and plan to be gone for 30 minutes (or less). I always pack a few extra snacks for the bigger kids in case of a snack crisis while we’re out and about. Always plan for the unexpected!
7. Entertainment is key.
Always have books, tablets, and other forms of entertainment handy when out in public. With multiple kids, things can go south fast.
8. Keep up with your keys at all times.
Unless you want to run the risk of being trapped in a parking lot with your rowdy, roving children while you fish through your entire diaper bag looking for them. I like to find mine and carry them with the key pointed out — for safety reasons — before we even head toward the parking lot.
9. Add 30 minutes to your timeline. Always!
Calculate how long it will take you to load all of your kiddos and their necessary paraphernalia into (and out of) the car — then add at least 30 minutes to whatever this time frame looks like. Nothing is more challenging than getting out the door when you are already running late.
10. Take care of yourself.
Need a 15-minute sanity break when you get home? Don’t be afraid to take it. Ensure all the littles are safe and secure (strapped into a swing or a bouncer, in a crib, or a playpen), and hide out in your room (briefly) until you feel less stressed. I never want to take my frustrations out on my children. Usually, my frustration revolves around my inability to control everyone and everything around me, and that’s not their fault. I need to take a chill pill in moments like these and remember that they are just kids. They are learning. I sometimes reward myself with a fancy cup of coffee after a particularly stressful morning or outing. (I usually make my coffee at home, so this is always a treat.)
And when push comes to shove, don’t be afraid to STAY HOME. Especially when you really, really need to. Errands can wait, but your peace of mind can not. For everything in life, there is a season. I recognize that for my little family, this is a hectic season. However, that does not mean we have to become hermits. We just have to pack an extra dose of patience before hitting the road.