Is it possible to remain in control (at least some of the time) if you have a young child, a toddler and a baby too?
AMANDA ALEXANDER is a parent coach and runs Coaching Mums', workshops where she helps women enjoy parenting. She has one son, Max, 4.
'Almost every woman who comes to see me feels guilty about some aspect of her parenting. Though you try to be the best mother you can, you often feel your best isn't good enough.
'Even with one child, women have to juggle relationships, work, domestic chores and motherhood, and hardly anyone would say they've got the balance right. So with three young children, it's even easier to feel you're letting someone down.'
The key is to realise you are never going to be perfect, so cut yourself some slack.
Watching TV, eating beans on toast and having a good wash instead of a bath every night is NOT going to do your child irreversible harm and DOESN'T make you a bad mother.
Here's Alison's 10-point plan to help cope when you've got a family of three or more:
Most children go through phases of not eating well. It often coincides with the arrival of a new sibling, but can also be one of the first ways your child asserts her independence. However, having two toddlers eating together can really help. Encourage your oldest child to behave and your middle one may follow suit. Work on this before baby No 3 is born.
2. Seek support
Mums often find it difficult to say when they need help, so it might not be in your nature to turn to a partner, family or friends. But asking for help does not mean you're admitting failure. Start by suggesting play dates to other mums, when your older children go to their friends' houses. That allows you a bit of one-on-one time with your newborn.
>You may find that having play dates at your house too will keep your older children occupied better so you get a chance to feed the baby in peace. At least some of the time!
Take advantage of online shopping for clothes and groceries to make life easier too.
3. Recognise your children are different
Don't worry that your oldest child is being forced to act more sensibly and grow up too quickly. It is natural that the eldest of three siblings will be more independent. Children adopt different roles within families. That is fine. It is good parenting to understand that and to accept, encourage and celebrate each child's individual role. Click here for more information on birth order rules.
4. TV is not the enemy
You may be tempted to let your toddlers watch TV when you're breastfeeding the baby - so what? Yes, they shouldn't watch too much, but some TV is not bad. Why not record a couple of programmes you are happy with, or invest in a couple of DVDs and play those during breastfeeding time? That way, at least your children's viewing isn't at the mercy of the schedulers. If you watch alongside them you can make sure they interact with the programme and learn from it too.
5. Get housework into perspective
Accept you may not be able to do as much housework as you used to, and prioritise what needs doing. If you hired a cleaner for two hours, what chores would you ask them to do? Once you've worked that out, you'll know what's most important to you. The laundry will always be there, but your children won't always be young.
6. Look on the bright side
Though you may sometimes doubt it, there are many advantages to having your children in quick succession. Firstly, all your sleepless nights, nappy costs and picky-eater problems will be over within a few years. Secondly, it's much easier to keep similar-aged siblings entertained. Also, it's important to remind yourself that you won't be juggling a young family forever, and that you chose to have this family set-up - you're not, after all, a victim of circumstances. That should help you put things in perspective.
7. Be strict at bedtime
Every mum gets tired, but with three little ones running you ragged all day it's really important to avoid anyone developing a sleep problem. Enforce a good night-time routine, putting the baby down before he falls asleep, and make sure the older children know their bedtime routines too and stick to them. Having all children in bed at a reasonable time will give you a chance for a much-needed break in the evening too.
8. Accept sibling rivalry
It is absolutely normal for your two older children to play up once a new baby arrives. Seeing you feeding their little brother or sister will upset them - afterall, your attention is focused elsewhere. Perhaps you could set aside special times for each child during the course of a typical day, while the baby is asleep, to ensure everyone gets their 'mummy time'?
9. Stop trying to be perfect
We're surrounded by TV shows telling us what we should be doing to be the perfect parent. This leaves many of us feeling that if we haven't enrolled our little ones in baby gym, junior Mensa and the local choral society, we've failed. You are being too hard on yourself - don't try to be Supermum, it will only lead to disappointment as there is no such thing.
10. Get your life back
Set aside some me-time, which is crucial to recharge your batteries. Try to: squeeze in a long, hot soak in a bath; get some sort of pampering, like a massage or facial; have a romantic date with your partner; go on a night out with friends; go out clothes shopping without the children.
Visit www.coachingmums.com or call Amanda on 01829 7526