MOMMY MATTERS: Three Under Three

by Rania Mankarious 

Editor's Note: Mommy Matters, a column, is a collection of personal essays. Rania Mankarious is a Houston SuperMom to three girls. She is a freelance writer and a legal analyst for television shows.

       Most people think I'm crazy. To some extent, I can see why. I'm certainly no octomom but think of it, I had three pregnancies, each with its own challenges, three rounds of c-section recoveries and three rounds of sleepless newborn nights all within a little more than (da-da-da-dah!) three years.

      My eldest is 4, middle is 3 and youngest is 14 months old. I proudly call myself the mother of these precious children, an accomplishment I hold more meaningful than anything else. These walking babes have given me more joy than words can express!  But with that joy has come some significant sacrifices, stresses, and changes which have, on occasion, left me burying my face with an overflow of tears, into very tired hands.

    Some women find motherhood a journey from "fabulous and happily married" to "struggling to get dressed and living with that guy." I can see that. But I also sincerely feel that with some strategizing and education, you can survive and thrive during the early years.



     My husband and I quickly felt the pressures mounting with the increasing demands of our growing kids. It was especially hard for me. I was exhausted and worried that my life was unraveling yet staying stagnant, while my husband's life seemed relatively unaffected and skyrocketing forward.
     During the day, I catered to the needs of my kids, all 100% dependent in 100% different ways. When they slept, I definitely did not (I don't know any mother that does). I cleaned, prepared, made calls, tried to work or sat in a catatonic-like state watching mindless TV until cries through the baby-monitor snapped me back to reality.
     Nights were about sneaking in sleep between feedings, bathroom runs, and whatever else the kids needed. Aside from coming home to a very full family, my husband's life did not change as much as mine. He worked hard (I can't take anything away from what he does!), came home, played with the kids, took them out for "daddy time" and finished the day with whatever tasks he still had to do. It was hard to comprehend that while these kids belonged to both of us, the brunt of the responsibility was mine.

     In an effort to remain connected, we thankfully made a conscious decision to recognize potential problem areas and deal with them before they became major problems areas. Had we not, cracks could have set in. I truly believe that kids can potentially and totally unknowingly wage war against an otherwise solid marriage; if parents aren't careful, those little ones have a chance of winning! Don't let them! We discovered that this challenging time can also become the most wonderful time if we focused on coming together, parenting together, communicating clearly and honestly while always having each other's backs. Those decisions proved to be the most important for the foundation of our marriage and family.



     Prior to having kids, I was totally independent, academic, work oriented, compulsive about how I looked and totally in control of every aspect of my life. A few months into the early years, I was totally dependent on the extra hands of someone, anyone, to provide relief so I could run to the grocery store. Academically, world news was being replaced with PBS kids, Disney and Nickelodeon. I still loved to work, but who had the time? And in terms of how I looked, if I was able to get dressed before 5 pm, that was good. The clothes I threw on were by my standards, horrible. Moms always talk about this nonchalantly, but those changes are very hard to swallow. In time, I felt a deep loss of myself and an unfamiliarity with the new me.

     A year or so into this journey, my thoughts began to change. I realized that the new me is so much stronger than the younger, more seemingly fabulous me. Sure I would never wear a two-piece bathing suit again but really, I hadn't worn one since I was 16 nor did I really plan to ever again. What matters is that these kids have given me internal strength and cultivated my personality in a way that it had never been developed before. I was constantly problem solving, nurturing and juggling. I was giving love and receiving love, buckets of love, all day every day. Additionally, they were sharpening my character! I realized that they, especially in their early years, were watching me and learning important habits and behaviors. In each situation, I would ask myself: was I kind, honest, consistent, and loving? They were keeping count and I was happy to be an example to them.

      Do I miss my favorite black slim-fitting slacks? Y-E-S. But do my bigger hips have meaning that makes a size up (or two) worth it? A-B-S-O-L-U-T-EL-Y! They gave life, three times over! They carried little ones around town and are the foundation of my growing family. Who can complain about that?  


      Soon after having my kids, I quickly learned that I needed to learn about budgeting for a family! Kids are EXPENSIVE! There's baby formula, diapers, vitamins, special bath soap, detergent, and q-tips. Special gadgets are also recommended for every single need they have: strollers to move them around, pack-n-plays so they can play, bassinets to change their diapers, swings to keep them safely in one place, baby tubs for baths, a highchair for feeding, a special baby food processor to make food, weird toys that freeze to soothe teething and don't forget the baby wipe warmer! The list goes on and on. The problem was my personal shopping list was also going on and on.

      And so here were again, my needs vs. theirs. I found myself thinking differently: this one purchase = 5 boxes of diapers. I need to purchase roughly 55 boxes of diapers this year. Did the cost of 5 more really break the bank? My answer was usually "No!" but the truth is, "It Depends!" All the sudden, each purchase, (especially those major ones) started to compete with the important needs of my kids - can we send our three kids to school if I buy XYZ?

     Together, my husband and I put a budget in place. We considered the type of home we hoped to buy and determined likely mortgage payments; we also considered the costs of a new car to accommodate the size of our growing family, schools and associated costs, and some big-ticket yearly expenses like travel and miscellaneous activities. We created a plan and did our best to stick to it. Doing this also allows us to teach our kids the value of money. When we say "no" to a purchase, we accompany that answer with an explanation. They listen, watch and thankfully learn.

      I count my blessings nightly for the gifts given to me! I remind myself that everything worth having takes work and that there is no greater joy than building a family, one that is uniquely... yours.  

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