I think I've decided why having two kids was a breeze for me and the third did me in.
It's the individual kids themselves.
I've had this conversation a few times; people say "Oh, I bet the third was nothing after having two! It's really hard for me to have two!" and that's what most people say. That the hardest transition is from one kid to two, but I just had a different experience, and I think I've figured out why.
Today I took all three of mine to the park by myself for the first time since my youngest started climbing, AND there was no swing to put her in to contain her. She is a daredevil like my oldest, so I spent the entire time chasing her, frantically trying to keep an eye on the other two. My middle one is a scaredy cat and my oldest is nearly five so I don't worry about them hurting themselves too much.
When my oldest was this age, I'd chase her , no problem. Not like I had anything else to do.
My youngest never did this. I could put her on the ground and she would happily watch for hours and not move. But now? I have three climbing all at the same time, and there's the difference.
Audrey has always been independent so she didn't care when Ayla came along to be snuggled and carried. Ayla has never wanted to do half the stuff that Audrey does She's chill. But Aurelia is just like Audrey, and Ayla is almost three and wanting to do all those big kid things that her sisters have been doing since they were six months old.
When Aurelia was a newborn, though, and she needed undivided, hands-full attention, the others would fight and I was powerless to do anything about it. But when I had only two, Ayla could receive her attention and Audrey was always doing her own thing. Having three was immensely harder.
I recently met a new, sleep-deprived mother of a newborn, and she said, "I just know this is the hardest part and it will only get easier." I wanted to laugh in her face. Your baby doesn't move! She doesn't talk! She cries, you feed her, she goes to sleep! I've just always thought newborns were the easiest form of child to take care of, despite the crippling fear they will suddenly stop breathing for no reason.
This is also how I felt about having two kids. The baby didn't move; didn't need anything the older one needed and would sit still for hours at a time. What's so hard about that? Take care of the one who moves first. Now I just take of the one who is screaming the loudest first. But every kid is SO different, it can be hard to believe they came from the same gene pool.
I find that with every new age and stage, there is something that is easier than the previous one and something that is harder.
People say to me, "You're so laid back and your kids are so well-behaved. How do you get all that crafting done?" Once I get over my shock, my usual response is, "Uhhhh......" or "We have our moments," or "....MY kids are well-behaved??"
I think the appropriate response should be, "Don't worry, my house is a wreck." Which is the absolute truth. I was discussing this with a friend the other day and we decided it was a choice we make. My creative outlets are more important to me than a clean house. I know there are people out there who have to have a spotless house before they will do ANYTHING else, and I am NOT one of those people. So my kids sort of have to be laid-back to survive, haha :) The sewing machine is out at all times (turned off and unplugged, but out), so I have access to it to finish a seam here and there. I don't mind being constantly interrupted. If you're expecting to have days at a time with no kids before you can craft anything, it's not going to happen. And personally, I would rather my kids be exposed to this kind of thing, and see me enjoying myself and learning a new skill so they can see that personal fulfillment is as important as anything else in life.
Hubs and I play board games during the day while they're awake, too. We set it up on the kitchen counter. We take breaks, explain the game to them, let them "help," and take hours to play one game, but we think they should see us having fun and enjoying each others' company. If it means there are toys everywhere at the end of the day, so be it.
We do so many playdates, outings, educational play, unstructured learning, and WORK, that I think an equal amount of free play and *GASP* age-appropriate TV is just as beneficial. Everybody needs down time. I think two hours of chasing them at the park is worth a half hour of sewing. I think three hours of homeschooling in the morning is worth two hours of daycare at the gym in the afternoon. Maybe that makes me laid-back.
It's funny because a proportional amount of people would say that I am too strict. It's laughable to me but you can't please or impress everybody, so you have to do it your own way.