Almost everyone told us transitioning from two to three kids wouldn’t be too difficult. Their rationale was simple: you’ve been through it before, twice. You know what to expect. You know what works, you know what doesn’t. Well, we now have three children (a boy and two girls), and we certainly feel blessed. However, I wouldn’t say it was a smooth transition. In fact, it’s proven to be quite a challenge.

Bedtime is a time of struggle, at least for us. You step on the wrong floor board or neglect to service that creaky door hinge and boom—your baby is awake. We have an older home, so any misstep could potentially undo the work of a carefully-orchestrated rocking routine. Our third child needs rhythmic motion and some type of musical accompaniment. She squirms, kicks, whines, and if we’ve been really good, she’ll even claw—swiping at warp speed. My wife and I were both maimed recently—my wife on her nose and for me, the neck. We try to perform regular maintenance on our little darling, but boy can she dig those nails in.

Levity has been an important aspect of my years as a father, but what truly saddens me is when I hear my wife say she isn’t a good mom. How can she utter those words? Maybe she’s fishing for compliments? Does she want me to gush over how wonderful she is and how motherhood is just a natural fit? No. I should be saying those things anyway because I love my wife and believe them to be true, but I’ve missed the point entirely if that’s my conclusion. It’s just how she feels sometimes. She’s tired. And when she’s tired, she questions things. There’s more.

My wife chose to breastfeed exclusively with all three of our children. I mean no disrespect toward mothers who don’t; everyone has a decision to make on what’s best for her family, and there are many variables that ultimately influence that path. In my opinion, though, breastfeeding is a tremendous commitment—I’ve witnessed the physical toll. From latching issues to complete monopolization of time, it’s a lot. Additionally, caloric intake needs to increase to compensate for the nutrients lost. Regular hydration is also key, but amid the frantic pace of each day, it’s easily neglected. With her magnesium levels compromised, I’ve seen her energy plummet. It’s tough, but she does it for the kids.

I can’t help but feel a little guilty with how easy it is for me to escape. Dads have it much easier, at least in my experience. I can go play golf because I’m not breastfeeding. Because I’m not breastfeeding, I can meet a buddy at the movie theater. Now, my wife can go out and leave the baby with me, but if she’s gone for too long, well, it’s time to pump. Even when’s she’s not here, she’s still here. It’s lonely. It’s limiting.

My wife loves our kids with every fiber of her being, but their needs—needs that pull her in every direction—leave her depleted. She’s so busy being mom that taking care of herself is often displaced, especially with three littles. She, sometimes, feels as though she has no other identity than that of mom. I always chalked it up to being a part of life, but now I think I understand.

My wife has been more vocal in expressing these feelings, for which I applaud her. She feels guilty for verbalizing it, but it’s real. It’s honest. It’s life. Her bond with the children is different from the bond I have with them. I witness her compassion, patience, and resolve on a daily basis. She sacrifices so much for their benefit, and I know I don’t tell her enough. Sometimes, I don’t need to say anything. All she wants is a listener. I can’t necessarily fix how she feels, but I can listen. I can validate.

Moms need time for themselves, and dads need to be conscientious of it. I use the term dads generally, but I mean me. I need to be more aware of how I can fill her bucket. She loves being a mom, but she needs time to be Nicole, too—something I would do well to remember. But I hope she knows that while the identity of mom is just part of who she is, it’s the part I value most.

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Patrick Danz

Patrick Danz is a follower of Christ, husband, father, educator, and sports enthusiast. He lives in Trenton, Michigan, with his wife, Nicole, and their three children: Keason, Carmella, and Alessandra. When he's not teaching, Patrick spends his time writing, golfing, grilling, and quoting lines from Groundhog Day. His work has appeared on Parent.co and Fatherly.