Nick and Vanessa Lachey recently graced the pages of PEOPLE as part of the annual World’s Most Beautiful issue, alongside their adorable children: Phoenix Robert, 4 months, Brooklyn Elisabeth, 2, and Camden John, 4½.
And though the brood is pretty much #familygoals judging from the couple’s kind words about each other both as parents and spouses — not to mention all the cute Instagram photos — that doesn’t mean it’s always easy.
“It did get hard when [Nick] was on tour, and that’s when I was like, ‘Man, I really have just so much respect and love and appreciation for single parents,’ ” Vanessa, 36, told PEOPLE. “He did come home as often as he could, but I was pregnant, I had Brooklyn, I had Camden.”
“And you just have to change everything about the way you attack the day, and everything that you would think you’re wired to be,” she continues. “It’s different. I need that partner, at the end of the day, to kind of just hang out with and talk to … [The tour] was a funky time.”
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Nick chimes in to discuss what his own parents instilled in him throughout his life that he and Vanessa strive to pass on to their little ones as they grow.
“The most important thing that my parents taught me was respect — respect of other people, and appreciating people for their differences,” says the 98 Degrees frontman, 43. “Everyone’s not like us, like you. And that’s great. That’s what makes the world wonderful.”
Speaking of their differences, Vanessa expresses that her greatest fear for her kids is that they feel the need to be someone else in order to be happy.
“My greatest fear for my children is that, in any way, they will ever fear being who they want to be and feel stifled,” she says.
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Adds the proud mom of three, “I want them to never have that feeling, and just know that they are loved because they are them, and the [people] they want to be.”
Vanessa says there isn’t much she really misses from before her current life that includes being a wife and mother, as her time beforehand was largely spent working toward the ability to “live this life of love.”
Nick admits that he feels similarly, but there is one thing he could do with more of: snoozing.
“The only thing that I even occasionally miss about life before kids is sleeping in. Just every now and then,” he says.