How I Parent: A Mother of 5 - Including Triplets! - Shares the Philosophy that Keeps Her Sane
How I Parent explores the ins and outs of modern day parenting with moms and dads from all over the world, who are raising their own unique families and sharing their best advice and most heartfelt lessons with PEOPLE. Want to be a part of it? Email what makes your family so special to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Name: Rachel Feldman
Location: Montréal, Québec, Canada
Occupation: I’m a stay-at-home mum, who plans to go to nursing school to study dietetics once my kids are a bit older.
Family situation: Married with five kids: our oldest Adina Ariella Emma is 6, our triplets Aviva Leah Lizette, Avital Yael Anne, Eliyahu Meyer Martin are 4 and our youngest Ilana Menucha Julia is 4 months. My husband, who works full-time, and I raise our children together.
Parenting philosophy: Childhood is fleeting so be present for your kids during that precious, magical time.
What was your journey to having the family life you have today?
My husband and I were set up on a date and from the moment we met, I just knew things felt right. We were so on the same page and we even have the same birthday: May 22nd. We dated for three months before we decided to get engaged. Two years after we got married, I became pregnant with our first daughter; a year after she was born, I got pregnant with our triplets.
At the time, my husband and I were visiting my parents in Australia and on the way back, I was feeling really sick but we thought it was the plane ride. When we got back to Montréal, I still felt sick so I took a pregnancy test, which came up positive. I didn’t feel sick at all with my oldest so this was a totally different experience for me. I went to the doctor and he did an early ultrasound and showed us three fetuses. We were shocked. Initially, we were excited to be pregnant again so our oldest would have a sibling to play with but then there was three. It was still exciting but shocking nonetheless. We ended up switching doctors a few times before we found one that had delivered triplets naturally and was open to delivering ours.
I went into preterm labor at 29 weeks, which basically meant my triplets were at risk of a premature birth, and I was put on bedrest at the hospital. The doctors were able to prolong the pregnancy but I had to stay at the hospital for another six weeks, which was rough. By the time I hit 34 weeks, I was begging them to let me go home to my husband and daughter. After a week of bed rest at home, I started bleeding but I wasn’t in labor. The doctor suggested a C-section because they couldn’t induce me; It would not have been safe for the fetuses.
With three babies, I knew there would be a chance I would have to have a C-section but I was definitely disappointed. I hoped things would change but they didn’t. Finally, we agreed to a C-section, which was quite scary because I was awake for the procedure. Thankfully, the whole thing happened very quickly. It felt like one second had passed and the babies were out. My husband and I were so grateful that they were all healthy and that’s what I like to focus on when I look back on the whole experience. If I had been selfish and insisted on a natural birth, our babies may not have made it so easily.
Our son was the first of the three to come out but he was having trouble breathing. The doctor said if we had waited longer, his oxygen supply could have been cut off and that I would’ve had to have an emergency C-section anyway, so we were grateful that we did what we did. However, a small part of me still wishes I could’ve given birth to them naturally.
During this time, my oldest daughter was too young to understand what was going on. For the longest time, she thought that having three babies at once was normal and that everyone has three babies at once. We really tried to give her extra attention since the triplets did take a lot of our time. We always included her in everything and she’s been an amazing sister.
Three years after the twins, we became unexpectedly pregnant again with our youngest daughter. We both knew that we might want another one down the line but we didn’t plan anything. Either way, we were both very excited.
Raising five kids isn’t always easy but my husband and I have made our children’s emotional health a priority. Every night we ask them to share how they feel and what they’re grateful for. We always tell them that it’s okay to express how they feel, whether it’s good or bad. Before the triplets were born, we made sure we checked in with our oldest. We also made a big effort to check in with her after they were born as well, and she’s been amazing throughout it all.
How did your upbringing influence your parenting style?
I grew up in Australia, in an orthodox Jewish family. My mum is a very strong, smart woman, who has been an inspiration to me as a mother. I would say the same for my grandmother and great grandmother, too. I’ve heard stories about how my great grandmother and grandmother kept their Jewish traditions and values alive in Germany, when it was forbidden to practice Judaism. I’m lucky to come from a line of amazing women, who have made me into the woman I am today.
I also grew up with parents who were very health-conscious. My mum made everything from scratch, so as a child, I gained an appreciation for nutrition. Now as a mother, I try to keep our home as healthy as possible. We keep everything in moderation so our children don’t feel deprived of the various types of junk food available, but we try as much as possible to keep our home free of sugar, artificial coloring, white wheat flour and junky oils. I bake a lot using a base of pureed vegetables, spelt flour, honey and olive oil. We try to show our children that healthy can be delicious! In our home, the basis of our diet includes vegetables, fruits, protein and whole unrefined grains. We believe that education is key and if we educate them about health and nutrition early, it will allow them to make healthy food choices throughout their lives. We also try to keep an active lifestyle. During the winter months, the kids go ice skating once a week and during the summer, they spend a lot of time swimming.
My husband and I try to protect our kids from the negativity in this world, while still trying to give them the tools to help themselves when they’re faced with difficulties. We practice using the “bucket filler” philosophy, which is: everyone has an invisible bucket that gets filled when they feel good, and gets emptied when they feel bad. We’ve taught them that if someone is bullying you, know that their bucket is empty and they aren’t feeling good within themselves. Instead of letting the hurtful comments make you feel bad, think about what the person is saying. If it’s true, you should apologize or think about why they said what they said. If it isn’t, then their bucket might just need filling, so try to say something nice so they feel better.
What’s your favorite thing about parenting?
I love watching them experience everything for the first time. Every year they gain more insight and have more to say and it’s amazing to watch. My husband and I keep our home relatively screen free and I think this brings out the creativity in our children. They role play a lot and love playing “mommies and daddies.” They also put on performances, use puppets, sing and play games.
What’s the hardest part?
The hardest part is sending my kids to daycare. Although I have more time to myself, I miss them; sometimes I feel like I’m missing out on the little moments they have while at school. It’s also tough to constantly declutter the house. The kids bring home so many projects from school so I’m constantly having to choose between what to keep and what to toss. I feel like every little scribble and stick person they draw holds so much creativity. When they’re older, they’ll be so much more inhibited and they’ll be exposed to how things are “supposed” to look. They won’t be able to let their creative juices flow like they do now.
What’s your trick for achieving balance when things get crazy?
When it comes to achieving balance for my family, it’s really been a team effort between me and my husband. Taking care of five kids together has been an incredible bonding experience that helped us get to know each other better. We saw each other’s raw strengths and weaknesses, so now we can pretty much handle anything together. We also believe it’s important to make each child feel special and unique. We let them make their own decisions and celebrate their own unique styles. They love it when we ask them questions without judgement or adult preconception, so their imaginations can run wild.
We also always encourage them to look after each other and give hugs and kisses if one of them is feeling down. We ask them to share their feelings and have conversations with each other and to love each other unconditionally. We believe if our roots are strong, the family will remain strong so our kids can become healthy adults who can go out into the world knowing that their siblings will always have their back.
What’s the best advice you can share with new parents?
Try your best, but don’t try too hard. Parenting isn’t supposed to be perfect. You have to allow yourself to be human. Your kids will enjoy moments so much more if you’re enjoying them with them and not trying so hard to be the perfect mom or dad. Sometimes as parents, we’re always thinking about our to-do list or what’s next, so it’s important to take a step back and just enjoy the present.
What would you want your kids to say about you as a parent?
I’d want them to say that I was always there for them and that I taught them balance. I hope I have given them a fun, happy, carefree childhood with lots of laughter and the right amount of boundaries. I want them to say that I pushed them to be the best person each one of them could be without pushing too hard. I’d like to be able to motivate and inspire them to be creative so they could each have the best lives individually, and as siblings.