It’s not that being a parent becomes easier the more babies you have, but you just have less time to sweat the small stuff.
“He’s had to fit into our routine. Life keeps going! It’s not as hard as I thought it was going to be. But it’s definitely not easy!”
Mornings can be a challenge, Rycroft, 33, admits with a laugh. “It’s constant chaos! I’m fighting with Ava to get dressed, Beckett insists on making his own breakfast and is spilling cereal all over the floor and Cayson needs to be fed. There are times it feels like there are 18 children in my house!”
Still, adds Rycroft: “It’s funny how quickly you adapt. If it’s quiet, it’s almost weird!”
Despite the organized chaos, the couple are making an effort to keep life as normal as possible for their children.
“I don’t want Ava and Beckett to feel [like], ‘Oh no there’s a new baby and they’re ignoring us,’ ” she says. “I’ve kept their schedules the same. We do morning breakfast together as a family. I have them help out with the baby so they feel like big siblings.”
The new mom of three is also realizing the importance of alone time with each of her children. Last year, Rycroft and Strickland went on a Disney cruise with Ava and plan on doing something special with Beckett soon too.
“Yesterday Ava was at my in-laws so we just had the boys and it was a chance to treat Beckett like he was our firstborn and the day revolved around him,” she says. “At the end of the day, Tye and I were like, we need to do this more with him and have more special Mommy-Beckett times. There’s not a lot of them you can have, but it’s important to at least try.”
But in between swim lessons and playdates for her older children, Rycroft says she’s relishing getting to know her “calm and mellow” newborn.
Says Rycroft: “He’s a dream. He’s transitioned into the family very nicely. I’m excited to see what personality he has and what dynamic Cayson has with his siblings.”
As for Ava and Beckett’s personalities, Rycroft jokes her daughter is a classic firstborn while their middle child fits perfectly into the mix.
“Beckett’s got such a chill personality. He’s almost got that perfect middle child personality. He doesn’t require a lot of our attention,” Rycroft explains. “Ava is an attention hog. If I am not devoting 25 hours a day to her, she gets irritated. He’s just cut differently, which is great.”
For now, Cayson definitely takes after his brother and sister in the looks department. “I have blonde kids!’ says Rycroft. “And Ava has blue eyes, Beckett has green. Cayson has blue for now. He’s the perfect mix of Ava and Beckett. But none of my kids look like me!”
Aside from their blonde hair and Dad’s dimples, there is something else that ties the three children together: their names. “As corny as it sounds, once we had Ava and Beckett, we were like, ‘We have A and B, it would be kind of cool if we had C,’ ” says Rycroft.
“It came down between Cayden and Cayson and then I started hearing Cayden everywhere so we just started calling him Cayson and it stuck! It felt like Beckett was such a unique name, we couldn’t have a Beckett and a Paul.”
Still in the newborn stage, Cayson is waking up every three hours to eat, although Rycroft admits she can’t complain as her baby boy feeds and immediately goes back to sleep. But while the late-nights can take a toll, she’s grateful Strickland is by her side.
“I’ve picked the right guy and we’ve made the right choices in life and we’re being rewarded with this amazing family,” she says. “We’re in the newborn stage so we don’t talk between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. because nothing comes out nice! But we’re doing it. He’s a huge help and I’m very thankful for that.”
And while the couple are still in the throes of raising young children, Rycroft is already excited about the years to come.
“Obviously I look forward to everything in between, but my goal for having a big family was I can’t wait for Thanksgiving in 20 years,” she says. “Three kids, all their friends, boyfriends and girlfriends. I dream about having big holidays and all these spawns of yours running around. That’s the image that I had. It’s the big picture.”
For more from Melissa Rycroft, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.
— Aili Nahas and Anya Leon