By Sarah Wilson
Have you ever seen the BBC comedy series ‘Outnumbered’? It is one of my favourite TV shows, and it is my husband’s also. It documents the everyday life of a couple bringing up their three lively children. Those children really are a scream. Outnumbered has won awards for it’s realistic portrayal of family life.
Is three the new two?
But is three the new two? I read a magazine article a few years ago that suggested this. And I don’t think it is just in my circle of friends. I don’t know what the statistics say, but three does seem like a popular number of children to have these days. Even in this tough economy and in these difficult times, it has become trendy to have a brood.
If you considered having a third child, how did you come to this decision? To have or to have not? To have any number of children is a big decision. I have known of some families who have regreted not having a third child, and there are many families for whom it isn’t a choice. That decision is made for them and they may have suffered secondary infertility or pregnancy loss.
There are multiple factors to consider when thinking about having a third child and it can be difficult to weigh everything up. Factors such as finances, parental ages, parental health and energy levels, the mother’s pregnancies and births, parental personalities and coping strategies, and availability of family and social support or domestic help. Not to mention what sort of babies one has. I always joked that I was going to order a good sleeper next time!
Every child is different. They all require love and attention and various amounts of effort. The difference between a duet and a trio (or a trio or a quartet for that matter) can also depend on your kids, their temperaments and the spacing of ages.
Three is For Me
I love having three children. I think three is for me. But like many parents who have had three children, I would agree that three children is quite a big workload and a busy lifestyle, especially when they are small. And I can imagine that when they are older it is still a busy lifestyle, that of a cash dispensing taxi driver!
Going from two to three children is a big step and for many parents it can be the most challenging transition. You are outnumbered. There are three distinct people, with different genders, ages, and personality traits. Sometimes it can be hard to keep track of whose what is whose. My husband frequently gets our girl’s names mixed up!The domestic work triples and the washing? Mt Washmore. And in New Zealand, who has domestic help? I know of a few folk who might have a cleaner for one-two hours per week but that would be the extent of it. Yes I want to try and train my children to help so that the domestic load it is not just all on me (and my helpful husband), but they are still quite little. Sometimes it feels like pulling teeth getting them to do anything. The other day saw a breakthrough – my son mopped the floor. I almost thought he was ill!
How do you know when your family is finished? For some folks, they just seem to know. Everyone is different and for some, one or two children is enough. And for others, they desire a rugby team. One of the blogs i enjoy reading is written by an amazing woman who has fifteen biological children (and homeschools). And I thought I was busy with three! Good on her, but I feel exhausted just reading her blog!
I know of some couples who said that if they didn’t have family support close by two children would have been it for them. Many people argue that from a parental perspective two children is probably a little easier than three. Three is definitely manageable, but it is easier to wrangle one child each than one and a half. When I had two children I noticed that people would refer to it as ‘just two children’. Just is such a minimizing word. I found two little children very busy. Two children were plenty enough for my parents! And two teenagers saw my parents running all over the city in which we lived.
‘You Have Your Hands Full Dear’
If you are a parent of young children you may be quite used to strangers making comments when you are out in public. I’ve had lovely little old ladies make comments such as ‘Oh you have your hands full dear.’ Interestingly, I read an article recently arguing that three children is the most stressful number of children to have. And it made me wonder whether two or four as an even number is an easier dynamic.
And there are a myriad of other factors to consider when having a third child.
Missy in the Middle
It goes without saying that in a family of three there will be a middle child. There are many stereotypes that abound about middle children but perhaps there is some truth that three can sometimes be a challenging dynamic. There is the chance that someone may be left out. But when we view it through the eyes of a child, generally speaking I think they probably love having more than one sibling.
Fees for Three
Finances can be a big consideration when growing one’s family. With a third child comes the need for a bigger car and possibly a bigger house. Just before our third child was born we joined the people mover club by purchasing a ‘mummobile’. I’m not one of these people who hates minivans, although I do enjoy the blog ‘Rage Against the Minivan’ which is a mum of four’s ramblings about motherhood. In fact, I love my mummobile and we laugh that the street outside our eldest child’s school often resembles a people mover convention!
Many parents say that going from two to three children makes one very busy. Having another child has meant that I can’t spend as much quality time with each child. There is less of Mum and Dad to go around. We try to have dates with each child individually. And with this commitment plus time together as a married couple and other life commitments, life is busy. And time to onself – what is that?
Back to Work
And then there is the dreaded question of ‘When are you going back to work?’ This is possibly more difficult with each successive child. I worked a little before my second child was born but I haven’t since. With three children the logistics of just getting out the door can be more challenging, especially when one has to drop three children in three different locations before heading to work, as I discovered when I recently attempted to do one morning’s voluntary work a week. It wasn’t mission impossible but it was a mission!
We’ve all heard of the old proverb ‘It takes a village to raise a child.’ But when you have three children, it can be hard to find others who can help out. Many people may not be able to handle all three of your small children at once. Especially if they already have their own small children and are at maximum capacity themselves.
A Cacophany of Chaos
With three children it goes without saying that the mess multiples and the house may resemble a cacophany of chaos. But the mess and chaos susbsides as the children get older (I am an optimist and I live in hope). My husband often jokes about the mess: ‘The first eighteen years are the worst.’ But he is only joking.
With three children there truly is triple the blessing, triple the joy and triple the fun. It’s a trio of noise, frequently a trio of tantrums and seldom a trio of tranquillity! I love the idea of four, and I think it would be a nice dynamic. I really do admire veteran mum’s of four. But is the trio going to become a quartet? For us, I think a trio is our finale.