Friday, March 28, 2014

Should You Have a Third Child?

Lately I have been receiving a lot of messages from people across the globe all asking the same question: ‘should I have a third child?’

‘Am I mad?’ they want to know, ‘will it be okay?’ and the big one ‘how do you manage?’

Now if you had asked me even five years ago if I would consider three kids, I would have laughed in your face. I wanted two girls and nothing else. It was as fixed and immutable as ‘the earth is round’ and ‘don’t leave a two year old alone with a tub of Vaseline’.

But now I can't imagine anything other than life with three children, and as strange as it sounds, I am proud when I say have three kids. That being said, three is not for everyone, so please don’t toss aside your IUD and say ‘to hell with it, Shannon said it’ll be ok’.

This is what I tell people who write to me:

Practical considerations are at the forefront with number three, and leaving aside fertility issues, they seem to be the main reasons why people don't go for number three if they are actively considering it. In other words, three is about logistics. Of course, the other reason why people don’t have three kids is they don’t want three kids, and think we’re all a bit loopy. Maybe we are.

Many parents of three agree that the biggest change (after zero kids to 1) is the move from two kids to three. Baby Number Three moves you from a neat, balanced family, with an equal number of kids and adults, to being outnumbered by your kids. I’ll just repeat that: you are outnumbered by your kids, and as handy as it would be, you don’t actually grow another set of arms or sprout an extra pair of eyes each time you deliver a new baby.

Emotionally, you will be fine.  You WILL have enough time for them all. You WILL have enough love for them all. They WILL love each other and they WILL fight all the time. Your brain doesn't shrivel up and die simply because you have three kids (but your pelvic floor muscles might). You are still the same person, just with an extra child. Three kids is not a disease. But you need a bigger car, more toilet paper, more car seats, a bigger dining table, and it will extend your schooling career (as a parent) for an extra few years. I have realised that I will be a parent at my local primary school for 13 years, and that my youngest won’t graduate from high school until 2029 when I am 52 years old. And did I mention how much toilet paper you will need?

If you suddenly have a blue when you had pinks or vice versa, you’ll probably have to get a whole new wardrobe and set of toys, unless your wise friends who stopped at one or two give you all their old stuff. Kids cost money. It’s estimated that to raise a child to the age of 18 costs around a quarter of a million dollars. You could easily spend that alone that on private schooling if you wanted. Or on LEGO Friends. Or wine.

The gap between your children also makes a big difference. I had a relatively big gap between my girls, three years and then two, so by the time Number Three was born, my eldest was old enough to be at school full-time and be helpful around the house. If you have a smaller gap, then you will have three little kids to take care of simultaneously.

The flip side of that, is that full time school is a major change to any family: all of a sudden you have to be somewhere at a specific time every day, twice a day, and it usually mucks up day time sleeps for toddlers. It shouldn’t be a deal breaker, but it’s something to think about.

My experience being a mother of three has been made easier by two things: we have had enormous support from our families, and I doubt I would have ever gone for a third if I wasn't able to count on them. The other thing is my husband - I'm lucky that right now I don't need to work. I don't know how I would cope if I needed to fit (paid) work in with everything else. That being said: you can be a full time working mum and have three or more children. Anything is possible.

So those are my thoughts for people who want to know what it is like having three kids. It’s only my opinion, I’m certainly not going to crawl into bed with you and your partner and force another child on you. That would just be awkward and a bit rude.

Before I had Baby Number Three I used to have visions of Christmas Day in the future, and there was always a gap. Something was missing, something I couldn’t put my finger on. Since having her, that gap is gone, and our family is complete. Chaotic, but complete. Anarchy, but complete. Did I mention I’m done now? Life was simpler and quieter and more manageable before her, but I wouldn’t change my family for anything.

For me, the decision was simply about logistics, and I believe that if you think you can cope with the logistical issues, then definitely go for it, because you wouldn't be asking these questions if you didn't think you had enough love for one more.
Baldy, the Bombshell and Curly Mop, February 2014



  1. Now the question is: Should you have a fourth child?

    Everything you write is true, and it is my firm belief that once the kids outnumber the parents, that's it, you might as well keep going because you don't notice them after that. We didn't even notice we had a fourth child—people had to remind me. Honestly, even the pregnancy and labour—all the bits had been stretched three times before, so they barely held him in. He just slipped out one day and went to sleep in the bassinette. I don't think he cried, ever, at all. If he did, no one heard him over the other three kids. To this day, I don't know how he learnt to walk because he spent his pre-school days in a car seat ferrying the others around.

    Honestly, having a fourth child is easy. You might as well ...

  2. This is exactly the kind of wisdom they should impart to first time mums! I feel like if I had adjusted my expectations about parenting before I had my first I would have had an easier time. Would have spent less time being anal about everything and more time enjoying it if I treated my first baby like my subsequent child.

    I wrote a letter to my pregnant self about it here

    But I also think your blog posts about having a third should be mandatory reading for all new mums.

  3. Oh gosh.......I came across this post and it spoke to me!! I've been umming and ahhing about having a 3rd kid.....writing pro and con lists in my head over and over again. My heart desperately wants another kid, but my mind is telling my heart it should know better!! I adore my kids and love their little faces and all the joy they bring, but some days I feel so drained and don't know how I can cook another dinner!! I'll have to go away and think a bit more.......someone once said that if you're unsure (like me) then you should just have the other kid! lol.

    1. Ohhh Lynnie,

      only you will know what is right for you and your family, but the tough bit, when they're little (before they can cook their own dinners) only lasts a while... of course then it becomes 'big kids big problems' rather than 'little kids little problems.'

      Someone once told me that it was better to regret something you did, rather than regret something you didn't. Still, not sure if that's very helpful for this situation.

      Best of luck
      Shannon (Relentless)


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