Depending on which study you read, parents of three or more children are the happiest. But sometimes the prospect of adding to a clan of one or two is enough to scare some parents into remission. Kath, a working mum-of-three, once said to the Mother Side’s Lauren that going from one to two children is the most challenging jump, and two to three is simply adding to the zoo. So we asked this multi-tasking super mum (our words, not hers, she’s much more modest!) just how she did it, and if she had any tips for parents thinking about doing the same. This is what she said….
“Wow, you’re brave!” was a not uncommon reaction to the news I was preggo with child number three – husband and I would be truly outnumbered, we might need a bigger car/house/mortgage, yes two of them would be sharing a room, was it planned, will we get rid of our campervan (no!); all these nuggets of wisdom and queries were fielded whilst I was very rapidly expanding as my poor old stomach muscles, what was left of them, gave way again.
But with the news from Kensington Palace that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expecting a third baby those set on being a family of five or more are in good company. But it feels like a big leap, doesn’t it?
Suddenly you’re not eligible for the “family” ticket for two kids and two parents, the double buggy’s probably out, and car seats might be a bother – but frankly, I found it much harder going from one to two babies than adding another into the general melee.
Here are five reasons not to fret about expanding your brood:
1. You’re getting good at this baby thing now
Although I’d read the Baby Whisperer, been to NCT, and got tips from other mums, baby one’s arrival was completely overwhelming and the biggest puzzle I’d ever faced. Wind? Colic? Hungry? Whatever the question, the answer changed – all the time. Every day threw up new challenges (and the baby threw up too of course.)
My daughter came along two years later and gradually baby stuff seeped into every nook and cranny of the house…I was having to juggle two sets of demands, and figure out this new little person whilst maintaining some semblance of a routine for the eldest. Tricky was an understatement and I used to count down the minutes until my husband walked in the door and I had another pair of hands!
But by the time baby three was in our life another two years down the line, people stopped giving me advice and tips on how I could get little one to sleep/eat better/stop biting – they tail off. I am basically a parenting ninja – I can whip nappies off and on whilst they stand up or even crawl about, get them to sleep without much fuss, know they don’t need me immediately if they grizzle, play Fireman Sam and Thomas the Tank Engine on our piano, and I can (almost literally) juggle a baby whilst caring for older kids. I’m good at operating on minimal sleep, eating toast in secret whilst they watch Paw Patrol, and at negotiating a complex peace settlement over the leading issue of the day – that is who gets first go on the swing.
I also found I relished those night feeds because it was the only time I had to read my kindle in peace! And I didn’t sweat the night time waking so much because I knew that one day, the elusive friend – sleep – would come back to me.
2. You stop caring what other people think
Although my kids vary wildly in their personalities and quirks, by baby three I’d pretty much concreted by own parenting style and as a result I basically stopped caring what other people thought.
Those early days where you’re nervous about how to tell off your kid at a play date without losing your shit and bellowing at them to SAY SORRY are a distant memory. These days, I don’t care if someone overhears me shouting at my daughter for running off, or sees me putting them in a time out until they can stop kicking another child in the head at playgroup.
I also tend to pay less attention to advice from people with fewer kids because, frankly, they don’t have a clue what the hell it’s like to juggle the needs of three small people whilst trying to escape for a quick wee.
Generally I care less about whether my daughter has the purple socks which match those flowery leggings, or whether my son’s t-shirt is ironed. If they are mostly clean, and fed, and I’ve brushed my hair and got to work on time, I’m basically winning at life. Add a coffee in there and I’m smashing it!
3. You can do about 14 things at once
I have a vivid memory of breastfeeding my youngest, whilst reading a story to my oldest and simultaneously towel drying my middle child who’d just got out the bath. Seriously ladies, we are good at this multitasking business.
With three kids, and yes even with less children than that, your time’s limited and you find ways to cram everything in – prepping dinner whilst running through spellings with the eldest, finding a lego piece for my daughter and dashing the toddler off to the loo is just a normal five minutes in my house now.
These parenting skills go way beyond the kids too – at work I’m a master at juggling plates and I feel like I’m way more productive because I’m part time since being a mum, and I simply have to crack on. The multi tasking at work though is a doddle compared to that at home, so if you’re a working parent relish that office time where you can go to the loo on your own and finish a hot drink!
4. Life is already chaos
Going from one to two children was the most startling change for me personally. Life became more of a whirlwind but going for a third? Really you’re just adding to the zoo!
Take it from me, the best way to stay relatively sane is to learn to accept that life is a swelling tide of chaos for the moment – most days I just about manage to hold back the surge of craft bits, weetabix blobs on the floor and lego/cars/jigsaws under foot. The days of having a quick tidy before you swoosh out the door to go for dinner with your girlfriends is gone; but then you know that already from #2.
I also know that I don’t have three sets of eyes and physically can’t keep within touching distance of all three kids at once (especially at a park where my three immediately scatter off, as if repelled from each other by magnetism, to different corners). They have to fend for themselves, and there will definitely be bumps and scrapes (poor third child is routinely covered in bruises!) but they will be fine, believe me. In fact, they’ll learn to dust themselves off and get back to having fun.
5. The kids go with the flow
My three, all born two years apart, don’t know any different to being a family of five.
They expect that they won’t always be first in line, that I have other things to do, that they might need to amuse themselves. They have to help out in the house with a few set chores which are now a routine, and they know that I won’t generally entertain futile whims and whines such as hunting down their favourite pyjamas or watching them eat their risotto grain by grain. Don’t take it as read that you’ll never have whinging though, they still regularly try their best to push my buttons believe me!
The upshot from being part of a bigger family is that the kids gain skills themselves – playing independently, learning to care for themselves, getting dressed, finding friends, problem solving and sometimes, sometimes, rarely, they negotiate with each other and sort out an issue themselves (when this happens I literally cry happy tears!!!).
Yes, there’s no getting away from the fact that time’s at a premium but what this also means is that the time you do have with an individual child becomes very very special. My eldest filled up his marble jar the other day (marbles are dished out for good behaviour and kind words/deeds); and asked for an afternoon out with his Dad as a reward – the only question is who will enjoy a trip to the lego shop more…..
So if you do go for it, and you’ve any worries about how other people will react to your pregnancy news, read this hilarious post from the Unmumsy Mum on 7 classic reactions to the news you’re having a third child. It rang very true for me!
Kath, mum-of-three and parenting ninja writing for The Mother Side xx
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