I love my one and only brother, but a part of me always wished that I came from a three-kid family. My parents had one of each, and our family felt standard and typical (but lovely, of course). At after school hangouts and sleepovers, I studied my friends' three-kid families like I was doing anthropological research. It was as if the volume in our house was on a five and theirs was turned up to a nine or 10, and I don't just mean the noise. There were more snacks, toys, and backpacks on the coat rack, and more opinions, conversations, and personalities at the dinner table. I fantasized about the excitement of an entire other personality. Would the other child be more like me or my brother? Would one more kid give us the loud, bustling atmosphere of my dreams?
Three is actually the most stressful number of kids to have, according to a poll conducted by the Today show. Three is more stressful than one or two, and four (or more) is reportedly less stressful than three! My husband entered our marriage with one kid under his belt, and then we had two more, so I got the family of three I always dreamed of. Being a mother of three is similar to the parenting roller coaster we're all strapped into, but there are twists and turns unique to the amount of kids we're raising. If you're thinking about adding to your even number, here is a list of pros and cons about having three kids.
- Hand-me-down clothes and toys. Apart from the cost effectiveness of this, there is also the heart-squeezing joy of seeing each baby wear the clothes and play with the things the previous child owned.
- There's always a tie-breaker. Oh, can your kids not decide between two titles for movie night? Good thing you had a third kid.
- More hands on deck. Sunday chores go faster when you can delegate. The oldest can hold the baby in a pinch. It's kind of like having a few assistants, to be honest.
- Built-in friends. Big mom win: you don't have to invite someone over for a playdate to keep your kids occupied. They also spend so many valuable years being a friend at home that they carry it over into their relationships at school.
- A wide safety net. I'm a famously morbid person, but I'd be remiss if I didn't say that there'd be more family around when we eventually drop dead. This is also something I've reminded our kids: you have to take care of each other now and then.
- You can't just order one pizza. Pizza is a minimum two slices per person event, and two times five equals ten. A pizza has eight slices. One pie isn't enough, and two pies is too many. It's maths.
- You can't give anyone a ride. We live in Brooklyn, where everyone we know lives relatively close to us, but once I had to drive some of the kids to a soccer game while my husband walked alongside the car with the other kid and his friend. Now we have a mini van.
- Constant triage. The baby is crying because all his teeth are coming in at once, the oldest is melting down over a complicated homework problem, and the middle one just wants to play a board game together. Your life is a near-constant exercise in determining degrees of urgency, and the non-medical, non-life-threatening needs often get ignored, which can be heartbreaking and terrible.
- You're outnumbered. Whether you have a partner or are doing it on your own, there are always more kids than you can carry. This is particularly terrifying in airports, subways, movie theatres, shoe stores, playgrounds, and anywhere outside your own home.
- Someone is always aged out of something. Finding and agreeing on an activity for three kids of varying ages will eventually mean that someone is too old for a play space, someone isn't tall enough for a ride, and/or someone isn't developmentally ready for a movie in a theatre. The good news is that this won't last forever.