It’s a common question for many mums when their second child reaches a certain age: am I finished with having kids, or do I want more? Rachel has ummed and ahhed over this dilemma for months. Can you help her answer the 3rd child question?
Allow me to set the scene. I have a 4 year old boy and a 2 year old girl. I had my son when I was 30, my daughter 2 years and 3 months later at 32. Last month I turned 35. I am an ambitious, busy woman who works for herself, with a happily imperfect marriage. My husband has a ‘big’ job which means early starts but not too late finishes. I have a burning question that pops into my head approximately 63 times a day. It’s this: should I have a 3rd child?
Now, friends will tell you I am an indecisive person at the best of times. I’m the type of flake who generally agrees with the last person she heard speaking. I’m open-minded: you could persuade me – or dissuade me – out of most things. Not that I would make a life decision based on a blog post and the comments that followed. I’m not that stupid! I’m sooo not one of those people who asks Google important life questions like “Should I have a 3rd child?”… Nooo not me…
It’s more that I need to get this off my chest. I’m a list maker. And this is my list of pros and cons, but in a blog post style.
‘Why the hurry?’, modern women say to me. ‘Why have you got to make a decision right now?”. Yes, friends of mine have had kids at 42 and that is great for them. I’m ‘only’ 35, but according to experts in the newspaper my fertility has apparently “dropped off a cliff” (did this happen the moment I turned 35, literally as the clock struck midnight? I wondered what that thud was). The age thing for me is more about having my kids fairly close together. But also I am bloody exhausted already; I am simply not energetic enough to have children much later in life than the age I am now. Also though, I want my kids to know their grandparents well, for them to have relationships that have been forged over years, well into early adulthood, so that means not leaving it too late.
Let’s start with the nice stuff, the stuff that when my children are smiling and playing nicely, and eating their dinner and generally not causing me to combust with rage or weep in public, I think “I could do this one more time, sure!”
My old neighbour, Kate, says the best thing about having 3 kids is “having a little tribe”. Lynette, an old school friend, loves “seeing three beautiful and unique characters blossom”. A mum from the school, Bec, loves “feeling like [her] family is complete”. This comes up time and time again, people saying that once they take the plunge and have a 3rd they feel like they’ve added the final piece to a jigsaw puzzle. I know this sounds a bit mad, but I feel like sometimes a tiny voice is urging me to do it, and that voice is the life force of someone wanting to be created. Did I just reveal myself to be bonkers? Yes? Oh well…
But does being a mum of 3 change you? At times with the children I can lose my patience quickly and become a horrible, angry woman who I hate. Will this side to me get worse if I have too much to cope with? Conversely Kate says it has “weirdly made me more patient and much more able to let things go”. Bec agrees: “I feel I am better at taking a step back”. But Lynette feels she “has to be harder sometimes… I haven’t got time to pander to their every need”. Come to think of it, I had more red mist issues when I just had one baby, and when I was learning to cope with two. Recently I think I am chilling out a bit more so arguably this ability to step back and not lose it comes with being experienced.
What about going from 2 to 3? Will the transition be hellish? I have heard quite a few women say that they found it easier to go from 2 to 3 than 1 to 2, including one of the ladies I chatted to for this post. I can believe that. The hardest thing I have ever experienced in my life was learning to cope with an additional child’s needs. But I kept it a secret. Well, at least from my friends who were pregnant with their second. I think I could cope better now with that experience under my belt.
What about the age gap? Is there a perfect age gap between child 2 and 3, should you try and keep equal-ish ones between each kid? Next month my daughter will be the age my son was when we had her. So that means there will be a greater gap should we decide to go ahead. Will this mean the 3rd child is left out? Will I end up wanting another one to keep that later child company? Oh God, I can see this getting out of hand…
Then there is the ‘middle child’ syndrome. You know, where people say the middle one gets left out and feels unimportant, as they don’t somehow have the status of the eldest or engender nurture (also known as ‘get spoiled’) like the youngest. I don’t really buy this. I think it’d be pretty awesome to get to experience what it’s like to have an older as well as younger sibling.
When I mention that I might not be ready to finish with breeding yet to family members the general consensus is: don’t do it! They remind me that babies grow up (into 50 year old men – who knew?!), and then say things like “don’t bog yourself down with children!”.
But would I be bogging myself down? Aren’t I already bogged down? What are the downsides to having more than 2?
Here’s what’s hard about having 3 young kids, according to women that do: “Going to restaurants is impossible…”; “The washing”; “…the realisation that you will never get to most tasks during the day”; “Trying to split your attention between them all”; “Not being able to hold their hands at the same time”; “I can’t take them places together on my own, like swimming”…
Interestingly, the list of ‘hard things’ was fairly short and there wasn’t anything too bad in there. But this one hit me like a train: “It sets you back – most of your mum mates are coming out of the other side, you however are plunging back into the abyss.”
This is what I am most scared about. I am torn. I’m coming out the other side myself, right now. My business has started to take off a bit and I am really getting into it. However, I am less attentive and more stressed – my business growing is already affecting my ability to be a good parent/wife. I am also creatively fulfilled and contributing financially though. As my 2 kids get older (especially when my daughter goes to school) I will be able to balance my business and a family better, I know I will. Should I rock the boat? Do I really want to dive back into the deep end that is ‘the baby years’, when I’ve only just got out the pool and re-applied my makeup? Is it possible to have 3 young kids and grow a successful business when they’re still young? Will I just have to wait a little longer for it to take off? When I read an interview with a successful entrepreneur and it says ‘mother of 3’ (or even 4) I think, “look, look, look, see – it IS possible!”.
Financially, I don’t think it would make that much impact. The mums who I chatted to agreed that it’s more a matter of budgeting: “If it means cutting back on holidays and shopping at Primark instead of Whistles then so be it!” I could not have said it better myself.
What about the over populated world? Are we selfish to add yet more resource draining humans to it? Well, I agree with a friend who said that as long as they contribute – by setting up a business, by being a teacher, by coming up with a cure for cancer, by playing the piano beautifully, or just by being a great person – then it’s not a problem. I agree.
There’s a little baby blue (or pink?) elephant in the room. Something we haven’t addressed. What if I can’t have another child? Well, that’s simply not my call to make. If it wasn’t meant to be, I’d accept it. I am blessed already, this much I do know for sure.
I’ll give my friend Kate the last word, as I think she sums it up so well:
“There are a million practical reasons why you shouldn’t have more than 2 kids, it’s a decision of the heart… there hasn’t been a day so far that I even slightly regret it… come back when they are all teenagers and it might be a different story though…”
What do you think? Do you have 2 and want more? Or do you think having more than 2 children hinders your ability to do more career-wise? Let us know your thoughts!