3rd child question

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!

14 comments on “The 3rd child question”

  1. Oh my goodness Rachel did you write this post for me??
    I am facing this right now my son is 4 and daughter 5. Both now at school and I’m only 30.
    I would like 1 more but like you said I’ve just reapplied my make up and started to feel like a woman again. Do I dive back into that deep end again???? Arrrrgggha x

    • Ahhh, the deep end of the metaphorical swimming pool that is motherhood! My best friend is treading those deep waters now… I remember vaguely what it’s like – though I do think you lose part of your memory/brain/self in those early months! I find it hard to remember stuff from both of my kids’ early days… It’s hard to make a call on whether you could jump back in, especially when you’re indecisive like me – and like you are too by the sounds of it!! Please do tell me if the penny drops for you soon!! Thanks for your comment! X

  2. It’s the career question that makes me most reluctant, despite my husband being keen on three. (mind you I’m only 1 week away from baby 2 arriving so I haven’t even lived with two yet!). And also, as you say, being out of sync with my mummy mates as they stop at two.

    • My husband says he would happily stop at 2. But when I veer towards saying enough is enough, he raises the question again! Usually when he’s had too much wine. For me the only real thing stopping me is the career thing, same as you. I feel a bit like a female Alan Sugar saying that, but really I just want to be proud of my achievements, not just as a mum, but as an individual… thanks for your comment! X

  3. Hi Rachel. Really interesting reading. It’s a difficult one and everything you’ve mentioned in this post I can relate to. There are times when I think this is great and I am coping well and other times when I just would like to have a real good scream but the one thing that remains the same is that I wouldn’t change my ‘tribe’ of three boys for the world and have no regrets about just going for it as hard as it was/is at times! As for a career question that’s one I don’t have at the mo, I would imagine you would need a good, trusty support network. Good luck with your decision making Rachel.

    • Hi Rachel! It’s always nice to hear from people who have taken the plunge. I think many women choose family over career, or postpone their career for their kids. At the end of the day, I’m not going to regret having another child am I? But will I regret putting career over kids? Hmmm. Thanks for stopping by! X

  4. Oh this is my obsession! We are currently ‘trying’ for a third child, I had a miscarriage in the summer. Even though we are going for it I keep doubting whether it is the right thing to do! My two children are 6 and 3, so we are out the other side really… My main worry though is being able to balance the differing needs, homework, activities etc of 3. Argh! On the other hand I don’t feel ‘done’, I’m 30 so I want to get it out of the way now instead of sacrificing my 40s to small children as well as my 20s and 30s…

    • Hi Anna… I’m really sorry about your miscarriage. It is so hard to know what the right thing to do is. Maybe that’s because there is no wrong or right… just go with the flow and see what happens perhaps? If it’s in your heart then do it. You are still young though so I’m sure it will happen for you. Good luck! Thanks for the comment! X

  5. Rach the freelance world is perfect if you have 3 kids! I had my third child at 40 after lots of umming and ahhing. I’m lucky enough to be able to take some time off to look after them, but will definitely go back to work at some stage- after all I’ve still got 25 odd years of working life ahead of me. I will definitely look for freelance work, preferably as my own boss, so I can fit work around school hours. having three makes me even more determined to make my working life suit my family situation. In the meantime…lots of nappies and sleepless nights but I wouldn’t change a thing…

    • Hi Kate! I know what you mean with freelancing, and yes you are right that it’s ideal. But the downside is that you don’t get great maternity (tbh actually I didn’t in marketing either) but mainly that you will end up working anyway, or going back to work sooner, as it’s your business, which becomes an obsession! But yes, it is better if you are your own boss. So many women go freelance after kids, that’s why they do – to be there when it matters… Thanks so much for your input, it was incredibly helpful! XX

  6. I’m exactly the same. I’ve got a 4yr old and 2yr old but just don’t feel finished yet. I do worry that if I have a third, I may still feel unfinished…where do you stop?

    I loved being pregnant and love having a chaotic life. I also see a big family in the future so am prepared to put everything else on hold for now to create our big family long term. I think you have quite a small window to create your family and the rest of your life to do everything else.

    Good luck in making your decision!

    Jo xx

    • That’s so true Jo! Thanks for this comment – it’s very much how I feel right now… but the problem is it changes every day – or every ten minutes sometimes. X

        • You’re right of course, the long-term is always more important. You won’t regret having more children, but you might regret spending too much time working… X

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