When someone, in some misplaced awe, commented that they didn’t know how I did it with three kids, I stupidly, wrongly said “three is easier than two”. That was a lie. I am sorry. Three kids is not easier than two. In no way, shape or form. I was cocky. Having a third child is kinda like you’re drowning and then someone throws you a newborn. It’s relentless, there is never a moment when nobody needs something. Ever. And their needs are never the same. Three kids is a whole new ball game. But, there’s always a but. The transition from two to three kids is easier than one to two. Here’s why.
They have each other
Remember those early days when you’re stuck on the couch feeding a newborn? Or changing countless baby nappies? When the newborn is your second child, your first child isn’t at all down with that. They’ve lost your undivided attention to the not very exciting blob of a baby. Along comes baby three. He requires the same constant attention as the first two. But now when you disappear to tend to the baby, you don’t leave one child alone, they have a buddy. Stuck on the couch feeding, they can play together and don’t require as much engagement. The lack of parental involvement almost bonds them together, like they have a silent understanding that they’re suddenly in this thing together.
The flip side – it’s hard to pull one kid off the top of the other with a baby on your boob. The poor third child must endure lots of yelling at his rambunctious older siblings over his little head while he feeds.
The third isn’t such a rude shock
The first child lives the first years of his life with the undivided attention of usually two parents. They dote on him, marvel over every new achievement, play, paint, craft and sing with him. Baby 2 arrives and there’s an inevitable downturn in attention that can be heaped on the first. The first is generally unimpressed with that change of events, but slowly adjusts. By the time baby 3 arrives, the first born has adjusted to sharing the limelight with the second. The world never revolved around the second kid the way it did the first, he barely bats an eyelid at the arrival of baby 3.
The flip side – all three kids demand some undivided attention from time to time. When they don’t get attention, they fight for it.
You’re a pro at the baby thing
The first born is an experiment. There’s no denying that you’ve got your training wheels on and are muddling along. No one expects you to be an expert. Second time around you’re less worried about getting everything right. You might think you made a few mistakes first time around and set out to change that. It might happen, it might not. As an aside, man two kids is so much more than double the work.
Third child, you’ve got this. You are a mothering machine and nothing rattles you!
The flip side – you’re still learning to parent the first child because every age and stage brings a whole new world of challenges.
You keep the days simple
With the first baby you feel the need to entertain them, so you drag the kid to the library for rhyme time, the pool for baby swim lessons, to gymbaroo or baby gym. The second child goes to swimming lessons. The third baby has outings to the supermarket with a stop off for takeaway coffee. When you get to the third baby you’ve given up trying to engage them all of the time, you relax and enjoy them as babies. You don’t feel stressed about finding the best swim instructor, in a warm pool with small class sizes. You take the days slower. The third child of course gets dragged along to the bigger kids stuff. But that’s a matter of necessity.
The flip side – maybe the third child won’t be the super intelligent child your first born is assured of becoming after all those baby classes. Then again, maybe they’ll all be as clever as each other.
Your expectations are low
With the first child there’s plenty of time for one parent to have some time to themselves. With the second child, you’re both pretty much occupied by kid’s stuff all of the time. Both parents are heavily engaged in child care. When the ratio becomes 2:3, there’s no real expectation you’ll be able to escape on your own. But you’re fine with that (mostly) because you adjusted to no alone time when the second child arrived.
The flip side – You’re so exhausted from parenting three children, and the relentlessness of that task that you don’t have the energy to trot off on your own to do of anything of interest.
You’ve got ‘helpers’
Let’s be frank, there’s no way the older kids are likely to actually help with the baby. In our case the big kids had just turned 2 and 4 when the baby arrived. But they are useful for short term entertainment of the baby. If you’re hanging out the third load of washing for the day and the baby wakes, the big kids can go and chat to the baby (or sing very loudly) until you can rescue them. Or you need to help the middle kid on the toilet, the biggest one can keep the baby company while you’re away.
The flip side – The big kids have toys that aren’t appropriate for a baby, like Lego. You’re constantly on high alert in case the baby finds a choking hazard abandoned by his older brothers. I swear our youngest lad thinks the heads of Lego people are pieces of corn.
Three kids, it’s tough. Incredibly noisy, messy, exhausting. The transition from two to three kids was strangely smooth. Don’t be fooled though, three is not easier than two. But there’s more love and love is all you need, right? Oh, and wine.