The minus one theory

minus one theory - life on wallace

Want to hear my harebrained idea about parenting? It’s my ‘minus one theory’. How many kids have you got? It’s irrelevant really. I’ll bet that, for the average parent, attending to the daily drudgery of life is almost always easier when there is one less child in tow.

When the littlest lad was born we had three kids aged four and under. For basically 18 months I wrangled three kids at the playgroup, the library, swimming lessons, the doctors surgery, trips to buy shoes, you get the idea. When the biggest lad started school, my minus one theory evolved. It feels like a walk in the park when the biggest lad is at school. Two kids? I got this.

The minus one theory in practice

Sound wacky? I’ll apply the minus one theory to a real life scenario. Let’s say you have two kids. You can do the grocery shopping at a time when one of those kids is in someone else’s care. You will only drag one child around the isles. Or you can do it at at time when both kids are with you. Both kids will get to experience the highs and lows of the weekly shop. Which do you choose? I’m guessing you pick the ‘one kid’ option. You have one kid? I bet you find doing the shopping on your own a dream!

The minus one theory applies to loads of scenarios. Taking the kids to the library, birthday parties, going to the doctor, play dates, coffee trips, park plays, playgroup. Or staying at home and putting washing out, doing craft, baking, playing lego. Doing any of those things minus one child is like a 20 kilo weight off your shoulders. Life with one less child in the mix, temporarily, feels somehow more manageable. The theory applies regardless of how many kids you have, you just need to change the numbers. Two kids is easier than three, one kid is easier than two, zero kids is easier than one.

My minus one theory depends a little on the dynamics between the kids. While there are ‘better’ combinations of my three boys, if we’re talking about say, a trip to the pool* or park with two or three kids, I’ll take two. Any two, I’m not fussy! The less kids involved the less chance of bickering and tantrums. If they run off in different directions, I only need to be in two places at once. There are only two little person’s emotions to manage. I only need to supply snacks for two kids.

I’m not suggesting that you should have had one less child! Not at all. In fact, the minus one theory is almost the opposite. You can really only appreciate how much simpler life was with one or two kids once you’ve had the second or third. I feel like I can conquer the world library story time when I have two kids with me. Most chores seem doable. If I’d had two children, I’m sure I would feel the same when I had only one kid in my care. It’s all about perspective. I do feel compelled to say that I love each of my three boys fiercely and equally. Life is somewhat chaotic but I’d never change it!

Now I have no idea if the minus one theory applies to a family of four or more. Right now getting stuff done when I am outnumbered 3 to 1 feels like running a marathon with small people heckling me. But perhaps if I was to add a fourth to the brood then the ‘minus one theory’ would apply and three would suddenly feel manageable?

Does my minus one theory make sense to you? Is life simpler when one of your kids is hanging out elsewhere?

*I have taken all three of my boys swimming at the same time. Not lessons, we do that every week. I mean 1 parent (me) in the pool with 3 kids. No-one drowned. Remarkable really.

22 thoughts on “The minus one theory

  1. This is so true! I have 3 year old twin boys plus a 7 year old daughter. Having all three on my own is a challenge at times – mainly because of the big age gap between my daughter and the boys, she increasingly doesn’t want to do the same things as them plus there is so much bickering over stupid things! With 3 there is so much scope for someone having a meltdown at any moment. The day after a school holiday when I’m just with the twins feels like a piece of cake!

    1. Thanks for your lovely comment Sarah. I totally agree that with three there is always one on the edge of a meltdown, over something seemingly insignificant!

  2. Out and about yes, I agree with your theory! At home no, because they play together and leave me alone to do stuff. If I’m at home with just one of them, they follow me around like a lost puppy. Having 1 on 1 time is lovely, but if I’ve got things to do, it’s painful.

    1. The power of an even number of children Lauren! When there are three playing at home, one is left out/there’s constant bickering/it’s impossible to get anything done!

    1. Thanks Kit, I’ve no idea about twins either. I guess it’s easier when one twin is with each parent? Or do twins always ‘go together’?

      1. My two are always together! We have tried to separate them on many occasions but it just doesn’t work even when they are fighting they won’t separate lol if they are fighting and I tell one off the other will defend her so they aren’t separated! They at 11 share a bed (they don’t have to) but they hate being apart. We have a son as well!
        So we are always outnumbered lol.

  3. I’ve often thought this too Claire! To answer your question, four kids minus one feels like a dream to me 🙂 So much easier (relatively) so long as the minus one is my eldest because he full of endless questions for me and baits his siblings when he is bored :/

    1. Well I am so pleased that I was not totally making things up Bec! There are no firm plans to add to the Wallace family, but if we do it’s a relief to hear that 3 would feel like a dream. And not to be disparaging of elder children, but life is simpler when my ‘minus one’ is the eldest too!

  4. You’re absolutely right. Perspective is everything.
    I think with two the odds are evened out a little more because we have two hands. I will do whatever it takes to take zero children grocery shopping though.

  5. Yes, love this theory, it’s spot on with my boys!! And agree with Lauren too, when I’m at home with the boys it’s easier when they’re both there. In fact it’s actually easier having a ring in as well as my two – then they all play peacefully and I don’t have to intervene at all 😃

    1. Oh man, three at home here makes it a nightmare to get things done. Even with a ring in, I need to be on high alert. It always begins in fun…but ends in tears!

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