You’re outnumbered – the transition from two to three kids

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.

You're outnumbered - the transition from two to three kids
One to two, that was rough!

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're outnumbered - the transition from two to three kids
No extra-curricular activities for this kid!

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.

19 thoughts on “You’re outnumbered – the transition from two to three kids

  1. Yes yes yes Claire. When I read the title, in my head I was like “is this woman crazy?!?” I found my first grey hair after having my third!
    But I think you said it perfectly. Especially about how they have each other. And my eldest is wonderful at keeping the littlest one entertained.

    I’m writing one similar at the moment about how parenting changes from child to child. So keep an eye out.

  2. Claire, this is a great read. I’m going to share this in my Facebook mums community The Laundry Lounge (check it out and join up if you’re not a member) I found the third changed the whole dynamic of my life. Having twins first and then a single I really thought I would breeze through having one baby. Silly me, I forgot that I would still have to care for twins and then manage the child with the strongest will EVER!! As they grow things do get easier. Thank goodness for school. My life is slowly becoming more ‘normal’.
    Bron x

    1. Thanks Bron, very kind of you! I’ve joined the laundry lounge and I’d love you to share my post. It’s probably an awful thing to say but I am VERY excited about our eldest starting school next year!

  3. Great post 🙂 I’ve only got one at the moment so the idea of two is daunting, three utterly terrifying! (I always thought I wanted 4 kids… not so much now). But it sounds like there are so many great things about having a third child (to make all the challenges worthwhile). I love the picture of your eldest with his newborn brother, made me feel all warm and fuzzy 🙂

    1. I’m sure there are challenges with every number of kids! I found the jump from 1 to 2 tough, but now when I go anywhere with just two kids I feel like I could conquer the world. Sibling photos are adorable aren’t they!

  4. Your smalls are absolutely gorgeous!!! Love love your photos :). Oh I hear you – our youngest needed more help and support than the others when they were new and I totally ran out of hands! It all gets easier though and I do love having three. One day I’ll feel more in control I’m sure 😉

  5. I still can’t imagine having more than one. At least you can tag team with your partner when you outnumber the tots. I guess that gets harder if you add to the brood. But I do want my lad to have a sibling. I used to think I wanted him to have more than one but those days are behind me. Three little cuties you’ve got there!
    Thanks so much for linking up to #fartglitter x

    1. Thanks Mama, I think they are cute but I am biased! Isn’t it funny how before you have kids you have an idea of how many you’d like but when you have one, it’s time to reassess!

  6. We’ve just made the very same transition! Not exactly a planned one I should add… but you’re so right, my expectations are lower and I keep things far more simple! Gone are the day of perfectly matching outfits, my youngest is going to be in baby grows until she’s two I think! Great post! Jodie #Fartglitter xxx

  7. Very funny and insightful – I knew from the excellent title it would be! We just have one for now, but I kind of think (on a good day), that three would be ideal. On a bad day, I think I’ll just stop at one – haha!! Such a comprehensive list and I like that you’ve thought of the pros and cons for each point, wonderfully written 🙂 #parentingpicks

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