I started out with one child like most of us do. Then, three and a half years later I ended up having twins so I jumped from one to three over night, literally. Now, I have to admit when I had just one my attitude was a little different, and I can honestly say that three children is the tipping point.
I’ve read a ton of parenting books and believe me when I say that the words “in theory” are always easier than the actual reality. You know, while reading one of about ten books I read while pregnant with twins (my second and third biological children), I found myself thinking, okay that’s doable. I can do that. No problem. That is where the “in theory” part comes in because, in theory the parenting skills they taught sounded doable, however, in reality, when you are sleep deprived, overwhelmed, and exhausted it’s hard to the be the perfect parent. Let’s face it, it’s impossible to be the perfect parent with three children. I look at friends who have one child, friends who have two, and friends who have more crossed over three or more children—and yes, I can throw the friends who have three or more children into the same boat because once you go beyond two, it’s all the same … Total chaos. Allow me to explain.
Friends with one child.
Well, they are the perfect parent(s). PERIOD. They have it down. Their kid is polite, smart, thoughtful, wonderful. At least in public. I don’t know what goes on behind closed doors but in public DAMN, they are PERFECT! I know because remember I had one child for about three years and eight months until the twins came along.
My favorite part about parents with one perfect child is when those friends try to give me parenting advice. I was guilty of this too when I had one child. So, when these parents of one child offer their “assistance” I try not to laugh. I think to myself, if you only knew. If you only knew that the way you parent one child WON’T WORK the same for the next one, and the next one. It JUST DOESN’T. So parents of only children, let me be the first to share this with you (or not) … you are NOT the perfect parent. You just have a whole lot of time to spend on one child. All your attention goes to that child. All your energy goes to that child. You have unlimited ONE ON ONE time with that child. The only thing you should be worried about when raising an only child is teaching them how to share. Or perhaps teaching them that they are not the center of the universe. Yes, they will probably be smarter and great leaders too. You have enough to brag about so show some humility.
By the way, I’m not totally dissing parents with one child. I have a close friend who raised her only child, mostly as a single parent, and I would take her advice any day. But she is grounded, objective and a brilliant listener. And, can I just say kudos to her for not bragging about her perfect daughter. And when I say perfect, I mean PERFECT. No seriously. She really is. I mean that.
Friends with two children.
Okay. Parents with two children, you understand where I’m coming from. You get it. You understand that Johnny is totally different than Molly. Now, if you have one boy and one girl, then you might just attribute that to gender differences. But, I know you are privy to sibling rivalry, sibling bickering, sibling screaming, and altering parenting styles for each child. Right? You are used to hearing things like “Mommy, Johnny pulled my pants down in front of Kelly. He’s so mean to me.” You understand delegating house chores to multiple children. If you are a two person parenting team, then you are NOT OUTNUMBERED. You still have one-on-one time with each child. It’s easy. If one parent takes one, then the other parent has the other. That simple. But again, you get the saving for college bit, the budgeting, the need to purchase twice as much during the holidays. The need to purchase four plane tickets, etc. I mean according to the most recent study from the Agriculture Department, it costs $245,300 to rear a child to the age of 18. That’s PER CHILD! A cool half a million dollars. And that’s 18. NOT COLLEGE.
If I am honest, and I try to be, I am a little more apt to take advice from a parent of two children than a parent of one child, but it does depend on the parent.
Three children (or more)
Now, what about parents of three or more children. Well … my running joke to everyone is that I only hang out with parents who have three children or more. It’s not true, but I like to say it, because I know they understand my life, at least the three children life. Let me explain. As I already mentioned my first born child was perfect. He was born on his due date, I had natural childbirth; breastfeeding was easy. He was PERFECT; everything was PERFECT. Did I mention that he was absolutely perfect? We took him everywhere. He was always smiling, always laughing. AND he fell asleep ANYWHERE. So we could go to dinner with him in the stroller, and he stayed asleep. He was an absolute angel. I was one of those perfect parents too by the way. I was SO perfect that I refused to go the grocery store with him. Yes, that’s right. My husband watched him while I went to the grocery store. It was easier, you know. Don’t get me wrong, I spent a lot of days at the store with him, but if I had a choice, I left him at home, so I could focus on what I needed. THEN along came the twins. HOLY SHIT. No, really. HOLY SHIT.
I went from being the perfect parent to NOT GIVING A SHIT overnight. Well, not overnight. I tried to be the perfect parent for about a month then I said FUCK IT. After that, it was merely survival. Just survival. That’s it. I did whatever it took (another post). So what is it that sent me over the top? One might say it was twins, and they would be correct BUT, it’s been almost a decade since I gave birth to them so I’ve had some time to think now that I can finally go the bathroom alone. And, in my thoughts I’ve come up with six reasons why I think three children are the tipping point.
1. You are always outnumbered
That’s right. No matter what, you are outnumbered. No two ways about it. The kids know it. My husband knows it. I know it. We can’t be in all places at once so, inevitably, unless every kid is on a device, something is going down. Crying, whining, arguing, chasing, jumping. Something! It’s a neverending saga. I had a very wise mom once tell me, “Two is doable, three is crazy.” At the time, I thought she was just dramatic because her third one ended up being more work than the other two put together. I was only 21 then; she was around 48. Gosh, I must have seemed like an obnoxious know-it-all at 21.
But, now that I have three, I understand what she meant. You see, when I take only two kids with me and leave a third one at home with my husband, it’s doable. One is even easier, of course. I wince thinking about my attitude way back when I was the perfect parent of one child. If I knew then with one child, what I know now with three, I would have never complained once!
By the way, being outnumbered means you are never enough. At least that’s how I feel. I can never split myself enough. We (my husband and I) can never help all of our children with their undying needs; one is always left out. Too much homework. Too much after-school stuff. Too much. And one on one time, well that’s not easy.
2. It’s way more expensive
I never thought about this until after I gave birth (I was planning for two children and got 3 – I wouldn’t trade it, but …) it has broken the bank. Yes. That’s right. Think about it. Every hotel room sleeps 4 MAXIMUM. Meaning that’s all they allow. I’m not a big rule breaker. I hate lying, but when it came time to take vacations there was NO WAY we were booking two hotel rooms for our family of 5. So I always said there were 4 of us. Think about a trip to Disneyland with 5. That’s $750 just for tickets in. Family of 4? They have a package. In fact, tons of places have the FAMILY VALUE PACKAGE, which always includes 4. Whether it’s a vacation package, tickets to a theme park, a theater show … it’s a family of 4. Then there are flights. My husband’s family lives in Europe. Flying to Europe with a family of 5, are you kidding? It’s $5K in plane tickets just to get us there.
Three kids mean bigger car and usually a bigger house. It’s rare that you can squeeze three children into one bedroom. I mean it can be done. I did put two au pairs in one bedroom when the twins were below four years old. Yes, I had two au pairs at one time because it was cheaper to have two live-in au pairs than it was to put them in daycare! That’s right. It was cheaper. Think about putting three children in daycare at once? Add that up. Or summer camps? Yep!
I gave up on private school the second I found out we would have three children. I mean I didn’t plan on throwing down $75K-$90K for three children’s tuition. We won’t talk about clothing. I have two boys with very different builds. My older son is a bit stocky, and my younger son is skinny, and I mean SKINNY. They can’t wear the same clothing, not even if I save them for years. My younger son needs slim pants, my older son needs regular. Plus, I have a daughter too, so that’s an entirely different wardrobe. What about school lunch costs? Well, that’s $21 per day for three children so we always make lunches at home. Then, of course, there are extracurricular activities – whatever we do it’s $100 a month per kid so write that off. Bottom line, kids are expensive and three or more is insane.
3. You can’t work full time
You can’t. Don’t question it. I do, but I don’t sleep a lot. By the way, if you do have three children plan on getting WAY LESS sleep. If you are someone who likes to sleep, stick with one child or two maximum. Working? Well. Something will suffer. The kids or you or your husband or your career, and it’s usually all that suffer. There is always something with three. One is sick. One doesn’t understand the school work. One needs to be driven somewhere. One needs you for whatever reason. Think about getting three children ready for school in the morning. Feeding them, bathing them, getting them in bed. By the time you are done with all that, you will be exhausted. Playdates? OMG. Have I convinced you yet that having three children is WAY MORE INTENSE than two? There is something about three that equals total chaos. I can’t explain it, just talk to any mom with three and make sure she is honest. Tell her you REALLY want to know the truth. Believe me when I say you are hanging by a thread. I’m lucky; I work for myself. I can make my hours. I can work at night. I can work around their needs and, believe me, there are many. So, I’m just telling you if you want to have your sanity, plan on working part time if you decide to have three.
4. Your marriage will never be the same
What I mean by this is exactly what I said. It won’t be the same. A study found that the overall happiness of parents declines with the birth of each child. Hmm. To his credit, my husband did warn me. When you have three children, you don’t have a lot of extra time to talk to anyone. Your husband, well, he will be left out. You will be tired, overwhelmed, and not thinking about date nights. I force myself to go on these. Not because I don’t want to hang out with my husband sans kids. In fact, I do want to do that. But, they always need something like I said. There is a test or paper, or a project due or they need to purchase some supplies for school, or they are sick or there is laundry, or they are hungry or … I even have a housekeeper (every other week), and it doesn’t put a dent in the work. Your marriage will probably take a backseat for awhile. I hope you have a patient, tolerant significant other that’s all I can say. I won’t even go into the divorce rate of parents with multiples. I stressed myself out enough with that during my pregnancy. But he has stuck with it. I am often heard telling people he is in survival mode. I try not to blame him, because I am in survival mode the majority of the time as well.
5. You become a social pariah
Plan on your social life dwindling. You may have received a lot of invitations to events prior to three children, but it won’t happen anymore. We used to get invited to all sorts of things when we had just one child. Cut to three children, and we had ZERO invitations. I know it’s a lot. I mean every time we go somewhere we show up with five of us. We used to vacation in the mountains, or at friend’s houses, but they need space to house that many. If you have two children, you will still be invited. Three? I told you, three is the tipping point. Keep in mind I also had three children under four years old. We didn’t go anywhere. Now remember, my first son was an ANGEL. People loved his nature so they would come around to our house for dinner parties and sit and talk and laugh for hours. Now, they are always busy. That is partly my fault because I never invite anyone over for dinner parties anymore. I’m just too exhausted to have people over. AND for me, now that I already have three children. I don’t want any more kids at the house. I do it, but then it’s REALLY crazy. I prefer to go to other people’s houses. It just seems like our kids are crazier at our house than they are at other people’s houses. Go figure.
By the way, most of the women who embraced me were moms with three children! One mom, who knew me when I only had one child, told me that she liked me so much better once I’d had the twins. She already had two children and ended up having a third child within a month of my twins. I asked her why she liked me better, and she said “well, you were so uptight with your first. I mean everything was perfect. You made the perfect food. (Yes, we made our own baby food.) You had all those natural toys. (Yes, I was one of those no batteries moms.) You had to have everything perfect.” (It’s true, I did.) Like I said, after twins I just said Fuck it.
6. It’s total chaos
I probably said this already in my last four paragraphs, BUT there is something about kids behavior when there are three or more, they just act crazier. I see it all the time. If I have two of them, it’s easy (easier), but when I have all three, it’s simply chaos. If you don’t like chaos, if you are someone who likes peace and order then stick with one or two, it’s easier, cheaper, and you will keep your sanity. I hope.
Disclaimer: Even with all these things I listed I wouldn’t trade my three children for one or two any day of the week. Hell, I would have considered more if I could have got my husband on board. You know what they say, once you have three it doesn’t really matter anymore – remember, the tipping point.