Back in September I wrote a post entitled Five Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Had My Second Child. It has easily become the most popular post on my blog, sometimes even beating out new posts for the number of views in a single day.
As I thought about it’s popularity, it occurred to me that there may be people out there who already have two kids and are considering a third. So I’m back to help with:
Seven Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Had My Third Child
I’ve split it into two separate posts because with seven things to go over, it got a little long. Click here to read Part Two.
Now let’s get to it!
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1. It’s a lot more work
I’m not going to sugarcoat it. You might as well go into this with your eyes wide open, right? Having three kids is a lot of work.
Opinions seem to be split on whether it’s harder to go from one child to two, or two children to three, but I think all parents of three can agree that however quickly they adjust, it’s a tough job.
The thing is, someone always needs something. Always. A drink. A snack. Help wiping their butt. A ride to soccer practice. It’s constant. If someone wants a drink, you’ll just finish putting the milk away and the second one will ask for some. If you sit down to pay some bills, the third will need a refill.
So yes, you will be constantly busy, but there’s a good opportunity here to teach your children independence.
The first winter I had three kids, we all came down with a stomach bug. My oldest, Eli, got it first and was starting to feel better when I came down with it. My husband was at work and I was laying on the couch, trying not to lose it while also keeping a four year old, a two year old, and a nine month old alive.
Eli asked for lunch and just the thought of looking at anything edible was enough to push me over the edge. I sorrowfully told him that this time he was on his own. Lo and behold, my little four year old pulled out all the fixings for a peanut butter sandwich and made it without a stitch of help from me. It was an eye-opener that reminded me that Mom does not equal Indentured Servant.
Bottom Line: Yes, you’ll be busy, but if you’re intentional about it, it can be a good learning opportunity for your kids (and you!).
2. People suddenly think you know what you’re doing
Three is a magical number. It’s the number that signals to people that you must know what you’re doing and therefore, they have no reason to give you advice. I noticed the change immediately.
With my first two, I had nurses in my hospital room constantly. Checking on me, checking on the baby, taking our temperatures, helping me breastfeed, making sure I wrote down every minuscule detail of each baby’s life (When did they eat? What side did they nurse on? How long did it take to latch? How long did they stay latched? When did they pee? How wet was the diaper? When did they poop? What color was it? How much was there? Did you weigh it? How did it taste? …Okay, I’m exaggerating. A little.)
Anyway, when my third popped out, I actually began to wonder if the hospital had changed it’s policies for the maternity floor. Yes, the nurses still checked on me… occasionally. But I never saw the sheet to record poops and pees. I never saw a lactation consultant. I was pretty much left on my own. It was glorious! I had a private room, milkshakes and cookies whenever I asked, barely any visitors (it was my third, remember?)… it was kinda like being on vacation.
Of course, the flip side of this is that, while everyone thinks you’re an expert, you know the truth: You still have very little clue about what you’re doing. Sure, you can take care of a baby with a lot more confidence than the first time, but you also know that each kid is ridiculously different from the others, and you’ll run into a million situations a day that make you question whether you’re cut out for this job at all.
Bottom Line: Enjoy the lack of unsolicited advice, but remember that there’s still a vast network of moms out there who are willing to help if you ask.
3. You’ll feel like there’s never enough of you to go around and you can’t give each kid what they need
Oh, the mom guilt. It never ends.
I bet when you had one kid and you spent a ton of one on one time with him: Talking, teaching, playing.
Then you had your second child and it got a little harder to have that meaningful time together. The baby needed to eat when the toddler wanted you to play. The toddler needed to go to the bathroom Right Now while the baby just wanted to be held. You figured out ways to make it work, though. You could still take one of them shopping while the other one stayed home with Dad and, boom, they were both getting one on one time. You totally rocked the Parenting Two Kids scene.
With three, you sometimes get the feeling that you are failing all of them. Like when your oldest says you never have time for him anymore. Or when you’re so excited to be taking just one of them out somewhere, but the other two are sobbing at the unfairness of it all, even though they’ve been told their special time is coming. Or when there are 15 loads of laundry to do, supper to make, and bathrooms to clean, but the youngest wants you to do a puzzle, the oldest wants you to shoot hoops, and the middle wants you to play superheroes.
One person can only do so much. Realize that right from the start and you’ll be better able to handle the moments of disappointment and guilt. Also realize that your kids will not die if they don’t have your undivided attention all the time. In fact, it’s better if they don’t.
Bottom Line: Go ahead and acknowledge the mom guilt, but tell it to get lost. Then try to find even just one way per day to connect one on one with each child, even if only for five minutes while the other two are playing in a different room. It’ll be good for all of you.
4. You’ll be waaaay more laid back
Remember when you had your first kid and you thought you were a pretty chill parent? You let people hold your kid without washing their hands first and thought to yourself, “I am way less uptight than that friend of mine who made people put on surgical masks when they came through her door.”
By the time your third kid shows up, you’ve taken chill to a whole new level. “Oh, you’re still being treated for Ebola? Sure, you can hold him. Just turn your face away when you need to cough, okay?”
Seriously though, not much phases you anymore. Your older kids are constantly bringing home germs, so there’s no sense trying to shield the baby from them. You try to keep the older ones from jumping on the youngest, but you soon discover that the more they manhandle her, the funnier she thinks it is. You realize that a dinner of popcorn and cookies every now and then won’t kill them.
Bottom Line: Obviously some health and safety precautions need to be taken, but those kids are a lot more durable than you thought when you first started out.
Want to know the other three things I wish I’d known? Click here to read Part 2. And be sure to join me on Facebook where we have all sorts of fun.
Parents of three (or more!), what did you wish you’d known before you had your third?
Lauren is a wife, mom of three, and the writer behind Oh, Honestly. She loves to share the real life joys and trials of motherhood so other moms will know they’re not alone. She is also the author of The Words Your Kids Need: The Value of Writing to Your Children and How to Do It With Ease.
Im only a parent of one at the moment. I do get nervous about having more kids (especially in regards to giving them enough attention), but I love what you wrote here. You make it seem more doable! I’m looking forward to part 2!
I’m glad you think I make it sound doable! I really didn’t want to come across as Debbie Downer, but I wanted to be realistic too. There’s good and bad with everything, so I hope I show a balance!
Andrea S. says
“You try to keep the older ones from jumping on the youngest, but you soon discover that the more they manhandle her, the funnier she thinks it is.”
My 3rd child (18 months) constantly initiates wrestling/roughhousing with her older siblings and shrieks with delight. She’s been knocked over SO many times.
I never, ever, ever would have let that happen with my first! Some other moms I don’t know well (usually of only children) wince when they first see how my children all wrestle with each other, and the youngest gets knocked down. Then their expression turns to puzzlement when she squeals with delight and jumps on top of the pile again.
I love this, thanks for sharing!
Thanks Andrea! I’m glad I’m not the only one who has rough and tumble kids!! I always worry what other moms will think too, but once you get to three, sometimes letting them go at it is easier than trying to break them up over and over again!
So I want a 3rd, I cry all the time because I can’t have a 3rd….and you made me realize I CAN”T HANDLE A 3RD! So I’ll get a puppy! LOVED this! And seriously, ” I had a private room, milkshakes and cookies whenever I asked, barely any visitors (it was my third, remember?)… it was kinda like being on vacation.” when is POPPING out a baby a vacation?! You crack me up!
First of all, I think a puppy might be harder than a kid…. Second, think about it: You have two kids at home and you get to be ALL ALONE. Who cares if you just gave birth. It’s so peaceful!
You are making me happy we stopped at two! I’ve been having Baby Fever lately, but maybe we are fine just the way we are. We are about to move (again!) this summer, only to move (again!) in two years, so imagine doing all that with 3! I have friends with 4 and I honestly don’t know how they manage it!!
Yeah, I NEVER want to move with kids, haha. We only had our oldest when we moved into our house and that wasn’t so bad because we weren’t selling a house, so I didn’t need to worry about showings and all that. I can’t imagine trying to keep my house clean enough for people to come in to see if they wanted to buy it while having three young kids.
Susanne/The Dusty Parachute says
We stopped at two because I knew I would never survive being outnumbered! 🙂 Cute post!
Haha! That may or may not be one of the things I mention in Part 2 😉
Aubrey @ 53weeks says
I definitely want a 3rd, I had my 2 so close together that it was like one huge pregnancy/infancy stage all wrapped in one! This post certainly makes me think about if I can or WANT to handle the situations you brought up…but it all sort of is on the not so exciting side! I’m hoping the last 3 things I need to know before having my third will get me EXCITED to just do it!
I’ll be honest, the first couple of years are tough, but it definitely gets easier as they get older. Mine were all two years apart, so if your kids are a little bit older when you have the third, that probably makes a difference too. I think having a two (or younger) year old and a baby is the hardest part.
Even on the hard days though, I’ve never regretted it!
Kelli Miller says
Hotel rooms, dining establishments, specials, etc are not made for families of more than four. Even the “kids eat free” stuff only works if you have the same number of kids as you do adults. With three it is hard to do the things most people don’t think of… and getting a relative to watch all three so Mom & Dad can get some privacy. Yeah, right! You have (at least) THREE kids. No one else wants to watch all of them so you can have private time and possibly get pregnant AGAIN. LOL!
Yes. To all of it! Plus, we don’t want to get a hotel room because what are we going to do after we put the kids to bed at 7:30? Sit there in the dark? So vacations are much more expensive since we have to get a suite 😛
So true! I’m pregnant with our fourth, and my sis in law and bother took the three for the afternoon. My sis in law said you better not be pregnant when we bring them back…ha ha you already are! It hadn’t occurred to me that people would think that!
Hi Lauren, Came across your pin on Pinterest and had to come to read this. I just had a third child 5 weeks ago and your points sure hits home. I can totally say, that all the things you mentioned in this post, I am experiencing them right now. And my oldest is 4 and I totally feel that she is on her own sometimes, too. She is a great little helper, though! Thanks for making me “cry” with this post…A good cry though.
Thank you Zan! I’ve been worried that it’s too negative, but I think there’s a fine line between negative and realistic. I don’t want to discourage anyone from having another baby because it’s AWESOME, but it’s also hard. I’d rather go into it with my eyes open. Congratulations on your newest bundle!
Creative Mama Renee says
And once the oldest one is old enough, you can use him for free babysitting for the younger two! I have 2 teenagers that came with my husband and they are such a blessing when the toddler wants to play/be a menace/not let me cook/clean/etc.
Amanda @ queenofthelandoftwigsnberries says
I am already pretty laid back with #2, I can’t even imagine what I would be like with #3. “Yes, Mommy is leaving, but don’t worry, the dog is babysitting you!”
“The baby is sound asleep in her crib. She’ll be asleep for at least another hour. I could run to the store to get that gallon of milk…” <--- Things I've thought before realizing how ridiculous they were.
Sarah womack says
OMG !! I have honestly thought that to my self before as well.. Then started feeling anxious and worried and said to myself bitch you’re crazy LOL
Haha Sarah! At least we don’t act on our craziness!!
Sarah @ Play 2 Learn with Sarah says
Three sent me over the edge! I became absolutely overwhelmed and totally psycho! LOL
And I love the ebola comment…totally true. Can’t wait to read the rest!
Haha! Overwhelmed is really the perfect word to describe it. And yeah, totally psycho sums it up pretty well too, lol.
I love reading and relating with other parents. I usually always get a great laugh and advice that they don’t even know their giving, just by sharing their experiences. I am a mother of two, my daughter is 5 and my son is 2 1/2. I feel like I dived right into chilling parent mode when I had #2. I can relate to everything you wrote in this article and the last one about have two children. To add to your article about having 3, I was talking with a friend not too long ago I met him through my job, he is a dad of 3. I was telling him how I thought about if I wanted a 3rd or not, and he calmly said to me… Remember when you get to number 3…they out number you and your spouse. He told me everything you wrote here too. Now I will say his and your word didn’t totally make up my mind for me but, it did give me something to chew on. Keep up the good work!
Thanks Dakota! Definitely check out Part 2… Your friend and I are on the same page some more!
Elizabeth Diaz says
Not even gonna lie, the first several years after my third was born was NOT fun. Now it’s no big deal (they’re 13, 12 and 10), the hardest part is all the running. Plus, at any given time exactly 2 of them are best friends and the other is excluded. Besides that? Walk in the park. 😉
Yes! That sums up my feelings exactly! The first two years were hard and now, it’s not easy, but it’s easier. I think having them really close together makes it a little tougher at first (but then maybe easier when they’re older? They’re all going in basically the same directions?)
Ellen Russell says
This cracked me up and is soo true! We just had baby number three 2 1/2 months ago.
My favorite funny moment so far of having 3 kids: I went with all three boys to the Dollar Store. I had new baby in the moby wrap, middle kiddo (2 1/2) in the cart, and my 4 year old walking with me. One guy saw me, his eyes got huge, and said, “Wow…that’s crazy…” and just shook his head like he couldn’t believe it, haha.
Going to read part 2 now 🙂
Haha!! My friend had 5 kids under 5 years old (youngest were twins). I wonder what he would have said to her, lol. Congrats on your newest little one! Three boys… you’re going to have a LOUD house 😉
I loved this post, Lauren. It was spot-on and very balanced. I have five, and you just learn to juggle everything and not worry about every little thing, including what other people think! 🙂
Yes! You really do have to get over that! I think it becomes a little bit easier with each child.
We have two boys now 4 & 2 and recently JUST found out we are expecting! I admit I was feeling a little overwhelmed at the fact that we will now be outnumbered but I loved reading this!!!!
Congratulations!! I hope I didn’t scare you. Yes, it’s a lot of work, but it’s also totally worth it!
8 reasons I’m so glad I had three kids. 8-The time I spent chasing after them helped me stay in shape. 7-I got to see all the firsts three times! 6-They kept me company when the ex was constantly traveling (notice I said ex). 6 – Three times the kisses and hugs and “I love you’s”. 5 – They keep life in perspective because you don’t have time to sweat the small stuff. 4 – I got to play with trucks and dolls again (my brothers and sisters didn’t share well – my kids do!). 5 – Grandchildren times three kids = all the more love and toys again! 4 – Three kids in sports/dance/scouts/clubs etc. forced me to be sociable as carpools were a necessity. I met some of my best lifelong friends because of my three kids – wouldn’t have met them with only two kids. 3 – There are three seat belts in the back seat of a car – just perfect for three kids (I have a minivan now with 6 back seats and 5 grandchildren so far). 2 – I couldn’t imagine my life without any of them – I’m so triple blessed by my kids. And 1 – Did I mention love, love, and more love? Triple the love, triple the blessings, triple the joys of watching them all grow up!
Who cares about the cost, you will always find the money needed somewhere and if you don’t then you’ll find an alternative solution to the money issue. There is often an odd man out when two buddy up, but that’s when you get special one on one time with the third – and they all will have their turn at some point. Sleep is overrated, you can sleep when the last one goes off to college.
I loved every minute of three kids, never cried when they went off to school or college, and truly enjoyed helping them through every phase of their lives. Though, I admit, I did cry when the two boys went to Afghanistan – all seven tours I cried. And I still cry for joy that they are home again right now, safe and sound! Enjoy the ride of three – you will never regret it :).
Wow, 7 tours! Please thank them for their service for me!
You’re right; I have never regretted it. I hope you read part 2 because that’s one of my seven points 🙂
Nicole Robinson says
We haven’t even started trying for our first child yet and this article was still so clever and I enjoyed reading it. I’m filing it away for a mental note for the future!
Thanks so much Nicole! I’m working on a post about first children, so stay tuned 😉
I was just wondering what the age difference were in your kids. It looks like you have 2 boys and a girl. I have two boys and a girl and in one part of it you said something about a 4 year old, 2 year old and a 9 month old. I currently have a 4 year old, 2 year old, and an 8 month old. Lol
Just about two years each 🙂 My boys are 23 months apart and the youngest is almost 25 months younger than the middle. Their birthdays all fall within about three weeks of each other which is kinda hectic, but also nice to get them all done at once, lol.
This is so reassuring and laugh-out-loud funny! I’ve got three kids, and just really needed to read this right now!
This may sound crazy but I feel like mother goose. I had my little girl in December of 2013, my 2 year old neice who is now 4 was living with me & still does, 8 months later we took in our nephew who at the time was 5 (we are now adopting him), needless to say my transitions were sudden. I feel torn but try my hardest to make sure they all are equally loved & tended too. Its hard at times but they see my efforts & know im doing all I Can. Thanks for writing this. Great article indeed.
Wow, those are sudden transitions! It’s different too when you’re adjusting to a new addition who isn’t newborn. It’s not just you who have to adjust; it’s the little one too.
This post really cracked me up! I’m currently pregnant with #3. My older two are 7 and 4, so I’m hoping because they are older it will be easier? Maybe I’m just lying to myself though. Lol!
I think that does help! And I hope you read Part 2 because it’s not all bad by any stretch of the imagination. (Also, I found the first two years the hardest. Mine are almost 8,6, and 4 now and it is a LOT easier).
I completely agree! Three kids are my limit. All of my children are a year and a half apart. While it will be great when they get older. It is definitely a lot of work right now. But what gets me through is how much fun and a joy they are. You gotta take the good with the bad. Whether 1 child or 3.
Shani Garland says
“You try to keep the older ones from jumping on the youngest, but you soon discover that the more they manhandle her, the funnier she thinks it is.”
LOL. Soooo true. My first baby girl was only 14 months when her baby brother arrived home and as she got to toddling around more, “manhandling” is exactly what she started doing and I was so afraid that I’d keep her away until I saw that he absolutely looooves his big sis and lights up as soon as he sees her. He thinks it’s hilarious when she grabs his arms so he can “dance”.
He’s now 7 months, she’s now 21 months and I am 16 weeks and 6 days along with our 3rd and they’re the best buddies. She loves him, he loves her and is a lot more gentle now that she’s learning to know better.
Thanks for the post! I’m getting ready to have no. 4. A lot of the comments seem to make it as if having a child is about my comfort. It is not about me, it is about sacrificing. Goodness we all pregnatized a little differently and besides all the gain in weight and nausea and heart burn and hemorroids and constipation and many other things that happen to us before we have that baby, I have realized the level of sacrifice that we make. So what if I can get a free meal for my other kids? Thank God for neighbors who love kids and are willing to even watch more than 3 kids. Why don’t you be a good neighbor. My point is, whatever your decision is in having more than two. Other people go beyond the free meals and babysitting bliss and have 4 or even 8, but they also realize a deeper sacrificial meaning of parenthood. Thanks for your article :).
I am a mother of 5 children (31, 24, 23, 20 & 16). I also ran a daycare from my home until my youngest was 9 yrs old. I found when I had my 3rd child it was much easier. All my kids are close & yes, we are more lenient with our youngest & feel he has missed out on things because we are older & can’t do all we did we the four others, but I don’t feel like one of my children had more of my attention than another. This is only my experience.