Should I Have A Third Child?
Are three children really that much harder than two? Sabrina Rogers-Anderson looks at the research, shares her experience and talks to other mamas about making the leap to three.
A close friend of mine (let’s call her Jo) spends hours conducting research and polling her Facebook friends before making any decision. Whether she’s buying a new dishwasher or choosing a daycare center, she thoroughly dissects the matter. So, it came as no surprise to me when she launched her Third Child Deep Dive Investigation a couple of years ago.
When Jo asked me if I knew of any studies that had determined what the optimal number of children is, I scoffed. “Researchers can’t tell you that,” I explained. “It’s completely subjective and different for everyone.”
Despite my reservations, I managed to uncover some stats. According to a Gallup poll conducted in 2018, 50 percent of Americans think two is the ideal number of children while 41 percent believe three is best. European researchers who studied parents’ happiness over many years concluded that having up to two children increases happiness, but a third child does not. Hmmm…
To have a third or not to have a third?
Jo was unimpressed with my research because she secretly wanted it to reveal that three is the winning number of children. She needed some ammo to convince her hubby to go again. “But you love having three kids, right?” she begged.
I love my three girls with every fiber of my being, but going from one toddler to a toddler and newborn twins was HARD. I wore dark circles and baby vomit like fashion accessories throughout 2016 and I burst into tears one day because we’d run out of coffee. I can’t say it started to get easier until… well, I’ll have to let you know.
Despite all the hardships, I wouldn’t trade in a single sleepless night or public poo-nami. Watching my girls grow feeds my soul every day and I can’t imagine my life without each one of them. But I can tell you right now, it’s not for everyone and that’s okay.
When three is too many
Kirsty says she knew she was “done” when her second daughter was born. “I felt happy and fulfilled,” she says. “My family felt complete. But my husband is from a big family and he really wanted a boy, so I let him convince me to have a third. When our son was born, I spun into severe postnatal depression. I loved my boy so much, but I couldn’t cope with the constant demands of three kids. It felt so, so much harder than two! It took me 18 months to climb out of it. Looking back, I should have trusted my gut.”
Kirsty’s account illustrates exactly why a study or a poll can’t tell us how many children we should have. While some couples find one child hard to handle, others thrive with six. Everyone should have the right to choose what’s right for their family without societal pressure or stigma. So, let’s back off asking people when they’re “going to have another,” shall we?
No matter what their “ideal number,” most parents will agree that going from two to three is a bit of a culture shock. A friend of mine once explained that while she still tried to maintain her high standards of stylish outfits and freshly cooked organic meals when she had two kids, all that went out the window when she had her third. “Dinnertime is now nuggets in front of the TV in diapers and I’m not sorry,” she laughs.
Pros and cons of having a third child
I like the idea of a good pros and cons list. I never actually have time to write them for myself because: three kids, but I’m on a roll right now, so here goes…
- You’ll have a new human fabricated from your own DNA to snuggle.
- You can finally buy one of those novelty mop rompers and get your housework done during tummy time.
- You’ll be forced to dramatically lower your standards on just about every front. Hooray, less cleaning and career ambition means more you-time!
- Your mother-in-law will start avoiding your house a.k.a., “The Zoo.”
- You’ll finally be able to stop taking the pill because your partner will have the vasectomy doc on speed dial.
- Sleep will become a distant memory.
- You’ll have to upgrade to a car that’s the size of a small motorhome.
- Your car will never, ever be clean again (it may even become a certified health hazard).
- You’ll need to buy a pair of high-quality noise-canceling headphones to drown out the constant noise… alllll of the nooooise… *shudder.*
- Anything nice you buy will be destroyed within 45 seconds.
What do you mean I’m not helping?
Deciding whether to have a third child is a deeply personal choice. While lists of pros and cons might help a little, you have to trust your gut. And in case you were wondering, Jo didn’t end up having a third child because her husband felt it would be too much. She’s at peace with her decision. And so am I.