Back before my third child was born – when I thought I could plan these things, and have any control over them – I was torn.
Should I – could I – have another baby? I canvassed opinions from all mothers-of-three I met – near-strangers, most of them – and listened intently to their thoughts.
“What’s it like having three?” I naively asked, thinking that they might be able to sway me one way or another. In fact, not one of them – apart from my sister – knew me well enough to declare whether they thought I would be fit for the Job of Parenting Three. (And my sister just shrieked with laughter and said “Jesus, you can barely cope with two!” which was honest, if not a bit mean.)
Anyway, I went for it in the end. For what it’s worth, here are some universal truths on having three children.
Someone is always unhappy
Not necessarily miserable, but definitely not smiling. So, if you agree with the “I’m only as happy as my least happy child” maxim (what a load of smug-mummy bollox that is), then you’re in for a rough ride.
Someone is always sick
ALWAYS. With two, you have really only got two opportunities for them to get germs: the first gets them, or the second gets them.
With three – it’s a whole other ball game – one which makes no sense at all (like cricket). The first gets them, and passes them to the second and third. The third holds on to them long enough to then re-pass them pack to the first, then to the second, etc. It’s a vicious, germy little circle.
Also the third gets them ALL THE TIME, usually because she’s in that hot-house of lurgy – nursery – while the other two have graduated to more sanitary venues. (They then catch whatever it is, and pass it around their classes, and you become a school-gate pariah.)
Several times a day you will find yourself thinking that all you do is wipe bottoms. This is possibly because all you do do is wipe bottoms.
Middle-child syndrome really is a thing
I think it might actually be a scientific fact that it’s totally unavoidable. However, when your middle child asks why you never hang any of her artwork, you can look her in the eye and assure her that you don’t ever hang any of her younger sibling’s, either.
It’s another four years – at least – before you can start behaving (and looking) like a proper adult again
But by that stage, your goose is well and truly cooked. Lipstick which is at least three years old; flat shoes; pony-tailed hair; sunglasses which are scratched and lie at the bottom of your handbag – all these will remain fixtures in your life.
Speaking of handbags – you’ll need the largest one you can find. Three children need a LOT of snacks / wipes / snacks / spare clothes / snacks.
You’ll be broke
This means that the only handbag you’ll have will be a beach-bag which came free with a magazine. Which obviously you bought several years beforehand.
Because, as you will find out, TV is the only way to manage three children at once. The youngest will end up watching films which you have diligently screened for their suitability. For the eldest child.
Bed-time – once the preserve of 7pm(ish) – will shift to the highest common denominator: that of the eldest
The bitching and moaning otherwise just isn’t worth it.So you will never eat dinner before 9pm. But you’ll be up during the night every single night of the week, so at least you’ll be properly fuelled.
HOWEVER. It’s not all doom and gloom. Instead of 100% of your children squabbling and bickering all of the time, only 66% will. Which is something to celebrate, no? And you have 50% more of an excuse to deserve a great big fat drink come 8/9/10/11pm (or whenever you manage to get them all to bed). All pretences to want to get fit can be discarded for good, because you simply Do Not Have Time, and you will make your peace with that. Children’s clothes will get one more cycle-of-wear, and you can be sure that the problem of throwing out leftover food is gone forever.
And just think – in years to come you get to mortify a sulky teenager by referring to them as “the Baby” in front of their friends.
Mind you, the Baby will NEVER behave like a baby, ever. Even when she is, in fact, a baby. “Me NOT A BABY!!” she will scream, as she crawls over to the TV, loads up the DVD, and settles in to watch “Jassic Pak”, blankie in one hand, soother in the other.
And that is the best reason to have a third baby – because they’re so stubborn and independent, they practically raise themselves.
Apart from the bottom-wiping. No getting away from that I’m afraid.