What You Should Really Know About Having Three Kids

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Big families are totally trending, you guys! KIDDING. But maybe not entirely? It seems like everyone I know already has three children or is agonizing whether to add juuuuust one more to their brood of two.

My husband and I spent years wracked with this same angst, and Internet “research” did us no favors. There are a million articles peddling “truths” about having three children, and they are mostly scary AF. I learned that three is scientifically proven to be the most stressful number of children and that having only two hands for three children is apparently a real problem. The data was undeniable: DO.NOT.DO.THIS.

I’m here to tell you to stop agonizing and go for it, because being a family of five is actually terrific. The energy in our home has totally changed from “eh, we’re bored, let’s go do something” to 24/7 good-time chaos party, and I’m here for it. We don’t need to go to the zoo anymore because we are the zoo.

Suffice it to say, the Internet is getting this three-kid thing all wrong, you guys. Let’s clear up some of these misconceptions right now:

Two Hands + Three Children = Catastrophe.
WRONG. I don’t know why, but I find this one extra annoying. Like, unless you’re an octopus your family should just sit tight at two kids? Sorry, but mommy’s two hands aren’t the only capable ones in your household. My husband is a fully engaged co-parent and my big kids, at ages six and four years, are legit helpful. Everyone takes turns pushing the stroller, entertaining baby, and packing the diaper bag. I don’t have two hands; I have eight! Guess I’m an octopus after all?

Your House Will Be a Mess 24/7.
This one really flipped me out. I’m a neatnik, not because I’m trying to impress anyone or I want to suck the joy from my children’s lives or the patriarchy made me do it (I read the comments on Scary Mommy, too, you guys) but because I just can’t relax in mess. Sorry. It’s not you, its me.

Anyway, I’m here to tell you that welcoming another child will not turn your home into a vortex of filth. Buuuut you’re going to have to delegate more and find places to loosen the reins a bit. My older children have regular household chores (which are good for them!) and I am learning to accept my husband’s help without micromanaging how he does things. Our basement playroom is a designated free zone that can be a disaster, and I don’t care one bit.

You Better Like Your Partner Because You’re Going to Be Together ALL THE TIME.
Wrong again! Because of nap schedules and soccer games and birthday parties, my husband and I are constantly heading in different directions with varying assortments of children. We’ve also found that all five of us going out en masse can be more stressful than a trio and a pair doing their separate things. This, for us, has been the hardest adjustment, because we do actually like hanging out with each other. But, good news: we can’t get a babysitter anymore so we’re home together every night anyway. Wheeee!

You’ll Never Find a Babysitter Ever Again.
Sorry, you guys, but this is true. It is HARD to find someone who can juggle big kid energy and a baby’s needs simultaneously. Unless you have a regular nanny or au pair willing to work weekends or energetic grandparents living nearby, your social life is going to take a hit. This is, however, a short-term problem because eventually that precious baby will be part of your wild kid wolf pack that a neighborhood teenager can totally handle.

The Laundry Will Kill You.
I will never understand how adding one person to a family exponentially increases laundry output, but it’s just true. Our family is extremely grateful to be able to outsource most of this work, which we realize is a huge privilege not available to everyone. But let me tell you: I’d make so many other budget cuts before cutting housekeeping because not having to scale Mount Laundry chills me out way more than any trip to the day spa.

Your Middle Child Will Hate Life.
I always thought this was just parents projecting their overwrought guilt until it turned out to be kind-of true. (Tear.) My four year-old, Brooks, lost his mind a little bit when his baby brother arrived, kicking him out of the only son, baby-of-the-family sweet spot. The boy formerly known as my most well-behaved child suddenly started throwing tantrums, fighting with the older sister he worships, and refusing to do pretty much anything. It was awful and I will admit to shedding my fair share of tears over “ruining his life.” (What did I say about overwrought guilt again?!) A committed one-on-one time campaign helped tremendously, as did allowing him more hands-on time with baby. But still, I can’t wait to hear what his therapist has to say about it in twenty years.

Say Goodbye To Your Free Time.
My bandwidth for “extras” -- yoga classes, elaborate weekend cooking projects, working on my blog -- is significantly limited since welcoming baby number three. This sucks. But as with the aforementioned babysitter conundrum, this is a short-term problem. Eventually the baby will become a proper kid who’s way more interested in chasing his older siblings than snuggling his mama. I’m not crying; you’re crying.

You Will Never Sleep Again.
I mean, were you really sleeping that much with two kids anyway? Between nightmares and bathroom trips and things that go bump in the night (spoiler alert: it’s your kid), sleeping a solid seven consecutive hours is always a pleasant surprise. Adding a newborn to that mix is a little hairy for a bit, but I’m convinced that making the baby wait a moment before being tended to a la Bringing Up Bebe is why Mac is the easiest baby.

When One Kid is Gone, It Feels Like Vacation.
And when two kids are gone, it’s basically a spa day. Mark this one as true, folks. My standards for what qualifies as “leisure” have lowered dramatically, but I’m not mad at it. I’m actually grateful. Expanding our brood forced me to find small moments of relaxation everywhere because a big block of “me time” is so hard to come by. Whether it’s listening to a favorite podcast while nursing the baby or a few minutes on Instagram while sitting in the dry cleaner’s parking lot, these corners of calm feel all the more delicious because of their scarcity.

Three is the Most Stressful Number of Children.
It’s science, you guys! No, seriously, studies reveal that three is, statistically-speaking, the most stressful number of children. For what it’s worth, I think this can vary wildly from family to family. If you have three under three or a set of twins in the mix or a child with special needs, then yes, this is probably true for you. Hugs.

If, however, you have some age gaps like we do, your stress levels are unlikely to take a hit. Having a newborn and a two-year-old was SO much harder than this! All hail the Caboose Baby!

Meet Heather

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Well, hi there! I’m Heather, though most of the time I answer to Mom, Mama or Mommy shouted at the top of tiny lungs. I’m a stay-at-home mother of three, something I am certain my younger self would find hilarious. I always hoped to be a parent, probably of two children, but three? No way. Not me. I am not nearly patient enough. I covet alone time. And I’m a neat freak! A large family would surely be the end of my sanity.

And yet by some magic of finding the right partner (my incredible husband, Larsen) and a supportive community of extended family and friends, here I sit, a blissed-out mother of three who has found joy in being surrounded by just the right amount of chaos.

Do not be mistaken: there are moments when I am next-level TIRED; when I yell at my kids; when I am not having fun. At. All. Like when I hosted Christmas Eve dinner last year, and while frantically tablescaping and doing advance meal prep for a three-course meal for 14 people, my preschooler woke up covered in barf. (Yeah.)

But more often than not, we are doing cartwheels in our garden; baking Smitten Kitchen’s salted chocolate chip cookies with way too much Maldon; snuggling while my kindergartener reads to us; and singing along to The Dixie Chicks at the top of our lungs in our big, messy, carseat-filled car. Our hometown of Piedmont, California, is the kind of place where neighbors walk their children to school together and the Fourth of July means potluck block parties with mismatched tablecloths and flower centerpieces from everybody’s gardens. It is a very good life, and I am deeply grateful it is mine.

A lawyer by trade, I started blogging while expecting my first child and restoring a century-old Edwardian flat in San Francisco with my husband. I was overwhelmed by these new roles of wife, expectant mother and homeowner, and Priss & Vinegar proved the perfect outlet for exploring them all. Its pages chronicle a journey from exhausted new parent, to in-the-weeds mother of two children 2-and-under, with an unexpected (and mercifully brief) turn into the heartbreak of secondary infertility while trying for our third child. There have been Pinterest-worthy parties, mortifying public tantrums, and all manner of triumph and trial in between.

I am thrilled to be part of the Bundle community to share what I’ve learned as well as pick up new tricks from all of you. Though I’ve been at this parenting game for almost seven years, I certainly don’t have all the answers! If anything, the most important wisdom I’ve gained is that just when you think you’re crushing it at parenthood, change comes barreling your way.

You are probably reading this while getting side-eyed by the helicopter mommies at the playground or pumping in the backseat of your car or some other super glamorous location that moms frequent. So, thank you! Your spare time is precious and I’m delighted you spend it with me. This is going to be FUN.

xo, Heather