Parenting Three Kids
June 11, 2004 10:28 AM   Subscribe

How hard (or easy) is it to transistion from having two kids to three? Anyone have any experience? I do not know of anyone personally that has gone through this. Nothing on the way...yet. Currently two toddlers with stay at home mom. Appreciate any thoughts.
posted by repoman to Human Relations (13 answers total)
Three kids are 50% more than two kids. That means your workload will go up by that amount.

In terms of social networks, it's a permutation thing. The number of connections skyrockets exponentially. An extra kid isn't 50% more... (I'm seeing it jump from 20-odd to 100-odd, but I'm not sure the calculator is calculating what I'm thinking it I want...)

Anyway, an extra kid is way more than just one more.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:13 AM on June 11, 2004

Response by poster: fff, thanks. Interesting way think about it. I was looking for more than the 'hey you're going from one on one to zone defense' type of thing.
posted by repoman at 11:39 AM on June 11, 2004

I would not listen too closely to anybody who tries to tell you percentages of difficulty, I really don't think it works like that, and it all varies over time anyway. As it's often one parent with the kids at any given moment, you're beyond the one on one when you have the second. Three against one can be a challenge, but it's usually manageable; it's rare for one to be juggling with broken glass while another is pouring a refreshing glass of bleach and the third is hanging out of the window by its toenails. Everything depends so much on circumstances and personalities: both the personalities of the kids and the parents. You already know about your own parenting skills and style, but the considerable range in babies' personality is an unknown before they arrive.

For instance our first preferred not moving much (he never crawled), hated being dirty, and was cooperative and would do what he was asked (it helped that he talked at ten months, well before he started to move around). Our second, while having an even sweeter nature, walked at ten months, loved getting himself mucky, and, once he had decided to do something, could not be talked out of it but had to be physically restrained. The fact that the third was on the way before the second's nature became completely plain to us made things a little more complicated than they otherwise might have been. One friend of ours told us she was amazed at how nonchalantly we handled one baby, and impressed by the was we handled two, but thought we were on the point of loosing it when the third was added to the mix.

But, truth to tell, the rough period was relatively short. For the most part things get easier as they can do more for themselves, as you probably already know, and if you are lucky and they get on well there are sometimes definite advantages to having the third. As they get old enough to play having more inbuilt options is a help: you can be dealing with one while the others amuse themselves without needing your constant attention. One of the big factors in all this is spacing. The closer they are the worse the early period, but the more likely they are to be able to amuse each other later. The further apart, the less the early problems, but also less chance of true closeness

My three sons are less than two years apart --3 1/2 years between oldest and youngest-- they are very close and enjoy spending time together and spend hours playing long, complicated imaginative games (that doesn't mean they never fight, but cooperation is more common). My brother's three daughters are about six years apart, twelve years between oldest and youngest. They had the great early advantage of a built in babysitter, but I think they also lost some things as, though the girls like each other, the don't really ever interact as peers. Another point to bear in mind was that, because of overlap, we had six years of diapers, while they had to suffer the full nine! On the other hand we will have to deal with three teenaged boys simultaneously.

As with most parenting decisions, go with your gut; other people's experience is only a rough guide. When we had only one, we knew we wanted more; after the second the feeling was lessened but still there; after the third my wife and I knew that was it, and that we should quit while we were ahead. I think I could handle and love a fourth, but I have no desire to find out if I'm right.Any added pain and difficulty between having two rather than three has been more than repaid by the joys.
posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 3:33 PM on June 11, 2004

With two kids, there is only ever a single conflict: one against the other.

With three kids, you have three straight-on conflicts: A against B, B against C, C against A. And you have three complex conflicts: AB against C, BC against A, and AC against B. That's six times more potential for conflicts.

That extra kid changes the dynamics radically.

Has to be that way. It's mathematical, nothing more. Conflict is a guarantee: how much is a function of quantity (number of bodies), all else being equal.

And then there's the whole instigation of conflicts. With two kids, it's either A or B who started the fight. A:B or B:A.

With three kids, it could be A:B, B:A; B:C, C:B; A:C, C:A. That's six ways it could go. Then there are the two-against-ones, and of the two, one can be the primary instigator and the other just in for the ride: AB:C, BA:C; AC:B, CA:B; BC:A, CB:A. And then there's one-against-two: A:BC; B:CA; C:AB. And, of course, the true pick-on where both team up equally to piss off the third: AB:C, BC:A, CA:B.

Figuring out who the culprit is is a royal pain. Especially if the pair then pair up against you to cover their asses...

Also, I disagree on "closer ages is easier." Closer ages means more competition for the same desired resources. This can easily lead to more conflict. At a great disparity of ages, they don't share the same interests/needs, ergo less chance of conflict. Until they really set about to get on each others tits, of course.

posted by five fresh fish at 3:56 PM on June 11, 2004 [1 favorite]

fff I wouldn't argue with your mathematical analysis, but it's often irrelevant. Kids can upset themselves or their parents without the need for another child to be present, and conflict is not always the dominant factor anyway. Yes, there will be some confict, but there is also often cooperation; when they are cooperating they are the resource for each other.

As I said personalities matter. Kids who get on well may indeed benefit from closeness; kids who don't benefit from sepparation. there really isn't much one size fits all when id comes to kids.
posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 4:16 PM on June 11, 2004

I had my three bumper-to-bumper (they are now 19, 18 and 17 respectively.) The first half of FFF's post is absolutely correct. (But I still think closer ages, for me at least, was easier.)

When you have three you will start to notice, with some annoyance, just how much this society is geared to TWO kids.

But I will say beyond a shadow of a doubt that having three is much easier than having two and being pregnant.

Finally, I know quite a few large families. I am told by the parents that three is the hardest number, and that after that things start getting easier. I suppose that is assuming the oldest is finally old enough to be a bit useful.
posted by konolia at 4:20 PM on June 11, 2004

i'm the middle of 3 boys, all 20 months-ish apart, and we fought every single day of our lives (but we also always had someone to play with too, and stood up for each other, and watched out for the youngest). And what fff said on closeness in age. None of us are close now as adults, and we were very competitive, and all of us felt slighted at one time or another, despite attempts at fairness/equality by my mom. (one got a bike--we all got bikes; one played little league--we all played little league...which wasn't always good.) I always had my big brother one grade above me and i was compared to him continually, which also wasn't fun. (my childhood wasn't terrible by any means, and i had my grandma to give me the time i didn't get elsewhere)
(Quinbus, i think i'm like your middle one)

Will you have separate bedrooms for all of them, or will they be in one? I suggest separate if possible.

And do a "birth order" search on google--there's tons of stuff.
posted by amberglow at 4:31 PM on June 11, 2004

> But I will say beyond a shadow of a doubt that having three is much easier
> than having two and being pregnant.

Oh Ghod, what a notion--and you've experienced it. Fuller rises and tips hat.
posted by jfuller at 6:45 PM on June 11, 2004

I'm afraid I can't be much help on the difference between 2 and 3 - we jumped from 1 to 3 when we had twins. We're expecting fourth in August . Each pregnancy has been separated by almost exactly 2 years (read: 4 kids in 4 years!)

The transition from 1 to 3 was an enormous challenge, but we hit our stride quickly and expanded what we previously thought were our limits. I'm fully expecting to do that again. My wife would definitely agree (with konolia) that being pregnant and taking care of kids at the same time is an incredible challenge.

I do believe that closeness in age has it's benefits and drawbacks (both for the parents and the kids), but utlimately you have to make it work for you. Having kids close together has been a blessing for us so far - they will generally entertain themselves for short periods while we cook dinner or clean, and they all get a bath at the same time.

fff is definitely right about the conflict thing - it grows in complexity with each new person - but that's where instinct and good parenting come into play...
posted by grateful at 7:28 PM on June 11, 2004

Look, it's simple.

With two kids, if they run different directions one parent can chase each child and you'll corral them in no time.

With three kids, you have to decide which one is the least likely to run into the middle of the street, corral the other two, then gang up on the third.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 8:41 PM on June 11, 2004

So once you've gone to three, you can add more with less consequence, vis a vis conflicts, time and costs. Number of trips you make in a work week... after around seven kids, you start doubling up the rides and destinations and such, so you're starting to become more efficient. Number of bicycles you buy: after two kids, you rotate 'em through; no matter how many kids, it's still only one bike a year.

Four has a very good chance of being about as easy three: with four, the oldest is very likely to be "above" fighting with the youngest sibling, reducing a lot of the competition: their interests are just so different that what's important to one isn't important to the other.

There is still a lot more opportunity, in terms of the social network; so there will be more conflict... just that the additional conflict won't be so significantly more than it was between 2 and 3. 1 child: no conflict; 2 children: some conflict; 3 children: tons of conflict; 4 children tons and a bit more conflict.

But balancing out that "bit more" comes a bit more of settling their conflicts without you because of the skill of the oldest in independently resolving his/her own conflicts and even those of any two of the other siblings, and a lot more help in raising all three of the siblings.

At some point adding more kids comes almost without cost! In ye olde days, I'll wager it was about four kids, so the oldest could easily be "mom" for the youngest And then the oldest even begins contributing to the family, bringing in more food than it consumes, more money than it needs, etcetera. At some point that oldest is gonna go off and raise it's own family, but for a while it actually pays off.

Given that our kids don't start being able to contribute really usefully until late teens -- help raise the youngest, start paying into the family budget -- at which point they're basically out of school and ready to move out, I think it'd take a good seven or eight kids to start hitting breakeven these days.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:03 PM on June 11, 2004

I can't exactly* speak as a parent, but I'm the fourth of five kids and the only girl.

I get along great with brothers #1 (9 years older) and #2 (7 years older). To be truthful, I adore brother #1, he's a wonderful man.

Brother #3 (5 years older) was an abusive shit. We get along now but we'll never be close.

Brother #4 (2 years younger) was a brat, but there were times that we were pretty close, mostly as older teens and young adults.

*My one piece of advice: wait until all previous children are potty trained before adding another kid. Brother #4 and his wife lived with me for a while. They had three kids in 4 years. It's a long story so to keep it simple, she is and continues to be a waste of space.
posted by deborah at 10:50 AM on June 12, 2004

I think some of it depends on whether you are a baby person or not. Some people are totally into infants, less so kiddies even though they love them and all, and love to have babies. They wouldn't see any issues with going from 2 to 3 at all because it just stretches out the baby stage. Others grit their teeth through the baby stage but really come into their own with kids. And for all the networking reasons stated above, that's when the work factor explodes. And I think it explodes more when you've got different sexes. You're not really supposed to script the sex thing in a family, but you can figure out what part of child-rearing is your favorite part and take that into account.
posted by dness2 at 3:01 PM on June 12, 2004

« Older Too much of my ADD medication - should I worry?   |   How do Elections work in the UK? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.