So, You Would Like to Have Three Children: A Non-Rebutting Counterpoint

LAURA MEEHAN AT THE SHORT-WINDED BLOG recently wrote a rather exasperated yet hilarious post about the ardors of having three children.

I regularly speak with people who have zero children, or one child, or two children. And they tell me they might consider or would like to have three children. My first impulse, I will own, is to bark, “No, you don’t want three kids.” But that is not helpful, I know this.

Let me first say in her defense: Everything she writes is true. She writes about the juggling, the tiredness, the constant shouting, the unhelpful comments, etc. Reading her post made me realize that for those of us who have 3+ kids, our normal is most people’s crazy. And since I have 3 growing boys, I would even add to her list of demerits that we are soon approaching the day when our grocery bill will outpace our mortgage. Extracurricular activities and travel require gifts of creativity and frugality because everything is x 5. Eating out is rarely relaxing (even with our shameful use of electronic babysitters).

That notwithstanding, however, I think she gave short shrift to the picture of the beauties, the plusses, the shear awesomeness of having 3 kids. Again, not to negate what she said – but the pleasures of parenting x 3 are equally real, experienced in what sometimes feels like cacophony, but many times like harmony.

SO HERE IS MY NON-REBUTTING COUNTERPOINT. These are the reasons why I love being a father of 3, and why I think you ought to consider stop freaking out about it…and just…do it.

  • Band of Brothers – This is also because they’re all brothers and all close in age, but my boys are very close to each other. They love each other, they watch out for each other, and they do everything together. Sure they are constantly invading each other’s space (often times in each other’s faces), but it goes both ways: the same impulse to steal each others toys is the same impulse to crawl into each other beds. Because even at an early age, they understand that a cord of three strands is not easily broken. And what parent feels anything less than joy knowing that? . .
  • Every Part Belongs to the Body – Yes, the dishes and laundry and cleaning are NEVER truly done. An extra dishwasher and washing machine would hardly feel like a luxury (first world problems – I know). And what this means is that for my wife and I: We cannot do it all. But instead of being a point of exasperation and self-absorbed guilt, we see this is an opportunity to involve our kids even at an early age – teaching them that they have a role in the family. That family isn’t about you or me, but us. But in order for us to function, your help is not only appreciated, it is needed. So yes, raising 3 kids is a lot of work, but as they’ve gotten older, they’ve also grown more helpful. Just yesterday, my 4 year old cleared the floors, my 6 year old mopped the kitchen, and my 8 year old vacuumed the carpets – including the stairs! And that not only helps with the load, but it’s also formative. Learning to help out as early as 2 years old (all our kids are 2 years apart – no, we didn’t plan that) has taught them selflessness and responsibility. Which, looping back, benefits all of us in the home. . .
  • Buffer – Living in a full house actually means that there is more, not less social flexibility. We are a house of both extroverts and introverts. If one of us wants company, there’s always someone to hang out with. But if one of us wants to be alone, we don’t have to worry about leaving anyone alone; there’s always 3 other people to hang out with. There’s rarely a need to feel left out or overwhelmed (well, okay, when the 3 boys really start going at it, it can get overwhelming, but that’s when we just close the door – or I resort to one of my creative Chinese disciplinary measures). But come over and you’ll find that some hours are pretty raucous; but other times, each person is just playing quietly in their own corner of the house. And that works for us. . .
  • Babysitting with Ease – Especially now that they’re older, taking care of my kids (or asking others to) is fairly easy. Easy you say? Well, just watching 1 child can actually be pretty taxing – you can often times feel the pressure to keep them entertained and out of trouble. But with 3, that’s no longer the case. Sure, there are more mouths to feed and when things get out of hand – it compounds rather quickly. But with 3, they’re never bored. They entertain each other. I’ve had to watch my kids while working for a good chunk of the last couple months – and while it’s easier not having to watch them, watching all 3 has always been more preferable to only watching 1. . .
  • Moral Authority – Often times those with 1 or 2 kids will look at us and say stuff like, “I don’t know how you guys do it. I can hardly manage 1!” And then they go on to list all the things that make their kid/s especially difficult. And many times I just want to interject with some of my own thoughts (e.g., There’s no magic; we just do it). But usually I don’t. But it feels good to know that I could. And when I do — well, it’s not like I know nothin’. ..
  • Fun – Playing with my 3 boys is fun. Most board games are made for 4 people. Many video games can now accomodate 4. Two is sufficient for wrestling, but 4 is more fun. Riding bikes, going to the park, making pancakes on Saturday mornings as a group is more fun. Even telling jokes and funny stories over dinner is more fun with a laughing chorus of 5 versus 3 or even 4. For us, the more has truly been the merrier. . ..

SO, YOU WOULD LIKE TO HAVE THREE CHILDREN? WE DID. So did our parents. And we love the fullness of our families. Now obviously, I don’t think we should be flippant about having kids. Kids are a gift as much as they are a trust from God. And yes, parenting is hard – that’s just the way it is. But sometimes we make it even harder with our own bad press. Yes, kids are a source of stress and exasperation (c.f., Laura), but they are equally a source of joy and help. Amen?

NOTE:  Some people have mistaken this post as a rebuttal to Laura’s post.  Just to reiterate, it’s not.  This is a NON-REBUTTAL.  I completely agree with what she wrote.  Having kids is hard – having three is even harder.  I could probably write an equally long post documenting just some of my recent travails – especially since we’ve been sans babysitter for the last 3 months (i.e., working from home).  But while I think the stress and madness are real — so are the joys and, I dare say, benefits.  So please don’t read this as a rebuttal to Laura’s post, but in tandem.  I don’t expect everyone to agree (everyone’s experience is different), but this has been our experience, for both my wife and I.

Some people have also said that my kid are older and our experience gives them hope.  I’m glad for that.  It has definitely gotten easier – especially after our youngest got out of diapers.  Press on parents!  And if you wanna hear about how we’ve made it through these years:  I’ve written about that too.

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106 thoughts on “So, You Would Like to Have Three Children: A Non-Rebutting Counterpoint

  1. I absolutely agree with much of this. I do love my kids, and while I did not choose to have three, I wouldn’t give any of them back. Well, not usually. But mine are between one and seven, and every day is an attempt to survive and get them to survive, too. I especially like your point about chores, because I do need them to put away dishes and clothes, which is a motivation to teach them what I should teach them anyway. I simply receive a lot of comments about “making it look easy”–and easy it ain’t. I was the third child, and I have new admiration for my parents. Blessings to you and your band.

    • Laura, I had not a sliver of doubt that you love your kids. And obviously our families are different. Just wanted to add on to your last paragraph a bit!

      • I have three children; twins that are soon to be 11 and an 8 year old. It does get better as they have gotten older. My husband and I enjoy them immensely and can’t imagine our lives without them. We often look back and wonder how we made it through the infancy and toddler years. We were exhausted! We have so much fun with them and they are becoming great people. As I write this, the girls are building a stable with Legos and my son is working with my husband on a castle with Legos. It gives me great pleasure in watching them interact and build together. We often have so much fun together from bike riding, swimming, boating, fishing, sledding…it’s always a family. It wasn’t easy for us to have children as our first was stillborn as you can imagine, devastated us. I think even during the disagreements and craziness of managing schedules, we find peace, love and gratitude for what God has given us.

      • I too have three children grown now in their thirties and while it was hard when they were small it is overwhelming rewarding now that they are older and married. They have had children of their own and the family keeps growing which is a beautiful thing. We now have three extra children which are their spouses and holidays are fun and loud. I am blessed and so happy while my third wasn’t a plan pregnancy I am so happy it happened. I must also say when they were in their pre teens I was divorced for 5 years before remarrying and was raising them alone. It still was hectic but we made it!! Good Luck!!

  2. I grew up in a family of five. Kids. Not five people altogether, but five siblings. And two parents. So going ANYWHERE together was interesting, and yet we did, actually, quite a lot. We traveled as a family and went to church as a family.

    We kids were two years apart, so only 10 years spanned the oldest to youngest. And while we didn’t always all do the same things, there were always at least three willing to go for a bike ride, get a yard carnival going, play in the sandpile, get up a neighborhood ball game, and on and on. Our parents rarely ate out, so that took care of that.

    We fought, yes, but we were usually just told to take it outside. Or at least not let it come to blows. We also were almost always in a group, and to this day, just about any of us could play Pictionary against any other two non-family members and beat the pants off them.

    I remember thinking, when my (only) child was little, that I had to teach her EVERYTHING, like how not to be sassy, how to make her bed, how to brush her teeth, how to come when she was called, and on and on. Somehow, when I was little, I just did those things. I learned by osmosis. My bigger siblings just didn’t do some things, and I knew that you didn’t do those things because they didn’t do them. Or I knew something was required because it had ALWAYS been that way, my WHOLE life. (I’m fourth)

    My mom has said that after three, it was all easy.

    • It’s funny that you say that last part; I have wondered that at times, and then saw that study that cited parents as expressing that two children and four or more children were both less stressful than three. It’s a…unique…number. But when I had my third, I did know that lots of chaotic good times were ahead, too.

      • I’m sure it had a lot to do with the fact that by the time I came along (I’m fourth), my oldest sister was six, so she was more than capable of watching siblings. Really. She LIKED diapering babies. By the time I was a toddler, she and my oldest brother were in school. We watched out for each other when we were roaming the neighborhood, but I remember mostly being the watchee, not the watcher…

      • Hm, that’s a really interesting phenomenon. Three was definitely more work than three — we’re outnumbered (and in the beginning, I was in charge of 2 in order to so my wife could tend to the needy 1). But four is…more of the same?

      • HI again…not sure you actually wanted an answer to the questions about four kids, but here it is. I don’t really know! I think that four was maybe a matter of getting used to having that many bodies in the house, in the car, etc. The oldest was old enough to help with the baby (me) and I was, of course, a perfectly adorable and completely non-needy child (hah!). No, actually, I was a high-maintenance baby, having medical issues. But even so, having four CHILDREN, and then five, of course, was a different dynamic. One child is the focus of all your attention. Two have to compete, three can have “ganging up” issues, but four is just a big stew,really.
        You have to know that I was born in 1957, so some of the “big family” dynamics were really different then. That’s a whole ‘nother blog, though….

      • Shoot me a note pierre [at] poptism.org so we can coordinate a post – check the blog so you can get an idea of what/how we write, I happen to like this post a lot, so we could even pot an excerpt and link back to you for the full post if you like – let me know!

  3. Thanks for this post. It gives me hope. I think the difference between you and Laura Meehan may be the age of your kids. I have hope that by the time my three are all out of the baby and toddler stage, having three will prove to have been easier. My situation’s a bit different from yours (and Laura’s), though, as my husband and I had planned to have two. Well, number 2 ended up being twins, and were thrown into the role of parents to three all of a sudden. It’s been a challenge, but I can’t imagine life without my little twins.

    I do wish they made dining tables for five, though. ;)

    • You’re right, no two family’s situation are ever really the same. And I completely agreed with her feelings. We went (and still) experience the same travails. But I also wanted to make the case that having three kids also rocks. It’s both.

      • Absolutely. That’s the joy and absuridity that is life, isn’t it? Nothing’s black and white. Again, thanks for your post. I

    • My husband and I are in a similar situation as you. 4 children: 4 years old, two year old twins and 8 months (all girls) we find it hard to believe those that tell us that it will only get harder. It has to get easier when all are out of diapers, can feed themselves and buckle themselves in. Also, we like to be on the go, which will be easier once they are older. We know to cherish these years, but I can’t deny that we also look forward to the years ahead of family vacations and other eta curricular events.

      • Yup, it definitely gets easier to be mobile when they get older. It’s especially nice when they start helping each other!

      • I read these precious posts and truly miss those days with three little boys…newborn, a 19 month old and a 3 year old! Then, we added number 4, a girl, 23 month later. We did it! All of the ups and downs happened with us including leaving the comfort of living in our hometown until our daughter was 3 months old. We moved twice in 7 years with job transfers with my husband . I was fortunate to be a stay at home mom for 15 years!
        Now my family of children are 28, 26, 24, and 21 years old! The activities we get to share with them now is still our biggest treasure. Add wonderful wives and a girlfriend to the mix! That’s when you have to put two leaves in the dining room table! Sitting around the dining room table together, sometimes just 2 times a year, bring the greatest joy to my husband and me. The boys still have some kind of secret language only they understand. Their remember when’s are breathtaking! My husband and I are shocked to their delight when they now tell of all of the unknown to us, all of the mischieviouness they got into as they got older. God bless my husband and me!
        We never missed an event they had, sometimes having to go two separate ways to make it happen. We never knew how much it meant to them! Now they tell us and it was worth every tank of gas and tickets bought for football, cross country and track, wrestling, and Colorguard and Winterguard.
        Their friends continue to visit our home.
        I make it sound easy when I reread what I have written. Not at all!!! We went through every possible scary situation….56 stitches, 5 staples, 4 broken bones, pets, broken hearts, 102 birthday parties, heart ablation, speeding tickets, 12 gallons of milk a week!, and now 3 college graduates with jobs!!! And soon to be 4!
        The secrets for us were for my husband and me to stick together; make each child acçountable for their actions; and be where they are everytime. We chose to have them. We started remodeling our home 14 years ago! It isn’t complete yet! In fact, what is completed is worn and needs remodeling again! It can wait!
        YOU WILL SURVIVE THOSE FIRST DIFFICULT,
        JUGGLING YEARS! And then you will miss
        them. There is a reward at the end of the
        tunnel! Enjoy every minute!

        and be visible parents to them. Oh, just
        do

        you know, we started remodeling our home 14 years ago! We aren’t even closeto completing it!

      • I love what you wrote here. Before long, we’ll be having a buffet line at home – at even that won’t be enough food. I’m surprised we don’t have any broken bones yet!

  4. How Do You Do It With Three Kids? – i would be frail

  5. So, You Would Like to Have Three Children… | Short-Winded Blog

  6. Creative Chinese disciplinary measures deserves a write up of it’s own. Well written. Thanks for a fun read, from another parent of three.

  7. Just to add my two cents, but going from two to three was definitely the hardest jump. After that, it is all good. We went from three to four and on up to nine! (The last was a pair of twins!) The older ones definitely help with the smaller ones. It is crazy, but fun. Our oldest two are 20 and 19. When they are gone, it feels like half of the house is missing. The comment about someone having only one or two and not knowing what to do with them or how they wouldn’t be able to manage my schedule is so over used. You just do it. Then again, maybe it is just easier because of the other kids. I love my big family. All of my kids friends come from families of one or two and would rather come to our house instead of the quiet of their own. The crazy, wonderful time only lasts for a brief time in our lives, cherish it! They will be grown and gone too soon.
    Mom of Nine

  8. Love this because of “our normal is most people’s crazy” and the “There’s no magic- we just do it”. We have four boys (#3&4 are twins) & I get compliments, guilt and more from parents all the time. I don’t know what to tell them other than I don’t know any different and I’m just trying to survive four boys’ childhoods.

  9. This post was very encouraging, thank you. I have two (7&3) but have always wanted four kids. I have read and heard so much about the terror of three that I’ve kinda figured that I’m stopping at two which both makes me comfortable and sad at the same time. My boys are very close and care for each other, I have no doubt they’d act the same towards any future siblings but now that the youngest is potty trained and sleeping and weaned it’s tough to consider doing the baby thing again.

    • I know what you mean. There’s a sense of freedom that we have now that all our kids are weaned and potty trained. The early years require so much more attention!

  10. I love this, thank you! We have three born within 36 months of each other. Crazy busy but I wouldn’t change a thing. The first few years with all three was a blur, but now that they are 11, 9 and 8, it’s awesome. They are each others’ best friends and as a family who relocates every several years, this is huge. The house is a mess, the electronic babysitters come out a little more than they should, but there’s never a dull moment and I like that. Thanks for sharing your perspective. And for reminding me that they should be doing a lot more work around the house!

    • Thanks. Yes it’s always a both-and experience for us!

      And yes, there would really be no way for us to run the house unless EVERYONE pitched in (or we hired help).

  11. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for this. I came across Laura’s article first and then came on to look at yours. I am a mother of a 4 and 2 year old and we just found out we have a 3rd on the way (planned). We have always wanted a big family and have gotten a lot of grief talking about and now when we will announce and start letting people know soon, I am sure we will get even more opinions. I am a full time SAHM with very little help and sure there are days I am super exchausted and struggle with keeping my chin up (like Laura’s article) but as you say, the rewards are so worth it. Thanks again and bless your sweet family of boys!

    • Like you probably already know, it will definitely be more challenging in the first couple years. But it’s also fun and joyous along the way. I’m glad I could offer some hope!

  12. Both of these blogs were so interesting to me. I only had one wonderful child who passed early from childhood cancer. We always wanted more than one. So we have been going through the adoption process through the state for nearly a year now. We have signed up for a sibling group of two or three, asking for ages 0-8. It is hard to place siblings, especially if three or more. I often feel like I am crazy for wanting to take this on, but I figure we will get our children all at once rather than taking forever to adopt one at a time (and the adoption fees are all waived for taking on the special needs category of sibs). But also the sibs get to stay together. So I am really hoping I find the joys of three you wrote about will be true for us too.

  13. I also agree with both post. I am also a mom of three boys two years separating each. I am glad you posted the positive. seems like negativity is always the first to be discussed (I’m guilty of this too). raising three kids close together is trying some times but I feel lucky to have pretty good boys. two thumbs up

    • Thanks – it’s definitely our human nature to remember the difficulties over the blessings, especially when the difficulties like to pile on daily. But glad to help spark some positive memories for you.

  14. I’ve read Laura and your post and appreciate them both. :) It’s refreshing to see a parent (you) choose to name off the joys of parenting. My husband and I adopted two absolutely precious, rambunctious sibling toddlers this year! So my life has gone from a simple family of 2 to 4, and while much of the time I find myself exhausted, I know what a blessing God has given us!!!
    Blessings to you,
    Leslie

    • That’s very cool (and amazing) how you’ve doubled your family – and through adoption. How have your other two kids taken to their new siblings?

  15. Hi there!

    I love this post! Thank you so much for reminding people of the joys of parenting. I am a mom of three. 13, 11, and . . . 1. I have a teen, a tween and a toddler. Good times!

    I love having the help of the older kids. It’s a lifesaver, and it allows me to really enjoy the little one in a way I couldn’t with them, because they required so much care, and it was mainly just me to give it to them. They love playing with the baby, and cuddling the baby, and teaching him crazy stuff. But the age gap also has its own challenges. I’m dealing with diapers and teenage issues at the same time. The older kids may not fight with the baby over his toys, and they are mature enough to understand that he requires more attention, but they do actively look for proof to back up their theory that I love the baby best.

    While they don’t have the needs of young kids, they have other needs, which they express frequently and loudly (they unintentionally taught the baby to say mom, mom, mom, mom, so now at various times of the day I have three people chanting at me at once).

    I have looked at some parents before — parents with five or six kids, or parents with special needs kids, or parents who seem to be getting everything right, and felt such admiration, wondering how they managed it all so effortlessly as I floundered. Then one day my neighbor was over, and she asked me a few questions about my life. She looked at me and shook her head and said “I really don’t know how you do it.” I felt like she had just paid me the biggest compliment. I never in my life thought I was a mom others could admire. I never thought I was doing anything special. I still really don’t. I don’t get half of anything done, most of the time, and I struggle sometimes to make it through the day without the burning desire to run away and join the circus. But I was so gratified — I was one of those parents, the ones I admired so much, to someone else. It felt amazing.

    I would love to have a fourth child. If anything I wonder if having so many older people doting on the little guy, with no one to fight with or play with, is such a good thing for him! But we shall see. It’s not like we have to worry about an age gap — that ship has sailed. So at this point, what’s one more?

    • Wow – teenagers and toddler, that sounds like quite the challenge! I’m glad to hear you got some affirmation – sometimes it’s easy to get lost in our own reality. Blessings!

  16. Oh my goodness I laughed SO hard. I can totally relate, I even have a daughter named Selah and a son named Noah!!! My three are currently 9, 7, and 5! Even the story about the party was nearly identical to one I faced with a 4 year old, 2 year old and infant! I always get sick of parents who have one or two kids who feel the need to tell me how they have it all together, three kids is in a world of its own. So thankful for your words!!

  17. Hi, I found your blog after reading Laura’s, which my friend posted on FB.

    I have 3, and they are 3 and 4 years apart. I completely identify with everything Laura wrote in her blog, and also identify with your post. Having a boy, girl, boy though, is more difficult than all of the same gender, or 2 of the same back to back. The middle plays well with the baby, but the baby’s too rough (boy) sometimes, and the oldest is kinda too old to play well with the baby (same gender). Plus we have the introvert/extrovert dynamic going on.

    I will say, after our first 2 (boy and girl) I was on the fence. Most of my friends only had 2. “Heck, even Dr. Dobson only had 2!” I thought. I wondered if I was capable of being a mom to more than 2. Family and friends said I have the perfect pair – a boy and a girl, and that I can now “shut down the factory”.

    So why was I on the fence? Because I knew that in the here and now, I only want 2 kids (because it’s so much easier!) but in the future, I want more than 2 grown kids. I’ve heard from several older women saying they wished they had more children, even though it was hard, and not one ever said they wished they had less. The way I see it, it’s pay now or pay later. ;-)

    I am the oldest of 3 kids in my family. I liked having more than 1 sibling. I have a vivid memory of the day my middle brother (2 years younger than me) was getting married 6 years ago. (I only had 2 at the time). I was at my parents’ house, getting my hair and makeup done, when I saw my about-to-be-married brother come down the stairs in his wedding suit, all smiles and happy. Then I saw my youngest brother (4 years younger than me) come down the stairs in his tuxedo, also smiling, and I thought, “I’m so glad my parents had more than 2 kids! If they had stopped at 2, he wouldn’t be here right now and I’d have missed a whole other layer/dimension of relationship!” And then I had a morbid thought: If my parents only had 2 kids, and my brother died, I’d be the only one left!

    My brother who was getting married that day never made it to his 2nd wedding anniversary. He had a heart attack and went home to be with Jesus. He was not even 35 years old. No one saw it coming.

    If my parents stopped after having him, I’d be the only one left. I’m so glad they didn’t.

    And I’m glad I didn’t stop at 2. Actually, I’m glad God didn’t stop me at 2. Because I did decide we were done (after a year of being on the fence), and 2 weeks after that, I found out I was pregnant. (God does that, right? The second we think we have control of our universe, He shows us who’s REALLY in control!)

    My only regret at this point: If I knew I was going to have more than 2 kids, I’d have them closer together!

    • I love how you allude to the idea that being a parent reminds us that our lives (and the world) are under our influence but not our control. Blessings as you continue in your parental journey!

    • Im sorry what do you mean pay later? Because you are going to feel horrible about not having three? I dont think so! I am a mother of one and a step-mom of one and I wouldnt want it any other way…so please don’t write ignorant comments and make anyone feel that they are going to somehow “Pay back” if they dont have three, four or more kids….so if that applies I guess people who never had kids are somewhat doomed for life??? Oh please! Get a life!

      • I think what she may have meant (and I’m saying this as someone who is currently on the fence on #3) is that IF you feel that longing for more in your family but you decide to not have more children you might pay for it later in regret.
        I must say that I really don’t understand how offense was taken from her comment. If it doesn’t apply to you then ignore it and move on. I was much more offended by your tone and snarky “get a life” comment. I really don’t understand the need for people to be nasty to complete strangers for an innocent comment that was in no way directed at you. Only you can make yourself feel a certain way, I certainly don’t see how anyone can make you feel regret for something you clearly don’t want in the first place.
        Congratulations on landing on your perfect family dynamic, but acknowledge that it might not be perfect for everyone, and that doesn’t make them wrong or ignorant.
        And to Frailb and Laura, thank you both for your insights, you definitely confirmed my thought that am indeed crazy and will indeed be deliriously happy in our chaos.

      • Sarah, one of my reasons for wanting to have a third, even though my older ones were already 11 and 9, was that I knew deep down I wanted more children, and I feared I would regret not having them someday when the opportunity was gone. I can’t speak for everyone, and I am not trying to convince you, but I am so glad that we had the third one. He is an absolute delight, the older kids love him to pieces, and our family is richer, fuller, and happier because of his presence.

        Is life more difficult? Yes, he’s messy and throws tantrums (he’s two). He has to be watched constantly, and since we don’t have family in the area to help us, my husband and I have to take him on dates as a “chaperone.” We can no longer get up and go like we used to, and life is more chaotic.

        But, when things get rough, I remember: before I know the little one will be making his own breakfast and refusing to cuddle with me, and I will wonder where the time has gone. I know because the older ones grew up in the blink of an eye. In the span of a lifetime, these younger years really do go so quickly. I am older and wiser, and i have learned to accept the chaos and the hard parts and treasure all of the good.

        I have not run into anyone who “regrets” the choice to have more children, but I do run into a lot of women who have shared their regret for not having more. It is a very real possibility for those on the fence, those who waited too long, or those whose circumstances didn’t bring them an opportunity sooner, and it’s something to consider while the option is still there.

        Obviously, as you said, those who are happy with their family size, and even some of those on the fence now, won’t feel regret, and no one is suggesting that they should, or that they should “pay” for choosing smaller families.

        I think some people feel compelled, for whatever reason, to wage some kind of fight with the world, and they look for opportunities to take offense so that they can stand up and fight. Many times the offense — and the enemy — are more imagined than real, and the innocent become casualties. I am glad you said something.

  18. This was really refreshing! Don’t have kids yet but I teach 2nd grade at a school that believes in giving kids responsibilities. Seems many parents have forgotten what a blessing it is to both kids and adults when everyone shares daily work. That makes kids all the more delightful companions! Thanks!

  19. Thank you for this! My kids are 4,2, and 1, and while I can relate to some of the scenarios that Laura posted about, I can relate more to the positive outlook you have on parenting.

  20. I appreciate and agree on your out look. We have 7 children 13 and under. Our first 3 children were under 3 and it was difficult ,but it was so rewarding. I think as parents we should encourage each other to keep at it when times are the most difficult and that is exactly what you have done. Thank you.

    It made me laugh when you said “our normal is everyone else’s crazy” I do head counts in the van, I count children before, after and during church to make sure they are all where they are supposed to be. I cook crazy amounts of food daily, and on a good day do 4 loads of laundry, but like you said everyone from my 7 year old and older pitches in and having 7 is much easier than having 2 or 3. Thank you for the positiveness and the great outlook.

    • Wow – 7 children, everyone helping out is not valiant or optional – it’s the only thing the family will function for sure! But my understanding is that families have been everyone-pitches-in for 1000s of years. I love what you hint at here, yes it is as crazy as it looks – but there is joy there that you won’t know or experience until you can keep up with the craziness.

  21. Thank you so much for this! I found that it really helped balance out and compliment Laura’s blog post! I have 3 kids 7, 6, 1 (boy-girl-boy) and I heard all of the comments when I had my first two “you have the million dollar family, now you can stop” etc. People feel like when you have one child they can comment on you having another soon, but then when you have that second child they feel like it is their right to tell you to stop having more.

    When we were in the throes of 3 miscarriages in a row, people kept telling us that three isn’t in God’s plan for us, that He was taking them away. Bull crap. God loves us and His plan is for us to be fruitful and multiply. Babies are His idea :)

    Our littlest guy is such a perfect fit for our family. He brings so much joy to everyone. There is a 6 and a 4.5 year gap between them and the toddler but they love on him like crazy. Life with three is amazing!

    Going from 0-1 kid was tough. It was learning to let go of the me-first attitudes and putting the baby first. Going from 1-2 kids was crazy hard…not enough hours in the day to do everything. Going from 2-3 was not hard but a delight to add someone else to our daily groove. It’s not easy, but definitely has more joys than sorrows.

    Will there be a number 4 or 5… ha! Only God knows how much more this already crazy spent mom of 3 can handle. But I suspect that if a baby were to arrive, he/she would fit right in :)

    • I’m sorry to hear about the 3 miscarriages. But the way you described the movement from 1-2-3 kids sounds a lot like ours. Definitely nothing is easy, but having more meant there was something to invite the 3rd one into. May God continue to bless you.

  22. You’re also a dad. Not a mom. Meaning that statistically, even if you think you do an equal share of the housework and parenting, that you do not. Were you breastfeeding? Doubt it. What percentage of the diaper-changing did you do? How did toilet-training go for you? How often have you cleaned the toilet? How often did your own mom do the parenting instead of you?

    • I definitely did not breast-feed. My wife does a lot – no doubt. I did about half the diapers, but pretty much all the washing up, taking to bathroom, discipline, playing, teaching, and up until our 3rd kid, I did most of the cooking. My wife and I both work so we have different duties. But I’m not sure that’s all that relevant since my wife actually agrees with everything I wrote in this post – I did not post it until she read it.

      I think you’ve hit a nerve with me in particular because, while I agree, there has been a long-standing disparity between husbands and wives when it comes to housework and childrearing, this has been changing (although the disparity continues). But modern fatherhood has been shifting along with modern motherhood. I’m not sure if you noticed in my post, but I often have to work from home when we are sans babysitter (which this past year, was about 1/4 of the year). Today, as a father, I am expected (and desire) to be much more involved at home than my father was – while at the same time, continuing to be the primary breadwinner, and in my case, a leader in my community and extended family as well. I’m not asking for you to feel sorry for how busy or stressed I am – this is the life I signed up for and feel called to, and I love it (both my wife and I do). But I think we might need to hold onto some of our assumptions a little less lightly these days when it comes to, at least what fathers are and do.

      • Clare, you hit a nerve with me as well and I am a mother not a father. I am the primary breadwinner and although I breastfed both my children, my husband did most of the day to day duties while I was back at work. I don’t know what you read in his blog post that made you think you knew how much he did or did not contribute but you assumed and went straight to a negative comment. Keep positive, life is better lived that way :)

      • Clare, I do realize though that the weight of history and even in our current society – the vast majority of women still take care most of the child-rearing and housework. And even though I do a lot more than my father did, I know she still does a lot more than I do (she’s also home more, since she works part-time). But in our case, it’s not that relevant because we both happen to be on the same page: 3 is crazy hard and also crazy good.

  23. Life with Three Youngins' - Spontaneity Out Loud

  24. Thank you for this awesome post!

    We also have 3 boys (6,4,1) with the first two being 20 months apart and then 3.5 years between our middle and baby. We love it! It has definitely been challenging, with our extremely active toddler trying to keep up with the big boys and our middle trying to make sense of where he fits in now, but we wouldn’t trade our situation for the world! But it sure would be nice to have some help. :-)

    We have been trying to give the boys some ‘chores’ to give them some responsibility, but we haven’t quite come up with a good system. Do you have any advice to share on this?

    Like you, I really do try to focus on the positive, but it really, truly is hard work. I know it’s so worth it, but sometimes it’s overwhelming. Your post gives me hope and strength that it does get easier with time and I try to enjoy each stage as it comes. We’re still waiting for (and trying to teach) our little one to learn the joys of sleeping.

    P.S -My husband is an equal partner just as you describe yourself. I daresay he sometimes does more than I do since I’m not as good at functioning with less sleep. I completely agree with you that this is the age of the modern father and I really appreciate your perspective. I’m bookmarking your blog to be able to read and enjoy in my ‘spare’ time. Haha.

    • Thanks for your post and your kind words. In terms of teaching our kids to help, these were some ways that we slowly got our kids to help:
      1. Changing: Ask them to fetch a diaper or a wipe while we’re changing the infant.
      2. Toy clean up: We first organized all our toys so that certain toys go back into certain bins (cars vs. stuffed animals vs. big toys); I drew a small icon of the toy type and taped it to each bin; this was huge because just telling the kids to “clean up” wasn’t specific enough for them.
      3. Sweeping the floor: They’re pretty bad at it, but we got those small hand brooms with dustpan so they could at least help with the crumbs underneath the table.
      4. Showers: We taught our oldest son to wash himself up in the shower. Once he was competent, we taught him to wash our second son up (in the shower together). When #2 was old enough, he’d wash #3 up.

      So we just to start with the oldest – he sets the tone for the rest. Hope that helps!

  25. Thanks for your post (And Laura’s – both perspectives give a bigger, more realistic picture). My husband and I have 2 living children, our first was stillborn, followed by infertility for years including a miscarriage, then our surprise daughter 1 and surprise daughter 2 (who is 7 weeks, asleep in my arms). My friend sent me a link to your posts because before our daughters we started the process of adoption, which s again underway (we signed a timed contract which will expire in December). Having had little sleep in the last two months with a newborn and a potty training two year old, we’ve questioned more than once our desire to continue with the adoption and have a third. We live overseas and have little family or friend help here and wonder if we can really swing it and also how it will affect our work (well, my husband’s work, I’m a sahm now). Having two is already extremely overwhelming right now. I identified with Laura’s story about the pool of literally not being capable of going home. I’ve already had these moments with 2! She confirmed my fears of adding another, but you have confirmed what I imagined might be the joys. Ours would be very close together…2 years between the first two and from 6 to 18 months between the second and third, which I imagine will bring its own problems…anyway, obviously these articles haven’t answered my questions or made the decision any easier, but I felt like it gave us a window into what might be if we move forward. I’ll pass these along to my husband as we’ve committed to decide by next week! A small answer to our prayers for direction. Thanks!

    • I’m so sorry to hear about your first 2 children/pregnancies. Sounds like you’ve got your hands full right now, but what a blessing to have 2 surprises to redeem their siblings.

      I’m glad you see how our stories in tandem. I could easily have written her post and vice versa. It is definitely easier for us now (with new types of challenges). Although ask me again when they become teenagers!

      May God give you wisdom in the coming weeks!

  26. Love, love, love this post! I have 5 boys, 1, 2, 3, 15, & 18, so it was like starting over with the last three. I couldn’t agree with this more, I am so happy that I had the last three close together and people think we’re crazy when we say we would have had more if we could!

    • We have three — 13, 11 and 1! People think we’re crazy. I have had moms of young teens say right in front of me, as I cradled my littlest one, that they would “just die if they had another baby at this stage,” and that it would be “horrible to start all over.”

      I absolutely love it! He brought life back to the house. The older ones are delighted with him. It’s been difficult, and there have been serious challenges, but I’m so happy we didn’t throw in the towel and decide they were too far apart to try again. We are seriously considering a fourth to give Little Dude a sibling to pick on and pal around with. We will see! Thanks for giving me hope that it can be done!

      • Wow, what insensitive comments! But glad your little one has brought such life and joy to the home!

  27. I loved these posts! I have three children too, all quite close in age but they are older (12, 11 and 8). My husband and I are just getting to the point where things are way more manageable and even enjoyable! :) We get our kids to take ownership of many of the chores around the house – couldn’t manage all the housework otherwise. We are finally able to trust the oldest two to babysit our youngest, and we can even step out for a couple of hours in the afternoon or evening! I used to struggle with childcare when they were younger because the original blog was right – most people can’t handle 3 active kids, and the ones that can are very expensive. Now that they are older, we can sleep in, have the kids bring us coffee and make us breakfast – and they LOVE it! We get so much done when we work together. It REALLY does get better! I remember the day the youngest didn’t need a carseat anymore and when they ALL could buckle themselves up in the car. It was AWESOME!! And the day I got to throw away the wretched diaper pail – AWESOME!! Just teach them early on that family is teamwork and we all need to work together for things to run smoothly. Yes, we still have our challenges BUT I am so much more relaxed now than I was when they were babies/toddlers/preschoolers. I love having funny conversations with them, playing games, teaching them to cook, bake, clean and play cards. They are so much fun and I can’t imagine life without any of them.

    • I think you’re right – it definitely is a lot more when they’re younger. We’re now enjoying more sleep and energy with them more independent and helpful. Maybe we’ve got amnesia, though – because we still found a lot to enjoy when they were little though!

      • True! I am sure we enjoyed a lot back then, but sadly it seems my main memories are of the exhaustion, depression and being overwhelmed and feeling inadequate. I should add that two of my 3 have special needs (Aspergers and ADHD), which I didn’t realize back then. Things are so much easier to deal with now. Another factor that has contributed to my enjoying parenthood more is that I have been treated and have overcome depression and anxiety, which I developed after having kids, but unfortunately it went undiagnosed for a long time. I’ve also been able to get the support I needed for my boys with ASD. That has made a world of difference. I love my kids so much! Glad I have all three of them!

  28. Hi, I enjoyed your article and writing. Your photos made me smile especially the one between moral authority and fun.

  29. Thank you so much for your positive tone! I am so encouraged when I hear parents note the joys of having children. Your children must know they are cherished by you. You sound like an awesome dad, husband, and person! I bookmarked this post and will be following your blog. :-D Many good wishes for the future!

    • Kesha, thanks! I’m probably not an awesome anything (my wife knows something about this). But I agree – our perspective can make a big difference. Hard is obviously hard (shout out to the single parents, special needs parents, isolated parents, spouse-neglected parents, impoverished families, and those without any family help) and I will not diminish people’s life situations. But our individual situations can be compounded with even more stress and anxiety, or the ground for unexpected joy and gratitude. Part of it is just grace. But part of it, I think, is also choice. Blessings to you too!

  30. Thank you for your gracious non-rebuttal that captured my own feelings and response to the other article. I had three girls in 3 1/2 years…the oldest is now four and it is busy but I have no regrets. It is exhausting and a lot of work but it is so worth it, even in the hardest moments.

  31. So well written and your boys are just adorable!! After having three biological children we just adopted our 4th and we think 4 has been great! Definitely agree “the more the merrier”. Glad you put this perspective out there.

  32. Love. This. Post. Between you and Laura, you covered the basis beautifully. That said, I’m not so sure I agree with the many comments that the “more than three” is just a number. We had two boys. Then had b/g twins. It’s chaotic, and I simply can’t fathom adding another to the mix (though my oldest tells us often that he’d like to have more than a hundred siblings…YIKES!).

  33. Whew, thank you for the encouragement! I’m pregnant with our 3rd boy, and the other two are still very young! I’m feeling completely blessed, but when I think about logistics or how intentional I want to be with each one, I begin feeling overwhelmed. I was very discouraged reading the post that you’re making a counterpoint to. So I’m especially appreciative to read your positive thoughts & experiences with your 3 boys! Thank you!

  34. Thank you for your positive message…I definitely agree with both posts (the challenges and the blessings). Attempting to convey to parents of 1 or 2 children what it is like to have three is like trying to tell someone what it’s like to BECOME a parent. Everything changes and there are moments when you lose your mind, but many more moments when you lose your heart head over heels not only to these amazing little people but to the experience of being a family. It’s more chaotic and complicated and more fun! At least I think so most of the time. As I’m typing this I’m lying in bed incapacitated with severe morning sickness…pregnant with our 4th child. I’m looking forward to the balance of an even number (once we get through the exhaustion of the newborn stage) but I think I will miss the unique dynamic of three kids. A little bit. ;)

  35. I come from a family of 5 kids (I have three brothers and one sister) I have then gone on to have 4 kids of my own. Three boys now aged 11, 9 and 7 and a little girl aged 3. I don’t deny that it is a tough gig, but it “being hard” is something that I don’t really think about. In fact I love it. The chaos, the non stop activities, the loudness, the craziness, the rough and tumble boys to the graceful princess girl. Its non stop fun. Yes there is a never ending pile of washing and dishes and I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to take out a second mortgage to feed them as teenagers but “meh” its all just part of the fun really!! :)

  36. Loved this brother! Your boys are adorable. Children are a gift. I enjoyed both your view and Lauras. I wanted all 3 of my kids. And now that my baby is 3.5 I realize how much easier it can be….and reflect back on how hard it was when he was still a baby. But we have survived so far and I adore them all.

  37. I have four kids, ages eleven, ten, three, and two. It’s a zoo, but I love it. My older kids are really close, my younger kids are really close, and each of the younger ones have a special bond with one of the older ones. It’s amazing to see. The older ones help out so much that I would be lost without them (and often am on weekends when they’re gone). More is definitely merrier for us, too. :)

  38. This is a wonderful nonrebuttal to Lauras post. Between the two of you, you fleshed out a perfect view of life with 3 children. We personally are expecting our 5th child, but the 4th was not half the adjustment that the third was. I do love being a parent to so many, and thrilled to find that it gets much easier, rather then harder. Thank you for this most excellent post! You have again reminded me of the many benefits of having more then 2 children.

  39. I’m really glad that you wrote this — I too get a lot of hassle for writing things intended to add to others views, that are taken instead as being somehow in opposition. Reading the piece should have made it clear that I was not in opposition… but these are the times we live in! Everything is portrayed as binary opposites. Thanks for showing that a more relaxed perspective exists… but I do wonder how your =wife’s= version would read. ;)

  40. Amen! Just keep swimming and looking at the glass half full. My husband and I are contemplating a third. We both come from families of three as well. Seems like an easy decision on those easy parenting days. On the hard, frustrating, I-feel-like-a-failure days like Laura shared, I want to double up on my birth control. I truly believe it is about perspective. A positive perspective with the gentle reminder that, “this too, shall pass” helps me survive the days that are less than perfect. Because before we know it, our children are grown and off living their own lives. Thank you for sharing!

  41. We have four kids- three boys and a girl (our oldest is 7 and our youngest is almost 2) and I love both of your posts about having three kids but I especially love yours. Yes, life is crazy sometimes, but so often it’s just so crazy good. I love having a big family and kind of feel sorry for people with just two kids sometimes! (Also, sometimes insanely jealous of them…)

  42. I haven’t read every comment here so I’m not sure if my comment has been made…

    I loved the chores part of your article. We have 3 girls (2, 4, and 6.) We HAVE to have chores in our house or the work wouldn’t get done. I would be a grumpy Mommy. My 2 year old can get herself completely dressed and clothes in the laundry, because I just can’t do it all. Having them have chores isn’t easy. Organizing and showing each one how to do something is exhausting AND worth it. Every day they put away their pyjamas, make their beds, and clean their dishes. It just seems to be getting easier.

    And to expand on that point… our family has to share ownership too. Our neighbours have 2 kids. So they have 2 sleds/iPods/boxes of art supplies etc. We have 3 kids. My house/garage would be insane if I had 3 of everything. And we can’t have 2, because that wouldn’t be fair. So we have one. And we take turns. I see it as blessing. What a wonderful skill to be able to be flexible, share and to be creative in play. (Though sometimes I want to pull out my hair when they just can’t figure out a solution that makes everyone happy!)

    Thanks SO much for your article. Laughed with Laura’s article and felt peace with yours. :)
    From Ontario,
    Amanda

  43. I know I’m late to the game here, but a friend just shared this on Facebook and I have to chime in. I have four kids..two girls, and two boys. Ages 5y, 3y, 21m and 7m. So I actually can relate to the age difficulties in the original post you are NOT rebutting…and I appreciate how she described the day to day. It is very much like that. Chaos, and never ending dishes, and toys everywhere. The difference for me, is attitude. Once you get past two kids, you and your spouse are outnumbered. So you have to adopt the attitude, (say it with me)”Let it be.” If you can’t breathe and move past the chaos, you’ll never enjoy what’s on the other side..and that’s joy. Because those messes they’re making, that’s fun. And that food they’re dropping all over the floor while self feeding, that’s learning and growing. Do I have my days where my husband comes home and I’m sure I look like the aliens just dropped me off from abducting me? Of course. But then I let it be…and we try again the next day. My kids also contribute to the household running even though they’re young. To say a five year old can’t help isn’t entirely true. They shouldn’t be doing your job, but when you’re opening up a diaper to discover a surprise, a five year old most certainly can “grab the wipes out of the diaper bag, please”. And a three year old can pick up his own clothes and toys. Even my 21m old loves to help. People are always impressed with how well behaved my herd is, and wonder how I do it. Gee, magic? Same way people with one do it! One moment at a time. Anyway…there are some people who enjoy the challenge and increase in everything that comes with more than two, and some who don’t. It’s not for everyone! Heck, I didn’t even want kids, so I’m surprised it works for me. But it does. Anyway, thank you for sharing…you said it all right!

  44. How Many Kids? | The Montana Ranch Adventure

  45. I just stumbled upon Laura’s blog post which lead me to yours — as the mother of 2 boys (all 2 years apart: 14, 11,11, 9)) I laughed and cried and both posts. So much beautiful truth. I always thought it would get easier as they got older — it’s just different. I often get “were you trying for a girl” or “didn’t you guys know what was causing that” or “i don’t know how you do it” — it was so nice to read your words, words i could relate to, words i completely agree with and found encouragement from — thanks!

  46. I just got pregnant after three months of marriage…it was totally unplanned, and although we want children, we thought it would be nice to have a year of being newlyweds sans kids (DINKS!) first. I’ve been reading blogs about parenthood and becoming horribly discouraged. Why oh why didn’t we pay better attention to birth control…

    And then I read this and suddenly I’m so thankful again. The internet is incredibly negative about having children and it’s easy to feel like a fool for wanting them. From now on, I only want to read blogs by parents who have positive things to say about their children and the rewards of the sacrifices they make for them. Maybe this little guy in my belly will be the first of three!

  47. Love what you wrote! I have to say that you are an excellent writer.
    My husband and I have three boys as well. Ages 5, 3, and 1. You really encouraged me with your post. Right now my youngest is still in diapers and doesn’t really talk yet so at times it can be tough. Also my three year old seeks attention like crazy and will end up screaming over the smallest things. So I’m definitely looking forward to them getting older. My 5 year old is by far the easiest. I’ve been teaching them to help with laundry, dishes, and vacuuming even at this early age, it really does help me out. And yes even though at times I find myself running for the door so to speak, I love my boys tremendously and couldn’t see my life without them. It would be a very boring and empty existence. I thank God for them.

  48. Calling all Asian Americans to speak up about Ferguson? – i would be frail

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