Should You Have a Third Child?
Deciding whether or not to have a third child is not an easy decision. My husband and I always knew that we wanted a bigger family, but it took us a while to get up the courage to actually go for #3. When it feels like the world is designed for 4 person families and 90% of your peers are stopping at two, going for a third can feel somewhat reckless.
Three was the right choice for us. Our youngest makes our family feel complete. She’s been an absolute dream as a baby, and I found the jump from two to three kids to be much easier than the jump from one to two. But I’d be lying to you if I said it was all easy.
For those of you Googling, “Should I have a third child?” you know that the answer won’t be found on the internet. However, there are a few factors that are worth considering before you make the leap.
1. You will be outnumbered
Let’s start with the obvious. When you have a third child, you and your spouse will be outnumbered. You go from man-to-man to zone defence. This has a number of implications.
It can be
tough impossible to meet the needs of all three kids at the same time. So often, it seems like they all need something simultaneously – one’s hurt, one’s hungry, another needs help going to the bathroom. I describe it as triage – you have to focus on the most pressing need. Even when they aren’t needing you at the same time, you rarely get a break. Somebody always needs something.
When you and your spouse divide and conquer – a strategy that worked so well with one or two kids – one of you is always going to have two. Being responsible for only one child starts to feel like a vacation.
Then there’s the activities. We aren’t there yet, but it’s already apparent that the logistics of kids activities are going to require detailed scheduling and lots of carpooling.
2. Everything is expensive
When you add your second kid, your costs (other than childcare) are minimal. You may have to buy a new stroller (we LOVED this stroller) or carseat, but you already have most of the big-ticket items. Not so with your third.
First, your vehicle. The third child is often the impetus to move to a minivan or large SUV. Sure, you can make it work in a smaller vehicle with the perfect combination of carseats, but five people and all their stuff just take up a lot of room.
Then there’s the gear. Your infant carseat may have expired. You might require new carseats for more than one child in order to fit three carseats in your vehicle. Your baby gear may have seen better days, and might not quite make it through baby #3.
Related: How to Save Money on Baby Gear
Travel becomes prohibitively expensive. You won’t fit in a regular hotel room and with three carseats you’ll need an oversized rental vehicle. Paying for five plane tickets makes air travel a rare and costly extravagance.
Childcare costs for the third child may tip the (purely financial) scales in favour of one parent staying at home. If you do return to work, statistically the earnings gap increases with the number of children you have (source).
While your disposable income decreases, the costs of a university education continue to rise. Trying to put aside money for three kids’ education funds, while striving to meet your other financial goals can feel like an impossible task.
On the plus side, some family memberships are based on two adults and two kids, and let you add the third child for free, so you might get some savings!
3. It’s chaotic
With three children, all with distinct needs, personalities and preferences, life is chaos. Our house is loud, and, despite my best efforts, the kids and their stuff seem to be taking over. It’s hard to carve out time for myself for quiet, and as an introvert, I need that time.
There are positives to the chaos as well. Our house is so full of energy and love. There’s always somebody to play with or talk to. Most of the time it’s just plain fun. And if somebody is getting on your nerves, there are plenty of other people you can spend time with.
I hope that the chaos continues as my kids get older. I want to be the house that my older children and their friends hang out at. I love the idea of holidays and family get togethers with a large extended family. I grew up as one of four kids, and although our family gatherings now are large, noisy and difficult-to-coordinate, I love them, and wouldn’t trade them for anything.
4. You learn to go with the flow
When you have your first child, it’s trial by fire. You have no idea what you’re doing, and are learning everything as you go. Just when you think you have things figured out, your second comes along and throws you a few curveballs. By the time you get to your third, you’re well aware of the fact that every child comes out of the womb with a distinct personality and temperament. You know that everything is a phase, and that makes things like the 4 month sleep regression (a little bit!) easier to handle.
Three kids makes you lower your standards and relax. I’m a stereotypical Type A personality, and in many ways three kids has been humbling. I can organize and plan our lives all I want, but with three little people with their own needs and personalities, more often than not things will not go according to plan. You quickly learn that you can’t do everything perfectly, and you need to focus your time and energy on what’s most important.
5. People think you know what you’re doing
From the moment you find out your pregnant with #3, people assume you know what you’re doing. Unless you have complications, doctor’s appointments are quick and easy. The birth stories that people loved to share with you when you were pregnant with your first are non-existent once people find out it’s your third. In the hospital, you’re left alone completely, unless you seek out assistance.
When you take all three kids out of the house you get much less unsolicited advice from strangers. I notice that very few people approach me when I’m out with all three (except to say I’ve got my hands full!). I don’t know if it’s because they assume I’ve got it all figured out, or if they think I’m beyond help.
6. Sleep becomes (even more) challenging
You’re a parent, so there’s a good chance the days of long, uninterrupted stretches of sleep are a distant memory. A third child adds one more variable that makes a restful sleep even more elusive. We’ve had nights where all three children are up and crying at the same time. We’ve had plenty of nights where we get one settled just to be woken up by another. And we’ve had more nights than we can count where we’re up with one or more during the night, only to be woken up by their sibling at the crack of dawn.
You learn to survive on even less sleep, and if you weren’t a coffee drinker before, there’s a good chance you will become one!
7. It’s hard to give each child the individual attention they deserve
So much of your time – especially when the kids are young – is spent trying to survive. It can be hard to give each child the individual attention they deserve. Our kids thrive on one-on-one time with either parent, and we try to carve that out whenever we can. It’s important for them to know that we appreciate them as individuals, and to take the time to foster the unique relationship that we have with each child.
8. You’re dealing with a significant range in development
Our children are fairly close together – our oldest is 5, and our youngest is 11 months. Even still, they are at significantly different places developmentally. My oldest is learning to read and looking forward to losing his first tooth, while my youngest is learning to walk and getting her first teeth. This can make it hard to find activities that the whole family will enjoy.
Related: Goodbye to the Baby Years
9. Three’s a crowd
I don’t have much experience with this yet, but I know it’s coming. With three kids, there are going to be times that somebody is left out. I just hope it’s not the same kid all the time!
10. Someone’s always sick
With three kids, they’re bringing home three times the germs. By the time one bug makes its way through everyone in the house, somebody else has brought another one home. It can feel like you’re dealing with never-ending illness from October to April.
Dealing with sick kids is bad enough on its own, but when you’re trying to balance a career it can be incredibly difficult. Even people with the most generous sick leave policies and flexible employers may feel like their dedication to their job is being tested.
11. You will have a middle child
Your second will suddenly find him or herself as the middle child. It’s considered an unenviable position to be in, but I’m not convinced it’s all bad (my middle brother may disagree!). As parents we need to be aware of our children’s position in the birth order and how that might affect their experience. We make a very concerted effort to make sure our middle child (and all of our children) are not lost in the shuffle.
So, why have a third child?
The truth is I can’t give you a logical reason to have a third child. A third child will be a strain on your energy, your time, and your finances. Just like your first was, and just like your second was. But while children inherently add more challenges, they also make life unmeasurably richer. For us, adding a third was the right choice. I wish you the best of luck in deciding what’s right for you!