I always planned on having two kids. Two. That's it. My husband and I joked that we didn't want to be outnumbered, and I honestly wasn't sure I could handle one kid, let alone three or more. I eventually changed my mind, though. I learned that, when it comes to parenting, things rarely go as planned or look the way you expected them to look. Although I've doubted my abilities a time or two, there are signs you can definitely handle three kids that are obvious enough to calm your mind and assuage your fears. You just have to know where to look.
The majority of this aforementioned journey of self-discovery surprisingly had nothing to do with my kids, and everything to do with me. In fact, it specifically had to do with how I viewed my role as a parent. I am certain that there's no way in hell I could've handled three kids as the "helicopter, super-crunchy, trying to be perfect mom" I considered myself to be when I had one child to care for. But the laid back, sort of scrunchy, hot mess mom I am today? She's tough and can handle just about anything.
I also learned that it's best if at least one of your kids is able to do some stuff independently, and way before you have another baby. Having to put multiple kids to bed simultaneously is next to impossible, especially if both of them need to touch you in order to go to sleep. The same goes for feeding them, getting them dressed in the morning, bathing them, and just about everything else you have to do as a parent. Also, at some point, you probably should accept that adding a third (or more) child to the mix means that your life is going to change, again, forever. So, while you will gain an awesome kid, you're probably also going to lose something in return, like a consistent sex life, time to yourself, a clean house, and more than a little sleep.
In the end, I have few regrets about deciding to have another child. Then again, maybe I'm just too tired to really think hard and long about them. Fortunately, it turns out I could definitely handle three kids. Here's how I knew I could, and how you can figure out if three is the perfect number for you, too:
You Don’t Need Sleep
I haven't slept consistently since before President Barack Obama was in the White House. No, sadly, that is not a joke. Not only do newborns generally sleep like crap, but you'll also have two older children to contend with, too. You should probably consider the undeniable fact that there's no guarantee that your older children will continue to sleep as well as they did before. Sleep regressions are a thing, and chances are adding a third child will mean losing what little sleep you already enjoy.
You're OK With Not Being A Perfect Mom
For the record, cutting myself some slack was definitely a process and didn't happen overnight. Fortunately, at some point between being the perfect mother I was before I had kids, and becoming OK with not being perfect at all, I started to view being a hot mess as a good thing.
At Least One Of Your Kids Is Relatively Independent
I am not saying you should wait until your kids are completely grown to have a third child, although that's certainly a legitimate choice if it works for you. But it's helpful if at least one of your older kids is independent enough to complete some age-related tasks, so that you don't have to wipe everyone's butt all day long, spoon-feed three kids simultaneously, and have three kids sleep in your bed every night.
You’ve Accepted The Body You Have
Part of my readiness for another child definitely depended on my willingness to accept that my body will never feel the same, look the same, or be the same as it was before I had kids. I had to get real, and ignore other people's expectations (and sometimes comments) about "ruining my body." My body's just fine, even after three pregnancies, thank you very much.
You're OK With An Inconsistent Sex Life
I love my sex life, but it's definitely different now. If you are willing to get creative learn, to take interruptions in stride, and have a sense of humor, you are ready to handle three kids.
You Own Yoga Pants
I never wore yoga pants as a first-time mo, unless, that is, I was doing yoga. Now they are pretty much all I wear.
You Can Put Together A Meal Plan
Meal planning is a must if you intend to cook for a family with three or more kids. I'm not going to lie and tell you that I always follow my meal plan at the store or in my kitchen, and that I never order take-out or let my kids have cereal for dinner (because I totally do), but knowing how to plan meals and budget for food is essential for adulting (and for parenting three or more kids).
You Are OK With A Messy House
A wise person once told me that you can have a clean house, a happy family, or your mental health, but not all three at the same time. I've decided to let my house go in that equation, as it's the least important of the three.
You’ve Decided To Have A Third Child
So, at some point you have to decide if you want to try for a third baby or not. Or you get pregnant, and then have to decide if you want to continue that pregnancy. Once you make that choice, though, you are sort of committed.
The good news, though? I think most parents can totally handle more than they think they can. I mean, I'm living proof that it's possible to handle three kids, even if I am a "hot mess" most of the time. If you've decided to have baby number three, chances are you are ready, too.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.