What’s it like to have three children?
Three kids. Wow, that’s a lot isn’t it!
We’re nearly nine months into having three children now so I thought it was time for an update to tell you what life with three is like.
In the UK, the average woman currently has 1.9 children – which basically means most couples have two children, something I’m sure most of us knew already. (This is in no way a dig at anyone who has chosen to not have children, chosen to have one child, chosen to have 15 or can’t make their mind up about the whole thing!)
Two children is normal and, for Sam and I, it wasn’t really a question about having two children. Yes, we would have two and it wasn’t something we massively pondered or thought about.
But three children, that’s a different matter.
Three children isn’t normal, especially among our friends and family. None of my close family or friends have three children. I’ve met a couple of mums from the school run who have three and a few of my friends growing up were one of three children – but other than that I have no experience of life with three children.
Today I’d like to tell you what it’s like to have three kids and answer some of the questions I’m asked about life as a family of five!
In case you’re not familiar with our family, we have George (age 5), Joseph (3) and Alba (8 months).
Why did I want three kids?
It still kind of baffles me that I wanted three children because I know it wasn’t logical, particularly because we had two boys who were just coming out of the difficult toddler stage. We were starting to get our lives back, almost in full-time education, almost free from nursery bills, sleeping through the night, life was almost starting to get easier.
So why go back to square one and have another baby and make life tough again?
I’ve always wanted three children. Initially, I wanted three so at least two of them would be the same gender. Sam is so close to his brother and I always wanted a sister when I was growing up. I have a brother and we were really close but it isn’t the same as siblings of the same gender. I know most people want one boy and one girl as it feels nice and balanced, but I wanted mine to be the same. I always imagined we’d have a boy and then a girl and then another boy. I don’t know why I thought it would work out this way, that’s just what I pictured in my head so that’s why I imagined myself with three. When we had two boys it would have been easy to stop there but I still felt like something was missing and our family wasn’t quite complete.
I like the noisy chaos of family life and two children always seemed very sensible and has a neat, orderliness to it.
I know most people like things that are sensible, neat and orderly but I’m always drawn to the opposite! I sometimes wish I wasn’t but it’s just the way I am.
I love the house being busy and having people coming and going. The noise and craziness of it all it wonderful. Busy family meals, a messy cloakroom stuffed with coats and wellies and hats, bikes and scooters in the garden and a fridge covered with kid’s paintings.
That’s what I imagine when I think of my perfect family life.
Don’t get me wrong, this stuff all drives me crazy too and I love the rare days when our house is peaceful, calm and tidy (aka when we’re away on holiday and no one is home!) but I do love the craziness.
Sam was less keen on having three children (he likes it neat and orderly!) but he did really want a girl. He’d often joke that he’d happily have a third baby if I could guarantee it was a girl. And then we’d both laugh nervously because, while we knew it was a joke, we both also knew it was true.
What’s it like to have three children?
We’ve been in lockdown for a lot of our time as a family of five but I am noticing some differences between having two children and having three.
The main difference between having three children over two children is that we suddenly feel like a crowd. When we go anywhere, we take over and take up the most space. You can’t sit there quietly or blend into the background when you’ve got three young children.
This means that there are some places we don’t want to take them. If a friend lives in a small flat, we wouldn’t want to go there because we’d just totally take over the space. It means that we’re much more likely to invite people over to our house rather than go to other people’s houses.
It’s helps that we’ve recently finished an extension on our house so we have a lot more space to have people around. We love hosting friends for drinks and BBQs, Sunday lunch and takeaways, so we still see our friends a lot and don’t miss out on socialising.
There are certain things we probably won’t all do together for a long time. We’d never all go shopping together (not that I’d want to go shopping with three young children!) and it’s unlikely we’ll be going into any fancy restaurants for a while.
I think for the next few years we’ll mostly do ‘child-friendly activities’. We’ll visit restaurants that are child-friendly, go on child-friendly holidays and spend our weekends doing things the kids will enjoy.
Obviously, most people do this with young kids anyway but it’s also easier to take one child into environments that aren’t necessarily designed for kids because one child is easy to manage, easy to keep quiet and entertain. If one child makes a bit of noise then it’s not a big deal – but if you’ve got three children making noise then you’ve got a problem.
I thought this might put a strain on mine and Sam’s relationship. Spending a Saturday afternoon at a kid’s play park isn’t exactly a dream way to spend the weekend, but it’s actually been fine. Obviously, we’ve been in lockdown so it’s different but we’re both enjoying family activities.
Is it hard work?
Having three kids isn’t as hard as I thought it might be and I’m sure this is partly because of George’s age. George is now five so that’s an age where he’s getting much more independent and happy to entertain himself. George is also a really good boy so that helps! So I don’t really feel like it’s much harder work because just as Alba came along, George got to a stage where he was doing a lot more for himself. And maybe he was pushed into doing more for himself because Alba came along. If he wants me to do something for him, he knows he’s going to have to wait 10 minutes and he’s quickly realised it’s actually easier to just learn to do it himself!
Joseph is three and he’s still hard work! He’s really, really hard work but I know this won’t last forever. Dear God, don’t let this last forever!
And don’t get me wrong, I know Alba is at an easy stage and it’ll get tougher as we go into toddlerhood! But at the moment I’m finding Alba to be a much easier baby than the boys were. I’m sure that’s partly because she is easier but also because I’m calmer and more relaxed, so she’s calmer too! And then there’s the fact that we have a house full of toys and the boys are always there to keep her entertained. Our house is so noisy and busy and this actually seems to be a great environment for babies because they have so much to look at.
We’re also in a baby-friendly routine already. We get up early, we have three set meals, our days end early and we have a bedtime routine. It was easy to slot Alba into this routine without our lives changing at all. Before lockdown began both the boys were going to school/nursery from 9-3 and I found this schedule worked really well for Alba. We’d walk to school and she’d fall asleep just as I got home so she’d have a big morning nap, and then the same would happen when I picked them up in the afternoon. It meant I’d get an hour or two to myself in the morning and then I’d have an hour or two with the boys in the afternoon.
I personally find toddlers to be much harder work than babies so now I’ve had two toddlers, Alba seems like a breeze! She is a very happy, content baby but she’s very active and energetic so she does need a lot of my attention. But that’s OK because I’ll play with her for an hour and then she’ll go to sleep…it’s not like a 4 year old who just wants to play and play and play and you don’t get a break at all because they don’t nap!
Lots of people suggested the boys would actually be really helpful and would be good at helping me look after Alba and…well I wouldn’t say they’re intentionally helpful. They always want to hug her and kiss her and give her toys and do silly things to make her laugh, but they’re very heavy handed and I wouldn’t leave her alone with them.
The way they’re most helpful is that they’re always busy and loud so they’re constantly entertaining Alba just by being there! Alba will often just sit near them and watch them play and that keeps her happy for so long.
In some ways, having a third is almost easier. OK, maybe easier is a stretch but hear me out…
With two kids, I feel like I can just wing it. I don’t plan anything, I’m not massively organised and I take each moment as it comes. But with three children, I know I need to be organised because all hell can break loose really quickly. I need to have food in the fridge because I don’t want to nip to the shop with three children in tow. I need to keep on top of the washing because we’d have a pile the size of Everest if I didn’t do it everyday. I need to arrange some kind of activity or outing most days (even if it’s super simple) because three kids in one house all day is too much. I have snacks prepared, meals in the freezer, an organised playroom and loads of toys. I also don’t try and do too much with three kids so that helps.
I’m also probably more organised than most parents with three kids because when I get some quiet time (like when Alba is napping and the boys are tired and watching TV), I’ll go to my office and work for an hour. I work for myself and work from home so I need to squeeze the work in where I can!
Is it more expensive having three children?
At the moment I’m not really noticing the extra expense. It obviously is more expensive and will continue to get even more expensive as Alba gets older, but at the moment Alba doesn’t cost a lot!
Alba is breastfed and the tiny amount of food she eats isn’t enough to massively raise our weekly food bill. Most of her clothes have been passed down from friends and we have enough toys to open our own toyshop so I haven’t bought much extra for her!
We’re used to paying nursery fees as we’ve been paying for childcare for the past 5 years so when Alba does start nursery that’ll be an expense we’re very used to already. I’m sure we’ll notice the expense more as the kids get older but right now it’s not a big difference.
What car do you have?
This is the question I’m asked the most!
If you haven’t got kids then you might not realise that children now have to be in a car seat until they’re pretty big (it’s about 12). Car seats are really bulky now too (not like the little booster seats I had as a kid!) so you can’t fit three car seats in the back of most cars. This means that many families with three children end up buying a 7-seater car to be able to fit the kid’s car seats in.
It is a bit tricky but we manage just fine.
I drive a Kia Sportage which isn’t big enough for three seats in the back so George has to sit in the front seat. This is awkward if we go somewhere all together in my car because it means Sam has to drive and I have to squeeze in the back in the middle seat between Joseph and Alba. It’s do-able but it’s not ideal.
Thankfully, Sam has a 6-seater van for work and all of the seats in the back can be used with an ISO-fix base. Sam is a gas engineer so the back of his van is separate and has all of his tools and stuff, but he can take everything out for weekends away which is very handy as it means we can take bikes and double buggies and loads of luggage and we could quite literally take the kitchen sink.
I wasn’t keen on the idea of using a van for a family vehicle but it works well and we’re seeing loads of families near us doing the same with VW Transporters.
I had planned to get a Multi Mac Car Seat (take a look if you’ve never heard of them because they’re brilliant). This is a 3 or 4 seater child seat and they’re expensive but easier than buying a new car. I might still do this in the future but our setup is working fine at the moment.
Do you have family to help with childcare?
Not really. My parents love seeing the kids and see a lot of them but they’ve always said they don’t want to be used as a source of childcare. They do have them overnight from time to time which is lovely and the kids love it but it’s not a regular thing like some grandparents do.
Did we plan the age gaps of our three kids?
Yes and no. We did think about it but it’s also so difficult to plan because you never know how easily you’ll conceive. We have 18 months between the first two and then it’s exactly 3 years between the second and third.
Sam wanted to have a small age gap between the first two because our best friends suggested it’s easier. So there’s 18 months between the boys and yes, in some ways it is easier and in some ways it’s harder. I don’t think there’s ever a perfect age gap but that worked well for us. I actually wanted at least 2 years between the first 2 kids but we got lucky and it happened straight away.
And then when it came to having Alba, I didn’t feel ready to have another child for at least two and a half years. 3 kids under 3 would have killed me! But I also didn’t want to leave it so long that our third child would be left out and would always be too young to join in with the older ones.
I was conscious that if we had a massive gap between the boys and a third child, the boys would always seem so close the third would be like an only child. I also didn’t want us to spend our weekends with Sam doing fun activities with the older boys while I was left to entertain a baby.
I’m really happy with the age gaps we have and wouldn’t change anything.
Are holidays tricky?
No, not really. When we go away we very rarely stay in hotels and prefer private villas. We’ve tried staying in family rooms in hotels before and it really doesn’t work for us, it doesn’t feel like much of a holiday having to share a bedroom with the kids! The only other option in a hotel is to have connecting family rooms which is a nice option but twice the price so it usually works out better value to have a villa.
We’ve only had one holiday abroad with all three of the kids. That was to Tenerife and that was brilliant and I didn’t feel like having an extra child was too tough! We were nervous about the flight but, like I said earlier, George is now at a much easier phase and he can entertain himself during a 4-hour flight.
We found holidays (and life in general!) more difficult when George was about 3 and Joseph was about 18 months because they both needed so much constant attention.
Did you find that life changed after having a third?
No, not at all!
Our lives changed a lot when we had a second. We became more of a family and our lives revolved around the kids in a way it didn’t when we only had one child. One child was a breeze and I don’t feel like our lifestyle actually changed that much with one.
So when we had Alba we were definitely already living a very child-friendly lifestyle that allowed a baby to slot into very easily.
Do you get used to sleep deprivation?
To be honest, I do really well with sleep! I’m a bit obsessed with monitoring my sleep via my watch and a sleep app and my average sleep score is 84 out of 100 which is really good! I average 8 hours sleep a night with at least 60% of my sleep in a deep sleep. (If it sounds like I’m bragging, I am!)
When Alba came along I definitely dropped my parenting standards and instead of trying to do things ‘the right way’ I just do them the way that works best for our family. This definitely applies to sleep! Alba has a different routine to the ‘recommended routine’. She doesn’t go to bed until about 9pm but she generally sleeps through until 5am when I bring her into our bed and feed her and then she’ll sleep through until 8am. We don’t hear a peep out of George through the night but Joseph does get up sometimes and Sam deals with him.
Do you worry about your middle child?
YES! I really do. Middle Child Syndrome is a thing!
Joseph adores both of his siblings but I can see that some days he doesn’t know if he wants to be a baby or be a big boy. Before Alba was born he would often say, ‘No baby, I’m the baby!’ and this really worried us. Thankfully, he’s absolutely smitten with Alba and is so loving and protective over her but I think he does miss his place as the baby in the family.
We have to be really careful not to treat Joseph in the same way we treat George. It’s really easy to forget that Joseph is 18 months younger and, although it doesn’t sound a lot, it is a lot when they’re so young. Sometimes we get frustrated with Joseph for not listening or behaving as well as his older brother. And at the same time, we also need to be careful not to treat George like a 3 year old!
Joseph is a real daddy’s boy and demands all of Sam’s attention when Sam is around. This can be quite challenging but I’m sure it’s something he will grow out of.
So yes, it’s tough and it’s something we’re aware of and will definitely be keeping an eye on.
So there you have it. Life with three children. It’s a bit messy and a bit chaotic but it’s just the way I like it!