Kids. They certainly bring joy to a household.
Adorable and snuggly when they’re babies.
Cute wobbly steps and soft kisses when they’re toddlers.
Cracking jokes and handing out hugs when they’re preschool age.
Having This Many Kids Can Lead To Stressful Parenting, Survey Says
It turns out it might be a case of ‘the more kids the merrier’ – that is, unless you have three!
A survey of 7000 mothers showed four children was considered something of a magic number, and mothers with four or more reported lower levels of stress.
Having three children, though, was considered the most stressful for mamas.
Isn’t All Parenting Stressful?
Depending on their age, and the different stages of your children’s lives, parenting can be stressful.
Think about those first weeks, where you spend hours every day worrying whether your newborn is getting enough milk or sleep. Or the toddler years when a simple trip to the shops can strike fear into the heart of any parent!
Let’s be clear, this isn’t a case of who has it hardest. Every family is different; every child is different. There are many factors that contribute to the stress levels of parents, including health or development concerns, socio-economic conditions, and relationship issues.
As parents, we too often fall into the trap of looking at our lives and our parenting, and comparing ourselves with others. We worry we are coming up short. That sort of social comparison is detrimental to our health and wellbeing.
But it can be reassuring to hear we’re not the only ones feeling the stress. Being open and honest about parenting is important. If you are one of the lucky mums with three kids, know you are not alone – we are all stressed out together!
What Makes Three Kids Stressful Parenting?
Before having our third child, I couldn’t have imagined how much would change. I simply wasn’t prepared for the aspects of life with three children that would cause additional stress.
Here are 8 ways life with three children changed everything:
Stressful Parenting #1: Pure Mathematics
My husband and I were outnumbered. Suddenly there were three of ‘them’ and only two of ‘us’. There were two laps to sit on, but three small people who wanted to sit on them.
When I was on my own, the simple task of crossing the road became much more challenging, with three hands to hold and only two hands to hold them with.
Stressful Parenting #2: You Are No Longer Considered A ‘Family’
Actually this one applies to any family with more than two children. Try buying a family pass at most attractions and you will find it is for two adults and two children.
Without realising, you have become some mutant strain of ‘family’ that needs to buy extra tickets. Yeah, yeah, I get it – we made the choice, we pay the price!
Hotel rooms pose the same challenge; most rooms accommodate a maximum of four.
Stressful Parenting #3: Odd One Out
Our kids take turns at being the odd one out! Our youngest two like to play dolls and dress ups together, leaving out their big brother. Then there are the times the eldest two want to play Monopoly and the toddler wreaks havoc because she can’t play!
The dynamic is just so different when there are three. When only two are at home, everything shifts. The play is more peaceful, the fighting minimal. The noise drops and so does my stress! It doesn’t matter which two it is – any combination is less stressful than the three of them together.
Stressful Parenting #4: Upgrading To A People Mover
Say goodbye to your zippy little hatchback and say hello to your people mover.
Pulling up for school drop off, I watch enviously from my 8-seater car as parents of two or fewer children jump out of their tiny cars, having easily manoeuvred them into the teeny parking spaces.
Now, I can almost hear you doing the maths: 3 kids + 2 adults = a 5-seater car. So, why the need for a people mover? Two words: car seats.
Have you ever tried fitting three car seats across the back seat of a car? In some models you might just squeeze them in, but in others it’s completely impossible.
And although you might enjoy the space a large car provides (particularly if it means you can separate the kids and reduce the in-car fighting) you might not enjoy the hefty fuel costs and parking hassles.
Stressful Parenting # 5: Sleep (Or Lack Of)
Kids don’t co-ordinate their night waking – much to the disappointment of parents everywhere. I don’t think I’ve slept a full night in two and a half years.
One wakes because he had a bad dream, the next one wakes because her leg hurts, and then someone wakes and asks for a drink. Before you know it, you have lost count of the number of times you’ve swung your legs off the side of the bed and dragged your sleepy self down the hallway.
I miss sleep.
Stressful Parenting #6: So Much Noise
Three times the kids, three times the noise. Oh, the noise!
Each child wants to be heard, and rightfully so, yet they all seem to want to be heard at exactly the same time! Have you ever tried having three conversations at once?
And don’t even try to make a phone call. Just when you think they are playing quietly, and you slip away to make a call, they will sense it. They will follow you from room to room, asking inane questions, fighting with one another, or just making strange noises. It’s like a gaggle of geese trailing you wherever you go.
Half of my conversations with my husband are, “What? I can’t hear you!”
The brief silence, after everyone has gone to bed and before the night wakings begin, might just be the most delightful 30 minutes of the day for the parents of three kids.
Stressful Parenting #7: Someone Always Needs Something (Except You… You Come Last)
10:03am – Child #1 comes into the kitchen and says, “I’m hungry”. You get him something to eat, and ask the others if they are hungry too. They are not.
10:06am – Child #2 sees Child #1 has strawberries and decides she is hungry after all, and would like strawberries too.
10:10am – Child #3 is in the bathroom but, given the unpredictable nature of toddler toileting, is now calling out “I need help!”
10:11am – You arrive in the bathroom to find the entire roll of toilet paper unravelled on the floor and said toddler covered in vitamin E cream.
10:30am – The mess has finally been cleaned up and it is time to head out, but the Child #2 can’t find her shoes and so begins a hunt for the sandals with the spots (because no other pair of shoes will do).
10:36am – The shoes have been found and are now on feet. Everyone is ready to leave.
10:37am – As you are closing the front door, Child #1 decides he does in fact need help with his shoes, despite having told you two minutes earlier he was “big enough to do it myself!”
10:39am – Everyone clambers into the car. Now begins the task of getting all three into their car seats and buckled up.
10:46am – After a five minute battle with the toddler, which might or might not have involved pleading and bribing (“Pleeaase sit in your seat so we can go and I will get you an ice cream!”), you are finally on the road.
10:48am – You realise you have left your bag at home, you still have your slippers on, and a hairbrush near your hair might not be a bad idea. Time to turn around and go back.
10:49am – You decide you might never leave the house again until the youngest turns 27.
Stressful Parenting #8: More Of Everything
The third child arrives, and although it is only one extra person in the household, suddenly it feels like there is 10 times more of everything.
More meals to cook.
More bills to pay (particularly if you find yourself with several children in child care)
It Isn’t All Doom And Gloom
There’s one thing I failed to mention, in the list of ‘more’, More love. This is by far the best part.
Because, despite the stresses and the challenges, most mamas of three would say the same. You wouldn’t change it for the world.
The joy of watching your child smile for the first time, and all the other heartwarming moments… well, we get those three times over!
Although there is noise, a lot of it is noise that makes your heart swell – those giggles and hearty belly laughs nothing else can beat.
Yes, having three kids can be stressful. But, it is also pretty darn amazing.