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I always thought three was the perfect number of kids for me -- that is, before I had children. Once I actually became a mother of two under four, there were days I felt like I was drowning -- particularly when my husband suggested we start work on a third. "Three is the new two," he’d say, quoting the Carefree-Woman-Formerly-Known-As-Me.
Part of my anxiety about having a third was the feeling that I had to hurry up -- a factor of my "advanced maternal age," as doctors refer to those of us over 35. I wanted to have one child old enough for a booster seat before I added another newborn to the mix. But my husband was unwavering in his desire for Number Three.
Every family is different, of course, but if you’re currently considering three as the magic number for your household, here are some factors you might want to consider:
How easy (or hard) is your second child?
If your second is a holy terror, you’re probably not reading this article in the first place. But beware: Number Twos can be deceptively easy. "As soon my third was born, my second became a terror," my friend A.J. warns. "Clearly someone gave him the memo on becoming a middle child."
Do you have three hands?
Probably not. But if one child fakes left, one right, and one straight ahead, will you be prepared? If not, can you find some extra babysitting help when you need it? Cause you will. At least until all three are potty-trained.
Are you considering a third because you feel like you should?
A friend of mine had two children, eight and one. "It’s like they’re both only children," she lamented to me. "I feel like the baby deserves a sibling." To her, number three seemed somewhat of an obligation, and I felt obliged to remind her that babies are hard -- on our bodies, on our marriages, on the kids we already have. Is it all worth it? Well, of course, if you’re so madly in love with that baby that you can’t imagine life without him or her. But if your family and your lives feel complete without a third, then don’t fall prey to the Ought-To type of thinking. (That friend stayed with two kids, and now her family feels just-right.)
Will you ever feel "done" without the third baby?
My friend Erin says that you need to commit to the notion of the Last Child before you can ever feel settled. "I didn't do that with my second because she was unplanned," she explained. "That's why I went for three." That’s how it happened for me: While rocking my second child, I read something saying it was especially sweet to nurse the baby you know is your last. When I read that sentence, my stomach lurched into my throat -- he was my last? -- and I knew I wasn’t done.
And if your heart doesn’t tell you what's right, your body just might make the decision for you. "People actually decide to have a third?" my friend Joe said. "I thought everyone just said "Oops,' like me."