There is an elephant in my living room. My husband and I agreed to ignore it at least until our daughter’s first birthday, but we both know it’s there. Lurking. Waiting. Until the day comes that we’re ready to decide.
Are we going to try for a third child?
To say my husband and I have struggled with this question would be an understatement. Our son and our daughter are only 20 months apart, and the first three months were pretty crazy! [Curse you, witching hour!] But things quickly got easier. Nine months in, and our littles bring nothing but joy into our lives. It makes me think, “Why wouldn’t we try for a third child?” Still, I know my husband is right when he reminds me that there are many factors we need to consider.
Here’s what we have discussed so far:
- Do we have the physical and emotional energy needed to spread our time, love, and attention between three children? I hear that we should be concerned about shifting from man-to-man to zone defense, but I’m more worried about our ability to effectively coach the team. Just recently, I caught myself using alone time with my baby daughter as a time to be silent following hours of constant toddler conversation. If I struggle to maintain my energy with two, it is only going to be harder with three.
- Can we handle a return to babyhood? The newborn stage is not for everyone, but I think it is especially difficult on dads. In those early days, a mama is everything to her baby. My husband tries so hard to be helpful and takes it really hard when his efforts are rebuked—by his own offspring, no less! To me, the baby stage is fleeting, but it helps that my impression is colored by hormones and baby scent.
- Can we afford to raise three children in the manner we envision? We are incredibly fortunate and grateful to be secure in our ability to pay for diapers, food, clothes, and other necessities. In that sense, there is no question that we can afford a third child. The question is whether we can afford to give three children certain unnecessary but (subjectively) ideal experiences, like private, independent education and annual family vacations.
- Three’s company? Having a third child would shift our daughter into the infamous “middle child” position and create the potential for an odd man out at every turn. On the other hand, having multiple personalities under one roof fosters social skills and empathy.
- Would we be tempting fate? With my first two, I got lucky. Not just lucky, I hit the jackpot. I had no trouble with fertility, pregnancy, recovery from childbirth, or postpartum depression, and produced babies who are (in my biased estimation) absolutely perfect. Although, mathematically-speaking, the likelihood that I will encounter difficulty is no worse and no better than it was before, my husband and I worry about pushing our luck.
- Does having a third child violate some unspoken master plan? It seems like the entire world assumes that people will stop at two children—especially families like us who are blessed with the coveted “perfect set” of a boy and a girl. It’s not just people. Everything, from cars and tables to hotel rooms and taxi cabs, seems to have been designed with families of four in mind. Are we setting ourselves up for a life of inconvenience?
If I’m really honest with myself, I know these considerations weigh against having a third child. The decision to further divide our attention, take on additional expenses, and subject ourselves to additional months (years?) of sleep deprivation could never be practical. But, I still want to do it. I picture three children in our home—as young children playing with toys, teenagers relaxing after school, and adults home for the holidays—and see the big, happy family that I’ve always wanted.
Would we regret the decision to stop at two? Who knows. But I know that we would never regret the decision to expand our family. If an actual little person—our little person—were to displace the concept of a third child, how could we? Even Mr. Practical agrees with me there.
Have you considered making the leap from two to three? What helped you decide?