Following a request from a reader, we’ve been asked to answer the question of ‘what’s the most difficult jump, 0-1 child, 1-2 children, 2-3 children or 3-4 children. How do you decide when you’re ‘done’ or if you have the bandwidth to have another?
This is a true story but when I was about 16 , Mrs Geddes, our religion teacher, took a break from her usual meditation class (Yep, our religion classes involved meditation every class instead of drumming religion into us, Catholics are so misunderstood but more about that another time). Anyway, Mrs Geddes asked us to write a life plan. This was long before The Secret was on the scene (a fancy way of writing down and visualizing your future but you have to pay for the priviledge of knowing how to do it). I wrote a plan that was so close to what actually happened in my life that it’s kind of surreal:
Age 20 – Become a journalist (Tick)
Age 22 – Move out of home (Happened a bit earlier than this)
Age 24 – Fall in love (Tick)
Age 25 – Get engaged (Tick)
Age 27 – Get married (Tick)
Age 30 – Have at least 2 kids before age 30 (Tick)
– Become CEO of big company before 40 (Happened at age 31)
– Own my own business (Happened at age 27)
– Have 5 children before 35 years old.
5 kids, what was I thinking! Most people who say they want 4 or 5 kids as teens tend to shy away from their original ‘ideal’ when 1 or 2 kids enter their lives. I’m now up to 4 kids and turn 35 in a month so I don’t have long to get that 5th child if I’m still following the life plan I wrote at 16 (can see my staff reading this at the moment and thinking OMG, she’s seriously going to have that 5th child, she’s a nutter!)
I’m in the VERY FORTUNATE position that hubby was keen for loads of kids so we never really thought about when they arrived or when the timing was perfect for the next one. In fact, I’d say that if we do ever have a 5th child, it will possibly be the only one that’s ‘planned’. Unlike us, who have had a rather unconventional approach to having more kids, it’s important to recognize that others do put a bucketload of thought, concern, worry and ‘how will we cope’ into what the next baby will do to their lives, how they’ll support that child and what it will do to the family dynamic. All important points. Then there’s the reality of what you can actually cope with when the children arrive!
So there are many possible answers here as it’s entirely dependent on the child, the parents and their personal experiences. I suspect the level of difficulty depends on what ages your kids are when the next one arrives, your financial situation, your relationship and how you cope with life in general.
I can only speak from my own experience and would love to hear from others on their own experiences but here’s the level of difficulty I went through in terms of increasing the numbers of kids in our brood:
Going from 0-1 Child – A breeze – In fact, I seriously wondered what everyone was whinging about as I delivered a 9lb3oz baby boy into the world who slept through the night on Day 3 and hasn’t had a sleepless night since (I have to wake this one for school each morning). He fed well, hit milestones on or before he should have and just didn’t cry unless something was seriously wrong. I think I was lulled into a false sense of security as to how ‘easy’ parenting was because I fell pregnant with no 2 when no 1 was 4 months old (yup!)
Going from 1-2 Children – The toughest – This was my ‘what was I thinking moment”, certainly not because he was a difficult baby but more because the transition of looking after 1 baby to 2 babies was a shock to the system. This is when you’re at home alone for the first time and you’re totally outnumbered. You don’t have enough arms and given you’ve spent most of your time focusing on only one other little person, all of a sudden there’s 2 of them. I had 2 under 14 months and both on different feeding and sleeping patterns. At one stage I can recall having at least 1 child asleep at any time of the day so in order to keep some type of normality or routine in the household, I just opted not to go out anywhere for months. He was a normal child and cried/woke in the night but I can remember when No 2 arrived that this, for me, was the toughest transition. Much of it is a blur due to sleep deprivation as we were running our own company at that time too so rather than the kids being difficult, I think I simply took on too much and therefore didn’t cope as well as I could have if I didn’t have so much on.
Going from 2-3 Children – OMG, it’s a girl, she’s my new favourite – After two boys who were 3 and 2 at the time no 3 baby was born, she could have been the most difficult child on the planet (I seriously can’t remember) I was in pink heaven. No 3 to me was the comfort in knowing that I got my pink one so for the first 12 months of her life, I was so happy that I’d been blessed with a little girl and her brothers adored her that this was our Brady Bunch child where we all felt very clever. This was the first time we felt like a ‘real family’. Please don’t take this the wrong way as I don’t want to offend anyone with 2 kids, but for me, growing up in a family of three till my little brother was born, I felt that three kids was a bit closer to the reality I saw my family being. I was very busy with three but never felt it got on top of me. By the time no 3 arrives, I think Mum’s are more relaxed and understand that you can’t break them, it’s not the end of the world if they’re not crawling by 6 months old and you understand a lot more about parenting. There’s less to stress about and more to enjoy. I also rather enjoyed that with no 3, hubby and I were collectively outnumbered, this meant that the neat pigeon pair of you take one and I’ll take the other, was no longer an option. Parenting for us, became more of a partnership (this translates to – hubby could no longer opt out by sitting on the sofa watching tele or playing playstation).
Going from 3-4 Children – There’s another child here? Where? – This is my rock’n’roll baby. He rolls with the punches, keeps up with the big kids. By the fourth child your life is generally so chaotic that another child simply ads to the big family without being more work for Mum and Dad. Someone’s always got an eye on him and he’s always being carried or entertained by someone. He gets away with a lot more than the others because you simply don’t have the time to dedicate to ‘the rules’. Keep in mind however that no 4 babies often mean a bigger car, house and purchasing the same toys or clothes you bought years ago because they’ve all been broken or thrown out as well as fibre fatigue has hit the fabrics of tops, pants and jumpers (well it did in this house!).
I’d say my Mum would possibly say that no 4 was both the easiest and the most difficult. You see, I was 15 years old when my youngest brother way born (to the same parents as me!) and my other siblings were 13 and 10. I think Mum would have had a tougher time coping with the fact that her energy levels were a lot less at 40 than 26 when no 1 arrived. On the flipside however, she had 3 very capable babysitters on hand to help raise my little brother and act as quasi parents to take the load off when it came to the Lego eating age.
When it gets to 5 or 6 kids and even beyond that, I’m afraid I can’t comment as I’m yet to get there, I have a cousin with 6 kids, an Aunt who had 12 kids, my Mum is one of 10 kids and my friend Jan had 5 boys and my girlfriend Louise has 7 kids but I think they would all say that whilst each one is a blessing, once you get past a certain number of kids, another one really didn’t make all that much difference to the chaos at home anyway!
What did you find the most difficult? 0-1, 1-2, 2-3, 3-4, 4-5, 5-6, 6+ ????