If two kids make your heart swell with joy, won’t three be a better number? It really depends say parents and experts; are you, for instance, on the same page as your partner on this? Can you afford – in terms of time, money and energy – another baby?
“Family planning can be quite a delicate conversation, and partners are encouraged to keep an open mind when talking about it,” says Bene Katabua, Educational Psychologist at Intercare Health Center in Abu Dhabi.
“It's helpful to explore the reasons for having another child, as well as reservations. It's best to avoid this conversation if one is very stressed, anxious or particularly upset. Rather wait for a better time to explore this conversation,” she adds.
I recently stumbled across a conversation on Reddit about the way one family came to the decision to have a third baby. User iambevin wrote: “I wanted 3, my husband wanted two. He did not want to budge because he's worried about finances which is fair enough. So am I. But I wanted three and there is no way to turn that longing off. It's a physical impossibility.
“I went to counselling because I didn't want to trick him into a third or bring a child into this world that wasn't 100 per cent wanted by both of us but I didn't know how to switch off this absolute need inside me. The counsellor basically said you can't switch it off, you just deal with it. You grieve for the child you never had and one day you will get over the grief. We ended up both going one day and she went through our pros and cons which helped. My husband saw that my decision was being made with my heart and his with his head. We talked a lot about money, etc. and eventually he came round. … I'm 9 weeks pregnant. He's nervous but happy.
“I recently talked to a friend's Mum about the situation. She said that she had wanted a third but her husband put his foot down and said no. She said she grieved for 15 years for that child she never had. She was tearing up just talking about it and her son I'm friends with is close to 35!”
Conversation not war
Speaking honestly – and without turning it into a battle ground – is imperative. “When it comes to a compromise, it's important to be honest and clear as well. So that it doesn't come up in the future as resentment and contempt. Be careful not to fall into the trap of seeing it as winning or losing, but really about bringing a new life into your family,” says Katabua.
“Also, take a moment to reflect personally about how important this is to you. Before going into the conversation, it's helpful to have a good idea as to how much this means to you and what your personal boundaries are. Which boundaries are firm, and which are more flexible and permeable,” she adds.
Factors to consider
When it comes to adding a new member to your family, it’s not just you that you’ve to consider. Kabatua urges parents to consider if they have capacity for a third. And if not, what needs to change for them to have the capacity?
Financial constraints can be an obvious hiccup to baby plans, but one must also consider the intangible elements.
“Do they have the energy to take care of two children, while having very little sleep due to a newborn? Is there a reliable support system in place? Are both parents clear about roles, responsibilities and expectations? Do the parents make time to support and another more intimately, outside of parenting duties? How independent are the first two children?” she asks.
It’s also a time to reassess child-rearing; ask yourselves this, suggests Katabua: “What are the expectations of childcare, household chores, expenses, time spent as a couple, etc. and how are these going to be handled with the arrival of a third child?”
And talk to the kids – but not too soon. “Children can be introduced to the idea of having a sibling when parents are comfortable sharing. Usually this is around the third month of pregnancy. Due to risks of pregnancy, it's not advised to discuss this much earlier,” she warns.
“Having a once-off conversation isn't sufficient, and children might need guidance on what it would mean to have a younger sibling at home. Depending on their age, this could be done in conversation, song, or through a book,” she adds.
But be prepared for some blowback – no one likes to be shifted from the centre of attention – and constant communication will save a lot of resentment and tantrums along the way.
“Kids’ feelings definitely matter, but their feelings don't guide the decision as to whether or not to have a larger family. That's in the hands of the caretakers, as adults,” stresses Katabua, adding that while the decision isn‘t in their hands, their opinions are. Respect and allow a child the freedom to express themselves –their hopes, their dreams and even their fears. This doesn’t have to be with parents, but even with a close family member, friends or a professional.
Reddit user arth33 outlined some pros and cons to having a third child in his post: “Heavily dependent on the kids involved, particularly the two you already have. I've got three (all boys; 9,7, and 3) and it's great. But my first two are really good kids … Adding a third to this mix was a breeze. The third is now a new actor in their games and cheering squad.
“What I'd say is that it makes the relationships way more interesting. With two, the sibling relationship is older-younger. Full stop. There's no real variation in that. With three, the number of permutations suddenly jumps to seven possible variations. The web of relations is amazing to watch.”
He also addresses logistical concerns: “They’re going to want to start more and more extracurricular activities. That’s a lot of getting around when you’re outnumbered. At seven or so, they start to get into practices and game nights, or lessons and performances, or whatever, but it’s often three nights a week per serious activity. Multiply that by a couple things, three kids, and you can see how it’s hard to get them around to everything. It’s not impossible, but it’s complicated.”
The consensus is three may make for great company – or be a crowd – it depends on your family and you. The choice, at the end of the day, is yours.
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