The decision to have three children was a conscious one, but the reality of this decision was not. ‘I have three children, I feel like I have eight’ my husband said just days after the baby and I arrived home from hospital. ‘There are so many of them’ I said to my husband, referring to our beautiful, adored offspring. I could have been talking about a swarm of mosquitoes, their pesky abundance driving us back indoors.
It was not a matter of just throwing more pasta in the pot, as I had naively thought -‘What’s one more?‘ The addition of another child created a whole new dynamic that left us feeling outnumbered and helpless. It didn’t help that number three did not properly take to feeding straight away, or that all three children were yet to be shipped off to school, or that three months in to this new situation we decided to renovate our home.
Whatever the case, the enormity of the shift from two children to three is not widely publicised. As with childrearing, all information is geared up to the event, with little pre-warning to the weeks after the birth, no-one took me aside and said ‘Look, what you are about to go through is ridiculous.’ Even when a mum, expecting her third child, recently asked me about life with three children, my response was ‘do you really want to know?’ Because like child birth, you fear what you don’t know and then you fear what you do know.
Over time, it has become clear that I am part of a secret society. We are the ones who quietly live our lives – going about our business with a baby strapped to our front, pushing a pram, holding a kid’s hand, feeding snacks, buckling and unbuckling, lifting, holding, chasing – we are the ones that know what’s really going on. It’s seldom spoken of, but occasionally I will say to another mum of three, almost in a whisper, ‘so, life with three kids…’
When I finally caught up with my girlfriends, after having our third child, I was asked ‘So, what about you, life with three kids?! It’s full-on but wonderful?’ The group looked and waited for a response. ‘Yeee-eess‘ I replied. These catch-ups serve as a form of escapism. When my friends, mostly yet to have children, get ready to leave, I ask my best friend, who has two children of her own to stay – just long enough for the kids to be asleep.
‘There’s no point getting depressed.’ Another mum, with three children, said to me. ‘It is what it is.’ My mum hates that phrase. I don’t know why exactly. It suggests acceptance.
There is one school mum, in particular, I always notice. I always see her walking her children to school, with one walking ahead, one in the pram and one usually on a scooter. I notice her because she appears to be the only one juggling so many children in this manner, bent over pushing the pram with one hand, while supporting the scooter with the other.
One day I let the boys take their scooter and bike for the walk to school. They are not so steady and go a little too fast. I try to keep up. I do this with my baby strapped to my chest. As I power walk vigorously, my body a human shield between the boys and the road, it dawns on me; I am that mum.