I have three kids. That means, in most of the social circles of my life, that I have one more child than most. A friend who enjoys having just her two boys mentioned to me that I had joined the new trend of three is the new two.
Lots of people think two is the ideal number of kids, since the first has a sibling and the family rounds out – 2 kids on 2 parents seems fair – and the work and expense of raising children, while ample, is somewhat contained. The current cultural normality around two has some people seeing more than two as even extravagant: after the birth of my third, my cousin said to my husband, ‘”Congratulations! What does that make it now, 5, 6 kids?”. (She’s very funny; we’re friends.)
For me, like for lots of people, keeping at two kids made a lot of practical sense. Our (fairly small) house had three bedrooms, we have a small car and would really have to squish a third car seat in the back, and I wasn’t getting any younger, having had my first child at 34). Plus, life was very full, very fatiguing, and very fun with two.
Still, there were some reasons to up the ante. My husband and I are both from families of three, and more significantly, we are the youngest child. Perhaps wanting a third had something to do with propogating ourselves? We had also arranged our lives so that we both spent a lot of time with our kids, so we felt we would have time and attention for one more. And as we did not rely on outside childcare, another child wouldn’t mean a big immediate impact our finances, which are in stable shape.
And maybe there are families out there who make decisions like whether to have another child based on factors like these. I thought about them; of course they’re relevant. But I can tell you that the real reason I had another child was because almost immediately after having my second child, I simply had a deep, unshakable desire to have one more.
Sometimes, now, I’m asked whether I’m going to have another baby. So I go through the thought processes and find my mind leans towards no. Our lives are
overwhelming full, I’m not sure we could give a fourth child the attention I was quite sure we could extend to three, I don’t want to face another pregnancy (sick, tired, on my knees with back pain), I’ve just turned 40.
But that’s just the background. The real reason is this: I haven’t been held by that unswerving feeling for more. He visits sometimes; he charms me; he flirts. But he’s not as reliable as I need him to be, or as I’m used to, so I believe there’s no fourth baby on the horizon.
I’d never say never. Whenever I see a family with four kids, my eyes linger, my head double-checks the count, and my heart swells a little. I know that if a fourth found a way into our lives, I’d be grateful and elated and in wonderment at how I could ever have lived without him or her (I throw the “her” in there for formality, because we all know what we produce around here at 4Mothers). I totally and completely know that about a potential number 4.
However, I also know that I would also be saying that with number 5 and number 8, so at some point, one really ought to take a stand. I think mine will be here, at 3.
But you never know.