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On raising a three-child family

Raising three kids is not simply raising two kids plus one more. A three-kid family has a different dynamic, and it’s not the default dynamic of most family situations.

Event tickets are sold in packs of four.

If you’ve just had your third kid, you might not be able to fit your kids’ car seats and boosters in your family car.

You’ll go to a restaurant and be asked to wait a minute.

They’ll push a table over for you while a family of four is seated immediately.

You’ve exceeded the norm. Four is a tidy number and five is not, but since when has raising children been a tidy process? As we celebrate with Tsh as she joyously expands her family, I would like to share my observations on caring for a family of five. Our children are four-years-old, two-years-old, and four-months-old, respectively, and here are some lessons I’ve learned by having three children.

Count your blessings.

Yes, you just made life so much more complicated than your friends who have enough hands to hold each of their children’s hands when crossing the street. You have two kids to hold onto as well as a stroller to push; one day you’ll have a kid holding hands with a kid holding hands with you.

For now, you can babywear and free up a hand for each of your elder two, but the math is clear: your youngest isn’t even walking yet, but you can’t keep a hand on each child.

They will need to rely on each other more, and you will need to trust them to do so. But think of that image of them walking together in a line and remember that they are gifts to each other as much as they are to you.

Encourage an alliance.

Your older two deserve to maintain their regular activities, to get outside and play, to read and be read to —Β  without always having to wait for you to feed the baby or shush the baby or put the baby down to sleep. Figure out how many ways you can accommodate their needs while you simultaneously tend to the baby, but also encourage them to work together.

Can your eldest read to your second child? Can they push each other on the swing? Foster their sibling relationship in this unique time, before the baby can join in on all of their activities.

Photo by The Bywaters

Find time for each child.

Then, when the baby is finally asleep, make sure you take over the reading, and wrap each of your elder two around you. They will need just as much physical affection as ever, and perhaps even more of your attention.

You won’t be able to devote your full attention to them every time they ask for it, but you can reward their patience. Read a third story at bedtime instead of the regular two. Sit out on the porch and share an orange after dinner. Seek out quiet moments so that the space for talking is available.

Watch your language.

Your second child now seems impossibly large. For so long you’ve thought of her as your baby, and now she’s been bumped up the line. As she defines her new role, help her by modeling positive language.

You don’t have to call her your middle child. Labels carry a lot of weight, and the “middle child” label doesn’t carry many positive connotations. Call her your second-born, or use gender to define her via her siblings as your first daughter or your only girl. Honor how special she is by introducing her in a way that everyone else will be able to see it, too.

Make the difficult decisions.

Sometimes the baby will cry just as the older two need you, too. It’s true outside your home and it’s true here, too — you can’t please everybody all of the time.

Make sure the baby is safe, and then take a minute to tend to your elders’ needs. They’ll remember feeling neglected if you always go to the baby first, but the baby won’t remember a thing if he cries for an extra minute. And you’ll make it up to him with extra snuggles at midnight. And 2 a.m.Β  And 4 a.m…

Photo by Arslan

Remember why you’re here.

You’re here, a mama of three, because you can do this. Because you have this much love in your heart. Because you believe in yourself, your partner and this family.

My second daughter’s birthday is December 11th, which means she was nine months old on a September 11th. I spent a lot of time thinking about that milestone; that the day she transitioned to longer “out” than “in” was the day we commemorated such violent tragedy.

My daughter became more a child of the world than of my womb on the anniversary of the day I remember hearing people ask how anyone could bring children into such a world. We asked the opposite question: How could we not?

The gift of your three children to the world tips the scales towards greater compassion, greater ecological care, and greater humanity.

Savor the moment.

Caring for yourself, tending to your marriage, and now being responsible for three little ones — it can be a lot. There will be chaos, and you will be more tired than you believed possible. But enjoy it.

My own mothering mentor, whose children are now in their 20s, tells me to remember that the days are long but the years are short. They won’t always need you as much as they do now, and then you’ll miss their little hands and constant closeness.

It is my hope that when I reach that period I’ll look back on these crazy days of their childhoods and think, We did it. We got through it with love and patience, and we raised them well.

What is the best parenting advice you’ve ever received?

Reading Time:

4 minutes





  1. Alison Day

    Thank you for this article. I have 3 daughters, 6, 4 and 14 months. The challenges are many and happen daily (sometimes hourly!) but through it all I find moments of such love that I know it has been and will continue to be worth every sleepness night and stressed “getting out the door” experience! I will endeavour to NOT call my middle daughter “my middle daughter” but something else that honours her unique and fabulous qualities. Thanks again!

    • Robin

      That out the door experience is something special, though, isn’t it? I can never start early enough – we’re still always scrambling. But you’re right – it’s all worth it.
      .-= Robin´s last blog ..Language arts =-.

  2. Pamela O.

    Thanks for recognizing the difficulties and joys of three. My three are 4, 2 and 5 months (very much like yours I see). As much as it can be a handful, what a huge blessing it is to have 3, or even more. πŸ™‚

  3. Kate

    I have three boys. They are now 12,15 and 16. Even before the youngest was born I wanted my second born to feel special as he wasnt the eldest, and wouldnt be the ‘baby’ any longer. So I told him that he was so special because he was a little brother AND a big brother all in one. He was very proud about that.

    • Kate

      I have 3 boys as well – 2, 4, 6. Like you, I try to make my middle boy feel special by saying he is the only one with a big brother and a little brother. He said to me, “So, Mummy, am I the middlest boy?” very cute.

    • Karen

      We’ve done the same thing with our second son! And we have three boys.

    • Robin

      I tell exactly that to my second child, too. And I tell the girls how lucky they are to have a brother AND a sister. And I’m not sure what we’ll tell the baby but we have a little time to figure it out yet ; )
      .-= Robin´s last blog ..Language arts =-.

    • Stephanie (Vegan Momma)

      Kate! I have three boys too. My, now “middle child”, was my BAYBEE to the fullest! I HATE HATE HATE calling him my “middle child”. Thank you for your idea…I am totally going to use it for him, he would just LOOOOVE it!

    • Lina

      I love that comment. We are expecting our third this summer and our kids are 3 and 2 and I want both to feel special.

      • Susan

        I also have two kids my daughter is 2 and my son is one in feb and I’m pregnant again and I feel awful that I was selfish enough to get pregnant again so quick I don’t know what to do I feel like if I have another kid that I won’t have any time at all for my other two they are still so young !!!

  4. Cook Clean Craft

    What a great article! I’m just expecting Number 2 and I think a lot of the tips apply to that transition too. This is helping me get over my fear of two under two!
    .-= Cook Clean Craft´s last blog ..Bedroom Nesting – London Blinds =-.

    • Robin

      My first two are 22 months apart. I will freely tell you that it was capital-C CRAZY for about five weeks, but then we all found our rhythms as a newly-shaped family. Now those two are inseparable. I know that no matter what happens, they will always have each other.
      .-= Robin´s last blog ..Language arts =-.

  5. Carla Cavellucci Landi

    I’m the oldest of 3. My mom used to work (this around 40 years ago) as a teacher, then later teaching in 2 schools (in Brazil they are half term morning or afternoon) and at night she went to college. Life was good, life was busy, and still is because we were and are three sisters – unfortunately, living apart, but close at the same time. We shared almost everything, from clothes to attention, toys and space.
    I wish I was brave enough to have 3 kids, but having 2 sisters was always my major blessing!
    Wonderful article!
    .-= Carla Cavellucci Landi´s last blog ..Inspired… o video! =-.

  6. Merri Ann

    I also have 3 … my oldest daughter is 5 and I have 3-1/2 (almost 4) year old boy/girl twins. 3 is, indeed, an interesting dynamic. After 10 years of infertility, we had our first daughter then 15 months later came our twins … had we had the twins first we probably would not have had another pregnancy … so I feel really blessed that we had the twins second.

    I did a post about all the interesting things that come up with three instead of 2 … 3 car seats in one car (almost impossible in most cars), 3 needing a stroller, hands to hold, seating is always in even numbers, packages of almost everything come in even numbers … a big challenge is reading at night. Each one wants to snuggle up against your side. But we solved that … One gets to on a stool behind me with their arms wrapped around my neck and their head over a shoulder … nice and warm and cozy in the cooler months … a little yucky and sweaty in the summer months :))

    But I think the best part is the interesting relationships they are all developing with each other.

    • Robin

      I’m going to have to remember the stool trick!! I drive a station wagon (a Dodge Magnum). The three kids *just* fit across the backseat together. It’s a tight squeeze but I tell them it’s because I love them so much I can’t bear to see them apart (in response to their queries why we can’t get a minivan (with a TV player inside) like so many of their friends ride around in). It’s a hectic configuration but I love the dynamics it creates.
      .-= Robin´s last blog ..Language arts =-.

  7. Kristen

    Thankyou for the article. I have a 4 and 2 year old and hope to eventually add a third, maybe a fourth to the mix. I have from the beginning encouraged independence from me with my girls. They play together, help each other, and watch out for each other. My kids have spats-they’re perfectly normal kids, but again and again I hear friends, doctors, teachers, and strangers remark on how well they get along. Some of it was luck, but mostly I think it is because I stay out of their relationship. Unless someone is getting physically or mentally pummeled, I let the girls work out their differences. I give the girls lots of uninterrupted time to play. We encourage, even celebrate their relationship. This year was the first year we celebrated the anniversary of them becoming sisters (the day after the youngest’s birth) and we’re planning to make it an annual event. The girls see each other as just as important in this house as mom or dad and we see their relationship dynamics as just as important as anyone elses.

    • Robin

      What a sweet tradition! I’ll have to remember that for next year!
      .-= Robin´s last blog ..Language arts =-.

    • Darien

      I love the idea of a sister anniversary!!! I’m going to do that next year with my girls. It’s a beautiful gesture πŸ™‚

  8. shana

    great article, thanks! i didn’t really notice or feel that we were way not “average” until we crossed the line and had 4 kids. i think you can kind of get away with 3 still being pretty normal (although on the high end of normal), but i got the feeling when we crossed over to having 4 kids that people put you in some whole other category. now, in a couple months we’ll meet our #6 and become a family of 8 and people are certain we’ve completely lost our good sense! but, we love it (well, most of the time anyway!)
    shana from minnesota
    .-= shana´s last blog ..multitude monday =-.

    • Robin

      Well, I hope #6 brings all the blessings you hope for. Good luck with the next family adjustment!
      .-= Robin´s last blog ..Language arts =-.

  9. Carol

    Well, we went on past three. . . to five. It seemed that adding in the “odd number” kids was the most difficult. With three kids, one parent can’t hold everyone’s hands. With four, each parent can take two kids. But when you add number five you’re back at an odd number again. But we adjust! And God gives grace. The best parenting advice I received was from a friend at my bridal shower before I married. My friend, who was already a mom to two boys, said, listen to all the advice everyone gives you when you have a baby, and then do what is best for you and your child. I’ve never forgotten that.
    .-= Carol´s last blog ..{happy mother’s day!} =-.

    • Robin

      It is so true. There are several parenting topics where we’ve read book after book and still believed that their approaches were not right, particularly for our eldest child. She has some sensory sensitivities and books that prescribe patience and tenacity don’t account for her recoil at so many experiences other kids can grow to love. Once we learned to trust our instincts with her over “standard advice” we became much better parents to her.
      .-= Robin´s last blog ..Language arts =-.

  10. Jamie ~ Simple Homeschool

    Beautiful post! Our family is unique because of adoption–so our first-born actually ended up becoming our middle child after a few years (when we adopted his older sister).

    Three is definitely more than two!! But now that we’ve passed the toddler/preschooler phase it has, without a doubt, become much easier logistically. I’m so thankful for our three little people.
    .-= Jamie ~ Simple Homeschool´s last blog ..How to Study Your Favorite Country =-.

    • Robin

      The birth order sociologists will love your family!! We have a while until we reach the easier logistics – our eldest is still a year away from kindergarten – but I revel in the chaos. It’s a happy chaos, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
      .-= Robin´s last blog ..Language arts =-.

  11. Megan

    One of my best friends welcomed baby #3 to their family last year and she has often said, “Three is way more than two!” I have a feeling that someday, some way, we’ll add one more little one to the mix. Hearing wise words of those who have been there is so encouraging.

    Also, I’m the oldest of four so I can COMPLETELY relate to how the world seems so calibrated for families of four. We never, EVER got a seat a restaurant without waiting it seemed like! I was so jealous of my friends with only two in their family, but of course I treasure each of my siblings now.

    • Robin

      Having #3 was, without hesitation, one of the best things we’ve ever done. You’ll know if and when, and you’ll be just great.
      .-= Robin´s last blog ..Language arts =-.

  12. s

    My pediatrician’s advice was right on each time – that the newborn baby wasn’t the one I needed to pay the most attention to. Yes, I had to meet the baby’s NEEDS (nurse, hold, change, clean) but I had to give my attention to the others. That did ring true, although I think it has to be done in a way that doesn’t feel like “oh I’m so sorry I’m ruining your life by adding this demanding newborn to the mix – I will make it up to you after I’m done nursing…” which little kids just FEED into (mom feels guilty – lets rachet that up a few notches). So I learned to be very matter of fact – yes I know you’d like to stay here for awhile longer but we need to get the baby home for a nap so lets go settle him down and we can read a story… I also used the Baby Bjorn like a 2nd skin which allowed me to actively engage with the others while keeping the baby snuggled and happy. I grew up as one of 3 and always wanted 3…it is a lot more work but that 3rd increases your family exponentially in a way I can’t describe.

    • Robin

      I wear my baby in my mei tai a lot so I can still engage the older two. It’s not a perfect system but I like to think it shows the big kids that I’ll still prioritize them, but not at the expense of their little brother. The art of compromise, right? ; )
      .-= Robin´s last blog ..Language arts =-.

  13. Mamabear

    I am an only child, and it is hard when you have nobody to share your parents with! I also always wanted someone who would always be there, no matter what. I guess I am overcompensating by having 4 kids. Ours are 7, 4, 2 and 3 months. Your post is wonderful and absolutely true. My oldest is starting to realize our family functions differently than those families with just 2 children. She is generally a good sport about it but since our youngest is so new (also our 2 year old is SO TWO and takes a lot of wrangling), the last few months have meant a little less of Mommy and more working with each other. They are so close and I love that. Thanks for this post, I like to see more ambassadors of big families. And aren’t you brave to go to a restaurant!

    • Robin

      I say all the time that our two-year-old is Very Two, so I empathize!
      .-= Robin´s last blog ..Language arts =-.

  14. Vicii

    This is beautiful. I only have two children but long for a third. She/he will come but it is challenging just looking after two children and I think about the effects a third will have on the family unit. Not simply because of the change in roles but as my eldest has Asbergers, a form of Austim, and I still need him to know that he is cherished. Thank you for reminding me that it is time spent with our children that makes their memories and not money that we lavish on them…
    .-= Vicii´s last blog ..Story Lines =-.

    • Robin

      The family next door to us has three kids, the oldest of whom has Asperger’s. He is so independent and the younger two are so, so great about understanding that sometimes their big brother needs a little…more. Families come with all kinds of circumstances, and I would guess that your elder’s challenges just make your younger child(ren) more empathetic.
      .-= Robin´s last blog ..Language arts =-.

  15. Rebecca

    Thank you so much for the post, I was almost in tears… there are days I need the reminders. We are pregnant with our fourth child (due in Oct), having lost one when she was 37 months old, so even though we only will have three children here on earth we have four in our hearts. Which makes some of those questions people ask just all the more interesting. Today I’m feeling overwhelmed by my need to do and want to do lists conflicting for my time, uncertainty of unemployment, exhausted from lack of sleep but your post helped me remember that God has a plan through this and I CAN do this.

    • Robin

      You can. Good luck!!
      .-= Robin´s last blog ..Language arts =-.

  16. Michele in Salem

    I loved this post! I have five children, but I have fond memories of the days when my three oldest were small… it was so much work and so much fun! The last two seemed much easier, partly because of the presence of their older siblings. We really have to be a team here! Your closing statement sums it up perfectly, you will look back on the crazy days of their childhood and think “we did it” and as they get older you will see all of the benefits of your love and patience. Prepare to be amazed!

  17. aimee

    this is such a lovely post – thank you. we just had number two – hard to wrap my head around number three with an infant at home!

    i don’t know that i can narrow down all of the wonderful advice i’ve received to just one best. a humorous (and very true) one i think of often in the baby stage came from our pediatrician, “if you feed her, she will grow. if you read to her, she will be smart.” it’s a great reminder that parenting doesn’t have to be complex and that while things may not always be that easy, some things really are that simple!

    • Robin

      My pediatrician’s advice is always about the wedding: “She *probably* won’t still be sucking on a pacifier when she walks down the aisle.” “She’ll *most likely* be potty trained by the time she walks down the aisle.” Here’s to non-fussy pediatricians!
      .-= Robin´s last blog ..Language arts =-.

  18. hillary

    This was so nice to read. I am 40 weeks due with my third right now and we feel like we’ve exceeded the norm in a lot of ways! Going through the car seat thing and figuring out how to make space in our simple and small home.

    Thanks for the timely wisdom!
    .-= hillary´s last blog ..hillaryboucher: @Sidekicker @NickinNY Thanks for the RT! =-.

    • Robin

      You’re in for the time of your life. Good luck!
      .-= Robin´s last blog ..Language arts =-.

  19. Debbie @ Cheaper by the Bakers Dozen

    I love your advice. Very wise and practical for such a young mom πŸ™‚
    We have 11 – and there was a time when we had 7 children in 6 years (some adopted, some biological), but I always tell moms that if you can get past 3 you’ve done the hardest part. There’s much more work to do, but there are so many more hands to do it.
    My oldest two girls are married now; one with 3 children and one expecting her second. They both hope to have large families of their own one day even though they’ve seen first-hand the sacrifices involved. I’m so proud of them for loving children and for their willingness to take the profession of motherhood seriously.

    Great post. I hope your readers heed your advice!
    .-= Debbie @ Cheaper by the Bakers Dozen´s last blog ..Tooting My Horn – Summer Edition =-.

    • Robin

      I bet your house is a lot of fun!
      .-= Robin´s last blog ..Language arts =-.

  20. Tricia

    As a mama of three girlies (aged 10, 8, and 3 respectively), I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed this post. Each of my girls are different people. They have different personalities, abilities, talents, and needs. While that makes for some challenging parenting moments, I can’t imagine my family if we had just fit into that nice little “4 square box”.

    Thank you for sharing this today.
    .-= Tricia´s last blog ..Tea Towels and the Dollar Tree… how I love thee. =-.

  21. Babychaser

    Thanks for this… my kids are where yours are… or will be anyway. When my new baby (expected in 7 weeks) is 4 months old, I’ll have a 4 year old and a 2 year old also. Your words were timely and encouraging!
    .-= Babychaser´s last blog ..Near and Dear =-.

    • Robin

      Oh, how fun!! I swear it’s wonderful enough to be worth the crazy. Good luck!
      .-= Robin´s last blog ..Language arts =-.

  22. hfs radio fan

    What’s the best thing about being a father to three boys? Two of the boys can be wailing on each other and the third one stays out of it. What we do without our third child? He would be missed terribly. I’m all for three.

    • Robin

      My husband teases when one of them is being rotten: “just ditch her. We have a spare.” Here’s to a sense of humor as a necessary criterion in parenting!
      .-= Robin´s last blog ..Language arts =-.

  23. richelle

    i remember when we were expecting #3… a dear older lady in a small church in rural michigan was loving on the other 2 and telling us how delighted she was to see a family going on past the typical 2 children. she went on to tell us that #3 was a challenge because you were out-numbered; #5, however, was the hardest because you were finally “out-handed!” we laughed and then i asked her how many children she had. when she answered, “11,” my chin must have hit the floor as i laughed and asked her, “but what about #6, #7, #8…?” she smiled and said that by the time #6 came along, the biggers were old enough to be truly helpful… and then gave me this piece of advice to never underestimate the capacity of our children to pitch in and be a part of whatever was going on – but also don’t expect that their participation will look just as a different one of their siblings or like that of another adult. just always encourage each one to do their part.

    that one small piece of advice has greatly impacted our family and my parenting… and i must say that i agree whole-heartedly: #5 was our hardest transition.

    • Robin

      Great contribution. I try to remember that – I’ll ask my oldest to do something, because I can really use an extra hand. She’ll have an adverse reaction and my first reaction is to be annoyed but I have to remember, she’s only four herself. She’s also hungry or tired or missing her favorite toy or waiting for me to read to her or whatever it is. I can’t expect her to be my little lieutenant, even though she’s so often so good at it.
      .-= Robin´s last blog ..Language arts =-.

  24. EmJay

    Thanks for this article, just what I needed today. We are expecting our third in September. I bounce between great joy and “what was I thinking?”. Overall, I know this is right for the whole family. This baby girl will be welcomed by a 6 year old brother and and 3 year old sister. One of the more fun things about this pregnancy has been sharing it with the other two kids. My six year old is so excited, he can hardly wait. He talks to the baby everyday. I think he is going to be an excellent big brother.

    • Robin

      During this last pregnancy my oldest would tap my belly button and tell me that the baby was high-fiving her. I loved that! Good luck!
      .-= Robin´s last blog ..Language arts =-.

  25. Kika

    It seems so strange to me that a family of five is considered a ‘big’ or at least ‘bigger than normal’ family size?! I guess for my husband and I, coming from families of fourteen and ten, our little family of five doesn’t seem so strange or large πŸ™‚ We noticed the shift, moving from two to three kids, for sure – especially needing to get a minivan b/c with car seats/booster seat the kids couldn’t all fit into our car. Still, I’d enjoy a bigger family yet. And where can I find myself a “mothering mentor” like you have ??? Sounds wonderful.

  26. Kim

    Wonderful post. I am in tears after reading all the comments here – I am just so incredibly encouraged by all of you! We have three wonderful children – two boys who are 4 and almost 3, and a 1 year old girl – and we hope to have at least one more at some point.
    I am beyond blessed to be their mom, but we all have those days when the task just seems too great…yesterday was one of those days. I just praise God for his Spirit at work in my life, to make me the mother he wants me to be – I am completely incapable without him.
    “The days are long but the years are short” is something someone shared. That is so true, and really helps keep things in perspective.
    Michele in Salem – I was bawling after I read your comment. Something about your words and where I was at when I read them…thank you for writing what you did.
    I could go on and on about everything that spoke to me in these comments, but I’ll stop and just say thank you, thank you, thank you for speaking into my life today, all of you!
    .-= Kim´s last blog ..198: A Pale Reflection =-.

  27. Tina

    I grew up in a family of 3 children and we’re all very close. I think that having 3 or more definitely makes the dynamics of a family very unique and wonderful. It’s so true that although some days are absolutely crazy, “the days are long but the years are short”. Great post!
    .-= Tina´s last blog ..The Incredible Italtrike Oko Tricycle =-.

  28. therese

    As a mom of 4 I loved this article- thanks so much for sharing!

  29. Samantha

    Great article! I have a three-year old and one-year old twins. I definitely feel overwhelmed from time to time, especially because my oldest isn’t really old enough to help, but we have learned to rise above the chaos, count our many blessings, and look forward to a future full of laughter and craziness. When I found out I was going from one to three a good friend told me:

    The best part about having three or more is that no matter where you are, you always bring the party with you!

    I couldn’t agree more.

    • Robin

      That’s exactly what we hoped for – our relatives our hundreds of miles away and our kids have no first cousins at all. We wanted more than two, and we wanted them close together in age, specifically because we felt that whatever grand sense of family they’ll ever experience we’ll have to cultivate ourselves. We *do* bring the party with us!
      .-= Robin´s last blog ..Language arts =-.

  30. Missy June

    SINGLE mother of three here! I loved this article, especially how you emphasized the gift and connection siblings have to each other. Thank you, thank you!

    My mother shared that, “Your newborn will need tending to by someone, but your toddler needs YOU.” You are so right that we can let the baby cry for an extra minute and emphasize how valuable our older ones are. I used to even say, “No-no, baby, I’m playing with J right now.” Baby was sound asleep, but J felt my choosing him in that moment.

    Would you let me link this? I have a cousin who is expecting twins (babies 2 & 3) and delivering next week!

    • Robin

      Please link!! Make sure your cousin reads the comments – they’re fantastic. And good luck to her!
      .-= Robin´s last blog ..Language arts =-.

  31. elisabeth

    I enjoyed this article and comments very much. We always intended to be a “manageable” and “normal” family of four, but were blessed with twins the second time around. We now have two one-year-olds, (one of whom was born with the birth defect spina bifida and has multiple physical disabilities) and one five-year-old.

    As we prepare for them to all roll over to ages two and six this summer, I think back on the last couple years when our family went from a “starter family” of three to a beyond-full family of five. It was an insane transition, but I am so happy we get to experience life with an abundance of little people. It is a full-body sport, raising this many small people- especially with two the same age. I am grateful every day for two hands, two hips, strong arms, and a strong back (after much post-pregnancy rehab.) πŸ™‚

    Raising three children means that the home is more about the children (for a time) than the adults and I now realize what a gift that is to children. I was a full-time working mom with my first son and he was in daycare full-time. We loved him intensely, of course, and thought we were doing all the right things, but we really just kind of fit him into a pocket in our busy lives. Now I am a full-time hands-on mom to all three children- a decision which was basically forced by the simultaneous arrival of #2 and #3. And the best decision we ever made as a family. I cannot believe how much richer life is in the constant company of three unique and amazing little people.

  32. Elizabeth

    Our experience becoming a family of five was certainly crazy, but in a different way than you’re describing and still oh so wonderful! We spaced our kids out quite a bit so the oldest two were 9 and 5 when the third was born. Having their help and the fact that they can do so much for themselves has made a huge difference! They definitely still need me, but they can go make themselves a sandwich and take a shower on their own without me having to always be right there. The kids are now 11, 7, and 2 and things are crazy in a different way than two years ago. I love watching my three play together and grow in friendship. The oldest is such a natural caregiver, and the middle relishes his role as the only brother. I am so grateful for the space we had in between each one. I think it helped me adjust each time and prepare for the changes each new child brings. Now we’re having our fourth, and I’m not nearly as overwhelmed by it as I was before. If I can handle three, I can handle four. I hope!

  33. JulieO

    Thank you for such a beautiful post! We have always wanted 3 children especially since we already have 2 boys. Need to try one last time for that girl (but will take a healthy baby most importantly). The time has come for us to add to our family of four and to tell you the truth it scares me a little. The transition from 1 to 2 has been challenging, more than we expected but all around me now I have been noticing signs that yes, we are meant to be a family of 5. Thank you for another small, but powerful nudge. Wish us luck!

    • Robin

      You got it – good luck! (You can do it!)
      .-= Robin´s last blog ..Language arts =-.

  34. Michelle

    This is exactly what I needed to hear… thank you for the timely advice! Baby #3 is due early August and I have just been asking my friends how I ought to prepare myself for the new family dynamic of 3 :).
    .-= Michelle´s last blog ..A plumber & electrician recommendation =-.

    • Robin

      Just breathe deeply and give up altogether on a clean house ; )
      It’ll be so much fun!
      .-= Robin´s last blog ..Language arts =-.

  35. SaraR

    This was great to read. I’m also a mom to two girls ages 4 & 2 and my son will be 3 months old tomorrow. I’m really enjoying 3 so far even if it is a bit crazy all the time.

    • Robin

      Are you in Maryland? We should have a playdate! For whatever reason we don’t know a lot of girl/girl/boy families – I tell my kids it makes them extra special πŸ˜‰
      .-= Robin´s last blog ..Language arts =-.

  36. G.

    Great article, great comments! I loved the wisdom of the “long days and short years”, how true! I also loved the thought that “with three or more you are always taking the party with you” … I have to pass that on to a friend who is expecting triplets.

    I am from a family of 4. My sister is 5 years younger than me and we never really clicked, even as small children, we were just so different (and still are).

    I never thought having 3 would be so difficult … it’s the constant taxi services that get to me at the moment (I have to ferry them to school and my oldest son to soccer training), and I only have one in preschool and one in primary so far, how will I cope a few years down the line???? Help! So … where can you get yourself that mothering mentor you mention, Robin?

    • Robin

      She’s an older woman at work. She’s been where we are now and is always checking in, offering advice I didn’t even know I needed.
      .-= Robin´s last blog ..Language arts =-.

  37. Amy

    Thank you for the article – it couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. I have 2 kids (4 and 2) and expecting baby #3 in September. I can not wait, and he won’t be our last, but I have heard from so many that having 3 or more is a whole new ball game. I can’t fully anticipate how the transition will be, but thank you for the helpful tips!

    • Robin

      It’ll be wonderful and hectic and perfect. Good luck!
      .-= Robin´s last blog ..Language arts =-.

  38. Melanie

    Thanks for the beautiful article. I have a 6-year-old son & 21-month-old & 7-week-old daughters & life is so busy & hectic. It is challenging, but this is such a good reminder to enjoy our children while they are small because it goes by so fast.

  39. Nicole

    I found this article to be a nice one but I also want to hear from all the parents out there that have decided to stick to one. I have one son and my husband and I both agree that we are finished. I grew up with a brother who I’m close to and my husband also has a brother. We are very happy with one and I believe that two would make our lives more stressful, less happy and put a strain on our relationship. We want to give our son everything we can in life. Travel and not have to worry about financials. It seems to be the right decision for us and for many others. I’m part of a mom’s group and try to get my son out to play with others as much as I can. I just feel like there is too much pressure on having more than one and I know there is no right answer here. Maybe also post an article about having one….(If such a thing exists) πŸ˜‰ Piper

    • Robin

      Several of my kids’ best friends are planned only children. It wouldn’t work for my family but those families had well-thought-out reasons, including finances, maternal age, and other factors. Every family is different – and you know what’s best for you better than any outsider.
      .-= Robin´s last blog ..Language arts =-.

  40. Kim

    Thanks for the article. It’s a wonderful reminder of how lucky I am to have my 3 little ones (3,3,2). Life is hectic and there’s never enough time for everything. But they do grow way too fast and you really miss little things as they grow.

  41. Jenny

    What a perfect post! We just added our third child and all you wrote is very true and enlightening! THank you!

  42. Alissa

    I always thought we would have 2 kids, but almost from the moment I got pregnant with #2, I felt like we would be having a third somewhere down the line. We haven’t decided for sure, but when people ask how many kids we are going to have, I just say, “We’re just taking them one at a time.”

    The FUNNIEST advice I got was from a rickety old man at the grocery store. He saw my 10 month old in the cart, leaned in close and whispered, “You know, if you keep feeding him, you’re going to get a teenager.” =) Love it!
    .-= Alissa´s last blog ..First – Second =-.

    • Robin

      *That’s* the part I fear – the teenage years!! ; )
      .-= Robin´s last blog ..Language arts =-.

    • Robin

      Thanks, Kara! I know that you know – three kids is a wonderful dynamic!
      .-= Robin´s last blog ..Language arts =-.

  43. Liz @ Loving Mom

    Thank you so much for this great article!! My #3 is due end of December – I am thrilled – so excited – but a little scared as well. I love hearing these wonderful tips and ideas!!

    • Robin

      It will be wonderful. And exhausting! And more wonderful. Good luck.
      .-= Robin´s last blog ..Language arts =-.

  44. Julia

    I couldn’t agree more with your views. Our third child has been such a blessing to all of us. More demands, certainly, but also more joy in the midst of the chaos!
    .-= Julia´s last blog ..Adventures, Lessons, and Lemonade =-.

  45. Karisa

    I LOVE how you’ve addressed this topic!
    I am the oldest of 6. We are all 2 yrs apart, except for the last two, they are 4 yrs apart. We are still vey close!
    Anyway, I am expecting my third child this Nov. Timely =)
    .-= Karisa´s last blog ..God’s Princess =-.

  46. katepickle

    Lovely post… so nice to read something positive and uplifting about how you can manage and manage well with more than your standard pair of children.
    We are about to have our fourth but still have somewhat of a ‘three child’ feel to things as our first two are identical twins….
    .-= katepickle´s last blog ..When Life Gets too Loud… =-.

  47. Leah

    I really needed this post. I’m the mommy to a 7yo dd, 8yo ds, and a 10 yo dd. My youngest are 13 mo to the day apart. I barely remember the first year after my 3rd was born. Like you said, the dynamic is different with 3. I find parents of 1 or 2 children don’t realize or understand it. I’m sad that I pushed my older 2 to be more self sufficient after the baby was born…they were only 1 and 3. The mommy guilt is horrible…even all these years later.
    We are blessed with our 3 beautiful children and I HAVE to remember to slow down and not push them to grow up…because it does get easier as they get older.

    I love the saying Kara posted…”The days are long but the years are short”. I’m going to write it on a post-it and put it on my bathroom mirror!

    • Robin

      Oh, don’t beat yourself up with mommy guilt. It’s not like you don’t remember because you were ignoring them – if anything you don’t remember because you were giving every second of your day and every ounce of your energy into caring for them. Be proud of yourself that you’ve raised them with such dedication, and let the guilt go. It’s non productive and gets in the way of today’s best outcomes. You’re undoubtedly a great mom, and you’ve given them each other – what’s not to be proud of?
      .-= Robin´s last blog ..Language arts =-.

  48. Lindsey@ PiecefullyHome

    We’re a family of 3 kids and I came from a family of 3 kids, so three has seemed perfectly normal and natural. πŸ™‚

    I found it was so much easier to welcome #3 than one might believe. Everyone told me that the 3rd is so easy, and it’s true for us. Yes, the first couple of months can be difficult as you transition, but after that he just kinda “fell into place.” Three is magic number. πŸ™‚

    The best advice my mom gave me is this:

    teach through accidents
    love through mistakes
    discipline through rebellion

    Fantastic advice!

    • Robin

      That’s such an interesting perspective. My husband and I each come from two-kid families and we’ve both felt at times like we were taking a bold leap into some great unknown. I love your mom’s advice!
      .-= Robin´s last blog ..Language arts =-.

  49. Maureen

    Thank you so much for this post, the changes that occur family wide when you have your third child are not found in most the pregnancy/birth books I’ve read. I am a single parent of five children, and have been since my youngest was just a few months old. They are now, 23g, 21b, 18b, 15g and 14b. “they are gifts to each other as much as they are to you” is so very true. I was privileged to overhear a conversation amongst the five kids a few years ago wherein they were venting about the evils of mom and how unfair I was being. In the middle of it all, one of my daughters pipes up and says, “Even if mom is being unfair, she *did* give us four other people who have to give a hoot about us no matter what.” At that moment, I knew my kids were going to be alright because they understood that I was not their ‘only’ foundation of support. I didn’t consciously set out to do that, but I’ve long held the viewpoint that the moment I became their mother, the other children became their siblings and were as invested in their well-being as I was. As they’ve gotten older, it is a real treat to see the respect and support they have for each other (inbetween making each other squeal…as siblings seem to be required to do) leaves me with a sense of security for my family regardless of what the future may hold for each of us.

    As for the best parenting advice I’ve ever received:

    The night I had my first child, I was in the room alone with the baby, it was pretty late. This ancient nurse came in to check on things and she said, “Just remember that the person you are holding in your arms tonight is the person who will be holding your hand when you die, and you two will be just fine.”

    • Robin

      My brother is the only person in the world who comes close to knowing my foundational experiences. That’s a thing to treasure, isn’t it?
      .-= Robin´s last blog ..Language arts =-.

  50. Jessica

    The third child seemed like a piece of cake compared to the addition of our fourth. I’m not sure how I managed to get through the first year with number four, but she is now 22 months, and I am beginning to see a glimpse of freedom in my future. I love having a big family, but it is not an easy task. At first, I was very nervous I had made a big mistake by having a fourth child because I was so overwhelmed, but managing my family is getting easier everyday. Some of the greatest moments in my life right now, are those that involve my older children getting along and appreciating eachother. I love that they are already becoming a support system for eachother. Although we have common family goals, they are individuals with very different personalities. I try to allow them to grow in their own interests and directions so they each feel like they have a unique place in our family. Being a Mom is the greatest joy of my life!

    Lindsey- I love your Mom’s advice!
    My Mom’s advice is : God wants you to succeed

  51. kathi crosby

    Oh the thought of going from 4 to 5 – it sends my head spinning. I may just do this.

  52. Sarah Jane

    Great post. I had my third in Oct. Going to two was fine. Going to three rocked my world- quite unexpectedly. Thanks for your thoughts.
    .-= Sarah Jane´s last blog ..{this moment} & remember =-.

  53. Diane

    Very timely, thank you. I have 2 year old twins and am hoping for a third but intimidated by what seems like a world designed for 4. All my friends have 2 and are done but I feel like there are more children meant for me. Happy to know that there are so many successful mothers of 3!
    .-= Diane´s last blog ..Summer Fun =-.

    • Robin

      We have definitely had the sense that we’re bucking the mold. But – doesn’t it feel good to be a rebel sometimes? We don’t all need to be the same.
      .-= Robin´s last blog ..Language arts =-.

  54. Laura Jeanne

    It’s true, that having three children can sometimes be very challenging. I feel guilty on a daily basis that I can’t always spend time with all three of them at once! Sometimes there are just times when one needs his diaper changed, another wants a snack, and a third needs help with a math problem…I can’t do everything at once, unfortunately.
    .-= Laura Jeanne´s last blog ..A bit about our toys. =-.

    • Robin

      Don’t feel guilty – you’ll find the time when they *really* need you and in the meantime they have each other, and learn some self-reliance, too.
      .-= Robin´s last blog ..Language arts =-.

  55. WorkingMom

    I seem to be in a more unique situation – my three are all boys, but are 14, 10,… and 2. With a history of one stillborn brother and one miscarriage, and then a four year wait, the two older ones dote on the youngest, and he believes that they are the best things since sliced bread. I have had the moments of looking around and saying I can’t do it all, but I think more mothers, whether they have one child or ten, need to give themselves permission to say that.

    Tell your second daughter she has an AWESOME birthday… from someone who has celebrated her’s on that same day for over 43 years!
    .-= WorkingMom´s last blog ..Rock Lobster =-.

    • Robin

      I agree – none of us can do it all – and it’s okay.
      .-= Robin´s last blog ..Language arts =-.

  56. Jennifer

    I have 4 daughters and one son…and we are ALWAYS late when all 7 of us have somewhere to go. It takes at least 2 hours (usually 3) to make sure everyone is ready and everything we need is together. Finding time to spend one-on-one with all of them is virtually impossible, but we do our best.

  57. Muliebrity

    We just added baby number 3, 3 weeks ago, so this post came at the perfect time. Thank you.

  58. BobbieSue

    I have 3 myself, and agree about the challenges of three, not enough hands, no room for the car seats, getting a table at a restaurant, buying a patio set, etc.
    One of the most interesting statements about 3 was from when I was expecting #2. There was a wonderful family that we went to church with that had 9 kids. Through out the pregnancy, the dad of this family, who was normally a man of few words, was always giving me baby advice. One Sunday, someone commented that I was going to have my hands full with the 2 since the oldest was only 20 months older. And this dad of 9 said, “Two is easy, you got enough hands and eyes to take care of ’em. Three is hard cause you always feel like you forgot someone and never have enough hands. But once you get past 3, you don’t notice the extras.”

  59. Maria

    I was having a moment with tears in my eyes where I just felt like I couldn’t do this anymore. I sat down at the computer and “Googled”.. “How do I take care of 3 kids”…curious to see what would come up. I scrolled down a bit and this caught my eye. Thank you for writing this. It dried up my tears. You have some great ideas that I will try to make this easier for me and my kids. I have 3 and 4 year old girls who are 11 months apart and a 3 1/2 month old baby boy.

    • Robin

      I’m cheering for you, Maria. You can do this! Your kids will turn out great, I know it.

    • Gloria

      I literally did the same thing after my two just had tantrums on top of each other

  60. AJ

    I have 2 girls, 4 and 6, and am 37 years old. I never imagined having more than 2 kids. But I did IVF and have an embryo left in storage that has been calling me relentlessly for the last few years. I find it easy to find the negatives, I’m too old, there’s two much of a gap, all my friends are done with 2, I’m putting myself back years when I am almost ‘free’ with the kids at school… and was struggling to find the positives until I read all these posts and your wonderful main article. I’m going to go for it and actually think that maybe I can pull this off without seriously damaging my daughters in the process πŸ˜‰ I feel for all the women out there who have to make this decision when left with embryos after IVF, it is the hardest choice of my life, but I simply cannot let it be thrown away without giving it a chance. I’m just grateful I didn’t have 8 embryos left I guess! Thank you so much for your sharing your wisdom and experience, I can’t tell you how much your words hit home πŸ™‚

    • Robin (noteverstill)

      Good luck to you, AJ. However this works out, you’re starting from a place of hope and optimism, and I think that’s the best way to go about things. No matter what, the girls you have are lucky to have you as their mama.

  61. Caro

    This article, and the accompanying posts, have been a real boost. Having tried for years for children, I have 1 IVF angel, 1 IVF son, 2.5, 1 “surprise” daughter 14 mth, and am now very unexpectedly pregnant again. Am slightly in shock, as this was never part of “the plan”. I think it will be fun, but am anxious about the financial drawbacks, and being able to offer our children everything I had as a child, in particular university education (if they want it). Three is unknown territory for us: hubbie and I both come from the standard 2 parents, 2 children family set-up. Whilst the car and house are issues, they can be overcome. It’s the time issue that’s the biggest for me. I want to be there for each of them, one-to-one, and I think that’s going to be tricky. But reading the posts, it sounds like we are in for a lot of fun and fabulous times, and it has certainly been encouraging to read its not all doom and gloom! My favourite comment? Robyn stating that you can forget about ever having a clean house! Agreed. It’s difficult enough with two!!

    Briefly in response to AJ – can v much empathise. We had 5 embryos still in storage after our son. It was an extremely difficult – with many tears shed – decision. Each of those five could, and probably would, be as wonderful as our son. Yet how could we “choose” one of the five? And to destroy them, when they had no choice in their creation, was also not an option. And then came our daughter, naturally, and totally by surprise. (and now I’m flippin preggers again). In the end, as we couldn’t imagine implanting all five, but didn’t want to destroy them, we opted to give them to research. At least that way their creation still had a purpose. And I am so so grateful to be able to have had my son in the first place, who without research would not be here today. xx

    • Robin

      Good luck, Caro!! I wrote this a while back. My oldest is just days shy of six now, my second girl is four and my “baby” will be two in a month. I can report that the cleaning has gotten easier, they find me when they need me for one-on-one, and it really, truly all works. Plus, they have each other — so much of why they don’t need a ton from me is because they care for each other. When my boy bumps his head and I’m clear across the kitchen but one of his sisters is right there, he’ll ask *her* for a kiss to make it better. And there is nothing sweeter in the world. You’ll be great!!

  62. Margaret

    We are an adoptive family. I have two sons aged 5y/1m and 5y/6m – we are getting ready (we think) to add a third and are researching the dynamic of a 3 child family. Many of the reasons for saying no to one more make a lot of sense. But I keep thinking to myself that someone is missing. We are not complete yet. In another article I read about 3’s the woman wrote “our first child made us parents, our second child made us a family and our third child made us complete.” This hit home with me. In our circumstance we are adopting through our foster system and due to race and other factors we have a lot of choices in who the next child will be. We get to choose gender, age range, number of children. So after a lot of thought about the fit of the next child we are going to request a girl in the 0-4 year range… hoping for a toddler as both my boys were toddlers and I loved that stage. Where we are struggling now is do we really need to add another? Are we being naive about how our family will change when adding another child? And here I am reading every detail of your article and more. thank you for the writing. I really appreciate it.

  63. Emily

    Beautiful! Thank you so much for this! I’m pregnant with my third and am a little anxious as to how it’s going to work out with three instead of two!

    • Robin

      It’s going to be both more crazy-making and more wonderful than you can imagine. You’ll be great at it πŸ™‚

  64. Mollie

    We have 2 boys 4 and 2 and are contemplating having a third. We always planned on 2 but since my second son I just knew I wasn’t ready to stop yet. Our boys are the best of friends and I do feel like we have a perfect family. Lately though I cannot get it off my mind and I am almost convinced I want a third. My husband is happy with two but understands where I am coming from.
    This post was so reassuring I just loved it and I’m going to read it to him πŸ™‚ thank you!!

  65. Mamta

    Hi, I am Glad to share n read about so many experiences , I hv 2 kids, 2 yr old boy n 3 month old girl. All over the time I was very fond of having 2 sons, n after my first baby boy I thought I’ll be blessed another boy as well, n I had a baby girl n m happy as well, rather m happy with my both kids, but still at the back of my mind I want one more boy, I guess 3 is a lot, but somehow I don’t m right or wrong, I hv no big reason to hav one more boy except my silly thought. I don’t know what to do.

    • Robin

      You don’t have to decide now. Wait until your three-month-old is a little bigger. You have enough going on! And then, follow your heart – and whatever you decide will be the right decision.

  66. Remmommy

    My husband and I both come from 4-kid families and always wanted 3. Our daughter is now 3 1/2 and our son is 17 months old and our son has kicked our butts with his poor sleeping. We also wonder whether we were given a boy and a girl because it’s a sign that we should stop now. I find it’s hard to keep my cool when I’m exhausted and my daughter’s having one of those days…would I not be a better mother to “just” two than to three?
    Sometimes when we talk about life as a smaller, compact family it just seems foreign to us…almost too quiet?
    When I think of all the reasons not to have a third, I can easily find a million. But there is just that “thing” that draws me to having a third.
    We have no family around, which means no help with activities etc. That being said, someone said how her family (with four kids!) is like a built-in extended family.
    All this to say – can you spell out what you get with a larger family that you don’t get with a smaller and more compact one?
    Hoping to just finally answer this question for myself because praying to God for that lightning bolt does not seem to be happening.

    • Robin

      I can’t answer for you, but I can explain about us a bit. Our families are hundreds of miles away, too – so like you, we have no family helping us. But the flip side of that is: our families are hundreds of miles away, so if we want to create that sense of boisterous family for our kids, we have to create it ourselves. My kids are now 7, 5, and 3-next-week. It has gotten easier (much easier). You get through, just as you would if you stop at two, or if you decided for “one more” and found yourself pregnant with multiples. You do your best for the ones you love. And they love each other, so they don’t need you quite so much. They have each other. They are built-in playmates, even if somebody’s not interested. They are their own whole party. They learn to nurture in more than one way. They learn the arts of compromise and diplomacy, and some days, strategic negotiation, so much more than if they had only one partner to please. I love my three together that I would tell anyone: yes, have that third! But only if it’s right for you. Every family is different.
      One more thing to consider: you don’t have to decide now. What if you walk away from the conversation for six months or a year and then come back to it?
      Good luck to you. What ever happens, I’m sure it will be the right thing for your family.

      • Darien

        Do you have advice for someone who is desperate for a third but her partner is done?
        I come from a family of two girls. Every family I watched growing up with three kids I envied. I always wished there were more of us! I’ve always wanted three myself, but started later in life πŸ™‚ Now that I’m a mum of two girls I just know I want another baby. I’m 40. My partner is younger than me. He never wanted kids but has embraced it and is an amazing Dad.
        How can I convince him before it’s too late?

  67. Gloria

    hi I know this is a old post but omg this was so helpful in so many ways…. my two eldest have been having the craziest tantrums that it made me feel like giving up ! but glad I found this and read it and almost everyone’s comments I felt alone because of how much work it is to raise three and I am a single mom so it’s been an adventure .. thanks again

  68. Brooke

    Thank you so much for these touching words. I am pregnant with my third and constantly searching for words of encouragement. My children are all 5 years apart and it still is hard to think of how a 3rd child will change our dynamic. You are so honest and sincere, I hope I can model love and pay close attention to them all so they are fond of their family memories. I do agree that in a world where others scoff at bringing more children into it we can stand tall and proud that we are raising children with more love and compassion to contribute to our broken society.
    Thank you!

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