Today I was in a doctor's office and when he heard that I have 4 children he asked, "So what was the hardest transition? From 1 to 2, 2 to 3, or 3 to 4?"
In hindsight I should have asked him how many children he had before answering, but I quickly answered as I always do to this question. "From 2 to 3, defnitely!"
My husband and I agree on this 100%. We are not at all sorry we had an 3rd child. Having 3 kids is awesome, but it was a hard transition. Our 4th child was added to our family via adoption at age 3 so that was a little different than adding a newborn child via birth, but still as far as numbers and 2 parents learning to manage 4 children (even a 3 year old one who didn't speak our language for a while), that was not as hard as the challenges that came with learning to manage 3 young children.
Of course with my definitive answer about 2 to 3 children being the hardest transition, you guessed it, the doctor has 2 children ages 5 and 2 years old and his wife is pregnant with their THIRD CHILD!
So, I had to quickly add in some things about how it really is great having 3 kids and you learn to let go of so many things and how well they play together!
The conversation reminded me of a blog post I wrote on the transition from 1 to 2 to 3 children a few years ago.
Maybe someday I'll write a post about going from 3 to 4 children, but for today, here's a repost of my thoughts from 4 years ago. All still true!
Originally published March 8, 2010:
So before we add a 4th child with our adoption from Ethiopia and I completely forget what life was like with only 3, here are my thoughts on the transition not only from 2 to 3 kids, but 1 to 2 also.
When you have your 1st baby and you give him a bath for the 1st time in the baby bathtub, you are thinking, "Is the water too hot? Too cold? How much soap do I use? How exactly do I wash that area of his neck under his chin (the spot where the spit-up collects)? How do I get this slippery baby out of the tub? What if I drop him?"
When you have your 2nd baby and you give her a bath for the 1st time in the baby bathtub, all you can think is, "Wow, she is so tiny! I love the baby bathtub! Oh how quickly she will outgrow this!"
When you have your 3rd baby, you think, "I know I didn't give him a bath yesterday, but I'm so tired I think I'm gonna skip that bath again today. He's a newborn; it's not like he played in the sandbox or anything! I mean, how dirty could he be?"
When you have that 1st baby obviously everything is new and exciting. But it is a huge life change! Nearly everything becomes different overnight when that baby is born! Honestly it is hard for me to even remember life with zero kids but the adjustment from 0 to 1 kid has to be the hardest.
I think everybody ought to have at least 2 kids, because the huge blessing of that 2nd baby is that you enjoy them so much more. Now you know a little more what you are doing, you worry less, and you know just how quickly all those phases pass! The baby is the easy part about having a 2nd child. The big adjustment is managing the toddler/bigger kid with the baby. There is no napping when the baby naps if your 2 year old is awake! And try having the patience needed to manage a toddler when you have been up all night with a newborn! My husband used to say the adjustment to 2 kids was harder on the dads because their free time diminishes substantially. After mom has been juggling two kids all day, when her husband gets home he's either taking 1 or both those kids. The other big adjustment with having a 2nd child is the sibling fighting. In my experience, this is an issue earlier if your firstborn is a boy. From day 1 you will have to worry about him being too rough with the baby, both by accident and on purpose. I remember distinctly the first time my son hit his baby sister. Oh the conflict when your mama lion instincts see your precious baby hurt by someone but realize that someone is your beloved other child! At the same time, you get to witness the blessing of watching the sweet interactions between your 2 children, and watch their friendship grow. With the addition of a 2nd child there's also the issue of managing 2 different kid schedules. With one baby, life revolves around their nap schedule, but with the 2nd baby you will have to navigate around the older child's activities, and you'll find yourself waking up that baby to go pick up the older child at school. But as a positive, most second born kids are more easy-going as a result!
Now the transition from 2 kids to 3 brings, for lack of a better word, chaos. If you are a momma that must have your children under control, perfectly dressed, noses wiped, nobody crying, and everyone with shoes on the correct feet every time you go out, don't have 3 kids (or at least not 3 close in age to each other). Because you are 1 momma and there are 3 of them. Chances are very high that anytime you are out and about with all 3, someone will spill a drink, have a fit, get lost, fall down, or do something embarrassing. You just can't control them all, all the time. The best way I can describe having 3 kids is more life!
You have one more child and with that one more child you have more joy, more wash, more hugs, more crying, more smiles, more messes, more laughter, more teeth to brush, more dancing, more throwing up, more playing, more getting hurt, more "I love you"s, more runny noses, more kid artwork, more dishes, more memories.
Of course, the more is there with each of the transitions but it becomes more pronounced with the move from 2 to 3. For example, moving from 1 child to 2 children the noise will double in your household, so for the move to 3 children it triples, right? Wrong! Multiply the noise level by about 10! I'm not sure why it works like that but I've noticed that math is true even for playdates among non-sibling kids. A playdate with my 1 child plus 1 friend (2 kids) = rather calm and quiet but if I add another friend (3 kids), suddenly it is like a stampede of elephants have invaded my home!
How many children do you have? What transition was the hardest?