I have three children. Three whole, noisy, screaming, snotty, beautiful, amazing, still snotty, children.
Life has certainly changed since Christmas 2008, when Alpine Boy made his angelic appearance on this earth. I arrogantly and naively promised myself, and others, that this new addition to our world wouldn’t change anything – that life would continue as before; that the new baby would fit around us rather than the other way round.
Ha. So much for that.
Six and a half years and two more kids later, I’ve practically forgotten what life was like pre-sprogs. But if one kid is life-changing, and two are chaos-inducing, having three kids is akin to crashing a bus full of monkeys into a lorry full of cats and then trying to round them all up and put them in shoeboxes. Without strangling any of them.
I wouldn’t change my life for anything, but there are a few things I wish someone had told me about having three kids, just so I could have had fair warning….
1. Three changes everything
It’s not just that no one tells you this. They actually go to the other extreme. They go out of their way to tell you that “the difficult jump is from one kid to two” and that “once you’ve got two you won’t notice the third – no, really!”. Their point being, it seems: that the last one will slot into your family like the last bit of Lego in that tower you have spent four hours carefully constructing (while your five-year-old downloads yet more apps on your phone).
With all due respect to those LIARS, that is total rubbish.
Three changes EVERYTHING. Because, purely and simply, parents are outnumbered. It stops being educational, liberal, Guardian-reading positive parenting, and becomes crowd-control – nothing more.
You will have to keep an eye on one kid (not) doing his homework, while stopping another from sticking her finger somewhere it shouldn’t be (like a plug socket. Or up the cat’s bum), while yet another one clings to your legs sobbing and wailing until you pick her up. (You will of course also be trying to cook dinner at this point, and tidy up, and answer the phone and the door simultaneously, whilst – most importantly – updating your status on Facebook.) This will be your daily life. For years.
Three changes everything because suddenly the car is too small; and you can’t take them all swimming on your own cos one of them will drown; and going for a quick family walk in the country suddenly turns into an expedition on an Everest scale (though weirdly I don’t remember the Von Trapps having this problem when going for their Alpine frolics… maybe it’s just me after all).
Things that were easy (ish) with two, take on a whole new dimension when you’re outnumbered – bath time is like putting devil-possessed and well-greased farm animals through a sheep dip, and dinner time involves more bribes and threats than some dodgy Soviet business deal.
So, no, having three kids is not just like having two kids. If anyone tells you that, thump them, from me.
2. You won’t want to leave the house. But sometimes you’ll have to. And it will be hell
With three kids you can’t just carelessly nip out to pick up a few items from the supermarket, like you used to in the good old days.
You will have to time it with chronometric precision around various nap-times (but, no matter how much care you take, someone will always be grumpy due to being woken early or put to bed late – it’s just a given).
You will have to set aside a good half hour to enable you to find three coats and three pairs of shoes (which will never be anywhere near each other), and force them on three mini-Houdinis (I always pity the first child I have got ready, as they wait patiently next to the fireplace, boiling to death in their puffer jacket and wellies while their brother and sister run round the house getting screamed at for having lost their gloves, again).
You will have to spend at least ten minutes with your bum sticking out of the car in the rain, struggling to strap them into huge car seats that any NASA astronaut would be proud of, and trying not to trap their fingers or your hair in the seatbelt catch (this usually fails and most days you will end up with a blood blister or a painful bald patch, as a minimum).
And that is before you have even had time to think about how you are going to herd/carry/run after one pre-walker, one toddler and one ‘big boy’ who insists on having his own trolley, all the way round the supermarket.
All that just for the luxury of eating? Bah, we can eat onion soup and stale bread. Again.
(You should know that all this gets even harder in Alpine Mummy Land – the shop is ten minutes’ drive away, not just down the road. The ‘coats’ that the sprogs have to be bundled into are in fact full-on ski suits for half the year. And supermarkets don’t deliver to the middle of nowhere, nor have they heard of trolleys which have more than one child seat. Go figure.)
3. The NOISE!!!
You’d think that family noise levels would increase proportionally with the number of children. Three children are three times as noisy as one child, right?
Wrong. Three children are seventeen times as noisy as one child. Fact. I don’t know why and I don’t know how, but if you want proof just come to our house at dinner time. Just don’t bring your partner, if you’re trying to convince them to have another child…
4. The WASHING!!!
I couldn’t work out why our dirty washing baskets are ALWAYS full, despite us doing at least six 8kg loads of washing each week. Then I realised. Each week we go through:
- 70 socks
- 28 pairs of pants
- 35 t-shirts
- 10-15 pairs of trousers
- 10 jumpers….
Minimum. This is just day-to-day wear. It doesn’t take into account the sports gear, the pyjamas, or the fact that none of my kids seem to be able to go through a single mealtime without dropping food all over them (OK, me neither). It doesn’t take into account towels or sheets (which admittedly get changed a lot less frequently these days. Oh dear). And it doesn’t take into account ‘special’ times in a child’s life, such as the first few months when they insist on puking or pooing their way through at least three sets of clean clothes every day, or when they feel the need to start toilet training, feeding themselves, or rolling around in dirt (or is that just my kids?). I need a bigger washing machine…
5. People stop you in the street. They actually stop you.
I don’t think having three kids is that weird. Ten, yes. Six, even, is a little unusual. But three? Really?!?
Well apparently it is.
I have lost count of the number of times people have stopped me in the street to point out the fact that I have three kids. “Ooh, three…?!?” they say, or “Wow, you have three children!”
I’m even more amazed when complete strangers ask if I really “wanted a big family”, not-so-subtly trying to work out if I’m mad, Catholic, or just never learned about contraception. Nosy buggers.
And they’re the brave ones. Others just stare with wide eyes and even wider gobs as I herd my hoards past them (one or two strapped to my front and/or back; one or two trying to escape/get run over/stick their heads through rusty railings), and then they whisper loudly to their mate long before we’re out of earshot: “Three children!! Did you SEE that?!? THREE!!” (And then no doubt silently congratulate themselves on not being stupid enough to have fallen into such a trap, like that crazy, slightly frazzled lady that just walked past, who obviously now wishes she’d keep her legs shut).
I always want to shoot over some smart reply (“ooh yeah, I wondered what it was that fell out of my vagina last year”, or “thanks for pointing that out; I keep trying to count them but the sleep deprivation makes it nigh on impossible”, or, my favourite: “AAAHHHH!!!! THREE? Where have I left the other one…?!? He was here earlier…!!”).
Annoyingly, I’m too chicken.
And this is just with three. Which I still maintain ain’t that weird… It almost makes me want to borrow a few more to take with me whenever I go out, to see what comments I’d get then. Any offers?
You thought you had a lot of stuff with one kid? Think again. ‘Stuff’ will take over your life. It will breed faster than you can. You will have a handbag the size of a small suitcase and you still won’t fit everything in (luckily you will also own a buggy which costs more than your first car did, and so you will have a handy extra place for all that stuff you can’t stuff in your handbag). Toys will invade your house like triffids, yet your kids will have most fun playing with an old spoon in dirt or under the bed (or, in my house at least, in dirt under the bed). My tip? Just accept it, let all this stuff slowly take over your life, and then one day sell your story to Extreme Hoarders. That’s my plan, anyway…
7. You get a discount at Intermarché
Hell, if someone had told me you get 10% off in the local French supermarket just because you managed to pop out three sprogs from your nether regions, I’d have become a supreme baby-making machine much sooner…
8. No-one will babysit for you
No really, they won’t. They might say they will. You might believe they will. But they won’t. (And you won’t blame them either.)
9. Sometimes you will forget one
This is true. Hopefully you won’t leave one on a bus, or in a car park, or on the roundabout at the park (spinning round and around and around while you wander away with your tired head in the clouds…), but there will be a moment, if only once in your life, where you momentarily forget/temporarily misplace one of your little darlings. Just find them, quickly, pretend nothing happened, and don’t tell anyone. Ever. Not even your other half. (This has obviously never happened to me…)
10. Bodily functions
You’ve all seen these lists before (I’m not pretending to be original…)- the last one is always supposed to be some schmoozy monologue about how the family love is multiplied by three, that three kids equals three times as much fun, kisses and hugs, etc etc – but you know all that already. Trite.
Instead, in true Alpine Mummy style, let me tell you about how those with three kids spend a large proportion of their day/week/month/life changing nappies, wiping bums, changing more nappies, wiping noses, wiping more bums, mopping up sick. Depending on how you spread out those beautiful sprogs of yours, you could spend a good seven or eight years of your life, non-stop, with at least one child in nappies for at least some of the day. I changed my first nappy on 23 December 2008. It is now May 2015 and there has not been a single day since then that has not involved nappies. Not a SINGLE day.
Maybe I’m the only one to admit it, but (on the bright side) your nappy expenditure will decrease with each child: first time round I was one of those stressy new mums, changing Alpine Boy’s bum like clockwork, every two hours whether it needed it or not. All day. Every day. Any little hint of nappy rash and it would be on the hour, every hour, until the poor little poppet’s backside was back to being as smooth as, well, a baby’s bum. Alpine Baby, on the other hand, is lucky if she gets her bum changed twice a day. And that’s only if she’s done such a stinker that we really can’t ignore it any more.
The environment is thanking us, I’m sure. Pampers aren’t.
11. A whole lotta love
Ok, it’s trite but it’s true. And I couldn’t resist. Love is like noise levels – it increases disproportionately to the number of kids. More kids = more love, fun, hugs and kisses.
It’s true. Try it.
Just don’t say I didn’t warn you about the rest of it…