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Too Many Kids?

As a parent of two young boys, I find myself perpetually and utterly exhausted.

For one, my 3-year-old hasn't slept through the night. Ever. On top of that, I'm surrounded by a world of Pinterest-happy moms who make me feel guilty for not putting quinoa in my kids' lunchboxes or for not having taught my 5-year-old to read when he was 4.

I have bags under my eyes. I lose my keys -- and a little bit of my mind -- every day. And, perhaps most annoyingly, I have the "Special Agent Oso" theme song in my head almost all the time.

There is guilt (Yes, those are lollipops in their mouths). There is anxiety (Can they get sick from eating the mummified goldfish crackers they just found beneath the car seat?). And there is daily, predictable frustration ("For the love of all things holy, GO TO SLEEP!")

It’s no newsflash: Having two kids is hard.

So, naturally... we're having a third.

Why? Because somewhere amidst the chaos and sleep-deprived mania, there are moments of transcendental sweetness: Waking up to the voice of a little person who "missed-ed" you while he was sleeping? Nothing beats that. Hugs that are so tight that you could let go with both hands and your child would still be clinging to you like a koala bear? Those are worth a few sleepless nights.

And the love. That undeniable love that you feel for your children despite the exhaustion and power struggles and never-ending learning curve -- That’s what does it. It's amazing. It's addictive. It's... crazy?

Maybe. According to a TODAY Show survey of more than 7,000 U.S. moms, mothers of three are the most stressed out of all. More so than moms of one, two -- or any number besides three.

The study found that things actually get easier with four kids (and each kid thereafter), with parenting reaching a sort of "critical mass” with each successive child. Sadly, that study can be lumped on top of numerous blogs and editorials that send flat-out depressing messages to those considering trying for a third child.

“Going from one to two was an easy, breezy transition,” author and "Scary Mommy" blogger Jill Smokler told TODAYMoms. “Two to three, everything was turned upside down. I do not feel like I have it together. You only have two hands! Just crossing the street and not being able to physically hold all their hands I find tremendously stressful.”

And on her blog,, writer and mother-of-three Laura Meehan called having three children “kind of like running a marathon and hitting a wall and then being handed some bricks to carry while you run the last 7 miles.”

Great, so are all mothers of three holed up in their homes, sadly lamenting their broods and wishing they were families of two. Or Six? Or nineteen?

I refuse to believe it. And neither do the experts. According to Noel Janis-Norton, author of the bestselling "Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting: Five Strategies That End the Daily Battles and Get Kids to Listen the First Time" (Plume, 2013), parental stress doesn't hinge on the number of kids; rather, the strategies parents use to parent them.

"Three children doesn't have to be harder than two,"said Janis-Norton, who lives in London but does parent "coaching" sessions around the world (including periodic visits to Southern California). " You can feel overwhelmed with one child or with five. Or you can feel on top of it and in charge and confident with one child or with five."

Having one kid can be hard. Having two kids, too. But, come to think of it, some of the most stressful times in my life were the ones before I had any kids at all. Being single and dating? I’d change a few dirty diapers instead of that, anyday.

Here’s a confession: I cried every day my first three months of motherhood. And that was with one (very colicky) baby. Since then it’s gotten easier. Even when both my boys are having tantrums and I’m feeling completely incompetent as a mother --even then, it’s easier than those first three months. So who's to say three will be any harder?

I remember in those early days of motherhood, calling my older brother at 5 a.m. after having been up all night with my crying son. My brother, who has three kids (and is very happy, by the way) lives on the East Coast so I knew he’d be awake. After a 30 minute counseling session, I asked him. “How does it get easier?”

His response: Have more kids.

The way I see it now: Noise is noise. Chaos is chaos.

But love -- that all-encompassing love I feel when I’m holding my child close and I can feel his chubby little arms around me and his soft cheek pressed up against mine -- that times three? That’s worth it.

So wish me luck. Our little third will be here any day now.

Orginally published by the Los Angeles Newspaper Group, Copyright 2014

#family #kids #threekids #parenting #rewards

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