My friend’s lovely Mother recently sent me an article entitled; ‘Is three the most stressful amount of children you can have?’
Hmm… interesting; I thought. I know; I’ll gather as much data as I can on this subject, research lots of studies and articles and before I read a single one I shall conclude: YES IT FUCKING IS.
After I’d ranted and raved and listed the myriad ways that having three children sends your stress levels through the roof, I decided to have a rational word with myself. Surely it’s not a level playing field for all mothers of three is it? I mean; I doubt Gwen Stefani (Mother of three boys) has a life as stressful as mine. She will have chefs and nutritionists and personal trainers not to mention a nanny (that her husband may or may not have had an affair with). Angelina Jolie; mother of 6, probably has a way less stressful existence than a mother of only two who is a single parent on the bones of her arse struggling to feed her kids. Maybe it’s not a good idea to lump all mothers of three into the same category.
When I tried to get to the root of exactly what made mothering three children feel so stressful, I managed to boil it down to the insane amount of life admin that it requires you to hold in your head. Let me try and explain.
Imagine you have one child. In any given day you might have to think of/do the following things for them:
*check their general health… any temperatures, toothaches, limbs hanging off?
*feed them… in the exact way their insane toddler or teenager whim requires.
*organise them… PE bags, reading journals, packed lunch, after school fucking hockey club outfit.
*wipe them, clean them, bath them, pick up shit (sometimes literally) after them.
*taxi them to their mates houses or to do hobbies which you already know they’re not that good at.
*clothe them… wash, dry, iron, repeat. 73 times a day for the rest of your life.
*help with their homework, fill out forms, rehearse their lines for school plays, attend any amount of extra-curricular shit that the school invites you to.
Now imagine that that is just a tenth of your actual workload for that child. Got it? Good.
NOW TIMES IT BY FOUR.
That’s right. Three kids plus you (remember little old you?) equals life admin for FOUR human beings. All day, every day. I read a brilliant blog a while ago by a mother of three kids who said having a third kid is like someone chucking a third ice cube into a glass which was already filled to the brim. Perfect. If I could find the blog I’d credit that very clever woman!
I’m not a violent person but I swear when a mother of one tells me things are ‘just absolutely manic’… I’m ashamed to say I get an overwhelming urge to punch her in the foof. A friend of mine at work who has one child (a sensible amount if you ask me) recently told me that her skin is so beautifully youthful because she uses four different products on her face before she starts her makeup routine. Four. Four of them! The time that must take! I can only dream of such things.
There’s also the practical side of having three kids which is stressful. Three kids can be very restrictive in terms of just, you know, leaving the house. There ain’t no risk assessment in the world gonna cover that shit I’m telling you.
Even a seemingly simple trip to Sainsbury’s (in the car, ten items required; no biggie) inevitably turns into Sophie’s fucking Choice. I can only guarantee to safely get two of them through that shopping trip in one piece. There’s usually some mental weighing up about who I might have to sacrifice:
Dylan? Very cheeky so maybe… but also my first born and actually comes in quite handy looking after the other two.
Ok so Jonah? Yes. Absolute nightmare…a wildcard of embarrassment… but also funny as fuck soooo…
Ok so what about Ellis? Definitely the most needy… but also the cutest. Rob would be pissed off if Ellis didn’t make the cut.
It’s a tough call. I usually decide I will just do my best to keep all three alive; if only to prove to the other shoppers that #ivegotthis.
One of them ALWAYS steps out into the car park behind a reversing vehicle, one of them ALWAYS runs across the pedestrian crossing without waiting for that 96 year old dear to spot them and slow down and one of them ALWAYS insists on sitting in the little end bit of the trolley then standing up without warning and up-ending the fucker along with its contents.
Life is mental enough with three kids when things are running smoothly… when they get ill it’s a whole different story. There’s nothing makes you feel like a shittier mother than when one of your babies gets poorly and they desperately need one on one attention. It just ain’t gonna happen kid!
It’s also what poorly kids do to your long-suffering boss… the odds of you having to be off work go up exponentially with each extra child you have. I love the podcast The Guilty Feminist; have you heard it? They start each episode with the panel saying ‘I’m a feminist but…’ and then they expose their secret anti-feminist opinion. Mine would undoubtedly be:
“I’m a feminist but… if I had my own business NO WAY would I hire a woman with three kids.”
I know that is terrible. Shameful! But it’s true. We don’t make for hugely reliable employees… unless you have the holy grail of retired grandparents who live nearby.
So what’s the answer to ease this stressful predicament guys? And for the love of god do not tell me the solution is to have another child.
The results of the study in the original article I read stated that two children is manageable for one caregiver and by the time you get to four or more you’ve basically thrown in the towel and realised you cannot keep things in any form of order… so you don’t try.
I have to admit that sounds blissful. Letting the house be a shit-tip, growing my armpit hair down to my waist, stopping brushing the kids teeth. I could even home school my four children… except of course we wouldn’t do any school work. No. We’d just laze around all day in our own filth watching Judge Rinder. Sounds strangely liberating.
I don’t know many mothers of four or more kids (they don’t tend to be in the school yard because they’re well, you know, in an asylum), but the ones I do know genuinely seem ok! Clean, pleasant, functioning members of society. Maybe they’ve seen sense; letting go of a quest for routine/order/perfection is the route to less stress.
I mean look at Baby Jake’s mother. Fourteen kids and that sexy farmer husband to keep happy. Yes; her barn always looks like it could do with a good tidy, but there she is serving them a delicious home cooked meal and never ever shouting ‘shut the fuck up you bunch of demanding little twats.’ Word on the street is that she’s also a high-flying barrister who cares for her elderly parents too. Believe it.
The way I look at it is that yes three kids equals huge amounts of stress and guilt. But with the extra stress and guilt comes extra joy. Shitloads of the stuff. And it’ll get easier… that’s what people tell me.
So for these next few crazy years I’m just going to have to focus on the joy and suck the rest of it up. The wine that is. And the gin.