There is a really good reason people with two kids stop right there and say, quite sensibly, “I’m done with all the pregnancy and birth fandango. I’d like my nights back, my boobs back and that damned stinking nappy bin outta the bathroom.”
It all makes perfect sense, and that is why I thought it would be a complete hoot to have a third. I hated the idea of a neat pair and dreamed of a disorganised, sprawling, loving brood. After all, which borderline OCD control freak careerwoman doesn’t dream of such things?
However, the reality is somewhat different. Each one of my children is beyond splendid in every way (no, really, they are, you need to meet them). But that third one turns a calm four-pack of healthy organic yogurts into a badly made trifle laced with booze, sponge and recriminations.
Yes, if three kids were a dessert, it would be an Eton mess. Or an own brand Tesco tiramisu that has not travelled well. And there almost certainly would not be enough to go around.
One obviously gets used to this situation and you start to think it is the way things have always been. You get used to the stress, the noise, and constant grinding fear and feelings of appalling inadequacy. The yawning age gaps that make doing anything together as a family almost impossible. You start saying crazy things to people in the park like: “A third? Oh it’s not a big difference really, just one more mouth to feed. It’s the same as having two, not a bother, more the merrier, ha ha ha”. It’s all complete nonsense, I discover. I’ve been talking drivel.
The start of this half term holiday has highlighted just how much work we’ve made for ourselves. With the littlest one out of the way at nursery and the two older boys happily playing Monopoly in the lounge (without having the board destroyed by a marauding 2-year-old) it becomes all too clear. The living room has stayed tidy for at least two hours. Nobody is accusing anyone of anything or having a fit because they can’t butter their bread. The whinging and whining levels have plummeted. All seems unbelievably harmonious and calm (ish). Is this what having just two is like? Or is it what having two is like if you briefly remove a third from the equation? I guess I will never know.
One thing is sure, however, my husband and I are closer than ever before in our shared adversity. There’s a blitz spirit, a sense that, while we are outnumbered by the “enemy”, we can get through it together.
He tells me our homelife, with its inhumane hours, roaring noise, insufferable mess and lax health and safety rules is a “happy hell”. I couldn’t have put it better myself.