By Diedre Anthony, told to Rachel Reiff Ellis
My husband and I have always wanted to have three children. I was the oldest of four children and loved being from a big family. My husband was the only child of his parents, but he had half-siblings aged 18 and 20 when he was born. Their age difference played a big part in his desire to have three children of his own who would have each other as playmates.
We also knew we wanted to revisit our plan for three children after each child arrived. My mom stayed home to take care of me and my brothers, but I was going to be a working mom, so I had to make sure I could manage that work-life balance.
Building our family of five
When our oldest daughter, Melody, was born, we were hit. He was an easy baby, which convinced us to start all over again pretty quickly. I got pregnant with Daphne when Melody was 14 months old. But the transition to two children was more difficult than expected. Daphne had colic and I had a scar from cesarean section. It was not the glamorous and charming moment I had imagined.
After about 6 months, we finally settled in a little sweet spot. I found my rhythm as a mom of two, partly because the colic eased, and also because everyone was sleeping better.
Originally, we wanted all of our kids to be 2 years apart so that we could go through the baby phase at the same time, have all the gear, deal with sleepless nights, and then move on to the next phase. But of course, you can’t always plan for these things. At first I was devastated when this spacing didn’t work. But now I think having our baby, Julian, 4 years after Daphne was a blessing. I never needed a baby monitor because every time Julian grunted Daphne would fly and say, “Mum, the baby is awake!” The larger age gap has allowed her to truly appropriate her role as big sister.
And I had built-in help! The girls were too young to babysit, but they were great helpers. They have learned responsibility. Sure, there were times when we faced their fears that I loved the most babe, but it gave me the opportunity to say, “Hey squirt, I love you, your sister, and your brother, all three of you. The baby just needs different things right now, just like you did when you were a baby.
The multi-child learning curve
It may sound surprising, but for me the most difficult parenting transition didn’t add a third. It went from one child to two. With your first, everything revolves around this little person. Everything is an important step. So, when a second comes, you feel in conflict: will I be able to share my time and my love between two children? How can I give my second child the same experience as the first? There are a lot of new concerns.
Once your third arrives, you know you have more than enough love for everyone. You also feel more experienced as a parent and not so unsuspecting. Your past experiences have strengthened your parental resilience. You survived toilet training once, for example, you will survive it again.
Now, to sit down, it’s out the window. Life is definitely an act of juggling once parents are outnumbered whether you are a single parent or have a partner. This is one of the reasons I did babywearing with my son – I ran out of hands! Finding a babysitter is also getting more complicated – and more expensive. It’s one thing to ask grandma to look after a child; three is a whole different story. You need more space in your house and in your car. The logistics of a family vacation of five are not always easy to understand.
Ultimately, however, for me, the pros of having three children far outweigh the cons. My heart is constantly overflowing. I love seeing my kids interacting with each other. It is a joy to see them grow and change. And when you have three, you can relive those steps over and over again.
Daily life for three
My husband is a farmer and I am a school counselor. Until a year ago, we didn’t live on the farm, so he was away long hours every day. Typically, I would be a single parent for most of the growing season, from April to the end of November.
Since we moved to the farm, things are easier. I have to be at work right after 7 a.m., so I get up between 5 and 5:30 p.m. every morning to do a few things before I wake the kids up. I try to do at least one load of laundry every day. With three children and a farming husband, we spend a lot of time outdoors, so it seems the laundry is always up to my eyes!
Now that the girls are 7 and 9, they can help out with the housework, so it’s not just me doing everything. One thing I have found is that with two working parents, weekends can be rushed to fill up with remedial chores instead of having fun, and lead to frustration very quickly. So I set a deadline for household chores. We’ve also set aside some family time, like Friday night movie nights, which my kids look forward to.
My husband and I make a good parenting team. We’re both pretty laid back and laid back people who go with the flow. As a rule, if I am stressed, he is calm and vice versa. We work well together.
Being on the same page about how you are a parent makes things a lot easier, as it can be very stressful. There’s always something going on. Someone is always screaming, whether for a good or a bad reason. And if only one partner carries most of the load, it could easily play into the demise of a relationship.
At the start of our parenthood, my husband and I entered into a “contract of intimacy”. We reserve two specific nights per week as time together. Plus, it takes over on Saturday mornings and gives me time to write or browse a store or do whatever I want. It seemed really silly to make a contract out of it at first, but cutting that intentional time off was a lifeline, both to our marriage and to our sanity.
How we raise our children
We are a multiracial and multicultural family. My husband was born and lived all his life in the South. I was raised by Jamaican parents in Sumter, SC. Our kids love the chicken curry which was the comfort food of my youth, as well as good macaroni and southern cornbread.
I grew up on a military base, where most parents were quick to discipline, saying, “What’s wrong? Go fix it, ”and that was it. But my counseling experience taught me a different approach. I try to teach my children the words to explain their problems and to have problem-solving language. Instead of feeling frustrated with them, I can say, “OK, dig into your toolbox. What have you learned that can help solve this problem? “
I always want my kids to feel comfortable talking to me, even if they’re wrong. I want them to know that I hear them and that I know them. For example, my eldest is very motivated. So I remind him that it’s okay to make mistakes, but it’s harder to bounce back when you haven’t been honest. My middle daughter is usually quite open and transparent, but she’s stubborn because it’s a long day. So if there is something I want her to do, I congratulate her first. I said, “I think this food would taste so much better if you helped me in the kitchen.” And his eyes light up.
It is very important to know how your children learn and how they want to give and receive love. Not only does it help you become parents, but it helps you have a better relationship, which ultimately is the ultimate goal.