Family Dynamics – What’s in a Number?

From as early as I can remember, I’ve always wanted 4 children. So although I haven’t even given birth to baby #3 yet, I’m already contemplating the fate of #4 and it’s not looking good for its sake. Yes, I was a bit disappointed when it wasn’t twins this time, because then I’d be done for sure!

Why did I always want 4 kids? I always knew that I wanted more than one child. Although she may say, “Yeah, right” I have always appreciated having a sister growing up. There was someone to play with, someone to share with, someone to fight with, someone to tease, etc. I learned a lot from having a younger sister to help take care of and to boss around. I couldn’t imagine being an only child myself and so therefore, knew if possible, I wanted multiple kids myself.

Then my mom got remarried and my brother came along. Although he is “classified” by research as an “only child” since there are 14 years between him and my younger sister, he still turned us into a 3-kid family. It was fun to have another personality in the house, another birthday to celebrate, another kid to torment, etc. For me, 4 sounded like the perfect number. I like even numbers. Plus, then there would be two kids in the middle and the “middle child syndrome” would be avoided.

Some of the reasons why I wanted a bigger family are more selfish. With 4 kids, there are more available to do chores, right? With 4 kids, one of them is destined to stay close to us after growing up, getting married and having kids of their own, right? One of them will definitely take care of us when they are older, right? One of them will turn out half-way normal, right? I wanted the odds to be for us, not against us. And remember 4 is a nice even number. Everyone will have a partner and no one will be left out. Although with three kids Andy always tells me, “Don’t worry, everyone WILL have a partner…just not you.” THANKS!

I will admit that the “middle child syndrome” does cross my mind when I think of only having three kids and it seems to stick there. I’m not sure why. I normally don’t get caught up in that type of thing. Plus, I realistically know that there are other things that make up a person’s personality, etc. How close in age are the children? Does mom stay home or work? Is dad in the picture? How do you parent? What astrological sign was the kid born under? (Yep! I actually have a friend that plans her pregnancies around that one.) The list goes on and on. I think that my concern of this “syndrome” is more of a cover-up.

I think it comes down to admitting to myself that I can break the pact I made with myself years ago. I need to realize that I’m not failing as a parent by admitting I’m tired and want some of my life (and my body) back sooner rather than later. Although I love both of my girls more than life itself and am so looking forward to this 3rd addition and having an infant again, I’m just not sure I’m cut out for another one. As Stella turns into such a little person with her own thoughts and as Charlotte becomes more independent and less “work”, I see this preview of how life does get easier from a certain perspective. (I’m often told that as your children grow it’s less physically demanding and more emotionally demanding.)

So although I’m ready for the arrival of #3 and the return to sleep deprivation and trying to figure out what certain cries mean, I already find myself thinking “How long will it be again before getting out of the house will not be such an event?” and then calculating how long it will be before baby #3 will reach the stage where Charlotte is today when we can finally communicate and understand what she wants a majority of the time. So that’s my clue that although this baby will be worth doing it all over again, I’m just not sure I’ll be ready to jump in again for a fourth time.

Plus, I see friends that have 3-4 kids that are older than mine. And I hear about their homework and activities and birthday parties to attend and the list goes on and on. I’m already adding a 3rd to this future chaos…do I really want to do 4 things of homework each night?? Yes, some people over-schedule their kids. I get it. But if each of your 3-4 kids has ONE outside activity, that’s already 3-4 commitments each week assuming you only go to it once. When I go down that path, it’s overwhelming! So maybe 3 isn’t so bad from a balance perspective.

Overall, as a first-born overachiever…straying from a goal I always had in my head, that’s HARD! But, I never thought it would take two years to conceive Stella in the first place (so I’m already behind schedule to begin with!), I never thought I’d continue working (but I have caved to my need to get away each day – where else would I be able to sit and write this?), and I never thought I would drive a freakin’ minivan (enough said). Goals change and for good reason. Sometimes we just have to adjust to new ideas of perfect.

I’m going to wait until baby #3 turns one to make any final decisions, but I might end up deciding on my unevenly numbered family after all! Or maybe I’m having a pregnancy moment right now and will want to take the plunge. Because my kids are too darn cute and why not add another?? And, yes, I guess I should see what Andy thinks…are you reading this, honey?

And you? Are you an only child? Middle child? The baby of the family? If you have kids yourself, how did you pick the number you have? What’s your perspective?

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