Thursday, July 3, 2014

Third Time Around


I was surprised by the subtle negativity I received during my third pregnancy. 'You'll have your hands full,' was the standard response, followed by jokes about my sanity, and concerns about the size of our car and house. I can only imagine what larger families must receive. As a society we have an idea about what is a 'normal' sized family, and I know I am guilty too when I read about a really large family, my mind struggles a little. While everyone is entitled to their own opinion on whether three is a good number, it usually depended on how many children they did or didn't have themselves. The consensus seemed to be that while two was manageable, three was a handful, and it was their duty to inform me as such. Whether they had three children or not. When family and friends took this line I reminded them that my first born alone had been a handful. But the underlying message seemed to be that I would not be able to handle three children, and I had been warned.

While the enthusiasm of family and friends surrounding my first pregnancy was not matched in my subsequent pregnancies, I was still surprised by the well meaning negativity from some of my family and friends the third time around. I don't know that people were aware that they were even doing it. 'Don't ask me to baby sit.' 'Did you trick your husband in to this?' 'I can't imagine having three children.' 'You're brave.' 'You're not having any more are you?' they asked light heatedly. But still. I held on to any positive comments I received and tried to ignore those that weren't. But the message was seeping in. I was crazy. I couldn't handle three children. I wasn't enough.

I've been thinking about this since I took all three children to the shops yesterday, by myself. I had been avoiding it. I'd been making trips and running errands while Cohen was at school. I'd call my husband to pick things up on his way home after ten hours of work. I even had my lovely neighbour babysit my big two when I had to go to the post office after school one day, so as to avoid having three children in public, on my own. I realised that I had lost faith in myself as a parent. I was scared that perhaps everyone was right. Perhaps I wasn't enough, I couldn't handle three kids alone. So I avoided it. But what you avoid gets harder and harder. I love my children. They're good kids. Why was I letting the things that others said determine what I was doing with my days?

So we went to the shops. And do you know what? It was fine. It was fun! I wore Oscar in the sling and Emerson and Cohen walked beside me. Sure, the first thing they both did was run to the car ride and climb in. I let them sit and play in it and promised they would get a proper ride on the way out if they were well behaved while I ran my errands. As you can see, they got their ride. When my newly 'independent' two year old looked like having a tantrum we stopped, I got down to her level and talked with her. Crisis averted, we moved on. When she started to fuss I popped her in a trolley. When they both looked bored in the grocery store I asked them to help me find things and let them choose between items. I let them put the groceries on the counter, which they love.

I know there will be times when I have my hands full. I know I'll feel frustrated and overwhelmed. I know I'll call my husband or sister and burst in to tears. But I am reminded that I have been a parent for over five years now. I have learnt parenting skills, I've learnt how to multi-task, how to respond, how to problem solve. Yes, if you just gave someone three kids for the first time they wouldn't manage. But these are my children, I know them better than anyone. And while there will be ups and downs, we will manage just fine. And I will be more mindful of how I respond to pregnant women and new Mama's.
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