Mum-of-three Tracy Tristram imparts pearly words of wisdom on what it’s REALLY like being outnumbered…
I have three kids. I am perpetually tired, permanently time-crunched and spend my waking hours being outnumbered and outwitted by two sons and a daughter. I am that mother who grew up as one of three siblings, who swore on all that was holy that I would never EVER have an odd number of bubbas myself.
Yet here I am parenting, along with my equally tired hubby, Jack (15 years of endless grump), Angelica (10 years of sweet and sour) and Rafferty (five years of mayhem and chaos), and it’s really quite hard. So, while I wouldn’t swap any of my offspring for all the tea in China (and I like tea, I’m British), here are the lessons I’ve learnt from having three kids and the advice I would pass on to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and to any family (including the ones without palaces and helicopters) considering, or about to have baby number three.
Lesson #1: There’s always going to be more of them than you…
Even with the back-up of your partner, the days of handling one kid each is gone. With three kids you’ll be outnumbered, which means there will always be someone who feels left out. Prepare for constant complaints of ‘you love the other two more than me’. It is impossible to be in three places, play three very different games or read three story books (because they NEVER agree on the same one) at the same time. You will feel guilty because the complaining from the kids will be relentless. My advice: Hire a helper! An extra pair of hands helps restore balance – and gives you the occasional chance to go to the toilet all by yourself. If a helper is not an option, take advantage of drop-off playgroups, friends who get it, after school clubs for older kids, or child care centres, so that you can rotate your kiddos and spend one-on-one time with each child. It’s all a juggling act. For me, I spend my midweek day off from the office bringing my smallest out for breakfast, my middle one for a spot of lunch, and my eldest for an after-school coffee date. It’s not good for my waistline, but it keeps them happy. I couldn’t, however, do it without my helper or lovely friends.
Lesson #2: Flex your negotiation skills
Three kids equals three times the mess. It also means three times the cost if you’ve exhausted your list of free activities in Singapore, and need to pay the dreaded admission fees for a play centre or local attraction. My advice: Get the kids to help with the mess and work towards rewarding them with a special day out. Sticker and coloured schedules help – and behaviour charts are a MUST for working towards goals. Plus, it’s never too early to instill domestic skills in younglings.
Lesson #3: Team up!
There’s safety in numbers and presenting a united front, even if you are separated from your partner, is essential when dealing with cunning kids in multiple numbers. My advice: Take it in turns to sleep in, juggle the ‘good cop, bad cop’ act between the both of you and always try and outmanoeuvre the little
blighters darlings as one unit. Kids hone in on even a whiff of weakness, and will use that to their advantage. Double your guard by being an equal parenting team, even when you don’t always agree in the moment. As and when it’s needed, thrash out different parenting opinions away from tiny ears.
Lesson #4: Resist playing them off against one another
When number three hasn’t slept through the night for 3.5 years (I am talking about you, Rafferty), it’s very easy to compare less-than-savoury behaviour to that of the other siblings. If the other two get wind of your comparisons, they WILL use it as ammo against their sib. Three is a tricky number (I think we’ve established that). Two of them generally form a natural alliance and it can make things miserable for the one that feels excluded. My advice: Do the comparisons, the good, the bad and the ugly, in your head. And if one of the three is looking a little lonely, use it as an opportunity to catch up on some craft time or snuggle up together for a favourite tv show. Leave the other two to it – they’ll soon fall out amongst themselves and form a different alliance anyway.
BUT… When we were having the ‘shall we have another one’ dilemma, a very wise person said to me: “You will never regret the kids that you have, only the ones that you don’t”. And it’s true. For all the chaos, snot and screeching, I look at my kids (especially when they’re asleep), and I know that despite everything, at the end of the day I get three times the fun and three times the love. And much better odds of getting put in a decent old people’s home when the time comes. My advice: Sod it, go for three.
And finally, a little advice for Prince William…
Your Royal Highness, distraction is key. When Prince George and Princess Charlotte are acting out because the new bubba is getting all the attention, distract them with a quick spin in your helicopter, or take them to see Granny so that they can play with the corgis. And if all else fails, give them to Uncle Harry to deal with.
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Lead image: Kensington Royal official website