Married to Medicine

Married to Medicine

Friday, August 16, 2013

Family, Money, or Youth: The 2 vs. 3 Kids Question

Some days I catch myself half-hoping I'll just become pregnant again accidentally - and then I freak out that I am losing my mind!  Other days I remind myself that I might not even be fertile for a 3rd child, and I'm actually kinda thrilled at the thought.  I usually leave decision making to my husband not because he's the guy, but just because I hate it.  My OCD nature makes even the smallest decision insanely laborious ... I once spent nearly three hours researching measuring cups before deciding on my new set ... and I'm pretty proud to have the top-rated review for the set, with 350 people finding my review helpful.  But this is one decision I cannot abdicate... so if you've got a "review" for me on this topic, send it this way, please!

My husband and I always thought we'd have three kids.  It just seemed so classic and picture-perfect... just enough kids to round out an all-American family, but not so many as to "have a big family" per se.  But there were other things we "always thought" too, when we envisioned the life we thought we were creating for ourselves.  We "always thought" his career would be private practice medicine, which pays about 230% of what he'll make doing the medical research in which he's found his true passion.  We "always thought" I'd go back to work part-time eventually... but that's increasingly impossible (decreasingly possible?) in the legal market and we've discovered we both really like me being at home.  We "always thought" we'd end up wherever we wanted to end up... but his research can best be done in St. Louis, Missouri, 5+ hours away from any family.  We (I) "always thought" I'd start having kids in my late-twenties, not my early-thirties.  So yeah.  "Always thought" pretty much got left in the dust, about 7 major life decisions ago.

Now we're having to reevaluate.  If we want to evenly space our kids, that means getting pregnant again this winter.  ?!  I can't even imagine that.  I still average 5-6 hours of sleep per night between Matthew going down late (wants to see his dad), Claire getting up early (she's lucky she's so cute, I tell ya!), and wanting needing to have a couple of hours each day to unwind by watching a show, emailing, facebooking, or blogging.  I mean really, is a couple of hours too much to ask?  It is, actually.  By the time everyone's in bed and everything is clean it's at least 9:00 if not 10:00.  And Claire gets up at 6.  I'm sure many of you can relate!

This past week was particularly brutal.  While I was already barely staying on the at-home-parent-treadmill, I got completely thrown off of it last Sunday.  Claire had what we now know was a febrile seizure (benign... but terrifying... especially since she didn't appear sick beforehand) and we spent 5+ hours in the Emergency Room getting test after test, catheter, x-ray, etc.  It was emotionally exhausting, I was already exhausted, and 4 nights later she's still not sleeping though the night anymore (quite the contrary).  All this is to say, I couldn't be pregnant right now (voluntarily).  And adding another baby into this mix... even an easy one... would really take me from crazy-but-I-love-it-and-it-goes-by-too-fast-anyway to okay-I-need-help-I-Literally-Can't-Keep-Up.  In an attempt to evaluate the "three kid question" objectively, my friend and I started making a list of pro's and con's.  But really, what we concluded it comes down to (for us) is that to have three kids and be happy doing it, we really we'd need at least one of these things:
  1. Youth.  We really do just feel too old and too exhausted to handle another pregnancy, especially while chasing after TWO very young children.  I mean my back is already sore just doing what I do now.  And as my friend likes to say, pregnancy and childbirth will seriously make you doubt both evolution and "intelligent" design.  
  2. Money.  And by that I mean fewer logistical headaches.  More space than a 2-bedroom apartment, a minivan (or something else that non-crazily fits 3 car seats), a glimmer of hope of sending our kids even to state schools for college.  The ability to buy a new set of measuring cups (etc.) without spending time obsessing over every.  single.  purchase.
  3. Family.  As my friend put it, parenting without family nearby is a "whole other species" of parenting.  I barely squeaked by hauling my 1 year old to all my prenatal visits and praying that the office was running on time so that we could get in and out before a melt down over my not allowing him to play with the water cooler.  Pretty sure I couldn't swing that with a 1 year old and a 3 year old.  And that's just one small way in which it's really a lot harder to parent without family nearby.  Add a crazy-busy husband and I mean a lot of the time it is all on me... not sure I want three kids for that.  What happens if I get really sick??  AND it really is a double whammy - not only do you lack any real local support but on top that you spend a lot of your vacation time and energy hauling your family cross-country to visit said family, or hosting them  - both of which are exhausting.
And then yeah, there's that whole timing thing.  Girls mature faster than boys, about two years (I've read) and it seems like we really lucked out with the two that we have, Claire being two years younger than Matthew.  If these two end up somewhat on par during childhood... and thinking even about possibly starting Claire a year early with her October birthday so they'd be in consecutive grades... I worry that adding a third to the mix who was three years+ younger would leave us with an odd man out.  And three years is really the minimum.  I cannot fathom being pregnant this winter or having a family of 5 in our two-bedroom apartment for any longer than a year or so.

Two's company?
Anyway, because I find myself irrationally hesitant to sell our baby gear I've been keeping a list of all the reasons I should NOT have another baby.  It's called "JUST SAY NO to a 3rd KID" and it cracked my husband up when he randomly discovered it on my desk top.  It's 31 bullet points long even though most of my bullet point-inspiring situations don't exactly leave my hands free to write anything down.  I recently told a CBC (childless by choice) friend that there are a million reasons not to have a child but that just that one, sweet, miraculous face can blow each one of them away.  If ever that happens to me, I'm sure I'll delete this blog entry.  But at least for now, I'm not letting myself think about that face.  Either that or I'm going for trick candles.  Or something.

* Because several of you asked for the list, here it is.
  • An extra plane ticket forevermore.
  • A minivan.
  • Even really moderate sleep-training is pretty miserable with neighbors below, even if they swear they can't hear it.
  • So is traveling with any kid under 2 who doesn't sleep in new places.
  • In the house by 7:00 for at least a year because your youngest can't stay out to get ice cream or do anything else with older kids.
  • Along those lines, I'm told - parents end up splitting up more with 3 kids so the older kids can do activities the younger one can't.
  • 2-3 more months nauseated to the point of depression.
  • More varicose veins.
  • For at least 1.5 years, too fat to wear any of your favorite stuff.
  • An extra nap time during travel for at least 3 more years.  
  • Less room to host parents.
  • Less ability to travel to see parents.  Or anybody else, including good friends.
  • Less ability to do any ambitious trips at all.  Financially and logistically.
  • Have to limit the lessons they can be involved in or entire life will be spent in the car.  (according to my list serve).
  • According to my list serve... parents of 3 seem to spend more time on logistics and less time on enjoyment.  "Moms of 3 are better at throwing meals together and getting stuff done... moms of 2 are able to have more intimate relationships with their kids."  
  • Cannot cook as good food.  Good food eaten faster.
  • Restaurants too expensive.
  • Cannot bank on healthy kid.  No resources for unhealthy kid.
  • College... college... college... 
  • Space to host all 3 kids and their families at the holidays?
  • Back problems
  • Neck problems
  • Knee problems
  • Not just during pregnancy but for 3 years after while you lug them around.
  • Cold and flu season with babies and toddlers is THE WORST.  EVER EVER EVER.
  • Can't go out on a date while nursing (because it's not worth it for me to pump and do bottles regularly).
  • Can't go on a vacation without kids until they're all older.
  • Need more time to enjoy our neglected marriage post-residency and fellowship. 
  • Want to feel like me again... able to schedule a doctor's or hair appointment without dealing with the hassle and expense of a baby-sitter .
  • Want time to blog.  Time to watch a TV show with my husband without having that be the only thing I can do on any given night.
  • Feeling that our family is complete.  Worried that all my dreams already came true with each child.
  • Going to the gym is close to impossible until they drop the morning nap.
  • So is doing anything really fun for the older kid.
  • Might want to eventually go back to work in some capacity.
  • Right now I feel like I spend quality time with each kid every day - a lot of reading to Claire before Matthew wakes up, or to him after she goes to bed.  But I already feel like I have to then choose between any quality time for just me, or with my husband, OR adequate sleep.

Here are the Pro's, FWIW:

  • Another miracle.
  • One of my children would have a same-sex sibling.
  • My husband reports that it's much better to have more than 2 kids when your health starts failing, based on what he sees.
  • More fun at family gatherings.
  • More fun in general(?)
  • Another reason to find steals and then resell cute baby clothes, which has become a hobby for me.
  • Baby days last longer.  Of course that is also a con... lol.


  1. Love this! This is such a hard decision to make. It seems like people (women) just kind of feel done when they're done. I love your "Just Say No" list, that is hilarious!! Btw, I can't even wait for you guys to get back here!!

  2. Justin and I are also debating this. One of his points, something you don't mention, is that it will be a longer period of time before the last one leaves the nest. We are excited to know that we will still be young enough to travel and just enjoy each other again after the youngest flys away.

  3. ha, I'm already having these thoughts when thinking of having a SECOND child. I'm 34... she is nearly 5 months. I don't know....

    1. LOL, I've been there too. Everything I did with my first I thought "How would I ever do this with a toddler running around ...?" But I have to say that the transition to two was easier than I thought it would be. I would say the additional work is offset by having a playmate for your firstborn so that you are not the only source of entertainment and interaction. I thought the hardest part of all was being pregnant with a toddler. It got so much easier when I had my energy back!

  4. Late comment because I just discovered your blog from your vaccine post--loved it! It took us a long time to decide that baby #3 was what we wanted. As I type this she's happily kicking away inside at 22 weeks. Our first two are boys--age 3 and 5, and at first I wanted my kids closer together but now I'm happy with the age gap. My oldest will turn 6 shortly after the little one is born and his independence makes it just possible that we'll get through the early months somewhat sane. My boys are thrilled to have a baby sister and I truly think they'll be big helpers. That being said, their father handles the brunt of childrearing as a stay-at-home dad while I work full-time as an ob/gyn in private practice. It works for us and he does it with more grace and fortitude that I ever could. Long story short--go for it (or maybe talk to me in a year and see if I still say the same).

    1. Aaaah that is awesome! I love hearing about moms in medicine and I love hearing about SAHD's. Yeah if we do 3 it'll be just like that - a 2 year gap and then a bigger one. Glad to hear that works out well.

  5. I also stumbled across your blog when you published your vaccine post - I actually grew up in Northfield and loved reading your St.Olaf post too. Anyways - I just wanted to tell you I love your "just say no to a 3rd kid" list. I have three kids (6,3.5 and almost 2) and I could relate to almost every single point on your list. Our third was a wonderful surprise, but it has been a challenge to say the least. Whatever you decide, I hope you have time to keep blogging!! I have spent the last hour pouring over your posts - they're great!

  6. Wow, well I just discovered you from your vaccine post (THANK YOU!).

    Well that's a really personal decision. I'm 27 weeks with #3. I have a boy (5) and a girl (3 1/2) and we haven't found out what this one is. We plan to have one more after this one, so the goal is to be done with 4 kids by my 30th birthday. I did start a little younger than you. I love that my first two are 18 months apart. Our daughter was a surprise, but I'm so glad she was! They are so close and just the cutest little pair. We're planning to do these next two as a pair as well because I think it's so great that they're such good buddies. I understand first-hand how hard it is. Our nearest family is 8 hours away. I know how expensive it is. My husband probably isn't as busy as yours, but as an accountant 6 months out of the year is busy season and he's not around all that much, so I know how hard that is as well. I drive a minivan, which I happen to love. Cargo AND seat belts. :) But I think it's worth it. We have a sweet and spunky family and the kids are so fun to watch as they learn new things and I get to be their mom. Not every day is a wonderful walk in the park (HA!) but there are enough good days, and enough beautiful glimpses of what a family should be, that I am so thankful they're mine. Only you and the hubs can make that choice, but think about the good aspects too!

  7. Haha... Hey Lisa, we'll be meeting in person soon, in the meantime I found this entry, and have to say - laughed, because it all *rang-so-very-true* : ) Every single word... Not a word in your entry that I don't fully agree with! And, here I am, 22 weeks pregnant with number 3 (going to be 2.3 years spacing and 1.5 years spacing - yikes!). When people tell me I am brave, I reply that no, I am simply completely insane... The only way to go through with that decision was to NOT think it through ;) Of your three items, we only sort of have #2. But, still, we have to budget like crazy now, everything is on mint and on excel sheets and no more new clothes - it's going to ALL be handmedowns. And no, no new measuring cups, and frankly, we're just not even thinking about college, and know we will do public schools. We figure once the kids are in public school, we can start saving for college (hopefully). But yeah, I had to say something, because what you wrote here is just *so-right-on*.... And, two weeks ago, we (gulp), got the inevitable minivan... What a behemoth! I miss driving my little golf! Anyhow, we can chat more in person perhaps, but, just had to say this all really resonates :) I have no regrets (and I deal with the panic by not thinking about it ;), but also no illusions - easy it ain't going to be! FWIW, I believe you are much younger than me, so you most likely will still have plenty of time to change your mind later, if you decide to rethink. Also, my parents had me and my brother 3 years apart, and my sister 7(!) years later. Now, as adults, we're all best friends, and I can't imagine life without my sister, who is 10 years younger than me (and a lawyer, btw). I also remember helping a ton with caring for my sister when she was young. So, large spacings, if you have the age for it (sounds like you do - I don't), also have their own advantages! See you in a week...

  8. Oh, and you might like this blog of a mom of three at home with them... This is the entry that went viral apparently..: (Sorry, reposting with my name, not the default chosen by google... - that's the prior delete).