With three kids, parents are not only outnumbered but also severely stressed. Indeed, a 2013 survey of more than 7,000 American mothers found that three is the most stressful number of children a woman can have, even more so than four or five children.
According to the TODAYMoms.com survey going from one to two is easy peasy, but going from two to three is a major transition. Somewhat surprisingly, stress levels seem to drop off as the number of children increases, with moms of four or more children reporting less stress than moms of three. It would appear that once you reach a certain critical mass of kids -- when the children can act as a group -- you become more relaxed.
As a proud but sometimes frazzled mother of three, this Huff/Post50 senior editor gets it. There are many moments when the kids are absolutely delightful, but there are other moments when you have no idea how you're going to survive until their bedtime. And so this list -- compiled with the help of our readers -- goes out to every stressed parent of three. Here are 11 things that only you will truly understand.
1. The difficulty in finding an inexpensive hotel room. Most hotels won't allow five people in a room, which means you either have to sneak a kid in or pay for two adjoining rooms. Nabbing a table for five at a restaurant isn't always as easy as nabbing one for four, either. And some taxis will only take four people.
2. The need for a big family car. Love your Honda Civic? So did we. Now only a minivan or SUV will do, especially when you're ferrying around your children's friends.
3. The struggle for a window seat IS REAL. No kid wants to get stuck in the middle seat, meaning there will be fighting. Lots of fighting. Yet there is good news for children who do draw the shortest straw: new research shows that middle seat children often are more successful in later life, especially in business.
4. The challenges of chauffeuring. Two parents driving two cars can only shepherd two kids around at a time, meaning someone always gets short shrift. In other words, if little Johnny has soccer practice and little Emily has piano, there's no one left to take Sara to swimming.
5. The neediness of some middle children. With three kids, there is always the chance you're going to focus a lot on your first child -- and dote a lot on your third -- at the expense of your middle child. As a result, some middle kids tend to seek more reassurance than his or her siblings. But being a middle kid has its advantages. Studies find that middle kids are more social, creative and successful in business.
6. The shifting alliances that occur among the kids. They make global diplomacy look like child's play.
7. The reduction in worry. When you have your first child, you fret about every little thing. By the time you have three, you're much less high-strung. You want to eat something off the floor? Be my guest!
8. The expectation that you're a really good parent. Why else, people think, would you keep having kids? Parents of three are expected to know what they're doing. So. Not. True.
9. The need for an industrial washing machine. Adding another body to the mix means an exponential increase in laundry, along with everything else. Laundry will always be swishing around the wash, day and night. You'll learn to stick a load in before running out to the store, and to fold clothes while watching Netflix.
10. The difficulty in finding a babysitter. The 15-year-old girl down the street may be perfectly capable of watching two kids. But a less experienced sitter may be hard-pressed to care for three or more children, especially if they're prone to fighting.
11. There is never a time when everyone has everything they need. Not ever. Never ever.