If I hear it one more time I might scream, or laugh hysterically in the face of a well-meaning friend. Neither of which would be good.
“It” is this: Once you have three children, you can have more and not really even notice.
Huh? I think whenever I hear this or a similar statement. Are you crazy? Are you stoned?
I have seven children. I am crazy. And some days, usually around 4 p.m., I wish I could get stoned.
(Okay, not really.)
But the purpose of this post is not to complain about the difficulties of having a large family. I have many children by choice and I will not whine about how hard it is–at least, not in public. No, the purpose of this post is to highlight a common, wildly inaccurate public perception about having a large family.
Not that it’s wholly inaccurate–if it were, people would never say it. In a limited sense, having three kids really does “break” a mom. With one child, she has to figure out how to meet her own wants and needs while never failing to provide for her child’s, and how to forgive herself when she does fail. And she will fail, because a child’s needs are great, and a child’s wants are an endless chasm. With two, she has to figure out how to divide her mother-self among two fierce competitors. With three, she has to accept that she’ll never cover all the bases–ever.
That’s the breaking point which spawns the misconception, I think. Yes, a mother of three is well-acquainted with chaos, both literal and figurative. In order to survive, she must embrace it–or at least used to it. So it makes some sense to say that adding more chaos to existing chaos is easier than making the initial jump.
But let’s think for a minute about what it means to add a fourth, or fifth, or sixth child to a family. This isn’t just addition; it’s exponential expansion. The family organism doesn’t just increase by one person, it increases by five or six or seven relationships. It’s much more than another place setting at the table (Scoot over, everyone! There’s plenty of room!) or a bedroom tacked on to the house. It’s a clearly perceptible presence in every room, a thick layer of being that widely increases the girth of the family sphere and changes everything within it.
Of course, this is true no matter how many children a family includes. Every time a baby comes along, the family is reinvented and redefined–and while the reinventions that come with the first or second or third child are indeed huge, so are those which follow. So let’s not perpetuate the myth. Let’s not discredit the enormous ongoing adjustment process that grips large families. Let’s instead acknowledge that (in a healthy family, at least) a new child, whether she’s the first or the tenth, will always be noticed.
(see? no whining!)