Three Is a Magic Number?


1..........2..............3?There is an elephant in my living room. My husband and I agreed to ignore it at least until our daughter’s first birthday, but we both know it’s there. Lurking. Waiting. Until the day comes that we’re ready to decide.

Are we going to try for a third child?

To say my husband and I have struggled with this question would be an understatement. Our son and our daughter are only 20 months apart, and the first three months were pretty crazy! [Curse you, witching hour!] But things quickly got easier. Nine months in, and our littles bring nothing but joy into our lives. It makes me think, “Why wouldn’t we try for a third child?” Still, I know my husband is right when he reminds me that there are many factors we need to consider.

Here’s what we have discussed so far:

  • Do we have the physical and emotional energy needed to spread our time, love, and attention between three children? I hear that we should be concerned about shifting from man-to-man to zone defense, but I’m more worried about our ability to effectively coach the team. Just recently, I caught myself using alone time with my baby daughter as a time to be silent following hours of constant toddler conversation. If I struggle to maintain my energy with two, it is only going to be harder with three.
  • Can we handle a return to babyhood? The newborn stage is not for everyone, but I think it is especially difficult on dads. In those early days, a mama is everything to her baby. My husband tries so hard to be helpful and takes it really hard when his efforts are rebuked—by his own offspring, no less! To me, the baby stage is fleeting, but it helps that my impression is colored by hormones and baby scent.
  • Can we afford to raise three children in the manner we envision? We are incredibly fortunate and grateful to be secure in our ability to pay for diapers, food, clothes, and other necessities. In that sense, there is no question that we can afford a third child. The question is whether we can afford to give three children certain unnecessary but (subjectively) ideal experiences, like private, independent education and annual family vacations.
  • Three’s company? Having a third child would shift our daughter into the infamous “middle child” position and create the potential for an odd man out at every turn. On the other hand, having multiple personalities under one roof fosters social skills and empathy.
  • Would we be tempting fate? With my first two, I got lucky. Not just lucky, I hit the jackpot. I had no trouble with fertility, pregnancyrecovery from childbirth, or postpartum depression, and produced babies who are (in my biased estimation) absolutely perfect. Although, mathematically-speaking, the likelihood that I will encounter difficulty is no worse and no better than it was before, my husband and I worry about pushing our luck.
  • Does having a third child violate some unspoken master plan? It seems like the entire world assumes that people will stop at two children—especially families like us who are blessed with the coveted “perfect set” of a boy and a girl. It’s not just people. Everything, from cars and tables to hotel rooms and taxi cabs, seems to have been designed with families of four in mind. Are we setting ourselves up for a life of inconvenience?

If I’m really honest with myself, I know these considerations weigh against having a third child. The decision to further divide our attention, take on additional expenses, and subject ourselves to additional months (years?) of sleep deprivation could never be practical. But, I still want to do it. I picture three children in our home—as young children playing with toys, teenagers relaxing after school, and adults home for the holidays—and see the big, happy family that I’ve always wanted.

Would we regret the decision to stop at two? Who knows. But I know that we would never regret the decision to expand our family. If an actual little person—our little person—were to displace the concept of a third child, how could we? Even Mr. Practical agrees with me there.

Have you considered making the leap from two to three? What helped you decide?

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Mary, a Fort Worth native, met her husband Dwayne during her first year of law school when he, a third-year law student, was assigned to be her mentor. Mary was thrilled when Dwayne suggested making Cowtown their home in 2010, and the last few years have been anything but boring. Spending quality time with her husband/best friend, raising her sweet Austin (2012) and Emily (2014), and navigating her legal career keep Mary's plate (and heart) constantly filled to the brim. In her rare moments of spare time, Mary generally can be found posting adorable photos on Instagram, blogging at A Friendly Harbor, catching up with dear friends, or lying catatonic on the sofa.


  1. I think that society has started to view children as a burden rather than the blessings that they are. I don’t know a single person who regrets having more children. I know of only older women and men who regret not having more. Children are a blessing. May God continue to bless you and your family.

  2. mary,

    Are you a fly on the wall in my house!? We had the exact same discussion with the same conclusion. Thank you for putting my thoughts into words!

  3. Mary,
    Believe me, you have great thoughts, but THINK about how much you love your 2 babies! Your heart and energy you have will triple and quadruple, so you will have PLENTY of “room” for more kids.
    There is a girl that we know that has 6 under 6–I know, I know-a little much!
    She has a 5 yr old, a 4 yr old, twin 2 year olds and twin newborns-Can you imagine that?! But I see so much joy and happiness in that family, so I think if you have one more, it will be easy! Ha Ha!
    I had 3 and wish I had had more-each and every one of them is totally different and my “middle” child is fabulous and is never left out at all.
    Don’t think of all the reasons for no more children-they are just excuses for making your life easier. JOY exempts all the reasons for not having more.
    My third was a surprise (after a certain surgery…) and I would not trade her for anything in the world. She and her brothers are best of friends and she completed the family and made us all better people.
    Quit thinking so much and enjoy!
    Love you!
    Susan Waller
    PS-I don’t mean to sound bossy! I just wanted to express my views

  4. Hi Mary! As I’ve just had my first child and come from a family of three girls, me being the middle child, I find myself asking my mom nearly DAILY, “how did you do it?!” My older sister and I are 17 months apart, and my little sister is almost 3 years exactly younger than me. She said that having her was easier than you would think. The two of us already had our routines, so the baby would just tag along. We played together, so this left my mom with time to tend to my little sister. I have also asked a co-worker with three children, all 2 years apart, the same thing. He said too that the third just comes along for the ride. Fits right in without making things that much harder. You’re already a pro by the second one! I say go for it! I hope that I have the energy or strength by the time I’m faced with the decision to have a third. I really do love the dynamic we all had growing up and we are all still close! We group text daily and talk weekly.

    And for being a middle child, I will tell you, it’s not that bad! As long as you take time to make them feel special and not just part of a group of wild children, they will feel no different. The only thing that irked me then was the youngest getting away with murder while I would be punished for a lesser crime! My older sister would be livid when a privilege was denied to her until a certain age, then my parents getting over it and letting me and the youngest get the same thing at a much sooner rate, i.e. later bedtime, ears pierced, etc. As long as everyone feels they are being treated equally, then there shouldn’t be too much worry. 😉

    The house was so much more fun, and still is, with all three of us. I can’t imagine if I only had one sister. There would be no one to gang up on, and no one to be an ally with when the other was being mean. It was nice to always have someone on your side when the other was being a jerk. 😛 Actually, this still happens! Haha.

    Best of luck to you and your family! I’m sure everything will work out the way it was meant to be. <3


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