I am a child of the 80s. Which means that my early childhood years were spent at the height of Cabbage Patch Kid mania. They were everywhere and they were impossible to get. One of those propositions bothered me to no end: They were everywhere. I hated Cabbage Patch Kids with a passion most children reserved for, well, cabbage. I thought they were creepy and I could not understand the fascination. A couple years later with Barbie Dolls I experienced the same thing. Although I will admit to thinking it was pretty cool that their knees could bend backward and forward. Suffice it to say, I never thought of myself as maternal. Which is why, thirty years later, no one is as surprised as I am that I am the grateful mother of three.
Scratch that. Everyone seems as surprised as I am! When I’m out and about with my children, strangers on the street will greet me with a good-natured, “You’ve got your hands full!” and even, occasionally, “Are those all yours?!” Why yes, yes I do. And yes, yes they are. Although I (generally) don’t assign any ill-will to these comments, they reinforce a deeply-held belief that seems to pervade our society: The correct number of kids in any given family is two. (If you’re a parent of one, you’ve gotten this too. Usually by the time your infant reaches six months you start getting the inevitable inquiries into when you will be having your second.)
For our family, the decision to have three was not one we came upon lightly. Having a third would cost a lot of money. It would extend the period of diapers for at least another two years. It would lengthen the period of sleepless nights. Just when things were starting to get easier with having two, things would get hard again. Not to mention it would mean I would be pregnant or breastfeeding pretty much nonstop for going on five years. But it ultimately came down to the feeling that our family just was not yet complete. After having our third, I no longer feel that way. I feel like this is the family we were meant to have. And I am so very, very glad to have it.
For me, the feeling of completeness came at three. For others, that happens at one, or at four, or at eight. For some, they desperately want to have another – or their first – but cannot for financial or medical or other reasons. The bottom line, though, is that there is no one right number. Parents of not-two should not be made to feel burdened or incapable or lacking because we choose or are forced to have a different number of children than what is expected.
So my suggestion. The next time you see a mom pushing the double stroller with a baby strapped to the bjorn; or a group of kids filling out a table for six at a restaurant while the parent cuts and prepares their food, don’t comment on how close they come to filling out a baseball team. No comment is fine. A smile is nice. And an acknowledgment that we are all parents doing the best we can to raise the right family for us is even better. “You are amazing, Mama. Keep it up.”