Having Three Kids Is Not Harder Than Having One




For some bizarre reason, the following article has been making its way around my Facebook feed:  8 Things Never to Say to a Mom of an Only Child. Even if you haven’t seen it in the last week or so, the odds are decent that you did at some point. This is NOT a new piece, by any stretch of the imagination, and, to be honest, the sentiments conveyed aren’t exactly  new or earth-shattering either. Nonetheless, it seems to be making its rounds again.


And it’s got people on the defensive.



(Back when I was a mom of one– of course, that didn’t last long for me. ;) )


First of all, let me just state that I don’t typically find this sort of list particularly helpful. That might strike you as odd, since I’ve written two of them myself– one about preemies and one about gifted kids. The difference, I hope, is that I also offer suggestions of good things to say because, really, that’s what’s helpful. The point of the article shouldn’t be to make others feel like insensitive jackheads. It should be to proactively educate and help reframe reactions and responses. At least, that’s what I wast trying to do.


The piece linked above, however, doesn’t do that. It basically calls people out for saying rude, insensitive things and leaves off with a smug, “See? Don’t you feel like a jerk?” attitude. For that reason, I’m not a fan.


What has been even more interesting to me, though, is reading others’ responses to the post. I fully expected to see both “right ons!” and “this is absurds!”– and I did. I figured there’d be some eye-rolling– and there was. But I can’t lie to you. I hadn’t predicted what seems to be the biggest backlash I’ve seen. And it’s against this line–


“It’s so hard with three kids.” The inverse of #3, but still, worth repeating. Are you implying that my job as mom isn’t as hard as yours?


Ooh, boy.


  • “OMG– is she CRAZY? My life IS harder!”
  • “Ha! Of COURSE it’s easier to only have one kid than three! She’s nuts.”
  • “I’ve had only one kid and I can tell you that it is WAY harder now that I have more than that.”
  • “How stupid. One kid is as hard as three? Ha. Stupid.”
  • … and on and on.


Let me tell you– people with more than one kid were on the ATTACK! Nevermind that the author is actually very careful to frame that paragraph and doesn’t even try to really “compete.”  I’m not sure how anyone read it as commentary that parents of multiple  children have it easy, but whatever.


The point is– the crowd went wild. In a very bad way. Soooooo defensive and so quick to point out why, of course, life is much, much, MUCH more difficult for those with, say (since it was the writer’s example), three kids.


But here’s the thing–


Not only do I think that people really need to calm the heck down and just mosy on if they don’t like a piece, but I also don’t even agree with them.


That’s right.


I, the mother of three children, do not believe that it is harder than having one child.


And here’s why–


  • I likely, though not definitely, have more activities to orchestrate into a schedule.
  • I likely, though not definitely, have more homework assignements to oversee.
  • I likely, though not definitely, have more gear to pack into the minivan.
  • I likely, though not definitely, have more laundry to do in any given week.


All true.


Yet, despite that, you know what?


Having just my youngest home during the school year was far harder than having all three home in the summer.

Having my parents take two out of three for a sleepover always leaves me more worn out than refreshed.

Having my oldest gone for the afternoon doesn’t make my life any simpler.


In short, having one kid is not easier than having three.


When I have only one kid with me?


I am IT.


I am the entertainment. I am the reader. I am the one pretending.  I am the one helping. I am the one fetching, reaching, finding. I am the one dressing up. I am the puzzle-builder. I am the listener. I am the one carrying on the conversation. I AM EVERYTHING.


All of this was working through my brain when, over the weekend, I was catching up on reading one of my favorite sites. And you know what? I laughed out loud. Amy and I have a bit of a history of thinking about and writing about similar things at the same time. Fun fact: we even started our blogs on the exact same day of the exact same year. So, when I read this post, I wanted to reach through the screen and high-five her.


While she has twice (!) as many children as I do, she’s pretty much making the same points I am– sometimes, having more children in the home doesn’t make it tougher. It actually makes it easier. This is particularly true for those with large familes, or, more accurately, widely-spaced children, but even with my narrower gaps, it holds true.


And so, I have to admit I’m not sure what was going on with all those commenters. Were they having bad days? Do their kids really not entertain one another worth a hoot? Or do we just live in a “woe is me” society that likes to point out why yours truly has it just SO much tougher than everyone else?


I don’t really know.


But, while I stand by my words that it’s not a helpful article, I will also go on record as saying I wasn’t offended by her remark about one versus three kids.


In fact, that might be the one thing we can agree upon.

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12 comments to Having Three Kids Is Not Harder Than Having One

  • Marci

    The part I find more difficult is the cleaning…I can’t seem to find the time when everyone has what they need or will at least cooperate so I can do it all. Probably the homeschooling and nursing on demand thing making it harder. Or 4 kids 7 and under. Definitely things that are hard for each situation….these parenting competitions are ridiculous though!

    • “Definitely things that are hard for each situation” <– absolutely, Marci! That’s the total truth. There’s just no reason to compete and compare. Every situation, and every season, has its own challenges.

  • Jennie

    Like everything in parenting, it goes in cycles. Sometimes it’s so much easier when it’s my oldest and sometimes I’m so very thankful they have each other to play with. Parenting isn’t all or nothing much to my chagrin. It’s constantly changing. My kids are 4 years apart so for my second he is actually an “only” while the oldest is in all day school. Some cycles it’s been easier that the oldest is in school some cycles I can’t wait until she gets home. It just depends.

    IMHO, parenting is hard no matter how many you parent.

  • Peggy

    Thank you, as a parent of three, for pointing out the “I am IT” situation with just one child. I’m a parent of one, and, short of divine intervention, only one VERY active child, and I sometimes envy parents of multiple children for exactly that reason. I have no doubt multiple children bring on challenges that I will never know, but my husband and I certainly have plenty of challenges with just our one and only. I’m guessing depending on personalities, in some cases three kids could be much easier than one! As another commenter says, it just depends.

    • Thanks for sharing your experience, Peggy! I truly do think that there are blessings and challenges to every circumstance. I tip my hat to you as full-time primary entertainer– it can be exhausting!!! (At least, I think so. :) )

  • earleyml

    I could not agree with you more on this post. A friend called me up Saturday with an emergency need for a babysitter and my husband was already at the Youth Group event she needed to be going to as well. At first thought, “am I crazy for having 4 kids all under 6 by myself?” But the three older ones basically played by themselves, yes I had to play referee a few times but when I needed someone to take my 2 year old to the bathroom, my 5 year old was able to do that. When I needed someone to keep an eye on the 10 month old, both my 5 and 2 year olds helped with that. Yes, dinner time was a challenge but overall it was not as bad as I thought.

    • Those are great examples, Michelle! I remember when I would occasionally have my two nephews (both of whom are older than A) here a few years back– I’d have five children, from infant to ten, running around, but in some ways, my life was EASIER. Yes, I had to cook more, keep track of more, and– most importantly– I can’t compare to babysitting to mothering, BUT, I do think it’s important to realize that, while some stuff is hard, some stuff is actually easier. We all have our challenges. :)

  • Katherine

    I agree in many ways having one is harder than having more for all the reasons you stated. I would love to be able to take my large group of munchkins and not have to pay so much at Disney or something like that and the stomach bug takes forever to get lost with six of them but otherwise it is not that hard. Hey nobody said it would be easy right? I always tell my kids anything really worthwhile is going to be hard work and frustrating sometimes but so worth it and I think that way about parenting any number of kiddos, it is not easy for any parent but always worth the effort. I love my life and don’t need to win a poor me contest, life is good I say every morning before I start again!

    • Oh, there are for SURE challenges that come with having a larger family! Even with just three, it’s more challenging to get a table at some restaurants. I can only imagine that it’s tricky to orchestrate things with six little ones! And I totally agree with this– “it is not easy for any parent, but always worth the effort.” Yep!

  • I thought it was harder when they were really little – when I was trying to breastfeed while helping a child on and off the potty – stuff like that. Now that they are older, I don’t know. My first child was REALLY easy and my other two not so much, so parenting in general was MUCH easier when I had one – but because of his personality vs. his siblings’, really, not because there was just one of him.
    I am also just really OVER all the articles asking us to polarize ourselves and jump into camps. So over it.

    • I am so over it too, Jenny. Honestly, I was even more annoyed by the commenters this time, though. I felt like they weren’t allowing this author to vent her own challenges. The truth is– sometimes it’s just HARD, no matter what. We need to support each other more, even if our circumstances differ.

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