What makes adjusting to a new family size easier or more difficult?
“So, how has the transition to 3 been?” This, or some variation of the question, is the most common query I’ve fielded the past year.
I’ve been thinking about it more seriously recently, because my off-the-cuff answer feels obligatorily generic and superficial.
As part of processing our new family size, I asked my husband how the transition has been for him. His response was, “Wow, having three kids is so much easier than I thought it would be!”
I laughed as I told him the opposite was true for me: having three kids has proved more challenging than I anticipated. This has led me to draw a few conclusions about what makes transitioning to a new family size easier or more difficult.
Where you and your spouse are at mentally and emotionally makes a huge difference in the transition.
My husband was much more stressed and anxious when our second child was born, which made that transition harder for him; while I felt very settled and at peace in life when our second child arrived.
When we had our third child, my husband was in a much better place than he had been in the past, and that made everything about the experience easier for him.
When our first came along, it was especially hard for both of us. I do believe that the transition from zero children to your first child is the hardest transition any parent makes — regardless of how you’re doing on a mental or emotional level — because having someone entirely dependent on you is a huge game changer when you’ve been living on your own or with another competent adult.
The change may hit you gradually instead of all at once.
The first month and a half with this new baby was wonderful, and fairly easy and uneventful. But then in the weeks following, I slowly started to feel like I was treading water instead of happily floating. I realized how much longer it takes to get anything done with three small people, and started figuring out what scheduling and prioritizing for me right now needed to look like. As school routines started back up, and my fairly compliant toddler suddenly acquired a will, the legs of a jackrabbit, and lungs like bagpipes, I had to reevaluate what my “basic things to get done every day” list entailed.
You can prepare ahead of time, and that will help, but it’s never seamless.
I had anticipated that adding a third child to the mix would require some adjustments, so tried to finish a few projects around the house before he arrived. That was a good first step. I also tried to implement a few new routines for tidying up that I thought might help. Turns out that was a great idea also.
Looking back, I could have done even more, but at least I did something to prepare. I on’t think I could have accurately imagined all the things that could help life run smoother now — and that’s probably a good thing. Learning in the moment has its own set of advantages.
God’s grace is always there, especially in the tough moments.
If God has entrusted you with another soul, then ask Him for extra grace to get through the hard stuff—the pull-out-your-hair moments where you wonder if you’ll ever be able to accomplish something more in a day than eating and feeding people.
And while you’re at it, ask His mom for some help too. She experienced firsthand a hard transition to parenthood – it was unexpected and caused some uncomfortable and harrowing moments. Mary was not expecting to be a mom, and she gave birth out of town among strangers; then had to up and move to a different country to hide from people who wanted to kill her new child. She lived by grace and so can we.
Holy Family, pray for us!