The news that the Duchess of Cambridge is pregnant with her third child has sparked celebration and debate. For decades British families have been slowly shrinking in size, with even the Royals sticking to the ‘acceptable’ two-child formula.
But, Prince William and Catherine have decided to buck the “heir and a spare” trend by having a sibling for George and Charlotte. Official statistics show the average number of children per family in Britain is now 1.9, as financial and work pressures mean women are putting off having children until later and deciding not to sacrifice a career.
Around 14 per cent of families have three or more children compared to 17 per cent two decades ago. Yet a study in 2015 found that more than two thirds of people who live in families headed by a couple with three or more children consider themselves to be happy most of the time. It also discovered that members of large families say they are more satisfied with their lives than others and that they think they have stronger personal relationships than most people.There are a number of other high profile mums who have embraced the power of three – Davina McCall, Holly Willoughby, Yasmin Le Bon, Demi Moore, Kate Winslet and Jennifer Garner. And, soon to be mum of three Jessica Alba.
So what is the appeal – and what are the challenges? We asked some cool mums-to-be and mums of three to share their thoughts and advice for Kate…
Steph Douglas is 30 weeks pregnant and mum to Buster, 6, and Mabel, 5. She founded the new mum gift company Don’t Buy Her Flowers. She says:
“I’m from a big family (I have five siblings) so always envisaged lots of children, or at least more than two, but that was before I experienced the reality of having kids!
“I was terrified when I found out I was pregnant with number three. Our kids can wipe their bums and swim and tell us how they’re feeling, so I’m pretty anxious about going back to the beginning again.
“But I also knew I wasn’t done and now I know this is the last baby and I’m excited at the idea of learning from my experience of the last two and being kinder to myself. No trekking about worrying about keeping up with everyone, less beating myself up about things when they go wrong (which they inevitably do) and we have a bad day, and I know how quickly it goes.
“Buster and Mabel are 21 months apart and I found having a potty-training toddler and a breastfeeding baby pretty full on, so this feels like it can’t be as challenging as that…
“During this pregnancy I’ve said ‘I don’t remember it being like this’ a lot – when hit with exhaustion, or crying, or shouting – and Doug has said ‘Er, it was exactly like this’. A few people have said being pregnant with two is harder than actually having three so I’m holding on to that. It’s also going very fast. We’re in to the last weeks now and in lots of ways I’m not prepared at all but at the same time I guess I know what I’m doing a bit better this time so hopefully it’s like riding a bike…possibly while juggling…
“I don’t think I’m a candidate for giving advice yet BUT a few mums with three (one a stranger on a bus!) have said not to be a martyr and accept all the help. Let people bring you food, get grandparents or someone in to help with that 3-7pm fallout a couple of times a week if you can, and go easy on yourself because this bit won’t last long.
“We called the first 6-9 months with two small ones ‘the survival phase’, not to wish it away but just until everyone was getting a bit more sleep and the hormones were less bonkers!”
Amy Ransom has two daughters aged 8 and 5, and a 3-year-old son. She writes Amy Ransom’s Guide To Surviving Motherhood and is creator of The New Mum’s Notebook. She says:
“My husband had always wanted three, being one of three. I am one of two so the idea felt unfamiliar to me. I fell pregnant unexpectedly when my second was 11 months old but lost the baby – and this showed me how much I wanted one. I couldn’t not do it, in the end.
“My third pregnancy was my happiest. I felt fit and strong and the hormones didn’t rage like they did when I was pregnant with my girls. I felt so much calmer.
“I was such a perfectionist before number three came along. But he has showed me that nothing really matters, as long as we are all safe. He has totally mellowed me and given my life clarity.
“My best tip for Kate it to embrace the chaos and let stuff go. Life with three is always noisy and busy – sometimes it feels like someone is always crying, demanding or whining. But these moments pass quickly. And what is left in their wake is love – so much love.”
Naomi Reilly is mum to Iris, 8, Florence, 6, and Arthur, 3. She is a lifestyle journalist and co-founder of plant-based candle company SevenSeventeen. She says…
“I was elated when I found out I was pregnant again. I always knew I wanted three as I like the hustle and bustle of a larger family. Unlike a lot of my friends, I also love being pregnant and the whole newborn stage, so the thought of this didn’t phase me.
“Pregnancy third time round was definitely harder though! My first pregnancy I was super fit, walking for miles, neat little bump. Third, I was showing within a month and by the end I could barely walk five minutes without feeling out of breath and with heartburn taking over. Expect no pampering either. With my first and second pregnancies my husband was very attentive, letting me have lie ins and even booking me in for the odd massage. Third time round I was lucky to get a cup of tea.
“Of course it’s true the logistics of three can be tricky. ‘You’ll have to get a new car!’my mum said. ‘Kids are expensive! You’ll be outnumbered!’ But despite all the practical hurdles something in my gut just made me want to go for it. And I’m so glad we did.
“I love watching all the interactions between the kids. I like the idea that they feel part of a little gang and the confidence that inevitably comes with that. I have one brother and growing up we loved spending time with our cousins as it felt fun and chaotic.
“Two may be neat and sensible but I could never regret having three. I may have less time for myself (three kids, three times the amount of work), it may be virtually impossible to persuade the grandparents to look after all three at once (we’re hoping this will change as they get older). We may never have a tidy house again. We’re definitely more tired. It may take us forever to fix the three seat belts in the car every. time. we. go. out. But we wouldn’t change it for the world.
“Fitting in running SevenSeventeen with my friend Sarah and around multiple child-related activities and demands can be tough. Kids’ clubs for three are extortionate and I do worry about how we’ll afford to keep three teenagers fed and clothed. I also worry I don’t get to spend enough time with the children individually as much as I’d like. but the plus side is that they have each other and that’s amazing.
“My advice for Kate is to accept help when its offered. Have a sense of humour. And when the going gets tough understand that This Too Shall Pass.”
Heledd Harman is mum to three girls – Lili, 7, Poppy, 4 and 18mth old Iris. She writes the family lifestyle and beauty blog Running in Lavender. She says…
“I was shocked to discover I was having number three because I always thought I’d have two children. I come from a family of four and so does my husband, so we thought we’d be the same. I’d sold all my baby stuff and thought that my baby years were behind me.
“My third pregnancy was very similar to my previous two – easy for the first 25 weeks and tough and uncomfortable for the last 15 weeks with SPD.
“I found going from two to three more difficult than I thought. Having to split myself three ways is so tricky but luckily my older two are best friends and entertain each other a lot. On the whole I try and do activities that all three girls can do together, so I can help them all.
“Three is my magic number and I’m so happy that I have all my girls. I have no big tips for Kate but what I will say is that being a part of a family of five is so amazing and rewarding.”
Sarah Turner is five months pregnant and mum to Henry, 5, and Jude, 3. She writes The Unmumsy Mum and is the author of two books. She says…
“I kept alternating between saying ‘Oh my god!’ and laughing when I found out I was having number three. We had been hoping we would be lucky enough to fall pregnant again but even so, the enormity of being in charge of three small humans made me a bit hysterical!
“I have always loved the idea of a bigger family but I found first-time motherhood really hard and for the first year or so was certain we’d stick at one. If you’d told me then I’d end up having three I would never have believed it. I have become broodier as I’ve got older, I think.
“Pregnancy this time is a lot more hectic. I was quite sick for the first 17 weeks – more so than with the others – and that left me feeling a bit down. However, I am starting to enjoy it now and seeing the boys talking to ‘baby brother’ (we’re having boy number three!) has been exceptionally cute.
“I’m sure Kate has a lot of support but probably the best advice I’ve been given about motherhood more generally is to never be afraid to admit that you are struggling – asking for help is not a sign of weakness.”
Clemmie Telford is five months pregnant and mum Bertie, 4, and Woody, 2. She is a Creative Strategist at Facebook and Instagram and writes at Mother of all Lists. She says…
“Much like Steph (above) I am from a big family – one of five so I always assumed I’d have lots of kids too. I have been really surprised by the reaction from the general public. Most people tell me I am mad or look aghast at the prospect of three.”
“Don’t get me wrong I am daunted by the prospect of having more children than a) hands b) adults. But this baby is very much wanted and planned for. Kate and I have kids really similar ages (4 and 2). Which means it’s recent enough for us to know what’s coming, to know what worked before and what we might want to try and do differently this time.”
“So my advice to Kate is actually advice to myself:
– Stay in your comfies – there are so few times in life when you have got an excuse to sit on the sofa in joggers and hoodie. Take full advantage.
– Go off radar. No visitors for a few days. Enjoy time readjusting as a family of five and soaking up those delicious newborn cuddles.
– Embrace the chaos. There’s no doubt there are going to be moments of utter madness but every time I feel scared at the prospect, I remind myself that I am going to get a whole new human to love. And that makes me very very lucky.”
“Also, us women are capable of amazing things, especially with the help of mate, chocolate and gin! Don’t worry Kate, we’ve got this!!”
Becky Freeman is mum Freddie, 6, Sasha, 5 and 3 month old Arlo. She is a Digital Marketing Manager and blogger at The Spirited Puddle Jumper. She says…
“I’m not sure I’m qualified to give loads of advice yet about having 3 children, as we’re still only 3 months in, but I guess I do feel like I’ve learned quite a bit already – 3 children definitely do keep you on your toes!”
“Freddie and Sasha are only 15 months apart, and the early days were pretty full on, so to be honest it didn’t cross our minds at that point to throw another child into the mix. We were too busy surviving, and when we weren’t surviving we were actually enjoying the benefits of the small age gap and the fact that the older two liked to do lots of the same things.”
“However, both Adam (my husband) and I are from 3 child families (both the youngest), and as Sasha joined her brother at preschool and I actually got some freedom back (ha!), I obviously thought it was all getting rather easy and my thoughts turned to the possibility of having number 3!”
“We could afford another child, are lucky in that we have lots of family help with the children and my job is very flexible, but there were still lots of ‘buts’. Was it madness veering away from the traditional family of 4, when so much is geared up for that number? Would we regret going back to nappies, sleepless nights and having to buy all the baby stuff again? Would the gap be too big between the other children? What if (god forbid) our 3rd child had a disability that impacted on our current children? But I couldn’t stop thinking about the joy of having a big(ish), crazy family – the Christmases, holidays, shared moments. It just seemed like a case of ‘the more the merrier’ and we decided to go for it.”
“Arlo arrived 3 months ago and I can honestly say we have no regrets – we are both SO pleased we had him, he’s the happiest, most laid back little soul, and I now know that he has definitely completed our family. Freddie and Sasha are really great with him and adore their little brother, and I think the fact that they’re a bit older means there is no jealousy.”
“I loved being a mum to the older two when they were tiny, but I’m enjoying it even more this time around. I think once number 3 comes along you feel so much more confident in your parenting abilities, and both Adam and I are really relaxed with Arlo. Sure, we’d like less broken sleep, but we’re so much more used to it now! I think because we know he’s our last, I’m determined to enjoy every minute.”
“My advice to those having a third is to accept all possible help (and I’m sure Kate will have plenty of this!). We do lift shares for the older two when it comes to some of their clubs, and means the baby isn’t dragged out constantly. Also, try and shake any guilt about splitting your time, as I guess the biggest challenge so far is making sure everyone gets a piece of me.”
“I’ve felt bad sometimes when I’ve been spending time with the big two on homework or reading, and Arlo’s been ‘abandoned’ on the play mat for a while, or If I’m feeding him then the older two are left to fend for themselves. To help with this, we’ve started putting Arlo down in the evening to sleep an hour or so before Freddie and Sasha, so we can spend some quality time with them as they’re now at school all day. Oh, and just enjoy it as much as possible as this will be your last baby, unless you’re brave and going for a fourth!”