You can find this blog post's predecessor by clicking here, which paints a nice picture of the "perfect" family ratio of 2:2.
Ever since we had our second child, I started mentally prepping for the eventuality of having a third. I researched online (mainly on Reddit and TikTok) to figure out the public opinion's of which transition is the hardest: going from 1 to 2 or going from 2 to 3. The general consensus was that nothing would ever beat going from 0 to 1, because becoming parents for the first time will forever be such a significant and pivotal moment in one's lifetime.
My findings were inconclusive because the Internet was split: one side argued that going from 1 to 2 was the hardest thing ever, versus the other side that said 2 to 3 is harder because the adults become outnumbered. Many families of multiple children agreed that after having 2, adding more got easier. This gave me some comfort but I had to analyze the pros and cons more diligently. Finally, it became clear that age gap factored into the controversy of which was harder... The older your eldest is, the less you're needed in accomplishing small tasks for them and the more mature and understanding they are. I see this now with my four-year-old who is completely potty-trained and fully capable of dressing himself up in the morning.
This time, my husband decided to take a longer paternal leave, because we didn't have it easy two years ago. I was completely knocked out when he went back to work only one month after our second was born. I wasn't sleeping enough and I wasn't patient when dealing with toddler tantrums. As a result, we switched roles completely: he became the default parent and I, the absent one.
Photographed by Julia C. Vona / Junophoto
Naomi at 16 days old
THE ABSENT PARENT
As an only child, I experienced lots of anxiety and fear of abandonment. As first-generation immigrants, my parents did not initially come from wealth. The year I was born, they were both still studying and working at the same time, while living in their landlord's basement. The baby equipment they used were hand-me-downs or stuff they found on the side of the street.
At around 8 months old, they had to focus on their studies, so I was flown back to my grandparents who were living in China at the time. The separation was too difficult for my mom, who decided to bring me back to Canada after I was hospitalized and sick from ingesting formula that stayed at room temperature for too long. When a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity came up, my mother took it and had to leave me behind when I was around 2 years old so she could pursue her career overseas. This was one of the hardest decisions she ever made, but it was made by necessity, not by choice. She would tell me later how she feels like she missed out on a lot of precious time spent with me. She would say how she felt a pang in her heart looking at my photos, because I was never smiling in any of them. She also complained that my dad didn't know how to dress me. As a toddler, I probably felt her absence more than ever, but couldn't understand the sudden loss of my own mother.
She told me that she came back one day after a month-long business trip and my dad brought me to the airport to pick her up. From her own point view, and not my own recollection of what happened, she knelt down to my level and opened her arms wide open. My dad asked me: "Who is this?". I didn't say a word. At first I only stared at her. But when realization slowly dawned upon me, I ran to her and refused to let go. I just buried my face in the warmth of her embrace. That night, she told me she battled jetlag as long as she could, watching me play. She decided to quietly retreat and go to bed. Before she could doze off, she heard my panicked voice: "Mama? Mama! MAMA?". She heard my dad reassure me as he softly said: "Look, mama is right here, she's sleeping, she's tired." My mom peeked her eyes open and saw me looking into the bedroom. When I realized she wasn't going anywhere, I slowly and quietly closed the door.
I do still have fond memories with both my mother and father. Growing up with entrepreneur parents, I always dreaded when they took turns to leave on business trips. However, they compensated by going on vacation with me every single year. Their sacrifice of not always being present allowed their business to flourish and to provide me with the best life they could possibly offer. As time went on, I started to notice that I had nicer clothes and more toys. They finally tasted the fruits of their labor when they could afford private education, and eventually build their dream home. And yet, till this day, what I cherish more than anything, are those vacations. The time spent with both my parents are incomparable to anything material. I remember my mother's resolve of one day retiring to be able to fully enjoy my future children. This dream of hers never happened, as she unexpectedly passed away three years before I had my first child. It's with this kind of mentality that I carry on to my adulthood: allocating my time preciously to each and one of my children's needs.
SWITCHING TO ZONE DEFENSE
We laugh now, but looking back, raising two kids was truly way easier. With two, we could be one-on-one with each child. We fit the mold of society's definition of a standard nuclear family. Two kids, two adults. We could all fit at a nice square table in a restaurant. We could enjoy family rebates at activities that are designed for families of four.
With three, the game completely changed, and we decided to play on expert mode with the decision of exclusively breastfeeding. This meant that the newborn was almost 24/7 with mom, while the two toddlers became dad's jurisdiction. But assigning responsibilities this way didn't always go as planned. Sometimes a toddler would escape dad's eyesight and run upstairs to find mom. Other times, mom would need a real, isolated nap, leaving all three with dad.
However, this so called "zone defense" wasn't really an issue, especially if you consider yourself a veteran parent like we did. Truth be told, by the time our third arrived, I wasn't struggling with the same challenges as a first-time mom. I was capable of breastfeeding with one arm while walking around the house picking up dirty laundry. If our eldest had to go to his multisport class on Sunday morning with dad, I wasn't scared to stay home alone with my newborn and my two-year-old. But what about being completely alone with three? We'll have to see once I cross that bridge...
MISSING OUT ON THE BOYS
Speaking from experience, I knew that the sleepless nights would end eventually. I was also aware that my baby wouldn't stay a baby for long, so I had to soak up every single moment.
They say nap when the baby naps, but watching her sleep peacefully would bring me so much pleasure that I would rather caress her little fingers and toes than shut my eyes. Needless to say, being away from the boys on a daily basis made me feel like I was missing out on their growth, so I would always ask Oli to tell me all the things they did or said. On certain occasions, I would consciously choose between my boys & sleep, knowing fully that the latter was more important in order to survive the night.
The guilt is real, but I'm confident that better days are ahead, because I'm determined to making sure they grow up never feeling like my love and attention is split.
Photographed by Julia C. Vona / Junophoto
Naomi at 16 days old