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Family Matters

11 Truths About Having Three Kids

A mom of three shares what happens when you're outnumbered at home...

Every morning at around 6 a.m., our bedroom door opens and little bodies pile in our bed. We snuggle as a family for a few minutes before beginning the frantic sprint that is our weekday morning. With three kids ages 2, 8, and 10, we have lunches to pack, diapers to change, friend dramas to solve, and blankies to find. All before coffee. While the day begins with more kisses and love than I ever could have imagined, mornings are insane.

Families come in all shapes and sizes, but according to a survey from the Today Show the hardest number of children for moms to deal with is three. Yes, three is officially harder than four or five or six. And I get why. Here are 11 truths about having three kids:

The world is built for families of four. Ever been to an amusement park? All rides seat two. Therefore, there is always one odd man out on any ride. No child wants to be that man. My 10-year-old cried for 20 minutes last year when I made her ride the roller coaster alone. Her sister was too little to go alone and her brother was too scared. But it isn't just roller coasters. Restaurant booths, small cars, hotel rooms. The world is built for mom, dad, and two kids.

There are so many kisses. No matter how bad my day is, having three kids means someone is always up for a cuddle. Someone wants to kiss me or hug me or just snuggle into me while I watch TV. In a world where touch is rare and so many people go days without affection, a mom of three never has that problem.

Adults are outnumbered. It's three of them against two of you. My 2-year-old is in that phase where she can't be left alone for three seconds without getting into something. The other day I ran upstairs to answer a question for my older child and when I came back downstairs, she was scraping a pin across our brand-new TV. The day before, she tried to climb into the fridge.

Someone likes your food. Children can be notoriously hard to please when it comes to dinner, but with three kids, chances are, at least one will enjoy the chicken parmesan you slaved over. At least one kid will eat the broccoli. At least one kid will feed your culinary self-esteem.

Guilt is unavoidable. With three children, there is always the distinct sense that you are letting one child, possibly two, down. When I am reading with my little one, the older two are playing alone. When I am baking with my oldest, my middle and youngest are fending for themselves. I wish I had 10 hands and three brains pretty much every day.

You'll worry about the middle child. Some middle children claim to be happy. But to me, they often seem to be the most neglected. My monkey in the middle is my son, and while he might gripe about being neither the youngest nor the oldest, his negotiation skills are top notch and he's generally the kid who's most comfortable with chaos.

Their needs are constant. Ever heard "mommy" and felt your heart melt? Ever heard "mommy" and wanted to run and hide in the bathroom? As a mom of three, I am familiar with both emotions. With three children, someone is always calling for you.

Three kids are expensive. One kid is expensive. Three can feel overwhelming. There are three mouths to feed, three sets of activities, three plane tickets to buy when we travel. And don't even get me started on the holidays. Your third baby should come with a warning label: This child may lead to heavy weeping upon glimpsing your bank balance.

And there are career challenges. Balancing work with parenting can be tricky for all parents. My third kid was the end of my full-time career. I'd been working when she was born three years ago, but soon after I came back from maternity leave, it became obvious that I couldn't sustain it. Someone always had an appointment or needed help with their homework or a ride to a friend's. But I have been lucky enough to find part-time work that I enjoy (and that covers some of our bills), and being here when the kids come home from school is something I wouldn't trade for a million job opportunities.

We think we're in control. Moms of four or more tell me that they have just given up. Permission slips may not get signed. The kids might eat soft pretzels for dinner. We moms of three are different. We're still holding onto the reins of the horse. The thing is galloping and trying to buck us off, but we can't let go. We think if we just work a little harder, move a little faster, wake up a little earlier, all will be in order.

It's never boring. Our house is never quiet. Someone always has a friend over or a playdate or a birthday party, and the truth is, while it feels chaotic at times, this is the life I always dreamed of having. It's loud. It's wild. It's overwhelming at times. And it's more fun than I ever could have imagined.