Why three is the most stressful number of children to have – BUT mothers of four are MORE relaxed | Mail Online

Why three is the most stressful number of children to have – BUT mothers of four are MORE relaxed | Mail Online.

Third time’s a charm.  1,2,3 – GO!  The three amigos.  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Celery, carrots, and onions.  Huey, Duey, and Louey.  The Three Little Pigs.  Even the tri-cornered hat.  Three is a magic number!

Unless you have three children.  Then, apparently, it drives you out of your gourd.

My husband sent me the link to the article above in an e-mail one day with the subject line, “interesting article . . .”  Well, the ellipses said everything.

The article, though, doesn’t give any specific reasons why, I thought – at least none I hadn’t already known.  My husband and I had already joked that we’d  moved from man-on-man defense to zone defense once we had three.  I already told people that the only thing that helped going from two to three was that you already knew how to keep multiple balls in the air – but that, now, there was always a ball in the air.  The woman quoted who said it was easy going from one to two?  Yeah, no.  I swear my second is still a light sleeper because I was constantly shrieking at her sister to stay away from her as a newborn (can you say undiagnosed case of some sort of postpartum something?  No wonder the $#*% the fan with the third).

As far as the benefits of having four, I already reap some of those now with three.  A Dr. Taylor in the article says about perfectionism that “‘there’s just not enough space in your head’ once you have at least four children.”  There is no available space in my brain.  Burn photos or video to a DVD?  I knew how to do that once.  That knowledge oozed out my ear during one of the twenty minute periods of sleep of some child’s infancy.  And forget head space – what of physical or mental energy?  Once upon a time I hung sheetrock at Habitat for Humanity home sites, after scoring and snapping it myself.  I fought vehemently to do things around the house my way.  Now if the home improvement fairy comes and takes care of things, I don’t really care as long as it gets done (with the possible exception of painting/decorating).  Something’s gotta give.

And that’s where I do agree with something Dr. Taylor says.  “The more children you have, the more confident you become in your parenting abilities. You have to let go.”  There is confidence in repetition, practice.  I didn’t worry about ‘breaking’ my baby after countless diaper changes and pulling little arms through tiny shirt sleeves.  I didn’t freak out as much over breast feeding and whether they were getting enough to eat.  But did I worry if I was doing enough?  Not doing the damage that would land my kids in their own form of therapy someday?  Heck, yeah.  That didn’t change with multiple kiddos.  That increased.  Still, for self-preservation – and really, theirs too – you do have to let go.

A dear friend, who had her three children three steps ahead of mine, and therefore in the as-cool-as-a-cucumber phase while I was just entering the anal-retentive, told me when I had my third, that I was much more relaxed.  When I relayed the story to my father-in-law, hinting that she’d called me anal-retentive, he agreed!  I hadn’t seen what everyone else had.  People laugh now because I’m so laissez-faire with everyday concerns.  When my impatient five year-old says she wants a snack so emphatically that it sounds like she’s gone without food for days, I say, ‘That’s nice.”  After the thud, I wait for the scream or wail.  If my child wants to go to school looking like it’s mismatch day everyday of year, more power to her.

I could be accused of being lax.  I could be accused of swinging the pendulum so far away from anal-retentive, it’s a tad too much.  But somedays I feel like I’m living inside an episode of The Three Stooges.

At least my kids are cuter

At least my kids are cuter

I can’t be all things to everyone.  I sure as hell can’t be perfect.  And I’m not going to try for a fourth to test this article’s theories!

Eat the Frog

I’ve been doing a lot of that lately.

Suffering through those things I don’t want to do in order to get to the ones I want.

Problem is, by the time I eat said frogs, I’m usually too damn tired to do the things I want, which never really were obligatory anyway.  Or, I take so long staring down the frog or pretending I don’t hear him croaking that I have just enough time to gulp him down hurriedly before the sun goes down; it’s time for dinner; time to pick up the girls from the bus stop.

Procrastination and perfectionism are not mutually exclusive.

When, pre-move, I described how I was failing to meet my goal of packing five boxes per day, an acquaintance pointed out how I couldn’t possibly be an overachiever and a procrastinator.  Luckily, another such duality came to my defense.  She concurred, that, oh yes, it is possible to be so worried about doing something perfectly that it stops you from attempting it at all.

In college, I grabbed a pamphlet from the career center on procrastination.  I’ve since thrown it out – though it took me quite some time ; ) – but it laid out similar terms.  I didn’t necessarily agree with it.  I am not one obsessed with the pursuit of perfection.  At least not overtly.  I understand the human condition and all its frailty.  I like to think I empathize and can forgive our various faults.

But do I refuse to start projects until I have sufficient time to complete the entire task?  Yes.  Will I stay at that task far into the night or despite my husband’s repeated attempts to beckon me to the dinner table until it is finished?  Yes.  Will I avoid beginning a task until I know exactly how to execute it?  Yes.  Do I fail to commit to a task until I know I can fulfill all the obligations that go along with it?  Yes.  And regardless of all reasons not to start, do I place an unrelenting sense of guilt heavy upon my breastbone until I do start?  Yes.

Hmmm . . . maybe I threw out that pamphlet because I was not ready to see myself in its words.

What is it with these freakin’ frogs?  And why do they all float on lily pads obscuring what murky depths really cause all this angst: ANXIETY.

Because that’s what it really is, isn’t it?  I worry about getting things right because I’m anxious.  I put things off because they make me nervous.  Or I’m worried about getting it all done.  Or I’m worried I’ll run out of time.  Or it’s an unpleasant task.  Or it’s out of my comfort zone.  Whatever hue or size these amphibian friends and foes come in, they’re all from the same frog mother.  And what a mother-f*&%$#@ she is.

The more I learn about myself, my reactions, feelings, and disposition, the more I realize how much of my life has been colored by anxiety.  I don’t know if I’ve ever known what it is to live without it.  There was a time when I didn’t know I was living with it, but looking back, now I can name it unequivocally.

A very talented writer friend of mine just shared a story wherein a character and her mother try to pinpoint the exact origin of the mother’s obsessive-compulsive disorder.  They realize that not only is it impossible, but it is a form of obsession in and of itself.  What does it matter where it began?  One must learn coping mechanisms to take forward with her.  I find myself doing this repeatedly with my anxiety.  But why?  When did it start?  How?  What purpose does that serve beyond making me more anxious?  Why roll back the reels over those years over and done – and with a pretty good measure of success?  Why create suffering where there may have been none?  Or where there was some, but where I had the wherewithal to function despite it?

Maybe it’s the perfectionist in me, but I feel that the fact that I’ve reached a point in my life where I can’t hack it when I previously could makes me a failure on some level.  I know this is my masochistic overachiever unrealistic hair shirt-wearing self, but it is still part of me and I can’t turn it off no matter how hard I try to push with my rational self.  And all that croaking just reminds me of it.  Why do I get a mental block when I assess my to-do list?  Why can I not complete tasks that I know will reap rewards?

Guess the only way around it is to choke the frogs down before they choke me.

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