Nanny’s Boy: Third Children Rarely Get Our Attention

When I was pregnant with our third child, people warned me that the jump from two kids to three was biggie. One friend even joked that her first was Daddy’s boy, her second was Mommy’s boy and her third was Nanny’s boy. I promised myself that would never be the case in our house. Our third son would have every opportunity his older brothers had. I’d spend just as much time with him as I did with the other two. He may get a few more hand-me-downs, but he’d enjoy the same programs, toys and birthday parties as the big boys.

Sure, we were more relaxed with our third son, but we chalked it up to experience. The nervousness we experienced with our first subsided with the second, and all but disappeared with the third. As a baby, he always went to bed a little later and he started certain solid foods a little earlier. He was a bit of a mystery man to the outside world, staying home with our nanny while I chauffeured the other two around. Still, I breastfed him for a year like I did with the others. We threw him birthday parties like we did for the others. There were just as many pictures and videos of number three as numbers one and two. My husband and I prided ourselves on being equal opportunity parents.[tagbox tag="birth order"]

Until we weren’t.

Our firstborn enrolled in parent-and-tot swimming lessons. Our second did a water baby program while we watched poolside. Our third hung out in floaties until he learned to swim at summer camp. The oldest enjoyed a gym program with his grandmother, the middle with his grandfather and the third with me. I found the baby talk agonizing and we missed half the classes. When it came to speech, number three started speaking later than the other two, preferring some strange hybrid babble language. We were convinced it was part Tagalog, part French, as spoken by our Filipino-French nanny. Were we becoming everything we swore we wouldn’t? Yes!

We call it third-child burnout. In the comforts/confines of our own home, we’re fine. Our burnout has far less to do with who he is than where he is. In the world of ages and stages we’re cooked, spent, over it. We avoid all programs that aren’t drop-off. When his Sportball class invited us to come in for parent participation week, we argued over who would take him. In the end, we opted to keep him home.

In the carpool line at school, I listen to the moms organizing day camps and playgroups and stare at the floor. Unlike with my other two, I don’t even invest in friend-making on number three’s behalf unless the other child a) lives nearby, b) will be attending the same elementary school or,  c) I’ve got great chemistry with the other mom. I’m well aware of how harsh this might sound, but I’m just being realistic.  I remember being insulted when certain moms didn’t return my play date requests, but now I get it.

From what I understand it’s like this once you have more than two children. We’re outnumbered. Parents are fatigued and more lenient, and our kids are busier and more independent. For better, and for worse, that’s how it is with thirds, fourths and beyond. Not that we’ll ever know…

(Photo: Noam Armonn/Shutterstock)

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  • CW

    Only my oldest got to do all the mommy-and-me stuff, but the flipside of the extra attention and energy is that I was *INSANELY* overbearing. I watch home movies of when she was a baby and I just cringe at how much of a pushy “helicopter” mom I was back then. I am a much, much better mom to 3 then I was as a mom of only 1.

  • Mich

    And yet, the third will end up being the most well-adjusted. This is the blessing of not having the crazy attention all the time. Yah, there will be other problems, there always are, but you’ll see – he will be more than fine! We could all afford a little more ignoring of these kids and let them find their own ways.

  • SJP

    CW, I totally agree — we were so overbearing with our first too!! Lucky for him our 2nd arrived when he was 21mo.

    I cannot relate to the author though and we also have a 4th. I think it’s probably because mine are closer together? (7, 5, 3, 18mo). I also work full time and did not want to spend my evenings and weekends at paid activities. So we did not do any extra curriculars / mommy and me / play dates / etc. My oldest finally started his first activity in August – Piano lessons where the teacher comes to our house. I will let each child pick an intrusment when they are old enough and interested.

    We also had boy / boy / girl / girl… our 3rd had some “newness” of being the first girl. She did not get any hand me down clothes, etc. My husband is the SAHD and has so much fun with the girls while the boys are at school (2nd grade, all day Kinder).

  • DebMoore

    Not always!
    My sister is the third and she got the most attention/toys/privliages/opportunities than my brother or I ever got! And still does to this day. Even my husband comments on how much more favored she is (esp at Christmas) And it was not to “make up” for how much more time my mom spent with us. In fact my Brother and I spent more time in daycare than she ever did. My mom quit working when the third was born and stayed home with her till kindergarden. (BTW I am the oldest my brother came 4 years later and then my sister 2 years after that) where as I was in daycare since I was a few weeks old. She also breastfeed my sister (not me, she couldn’t figure out how to do it) My mom admits she had no idea what she was doing with the first, got better with the 2nd and spent the most time with the third!

  • Kristina

    Well, this makes me glad that I had three kids by having twins the second time. I do relate to some of this…I didn’t work hard on getting them friends as babies and toddlers (due to exhaustion and the fact that they had each other and big sis)…but now that they are three and attending preschool, I am getting more concerned about that. They are involved in less activities than their older sister was, but that is almost certainly due to money constraints. I don’t feel like I have less interest in doing things with them. Maybe if I had a fourth, I would be over it…

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