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to be regretting third child and feeling have messed everything up - advice from academics especially welcome

(87 Posts)
fantastickfox Fri 09-May-14 15:08:40

I have just had my third baby, so aware I am probably sleep deprived and hormonal. He is a beautiful baby (obviously) and easy so far in comparison to my others. Before I had him I obsessed for about two years about having another child, I felt incomplete and so sad at the thought of having no more - I would get panicky thoughts about my 2 children just being the two of them and what if something happened to one of them leaving the other alone, etc. I could not bear the thought of never being pregnant/ giving birth again, it really did preoccupy me and I am generally, I think, a reasonable rational person. I have to admit I pressurised my partner into this and it was not what he wanted really, which I feel very bad about.

Now, however, it is only just beginning to hit me what a huge and irreversible thing I have done. I love my baby obviously but I am starting to realise what should have been obvious before but I couldn't see about the effect this will have on our family, our older children (5 and 3) not being able to do things we were just beginning to do easily eg take them swimming and on holiday, and I feel I have let them down. I know these things are maybe relatively minor and I have lost perspective a bit in the post natal period. Most of all I feel I have let my partner down, he is a devoted dad but if it wasn't for me would have waited to have children. He is a post-doc and as a result of choosing to settle down when we did has been unable to follow the standard career path of lots of short term contracts in different places worldwide which I understand is almost expected, He has stayed in the same place since we had our eldest child and feels his career has suffered as a result, along with the impact of having children and being able to put in fewer hours, as a result of which he has not got as many good publications as he would have wanted and has been unable to secure a lectureship. The third child thing has not actually altered this state of affairs, but probably isn't going to help. I feel I have messed things up for everyone and don't know what to do. I have suggested (many times) he go and work away eg in the states for a bit, but he is reluctant to leave the kids and says we can't afford it and it is too late.

Would really appreciate both advice in general about the impact of the third child on managing to keep doing things with the older 2 without them missing out, but also perspectives of any academics as I am not in that world and only have my partner's experience to go on. Sorry for long post!

AhCmonSeriouslyNow Fri 09-May-14 15:16:50

I really feel for you - I remember feeling that "what the f* have I done to you?" about my firstborn just before my second was born and, like you, I was terribly broody before that pregnancy.

Yes, life will change for your two older children (I have 2, 3 and just-6 so I know what you mean about holidays and things getting easier at that age) but a sibling is an amazing thing to give them and your family will grow and adapt to accommodate him and it WILL be ok. It really will.

As for the career path of your OH. Mine is a postdoc, was just finishing his PhD when we had our first. When she was 6 mths old we moved from UK to Ireland and then, when our second was about 8 mths old, we moved to Canada. I joke that we can't have a 3rd child 'cause it will mean moving country again.
I don't think his career path is ruined, he can find places within the UK or short term placements maybe to get a breadth of experience. My OH is almost ready to look around for another job but, thankfully, there is lots of work in his area where we are now so he will probably find something in this city. I don't want to uproot now that our eldest is settled in school and I have a good job here too which would be hard to replicate elsewhere.
I have also mentioned to him that he might do some kind of 6 month contract or something if there was a position in another part of the world and we would just get on with life and Skype him while he was there...maybe visit depending on where it was. I would bet that your OH can still build up some wider experience without necessarily having to leave the city/country you are in.

Congratulations on your new baby. I hope you find that you adapt soon. I was the third child in my family - they are awesome!!

JanineStHubbins Fri 09-May-14 15:21:24

How many years post-PhD is your DH? Arts or science?

Depending on where you are in the UK, there may well be a lot of universities within commuting distance.

PoundingTheStreets Fri 09-May-14 15:28:39

I think most of this will pass. brew

That "WTF have I done" feeling is something nearly every mother experiences in the first few months of a new baby, isn't it? It's because nature makes us forget just how strongly we felt it before in case we stopped at one. wink

Yes, there are practical difficulties with three rather than two (can't hold hands of three DC all at the same time, for example) and yes, in the short time you'll be restricted to activities suitable for the youngest of the three to go along to, but that period will soon pass. And with three you can still do most things it just needs a little more planning. You will quickly become very good at it.

One way your DH can get round his situation is by making full use of technology and networking opportunities. If he can travel for conferences, so much the better, but in some fields a lot of networking, sharing research ideas and joint publications can be done online.

Jinty64 Fri 09-May-14 15:31:29

I had a third child and in retrospect it would have been much more sensible to have stopped at two. I do feel the older dcs have missed out in quite a lot of ways. We would have been in a hugely different place financially if we hadn't had him and I have sacrificed my career.


We chose to have him and we do have him. He is here and he is a huge part of our family. We can't change that and nor would we want to. He is a wonderful, perfect, amazing little individual and this is the way it is.

I expect you are hormonal but you need to put out of your head what was or what might have been and embrace what is. You need work round things to fit in what you can for the other two and they will be happy with this. Your dh may have ideally chosen to do other things before settling down but he chose to go along with you and you now have a perfect family of three. You can't go backwards so you need to celebrate and embrace what you have and move forward.

YellowYoYoYam Fri 09-May-14 15:32:00

I think that panicky feeling of dread is normal when you're in the postnatal phase. I had it with both of mine, very tearful and panicky, especially in the evenings. With DD, although I loved her to pieces, I was convinced I had ruined my life. With DS I was convinced I had ruined DDs life and was inexplicably upset that I had given her a brother instead of a sister. Looking back, I know I must have been totally hormonal.

I can't help with the academic bit, other than to say you might be being overly harsh on yourself about "pressurising" your DH. He is a grown man and as this is his third I'm sure he was aware of the demands another child would place on the family. If he was really opposed I don't think DC3 would be here!

GuybrushThreepwoodMP Fri 09-May-14 15:44:41

How many years is it since PhD? Is there a particular institution which is doing research in his field? Post-docs are hard to come by because they are usually so specific. In my experience, the best way to secure a lectureship is to work for a long time at the same place. Would he consider moving to a private company?
Academia is a tough gig because contracts are never permanent, but I do know plenty of people who have completed PhDs and post-docs and become lecturers while sustaining a busy family life. Where do you live? We're in Cambridge but that means that most London universities would also be commutable- some places are now convenient to live for academics than others.
With regards to feeling that your other children will lose out now, I just don't think that is true and I don't think they will ever feel like that. We all make sacrifices for family and if your dh feels that his career isn't quite at the place it would have been then he joins an awful lot of other people- especially women- who feel like that too. Maybe the closest thing to 'having it all' is 'having it all but each individual thing not getting as much attention as it would have.'

Sillylass79 Fri 09-May-14 15:53:18

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Sillylass79 Fri 09-May-14 15:55:08

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Sillylass79 Fri 09-May-14 15:56:33

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

CailinDana Fri 09-May-14 15:56:44

My husband is also a postdoc and is struggling with the whole career progression bullshit. The situation in academia really is ridiculous at the moment - it's almost as if universities actively refuse to nurture their staff and instead are quite happy to just let them go and to take on a new person every 2-3 years. It's a crazy way to do things IMO and a totally unreasonable expectation for people who in general are in their early to mid 30s and are the prime age for settling down and having children. I have a few friends who've done the whole moving around thing and it's worked out for some and not for others - it seems rather arbitrary and down to luck a lot of the time. A friend who has just made professor at 41 (very young) is in the same university since undergrad - she never moved and yet progressed up the ladder very quickly anyway. We moved a few times (including one international move) but when we came to where we are now I insisted we buy a house and do our level best to stay put. There are only so many times you can start all over again in a new place - it is soul destroying to have no roots, no friends etc. It's tough though because DH's contract is up next year and he doesn't know where he will stand then. He recently applied for a lectureship and didn't even get an interview - it's hard to compete with a pool of people the basically includes candidates from all over the world, as people are quite willing to travel any distance for a lectureship so he was up against postdocs who have had contracts in five different universities internationally etc. The sheer quantity of universities you've worked at seems to be a point of competition now which is bonkers. You're rewarding a lifestyle that is very unhealthy and destructive to relationships. One friend of mine is 37 and still chasing postdocs and her life has really suffered as a result - she would love to have children but can't see a way to afford them when she is on short contract after short contract and can't settle in one place for more that 2 years. It seems barmy for people to work hard and get such great qualifications only to struggle endlessly for rather mediocre pay. I've often said to DH that he'd be better off just working in Tesco. Total waste of his abilities but his quality of life would be far better.

Anyway, after that spleen vent.

Your feelings about your 3rd child are normal- so many people have the same feelings about their children. The main thing is to keep an eye on it and see that it's not affecting your bond with your lovely DC long term. Chances are you will just feel better once your hormones calm down, but if you don't, get thee to the GP.

Topseyt Fri 09-May-14 16:03:19

I know the feelings you describe. I think I had them after I had each of my three, from the first right through to the third. Each was planned, wanted and loved.

It is normal. Babies are such a huge life change, however many you have or don't have.

Going from two children to three was a big decision for us, especially financially. Far bigger than from one to two. I definitely wanted three though, and my husband was supportive as he is the eldest of three.

This is a phase. It will pass. Try to enjoy your new baby without being too hard on yourself. You will find a way to make things work.

waterrat Fri 09-May-14 16:07:15

the period where having a baby will hold your children back from doing things is a tiny, tiny part of their lives. You have to put it in perspective - being a baby doesn't last veyr long ! in five years babyhood and toddlerhood will be behind you.

Your partner has something more wonderful than any job - he has a family and three amazing children who will give him laughter and love in the years to come. don't pressure him to go abroad! Life is long, we work until we are very old, he will have other opportunities for work later in life when your kids are older.

you are hormonal - cuddle your baby eat some chocolate and try not to think about the future at all!

flashheartscanoe Fri 09-May-14 16:07:56

This will pass- If you felt incomplete with 2 you always needed to have 3- I was the same and am now totally happy with 3.

In the early days I felt so panicked by the whole situation. I am now almost the other side and I can tell you- having your kids young is a great thing- My DH and I are almost out the other side and full of plans for the next stage of our lives. Remember you have babies and toddlers for a very short time- its overwhelming and hard work but then you have your beautiful children for the rest of your life.

If your DH is in any way contributing to making you feel you have harmed his career then thats a serious issue but maybe for another day.

flashheartscanoe Fri 09-May-14 16:08:58

cross post with waterrat with the same message!

Swisskissingisbetterthenfrench Fri 09-May-14 16:12:25

You are at the trickiest part. It really does get much easier. X

Babesh Fri 09-May-14 16:24:08

Dunno about the academic stuff but my children would swop anything for another baby and we have a toddler. What number three brings is extraordinary and our rugby and swimming just carried on, holidays too. I work harder but I get the most cuddles too. Your big problem us that before you know it they will be ganging up on yousmile

Journey Fri 09-May-14 16:26:57

You just have to learn to juggle and be realistic about what you can and can't do. I think when you have your third child it hits home how easy it is only having two children. You'll also find you'll have less in common with friends with only one or two children because they don't get the juggling you have to do. However, you'll have a lot of laughs and support from mums with three plus children so it balances things out. I have four children.

My DH is a postdoc but retrained for greater job security.

Squitten Fri 09-May-14 16:33:54

My boys are the same age as your two and we now have 6mth old DD. They may fight like cat and dog over pretty much every bloody thing else but they both utterly adore their little sister! I really wouldn't worry about that.

As far as your OH'S career goes, stop blaming yourself. He's a big boy and he chose to have kids so he had to make the same balances that all parents, especially females, have to make. You haven't "done" anything to him.

Be kind to yourselves right now - it will get better and soon you'll wonder how you ever existed without your new LO!

Honsandrevels Fri 09-May-14 16:40:55

I don't think it is fair to 'blame' the children re career progression. I'd just finished a phd and had a research fellow position when having dd1. I moved universities when she was 15ish months and then stayed in the same place ever since on short contracts, having dd2 too. Lectureships are very competitive and short contracts are just the nature of research positions.

Ubik1 Fri 09-May-14 16:41:49

Am not an academic but have similar age gaps - my girls are now 4,7,9 and life has become much easier in the last year.

Just some thoughts:

Do you have a support network? Foster friendships with people with children of a similar age, share drop offs/pickups to activities.

One of you will have to take over with the big ones - swimming/bike rides etc while the other looks after baby.

It's not for long. You will be amazed at what your youngest can do and how independent the others are.

I am so proud of my three and so is DP.

My calendar is like air traffic control at heathrow - I work ever changing shift patterns which keeps it interesting.

And I know you are hormonal but a bit of finger wagging here - I've a friend who is going through IVF with his wife, they are trying for no 2. They have endured several late miscarriages. I remember moaning about the cost of three children, my career 'hit' etc and he looked at me and said: "three healthy children isn't enough?"

And I know it's not the whole answer - to just be happy with what you have - but it's worth thinking about. There are people in a far worse situation.

And your situation will improve - honestly, this will be a tough year and then you will get all the rewards.

Congratulations on your baby

hettie Fri 09-May-14 16:51:37

My director of studies had three children during her time from starting her doctorate to now (head of department) and she only worked in two universities, both part time- so it is possible. Academia is stupidly competitive (for increasingly high stress and little financial reward) as are many jobs (TV, media, law etc) so it possible that even with endless moving around and maximising his chances it may still never happen.
As a family of three you will get back to all those 'older child activities' swimming etc just give yourself a little time.... honest

KleineDracheKokosnuss Fri 09-May-14 16:59:30

My husband is also a postdoc and is struggling with the whole career progression bullshit. The situation in academia really is ridiculous at the moment - it's almost as if universities actively refuse to nurture their staff and instead are quite happy to just let them go and to take on a new person every 2-3 years.

Yes to that. Academic life is not easy at present - endless applications, initiatives and moving on repeatedly. I'm married to an academic who has happily got tenure (about 90 miles away from where we live) and we are agreed that he can only ever move jobs if there's none of the 'on probation for 5 years silliness'. Your husband not moving may have caused his career to go slow at present, but you didn't make a baby on your own - he was fully involved!

Your older children will miss out on a few things - but only for a short while. Before long they'll be old enough to take themselves off to do things, and in the meantime they'll be getting the benefits of having a younger sibling around - which is a benefit that lots of other kids won't have.

diege Fri 09-May-14 17:04:55

I think you need to look at the bigger picture of what academic is these days, as some other posters such as cailindana have said. The field is very unsecure, with many on short term contracts or working well over hours with little or no hope of career progression. I'm an academic myself, having recently returned after maternity leave with dc 6. I did my PhD before having children, but tbh it's not lack of effort/kids etc that has impacted on my rate of publications/career advancement (still chasing a 'Readership') as the reorganisation of my institution. I think your dh has to accept he's in a (currently) very fraught environment career-wise and that this may well shape his future as much, or indeed more, than him having children.

TreadSoftlyOnMyDreams Fri 09-May-14 17:08:40

Have you considered that he is using your children as an excuse to avoid moving/stepping up and taking the risk of changing employer/country etc? Most people when they have been on one place for a long period become institutionalised to an extent and much more nervous about moving on whether they are an academic or an engineer regardless of actual opportunity to do so. In my experience this is only a heightened fear when you have small children. You may be feeling guilty over nothing at all.

Primary level is the best time to move your children around in my view. I also know an academic who has taken a years sabatical in order to take a contract with a reputable university in Australia leaving his family at home. He will visit the university for only 3 weeks a term and the remainder of the lectures will be delivered over a skype type interface. The world has totally moved on in that respect - it totally opened my eyes.

Don't forget that DH is probably sleep deprived and knackered too so won't be in the best place to think rationally at the moment. You haven't messed up and congratulations on your beautiful baby.

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