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Life with 3

I usually don’t talk about the subject of the number of children, because I think it’s highly personal and it’s also a sensitive issue for many people, especially those trying to conceive without success. But I read something in the last few days that gave me the itch to comment here. A friend of mine, who’s pregnant with the third baby, posted this text on Facebook: Three kids? You must be rich, eh? (Original in Portuguese only) If you read Portuguese, it’s worth taking a peek there first.

I have never accessed that blog, and I confess I didn’t read anything else from them yet, but I related to that text because we Alves Passos face the same type of questions. Like the author, Ivna Sá, I am divided between giving the polite smile or getting the conversation going with someone comes up with “big family, eh?”, or they comment that my husband must earn tons of money. In our case even more, I think, because I am a Stay-At-Home-Mom, and, in case you didn’t notice, we like travelling. “The wages in Ireland are probably very good for you to travel so much with 3 kids.” Hmm… not necessarily. As Esdras says “People have no idea about the old clothes we have, and the packed lunches we eat.”

 

by Evelyn

Here in Ireland, 3 kids is not considered a big family, it’s actually normal. “Big family” was my mom’s, six siblings, or my father-in-law’s who were nine. We have friends with 4 kids or more, and here it’s normal. So when we hear the comment “You have your hands full, huh?” it usually comes from a woman who has their own and who knows that small kids are a lot of work, no matter if it’s one, two or six. But there’s always that person who think we’re filthy rich and it’s funny make jokes about it. So, how is it that we travel so much with 3 small kids?

The simple answer would be: it’s a matter of setting priorities. Of course that some costs are different here in Ireland and in Brazil. I know that the price of schools is something to consider when deciding to have kids (and how many kids). Here the schools are public and are good quality. My mom, for example, gave up a lot of stuff to be able to pay a private school for us. And even then, it was a matter of priorities: if her priority was having more money to spend, as opposed to investing in good education, or if her wage couldn’t cover the cost of the school, I’d probably have studied in a public school in Brazil too.

But, really, there’s no simple answer. Those choices affect many levels of life. We don’t care about fancy clothes, nor having loads of clothes. Both for us and for the kids, because in fact they don’t even know the difference! I don’t care about going to the hairdresser every week (like many women here do) and I do my nails at home. We rarely eat at restaurants. We have only one car (some families with children decide to have 2) and we don’t care about changing it every year. We don’t shower our kids with toys, neither we do expensive birthday parties (imagine?! Three expensive parties per year?!) We also decided that they don’t need to do all the extra classes in the world, they need time to play too. And even in the trips, we don’t care about 5-start hotels. We prefer cheap accommodation, preferably with a kitchen where we can cook our own meals, and we always search for the cheapest flights. In those choices we also teach our children the value of things, and the value of being together.

But there’s something else that Ivna mentions, it’s investing time in our kids. Our maths work kind of like hers: we earn a bit less (I still didn’t come back from “maternity leave”), spend a bit more (after the first child we don’t have to buy everything again, as we have loads of clothes, pram, crib, and even toys), but we choose to spend more time with our girls. I chose to have less “free” time for a while (in the evenings, actually) and have more money, but we were moving houses, so we needed the extra cash.

Of course I understand that many families don’t have this option. Bills have to be paid. The maternity leave is only 4 months, grandparents are usually working too, so they can’t take over the kids, so that doesn’t help either. I’m talking about cases in which you can choose between having more money and having more time. Even for the moms who choose to stay at home, it is not always easy, but that’s a topic for another post.

Time invested in your children is very important. Last year, the teacher in our girls school started a new programme to develop oral communication. Yes, SPEAKING! Why? Because the children, about 4 or 5 year old, were starting school without proper communication skills, and poor manners. So there was no point for them to introduce reading and writing if the kids were not able to TALK properly! That, according to the school, was a result of lack of interaction at home. This is not parents talk at school gate, or Facebook “alternative facts”. It was a research done by the school.

Many people blame the telly/phones/tablets, but here at home they watch and play on devices, and there’s also lots of role play, chatting, games and laughter. And when I’m busy with house work, they have each other to play and talk. For us, spending time together is not sitting together on the couch, each one with their own device, watching different stuff, and it’s not necessarily going out to eat something with each child individually.  Sometimes we give up watching we want to watch “My Little Pony” with them, just to get to know the characters they like, and why they like them, or even to discuss what the characters do wrong. It’s talking about the day on the way home from school, it’s sitting and reading a book with them (even though the read it 100 times!)

Sometimes it’s difficult to sum up the financial Maths. My mom worked during all my childhood and most teenage years (until she retired), cutting costs here and there to make sure we always had food on our table, but she was also very present and made time to spend with me. We never lacked in anything, food, clothing or a roof over our heads, and I praise God that my children also lack nothing. Those years pass too fast. Some days seem unending, but the years fly. Soon they will be paying for their own plane tickets and travelling with their friends! Childhood is very short if you compare to the rest of our lives. When they’re 13, they’re teenagers, and 18 are adults already!

But the Maths from the Bible, that book so old and so present, have never failed us. The secret is, as Paul said, being content with what you have, without wanting to show off or to desire always the “bigger and better”

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Philippians 4:12,13

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