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Want to Lower Stress? Maybe You Need More…Kids??!!??!!

 dallas moms blogCall me crazy but I’ve been telling friends for as long as I’ve been a mother of four (almost 2 years)…that having four children is actually easier than having one, two, or three.  Friends laugh. (They think I’m joking.) Strangers scoff. (They think I’m lying.)  But, I firmly believe it’s true.

So, when I found out that the Today show actually uncovered a survey that backs up what I already knew, I was thrilled. The main premise of their story was that mothers with three children report the highest levels of stress.  But, woven throughout, was a talk with a mom-of-four, who, like me, explained how she felt four was a magic number in terms of making her life a little bit more relaxed.

Why? How could a mother of four claim her life is calm?  Well, according to the interviewed mom, once you have four or more you have no choice but to let go of some things.  And, I couldn’t agree more.  Confessing this may take me out of the running for all mother-of-the-year competitions, but once you have four children you no longer have the capacity to do everything “right.”  You just get it done, however you can.

I think this takes the pressure off.  My five-year-old daughter’s hair is rarely fixed to perfection. If she matches and has her shoes on the correct feet (a major struggle for her at this stage in life), we are doing well.  My three-year-old dresses himself and may or may not go to church wearing his pants and underwear backwards…every week.

My kindergartner doesn’t play a sport or take music lessons, in part, because getting him to and from school each day is about all I can handle right now.  (In Texas, I know, this is appalling.)  And, my baby, well, he’s almost two and insists on being outside, always.  Sometimes that means he plays in our fenced-in backyard (while I make dinner) with only his three-year-old sidekick to supervise. (Insert your gasp here.)

Lest you misunderstand where I’m coming from, you should know I’m not a laid back, go-with-the-flow girl.  In fact, I’m about as type A as they come. I’m a perfectionist…an over-achiever.  I’m a safety freak.  I’m a little OCD, especially when it comes to germs.  And, I never leave the house without make-up on.  I like order.  I like control…

Then I had four children.  And, I realized what was probably true all along: I’m not really in control anyway.

With four children I can no longer be there to catch every spill or break every single fall.  I can’t get in the middle of every sibling squabble and I can no longer keep track of everyone’s favorite toy.  I can’t keep each child together, perfectly, like I would try (in vain) to do when there were only one…or two of them.

So how is four less stressful?  I think I finally have enough children to give myself an exemption from the expectation that I should be able to “do it all.”  (I should add that I believe every mom–no matter how many children she has–should free herself from this expectation. But if this is an area of struggle for you, maybe a few more children will tip the scales for you, too.)

A few years ago I wrote about my struggle to transition to life as a new mom.  The secret, I believe, was to give up.   Now that I’ve fully embraced life as a mother of four I think that secret is more relevant than ever.

I’ve had to give up my super mom fantasies.

For example, I’ve come to grips with the fact that we are only going to look good (all at the same time) in Christmas card photos.  And, I spend more time worrying about the number of bread loaves we consume weekly than I do stressing about the nutritional value of the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches I serve daily.

That’s not to say that I don’t struggle with the same mommy guilt as everyone else.  Yes, I wish I had the capacity to make the vegetables on my kids’ dinner plates look like a friendly lion.  I still fantasize that I’ll teach them a second language before elementary school just for their own enrichment. (My oldest missed out but I still have 3 chances… If I start today….)  I should probably stop pinning elaborate kiddo art projects because just busting out the Play Doh is too much for me to muster most days.

It’s true.  My children don’t have their own iPads and will never have their own bathrooms.  They have to make sacrifices because of their abundance of siblings.  And, I’m afraid those sacrifices have only just begun.  There is going to be room-sharing, clothes-handing-down, computer-turn-taking, snack rationing, and many other less-than-indulgent experiences that my children will endure in the years to come.  Many that their peers with fewer siblings will never understand.DSC_0106

But, I hope they will grow not to mind… and see the trade-off.  Like the bonus that they always have a friend to play with or someone to ride the roller coaster with on the family vacation.   There will be more birthday parties, four times the Christmas presents, and more special occasions and achievements to celebrate.

Life with four children means that, as parents, my husband and I hear more great, “only-a-kid-could-come-up-with-this” stories, more silly jokes, and more laughter than we ever heard when there weren’t as many little faces around the table.

And, as for me, I do feel like my life is a bit easier with four than with fewer.  They entertain each other. They come up with interesting things to do and learn how to work together.  They cheer each other on when one needs encouragement.  They cheer each other up when one gets down.  They look out for each other and thus give me extra sets of eyes and ears wherever they go together.  They function well, like a little team, often keeping each other in line.

The child-bearing chapter in our lives is closed.  So, for us four is where we’ve chosen to land.  And, we’re happy there.  Every family size has its advantages and disadvantages, but for us, four is fantastic and has allowed me the chance to finally, just relax and enjoy the parenting ride.

 

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5 Responses to Want to Lower Stress? Maybe You Need More…Kids??!!??!!

  1. Lori Harris May 16, 2013 at 2:25 pm #

    So true, Heather! We never all look good either and I’m pretty sure that only half of us brush our teeth twice a day, but we all play together!!! Thanks for sharing your “side of the story”!

  2. Karri May 17, 2013 at 6:58 am #

    EH…wait till they are all teenagers and those adorable kids all hate each other and fight constantly and treat you like some kind of servant. Easy to think it’s all grand when they are little but teenage years are he*l and when they mess up ( which they will despite your PERFECT parenting) you are the one they all will blame. Yes, I know of what I speak, I have 5….too many bills, not enough time, no quality time with anyone, and expectations that blow up in your face. You give your life to their development and happiness…good luck with that when they are telling you how much they hate you.

  3. Jessica Pattenaude May 20, 2014 at 4:23 pm #

    I’m a little offenses by Kerri’s statement. As the oldest of 6 I never once resented my parents, told them I hated them, or blames them for anything. No offense but you teach people how to treat you and children are no exception. None of those behaviors you mentioned would have EVER been tolerated by my parents. Heather I love your reason. And they are some of my favorite memories. Like sharing a room with 2 younger sisters from age 6-18, even when I was offered my own room. Kids are given WAY too much these days and have no regard for others. Siblings help them learn that early at home with mom and dad to guide them!

  4. Jessica Pattenaude May 20, 2014 at 4:24 pm #

    Sorry for some of the typos! Love auto correct!

  5. Nancy Dabina May 20, 2014 at 8:11 pm #

    I am a mother to five. Once upon a time as I was stressing about whether or not I had any more love to give to another baby, my sister reminded me that having five kids doesn’t mean each child gets one fifth of the love, it means each child gets five times the love! Because they don’t just have me and my husband to love them, they have each other!
    I totally agree that three kids nearly killed me, but four and five seem to be working much more smoothly – maybe because I’ve given up on some things.

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