Should I Have More Than Two Kids? A Reader Asks a Mom of Four
Some moms are one and done, some are happy with two kids, and others wonder what it is like to have three, four… or even more. An EverydayFamily member recently contacted me because she has two kids and is seriously considering adding more to her family. She had a lot of questions about what she would be getting herself into and emailed me several questions about what life is like for me as a mom of four. In short, it's amazing and exhausting… But I wouldn't have it any other way.
Question: Have you found birth order and gender play a role with more than 2 kids?
Answer: My kids are girl, boy, girl, boy. I haven't noticed gender playing a role in how my kids act (beyond what it likely would in a smaller family). My older son is actually much sweeter than my daughters. Along with my daughters, my older son is always happy to happy with the youngest. I like to think that this will help him when he is a dad one day. My younger kids definitely became more independent at an earlier age than my older kids because I just wasn't as available to cater to their every need. I see this a good thing and seeing their independence actually made me wish I had expected more of my older kids from an earlier age.
Question: How do you keep up on pictures and memories after 1?
Answer: I love photography so for me it's easy! I even invested in an Epson Surecolor P600 photo printer to be able to print photos at home and give them as gifts. I did let go of needing to document what seemed like every minute of my first child's childhood and instead became more intentional about taking photos of what I want to remember, like my husband brushing my toddler's teeth each night or the way may daughter piles on make-up and thinks she looks beautiful.
I still take photos of things like birthday parties but have realized those aren't the “real” memories I want to keep of childhood unfolding every day, which releases some of the pressure. Every year I tell myself I am going to make an annual photo book (which honestly has only happened once). But I still plan on making books once I have the time, even if I will wind up working with old photos. I also gave up on keeping baby books after my second was born and I'm okay with that. I also love the videos I see of parents who take a one-second video or one photo a day on their phone. Although I haven't yet tried that yet, it sounds simple enough.
Question: Do you do the same for all kids or it true you do less and less for every kid as time goes on?
Answer: In some ways, I do less for each kid as time goes on, but this is mostly because I realize what is important. My older two kids were involved in so many baby and tot classes and honestly didn't seem like to like these activities any more than playing on the floor at home with me, sometimes less. By my fourth, I realized that we could get plenty of quality time in together doing enriching without the stress of being too scheduled and having the extra expense of classes.
I do also buy fewer toys and less clothing now, but that's because I realized that they just don't need that much and it only creates clutter. I do make sure all of the kids get swimming lessons since that could save their lives one day and they all enjoy it, but I don't push activities they don't like for the sake of keeping them busy. So, while I do less in some ways, in other ways I think it improves the quality of our lives.
Question: Do your kids share rooms? Same gender?
Answer: My oldest always had her own room, but my middle kids who are a boy and a girl shared a room until they were nine and seven. While some may think that's too old for opposite-gender kids to share a room they had to share out of necessity. That said, I don't regret a minute of the time they spent sharing a room. They used to talk late into the night and I didn't mind a bit because I knew they were developing a deep relationship.
Even though they have their own rooms now they still like to have “sleepovers” in the basement together on weekends. My son was starting to want more privacy towards the end of their room sharing time and he started changing in the bathroom, which was a pretty easy solution. If we hadn't been lucky enough to be able to give each child their own (small) room earlier this year, my two sons would likely wound up sharing a room even though they are seven years apart. Even if there is some conflict, I think sharing a room helps kids develop problem-solving skills and bring kids closer. Sometimes I find myself longing for the days the kids shared a room!
Question: I have two sons and I feel like my younger son is already getting all hand me downs. Right now he doesn't care, but someday he might. Have you had that happen?
Answer: I found that once kids are old enough to care about hand-me-downs there aren't too many of them left. Baby clothes tend to stay in good shape because babies outgrow their clothing quickly and parents tend to have too many little clothes so there are lots left in good shape for the younger siblings.
However, once kids hit the toddler stage in earnest I find that the clothes tend to fit the child longer and the kids get dirty more often so the number of hand-me-downs really decreases. My daughters have received tons of hand-me-downs from older cousins, though, and love them! Once the kids become old enough to have an opinion I don't force them to wear hand-me-downs they don't like and view any ones they do as a bonus. The one exception is dress-up clothes that are expensive and they are not likely to wear more than once or twice (I do make them wear those!)
Question: How do you get alone time with each kid? How long is enough?
Answer: With each of my younger kids there was a time when older siblings were in school and it was just me and the baby. I treasured that time! Now it can be a little more challenging. My toddler is still home with me so that's an easy one, but I try to carve out time with each of the other kids when I can. For example, my son and I have a ritual that whenever he finishes a Harry Potter book we watch the relevant movie together just the two of us. One of my daughters loves American Girl and we make a date to go to American Girl Tea each year for her birthday, just the two of us. With my daughters, I try to bring one with me when I go to get a pedicure. Sometimes I will even take just one kid along for a boring errand like grocery shopping but we do manage to get some good quality conversations in during those times. I honestly wish I had more time for one-on-one time, but I will take what I can get!
Question: What are you strict on and what do you let slide?
Answer: Every family has to decide what they will be strict about and what they let slide based on their own values. Having a big family forces you to think hard about what you think is important and what's not a big deal. The answer will be different for every family. I do find that I let my kids eat more sweets than they should, but can feel okay about this since I make sure they get smoothies packed with veggies at least a few times a week. I am really strict about no screens in bedrooms (even for homework) and very limited video game time. I'm fairly strict about bedtime but that is honestly because I need the downtime for myself in the evenings!
Question: Is four kids is super stressful or is it doable?
Answer: Yes! It is stressful dealing with four different ages and needs. However, it is also completely doable and rewarding. I know it sounds cliche, but even though life is hectic I couldn't imagine it any other way. Having four forces me to be productive and careful with my time, which is not a bad thing. I have a friend with nine kids so there is always a family out there with more kids than you making it work!
Question: Does it get easier from 2 to 3? What's the hardest transition out of all of them?
Answer: By far the hardest transition is from zero to one. Even by number 2 you have some idea what you are in for and have some experience. Adding in a third does change the family dynamic and it was a transition when my husband and I dealt with being outnumbered. Even though every child is different, though, we felt better prepared than we had been for the last two and many things were definitely easier and seemed second nature, which helped with the transition a lot.
Question: How do you keep your sanity?!?
Answer: What I should do is sleep! Instead, I drink a lot of coffee to help me get through. I actually received a really nice coffee machine for the holidays last year and love being able to treat myself to a latte throughout the day. I also meet friends for coffee or lunch a couple of times a week to make sure I get some adult interaction, even if I do normally have a kid along with me.
I also found a hobby that I really like, photography, and find taking and editing photos to be really relaxing. I also got a Kindle so I could read in the dark while waiting for the kids to fall asleep and read even after my husband falls asleep. If I need it, I go to my room and give myself a timeout and find that even a short five-minute break by myself can energize me for the rest of the day. Like most moms, I binge watch Netflix at times. I also know when to ask my husband for a break and escape the house for a bit on my own and have learned to be easier on myself when things don't go as planned. Finding a hobby and time for yourself is still possible with more than two kids!
How many children do you want? Are you concerned about adding to your family?