It’s easy to find information on going from zero to one or one to two kids, but rarely do you see articles geared toward us moms who’ve decided to have big families—four, five, or six kids (maybe even more). We need our village, too, because when you’re outnumbered, things can get very interesting.
I recently had my fourth baby, who joined my 10, 4, and 2-year-old brood. Now that I’m a part of the “big family” club, I wanted to share my wisdom with those who are looking to join. Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way.
Sleep deprivation is still hard, but it’ll be different.
Let me explain. No matter how much or how little time has passed, sleep deprivation is by far the worst thing about having a baby in my opinion. However, you’ll be better prepared for it with each baby since you’ve probably been sleep deprived intermittently over the last few years with colds, tummy aches, and everything in between.
In my experience, newborn wake times are a minimum of 30 minutes of at least one free hand to myself. I use nighttime wake periods as “me time.” I scroll Instagram, read a book, or catch up on my favorite shows. To be honest, I look forward to it. Having so many people to take care of leaves little time for me during the day, so any moment to myself is gold—even if it is at 3 a.m.
That being said, they will eventually sleep the whole night, and you will also—I promise.
Outings will be… interesting.
Gone are the days of getting up and just leaving your house. I would argue it’s still relatively easy to pick up and go with two kids. Three is difficult. Once you have four, though, it’s a class field trip and can be extremely overwhelming.
Getting everyone dressed and ready will be a marathon (yes, diaper blowouts right before you leave are still a given), and it’s going to take you at least 30 minutes to load everyone into their car seats. The screaming, crying, and general tantrums along the way will become your new soundtrack because they’ll all reach them at different times. And yes, you’ll always forget something.
I don’t have much solace for you on this one except start early. If you can, find an adult buddy when traveling to help you or a babysitter so you only take the kids you absolutely have to take with you (like for doctor’s appointments and such). Also, bring lots of snacks and make your car a traveling toy room. It’ll make the journey way smoother—trust me.
You’ll have to pick your battles with yourself.
It is absolutely true that with each child, you care less and less about certain things you used to really care about. Did you enjoy (and have time for) making homemade organic purees for your first? Yeah, now it’s all about that store-bought, not-so-organic baby food for the fourth. Half of it is going to land on the floor anyway, right? Or you can go the baby-led weaning route—way cheaper and less of a transition to real food later on? Sign me up!
Daily bath time for more than three kids is also harder. What once took 10 minutes now takes an hour. I know bath time is a nighttime-routine staple for many, but I only have so much time once all the kids have had their dinner, so we prioritize bath time based on dirtiness. Did the kids have a park day or pool day? That warrants a bath. Were they indoors at home all day because it rained? Definitely not a bath day. Are they in daycare? Well, maybe then it’s a must, so I may have to rethink my other daily must-haves.
It’s important to note that not everyone has this privilege, but my point is that this is all about prioritizing what’s important to you and your family. If bath time is one of those must-haves for you, then by all means, add it to your schedule.
With so many littles, you’re going to start choosing easier routes for yourself, and that’s totally PL. You’ll have to choose what’s truly important when it comes to the things you feel pressured to do. And ultimately, you’ll have to do what’s best for your family and mental health.
Expect your other kids to “regress” or act out in some way with every new baby.
Yes, even older kids. Regression in some form is normal. I know it’s not always possible, but after bringing home a new baby, try to make time for each child to prevent them from feeling left out. When I brought home the fourth, my youngest was the first to act out, which I expected. But then, my very independent, barely-needs-mommy middle child suddenly wanted or needed me all the time. She also wanted to go back to co-sleeping with me instead of sleeping in her own room. My oldest was the last. After a few weeks of not as much mommy time, she started to protest in the form of long sighs and disappointed looks.
No matter how hard I try, though, I am only one person and only have two hands. It’s important to remember that you matter too and you’re doing the best you can. This is probably the hardest thing for me because I hate when my children feel like I’m not giving them enough attention. I never want them to feel neglected. Unfortunately, while there is a newborn in the house, my time will be limited.
The good news is that the regression is always short-lived—as is the newborn stage. Eventually, once they get a little older, you’ll see how they develop sibling relationships with each other, and that’s one of the best things about having a big family.
But the other kids can also help a ton.
Starting at around age 2, which is one of the most common age gaps between kids, children can start to help out with chores. I know this may sound unrealistic, but by the time you have four kids, your 2-year-old putting their own toys away sounds like a pretty good deal.
It’s all a matter of teaching them and giving them the tools and then, as with everything else in parenting, consistency. I’d like to think that I’m teaching them important life skills that they will take with them when they are in college or in their first apartments.
It’s also a great way to spend time with each kid. Cooking or doing laundry together are great ways to slow down and talk to your kids. Some of the best conversations I’ve had with my oldest are while folding clothes together on a Sunday afternoon or making dinner during the week.
You’ll need to give yourself grace—lots of it.
This is the most important lesson of all. You will not be able to do it all every single day, and that to-do list will burn a permanent hole in your pocket. You are going to feel overwhelmed and will sometimes want to scream into the void. None of this, however, makes you a bad mom. It just makes you human.
Sure, you decided to bring these kids into the world, but even those moms who have all the help they can get lose it sometimes. It just comes with the territory. So instead of feeling like crap, give yourself grace and know that you are in good company. There is always tomorrow, and you’ll be surprised at how resilient you really are. You’re way more capable than you think.
And know that your babies will love you no matter what.
But, to be honest, it’s really fun—and it does get easier.
Maybe not so much when multiple kids are having a meltdown at the same time, but it is really fun to have a big family. You don’t see it right away, but as the kids grow up, you get to witness four (in my case) unique humans become who they are (and how you influence each one). For example, my oldest is reading the Harry Potter series and that’s because I introduced her to it. Now, that’s something we share and have in common.
As they grow, you’ll notice their individual personalities and preferences, and it’s lovely to see them evolve and what they’re interested in. Seeing their eyes light up when they talk about something they enjoy is the best thing ever.
Over time, you’ll forget the sleepless nights and tantrums and just get to enjoy being surrounded by a bunch of really cool kids you created.
And you’ll have a front-row seat to the show.