Raising 4 kids is such a blessing, says every mom ever on record. But what’s it really like in the trenches? It’s hard to imagine when you’re considering going from 3 to 4 kids but on the fence.
A day in the life of 4 kids, right here!
What’s it like raising 4 kids you ask?
Loud. You stop finishing sentences permanently.
Chaotic. When we had 3 kids I called it “controlled chaos”. Now it’s just chaos.
You never finish things. Projects, to-do lists, naps (ha! what a joke), sentences (see above).
You are never not tired. Even after the babies get older.
You spend a CRAZY amount of money on groceries. And I don’t even have teenagers. SO MUCH FOOD.
And yet? No matter how many trips I take to Costco? There are never any good snacks in our house (my oldest loves to tell everyone this). Obviously not because we don’t buy them, but because my kids go through them so fast.
New bag of Doritos? If you don’t hide it it’s gone within the hour.
There is a rotating unhappy child. We always have one who doesn’t like the dinner, the activity, the whatever. Luckily it’s not always the same kid. They take turns!
Your house will be messy 90% of the time. Every surface is covered in grime, 2 hours after the cleaning lady leaves. If she cleans the windows, they’re touching them right away.
My husband and I are clean people by nature, and the mess is hard to accept. (See our living room on a good day!)
You will constantly question if you are cut out for the job. Are you are giving so-and-so enough attention? Is so-and-so getting his needs met? You are simply spread (too) thin, and you will find yourself lying in bed at night realizing you need to focus on a certain child who has a need overlooked.
The adjustment is hard on a marriage. You will eventually adjust and one day you will kill it again together, don’t worry! But at first? With the 4th babe still itty bitty? You’re just plain exhausted by the time the kids are all in bed to even look at each other.
Passing out together on the sofa half way through your glass of wine (jk, priorities, I always finish that!) but 15 minutes into your favorite show is a regular occurrence. It’s all too easy to find yourself putting the kids before the marriage.
Let it go the first year – you’re in survival mode, let’s call it what it is. Getting through the day is every day’s goal. But as the 4th one becomes more independent, don’t let that habit of putting each other second sink in. Focus back on your partner so you can right the ship!
My expectations of raising kids vs. reality
Truthfully, I expected going from 3 kids to 4 to be fairly easy – I mean, our life was already hectic, right? Raising 4 kids should be similar to 3, right?
People make those jokes that once you hit 3 kids, another kid makes no difference. But that wasn’t our situation.
There was a moment right after Camille was born- I was sitting in the living room feeding her, and the 2 older kids were talking in my face, so close I could feel their hot breaths. Leo, 2 years old and feeling replaced, was squirming to sit in my lap too. I started feeling desperate for space – overheated and sweaty.
Camille was fussing and not latching on, and suddenly I just had this irresistible urge to shake everyone off of me and run out of the room! I looked over at Jose and asked, “Is this how it is going to be from now on?”
He laughed. That wasn’t the answer I wanted. But I am here to say, it DEFINITELY gets better once you don’t have a newborn! SO much better! Those days were HARD for me, and I am very thankful we are out of the 4th baby stage. So no, it is NOT like that anymore.
But… is it easier now? Yes, but we have different challenges now. We just adapted to the new crazy. Those difficult parts go hand in hand with some beautiful truths about raising 4 kids, equally as true.
Laughter will often fill your house. And let me tell you, fits of giggles between 4 kids coming from a different room is like magic to your ears.
Your kids will be so independent! I like to wake up early and have coffee before the kids wake up a lot during the week. I sneak into my office quietly, and shortly after I hear Sofia (who is 7) getting Camille out of her crib + changing her diaper. She CHANGES HER DIAPER! Of course this isn’t something I asked or expected of her.
Robbie (10) gets out the cereal and bowls for everyone, and sets up their weekend TV and computer games we let them have. We never told them to do this. Their motivation for this independence is that when we fully wake up and come down to interrupt them, their TV + screen time is over!
Nobody is ever left out. With 3 kids we often had an odd kid out, and I never knew how to deal with that. Having 4 kids means that problem just went away!
They grow up without victim mentality. Childhood isn’t fair when you have 3 other siblings. Everyone knows an adult that constantly makes themselves the victim; it’s exhausting to be around! My kids complain like any other kid – by no means are they the ‘best behaved kids in the room’…. in any room, ever. Lol. But they know better than to expect things to be fair between them and their siblings.
Keeping everything balanced was an idea that had to go out the window with 4 and we remind the kids often: “We don’t do FAIR in our family.” (Insert massive eyeroll from our oldest). But they will enter adulthood without the victim/entitled mentality, and you can’t put a price on that!
Having 4 kids means your house will be the fun house! Everyone will want to come hang with your family for a piece of the action! It’s hard for a crowd of 4 kids not to feel like a party. As they are getting older, we are starting to enjoy their company so much more. We can play games that Jose + I actually like now. Our older is on my level with some laughs, and can actually compete with his Dad, etc. Sometimes dinners now end with us sitting together, talking like friends, and I see a glimpse of our future!
Amidst the mess, you will become so good at decluttering. You will be essentially Marie Kondo. This is a learned skill I perfected after each child. I toss things out and donate on a dime with no regrets! I am ruthless! And the good news is: the more you practice doing this, the easier it gets. McDonalds toys? Gone by the end of the day. All that artwork coming home in 4 backpacks daily? If it’s not going in a frame or our keepsake box, I might take a picture but I will for sure toss it! (Picture me: ‘I loooove this!!’ as I turn around, crumple it into a ball and stuff it deep in the garbage). ? You will drown in piles of paper otherwise, so you learn quickly.
Sibling rivalry, while it obviously still exists, isn’t as strong for my kids as when there were 2 or 3 of them. They’re not stuck with the “hated one” as their only playmate. They have another face to be friendly with and quickly forget the one out of favor.
It’s a cure for the helicopter parent. Ya gotta let go! When school is out, I have to kick the kids out of the house multiple times a day so I can have peace + quiet or get stuff done… or as a punishment. I have no choice but to trust them (sort of) beyond my sight. They want to go play in the creek in the back of the woods? Put on your boots, take care of your sister and knock yourself out. They want to ride their bike through the neighborhood? There will come a time when you are ready to start saying yes. For selfish reasons only, you will teach them and trust them and let them go… and it will feel so good mama!
They won’t rely on you for entertainment. HUGE people! Don’t underestimate how much siblings entertain each other.
His Bopit toy. Anyone else’s kids obsessed with that game?
This goes for all bigger families, but you learn to put your marriage before the kids. Again and again.
My husband once said to me during a bleak moment, “No matter how frustrated or upset I get, the last thing I want is to be alone in a dirty apartment, heating up a Lean Cuisine, thinking of you and all the kids all together without me.”
It was such a depressing statement, + I laughed! If we weren’t totally committed to this marriage and the kids it would never work. And as extra motivation, nobody wants to parent 4 kids solo (although of course people do and I respect that). That fact alone will force both of you to forgive and commit to each other daily.
All photos taken by Jaimi Bailey Photography who was kind enough to come hang out with me for the day + follow us around for a true glimpse of raising 4 kids, which probably scared her. If you are local to the Raleigh/Durham area I highly recommend her.