What Is It Really Like Having 4 Kids?

I get asked this question a lot. Other variations include:

Why did you have a fourth child?

Is having four kids much harder than three?

Do you ever regret having a fourth child?

Do you think you’ll have any more?

We decided to try for a fourth child when our then-youngest was coming up to 1. Call it the 12 month itch. Looking back, it seems like madness might have taken hold, as surely it must whenever someone with a baby still in nappies and the dark circles of sleep deprivation firmly poking through their concealer says, “Hey, let’s go through this again!”

But at the time, it made perfect sense.

I recall, when making the decision, doing as much investigation as I could into what life is like with four kids. I asked the question of as many parents-of-four as I could find, and – to my surprise – most showered me with expressions of complete knackeredness and encouragement to reconsider. It was not the overwhelming “wouldn’t change it for the world” sentiment I was expecting.

Of course, by the point I was discussing this openly, I was really only seeking assurance that we weren’t completely nuts. Our minds were already made up. So on we plunged, safe in the assurance that we were completely nuts.

A few years down the track, I am now the lucky mum of four boys ranging from 2.5 years to 9.5 years of age, and yep, we’re pretty knackered. So now it is my turn to answer the questions, for those of you contemplating upgrading your household from ‘crazy busy’ to ‘complete and utter pandemonium’.

Why did you have a fourth child?

There was a myriad of reasons, as with any life choice of this magnitude. Really, though, it boiled down to one feeling: a deep, gnawing incompleteness.

When I have shared this with people before, many find it hard to understand how we could feel incomplete with already so many children. It has even been implied that it is, in some way, a reflection on my three older children. Almost as though we felt they were not quite good enough, so we needed one more. That is not the case at all, any more than this weird presumption would apply to an only child whose parents decide to have a second. Every family has their ‘number’. Four was ours.

Nor does it mean I am ungrateful to be blessed with three beautiful children, or that I do not value my fertility. I have been through a lot of shit experiences in my life, but infertility is thankfully not one of them. I do know how lucky that makes me, and I never – never – take it for granted.

Is having four kids much harder than three?

Totally subjective. One not very scientific study says three kids is the most stressful number according to a survey of mums. Based on something along the lines of “There’s just not enough space in your head for perfectionism when you get to four or more kids”.

Well nobody can argue with that.

Honestly, my answer to this question would vary wildly depending on what day – no, what moment – you asked me. Generally, if you ask me when I’m with the kids, the answer would be “Are you xz#df2$@!y kidding me??? – LEAVE YOUR BROTHER ALONE!!!! PUT DOWN THE BLEACH!!!! – Of COURSE four kids are harder than three!!!”

However, if you ask me in a quiet moment of contemplation (I try to schedule at least one of those a month for my own sanity), my answer would probably be different. There is some truth in the theory that the fourth kid just kinda slots into the chaos and, the more time that passes, the less you sweat the small stuff. I don’t know if that’s a result of the number of kids you have, or simply the number of years on the job. I suspect it’s a bit of both.

In reality, it’s different for everyone, and it really depends on your definition of hard. You can safely expect the logistics and practicalities of day-to-day life to get a lot trickier with each extra child you add, but – less tangibly – your attitudes to parenting will likely evolve to the point where you may be able to see the amusement in the same sort of crap you once cried about.

Do you ever regret having a fourth child?

Short answer: No! Very few people would admit to regretting a child, and as I lay here next to my angelic, sleeping little #4, the idea of him not being in the world is just completely unthinkable.

Slightly longer answer: Of course, I would say that about a fifth child, or a tenth child. However many babies I had, I would love them all desperately. Does that mean I think having ten kids would be a good thing to do? Hell no! So, perhaps it would be more accurate to ask: was it a wise choice to have a fourth child?

Sometimes, I think the answer to that question might be “no”. For me, it’s not about the number of kids, but how long the intense, baby & toddler rearing years have stretched on. At nearly a decade of tantrums and impossibly difficult days out (and days in), I have burned out. I burned out two years ago, actually. Didn’t see it coming, but I hit rock bottom.

That sometimes happens to mums after their first child, though. And other mums never experience it. The postnatal months can be royally shit, and in this instance, mine really were. I do feel like I never quite recovered from it, and though life is now better, I am tired. Really tired. I am looking forward to the day when we can go out without somebody screaming, when we can all ride our bikes together independently, and when I can sit down and have a mug of tea without it being smacked out of my hand.

That is about me, though, and it does not mean I regret having my fourth wonderful son.

Do you think you’ll have any more?

hell no morgan freeman

So, what is it really like having 4 kids?

If you made it to here, you probably have the gist already. In a nutshell, it is hard work. Exhaustion runs through my bones. There are times I feel like I am losing my mind – most days. It is a very different type of family to one where each child is easily able to have heaps of 1-on-1 time. What is lost in alone time is made up for in the vibrance of busy family life. We make sure we work in slots for each child to have a piece of us to himself, but they are special dates rather than an everyday thing. Our kids are each other’s fiercest enemies and staunchest allies. It is loud. Very loud. I laugh at serene goddess-mothers who don’t believe in shouting. Bite me (or better yet, come be a fly on my wall). More than anything, though, it is really fucking amazing. There is so much love in my life. So, to quote every soppy cliché ever: I wouldn’t change it for the world.

 

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