I have heard a lot of people bemoan having three kids, claiming it is the hardest number to have. But, for me, adding a male singleton three years after having twin girls was like a walk in the park! I adored having my baby and my twin three year olds. The newborn phase was a breeze in comparison to the whirlwind ride I had my first go around! So, I was pretty optimistic about what adding a fourth would mean to our family.Baby number four is now seven months old, our third girl, and we all adore her chunky, smiling, easy-going self. Her newborn stage has been very similar to her older siblings, mostly sleeping through the night, taking two to three good naps each day, eating, pooping, cooing, babbling, and crawling as she should be.
But, now I think I understand more why three children challenge many parents. You see, when I had three kids, two of them were the same age. With four kids, I am finally experiencing three different ages simultaneously, three different stages of development, temperament, and needs colliding upon me during my long days as a stay at home mom. Add to this my work-from-home blogging business, homeschooling, church responsibilities, exercise, and having a social life, and you can imagine I am living up to that “You’ve got your hands full” phrase I hear very often.
My daily life is far from my ideal. Very far. I fantasize about being that super Type-A, super organized, super internally motivated go-getter who always runs a tight ship; who wakes up early before her children to work out, read scriptures, say prayers, and prep for the day; and who has a crystal clear vision and direction for her blog and is pumping out amazing content and growing at light speed, making the big bucks while I sleep.
But, that ain’t happening here.
I do firmly believe in routines and schedules, but by golly, it’s so hard to stay on top of them and their requisite consequences 100% of the time.
It’s hard because my children don’t like listening to me, and take fifteen times longer than I think they should completing a simple task, like putting on shoes, which I am adamantly requiring them to do before we run to the store. Routines go out the window when my son refuses his afternoon nap, or my son and my baby don’t nap at the same time in the afternoon, or we have a doctor’s appointment, or I have a pressing work deadline or project I desperately need to work on during the day, or my baby is fussy.
It’s hard because I am not a morning person and stay up until at least midnight every night, and use my kids as my alarm clock.
It’s hard to squeeze in time for myself (I really only shower if I go to the gym, and then usually after a few hours after coming home), for work, for playing with your kids, for grocery shopping, for cooking, and for cleaning.
Our homeschooling looks more like unschooling as the structure slides and curriculum get dusty as I’m too tired to plan and implement, so we read books here and there, do educational subscription boxes, let my kids play some educational apps, go to museums and outings, and work through lessons in Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons and in various early readers like borrowed Dick and Jane books and BOB Books.
Library books are renewed multiple times because we don’t regularly go to the library anymore because story time is during my baby’s nap time, and my kids only moderately like it anyway. Plus, when I would go correlates with my husband’s flex day where he sometimes heads to campus, sometimes stays home to work instead (especially if we do go out), or where he comes home much earlier than the rest of the week, so we often play it by ear so we can spend more time with him.
It’s hard because my twin daughters want to spend quality time with me, and I just can’t. One of them asks me to play a game with her every. single. day. multiple times, or to watch her do this or that, or to work on a project with me. But, sometimes I just can’t: I am calming the newly-turned-3 year old’s latest temper tantrum, which is sometimes accompanied by spitting, tears, thrashing, and a “I don’t want to!” Or we need to run an errand, or she hasn’t completed her chores yet, and I need to clean up the latest spill or tackle the mounds of laundry or otherwise be a semi-good homemaker.
Or my baby is screaming because she needs to be nursed, or played with, or have her diaper changed, or put down for a nap. Or I am trying to stop the almost constant bickering, tattle tale-ing, and complaining from my twins about their brother, or from my son about how his sisters didn’t share or give him what he wanted, right then.
This all, of course, makes me plagued with guilt because she just wants me, my time, my attention, my love, but I can’t always give it to her on her terms. Thanks to parenting blogs and articles it makes me think I suck and am damaging our bond, likely forever.
It’s a tad chaotic. And very loud.
Life with four kids honestly looks like this some days:am nursing a baby, while reading a book to one child, while another smashes cars together while singing an original song at the top of his lungs in the same room, and the last one is spreading papers and drawing utensils, so she can color, on the dining room table that still has milk and cereal bowls on it from that morning, who is whistling the same one measure of a song over and over again. And then having the maintenance man knock on the door, but am still not dressed yet or have my contacts in. And it’s already 11:00 in the morning.
Life with four kids is overwhelming. It overwhelms you with the various demands from your kids, the seemingly constant sibling bickering, the noises, the schedules, and the messes. I cannot believe how much mess can be made in such a short period of time. It amazes me how quickly my organization and tidying up get undone, and how many random pieces of crap are found in any direction you look in my home.
I don’t drink coffee or alcohol (I’m a Mormon), so I’m not even using coffee to boost me in the morning, or wine to calm me in the evenings. Only occasionally do I indulge in a little chocolate, hopefully while my older children are busy watching a movie or playing outside so they don’t hear me unwrapping it or getting it out, because if they do, I suddenly have a starving crowd begging for some. Last week I took a moment to enjoy a Snickers Crisper, which you can get at Walmart, after nursing my baby, as a substantial part of my lunch, because I realized after I was done catering my kids’ lunches, that I still haven’t eaten my own lunch, or did not eat much of a lunch.Thankfully Snickers are always delicious and always help fuel me on my long days. And thankfully, my baby didn’t ask me once if she could have a bite, though she was into the crinkly wrapper. She likes to create anxiety and stress in me by always going after tiny bits of plastic and immediately shoving them in her mouth.
But, even when I don’t have chocolate, I actually really, really enjoy my life.
I enjoy the noise because it is often the sound of laughter, imaginative play, creative music, kind words, and fun.
I enjoy the stress because it means I am important, and needed, and wanted and that what I am doing is very important.
I enjoy having a sense of purpose everyday, even when it is overwhelming.
I enjoy the challenge of juggling many hats and figuring out the proper amount of importance to give to each one.
I enjoy how happy I am having four children.
I enjoy discovering life through a child’s eyes and experiencing firsts all over again, times four (or three? twins make this weird).
Everyday I am bombarded by four amazing individuals who bring me so much joy, who surprise me with their smarts, with their questions, and with their love and forgiveness toward me. I am blown away with how incredibly lucky I am to have them.As a mother of four kids, my reality is different from many. My hands are full, as is my plate, but so is my joy. Even if my daily life is far from ideal.
This post was sponsored by SheSpeaks and Mars. All feelings on parenting and my love of Snickers, are my own.
I love your honesty, Katelyn! It is refreshing. Yesterday was particularly rough around here, as I am learning to manage and balance most of what you describe above, and by the end of the day I felt ready to throw in the towel. I’m not sure which responsibility I wanted to give up, but I felt ready to just quit! Thank goodness for new days, and the encouragement of other moms who remind me that I’m not alone in this beautiful, messy chaos. Great post!
Katelyn Fagan says
I switch from what responsibilities I want to quit on too. This week I didn’t want to do the laundry. Three weeks ago I wanted to send my twins to public school. Sometimes I feel like quitting the blog. Other times it’s working out… okay that one is too often. ha. You are so not alone!
Jenny @ Unremarkable Files says
This sounds like my life, minus the homeschooling. And add another kid.
Lynnette Sheppard says
Oh, how I can relate! Thanks for being so real. Life with kids is challenging, but thank you for pointing out the joy. I have five kids and remember when they were all under the age of 10. At that time, I was completely overwhelmed by the simple demands of life. The youngest is almost eight now, and life looks completely different than it did back then. They are all relatively self-sufficient. I can take a shower and go to the store by myself without worrying about what will happen in my absence. I even have three babysitters among them and my husband, and I can head out on a whim. I remember feeling like that stage of being constantly needed would never end, but it did. Now there are different challenges as I muddle through the uncharted waters of raising teenagers, but I feel so much more at home in this stage of motherhood than I did back when my kids were all young. I loved things about the baby years, but I ADORE the teenage years. Hang in there and know that you are doing great work!
I’m absolutely thrilled I read your blog today. And the nest part is I can totally relate to the no coffee and no alcohol. I am also a Mormon and not a big chocolate person altho it’s great in ice cream which is my secret snack. Thanks for the post and good luck in the future.