Can I Parent Four Kids at the Same Time?

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Wherever I go, people say, “You’ve got your hands full!”

I look at my four children, ages 9 months to 9 years. “Full of good things,” is my standard response, even when it’s a little forced and my smile is thin.

I wonder why that’s the particular big-family phrase I always hear. As a small woman, maybe I just look like an ant carrying more than her body weight. #true

I don’t deny that for four is busy, but it’s good to take a moment to appreciate them, even when responding to a stranger. And while each addition to a family brings adjustments, here are some things I’ve discovered in transitioning to four children that may help you if you also “have your hands full.”

A Three-nager…Again?

We have a toddler and a baby. Again. And it’s still real hard. I can only carry one screamer at a time through a grocery store. This go around, I’m a more relaxed parent. Take the toddler’s meltdowns in stride and pick your battles. If he wants to eat PB&J for breakfast and lunch, I won’t make a big deal out of it.

Neglected Big Kids?

My older two, at ages 7 and 9, are not always the center of attention as we keep the toddler safe and the baby fed. Especially at bedtime when they hope for chapters read aloud. My husband is wonderful about taking a moment with them while I crash on the couch. But it’s a transition that’s encouraging their independence too. Throughout the day, I do things to show I see them; I make eye contact with them, give them a hug or do a goofy dance move for them. I take time and energy to answer questions and have lengthy conversations, even while I’m nursing the baby, driving or cooking.   

Bored Little Ones?

The younger two get dragged around to the older kids’ activities. The baby is on my hip while we homeschool. They wait through all the orthodontist appointments, doctor visits, swim lessons, and field trips…often during nap time. I evaluate the event and strain, arranging for childcare when it really is better for them. I use the baby carrier to give extra snuggles and kisses on the go. And pack lots of toddler snacks.

Do I Have a Lot of Children?

Their needs are constant; they tag-team me so someone is always needing something. Especially when my first-responder husband is on duty. However, there is also strength in numbers and that’s one of the beauties of four children. The older ones are maturing in wonderful ways. My oldest can make eggs for all of us as I nurse the baby. They all play with the baby as I make dinner. And as I shake my head over my oldest heading into double digits, I can still enjoy squishy cheeks and baby thighs. I may still be in diapers and potty-training, but I also have buddies talk to and to watch Maleficent with me.      

Some days it’s a lot of kids, other days it isn’t. We be straddling the line between being a big family and a small one, and we still fit in the minivan.

“I don’t know how you do it,” smaller families say. In circles with larger families, they count my children and their faces beam when they hit four. 

It is wonderful to see different family sizes work so beautifully in different situations. While four has been a transition, for us, it has been a great fit. Seeing all of them like ducklings around me, I’ve never felt happier or more complete as a mother.