Get all the tips you need for moving from 3-4 kids. What is it like to have four kids? Find out how to set up a schedule for 4 kids how to keep the schedules straight, how to have time for yourself, how to get naps in for mom, how to keep siblings in the funnel, and more!
The busyness that three children bring to life can often make people a little leery of going for that fourth child.
Maybe you have three and are wondering if you could handle four. Maybe you are having that fourth, ready or not, and want to get real and know what you are in for.
Hopefully, I can address both of those groups of people (plus you “rubberneckers” who are just curious).
I know a lot of moms with 4 or more children. Almost every one of those moms who have four or more kids I know say that three was the hardest number of children.
So many people get to three and wonder if they could possibly handle another child. If you are one mulling that question over, keep in mind that you are not alone and that most people find anything more than three easier than three was.
CAN YOU HANDLE 4 KIDS?
Yes you can!
That isn’t to say that I think everyone out there should have at least four children or that everyone out there can. But I do think if you can do three, you can do four.
Four is more similar to three than three is to two. If you feel good about it and you desire to have a fourth child, I am confident you will be equal to the challenge.
One reason I think this is true is that for most of us, that fourth child comes when the oldest is older and self-sufficient. I know some of you get number four when your oldest is four, and I imagine that makes it much, much harder. If your oldest is Kindergarten age or older, I think you will find it to be a pretty smooth transition.
Another reason you can do it is that you have already had three babies so you have so much experience.
Having your fourth baby is nothing like having your first. You question so much with your first and you have to think so much about baby stuff with your first.
With your fourth, you don’t need to do all of that thinking because it is more of a second nature to you. And it is a good thing because your brain will have plenty of things to think about with four different children to manage.
You also really realize that a baby waking early from a nap is not even close to the end of the world–you don’t have time to stress about it so it just isn’t stressful.
KEEPING 4 SCHEDULES STRAIGHT
One of the biggest challenges is organizing yourself to keep schedules straight. This is a big enough challenge that I have an entire post for it.
>>>Read: Planning Your Schedule for Multiple Children
Here are some quick tips.
First, you need to find a way that works for you for keeping track of schedules. My favorite way is with my iPhone and with an app called “Cozi”–it is free. As soon as I know someone has something going on, I put it in Cozi.
My brain can only store so much information, so I need to get things out of my head and somewhere else if possible. You could also do a “family command center” or some sort of day planner/calendar. Do whatever works for you.
Along those lines, I set reminders in my phone. Even for something like piano lessons, which are at the same time every week, I set a reminder that goes off 15 minutes before we need to leave. There was one time when I was pregnant with Brinley I totally forgot about piano.
I also work to have my children be as independent as they can be expected to be. This is good for them and good for me. Let your children be responsible for things they can manage.
See also: Managing Baby’s Routine with Older Kids’ Activities and Babywise Schedule with Two Children and Two to Three Child Transition: Tips for Success.
DO YOU EVER HAVE TIME FOR MOM?
There are only so many hours in a day, and each child needs time from you.
Time for myself is definitely one of the biggest hits with each child I have. Something has to give, and I don’t want that something to be a person.
That does include me, though. I need to be able to have hobbies and time for me. So I work it in, but definitely at a much smaller scale than ever before.
You somehow simultaneously lose yourself and find yourself in motherhood.
Here are some questions mothers asked me about having 4 kids.
Do you get to nap?
Um, no. No I do not. But napping is not even something I want, much less need, so I don’t put effort into getting a nap.
When I was pregnant with Brinley and trying to nap in the day, I found it challenging with Kaitlyn and McKenna around. So to add a baby in there would really add to the challenge.
If a nap was super important to me, I would be able to work things out to make that happen some days, but to be perfectly honest, I think this would be a challenge.
It is something that would probably be easier to pull off if all of the children were younger, or if at least two were gone in the day at school.
How do you keep kids on the same schedule?
On a literal interpretation of this question, you don’t. Even if you have four under four, you will not have the same schedule.
A baby is WAY different than a child four or older.
>>>Read: How to Balance Multiple Schedules
You can get somewhat harmonious schedules, however. Work rest time and/or independent play time into the same times as baby’s nap(s).
Try to line up baby’s meals as closely as you want with the family meals.
>>>Read: How to Align Baby’s Meal Times with Family’s Meal Times
Leave time during baby’s naps to have one-on-one time with your older children.
What do your kids do while breastfeeding?
With my other babies, if you read my posts on those, you will see I arrange for younger children to be occupied during baby’s feedings. So I arrange naps, independent play, TV time, etc. to be during baby’s feedings.
In my case, with a 7, 5, and 3 year old, I could do some of that, but I also can have sibling play or free play going on.
When Brinley was young, I would at times read books to my children while I nursed.
When she got older and wanted to play instead of eat, I designated a spot that is not a typical child-traffic spot as my nursing place. I then would send the children away to go play when I was nursing if they decided to come around (which they often did/do). They are all old enough that I can send them to go play for ten minutes while I nurse Brinley.
>>>Read: Baby Feeding Schedule with Older Child(ren)
Is it hard having a 7 year old and a baby?
Most of the answer to this is not at all! A 7 year old is so independent and helpful that it is super easy. This is also true for the 5 year old. I could count on them to help with so much and do so much.
Both could get a simple lunch prepared if I was nursing the baby at lunch time (and both of them had to several times in Brinley’s life). They were truly helpful.
The only difficulty I encountered with the older children and a baby is balancing keeping them involved in things without running the baby ragged.
With all of my other babies, it was easy to just be at home and go out when baby was awake. Brayden was not even four yet when McKenna was born. It is easy to stay entertained at home. But older kids have more activities and have things like school. This is what required the most organization and help from others.
Do you use babysitters/family helpers more or less with more kids?
The person who asked this was wondering with more children, do you use babysitters less because it is harder for people to take care of more children?
I do find I use babysitters/helpers less for all four of my kids at once than I did when it was two kids at once. I think the biggest reason for this, though, is not that it is too hard to manage all four–I don’t think that is necessarily the case since they are usually well-behaved and the older kids are more helpful and more independent.
It is because I actually use them a lot more, but for keeping Brinley’s naps intact. One example is my mom drove McKenna to dance class almost every week this year. I just found myself asking for more help for the random babysitting here and there and then not wanting to overextend my welcome, so to speak, but then constantly asking for help for all four kids.
How do you keep up your energy?
If you find yourself tired, you first need to address the age old things we know helps with that.
- Get enough sleep for you at night
- Eat healthy food
- Drink enough water
- Take a multi-vitamin if needed
- Find time to exercise
If those things don’t help, look into other possible reasons, like thyroid issues. You can also check your iron levels.
Now, that list is easier said than done. And it takes effort. It can be hard to make yourself go to bed at night because I think most of us want to have some time without kids before we go to sleep.
If this is you, try go make sure you get your kids in bed at a good time so you can have unwind time before you go to bed. And set a bedtime for yourself if you need to.
Exercise is one that is hard to fit in. You basically have to choose a time that works for you and just stick to it. Even just taking your kids on a daily walk will be helpful to you. For more on how I fit in exercise with little kids, see How I Do It: Exercise.
How do you prevent younger kids from getting “too big for britches” with older siblings?
This was asked several times, and I actually have posts that address this:
What do you do about baby’s schedule and older kids’ activities disrupting sleep?
This is a very hard thing to manage. I have two posts that outline how to manage this: How To Maintain a Sleep Schedule with School Disruptions and Managing Baby’s Routine with Older Kids’ Activities.
Life with four can definitely be crazy and it definitely takes a lot more of your time and effort, but on the whole, it is very fun to have the hustle and bustle and see the children have so much fun together.
This post originally appeared on this blog in April 2013