Survey reveals the magic number of children for a low-stress life

siblings pulling faces

Parenthood is apparently cheaper by the dozen, but could it also be less stressful? More than 7000 mums were recently asked about the stress involved in raising their children. Does it get harder or easier with more kids? The results may leave you digging out the baby gear for another round.

How many children are the perfect number?

Mums with three children are the most stressed out compared to mums with one or two, or even compared to those with four or more kids. And even more surprising,  according to the survey conducted by Today, the more you have after three, the less stressful it all gets.

On a scale of one to 10 – with 10 of course being the most stressful – the average mum feels an 8.5 in terms of daily stress. It was also revealed that mums with four or more children seem to breeze through the ups and downs of parenting better than mums with one or two children. And mums with three kids – they appear to have hit the stress level target.

family with mum dad and three children

According to Scary Mommy writer, Jill Smokler, “going from one to two was an easy, breezy transition.” But the transition from two to three? All of a sudden you are outnumbered and as they get older, they start to realise this and use it to their advantage. After all, you only have two hands.

A mum of three, Smokler tells TODAY: “Just crossing the street and not being able to physically hold all their hands, I find tremendously stressful”.

Bigger families lead to less perfectionism

Seventy-five per cent of the mums surveyed admit that while money and work contribute to the worry, the pressure they put on themselves to be “perfect” is what causes the most stress. Mums with one or two children have a more unrealistic idea of trying to be “perfect” and wanting to do it all when compared to mums with more children.

And while the stress of multiple pregnancies can leave many mums running for the nearest chemist to stock up on birth control, I have to admit that having a tribe of children does sound promising. The older kids can entertain the younger ones and the need to be perfect would most likely be pushed out the door when baby number four makes its appearance.

Dr Janet Taylor, a psychiatrist in New York, agrees. “There’s just not enough space in your head for perfectionism when you get to four or more kids.”

Being outnumbered by your children could be a good thing

Mums start to hit their groove once they get past the outnumbered phase. “The more children you have, the more confident you become in your parenting abilities,” Taylor says. And the easier it gets to just let things be.

“You have to let go … and then you’re just thankful when they all get to school on time.”

Third child meme

How many kids do you have? I have two and am currently trying to convince my husband to go for one more. But after this survey, I reckon we need to bypass the third child and hope for twins.

Do you agree that three is the most stressful number? Is four or more children the way to go?

Subscribe to Babyology

Our email newsletters keep you up to date with what’s happening on Babyology.

We also have special newsletter-only offers and competitions that are exclusive to Babyology subscribers.

Sign up below:

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Send this to a friend