Running a close second to the good old – “Wow! FOUR girls?!” – comment I receive from well-meaning strangers when I’m out in public with my daughters, the other predictable refrain lobbed at me is – “I don’t know how you manage with four, I can barely cope with my one!”
This usually comes from exhausted-looking mothers who are wrangling their demanding toddler, and look about ready to jump ship completely from this whole motherhood gig. I remember those days, I’ve been there.
But, I think it’s time we get something straight – four children is challenging and intense, yes, that I will concede – no contest. But I honestly, truly believe that raising one child is harder, and here’s why …
Less pressure to be their everything
When you’ve only got one child to care for, their every single need or want falls to you.
They rely on you for everything, because that’s what they’re used to and how it has always been. Without any other people to play with, talk to or engage with – you’re their everything, whether you like it or not. Talk about full-on.
My youngest daughter attends kindergarten over a 5-day fortnight period, with the other days spent at home with me. (Her three big sisters are already at school.)
Read more about larger families:
- Lindy Klim shares snaps of her beautiful, big family
- 4 things you give up when you have a big family; and 5 things you gain
- Big family living: Spending quality time with each child when you’re stretched
I begin the mornings of our days together ignorantly idealising how we will spend them, but truthfully – by about lunch time – I’m ready to pick up her sisters from school a few hours early because it is so exhausting and draining doing things solo.
And I’m not alone. The few hours before we get in the car for pick-up mostly consist of her asking me over and over again if we can “go and get the girls”.
With four children comes more laundry, more mess and definitely more time spent in the kitchen – but it also means having live-in playmates. This was perfectly illustrated to me last Monday, when I had all four girls at home because it was a public holiday.
Usually Mondays are the day I spend at home, prepping meals for the week ahead so the pressure is off me for the rest of the week and my children actually, you know, get fed things other than toasted sandwiches or cereal for dinner.
I wasn’t expecting to have much success and get much done with everyone home, but as it turns out – I actually got more done with four children than I would have if it had just been me and my kinder girl. She normally “helps” me on Mondays, by, you know – asking constantly for food or needing help with one thing or another. This usually means a lot of stop-and-starting for me with my meal prep.
But this week was amazing! Because her sisters were at home I pretty much didn’t see them during the whole two hours I cooked. They busily played with each other that whole time – and my eleven-year-old made a double batch of muffins alongside me, too. Winning!
Not defaulting to mum encourages growth
When you’re like me and raising a tribe of children, one of the most beautiful things that you get to witness is your children forming connections with each other, and teaching each other skills that would otherwise fall to you.
I have no doubt that my youngest daughter is actually the most-skilled problem solver of the four, because she has had to be. I simply cannot be in four places at once all the time, and so having four children has already meant that my daughters have had to find their own ways to get stuff done – instead of relying constantly on me to do it for them.
Invariably they turn to each other, and help each other out with encouragement and compassion. Because there are so many children, my girls know that sometimes – their wants have to wait, so that their sisters needs can be met. I personally think this can only be a good thing, and I wish that I had learned these skills when I was a young (only) child.
Your own tribe
At the end of the day, if you’re only considering the laundry, food-preparation and juggling-act that comes with four children then yes it’s … a crazy zoo!
But the amazing thing that happens when you have four children is that you’re effectively creating your own tribe. With that comes so many wonderful positives within the chaos that I truly believe it’s worth it.
So to all the first-time mothers out there who feel scared that things possibly can’t get harder, I can assure you that the first child is definitely the steepest learning curve. It all gets easier from here on in – especially when you take the leap of faith and add more children to your tribe.
Trust me, you won’t regret it!