I recently read an article on Facebook about parenting three kids versus four kids. The gist of the article was that parents of three kids are far more stressed than parents of four kids. The article talked about several things, most of which involved the basic ideal: Parents of many have to Let It Go.
I can't really speak well to what it is like to be a mom of three kids. I was only a mom to three for 2 years. We had our fourth child almost exactly two years after our third, and those two years are a bit of a blur. In addition, our third child had many, many medical issues that caused us to be in/out of the hospital for the first year of his life. So, I don't know that my experience as a mom of three is too valid. Plus I barely remember yesterday, much less ten years ago.
So - I can't really compare three kids to four (or in my case, 5), but I can speak to having four and five. And I'm telling you, this article was pretty spot on. Here are some of the basic points it made:
Perfectionism becomes a thing of the past. Ummm, yeah. The kitchen floor isn't spotless? Please. I am hoping that the children are clean enough to be presentable to the general public. Knowing all your children's homework dates/projects/assignments? No way. I don't micro manage, unless the child is struggling in school. They learn (sometimes via sink or swim!), how to figure it out on their own. I am here to help, when needed, but it they need to come to me if they are stuck. And they do.
The more children you have, the more confident you become in your parenting. I can't say I'm always confident, but I do feel more comfortable in who I am, and how I parent. I'm not as concerned about what everyone else thinks now. I know what works for our family, and I feel more confident with how I discipline and parent my younger children than I did the first two. The article also says you have to just let things go the more kids you have, and that is truth. I don't have time to analyze why little Johnny is crying, because look, big sister Sarah just learned how to tie her shoes! After praising Sarah for a moment, I turn back to Johnny, who has miraculously gotten over his issue and is happily pulling all the tupperware out of the cabinet drawers.
Having more kids teaches you to find ways to unwind by yourself. I don't know if I have this mastered, but I do know that I understand how necessary it is to step back at times, and realize that if I leave the room for a moment, all will not be lost. The kids better learn to fend for themselves and figure out how to manage without mamma hovering. The article referenced letting go of making the perfect lunch for your kids, and going on a walk instead. I don't know how many walks I scoot out the door for, but I do know that I don't make my kids' lunches. Even my five-year-old makes the bulk of hers. Before you think I'm up for Loser Mom of the Year, don't fret - I am in the room and guiding their choices as they pack their lunches. But it's their job, not mine.
Allowing only one extracurricular activity per child. We are definitely in this camp, and have been for years. The kids can play a sport or do an activity each season (and play an instrument or take music lessons), but they cannot do more than one at a time. Travel teams are completely off the table (for many reasons), and the kids know it. They are welcome to try just about any sport/activity they want, one at a time, in our community. And I don't feel like they're lacking because of this rule.
The household is always exciting. Er, that's one way to put it! It's always loud, busy, in the throes of a project/game/dance party/fight etc. There is always something going on. And the kids always have playmates nearby. And if they get annoyed with one sib? No problem! There's always another one nearby who is willing to play.
When my first two kids were born, I read book after book about how to parent (full disclosure: I still read parenting books, albeit the nature of these books has changed over the years). One method I fully subscribed to was nursing on a schedule, which was not the popular practice at the time. My first two nursed every three hours, pretty much on the nose. I LOVED the rhythm and schedule (that is my personality, even now), and I fully believed and they would thrive. And they did! They both did just great on that schedule. My third child was on a rigid hospital-mandated feeding schedule, so there was no room for my opinion in feeding him. But by the time my fourth and fifth children were born, the feeding schedule was out the window. If the baby cried, I didn't have time to try the swing, then the paci, then tummy-time, then the swing again. If the baby cried, I nursed him. Period. I remember vividly nursing my fourth while listening to my first grader read aloud her book of the day. Have you ever listening to a first grader read aloud? It is laborious. There was no way I could have pacified the baby and listened at the same time. So nurse him I did, and everyone was a winner, and there was peace in all of the land. For about 10 minutes, anyway.
Parenting five children has taught me much about myself. What is truly important to me in the way of parenting has risen to the surface. My 7th grader went to school today with no coat, and one of my younger boys confessed to recently wearing the same socks for three days in a row over the snow days. I have learned to pick my battles. I want my children to be loving, caring, honest, compassionate and Christ-like people. We are a work in progress. Everything else is cake.