A lot of people told me that once you have three kids, adding any more is basically no big deal. You’re already outnumbered and have been practicing zone defense for a while. You probably already drive a minivan. You’re used to multi-tasking while being perpetually tired. The bigger ones can help with the smaller ones.
Although all of those circumstances are true for me, going from 3 to 4 has not been easy. At all. I’m getting my ass kicked a little bit. There’s a Jim Gaffigan bit where he talks about having five kids: “Imagine you’re drowning. Then someone hands you a baby.” I feel like four kids might be the point where I’m still treading water but seriously wondering why the shore is so, so far away.
When I went from one to two, Evan was still a toddler with no commitments. If everyone was tired and wanted to sleep in, we all slept in. When he napped, she napped, and then I could nap. He ate basically nothing but goldfish crackers and cups of milk. We owned 243% fewer toys that could be spread out over the entire house. It was still hard, because taking care of kids is hard, but it wasn’t daunting. By the time I went from two to three, both Evan and Caroline were in school, so although I had to get them up and out the door every day once that was done I just had one newborn to keep alive which I could do entirely from the couch. Linc and I could handle errands or chores or work thanks to babywearing and an infant who started sleeping 8+ hours a night around 6 weeks.
Now I have both big kids who have to be dressed and fed and packed and put on the bus; a toddler who wakes up too early, is trying to give up his nap, needs to be fed a constant stream of pb&j sandwiches; and then I also have a helpless baby who isn’t much of a fan of sleeping.
Being a stay at home mom has always been a weird mix of always having way too much to do and long, boring periods of nothing. There is always something or someone who needs to be cleaned, so my work is never really done. There is so much laundry it feels almost comical – how can we own so many things that constantly need to be washed?! It’s so much mindless work. I can’t trust Linc alone with Finn for very long, so I’m not taking as many showers as I probably should be. (I don’t think he’d hurt him on purpose, but sometimes he gets the urge to just SQUEEZE HIS HEAD BECAUSE HE’S SOOOOO CUTE and doesn’t know that’s not a good idea.) I am currently serving as a 24 hour buffet for the baby, so having to feed everyone else too seems ridiculous. Can’t they all just feed themselves with food that magically appears in our kitchen? I used to love cooking, now it’s tedious. The level of being touched-out has reached new heights – Finn is a very cuddly baby, especially at 2 am, but Linc is also a very cuddly toddler. There are So. Many. Diapers.
I know in my head that this is all super temporary. We missed a lot of our favorite October stuff this year because I was too tired to wrangle everyone out of the house, but there will be 18 more Octobers where I have at least one child at home to do fun fall things with me. Right now I need to choose the less stressful option, maybe let myself be more lazy than I’m usually comfortable with, perhaps do just a little less for the holidays so I don’t end up freaking out completely. I’m hoping my friends and family can grant me some grace for not being as thoughtful and timely with their gifts and thank you notes and baked goods and holiday cards.
One day, in a future I can’t quite imagine yet, having four children will be totally normal for me. It won’t take me 30 minutes to get everyone settled just so I can go do laundry for 5 minutes. I won’t constantly run out of food because I forget how much 6 people eat. I will sleep more than 3 hours in a row and it might even be in my bed instead of on the couch. There’s even a chance I will go to Target and won’t lose ANY of my kids. For now, I will keep my head above water however I can and not pretend I’m doing it very well.
I can, however, occasionally force them into photos.