Monday, April 29, 2013

Three to Four Child Transition

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The business 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 have shared in the this in the past, but I will share it gain. Remember that I am an LDS gal who lives in Utah, so if  you know anything about LDS culture, you likely know we tend to have a lot of kids ("a lot" but the standards of the US at large). That means I know a lot of moms who have a fair number of 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 possible 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 I DO IT?
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 decently old 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 SCHEDULES STRAIGHT
One of the biggest challenges is organizing yourself to keep schedules straight. I think it is a big enough issue I want to devote an entire post to it, but I will quickly address it here. 

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 because one time last year I totally forgot about piano (I was pregnant so maybe I can blame that). 

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.


TIME FOR MOM?
There are only so many hours in a day, and each child needs time for 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. 

READER QUESTIONS
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 might 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. 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. 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 I can send them to go play for ten minutes while I nurse Brinley.


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 (now 6) year old. I can count on them to help with so much and do so much. Both can get a simple lunch prepared if I am nursing the baby at lunch time (and both of them have several times in Brinley's life). They are truly helpful.

The only difficulty I encounter 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 indpeendent. 

It is because I actually use them a lot more, but for keeping Brinley's naps in tact. 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 helping for all four kids. Hopefully as Brinley sleeps less, we can use our favors for all four kids at once and not for the one or two here and there.

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, 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:
CONCLUSION
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. 

On Facebook, readers gave me some great questions that really warrant their own posts, so I will be answering those in posts in the coming weeks. Stay tuned for more!

Do you have questions? List them here!


10 comments:

Stephanie Kirby said...

Such a cute photo. All the older kids completely focused on the baby! :)

Emily said...

I LOVE Cozi too!!!!

Question: Do you nurse in front of Brayden? I've often wondered how I will manage that as my son is the oldest too! I try to keep it all super natural and don't draw attention to it in hopes that I can nurse in front of him longer without it being awkward!

Also what does LDS mean?????

I TOTALLY agree about the babysitting thing. Even with just two kids I feel like I'm having to ask a lot of favors to keep the youngest on schedule and rarely ask for both kids to be watched together!

I wrote on fb but this post is freaking me outtttt about adding baby #3 hahaha

Rhonda said...

I am totaaly thinking about this lately as I have 3 kids, 5, 2, and 1 and have wanted a fourth, but my pregnancies just seem to be getting harder. I need to decide soon cause I don't want to have a baby after 40 and I'm getting closer. lol I'm thinking about adoption too, but it's starting to sound nice to be done with babies. I go back and forth so much it makes me crazy. Love little ones though, just not lack of sleep and being tied to the house. Anyone have experience with adoption?

Valerie Plowman said...

Thanks Stephanie :)

Valerie Plowman said...

Emily,

I do nurse in front of him. It hasn't ever been weird. I am not someone who passionately runs around demanding I can breastfeed wherever I want and in front of whomever I want and show whatever seems right because it is natural, but I do think it doesn't need to be a big deal and that I can feed in front of my children.

LDS=member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (AKA Mormon).

and ha! You will be fine :)

Valerie Plowman said...

Rhonda I do not, but I know some BW moms that do. That is a good idea for a guest post. Do you want to list questions you have that could be answered?

Michael and Yvonne said...

haha, this is funny as the salvation army came today and picked up some more baby gear! I have 3 and am good although DH keeps saying he is open to 4! I know your factors and post isn't about this but seriously i think of cost and it costs so much just to have a baby (not talking about raising it, just the medical bills of actually having a bay). My first two i had good insurance but my last was not as good a plan but still a decent plan and it was a lot of money out of pocket. Now i have individual policy and it's a real high deductible plan and would cost a lot out of pocket. . It's pretty sad from someone who pays a lot of premiums and has insurance and then such high out of pocket. Like i said not necessarily the main factor but it does factor into decisions. It is pretty bittersweet to get rid of lots of baby items but you got to stop eventually, right?:) I figure it will be bittersweet no matter when. And by donating to charity i pass it on to others in need so that helps me feel better too!:)

Sandee Doss said...

When our family went from 2-3 it was the hardest transition I'd experienced in Motherhood. One of my friends told me 'even numbers are easier, odds are much harder.' I thought she was mad! But, my husband and I just had our 4th child together, and you know what? I think she may have been right! Our baby girl turns 4 months today. It has been the best, easiest, happiest of all previous newborn experiences. I agree with so much of your post in terms of approaching things with a more relaxed attitude. HOWEVER! The number one reason it's been easier and fun is because of you, Valerie! I swear, I couldn't have done it without you blazing the trail before me, and documenting it in such a way that can understand and apply to my life. You have made my motherhood a better place. God Bless you!

Sandee Doss said...

When our family went from 2-3 it was the hardest transition I'd experienced in Motherhood. One of my friends told me 'even numbers are easier, odds are much harder.' I thought she was mad! But, my husband and I just had our 4th child together, and you know what? I think she may have been right! Our baby girl turns 4 months today. It has been the best, easiest, happiest of all previous newborn experiences. I agree with so much of your post in terms of approaching things with a more relaxed attitude. HOWEVER! The number one reason it's been easier and fun is because of you, Valerie! I swear, I couldn't have done it without you blazing the trail before me, and documenting it in such a way that can understand and apply to my life. You have made my motherhood a better place. God Bless you!

Michael and Yvonne said...

so this is funny as i have this still in mind from last week........i saw an article about how Mom survey says 3 is the most stressful number of kids!
"Mothers of three children stress more than moms of one or two, while mothers of four or more children actually report lower stress levels, according to an exclusive TODAYMoms.com survey of more than 7,000 U.S. mothers released Monday. Call it the Duggar effect: Once you get a certain critical mass of kids, life seems to get a bit easier."
I was laughing as it ties in with your theme!:) haha, maybe i should rethink it but then I would definitely need to get another car, lol!:)

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