Life with Four

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I’m pretty sure most little girls dream about the day they will become a mommy. I remember thinking through it all: how many kids, how many years apart, gender order, names, everything. My dream? Four kids. An oldest brother to look out for the younger ones and so his sisters friends would all have a crush on him. Then two girls so they could share clothes and be best friends. And last, another boy so he’d be able to look up to that older brother with a larger age gap where it’d be a role model type relationship.

When I started dating Zach and things got serious he mentioned he wanted two kids. He came from a family of uneven numbers and wanted even. I might have fudged a little tiny bit and mentioned that I wanted six kids…so that way when we compromised we agreed on four 😉

Now here we are. Not everything in life happens as we hope or dream or plan. But my babies surpass every childhood wish I could have imagined. I can literally look at them and see God’s blessings.

As we’ve added a child to our family I’ve always written a blog post about the transition into life with that addition. You can read my life with two post here and my life with three post here (I didn’t write a “life with one” post as when you only have one there is an entirely different type of adjustment!).

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When I am asked what I think the toughest transition is I always reply that each transition has it’s own challenges and advantages and that one doesn’t really stand out to me as being “the toughest.”

Here’s how I break it down:

Going from 0-1 kids: It’s hard because my entire life changed. I went from being a childless adult to having a new baby that I knew NOTHING about how to care for. My world was rocked! Zach’s world was rocked! We had so much to learn and had to deal with a bit of an almost grieving period of putting away the “pre-baby” days of life. 

However, having one baby meant that Kye got ALL my attention. He was our WORLD. We could both pour all of our energy into him and make sure all his needs were met all the time. I was able to do tons of research. Be up to speed on all the latest baby info. I could give him my 100%. And I never felt overwhelmed because Zach was also there! It’s the only time when parents have outnumbered kids and it makes easing into parenting a smoother transition because it allowed us to still focus so much on our marriage since we were only worrying about one baby.

Going from 1-2: Whew bring on ALL the mommy guilt. I struggled a lot with being unable to give EITHER child my 100% anymore. It was a constant juggling act and was difficult for me because I never felt like I was able to do my TRUE best for EITHER of them. I felt bad that Kye couldn’t get all the attention he’d always been used to and that I wasn’t able to focus on Britt in the same ways I was when Kye was a baby. 

I will say our marriage struggled the most with two kids. We did the divide and conquer thing so much that it felt like we were just roommates passing in the hall. He usually handled Kye since I was nursing so I was most often with Britt. It was hard for us to stay connected because we were always swapping off. Both having to focus so much on surviving the parenting that we easily lost sight of focusing on each other. 

But two kids was also SO great for my self-esteem as a mom. All the things I worried about and questioned and doubted myself with when I had Kye I became confident about when I had Britt. Parenting was SO much easier. I knew what to do and when to do it and didn’t overthink it all or worry myself to death over small things. I felt like I’d found my groove as a mom and felt like I knew what I was doing and was doing it WELL. 

Going from 2-3: Hello being outnumbered. Life got crazy when we added a third. There is just no way around it! Having three requires a lot more thought and planning in order to get anything done. I also struggled with postpartum depression after my third so that added an entirely new element of difficulty to the mix (looking back though I think I had a bit of PPD each time but just didn’t realize it until after Tess). 

I also felt the least complete when we had three. Which I know is weird to say but I KNEW four was our number and for some reason having three just made me notice and feel the void missing from our family. I felt more eager and anxious to add our fourth so I’d be able to feel whole and complete. 

Our marriage became the strongest when we went from 2-3. Being outnumbered meant we HAD to communicate. No longer did we have an obvious, easy way to divide and conquer. It’s more of an “us vs them” mentality and it truly bonded us and made us more of a team and a unit. 

I also was adjusted and well over the whole “mommy guilt” thing. I knew one kid may have to cry for a bit. Or be a little late for nap. Or whatever. It didn’t phase me anymore or bother me anymore. I knew that I couldn’t give ANY one child my 100% best all the time and that’s okay. I saw benefits in my children from having to be patient and learn that the world doesn’t revolve around them. I also appreciated each of them more when I was able to give them my full attention since it didn’t happen all the time. 

Three also took me from feeling like Mrs Awesome Mom to not caring in those moments where I was more like Hot Mess Mom. I often go and do solo with my kids and managing three kids solo can create a lot of crazy moments. I didn’t get phased by them and learned to let go of the smaller things, not stress when things didn’t go smoothly and truly laugh at the moments that were a tad out of control. Three kids softened me. Made me more flexible.

I’m a decently high anxiety person to the extent that I don’t do well when my plate is too full. But for some reason having a third kid lessened my stress levels. Which I know sounds crazy but I don’t lose my cool nearly as often as I did when I had just two kids. For some reason having three kids totally chilled me out in the best way possible! It’s like that third kid was my Xanax or something!!!

Having three kids really allowed me to see what’s important and what things can be let go of. I found my balance and made decisions on things that mattered most. While I was still hardcore on those top priority items (Babywise!) I also accepted that I couldn’t be hardcore in all areas and I adjusted and found my personal groove and focused on the things that Zach and I decided were most important to our family unit. 

And now we come to the transition of going from 3 kids to 4:

The biggest struggle has been the mental load. I didn’t even really realize it was a “thing” until we added the fourth kid. My mind literally cannot contain all the things I have to manage and remember and juggle. It just can’t. I drop the ball so much more than I ever have. I forget things that I never would have forgotten in the past. I am not on my A-Game anymore. 

While three kids took me to a chill place and I loved it, four took me to a place where I’m having to redefine my balance and delegate more to my family and reconfigure my plate. I am a naturally perfectionist personality and while I am thankful to have relaxed more in some areas, I don’t like feeling the way I have about myself as a mom since adding the fourth. I don’t like feeling so out of control, so behind on everything, so forgetful, so frazzled. 

I think a lot of that will take time. I’m able to talk about the transitions from 0-1, 1-2, and 2-3 with perspective. It’s been a good while since I went through those transitions so I can look back on them with a hindsight viewpoint and can see the big overall picture. 

I’m still very much in the trenches of adjusting to life with four. 

I do not think that LIFE has gotten any crazier with four kids than it did with three. I will say that the fourth baby HAS to be the most flexible out of all the babies we’ve had because we have kids now at ages where we don’t have the ability to control or choose certain elements of their schedules. I can’t dictate school times or bus pick ups. I have to roll with what is given to me and Spear has to be able to roll with it too!

It’s often said that once you adjust to life with three that you can add any amount of children and it feels the same. I will agree with this. Zach and I both don’t feel like adding a fourth was a MAJOR life adjustment as it was when having our first, adding our second, or adding our third. Once you’re already outnumbered you’ve adjusted to that and have a solid game plan for managing it. 

We’re also pretty much at a pro-level when it comes to parenting. We’ve done it four times over now! We know what’s what and how to get out the door and how to rearrange life around a baby’s schedule. We just fall into a natural routine pretty quickly because it’s like second nature to us at this point! 

I am not able to savor and enjoy Spear as a baby as much as I could have with the others. I think it gets less and less with each additional child. I tell my kids often “I’m ONE mama with FOUR kids.” It’s busy! And I don’t have the ability to just SIT and SNUGGLE the way I once did. It also is a lot to do with not nursing Spear. Since I nursed the others I ALWAYS had THAT time with them. Those sweet cuddles and moments of JUST US. Bottle feeding isn’t the same and often Zach feeds him so I can tend to the needs of the other kids! While it’s been AMAZING for his bond with Spear (Spear favors Zach more than any of the other kids did as babies!), it’s taken away from my quality time with him.

Other moms I’ve talked to agree that the more kids you have, the less you can enjoy each stage. In some ways this is a positive thing. Spear is my LAST baby. And I am the kind of person who struggles with big life changes. Knowing he’s my LAST? It could be a super emotional time. I could struggle really hard with watching him grow up knowing it’s my final time with a baby. But I’m way too busy to even really ever think about it! I tell people often that I think it was such a good thing that I didn’t KNOW that Tess was my last pregnancy, my last baby that I’d nurse. We didn’t know we would be adopting for our fourth and if we had I think I would have had a SUPER hard time going through all those experiences for the last time. I’m thankful I didn’t know! And in that regard I’m thankful that life is so busy that I’m not able to overthink or over feel the emotions associated with being done having babies.

Our marriage has had a bit of an adjustment to adding the fourth as well. In many ways we are still just as solid and united as a team as we had to become when we added our third, but we BOTH have a LOT in our mental load. While I added another kid to the mix, Zach added his MS diagnosis on top of being in a new position with his job (a much more stressful one!). So while I need more help, he isn’t really able to have more on his plate either. We’re both pretty maxed out and it will take time to get settled into all these new roles and additions to our plates. 

However, we both agree that the more kids we’ve had the easier we let the little things go. We see the bigger picture and don’t let small stuff cause marital issues between us. We also both have learned that clear, constant communication is vital. We have our calendars synced so we always know what’s going on, we share a list app for reminders to each other. We be sure to STOP and TALK and work through things and make plans and stay in constant contact. Which may sound like a small thing but it takes a lot of work to reach that point. I’m SO thankful for the growth in our marriage that the addition of each child has given us. 

The busier life has gotten, the better we’ve also gotten at making sure to carve out time for each other. We have gone on more date nights since Spear was born than we probably did the entire three years prior! We HAVE to make time for each other if it’s going to happen so we’re more conscious of that and do a much better job making those plans and spending that quality time together. 

A huge benefit in adding the fourth child is by this point my older kids are actually able to be legit help. Sure your three year old can “help” with the new baby but we all know that really that “help” is more work for mama 😉 But my nine year old and six year old? TRUE help. In my working on balancing the mental load overload I’m truly trying to do a better job at delegating more to them. They are capable of doing more and it’s GOOD for them to learn to step up, contribute to our family in a positive way, and help our household run smoothly. When everyone pitches in and does their part, we all benefit. 

It’s also SO awesome to sit back and see all the kids together. We have the largest age gap between Tess and Spear than we do between any others so all three of our kids are older than we’ve ever had kids be when we have a new baby.  I LOVE IT. They all ADORE Spear and there is never any jealousy or issues or complaints. I think a lot of that is their involvement in the entire adoption process, they have prayed for this precious boy just like Zach and I have so they appreciate him on an entirely different level than they have their biological siblings. 

Watching Tess with Spear is the only real thing that has made me SAD about being done having babies. She was always the one most attached to me and with that extra year before adding Spear I was nervous she’d have jealousy issues but she has been SO amazing and just adores him on a level I never anticipated. It makes me sad to think that we’ll never see Spear in the roll as an older brother. He does the youngest sibling thing so well though and I don’t think he minds all the spoiling one bit 😉 

It’s common for people to say that any baby after the 2nd will be easy going because they have to be. And I fully agree with this. Both my third and fourth babies have been VERY happy and go with the flow and just pure JOY to have. I don’t know if it’s just their personality or how much of it is due to their birth order but I’m not complaining 😉 They have had to be the most flexible and I’m sure that combined with my having to have a more laid back personality has helped them to be more chill as well!

Spear is not a carbon copy of Tess. While she was a low sleep needs baby, he’s more of a high sleep needs personality. But he’s just as happy and cheerful during his awake time as I remember her being. He’s always wearing a big grin and is content to be held or be laid down or be in a pack and play or in the car or whatever!

If I meet someone who says they are on the fence about having another after their second I always encourage them to go for it. YES. Life gets CRAZY but it’s all worth it and those 3rd and 4th babies are simply pure JOY.

All my life I dreamed of motherhood. Every dream I’ve ever wished has come true. There is no better feeling than feeling whole. Complete. My heart is filled and it’s such an incredible feeling to be content in where we’re at. I am so excited to have it be US. ALL of US. No more waiting to add another, this is it and it’s everything I’d ever hoped for! 

My babies are my greatest gift and being their mother is my passion and joy. I’m so thankful and blessed and never take this opportunity for granted. Yes, each added child means reconfiguring our new normal but I wouldn’t change it for the world! 

The Parker Four

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1 Comment

  1. Kate
    June 30, 2018 / 1:34 am

    I loved reading this! My oldest was 4 and a half when my 4th was born. I related deeply with so many of the things you said. I have a girl, boy,2 more girls and I'm now pregnant with #5, a boy! due in December! My youngest is 2 so this will be our biggest age gap.Since everyone else is so close in age I was sad my boys will be so far apart but your post gave me fresh perspective! Thank you for sharing!

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