I’ve heard countless people say that going from 3 to 4 kids is easier than going from 2-3…and I’ve always wondered if that would be true for me or not. After all, many say 3 was easier than 2, which was not the case for me.
We just had our 4th baby 5 months ago. I’m still waking up at night about twice and overall have more responsibilities because we are homeschooling…but this time around things are just so much smoother.
If you are wondering what it’s like in our house right now, or what 4 kids might be like, or what it’s like to have a 4.5 year gap after you’ve been out of the baby stage…read on!
Why having 3 kids was harder than 4
I was pretty nervous to enter the baby stage again since the last time we did this we had 3 kids under 4 and had just moved across the country for medical residency.
At the time, we had no family or friends here. No help and no money to hire help. New culture. New baby. And one car. It was overwhelming! I thank God for sustaining me during that time of my life and providing resident wife friendships!
I remember one game changer then was getting all 3 kids to nap at the same time. And also doing preschool at home which allowed me complete control of our schedule without the need to wake up a baby for drop off or pick up.
4 is just so different now! We have kids that don’t nap, but do quiet time. Kids that need my help for school but can also help with the baby a bit. More noise, but also more meaningful conversation.
Comparing our life with 3 kids vs 4 kids is almost like comparing apples to oranges.
Paternity leave makes a BIG difference
With our 3rd baby, my husband was given 3 days off of residency. It wasn’t enough to support me and he couldn’t do anything about it. So basically, we had 1 day home from the hospital and I was alone with all 3.
We had to call an S.O.S to his mom that week because I was in tears from exhaustion. She drove down and let me sleep a solid 8 hours middle of the day just waking up to nurse! She’s an angel. My parents drove 7 hours to help the week after and did the same.
But with #4, my husband got 3 weeks off. I credit the smooth transition to that!
Yes, I’m the one waking up at night to nurse the baby. But he let me sleep in every day as long as I could. And he took the 3 bigs somewhere FUN to blow off energy for 3 hours a day for the first 3 weeks. The pool, the zoo, parks, etc.
I can’t even express how nice it was for me to count on 3 hours to myself each day to just stare at my baby/nurse in quiet. By the time he went back to work, I was ok to face it. And the baby almost had his days and nights figured out.
Having a 4th baby with BIG kids at home is easier
This time around we have big kids (ages 8, 6.5, 4.5) who are helpful, independent, can clean up a mess and pour their own cereal. They can buckle themselves in the car, carry a bag to the pool, and don’t pee the bed at night. It’s just so different!
And now that my little guy is here, I’m just soaking in everything because I SEE that soon enough he’ll be the size of my 8 year old and I don’t want to miss it.
My big kids need me in new ways
On the flip side though, they need me in different ways. They need to chat, and can see right through me when I’m not listening and just saying, “uh-huh”. They need me to teach them to read, to do math, etc.
I’m no longer just taking care of their basic needs round the clock but also feel a responsibility and desire to know them more as people! We have more in depth conversations and also laugh together now.
And we also get frustrated at each other sometimes too. Like when fake fart noises ring through my home, or when attitudes go sour, or when I get overwhelmed with the noise and send them all downstairs.
Plus, they ask to see friends more often, where as they used to be more content to just stay home when they were little.
Since we homeschool, that’s something i try to arrange weekly but it’s been harder with a new baby.
Support from friends and church has made having a 4th baby easier
Another big difference this time is that we are plugged in to an amazing homeschool group that I have made friends through. Countless people have cooked us meals through that group and from church.
If you get the opportunity to sign up for a meal and can, even if it’s from a restaurant…do it if you can! She’ll always remember that even if she can’t express how much it meant.
This time I’ve reached out to ask friends to ask if we can come over and play because that’s what my big kids need. And honestly, it’s helpful for me to have adult conversations too since my husband has been so busy.
What it’s like right now having 4 kids (5 months in)
Just to give you an idea of how daily life has changed on the day to day, I’ll share some specifics.
Also, our 4.5 year gap means that I had given away all our baby stuff. So we had to get everything again. Between some generous hand me downs from friends and a few new things I needed to buy, here’s my favorite baby items so far with #4!
Ok, here’s what life is like right now with a newly turned 8 year old, 6.5 year old, 4.5 year old, and 5 month old.
We were already outnumbered, and now it’s just a little bit noisier
Having 3 kids meant we were already used to “having our hands full”. What I notice now is that it’s noisier!
I’m guessing it’s because they’re not getting the exercise they need so they run around the house and climb on the climbing bar and just have a lot of energy overall.
Plus, they’re getting a little bit less attention than they’re used to right now (hello transition) AND we have no schedule or flow to our day yet. They let me know it by annoying each other more than usual and also making annoying sounds.
I lost that “free time” I had grown accustomed to
With a newborn, no matter how many kids you have, you don’t really have much free time. The transition is just all consuming.
A friend of mine who had her 4th baby after 3.5 year gap told me losing her free time was one of the hardest parts of having a big gap.
I’d say that’s true for me as well…though mentally preparing for that has helped.
The list of “I can’t” has grown longer again. I can’t get out easily, or blog much right now, or plan out when we will get certain homeschooling things done. It just happens in pockets, when I’m free.
I can’t be sure that I’ll be able to make dinner at night…sometimes that baby needs me and dinner doesn’t happen! People still eat…but not always what I planned.
How sleep is going with a 4th
By 1 month: He’d sleep all day it seemed, awake for short chunks. Nursing every 2-3 hours at night seemed doable since he’d fall back asleep. I remember a few nights he’d just stay awake for a couple of hours in the middle of the night.
2 months: The baby had really started to fall asleep more at night and stay awake more in the day. That’s when I feel he got his “days and nights” right. Still napped in the living room with noise and bright lights.
He’d fall asleep for the night around 10, so I’d be up later than everyone till he was down. He’d still wake up to eat every 2-3 hours at night but would fall asleep again.
3 months: Things really changed here, where he’s just less sleepy and awake more in the day! And sleeping longer stretches at night. We had a handful of times he slept 7 hours solid before needing to nurse and wow that’s a treat! Usually I nursed him at 1 or 2am and again at 5 or 6am.
I really noticed this was the month he has begun to “get fussy” when he’s tired, instead of just falling asleep. And he’s not napping as easily just anywhere.
So we are trying out napping him in my bedroom where it’s darker and there’s white noise. That’s going better. And he also sleeps well in the stroller when we are out with our homeschool nature groups.
He’s seemingly ready for his 1st nap around 9:30 after being awake for a couple hours and the length of that nap is still unpredictable. He’ll nap again around noon ish and again around 3 or so.
At 4 months: Falling asleep around 9 at night now, waking up at 7am or so. We had a few glorious weeks of long 5-6 hour stretches at night, and then came a 4 month sleep regression. Still figuring that out now at 5 months. Moving him away from my bed and into our walk in closet has really helped!
Getting out of the house on time got harder
I used to take 45 minutes to get out of the house with the 3 littles. I swear it’s like an hour now.
And not because of the bigs, they are great and can be ready in about 5 minutes. It’s because I’m back to getting myself and baby ready to go and trying to get a lot to the car! Like lunches, water bottles, library bin, etc.
If the baby is tired and fussy…it’s even harder to do anything to get ready to go.
There have been a few Sundays I skipped church because even though I planned to go…baby would be tired and fussing right when it was close to go time and I hadn’t been able to get myself dressed or makeup on. It was just easier to stay home than force it some weeks.
When the baby was 3 weeks old, I remember taking the kids to VBS just after my husband started his new job. It was a treat to have the house quiet for 2.5 hours. But my goodness it was so hard for me to drop them off inside (on time…we were always a few minutes late) and pick them up!
Being on anyone else’s schedule with a newborn is STRESSFUL. It’s gotten significantly easier with a 4 month old than it was at 2 months. Lesson to myself: Stay home more. Or at least aim to go places you don’t have to be “on time.”
The big kids want to take turns holding the baby a lot
I wasn’t prepared for how much of my time initially would be spent sitting next to whatever kid was holding the new baby! They all want to hold him several times a day which I think is really important if they’re going to feel attached to him.
I’m not comfortable with them holding him alone yet, especially my 4 and 6 year old. So I end up sitting next to them so I can be there when they say, “DONE!”. I can be sitting there for 15 minutes passing the baby while they all have a short turn.
This can be several times a day. Not a big deal, but I hadn’t expected that.
I also had to make some rules our first few days home that nobody could pass the baby OR try standing up with him. They wanted to do both and it would be too easy to have an accident I think.
Going to the pool: my favorite activity the first month
One thing that was easy was going alone to the pool in the evenings, usually 5-7! My husband always worked past then, so it gave the bigs something to do and I could just sit by the pool.
At first I was nervous going to the pool alone with 4 kids, but it was way easier than taking a baby and toddler to the pool alone.
The big kids all got their suits on alone. And they carried towels to the van and waited for me while I finished nursing and got my diaper bag packed.
The 2 oldest swim now and my 3rd child had to wear his floaty. Then, I picked a spot from the side and watched them for 2 hours, usually nursing the baby once.
All this was possible because for the first time ever…I got a stroller that clips in to the car seat! Ummmm why did I wait till baby #4 to get this?? Life changing.
We can toss all of our crap into the bottom, I’m not hot baby wearing…and it’s just great.
I miss playing with the big kids at the pool
I told my husband I miss being IN the pool playing with them.
It was actually pretty darn relaxing though (because no one is talking to me) when I sit by the side with my newborn. I just kind of miss having the freedom to hop in and play with them.
I don’t think they care, but I feel like I’m not making those memories WITH them as much. Next year will be better in that way because I’ll have a 1 year old in the water with me.
The big kids are incredibly independent
When the last baby came, all kids were under 4. The oldest two were potty training. No one could pick up messes well or follow directions dependably it seemed.
I had to develop new cleaning habits to keep up. Actually, keeping up was a goal then…catching up one room at a time was reality.
Now, everyone can follow directions well! They are helpful! My job has changed from doing things for them to directing them what needs done.
My 8 year old can do age appropriate chores like carry laundry bins for me, unload the dishwasher, and make his own peanut butter honey sandwich.
I created chore charts (written for my oldest, pictures for my non readers) so I could list a few things we needed to do daily like:
- Get dressed
- Brush teeth
- Pick up room
- Family bible story
- Play Outside
We don’t really use those charts now, but they helped for a while to start new habits.
Life revolves around food
Our grocery bill has definitely gone up, and I’ve found a need to have more or a “plan” when it comes to food. That’s hard for me not being a meal planner.
The first month or so I just had a “Get whatever you want” attitude, and stocked the house with things they could easily grab like cheese sticks, strawberries, applesauce cups, bread and peanut butter, cereal and milk, etc.
We started using Instacart. It’s more expensive…but I’d cut out almost anything else from my budget to avoid shopping with all 4 right now. We still do a monthly Costco run as a family…but it’s fine with my husband there.
I also crave fruit when I’m nursing (juicy and quick energy). So I’ve made an effort to cut up a lot of fruit.
I feel guilty about not having enough of me to give each kid
The newborn stage is so precious and SO short. I’m trying to soak it in..to stare at my baby and give myself permission to sit on the couch whenever.
But that can also mean I feel guilty for not spending as much quality time with the others. I’m guessing though that what I think they need of me is probably WAY more than what they actually need of me.
My husband told me I literally spend all day with them…and don’t need to feel bad about this. But I know, as do you…that you can be with your kids ALL day and not really connect.
Everyone wants to chat. Show me things. Tell me things. My goal is to be with each one, listening and looking at them and connecting each day. 10-15 minutes even.
Sometimes that happens at night when one wants arm tickles while my husband reads out loud. I set the baby in the bouncer or let someone hold him while sitting down.
Other times it’s playing one round of battleship with my oldest while the baby is on my lap or in his bouncer. Or just putting my phone down and looking at my girl while she chats away about her day.
I wrote this post last baby on 8 things I’d stopped doing to be less busy…and it’s a good reminder to take some stuff off my plate during this 1st year with a new baby.
Having 4 kids makes you want to get rid of more stuff
My husband and I are always saying how we need to get rid of more stuff.
Having 4 kids with clothes and toys that appeal to all ages plus the baby gear…it feels cramped sometimes.
I got rid of half my own clothes too. Many things I’d had for 5-10 years, were not stylish, and didn’t make me feel good in them! I knew I’d want to treat myself to some new clothes after the baby anyway.
Here’s how I shop using Thred Up for buying used clothing online. Mercari is also my other favorite used clothing app.
I’m not a big phone call person, and 4 makes it extra hard
I’ve never loved just chatting on the phone. I do it because we live 2 flights away from all our family. It’s the only way to share life other than texting videos.
I will only call when the kids are awake because I need to guard any quiet time we have here for my sanity. But I just feel so busy with 4 that phone calls are usually short, lots of background noise, and I’m usually pretty distracted.
How we decided that we wanted to try for a 4th baby
I remember looking at my 3rd when he was a baby and wondering if it was the last time I’d ever nurse a baby. Or the last time to have a crawler.
I think I would have been happy to stay at 3 kids…because life had just gotten easier and getting out was easier! We could skip nap time and not melt down. We were able to start DOING things because it wasn’t so overwhelming to leave the house.
I just didn’t know what I wanted or if I could do 4 or go through pregnancy and birth again. You can read more about my birth experiences here.
My “plan” has always been to have however many kids we have close in age so they’d all play together. That plan didn’t pan out with #4.
When I was finally sleeping through the night, my youngest magically potty trained himself at age 2, and things were beginning to feel lighter…then we considered another.
I think it’s a hard thing to really know if you are done having kids, because no matter when you stop you’ll always be sad when you have those “lasts”.
Things to consider when you’re thinking about having another baby
1. You are valuable because Christ loves you, not because of how many kids you have
Do you ever compare yourself to moms with more kids than you and think…they are more? More capable, more superwoman, or better at life somehow?
O that’s such a lie!
No matter what…there’s going to be moms with MORE kids and LESS kids than you. Neither one should determine your value (or theirs).
It’s easy to misplace your value as a person in your busyness as a mother.
I’m valuable because Christ loves me, not because I have 4 children instead of 3 or 2 or 1. It was important to remember that when we were thinking about growing our family.
2. Picture your future and not just the here and now
Someone once told us to picture how we hope to see our family when the kids are bigger…even how it might be when they have families of their own.
It’s hard to see past the often monotonous work when kids are in the baby and toddler stage. You can both cherish it and dread the continuous mound of work you have to do…depending on the day.
But thinking of future phases with your kids (when they’re all in elementary, or high school, or grown with their own families) might help you with that decision.
Will they play together with a 4 year gap?
I was kind of worried about the big gap, but not anymore. The dynamic is precious.
I have a peek at what it might be like in a few years too. My 1st and 3rd kids (also boys) are 3.5 years apart. While they didn’t play much together until the baby turned 2, they do now! They wrestle together, build Legos side by side, and like a lot of the same things.
So while there will be stages that don’t overlap well (like both kids playing trains together or napping together) they will eventually be buds.
And as my husband says, someday we’ll be so happy to have that tag along just entering high school to lessen the sting of the big 3 moving to college all within a short 4 year span.
I was the youngest of 5, with a 4.5 year gap as well. I loved my brother something fierce, and never minded having all that alone time and attention from my parents. So…banking on that 😉 !
Remember if you are nervous about having 4 kids, they come 1 at a time…sometimes 2 😉
I have a friend who went from 3 to 5 kids when she had twins. In some ways I thought that would be awesome so the tag along would have a bud… And in other ways STRESSFUL! No matter how many kids you have, you figure it out one day at a time, one situation at at time.
So glad to share our experience with our 4th baby with you! Feel free to ask any questions below or share this post with a friend. Hope to see you over on IG as well, where we share day to day homeschooling life.