I remember when I got pregnant with our third child, I was fairly devastated. It wasn’t planned in any way and by that point we were out of the baby stage, our two kids were nine and six. We had moved into a larger house but the “extra room” was being rented out. I had just bought a sporty SUV that only fit two comfortably in the back. We had started planning bigger vacations because the kids were easier to take on longer trips.
Then I got pregnant and everything seemed up in the air and uncertain and I really didn’t like it. I’m a planner and I wanted to be sure of things and I very unsure about the road ahead.
Family of five, take two
It took a few weeks but eventually my husband and I came around to the idea of three kids and we decided to tell our children that one more was coming. Of course, they were totally excited, and we started looking at different vehicles and we told our renter we were going to need the room. We put things into motion.
Then I had a miscarriage.
I really blamed myself a lot. I thought because I wasn’t gleefully excited about the pregnancy from the beginning that I was being punished. I felt really terrible and the worst was having to tell my kids that the baby wasn’t going to come after all. My husband and I really were confused on how we felt because on one hand, this brings everything back to the way it was and on the other, we had gotten kind of used to being parents of three. It took a couple of months of late-night discussions but we decided it was a sign we were meant to have three, so by that August we were pregnant again.
Penelope was born in April, the largest baby of the three, and she was different from the get go. Higher maintenance, louder, refusing to nap almost immediately, I started to wonder if perhaps this wasn’t the best idea since I wasn’t a young 20-something anymore. The stores of energy I once had were definitely not there. Imagine my surprise when Penelope was six months old I took a pregnancy test on a whim (I was cleaning, found one in the cupboard and didn’t want to throw an unused thing away so I thought why not and boom! Very much pregnant.) and I think that’s the first time I felt my entire world tilt. I texted a friend who was in a similar position, I cried, and when my husband came home I had to tell him. The only thing he said was, “So.. I guess I’ll work more weekends”- it’s a testament to how he handles things. He just goes right for a solution.
Then there were four
At this point we have four kids, ages 14, 11, 4, and 3. Every time I share their ages the first thing people mention is the age gap. I really worried about such a huge gap but as it turns out, while it does have disadvantages, there are a lot of perks with it, too.
- Vacations are harder. It’s really hard to plan a vacation or family trip having to keep everyone entertained when your age range is so broad. Teenagers don’t want to do little kid things and are bored out of their minds and little kids can’t handle things aimed for teenagers. We’ve had to compromise and make everyone help with the planning, we each get to pick a thing we really want to see/do and that’s been nice.
- The challenge with a family of six is that everything is expensive. It’s really rare that we can get into anything for less than $100. Plus, you usually have to feed everyone and if you aren’t the parent who likes to haul pre-made food around then that’s an added expense and I promise you that you’ll find yourself making pre-made sandwiches to eat on the curb of a rest stop at least once.
- Having sleepovers and kids over gets tough. Not that the kids that come here are difficult, they are all really great, but they aren’t exactly quiet, either. Have two babies/toddlers/preschoolers having an early bedtime when the bigger kids stay up having fun can be dicey, especially when the bedrooms share a wall!
- Sometimes it feels hard to be equal in love. I’m that parent where I really need to be even, if I give a gift to one, I have to give a gift to all. It isn’t even reserved for my kids; I struggle with this in all areas of my life and I know this is an issue with me. BUT. I really want to have a special bond with each kid and sometimes it is hard to juggle four. Am I spending enough time with the oldest? What about my two middles? I constantly feel like someone is feeling left out.
- Although I feel like someone usually feels left out, it also forces me to step back and give them a certain level of independence. I’m not a helicopter mom but I like to be in control of things (another fault) and with being spread thin it means I have to trust that my kids will make good decisions without my input. They continually show me they are capable and willing to do that. They are learning how to seek help when they need it, look for different resources other than mom and dad, and how to solve problems on their own instead of relying on us to fix it. So, in a way, it’s been a blessing because I don’t know if I would have let them do that this early on. It shows us that kids can do big things if you would just let them.
- Built-in babysitters! I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you that having two older kids help out with the younger two isn’t the best thing ever. Do you remember when you had your first baby and you just wanted to shower? Or cook something without a screaming baby vying for attention? Those are hard days. No more! I’ve got two older kids, who are much cooler than we are, and they do fun things with the littles. My husband and I have even gone out to lunch or dinner together, with no kids, twice! My oldest keeps an eye on everyone and she can now handle bedtime. I’m giddy with glee!
- I have a greater appreciation of how fast it really goes. I know as parents we hear it SO much and we know it (they are constantly growing!), but I feel like once elementary school is done its all downhill. It is strange to me to know next year I will have a kid in high school, one in middle school, one entering kindergarten and one in preschool. That feels weird to me, and also sad knowing how it really does feel like yesterday my oldest was starting kindergarten. I feel like I’m enjoying the littles’ little moments more than I did with my older two because I was so busy just trying to get them to grow up.
- Watching your teens bond with their younger siblings is so rewarding. My favorite thing is to spy through a cracked door on of my older kids cuddled on bed with a younger kid and reading all of their favorite books from when they were little, complete with the sounds I used to make. It makes me feel like the little things we did as parents actually did make an impression, that they meant something to them. Watching them tell stories about Santa and hearing jingle bells at night, how to ride a bike, how to make a slide super-fast, how to make a snowman, etc.- I get to sit back and watch those memories be made.
I hope that as my kids get older, they really are all best friends with each other. So far, so good. They are a tight unit and it couldn’t make my mama heart any fuller. I don’t regret having more kids. You think your heart can’t possibly hold more love but it can. It has a never-ending supply of love and there’s room for everyone.