Are you a parent? How many wonderful kids do you have? 0?
1 or 2?
3 or 4? Maybe more?
Do you live your days in fun-filled, laughter-inducing mayhem, or does your family life feel more like a war zone?
How is life going for you? What does your best day, your perfect day with your kids look like?
I never planned to have 4 kids, or 5 (I’m pregnant with my 5th). I wrote lots of stories as a child about a family of 6 sisters, and I was obsessed with the TV show, The Waltons, but those were the only clues about what was to come.
My husband and I had never had a sensible conversation about kids, or how many kids despite having been together for 5 years before our first child came along.
In fact, our first proper conversation about kids was when we had already had the first one. My husband started a few months into the newborn phase that it was cruel to continue to raise a child in London.
He wanted us to move to Sweden (the motherland) ASAP.
So we moved, rather quickly. My husband took the first job he found and within 3 weeks he, our 8-month-old baby and I had moved to a tiny village in the north of Sweden.
We didn’t have any more conversations about kids.
Our baby was a super easy baby and we were lulled into a false sense of comfort and easy. Parenthood, babies, marriage, emigration it was all a walk in a park.
So we had a second child, and a third child, and a fourth child all in 4 and a half years.
The second child was a bit more challenging as he was a reflux baby. He only ate Ella’s kitchen mango fruit pouches for a whole year.
And then my dad died when my 3rd baby was about 8 weeks old.
And then we moved back to London for a short 4-month stint to be around while my dad was ill.
And then we moved to Asia for 6 months when my 4th baby was 6 months to try out island life.
And now our 4th baby is nearly 3 years old, and we are expecting a 5th.
Life with 4 kids close in age has been a rollercoaster. Survival. It all starts with the mindset and having an attitude of appreciation helps.
Also a sense of humour for the crazy stressful moments: like when you take them to a crowded place and all 4 run in 4 different directions and your brain has to make quick decisions about which child to chase.
Or taking 4 kids under 5 years on a 12 hours flight or 3 connecting flights in a row.
The following tips are equally applicable to the fathers of four (or any number of kids!):
40 Tips To Survive Being a mother Of Four
- Have realistic (lower) expectations (about everything: your home, holidays, your hygiene, kid’s activities)
- Be clear with your kids and your partner about your expectations
- Prioritise sleep. Sleep aids, sleep routines, all the lavender essential oil
- Ask for help from your partner, neighbour, friends, in-laws, taxi driver ( I once asked an Uber driver if she could babysit)
- Get your older kids involved with helping out the younger ones with small things like helping them do buttons
- Train up all kids early on to be independent and helpful, encouraging a sense of teamwork
- Let them feel free so they can be loud and run around at home, in the garden
- Teach them your rules so in the car, in a restaurant, waiting in queues or on public transport my rule is to sit quietly and sit still
- Put yourself first. Parents need an outlet, interests, work, time alone to be their best self. You can’t pour from an empty cup (it took me far too long to practice this)
- Be kind to yourself. It’s ok if some of your (their) meals are yoghurt. Add pumpkin seeds and coconut flakes if it makes you feel better
- Teach your kids some basic household jobs to lighten your load. Between the 4 of them, they can load the dishwasher and vacuum up all their crumbs
- Plan regular evenings with your husband or wife once the kids are in bed (this is why number 3 is vital)
- The newborn phase 0-3 months is all about survival, just accept that and be patient with yourself. Also wine.
- Remember everything is a phase (followed by another phase)
- Potty training and starting nursery/ school is stressful, accept it
- Mum friends can be a lifesaver, but don’t spend too much time with the negative ones or the complaining ones
- If you notice a mum struggling, be kind. Let her know you care and don’t mention that your baby sleeps through the night, or that you’re shagging your husband 6 weeks postpartum
- Don’t compare yourself to other parents and don’t compare your child to other children (this is hard!)
- It’s ok to lock yourself in the toilet, bathroom
- It’s ok to cry and get angry, annoyed. Accept all your feelings. Write them down. Dance them out. Maybe ring a friend or talk to a professional if you feel isolated or overwhelmed. You’re not alone.
- There will be endless laundry (plus I’m a massage therapist too) You can see laundry time as ‘me time’
- Try to offload certain tasks on your partner. My husband does all the cooking because he’s better at it.
- Exercise. Choose something that is slightly fun (yoga for me) and see it as ‘me time’ if you find it hard to motivate yourself. Dancing with your kids and an evening walk with your neighbour is lovely too.
- Be brave. Go on holiday. It won’t be like it used to be pre-kids, but a change of scenery is great for everyone. Airbnb or cottages work better than hotels (for more than 3 kids) unless the hotel has a kids club!
- Plan a weekend or at least one day alone, away from your family regularly. Maybe go on a yoga retreat?
- Have a coping strategy for stress. I’m a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist so I had to add this one. Look after your mind and manage stress. Parents who meditate model calm and patient behaviour to their kids. If that’s not your style, book a massage!
- Spend some time examining your own childhood and your parents, the good and bad memories. Identify any patterns or beliefs that you may have learned from them, and objectively decide if that is what you want for you and your kids.
- Don’t judge other parents or their children. Focus on your own parenting, kids, life and you will all be much calmer and happier.
- People will give you lots of unwanted advice, just nod and smile. They stop once you get to 4 kids, even though they can all see you don’t have your sh*t together.
- An hour or two after lunch known as ‘quiet time’ makes the whole day go easier. Under 3s are napping hopefully and over 3s can sit at the table and play, draw etc.
- It doesn’t matter where your baby or toddler naps. Carseat, outside in their pram, in their cot. Naps are the best!
- TV and ipads can be lifesavers and don’t let other parents make you feel guilty (how many hours do you spend on your phone?)
- SNACKS. ALL THE SNACKS. DON’T LEAVE THE HOUSE (OR THE ROOM) WITHOUT SNACKS.
- NAPPIES AND WIPES. ALL THE NAPPIES AND WIPES. DON’T LEAVE THE HOUSE (OR THE ROOM) WITHOUT NAPPIES AND WIPES.
- Take lots of photos, film your kids, write in a diary, celebrate their birthdays. The years fly by. There will be no photos of the 4th child.
- See yourself and your partner as a team and remember your kids are watching you both. How you treat each other is what they learn and will expect from others.
- Have the conversation about kids with your partner. Have all the conversations. Calmly. You won’t agree on everything and that’s ok.
- Laugh at yourself. Laugh at your partner. Laugh at your kids. Laugh at other kids. Laugh a lot.
- If laughter is just not an option, smiling helps. You can fake it a bit too.
- Use protection
I hope these tips were helpful! Remember we’re all in this together.
You’re not alone, and you’re doing a great job!
Thank you for reading!
Please share this if you think it might help another parent.