This summer I received my Mom of Four badge. I wear it on my Mom Uniform, which is similar to a girl scout uniform except much more worn and covered in unsightly stains (some of which are definitely wine). This badge enables me to skip to the front of grocery store lines, get priority airline seating, and gives other moms the heads up that unless they have five or more kids, they better back down.
JUST KIDDING. IT IS NOTHING LIKE THAT.
Wouldn’t it be neat if there were perks for having kids? I mean, other than a tax write-off. (And I didn’t forget about the perks of kids themselves; I’m talking superficial perks here.) I would love for the Starbucks Drive Thru line to clear out of all single-passenger vehicles when my crowded minivan pulls up. (Because if anyone needs a drive thru for anything, it’s the mom with four kids. Trust me. You DON’T want us coming inside.) The reality of having four kids is a much noisier, messier, amazing-er, and wholly less glorious venture than having a badge or a set of perks.
Every now and again, people ask me for advice because they assume I know stuff. I laugh out loud and then I realize I DO know some stuff, even if most of it is learned in the field as I fail a parenting mission. I know that pre-kids or when I had one kid, I looked up to moms of multiples as though they did have some kind of special badge. Like they were more mom than me or knew more. And yes, in some ways, the more kids, the more lessons learned the hard way.
But Mom of One reading this, there is no “only” or “just” in having one child. (Click to Tweet)
Bearing that classified secret in mind, I want to share some other secrets, life hacks, and truths I’ve learned while parenting four kids. Also, let’s forget that I’ve only been parenting four kids for 7 weeks now. Consider me an expert, okay?
Four Kids Is Kind of Like One Kid. But Four Times As Loud.
That isn’t totally true, actually. Because every now and again there is that one kid who is louder than four. Cooper is our first screamer. We have trained her to ask nicely for things (which literally sounds like the rising pitch at the end of an angry squirrel’s cry), but before that, she would point and scream like a pterodactyl with PMS. If you have that one kid or even maybe two of them, you are louder than our four. But generally, I have found that every time I add a kid, it’s noisier. Exponentially noisier.
Four Kids Means You Make New Mistakes with Each Kid.
I sort of thought that after my first kid, I would have figured out all the mistakes. Not that I would be perfect or anything, but I imagined that all the mistakes with the first would prepare me so that I could avoid all the other mistakes. Big fat nope on that one. I made different mistakes with each of them. In fact, more kids = more room for me to screw up. So I guess this heading should really be like the first: Four Kids Is Kind of Like One Kid. But You Make Four Times the Mistakes.
Four Kids Means People Start Asking If You’re in a Cult.
That’s about all I have to say about that. No one asked me this with three kids, so it must be after the threshold of four that people begin labeling you as a cult member. And yes, I was totally asked this.
Four Kids Means You Have Four Distinct People with Distinct Needs.
I definitely expected this, and yet was somehow surprised at how different all my kids are. What worked for one didn’t work for the next. What one wants for lunch is something everyone else will throw in the floor or just leave on the plate (depending on age). I find it fascinating, but also wholly impractical. I mean, for this whole parenting thing to work, they should all follow a plan. They come from the same genes, right? So they should really work on being a little bit more similar. Stop being an individual! Get it together and all want the same thing at the same time, please. Maybe I just need to snag a whistle and go all Von Trapp up in this joint.
Four Kids Means Your Grocery Budget Explodes.
I’ve actually found this whole kid thing to be less expensive than all the warnings people give you. HOWEVER. The other morning for breakfast, Lincoln had an egg taco, a breakfast bar, cereal, and a waffle. One hour later: “Mommy, I’m hungry.” I suddenly had a vision of our family when all the kids are teenagers and our fridge is empty and we fight over a single ramen packet for dinner. Yup. It’s going to get expensive. (Here are my budget tips for grocery shopping, by the way, just in case.)
Four Kids Means You Might THINK You Know A Lot and Then You Realize You Don’t.
This happened. I’m on kid four and I can’t figure out how to make her sleep at night instead of all day. No idea. And I know that I’ve done this before and I probably blogged about it, but I CAN’T MAKE HER SLEEP FROM 7-11PM. SOMEONE SHOW ME THE WAY. Or at least pass the wine.
Four Kids Means You Learn to Prioritize.
Forget folding laundry! Just use dressers in the closet instead of hangers and shove the clothes in the drawers without folding them. Teach your kids to do the same. The funny thing is that you are all probably thinking this one is just for laughs, but this is an absolutely real thing in my house. I shove all the clothes into drawers. If I put them away at all. How’s that for prioritizing?? When people ask me how I have time to do all the things I do, that’s how. And if you’re wondering why we are all vaguely wrinkled, that’s why.
Four Kids Means That Life Is Hard Sometimes. Just Like It Was with One Kid.
I remember the semi-panic attacks I had when Sawyer was a baby. One kid. I remember crying in the bathtub and also crying in the bottom bunk and also in the hallway and driving in my car and crying and—I just did a lot of crying. There is no evidence, though, because most of it was in the middle of the night when everyone was asleep. (Except Sawyer. And me.) One kid may have actually been harder than four because I had zero confidence in myself as a Mom. I didn’t have a few other kids that I had seen get past the newborn stage or the teething stage or the three ear infections in a row stage. I didn’t know if he would survive, or if I would survive. With numbers 2-4, I at least had the sense that I could possibly do this whole mothering thing, even if every day it is hard. Whether you have one kid or ten kids, it is simply HARD. We can’t compare our hard to someone else’s hard. There isn’t a sliding scale or a grading curve. (Click to Tweet) So let’s not pull rank or compare or start any sentences (or thoughts) with “You think THAT’S bad?” Let’s nod along when our fellow Moms struggle and know that our hard is different, but not less or more. Hard is hard.
In summation, I hope that this post is encouraging to you moms out there with any number of kids. I hope that if you have one kid (or two kids or you’re pregnant with your first or just HOPING to be pregnant with your first) you don’t look at moms with many kids and think they’ve got a perfect system or household or they have this whole mom thing down. I bet most moms would totally admit they don’t have it all together. That sometimes dinner is random foods pulled from the fridge and put direction on a plate. That sometimes you get that measly dinner together only with the help of television or games on an iPhone to distract the kids. That they, too, shove clothes into drawers. (Okay, that might totally just be me.)
Being a mom is no joke. And it doesn’t even come with any cool badges. (Click to Tweet) But that’s probably good because the last thing we need is something else that on the outside makes it look easy or perfect or even pretty. It’s messy and noisy and expensive and hard and so totally worth it.
So if you actually need advice, please ask away! I’m happy to tell you things I screwed up or learned the hard way. I may also ask you for advice, because I do NOT have this thing figured out. At all. Maybe if we all were a little more up front about the fact that we don’t know what we are doing, we might be a little more approachable and willing to ask each other for advice. Maybe we wouldn’t feel intimidated by someone with more kids or kids that look cleaner or seem better behaved. We could pass other moms in the grocery store and rather than give the side-eye (which seems to happen sometimes), give a wink of camaraderie. Because one kid or ten, we are all in this thing together, learning as we go.
Hey, Mom of however many? You’re doing a great job today. I know that you’re going to get through this day. And if you feel like you aren’t going to get through the day, I bet there is at least one other mom in your life who feels the same way. So give her a call and you guys can cry and commiserate together because that’s something we moms should do more.
If I have learned one thing for sure after four kids, it is that when it is hard, I am not alone.