Our adorable fourth baby is now three months old. She joined a brother and two sisters, all under the age of seven. The next oldest child was just shy of two years old when she was born.
People are often curious to know what it’s like to have four kids. Well, in short, it’s tiring and busy and loud and really messy. There is always someone who needs me, which is both exhausting and life-affirming. I would never trade a single one of my children for the world, but having a fourth baby is not a decision that should be taken lightly. Here are some issues to consider before you decide to have a fourth baby.
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Support system for handling a fourth baby
Consider whether you have family and friends who will be able to help with the logistics of having four kids. Do you have a supportive spouse who will pitch in as an equal partner for the family?
Unfortunately, my husband works extremely long hours and my extended family does not live nearby, so I am often on solo parenting duty. Getting my older kids to school and activities while also managing a toddler and baby is not easy. I lug my double stroller to dropoffs and pickups and overschedule my husband’s day off to make it all work.
Not to mention, the days are long and exhausting, and keeping up with housework is nearly impossible. I do thankfully have friends who are willing to help from time to time. In addition, we have a housecleaner come every other week, as well as a high school student who mows the lawn. I would suggest being sure that you have a strong support system in place before taking on the extra demands of a fourth baby.
Finances with a fourth baby
Can your family handle the added expense of another child? You will often hear the expression, “What’s one more?” once you get past three kids. It’s true that feeding an extra person once you already have such a large family should not strain the grocery budget too much. (However, diapers and formula are expensive!) Likewise, you probably already have a lot of the clothes and gear you would need for the fourth baby. But when you consider having another child in sports and activities, another birthday to celebrate, more holiday gifts, and the cost of education, the higher price tag starts to become apparent.
Space to accommodate a fourth baby
How well does your house accommodate another child? A fourth baby will almost certainly necessitate some bedroom bunking and closet-sharing. You’ll have another person sitting around the dinner table, vying for the bathroom, and needing a place in the car. Incidentally, if you’ve been avoiding purchasing a minivan, you’re likely not going to be able to put that off longer with a fourth baby. (We love having a van, though, so you won’t hear me complaining!)
Time and attention for all four kids
For me, one of the most challenging parts of having four kids is the difficulty of giving each child the attention he or she needs. Supervising a toddler, helping the eldest with her homework, answering the preschooler’s thoughtful questions, feeding a baby—it’s all hard to multitask effectively. And that is just the everyday tasks, let alone providing quality one-on-one time for each child.
Childcare when you have a fourth baby
If you are a working parent, would you be able to find childcare that accommodates all of your children? And if so, could you afford it? A nanny for four kids is not cheap, and it’s hard to find a daycare that has space for four kids. Another thing to consider is the ability to find someone who will be willing and able to watch four kids for a date night or, even more, if you wanted to take a couples vacation.
Health of the fourth baby (and everyone else!)
One more person in the house means one more person who might bring germs home or pick up germs from someone else in the family. It can send a wave of anxiety through me if someone coughs or sneezes because I don’t want to experience the domino effect of each of us catching the illness one by one. (However, I do recommend this product for keeping your own immune system healthy, and this one for your kids who are age 4 and up!)
Hopefully, your fourth baby would be born perfectly healthy, but that’s not guaranteed. You’d also be taking the chance that your fourth baby might have expensive or time-consuming health needs that you’d need to attend to.
Age differences between your kids
The age differences between your kids will largely shape the experience of adding a fourth baby to your family. Having older kids means that you potentially have way more help with the baby and the housework. However, you likely also have lots of running around to do with the older kids. You’ll also get thrown back into the constraints of baby mode when you might be used to a little more freedom, and you might run into problems with incompatibility between the new baby’s stages and interests and those of your older kids.
On the other hand, there are benefits to having four kids closer in age, in that they will likely have similar interests and ability levels when you’re choosing activities. They will also be able to play together as they grow. However, it can be very exhausting to care for four young, dependent kids.
Family recreation with a fourth baby
Are you prepared for the cost of entertaining your family of six? A trip to the movies or out to eat can cost a pretty penny for six people. Family vacations can also be tricky, especially if you have to pay for airfare. Aside from cost, it can be chaotic trying to keep track of everyone when we are out and about. Consider invitations to social events. When we’re invited to a party, we take up a big chunk of the guest list ourselves! There is an upside to that, though, in that we can always have a fun time in our own house with the kids as playmates (as long as they’re not fighting!).
The big picture of having a fourth baby
Although I feel like I might be coming across as a cautionary tale, I think this point right here is the most important—you have to look at the big picture. What do you want your life to look like at the end?
These kids will only be kids for a short while. Before I know it, they’ll be adults. They’ll be filling our Thanksgiving table and reminiscing over glasses of wine and board games at Christmas. Hopefully, they’ll have lots of their own babies, and my weekends will be filled with tee ball games, dance recitals, birthday parties, and family barbecues. They will be calling one another to share good news or knocking on one another’s door for a shoulder to cry on. They will be there for one another after my husband and I pass away.
Each of these kids is a unique blessing to our family—each with his or her own hilarious comments, interesting insights and questions, talents, skills, laughs, and smiles. And through their interactions with each other, they learn so much about life, friendship, and generosity.
And that is why I am so glad we have four children. Hard as it may be for me right now, we have given them a gift in each other, and that is worth all of the noise, exhaustion, taxi-driving, and sacrifices it takes to make it work.