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Parenting Four Kids: What I’ve Learned So Far


All four kids on Emma’s birthday

I’ve been parenting four kids for a little over eight months now! Here are a few things I’ve learned, so far, in no particular order:

  • I’m not sure I’ll ever get them to look at the camera at the same time. So far, I can get the three older kids OR Anna. Or some other random combination.
  • Oh, the laundry. I’ve always been good at keeping laundry washed, folded, and put away. No more.
  • I love watching them play together. They all appreciate one another, and I really appreciate that!
  • It is shockingly easy to focus on the youngest and oldest kids – even as a parent who was a middle child! Emma has homework and other school demands, plus she has the best communication skills. Anna has a lot of needs because she’s a baby! I definitely prefer having two middle children over only one, though – I think it both helps them get my attention and gives them their own camaraderie (plus, Johnny and Lily have always been very close). Emma has her own special oldest-youngest bond with Anna.
  • Travel gets more complicated. If we’re renting a car, we need a minivan.
  • It’s well worth the extra work. My three “big” kids adore Anna. So do Mike and I! It’s impossible to imagine life without her in our family.
  • Most people consider a family of four a large family. Including Mike – we’ve doubled his family size.
  • People have quit giving me parenting advice. I think some people think I know it all because I have four kids, and some people think I’m crazy because I have four kids. There are still times when I could use some advice, but it’s nice to be left alone in the grocery store.
  • I stay home more. It’s a lot of work to get four kids places, and we have a lot of fun at home.
  • When we do go places, we stay out longer. Might as well make all that work worthwhile! Anna is a mellow baby, and the other kids are old enough to tolerate longer outings.
  • Four kids eat a lot of food!

What did you learn when you added a new child to your family?

MaryAnne lives is a craft loving educator, musician, photographer, and writer who lives in Silicon Valley with her husband Mike and their four children.

40 thoughts on “Parenting Four Kids: What I’ve Learned So Far”

  1. This is such a lovely post MaryAnne, you have such a beautiful family!

    We’ve got 4 boys and 1 very sweet baby girl. A lot of time people think we’re crazy, no one offers us advice. We get a lot of the “Oh you finally got your girl…your stopping now right?” stuff. Which is more annoying than the “You’ve got your hands full” comment, that we’ve heard a lot.

    I agree having older siblings to help out is awesome and such a blessing!

    1. Thank you, Ally!

      My first was a girl, and my second a boy. When I was pregnant with my third, I had complete strangers ask me in the grocery store why I was having another child when I already had a girl and a boy!

      I do get the “You’ve got your hands full” comment a lot!

  2. Thanks for sharing! 4 kids was what we considered at first as our ideal number of children, so it’s interesting to see how it’s working out for you. It makes me a little less fearful.

  3. Thanks for this post! I have already gotten the “Are you crazy?” comment many times, but I’m honestly looking forward to having 4 kids! I think having 3 is easy, and I’m hoping the transition to 4 will go well, too!

  4. The travel is difficult but restaurants are even tougher. We have 3 kids and so we can’t get the 4 seat tables anymore. It’s harder to find restaurants that can easily and quickly seat 5. But not getting unsolicited parenting advice is a major benefit! :)

  5. Tricia Paoluccio

    i loved reading this, although i only have two boys…if i lived different circumstances i would love a tribe of four….noticed a few poster talked about organizing…have you checked out Mind Organization for Moms? I learned about it from Power of Moms blog…they created a system based on David Allen’s Getting Things Done but tailored it to mothers. Power of Moms blog is how I got tuned into this one. It’s been life changing…takes a while to implement but if you are patient with yourself you will have a great system to live by and have more time to spend on the things that matter!

  6. Great list MaryAnne – both my husband and I are from families with four kids and having kids of my own has given me a whole new respect for my parents (and for you).

  7. I’d say you are a pro now!! I’m sure it’s very interesting to see how your parenting has changed from one child to two, then two to three, then three to four. I thinks it’s awesome you have a “big” family. I always thought I’d have one too. I love the sound of laughter and watching kids play together.

    LOL about 4 kids eat a lot. I remember when Abby was younger and I could split a meal with her. Then she actually started requiring her own meal. Dang that got expensive fast. LOL!

  8. Great post. I find that my four are an interesting challenge with the age differences. We are always on the go with activities, and Kate has just learned to adapt to that! It’s really hard to please all four though when they are 15, 8, 7, and 19 months!

  9. I’m curious as to your children’s age gaps. We have three right now, 3.5 years, 2 years, & 7 months old.

    I love adding babies to the fun. I learn that each one still needs individual time, and I love watching them play with each other!

    1. My first three were slightly further apart than your first three, it sounds like – my oldest was nearly 3.5 when #3 was born, and #2 was 19 months. Then there is a three year gap between #3 and #4.

  10. Elisa | blissfulE

    Haha! I agree with all those! Love how you summed it up. :)

    I’m doing ok with the laundry – it actually seems easy now that my youngest is done with diapers (and, my goodness, having three cheerleaders made the potty training go QUICK). Of course, I’m also a big proponent of re-wearing trousers if they’re not dirty…

    The picture is priceless – does Anna have a special photogenic gene?? She and the camera seem to love each other. :)

  11. It’s interesting but with each new kid I learned more patience and to just let things go. You realize it’s hopeless, not to mention no fun, to always have a clean home. The mess and joyful play is all part of the fun. There will always be time to pick up in the evening right?

  12. I grew up as one of four kids and loved it! I noticed even with two I get out less than when I had just one but of course it gets easier every year as kids become more self sufficient. I find staying organized with all the stuff to be the hardest part!

  13. I don’t have children yet, but I see how my friend’s 2 boys live together. They love each other and they are so differen. the youngest son (3 y.o.) helps her in the kitchen all the time, as well as he cleans up all the rooms including his elder brother’s (9 y.o.) one. So with the appearance of this little helper-enthusiast her life became much easier ))) But my friend has to clean everything after him as well, for he brushes not only his teeth with his tooth brush, but walls as well and everything he sees )))

  14. Btw, i made the lemon cookies this morning! We all loved them – (even though) we made them with our home-ground whole wheat flour. :)

  15. Amen to all your points, Mary Anne! I also stay home more (which is getting hard, though, because Quinn is starting to want to go visit friends (including local cousins) 1-2 x a week and a friend is doing a home pre-school once a week… and that already adds up to quite some prep and driving. momentarily, i am trying to figure out how to simplify all this. even though i am at home a lot right now it seems i amworking the same jobs (laundry, diapers, food, at least a little cleaning, …) and i long to have more creative play time with the kids. how do you do it and what do you guys do
    ? holding nell on my lap. he’s tired. i immediately thought of you when robin heard about the marathon on the radio. also the kida are praying.

    1. Tell your kids that I find it very comforting that they are praying! Such a sad time in Boston.

      I basically let my house get messier than I would like. And Anna spends most of the day in the Ergo carrier on my back.

  16. Right now I can’t imagine doubling our kid numbers. I do see the benefit, though, of older kids helping with younger. Sounds like you’ve definitely learned some great things!

  17. Nodding along while reading your post over here. I had trouble with pictures even with just one. LOL! Now, my problem is keeping all four standing in one spot for long enough to take a picture.

    We haven’t traveled yet with all four but we have had to stay in a hotel and finding a place to accomodate four young children and their parents is tricky AND pricey. We are actually driving from TX to CA for our vacation this year because driving, we hope, will be easier and less expensive than flying. Van rentals are outrageous on top of the expense of flying 6 people. My dad was telling me when he was a kid having four kids wasn’t as much of an issue because there weren’t laws about carseats and seatbelts so families of four could get away with a regular sedan and hotels allowed six people to sleep in one hotel room.

    I still get advice when out but that is because I often don’t have all four with me. ;) And just like you we don’t go out often just because it is easier to stay home and the kids have fun at home playing with each other too.

  18. coming from a small family and now have a small family of my own, it is always good to know what it is like having more than one child. Thanks for sharing!

  19. We have 7 between us, and the thing about going out for the day is so true. There’s no point nipping anywhere for half an hour, it takes longer than that to get everyone shoes, coats, had a wee etc… :D

    We have 2 small ones then an 8 year gap. The big kids really adore their little siblings and I think it makes them all more tolerant and understanding – even if they don’t always show it! :)

    1. With two kids, I have learnt that our schedules are always tentative because not knowing what uncertain things will show up in the last moments. Being parents, we are 24/7 on call and have no time to sit and complete our food if the little ones need them to be wiped after toilet or have any illnesses. But, I do enjoy all these services and the reward is having them seen happy, healthy and smiling.

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