Are you on the cusp of a major life change and wondering what having 4 kids might be like? Or maybe you’re just curious what it’s like for a friend or neighbor who seems to have their hands impossibly full.
I’m here to give you the scoop on what having 4 kids is really like.
I was in those shoes once, trying to picture the daily life of a larger family when 4 kids seemed like such an unimaginable number. I’d only met a few families who had gone the distance, and none of them were very close to us.
I had no one to ask myself. I knew I wanted another child, but what would it be like to bring our family to that level? My personal experience was limited, because I’m an only child.
Though no two families’ experiences will ever be the same, I’m going to share with you my honest reflections after nearly 2 years of having 4 kids.
Don’t miss my companion article on the advantages of having a big family.
Having 4 Kids: It’s Chaos
To start, let’s get this part out of the way. Yes, having 4 little ones running around is noisy, messy, and on average pretty chaotic.
There are frequently competing demands on the parents. The baby needs a snack while an older child needs help with their homework, and 2 others are arguing.
You get used to saying, “in just a minute,” or for my older kids, “you have arms,” encouraging them to help themselves.
The mom guilt can creep up on you when you feel you don’t have time to give everyone enough attention; in particular, finding moments for 1 on 1 time can be challenging.
And speaking of arms, you won’t have enough of them. I’ve had nightmares about what if there were a fire in the house—how would I carry all of the kids out?
That’s an extreme example (thanks anxiety brain), but even schlepping in and out of the grocery store can be an ordeal.
You have to build a good amount of time for getting out the door into your schedule or risk being late everywhere. There are more shoes to find and more kids to buckle.
A house with 4 kids is not often quiet. If you’re an introvert like me, you’ll need to find some small moments to recharge so you don’t end up a frazzled mess.
Numbers Work Against You Sometimes
The amount of stuff can become unmanageable if you aren’t very careful. Just think about if every person in the house left out 5 items a day without putting them away. That’s 30 extra things lying around to trip over or clutter surfaces.
You can make yourself crazy trying to pick up after everyone. It’s one of the reasons I’ve adopted minimalist principles and follow simple clutter-busting rules to stay sane.
Still, my house isn’t spotless, because this would be totally unrealistic for our family. I frequently have to remind myself to have reasonable standards.
The laundry is basically never-ending, and I’m always wiping up something.
There are finger smudges on my windows and crumbs on my floor. The minivan practically becomes a wasteland between its major cleanouts.
On another note, it can be hard to find a sitter for 4 kids, let alone if you want to get away for a weekend or trip without the kids. There just won’t be as many opportunities to make that happen easily.
Our date nights and getaways have gotten less frequent and often involve complicated logistics of splitting our kids up to different family caregivers.
The world is pretty much designed for a family with 2 parents and 2 kids nowadays. Vacation packages, ticket packages, and more seem to go by this annoying standard that you just won’t fit into.
I remember getting a free baseball ticket package once, which seemed like a great win. But how do you pick which 2 kids to bring when you only have 4 tickets?
Transitioning From 3 to 4 Kids
With all of this said, you get used to the chaos pretty quick. I found the transition from 3 to 4 kids a lot easier than expected.
If you’re going from 3 to 4 kids, you’ll already be used to not having enough time or hands, and you’ll likely have some good strategies in place.
It’s only an incremental increase in loudness, stuff, and needs. You will have gotten a pretty good taste of large family living and likely be ready to tackle 4 kids with minimal adaptations.
Plus having 4 kids is getting your family back to nice even numbers and won’t make much difference if you’re going out somewhere.
For us at least, the shift really wasn’t bad. I think once you get into the big family mindset, a baseline amount of chaos is your norm and doesn’t bother you.
You just have to up your mental headcount of children when you go out, and you’re set 😊
Having 4 Kids: It’s Wonderful
Now on the brighter side: I think having 4 kids is totally amazing. Don’t get me wrong, I loved having 3 kids as well. In fact, we were a family of 5 for 8 great years.
Adding our fourth child only multiplied the love in our house and everything I enjoy about our wonderful big family.
Some people may not even consider a family of 6 a big family! (I think it counts.)
The number of kids that feels good to you is of course totally up to personal preference, your parenting style, and a lot of other very individual factors.
For our lifestyle, I just love having 4 kids around. An Australian study found that parents with 4 or more kids were the happiest. You could probably find just as many studies showing 1, 2, or 3 kids are best.
For me, I think the greatest benefit of having 4 kids is seeing our family interactions. I particularly enjoy the sibling interactions, because I never got to have that as a kid.
Having siblings has many benefits for kids, including teaching interpersonal interactions, empathy, and more. Siblings can have about as much influence on a child’s development as parents.
I just love seeing them play together and do kind things for each other. It’s one of the things that makes me the happiest, knowing they’ll always have each other.
Yes, there’s some arguing, but that comes with any relationship.
I really enjoy our time together, no matter how crazy it can be sometimes. Watching my little ones’ personalities develop and laughing together has given me enough joy for a lifetime.
Kids Become More Self-Sufficient
Another thing I think is great about having 4 kids is it teaches kids to be more self-sufficient. Mom and dad aren’t going to be doing everything for you, so you’ll need to learn at an earlier age how to become more independent.
Our kids also learn to help each other. From the age of 3, they can wake up and get their own breakfast.
I don’t rely on the older children for unpaid babysitting, because I don’t think that’s fair (aside from “play with your sister for 15 minutes”). But there are many ways for kids of all ages to help out.
That never-ending laundry I mentioned? I teach my older kids to do their own laundry. Everyone contributes in our household in a way that’s appropriate for them.
Is Having 4 Kids Expensive?
I think money is one of the biggest determining factors when it comes to family size. Sure, having 4 kids isn’t cheap, but a lot of it depends on your lifestyle as well.
There are some things we have to make sacrifices on or learn to live without. Our family vacations are most often road trips and camping trips. We’ve never flown on a plane all together, because it’s too cost prohibitive.
This style of vacationing isn’t a favorite for all family members, but we still have a good time in our own way.
We also eat out a lot less, because it’s not practical or affordable. When we do eat out, it’s often got to be a fast casual restaurant that can please our large family and not hit the budget too hard.
Our kids are allowed a single extracurricular activity each for scheduling and budget reasons, which may be much different from some other children.
We use hand-me-downs and enjoy yard sales. I don’t think our kids go without; it just may look different than some other families. We don’t have the newest video game consoles, but we enjoy the ones we do have.
When it comes to paying for college, we are saving and plan to contribute, but likely won’t be able to foot the entire bill.
My husband and I definitely buy a lot less for ourselves, because we prioritize the children and family activities, but we’re fine with this.
After our third child, one of us has been a primary home caregiver for the kids, because the cost of child care did not make sense.
However, I think there is an economy of scale once you get to the “big family” size. Your health insurance rates typically don’t go up once you hit “family size.” A regular minivan will still fit a family with 4 kids, and you can share or pass down a lot of items between children.
Still, buying 4 sets of shoes adds up! There will be copays, medications, diapers, groceries, and more that all increase.
These are all factors that go into play when considering your family size.
Expect Some Judgment
One other negative I should mention is that being a big family can come along with some judgment. Only 14% of American mothers have four or more children so we tend to stick out wherever we go.
We get some interesting comments. Even some family members don’t seem to understand why we keep having more children and like to put in their 2 cents.
I feel like we also get less invitations to houses or events, because there are so many of us. Some people just aren’t ready for the chaos of a family of 6.
This means we often end up congregating with other big families or having get-togethers at our house.
Honestly, I don’t really care about other people’s opinion of my family size. It’s just something I wanted to mention so you would be aware.
Having 4 Kids: A Summary
I hope I’ve given you a nice window into life with having 4 kids. It’s busy and exhausting at times, but also wonderfully rewarding.
There are many advantages of having a big family.
There’s nothing that quite feels better than being in a group hug with all my little ones or seeing the smiles on their faces when they experience something new.
I feel so lucky to have had the chance to parent my 4 kiddos, and our big family feels just perfect. It’s not without some challenges, but that comes with any parenting adventure.
If you have any questions for me, just ask in the comments!
Or if you’re a big family parent, feel free to share your experience.