The thought of having four or more kids to care for might seem like a headache. Just thinking about all the lunches to pack, scrapes to mend, tears to dry, and tantrums to calm seems like more than a fulltime job. Our assumptions about multiple children being a lot more work might be wrong. According to a new survey, moms with four or more kids are actually less stressed than those with fewer children. You read that right.
The survey, conducted by TODAY, says that mothers with three children are the most stressed out. While mothers with four or more kids are less stressed out than mothers with only one child. Can that be right? The survey got responses from over 7,000 mothers from all over the country and the data collected is surprising. One thing is certain, mothers are stressed, but the number of children under their care significantly impacts their stress-level.
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The TODAY survey asked moms to rate their stress level from 1 to 10. 1 being not stressed and 10 being extremely stressed. The average mother responded with an 8.5 level of stress. That number was much lower for mothers with four or more children. How can that be? Do mothers with more children simply not have the energy to be stressed?
According to Kelly Kitley, a psychotherapist who studies families, having more children does mean more work. There is more laundry to do, more groceries to buy, more cleaning, etc. But, that’s just physical work. The emotional labor of being a parent is a different thing entirely. Mothers of larger families tend to share the emotional burden with more people. “They encourage each other, hold each other accountable, help out more to lighten the load at home, and the kids entertain each other,” Kitley explained. She should know, she’s a mother of four herself.
Having more children isn’t just easier on mom. It’s easier for her kids too. According to a Norweigan Study from 2016, found that the more children of a similar age a family has, the less likely the children are to suffer from mental health issues.
Understanding why mothers of three have it so hard is somewhat of a mystery. TODAY spoke with Scary Mommy creator, Jill Smokler, who is a mother of three. She says that mothers are their own worst critics. And that being hard on oneself along with adding another child makes having your third child that much more difficult. “Going from one to two was an easy, breezy transition,” said Smokler. “Two to three, everything was turned upside down. I did not feel like I had it together…just crossing the street and not being able to physically hold all their hands I found tremendously stressful.”
Don’t start trying for child number four right away! The results of one survey do not mean it’s time for planning for four children. It’s not easy raising a large family and children shouldn’t be depended upon to raise other children. Also, having four kids is expensive. So, do what you think is right for you and your family and take the results of the survey with a grain of salt. Each family is different and each mom has her own special talents. Don’t forget, the survey also showed that all moms are stressed. There is no magic number of children that will change that.