The last few months have been true test of my motherly strength. I knew that having 4 children would be tough going at times, but nothing really prepared me for the never-ending and gruelling challenge that I have faced some days, just to make it through from morning to bedtime, without crumpling to the floor in a sobbing, gibbering mess . I had so many people tell me that they’d heard that once you have had 3 then 4 is not much different – I’m sorry, I disagree.
Really, how easy you find managing 3 or more children, all comes down to personalities and age combinations. If you have 3 already in school full time and then you add another baby, then that is very different to 2 in school, a toddler at home all day and then a baby. Which is where I am right now. Anything vaguely extracurricular to child rearing has been pushed aside and my main focus every day is just keeping everyone fed, watered and slept with as minimal crying as possible (from myself and the children). It’s just about survival.
I’ve found that surviving with any number of children comes down to constantly maintaining that very fine balance in which they must all be happily entertained, well slept, well fed, and all in good health at all times. When you have four, the chances of this balance being upset are much obviously higher and it the sh*t hitting the fan happens much more frequently. It’s the ultimate game of spinning plates.
Three of the children could be balanced out pretty well, but then one gets a cold, or decides not to nap and then everything collapses. Looking after that one child slightly more than usual has a domino effect on the rest of them. You suddenly don’t have enough time to get the others the attention they crave and so on, and the day comes crashing down around you.
There are moments of course when everything goes really well and I get to the end of the day feeling pretty pleased with myself: everyone has found an activity they can all play together; they have all enjoyed the meals I cooked; everyone has napped when they were supposed to and it has all worked like clockwork. On these days I rejoice in my large family that gets on so harmoniously and my superhuman abilities.
However, the following day the baby might fight every sleep; the toddler is left downstairs pacing around and screaming on her own while you pace with the baby (intermittently throwing the door open just as you put the baby down to sleep); the boys refuse to play together and everyone hates their dinner.
On these days I have felt like this is IT. This is my life forever more. But I know deep down that these hard times when the little ones are really hard work, are just a jot in our lives and they’ll be forgotten as quickly as they started. I’ve done it before with my two eldest and I can get through it all again. It WILL all be worth it.
The last 7 months have been a real rollercoaster and I’m sure it hasn’t finished yet. I may be reaching a period of calm as my youngest has finally started sleeping better and we have the summer ahead of us. However, I’m acutely aware of the impending building work due to start on the house in September, which will probably tie in nicely with the baby starting to crawl! This is probably the calm before the storm…
Just for now I will have keep focussing on the good days and try to forget the bad, and keep on spinning those plates!