This is what it's really like being a mom of 4 with both spouses working outside of the home now that our youngest is two and our oldest is eight.
Two years ago, I was blessed with my fourth child. I never thought in my wildest dreams growing up that I would ever have a big family. I'm so very blessed with the beautiful kids and an amazingly supportive husband. Both my husband and I work corporate jobs and work outside of the home. We are both thriving in our current careers, with no plans on quitting either of our jobs. Our kids are 8 (girl), 7 (girl), 4 (boy), and 2 (girl).
I wanted to share with you our current journey and where my mind is at now as a mom of 4 that we are two years into this season of my life.
If you want to backtrack to see how we decided to plan for this journey, reading on our decision on planning a fourth baby.
The biggest struggle that I have right now as a mom of four, it would be managing day to day life by ensuring that I'm consistently pre-planning our schedules. You heard it, planning is the hardest part.
First Year with Four Kids
I knew that my fourth would be the last, so I tried to savor every moment with her as a newborn baby as I could. While it was so very hard during that time, it went by in a blink of an eye.
I remember feeling flustered that I was selfishly nurturing her and I felt like I neglected my other three kids when she was only a few months old.
Both the husband and I were literally in survival mode doing what we could.
Going from three children to four was HARD. I didn't think it could be any harder, but it was. I will say that going from one to two was definitely harder in comparison.
It was harder in a sense that we were both outnumbered and felt in the moment that we couldn't give each of the kids the time they deserved. There was only so much of both of us to give to individual kids attention, especially after working all day.
Generally What Life Is Like With Four Kids
Schedule and routine are really important with four kids. It's always loud in our house. Always. Everyone always has someone to play with. It's loud ALL the time. It's also so much fun. There's a new normal, but our new normal is crazy. It's fun, it's fulfilling, and more than I've ever hopped for. But it's also very exhausting.
Work and Life Balance - There Is No Balance
I work in corporate information technology where I am a manager and a strategist. At the end of the day, I come home and I manage four little people along with my hubby.
I feel like most days, I can only give little parts of myself to certain areas or else I'd subject myself to burnout and depression.
At work, I feel like I have become way more efficient in getting things done knowing that I have to get out of the office and tend to the family commitments that might be scheduled.
At home, we have a schedule that we follow so that I know that there may be pockets where I could fit some work email in between. That's also between jugging dance on one night, soccer practice on another, and games on the weekends.
Year 2 as a family of four is a little easier because schedules are in place with the holder ones and you know what to expect generally. But that first year was pure insanity.
That's why I wanted to take time to share with you what it's like adjusting to life with four littles that have less than a six year span between them. I hope this helps any mommas out there that are going through this and are making decisions to plan or the universe has already been made before you.
11 Things I've Learned Being a Mom of 4
1. Yes, it's possible to be a working mom with four kids.
It's not easy, but it is possible. I work in a corporate IT environment. While my job does not require a lot of physical stamina, my role doe require a lot of cognitive thinking. I've been able to level set with my managers that I have the experience for the role, but my priority is my family.
I think setting expectations up front is really, really important in your career, especially if you are managing your family at home as the parent that pretty much in charge of schedules and priorities. I've been able to set expectations where I may have to take what seems like random time off because I'm attending my kid's Christmas program or Halloween party. I've also been able to set expectations on working from home. But all of this is in exchange for something else that is typically not really mentioned outloud, but is understood, like lower compensation or future momentum in my career. It's a choice.
I once was told by a mentor who was high up in the corporate ladder that he had four kids. At one point, he said, "I told my boss that in this season of my life, I just need some grace. Give me spreadsheets, and I'll color code the heck out of them." Of course, that's not actually what he was doing, but he was asking for some grace in the tasks that he was given. As someone I admired, I headed his advice and set expectations and his advice has never proven me wrong.
I will also say taking vacation or PTO days becomes mostly taking time to spend with your kids. I also find that I'll use some of that time to just take away for myself, with the kids in daycare and husband at work so I can do something for ME. It's been very important for my state of mind.
2. Saying no (to things you'd typically say yes to) becomes the norm.
When it was just one kid, I had her signed up for everything and we had something going on every day of the week. I volunteered for pretty much everything. As I started adding to our growing family, things just got harder to schedule in.
These days, I have my older kids choose one activity per season that they want to do, and that's all we'd commit to.
Saying no doesn't just mean the kid's activities. It means saying no to functions that you normally would have participated in like volunteering for their school, helping a family or friend out, and staying late at work for an important project.
In this season of life when my four kids are little, it's just hard. And that's okay. It's okay to say no.
3. Hiring out help becomes an easier decision.
For both my husband and I, we feel terrible sometimes about asking our own parents for help. It's no fault of our parents. I think we may have asked them for help in a handful of times between both sets of parents. It's just how he and I see things. So, we hire babysitters who are their teachers from daycare. Sometimes, you just need a babysitter so that you can run an errand or have a date night. You feel BETTER about hiring out for help with four kids. It's not because you can't manage it all. It's because you just sometimes need a break.
It's not only babysitting services. We also hire out help for lawn care and house cleaning services. It keeps our sanity. Sure, we could save $2,000 by doing it ourselves. But I'd rather pay that money so I can spend 100+ more hours with focused time with my kids a year.
4. Scheduling time with the spouse becomes an important task.
For my husband and I to even find time to talk, it seems like we need to schedule it in the books. Often times, during dinner, we'll talk to each other and we'll be in the middle of conversation, and one of the kids needs more food on their plate or they need some sort of attention.
At night, it feels like sometimes we have no time for each other because we're exhausted from work or from the kids. I know it's just the season of life we are in. But it is important for us to be consistent and to be diligent about penciling in time for each other. Yes, in a perfect world, we wouldn't have to "pencil each other in", but with four kids, it has to be something we learn how to routinely do.
5. Alone time with each kid is important.
The mom guilt I have is definitely real with my four babies. It became more real with each kid we added to our little tribe. Being a mom of 4 meant that I would have to be intentionally about the times that I spend with each kiddo.
As I began this journey, I felt like I spent a lot of time between all four kids focused on them from newborn to toddler. As they reached around 3 or 4, the other younger kid took priority and I felt like I missed the rest of the stages because I had a newborn or toddler to contend with. It's almost like I missed that era of their life.
I've been more intentional about spending time with each of the kids as well as pairing them up (like the older ones together) so we can do things together in smaller groups so that they could get individualized attention because I so badly want to know what they are thinking, feeling, expressing without having to contend with a temper tantrum.
Each kid has their own little unique personality, so I need to make sure I follow their lead. They all have tons of different personalities, and I just need time to understand them.
6. Schedules get a lot harder with activities.
I know there are some amazing moms that use a service to take their kid from school to practice. I haven't found that service in my area yet.
Since I work outside of the home, I really can't do practices or activities that start RIGHT AFTER school. My kids have missed coding class, art group, cheer clinics, performing arts theatrics and many more. I'm not sure how these other parents are getting their kids there, but I have yet to figure it out without having to take away my vacation days I have banked.
Again, mom guilt sets in. But you know what? There's only so much time in the day.
This is what I tell myself: I didn't do any after school activities when I was in school, and I turned out just fine.
7. Vans are a must.
I know there are some moms who swear by their SUV. I was that way too, trust me. But when I became a minivan mom, I realized what I was missing in life: captain seats, cupholders, buttons, storage everywhere, folded seats, it's pretty much amazing.
I wrote a post all about top ten reasons why you should get a minivan as a mom, and I think it MIGHT persuade you on why you should get one.
Overall, if you are concerned with your kids that are old enough to open the car door and take a swing at the car next to you, minivans will save your pocketbook and insurance premiums.
8. Learning how to get over the mom guilt and not beat yourself up all the time.
Seriously, managing four little lives is hard work. It's hard to keep things straight. It was at the level of having four kids is when I started having guilt in unexpected ways. Guilty for not being able to spend enough time with my kids. Guilt for not being able to spend enough time with my husband. Guilt for not staying late at work.
There is so much guilt that you are burdened with when you hit that magical level of having four babies. I honestly don't have a solution for this, but I know that one day, I'll be able to overcome this. As long as my babies our healthy, my husband and I aren't divorced, and I still have a job, this is how I'm balancing my sanity and I just need to get over that guilt.
9. You are going to laugh about all the different gadgets you got when you were a mom preparing for a baby.
You are literally going to realize how much money you wasted on gadgets that were totally unnecessary in this life of motherhood. You will rarely use any of the things you bought because your kids will pretty much ignore anything you decided to spend money on. Guaranteed.
10. You are going to start hearing weird things from strangers and just need to prepare yourself with a witty comment.
I'm not good with comebacks, so I still need to prepare for responses when people give me a flabbergasted look repeating something like, "You have 4 kids."
You are done, right?
Wow, at least you got your boy.
Man, I can't believe you had four. You are crazy.
Are they all yours?
I really need to work on a comeback. Do you have one for me?
11. Mom brain is real, as in times 8.
In this level of motherhood, you seriously forget stuff. Like all the time. And you are constantly asking the kids where your keys are, if they have their lunches, where are their soccer shoes. The list goes on and on.
Being a mom of 4 becomes a complete blur, especially when they are little. I'm sure that one day when I look back on this, I will forget all the little details that I am taking for granted.
Summary of Having 4 Kids Under the Age of Eight
My youngest is two and my oldest is eight now. I feel like I've gotten over that HARD stage of the baby stage. Terrible twos are next, but it's not that bad. Our eight year old and seven year old are helping more than ever. They instinctually see that both my husband and I typically have our hands full, so they'll empathize and help us out with the littles. For example, they'll preoccupy them before dinner while we're trying to cook food to feed them.
It's been crazy, but so rewarding. I've been able to see my older girls grow their respect for us as parents as well as empathize. My littles are learning how to share more and be able to interact with the older girls. Birthdays and holidays are WAY more fun with everyone singing and being with each other. Friends that come over to hangout with them love it because they have three other built in friends to play with.
While it has been the most challenging season of my life, it's been quite rewarding to see my 4 children grow into these amazing little mini me's.