Parenting is a tough gig, even on the best of days — whether you have an only child or are competing with the Duggars to repopulate the earth. I have four children (yes, I know how that happens, thankyouverymuch), and although that means four times the multitude of kid-related issues that come along with them, I wouldn’t change a thing about my large family. With the addition of each child, something immeasurable has been added to our family. They’re like puzzle pieces: The big picture would be greatly diminished by the absence of one.
But don’t get me wrong. No matter how much you gain, there’s also a lot you sacrifice once you cross the threshold from a relatively easy-to-handle one or two kids to a brood of three-plus. There are a few key things to which you must bid a fond buh-bye — things you may enjoy now while your family is still at manageable a level. Things such as…
Peace and Quiet
I almost had to look up how to spell the words “peace” and “quiet” because it’s been so long since I’ve encountered any variation of either of them. It’s pretty simple to keep one child pacified. Two, well, they’ll play together if you’re lucky — and even if not, occupying them both at the same time isn’t impossible. But trying to find something for a bunch of kids to do simultaneously, something that keeps them all happy and quiet for more than five minutes, is like replacing your bra straps with spaghetti noodles: a big letdown. Take heart, though – you may not hear silence for years on end, but you do get really, really good at tuning stuff out. Silver linings!
My washer and dryer run more than a professional marathoner. If you like to have a day off from doing laundry once in a while, you might want to consider that when the family planning discussion arises. Day and night there’s something to wash — and laundry, like most other stuff that sucks, never takes a holiday. Lots of kids means lots of clothes. But wait! There’s more! You’ll also multiply your chances for bonus laundry — not just regular clothes, but sports uniforms! Pee-soaked sheets! Barf-covered blankets! Which brings me to the next crowd-of-kids caveat…
When someone gets sick in a one- or two-child family, it runs its course pretty quickly. But when you’ve got a large household, even a 24-hour stomach virus becomes an epic weeklong puke-fest. In my experience, they don’t always get it all at once — they tend to fall like dominoes, needing a stream of near-constant care for days on end (with the last domino to fall usually being me, after having worn myself down from all the extra laundry). And if they do get it all at once, heaven help you, because you’re gonna be TV-sitcom-level overwhelmed. Not even a highly trained octopus would have enough arms to adequately treat that many needy kids.
Taking a kid to the carnival, or the movies, or the amusement park, or to “Happy Fun-Time Flumpkins On Ice” is great. Taking three or more kids to those things is the financial equivalent of purchasing a small yacht. And if you can afford the outlandish admission fees, the outlandish souvenirs are almost always out of the question. Oh, you kids wanted snacks? Here, I’ve got a crumpled-up package of saltines and a stick of gum in the bottom of my purse. Divvy it up amongst yourselves, you lucky ducks.
On a related note, going to a restaurant becomes less of a thing you do because you need a break from cooking, and more of a thing you borrow against your kids’ college educations for. Before you know it, you’re at cheap-ass Taco Bell and still forking over more for one meal than three-person families do for a week’s worth of groceries. Have more than three kids and you’ll swiftly become acquainted with using twofers and BOGOs and know which nights 10-and-unders eat free at certain establishments. Just keep in mind that someday, in the not-too-distant future, they’ll all want to order from the grown-up menu. Ouch.
You have kids and kind of hope they’ll leave you alone once in a while, but no. Because kids like to do things and go places and play with people. Sigh. And they can’t do any of this without a chauffeur, a chaperone — basically a personal assistant (that means you, their loving parent). With just a single child or maybe two, you can arrange the schedule so that there are a couple days in the week when you can sneak in some Netflix. But with lots of kids come lots of soccer games and dance lessons and birthday parties and tutoring and basically everything except the stuff you’d rather be doing.
No matter how many children you have, you’re going to worry about them and how their lives are going to be. It’s what good parents do. But if you are prone to being anxious in the first place (not that I’d know anything about that, OMG, WHY ARE YOU JUDGING ME?!), it’s hard to parent lots of kids because there’s just that much more to worry about. I worry that my giant preschooler is too big and that my willowy sixth-grader is too small; that my shy one will be bullied and my outgoing one will be too trusting of strangers (and on, and on, and on, ad infinitum.)
Like I said: I wouldn’t trade any of my passel of kids for all the Netflix and disposable income and uninterrupted time in the world. But it’s only fair to let anyone who’s on the fence know how life changes when you have more than a couple of children. It’s hard — and you’re overwhelmed — but sometimes it’s the most challenging things that are also the most beautiful and worthwhile.
Just keep reminding yourself of that.