When my husband and I were deciding whether or not to try for a fourth baby, I asked around. I like to poll people when making decisions. I value the opinions and experiences of others and find the advice of a predecessor to be a helpful tool when making big choices.
So I reached out to a few moms of four and they all told me a version of the same thing: Four kids is basically the same as three. It’s already crazy, so one more doesn’t change much. Now, I don’t want to call anyone a liar, but lemme tell ya — while I would not change a thing, four kids is not the same as three. To put it bluntly, it is a circus.
In a two-parent nuclear family, there simply are not enough adult hands to manage four young kids. When split down the middle, both you and your partner are outnumbered. In the event that one parent gets pulled away to feed a baby, throw a football, or tend to a skinned knee, it turns into an instant three-on-one breakaway. Because of this, events of any kind are now a shitstorm. With too many little, unpredictable people and not enough control, there are always blind spots — leaving room for mayhem and chaos.
Transitions are now a nightmare. With numbers working against you, it is a guarantee that someone will forget something, someone will have to pee, someone will be hungry, and someone will melt down. Car rides are a bloodbath because the now-overpacked vehicle is a loosely regulated, overcrowded battlefield. School pickups, sports dropoffs, and weekend drive-throughs are guaranteed headache-inducers requiring distractions, games, and threats to keep everyone alive. And forget moving quickly to and from anything, as the increase in necessary effort makes timing impossible. Your former perpetually punctual self would be ashamed if she saw you now — shuffling in late, looking like you just got spit out of a dirty rock tumbler.
Your house will immediately feel too small. The walls will begin to cave in slowly shortly after adding number four to the mix. There simply is not enough room in an average home for the amount of personality and commotion that comes with this many young humans. Snow days, rain days, and sick days — beware! They always felt a bit long and overwhelming, but now they feel absurd, like an indoor-hurricane cage match with nowhere to go and not enough referees.
And remember those cute family vacations you used to take? Those are called “trips” now. Because vacations imply relaxation. Your family now takes up an entire plane row and requires an Uber XL with extra storage. Packing will be a beast, your hotel stay will require multiple rooms, and dining out will earn you countless side-eyes from questioning strangers. It will also cost a small fortune. Because theme parks, ski tickets, and other attractions are not cheap. And when you multiply everything by six, it adds up quickly.
Oh, and four is the magic number of children that is too much for any one person, excluding parents, to be in charge of. Your social life and alone time will be limited to virtually nothing. With one and two kids, your adult calendar can stay fairly intact. And brave people will take three, knowing it will be a little chaotic, but OK. But the minute you say four, people stop feeling safe. And honestly — I get it. It is a two-person job, at the very least. Adult-only activities require multiple scheduled helpers, and date nights begin when at least one kid is already asleep.
Basically, four kids is next-level, wild, uncontrolled madness. It just is. It is not the same as three kids. For me, it has changed everything. But, it is amazing. It is fun and lively and awesome. Chaotic and crazy and infinitely entertaining. So, if you have three and are wondering if you should have one more — do it. Just know the truth. It’s a shitshow.
Samm Burnham Davidson is an ex-lawyer mom of four who swears a lot. She lives in Beverly, Massachusetts.