If you have three children and the stress of juggling all their needs is wearing you down, the answer is simple – have another one! According to a survey by parenting website TODAYMoms.com, the most stressful number of children is three while the least stressful number is four.
How does this work?
Lower standards and expectations
When you have one or two children, you can still aspire to perfection, juggling your parental responsibilities with household chores and work duties. But when you add one more child to the mix, it is more difficult to maintain that standard of perfection. Parents of three children are struggling to maintain their previous standards, and their anxiety levels rise as the struggle drags them down. Parents of four are less stressed simply because they have already given up any hope of perfection. Stress levels start to rise slightly with Baby Number 5, so the laissez faire attitude to perfection is overshadowed by the necessity for militant control just to get them out the door.
After 4, the tribe takes control
Children from smaller families instinctively look to their parents as the leaders of the family tribe. There is a subtle yet noticeable power shift when the number of children rises to four. The children now make a significant majority, and the older children can act as leaders to the younger children. The kids understand the importance of working together as a group, although this can work both for and against the parents (who thankfully have given up any hopes of perfection).
Logistics are still manageable
The logistics of everyday life barely changes when you go from three to four children. If you haven’t already bought the 7-seater car, you were considering it, and you only need to pay a little extra for the Family (two adults, three kids) ticket at theme parks. The TODAYMoms survey found that stress levels do rise slightly with Baby Number 5 – this is partly because modern living is not equipped for a Brady Bunch sized family. Gone are the days where you could bundle half a dozen kids in the back of a station wagon without any concern for whether each child had a seat belt. And live-in housekeepers are a rare find, even if you only have one bathroom for her to clean.
Every parent has different expectations for their children, in relation to helping around the house, keeping occupied and taking personal responsibility. However, parents with one or two children certainly have the luxury of deciding how strict and disciplined they want to be about the children doing chores and being responsible. With three or four children, you need to establish a system and make your expectations clearly heard. And once the number of children rises to five and over, parents need to start emulating Captain von Trapp, by drilling in some marching routines, establishing a strict uniform policy, putting the children to work in the entertainment industry, and blowing a whistle to dodge the awkwardness of mixing up each child’s name. Parents who continue procreating after the magic number of four either have a gift for this level of discipline or haven’t emerged from hiding to tell their tale.
What’s the right number for you?
Ultimately, you are the only one who can decide the “right” number of children for your family. And there’s no wrong answer. British couple Sue and Noel Radford has recently made headlines after welcoming their 20th child, a son called Archie. Twenty-eight years after their first child Chris was born, Sue and Noel have told media that Archie is definitely their last child.
“We’re happy to be finishing on a nice even number,” Sue said. “It’s strange knowing you’re not going to have any more.”