Looking after children is tough and stressful. However, studies found that mothers with three kids are more stressed than moms with one, two or four kids.
Looking after kids is a continuous job. It requires so much attention and can be stressful. However, is the stress dependant on the number of kids? Though we may think more kids is equal to more stress and chores. This may not be true.
According to a TODAY Parents exclusive survey in 2013, mothers of three kids were found to be more stressed out than mothers of one or two kids. Surprisingly, it also stated that mothers with four or more kids reported lower stress levels. From the responses collected from 7,164 US mothers, mothers gave an average of 8.5 out of 10 for how stressed they felt on the scale of 1-10.
Jill Smokler, author of “Motherhood Comes Naturally (And Other Vicious Lies)” and blogger of “Scary Mommy” recalls how easy it was for her to make the transition from one kid to two. However, she says things changed when she had her third kid. “Going from one to two was an easy, breezy transition. Two to three, everything was turned upside down. I do not feel like I have it together. You only have two hands! Just crossing the street and not being able to physically hold all their hands I find tremendously stressful,” said Smokler.
The data also gave insights into other concerns and fears faced by these mothers. 60 percent of mothers expressed that their biggest cause of stress was the lack of time to get things done, 46 percent of moms said that their partners caused them more stress than their kids. A whopping 72% of women were stressed out thinking about their stressful life while nine out of 10 moms were concerned about staying fit and beautiful.
Having two kids might be easier to manage. But what happens if there is an additional little one running around? What difference can he or she make?
Andrea Bonior Ph.D. shared her experience of making the transition from two kids to three and how massively different it was. She talks about how easy it is to maintain a one-to-one relationship while having two children. However, it becomes difficult with the addition of a new child. "That’s three dyads going at any one time; three intricate emotional terrains; three possible grudges; three possible prank wars; three possible fisticuffs; three possible long, drawn-out retaliations after any one person deliberately farted on one other person’s science project," said Dr. Bonior.
She goes on to say how every activity which was easy in the past would require an additional hand now. A simple thing like bedtime storytelling would be difficult. While two kids would find a comfy spot next to either parent, the third one would be left out. "Two children and two parents is a man-to-man defense. Three children and two parents, however, is a “What the #$%@ were we thinking?” defense," said Dr. Bonior.
When mothers have larger families with more children, they some learn to let go off their need for perfection. They manage to become confident mothers at the same time. "The more children you have, the more confident you become in your parenting abilities. You have to let go… and then you’re just thankful when they all get to school on time," said Dr. Janet Taylor, a psychiatrist in New York and a contributor to TODAY.
Being a mother to four kids, she agrees with the results of the survey. She recalls how she had stopped obsessively covering all the outlets with safety plugs when her fourth child was born. "It just gets to be survival!" she said jokingly.
According to psychotherapist and author Kelley Kitley who is also a mother of four, large families allow parents to relieve stress. They also lead to teamwork and bonding between the siblings. "They encourage each other, hold each other accountable, help out more to lighten the load at home, and the kids entertain each other," said Dr. Kitley. Having larger families allows the members to co-exist and be there for each other. According to Psychology Today, the number of members, children, and other elements present in a unit will play together and be part of an overall ecosystem.
Mothers with four kids agree that having more than three kids is an advantage as each kid gets a playmate and tends to pair with one of the kid, not leaving anyone alone.
Raising children is stressful, however, it can take a toll on mental and physical health. Developing the ability to take a step back from your kids and partners once in a while is important to de-stress. Other than spending to make things perfect for kids, mothers should take some time off to focus on themselves.
Dr. Taylor also recommends an exercise for stressed-out mothers. Draw a pie chart showing how you actually spend the hours in your day. Then draw another pie chart of what you’d like to be doing. Pick one of the things that’s on chart two (what you want), but not chart one (the reality), and figure out a way to make it happen. You could do this by yourself or with your spouse/partner.