The last two evenings we agreed to do some babysitting for friends of ours in town. They have 3 kids (ages 1 1/2, 2 1/2, and 5), which meant that with the Minky meant we were outnumbered 2:1. When adults outnumber the children it means there is always a free set of arms to provide additional help, or an extra person to distract a kid during a diaper change, to get things around the house done, or even to just free up a little space for one parent to take a break. When the kids outnumber the adults, the tables are turned.
Our friends’ kids are all pretty well behaved, and I think part of that is that they have figured out how to coexist well together in their 3-kid world. The youngest is pretty easy-going - as long as he is fed - so sitting him down with some food is generally a reasonable solution to any problems. Their middle kid is a little quieter and more stubborn, but plenty of fun once she starts engaging in something. Their oldest daughter is energetic, but well behaved and has unsurprisingly taken a sort of “mini-boss” role over the other two, though not in an overbearing way.
The first night Navyy focused on making dinner while I watched them all and let them play. As long as they were (mostly) contained to a room it was pretty fun and easy to just engage with them and keep them entertained. A little chaotic, sure, but not at all unmanageable even by myself. At dinner we served a dual-meal of pizza and macaroni and cheese to appease the picky eaters of the bunch (their monster eater boy had both). After dinner we took them all over to a park nearby and let them run off some energy. That went over well and they all seemed to have a good time.
Tonight things went well, but were just a little more challenging. Their middle daughter got tonsillitis (non-contagious), and the Minky had his 15 month shots today and was running a temp of 100+ by the time we headed over…so two of the four were a little touchier all night. It helped that their mom was over for part of the evening to prep dinner, but essentially the rest of the time we all played together in their living room and watched various children’s shows. All in all not too bad, even with a couple tears and fussy moments.
One of the ways that I have described parenting is “relentless.” Essentially you are always on the job. That is not such a bad thing, since parenting can be extraordinarily rewarding, but it does mean that if you are having an off day or need a break it can really turn into a grind. With 4 kids, that feeling was that much greater. It is more work, yes, but there was also a certain degree of being forced into the moment because you could do nothing but parent (in a good way). Still I can imagine the challenge trying to get a really specific demanding task done, or finding time for self-care to be especially challenging. I think we were both grateful that the two of us were there together watching them, and I am glad that we are not managing 4 all the time.
Both of my parents come from families of 4, with dads who were hardworking doctors and not always present (or expected) to chip-in on the childcare. Somehow my grandmothers managed, though I imagine that they were constantly in motion, and even then not always able to take care of every last detail. Navyy has always wanted a bigger family and when we first started talking about having kids she was dead-set on 4, while I was leaning more towards 2. At this I think we have compromised on 3 at this point - my “with 4 we would really need a minivan/bigger vehicle” argument was apparently persuasive. We will see what actually happens given PCOS related fertility issues, but my hat is off to any of you who are managing bigger families.