The good (and not-so good) things about having four children

The kids always have someone to play with.
The kids always have someone to play with. Photo: Shutterstock

Before deciding on a fourth child, we weighed up the pros and cons. They were about even. We were lucky enough to fall pregnant and have a healthy fourth baby. Now that fourth child is almost seven, I've had some time to really live the good and not-so good things of having four children. Here goes…

GOOD

Always a playmate/confidante

The kids always have someone to play with, especially bigger games like hide and seek, and chasey. With even numbers, pairing up is easy.

It's also nice to know they'll always have someone other than their parents to confide in. I imagine them all getting together when they're adults and venting about how annoying their parents are. They can share stories of their childhood and tell jokes about us behind our backs. So much fun (for them)!

Fun, noise, chaos, opinions - learning how to navigate large groups

Fun, chaos, opinions and laughter circle the walls of our home. There's never a shortage of sounds. I love that they all chatter about their day at the dinner table. With so many vying for attention, the children have learnt quick-smart how to navigate spaces with lots of people and how to manage conversations when you can't get a word in edgeways.

Meet a broad circle of friends

My eldest is 14 and the youngest nearly 7, so over the years I've met many people through my children. Some friendships have dwindled over time as our children's needs and interests spread, but other friends have remained important parts of our lives. I love that I can walk through the schoolyard or attend a sporting event and recognise many faces, thanks to my kids.

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Nurturing difference

Same gene pool, but four completely different children. I love this. I love watching how they respond to new situations and how they grow as people. Mostly, I love how they interact in the large family setting.

More to wipe our elderly bottoms

It's not a great reason to have children, but once they're here, you could certainly count it as a benefit. The more children you have, the more people to share your care requirements when you're elderly. I know it doesn't necessarily translate to that in real life. There's always a sibling who can never manage to do anything to help. But the odds of four must be better in terms of sharing the looking-after-us-when-we're-old load.

NOT-SO GOOD

Logistics

Between my husband and I, we get the kids to where they need to be, it's only when one of us is away that logistics get dicey. To my own detriment, I'm adverse to calling in favours so it's lucky I don't need to very often. We've streamlined sports (all the boys play the same sport) so this limits the clash of times and places. You still feel like a taxi driver, but so do most parents.

Speaking of logistics, let's talk cars

We've embraced the family wagon with the sliding door. I know. Embarrassing but oh my god, so practical. And to be honest, with three kids in car seats before #4 arrived, we were squished for space anyway, so we upgraded to a bigger car long before we decided on a fourth child.

Fighting

Anyone with more than one child will know how much fighting can do your head in. When there's four to referee, the insanity bells ring in my head louder each day. Thankfully, mine have reached an age where fighting is just annoying, niggling stuff that they generally sort out themselves.

Stretched resources

More bodies to hug, more egos to boost, more hearts to mend, more homework to oversee. The beauty of four is that older ones can help younger ones with practical needs and the odd hug when hubby or I are busy.

Of course, the more mouths to feed, the more money spent but I think this can be negated with smart choices. Our kids don't miss out and we are by no means loaded. We make sensible decisions. For example, for a treat, we share a box of ice creams from the supermarket rather than buy individual double scooped waffle cones from the specialist ice creamery.

We embrace hand-me-downs, we wait for birthdays and Christmases for big purchases like bikes or technology. We take local family holidays and stay in moderate accommodation.

I don't think any of these decisions are exclusive to families with four children, they are decisions many of us make as parents so we can enjoy good times and little luxuries without going broke.

Laundry

Don't lull yourself into believing one more child's clothes will hardly be noticed in the laundry. If I'm not on top of my washing every day, it is Mt Kosciusko the next.

Gastro

Times four. Say no more.

So, yes, we have our hands full, we lead busy lives and keep to a household budget but we also have full hearts, lively dynamics and a long-term view of a tight-knit crew.