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How do I cope with 4 children? Overwhelmed - how did you do it?

(138 Posts)
Hohowoah Sun 01-Jan-17 21:00:19

They are aged 2, 4, 6 and 8.

While the youngest was a baby (0-18 mths) it was fine. All seemed manageable. Now the youngest is also talking, has a strong opinion, only wants the toys/food the 4 year old has (!!) it's become so much more difficult.

I know it's just one phase but I am getting to the point now where I just need things to work smoothly some days.

For the first time in a long time I am not pregnant, or breastfeeding/doing night feeds, and I really wish things would fall into place but it's just getting more and more difficult.

My Y4 (eldest) has huge expectations from school (amount of homework and sports matches they are expected to do), they all do extra curricular sports/music, and I don't know when to fit in the simplest of things like dentist appointments and haircuts because I find it near on impossible to take all 4 of them anywhere (other than walking to and from school).

I spend most of my time in a state of guilt - had we had fewer children they wouldn't miss out on so much of my one-to-one attention, and I'd be able to focus more with them on homework.

DH is great but works incredibly long house (out of the house by 6 and back gone bedtime).

Even walking down the road to the shops I feel there are too many of us and we take up too much space on the pavements/people can't pass us in shop aisles. Silly as that sounds, it's how I am feeling at the moment.

How did you manage to give each child everything they needed if you have 3-4 kids close in age?

Hohowoah Sun 01-Jan-17 21:05:43

This first week back at school I have the following to organise and I don't know when I will fit this all in bar taking them out of school!

8 year old - sports try out for regional team after school, hearing test because there seems to be a possible problem, haircut, orthodontist.

6 year old - GP for possible food intolerance, had diarrhoea for past 10 days.

4 year old - dentist for fluoride treatment again because of condition from newborn anitbiotics, GP for swollen big toe joint that has been coming up and going down for last week causing pain.

2 year old - just had a letter due for 2 year check with HV!

minisoksmakehardwork Sun 01-Jan-17 21:08:54

Ihonestly, I don't. Mine are 4, 4, 6 and 8. It's a never ending battle to try and give them all the time they deserve without me being ratty. So I will feel your pain and let you know you are not alone.

YouveCatToBeKittenMe Sun 01-Jan-17 21:09:36

It does get easier
I remember it being hard when they were that little
Just stay organised as best you can and prioritise, don't try to do everything at once. The 2 year olds health check can probably wait a week or two.
I was quite stressed when they were all that little though. Can you delegate some things?

DailyFail1 Sun 01-Jan-17 21:11:07

If I were you 2 yo will be going to daycare regularly so I can get a bit of peace. No idea how you manage!

followTheyellowbrickRoad Sun 01-Jan-17 21:13:20

One thing I found made it easier when mine were smaller was having a hairdresser come to the house. Dentist we usually do in the holidays as it's easier to manage. Shopping, either online or when they are in school. Or go when they are in bed.

Bobochic Sun 01-Jan-17 21:13:42

Can you get a mother's help?

Sofabitch Sun 01-Jan-17 21:16:42

You cant do everything.

Limit after school clubs/activities to one per child.

They are all under 8 homework isn't essential. Get the 8 year old to read to the 4 year old.

Delegate a little.

It's hard when they are young. But it gets easier.

juneau Sun 01-Jan-17 21:16:55

For doctor, orthodontist and hearing test I'm sure it would be better to take that one DC out of school so that you can focus on just him/her.

As for stuff like haircuts, I'd try and get them all done at once, if possible. I only have two DC, so perhaps that's unrealistic, but I'd think that one visit to the barber/salon would be infinitely preferable to four. If four at once is unmanageable, then how about two one week and two the next? I go at 9am on Sat morning when it first opens.

DailyFail1 Sun 01-Jan-17 21:17:11

Bobochic Gin? wink

Artandco Sun 01-Jan-17 21:18:37

If you can afford to and have spare room I would get an au pair ( pile kids into sharing bedrooms if needed to make space). Or get a live out afternoon nanny 3-6pm.

That way kids can be split up between you according to who needs what. You can help older two with homework whilst aupair or nanny takes younger two outside an hour, or they can watch two do homework whilst you take two to an appointment.

It's only about 2 years until your eldest is more self sufficent (can start walking himself to and from activity or school), and youngest will be school age and old enough to understand waiting.

Artandco Sun 01-Jan-17 21:19:53

And yes I would take them out of school for any medical issues rather than all crammed in after school together. That way it's just one plus 2 year old.

JoeMaplin Sun 01-Jan-17 21:26:01

It gets easier! I found myself gravitating towards mums of 4 or more for support/just a friendly ear... I found parents of 2 just didn't get the massive logistical nightmare and how much trickier all the day to day things are. I think you have to put the guilt thing aside, I still get it now mine are older (not doing the sort of holidays their friends can etc).

Organisation is the key. When mine were younger, there was no opportunity for slippage otherwise chaos descends!

MedwayMumoffour Sun 01-Jan-17 21:27:35

Mine are a bigger age gap but I honestly just lower my standards a little bit. Only my second child is doing any after school clubs right now, the oldest wanted to drop his, I was upset but I let him. Younger two can wait until they are in reception year to start clubs.
Dentist - one appointment for all of them only in holiday time. Hairdressers - two eldest get there's done together, toddler by himself, baby I do and leave it long.
My eldest is needing less of my physical time, it gets easier as they get older. You can't do all the emotional support and keep everything else perfect. I used to work and had kids then, it's just keeping the most important balls in the air. The rest isn't so important. Enjoy your kids, it honestly goes by so fast

allowlsthinkalot Sun 01-Jan-17 21:30:15

Mine are 9, 7, 4 and 2. The logistics are hard!! I home ed mine so we don't have the same rush in the morning but the eldest two get breakfast for themselves and for the little two while I shower etc. I think encouraging their independence is key and it's good for them to make a genuine contribution.

I would take them out of school for appointments if I had that option!! As it stands I do take all four but with books and mp3 players for the waiting room, the oldest two can be in the waiting room and not have to come in if it isn't their appointment.

I have left the nine year old at home for up to half an hour and he is able to go to the library himself while I pop to the shops etc.

We are often with friends out and about so there is more than one adult.

They get v little 1:1 time but when they do it is special. We try to ensure that happens at weekends when dh is home. And the logistics will get easier as they get more independent. There is guilt. But the advantages of having brothers and sisters will outweigh that....I hope!!!

PacificDogwod Sun 01-Jan-17 21:30:34

Yes, it does get easier.

Lower your exceptions - mainly the expectations on yourself wink

Mine are now 13, 12, 8 and 6.
Life is so much easier, the older two are more independent and the younger two more reasonable.
I tend to do things in pairs of two: take 2 to the dentist, then the other 2 the following week. When I have to drag them all out together we are a bit like a travelling circus hmm and it is much harder work.

It does get better, really it does. But in the meantime you have to survive.
Fwiw, I too have The Guilt as I can only divide myself in so many ways and I often feel they are not getting the individual attention that they deserve - equally I do recognise that they also benefit from having their siblings. Swings/roundabouts, I suppose.

apostropheuse Sun 01-Jan-17 21:30:42

I had four aged 4 and under (all single pregnancies) so i know it can be difficult and exhausting. You're probably feeling it harder at the moment because of the holidays.

The way I coped was to organise things for the next morning when the children went to bed at 7pm and slept through till 6 30 or 7, so that was a great time to do stuff and to relax and wind down. We had a strict bedtime routine!

I did take them out of school for appointments if necessary, but they had excellent attendance rates so it didn't affect them. Sometimes it's just unavoidable and you have to do it.

I think I probably bumbled through in a haze 😀

It will get easier!

allowlsthinkalot Sun 01-Jan-17 21:32:43

Only the eldest two do any after school activities (other than the home ed groups we all attend together ). That is limited to one thing each.

Hairdressers....we all go together but it's only the boy who needs a regular haircut. The rest of us just wait for him. When I have my hair cut I take a big pile of books and bribe with promise of babycino for good behaviour.

goodbyestranger Sun 01-Jan-17 21:33:10

My DC did fewer things after school as far as I remember but I also opted to send them to school earlier than usual (3yrs) as the idea of an extra person in the house seemed a less beneficial way to spend money on child care but at the same time I was finding it difficult to manage all the competing needs (I had four under four, five under six, six under seven etc etc). Why does your Y4 have excessive homework? I read with my DC most days except for days when something intervened but none of them ever had homework which needed me to have an input. I don't think that should weigh you down, so maybe don't treat it seriously - it won't make or break the DC's education. Joining in the sporty stuff is probably more worth prioritizing.

pklme Sun 01-Jan-17 21:34:53

You are at the toughest point! In a year, the LO will be in nursery part time. Everything will get easier.

As far as appointments go, I booked everyone in at the same time, let eldest watch third in waiting room while I held littlest and watched second, then swapped everyone in and out.

I used DSs to help everyone pass the time at opticians.

Hardest was swimming lessons. Again get everyone in for the same time if you can. It's actually easier to do it intensely than slowly.

Packed lunches- lunch boxes out on work surfaces in the morning. Each child puts their own stuff in. Bulk buy juice cartons, Capri suns, frube yogurts in the freezer. Snack bars. Cheery tomatoes, baby carrots. Baby bells etc. Freeze sandwiches ready wrapped (no salad). Everyone puts three or four things in their box, plus a drink.

Eldest helps a younger child with breakfast, staying busy at appointments etc. In return, gets a little more pocket money and some extra grown up time after others are in bed. Maybe chooses what is for tea etc. Gets overt appreciation for helping. What eldest learns in life skills more than makes up for rushing their homework.

It's gruelling but doesn't go on for everM nearly there op!

knittingwithnettles Sun 01-Jan-17 21:35:54

I have 3 close together and I also think the appointments are best in school time.

Hairdresser can wait till weekend. 8 year old should have homework he can do himself, if he doesn't complain to school that he is getting too much or undifferentiated.

You actually have an asset, the 8 year old can be useful in supervising the two year old sometimes (although I know from experience that it is no good getting him to help with six year old too close a gap to be bossy!!!)

Essentially we came back from school and collapsed and I tried to avoid anything which meant we went out after school hours. There was a hideous interlude dropping one child off to Scouts and another to Brownies, and an even worse interlude dealing with ballet drop off after singing lesson, but looking back it was hubris on my part to attempt these things. Teachers should have either come to my house or I should have left it until the weekend when dh was there, OR just not done those things until they were all much older. Really doesn't matter if you do stuff when you are 10 for the first time, especially music, you catch up very fast.

Four is lovely, you are lucky smile I would have loved a fourth. My mum had four. I don't remember any extra curricular stuff till we could walk to it ourselves, and she says now, homework angst was a con. and did no good whatsoever, compared to other children who did no homework in primary who turned out perfectly well, if not better than hers...(I'm thinking Doctors, Engineers here] Secondary is when it all kicks in, primary should be holistic and bonding with the family.

goodbyestranger Sun 01-Jan-17 21:36:45

Lowering expectations is very good advice. FWIW mine are now 26, 25, 23, 22, 21, 19, 17 and 14 and it does get a great deal easier.

Hawkmoth Sun 01-Jan-17 21:36:49

Don't ask me. I have four and two DSDs. I take Fluoxetine and have a complex system of bribes.

Busybusybust Sun 01-Jan-17 21:37:02

May I give you all a bit of hope? I felt just the same when my 4 were small, and then their father died, so I brought them up,on my own!

Now they are 37, 35, 30 and 27. The nicest people you could wish to meet! I adore them! And they adore me! All that hard work IS worth it!

Believe me it was really hard work, but it started getting better when they were sixish. Then got worse again at 12-17!

I am SO proud of them all!

Hang on in there, and don't give up on the discipline and boundaries!

knittingwithnettles Sun 01-Jan-17 21:37:49

We did swimming lesson en masse on Saturday afternoon, and came back to watch Dr Who. We also did music lesson en masse at a music school on Sat morns, if you have one near you, worked really well.

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