Congratulations on your third baby, mummy! It’s true what parents say — your heart gets bigger with each new addition to the family. Your hands and your time, however, don’t multiply and you may find yourself feeling overwhelmed now that your kids outnumber you and your spouse.
Parenting is never easy but when you have just one child, it’s relatively simple to care for him, your home, career, and marriage. Even with two children, two involved parents can team up to arrange schedules and be firmly in control of that work-life balance. But when there are three or more kids in the equation, you’re outnumbered and chaos ensues.
Tips for Raising a Large family: The Two Questions You Need to Answer
Don’t worry — you’re not alone! We asked veteran parents of multiple children to share with us the challenges they faced raising three or more kids. While issues like managing logistics and finances were mentioned in our conversations, there were actually just two questions that summed up their top concerns:
How do I spend quality time with each of my kids?
All the mothers admitted that the hardest part of having a lot of kids is finding time to spend with each child. Makeup artist Carmel, mum of four, said, “You have that ideal of giving your all to each child but it's just not possible. It's impossible to just really attend to all their needs like you would if you only had one or two kids. Undivided attention is like a unicorn. So I guess balancing your best for all four is the hardest part.”
How do I honour the uniqueness of each child?
Every child is different. Even identical twins aren’t exactly alike. But even though we all know this, because of time constraints, we tend to schedule family time to include all kids. This is a good thing, of course, but sometimes we forget to focus on each child and find out their personalities and interests. Jing Lejano, mum of four, said, “When there's four of them, there's a tendency to treat them as a group, like a herd. But of course you can't do that because they have different characters.”
Many kids also means parents have to meet each child’s needs according to their ages. Louise has a teenager, a primary schooler, and a toddler. She shared, “Having three kids belonging to different stages makes me adjust my communication, discipline and teaching strategies frequently. That quick switch is crazy enough to make me lose my mind sometimes, leaving me exhausted physically and emotionally.”
Entrepreneur and mum-of-three Janice Villanueva said this is really the biggest challenge for her: “It’s being able to treat each child as an individual, getting to know each personality, respecting each one’s pace and process, and customizing parenting to be able to nurture each one the way he or she needs it.”
Ask for help.
The most important step is to acknowledge that you need help. Most mums need to remember that adage, “It takes a village to raise a child.” What more when you have many children?
Ask the grandparents to babysit sometimes. Ask your mummy friends if you can schedule a playdate and sneak in a grocery trip — more eyes and more hands means you’ll have more fun, too! Hire home cleaners. Any chore or errand you can outsource, do it!
You don’t need to look far when asking for help, too. Your husband is part of your family so don’t think he’s exempt from helping out with the chores and the childcare. You also have your own kids to help you out. Even toddlers can pack away their toys or sort laundry. Older kids can cook and wash dishes. Just be honest with your children and say you can’t do everything and you need their help. They may not pitch in as much as you want but once they’re aware you need them, they will most likely do their part.
Carmel said, “What helped me and my husband is being transparent with the kids. We've always been honest about almost everything that goes on in our life. We tell them if it gets too tough already and they listen. For example, financially, they understand that because there are four of them, it's harder to go on trips abroad. So we ask their help by making sure they keep our spending low and by saving. For every time they keep the lights turned on, that's minus the money we can save up for a family trip abroad.”
Take It Easy on Yourself
There’s a grace that comes with having many kids: You quickly learn that to survive, you can’t have perfect standards. The designer home, the glamorous OOTDs, the salon-styled hair — all these are not practical for a mum of many, and you realize that’s okay. Relieved of impossible standards, you enjoy motherhood more. With many children, you also learn to compromise, choose your battles, and focus on what matters most.
Yet in the age of social media, we tend to believe there’s a contest for the #MumOfTheYear award. So we put too much on our plate and beat ourselves up when we inevitably fail. Louise advised, “Never compare yourself with other moms. Every motherhood is unique and we all have different challenges.”
Jing, now also a grandmother, simply advised, “Take it one moment at a time, one day at a time. Don't be too hard on yourself. Breathe. Everything will turn out okay. Give it time.”
Practice Mindful Motherhood
Our veteran mums-of-many all advised being mindful with everything — from managing schedules and balancing finances to spending time with each child and practising self-care.
Janice said, “I am a true believer in the practice of mindfulness. There are three components. First, you must live in the present, even if we worry about the future and the past. Second, learn to properly breathe in and out when things get too crazy. And third, practice self-care so we refill our energy and love inside so we have enough to give out.”
Janice gives examples on how to be a mindful mum in the moment. “There are practical ways to do this in everyday moments. Look our kids in the eyes when talking to them or sit on the floor with them. When doing chores, be fully aware — feel the water in your hands when washing dishes. Open your senses. Look at the bright blue sky when walking the kids to school. Be conscious of how good the smell of your freshly laundered towel is.” Celebrating your life in every moment makes you appreciate your life.
When it comes to treating each child as an individual, Carmel shared that she makes sure to spend time with each child. She recently accompanied her son on his trip to Japan and she acknowledged their changing relationship as he grows into a man and she steps back as his mother. Jing also spends time with each child and advised, “I just made sure to be conscious of their personalities, and respect their rhythm and temperament. I also spent time with each one-on-one. I was not always successful, but I never stopped trying.”
Janice agreed that dealing with many children means extra effort. “Sometimes I feel like I have multiple personalities dealing with one very cheerful child, another one that is more reserved, and the third who is always impatient. But being an intentional mom to each one means I must adjust my style to address the needs and disposition of each of my kids.”
Spend Time with Others and Yourself
Self-care is the buzzword among mums these days because we now all know that when we haven’t eaten, slept and showered, mummy turns into a monster. So all the mummy groups and mummy websites advise spending time alone either meditating, reading a book, enjoying your morning cup of coffee, or spending the day at the salon or spa.
These are all good tips to stay sane. When you’re surrounded by many children, you lose touch of who you are. Spending time alone reminds you that you are your own person, too. Louise said, “You need self-care and self-love so you may go back to your kids with a happy and loving state of heart and mind.”
Another important tip is to share your time with others. Easier said than done but you need to be part of a community so you don’t feel isolated and lonely. Carmel said, “I learned to be with other parents who had many kids of the same age range as mine. Taking trips with them helps so there's not much pressure on us and the kids, and us parents both enjoy time together as a family but also with friends.”
If you’re stressing out, mummy, take a deep breath and think about what your fellow mums-of-multiples shared here today. Many children means a whole lot of mess and madness. However, many children also brings endless days of laughter and love. Enjoy!