Although the logical assumption is that stress levels increase as moms have more children – the truth is quite surprising.
Two recent studies have revealed that when it comes to stress, having four kids is best for both the mom and the kids themselves. What may be more surprising is that moms who have three kids tend to have higher stress levels than those with more.
The survey was done by TODAY and asked over 7,000 moms about the number of kids they had and their overall stress levels. Although the average stress level of moms was rated at 8.5 out of 10, those with the highest levels were those with three kids.
Experts have a couple of theories about why this happens.
The first theory is that once a family gets to a certain size, it’s easier for moms just to let things go that they would have worried about with their first, second, and third children.
But, by the time they add a fourth child to the mix, they realize that some things just aren’t as important, such as making sure they have extra clothes, diapers, burp cloths, bottles, and more, every time they leave the house.
Another huge advantage that moms of four or more kids have is that there is a lot more sibling bonding that happens and kids are better able to work together at that point. When a mom has four kids, it’s a lot easier for all four of them to play along and keep each other occupied which frees up the mom to focus on other tasks that might have fallen by the wayside while she had three kids.
A mother of four can trust her older child to be responsible for one of their siblings while she takes on the other two. Having this built-in help is a huge stress reliever for moms with four or more kids.
It is also believed that part of the reason that moms with four kids are less stressed than those with three is that they are more confident in their parenting abilities at that point. Since one of the leading causes of stress in moms is feeling like an inadequate parent, it’s no surprise that by the time they get to child number four, they feel like they’ve got things figured out.
But, it’s not just the moms who are less stressed with bigger families.
There was another study done in Norway that showed that lower stress levels in larger families extend beyond the moms and to the kids as well. According to that study, the larger a family, the less mental problems the children had as they grew up, which the researchers linked to overall lower levels of stress within the household.
Families with twins and children who are closer in age benefit had even lower incidences of mental problems caused by stress. Experts believe that this is because there is a lot more sibling bonding that happens when children have other siblings close in age to them and when they have more siblings which allow them to have more opportunities to bond with their siblings.
So, what is it that parents are so stressed about, anyway?
According to this study done by Contemporary Families, people who have kids are far more stressed than those without, so the number of kids a couple has may not play as big of a role as merely having kids. But, as it turns out, it’s not the kids themselves or even the number of kids that are stressing parents out.
Most parents report being stressed about money instead. Specifically, a lack of affordable childcare causes stress as it can make it difficult for both parents to go back to work. Another common cause of stress to parents was that they didn’t have enough paid leave and allowed sick days, which makes it difficult for them to devote the time they need to their family.
What matters more than how many kids a person has is their mindset and how many kids they can handle. Parents should choose the number of kids they have based on how many kids they want and can afford, and not worry so much about survey results as for how they work to reduce stress in their households.