That’s me with a 4 year old, a 2 year old, a 1 year old…and pregnant with number four (Hubby is missing because he took the photo.).
Somehow I made it but looking back I wonder how sometimes. Many of you are young mothers and have asked how to get things done when the kids are little so I thought I would share a little about what worked for me.
First of all, when I was where you are now I unfortunately did not have the wisdom to listen to much of what other moms who were further down the road shared with me. I did listen to one thing, however, and that was the advice to slow down and enjoy my children while they were young.
The advice to slow down enabled me to lower my expectations. I didn’t stress about how clean the house was (or wasn’t!), whether the clean laundry was folded perfectly or whether I accomplished a lot in one day. I did the basics to maintain life (dishes, cooking dinner, laundry) and I focused most of my time on playing with my children, reading lots of books, snuggling under blankets, sitting under sheet tents, visiting the park and having as much fun as possible.
At one point early on, I had my then 3 year old son playing with playdough at the table and the 18 month old finger painting in the high chair while I was rocking the new baby in the bouncy seat. I look back at that and wonder about my sanity.
Maintain a Basic Routine
Of course there were “those” days when I felt completely overwhelmed and I certainly enjoyed my children “less”, if you know what I mean. One thing that helped was to have a basic structure for my days.
If we had all had a good night’s sleep, I woke up a little early to pray and make a plan for the day. I did morning chores like loading the dishwasher and starting the laundry right after breakfast while the baby was still in the high chair and the toddler and 4 year old watched an educational dvd. If we had not had a good night’s sleep, I kept my expectations low and we did lots of snuggling amid the piles of clean laundry and toys strewn on the floor.
If you would like a little help to create a routine for your family you can print the Preschool Mom’s Helper organizing printable that you see above here.
Take Care of Yourself
The most sanity protecting action I took was making myself a priority. I did everything possible to get my children on the same nap schedule so that I could have some uninterrupted time during the day. Once they outgrew naps, they had “room time” and played with toys which were reserved just for this quiet play time and which I rotated each day. For example, toy cars and blocks on Monday; Legos and “Little People” on Tuesday; play kitchen and tools on Wednesday, etc. This bought me a little more time because the children were engaged with toys they had not played with for a week.
If it had been a long night I took a nap during this time (with the baby monitor on of course). If I was fairly well rested, I used the time to read or do scrapbooking.
I also tried to have an outing all by myself on a regular basis while my husband watched the kids. He was great about encouraging me to get out, which was a tremendous blessing. It is so important to take care of yourself and maintain a sense of your identity separate from your children because this time is so all-consuming.
The truth is that your days will not go as planned. These photo moments when everyone is beautifully coordinated and smiling are few and far between in the preschool days.
Just remember that loving and training those little ones is your priority for this season of life, try to get as much sleep as possible and really enjoy those babies. There will be time later for other projects — trust me.
Click here to print the Mom’s Preschool Helper (pictured above) for ideas to structure your days.
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I’m so happy to find this blog. My oldest is 5, 4, 3, and 1. I must be crazy but I want one more..
Kimberlee Stokes says
Aw! That’s sweet! Glad you’re here and let me know if you have any questions Samantha!
Thank you for putting yourself out there and sharing your perspective. It is difficult to find parenting advice online from someone with over a decade of experience. I am seeing that a lot of mom bloggers with 3 or more young kids are getting by but I feel reassured when I read that I really will get more sleep one day from someone who had four kids and is actually sleeping again. The greatest take away from your post is the message to stop and enjoy this time. It feels like a race to the finish line (bedtime) everyday and it’s good to be reminded that this time with these precious little people will fly by.
Kimberlee Stokes says
Yes! You WILL get more sleep one day Maggie. 🙂
Thanks for your encouragement and yes, try to enjoy the little moments. I know it’s difficult, but whoever said “The days are long, but the years are short” perfectly described parenthood.
Now that the kids are mostly grown (18, 20, 22 and 24), I truly understand that folding the clean laundry and dusting the bookshelves doesn’t matter at all. In fact, if I could go back I would rewrite my daily to-do list as follows:
1. Hold the baby as much as possible.
2. Snuggle multiple times a day.
3. Read good books out loud to the kids.
4. Enjoy the sunshine daily.
5. Get help so that I can sleep at least once a week for more than 4 hours.
And I would add now in this age of technology, put the phone down.
Remember, you are doing the most important work in the world — and you are doing a good job!
I just searched “four under 5” and was drawn to your blog mostly because of your blog name. I lack peace and crave it so desperately. I just had our fourth boy. They are 4.5, 3, 18mos. and newborn. I can cry sometimes just saying those ages. It’s crazy tough daily & my drive to “do it all” has left me defeated and when something is going to lack my attention, it’s not the dust or laundry… it’s my kids. I love a clean home. I would even say I need it for my sanity, but I weep at night when I reflect on how little I spent reading to the boys or even looking at them. I know the obvious answer is to stop doing so much house work, but I don’t know how to let go of it. I have anxiety and keep my house organized is one way I feel in control. These days are so long but the years are flying by and I am so scared of missing out on all the fun stuff I could and should be doing with the kids. I’ve been trying to work with the schedule we created, but with being on the sofa nursing so often I can’t get around to organizing a craft for the older boys before it’s lunchtime and we’re shuffling off to naps. (Clearly this is a venting session, but it feels so good to just let it flow!) I’m lacking so much of the fun and feel-good moments, so I am run ragged and getting frustrated at the kids all day. Not only am I not playing with them, my tone and words tell them I don’t have time for them and to leave me alone to do more housework or feed the baby or whatever I’m doing at the moment. I don’t know how to enjoy this phase of life!!! It feels like survival every day.
Kimberlee Stokes says
Hi Kelsey! Thanks so much for stopping by. I’m so sorry you are having such a difficult time. I can so relate to your struggles even though it has been many years. It is completely understandable that you need somewhere to vent! You are in a VERY challenging season of life, but I promise it WILL get better. It will take some time, but you are going to adjust and get more sleep.
May I just encourage you to take some pressure off of yourself to do life “perfectly” with a newborn. It takes many months after a baby is born to adjust to the new “normal” (if there really is such a thing with four small children!). Newborns take a LOT of time and that should be your priority right now. Would it be possible to read a book to your other children while you nurse? They could play with Legos or blocks on the floor while you read — maybe the 18 month old could sit on the sofa with you.
When mine were all so small I really tried to work in tiny fun moments while we were doing other things like meals. I also understand the need to have a clean house, but maybe you could relax a few of your expectations, like letting the older boys fold their own clothes and put them away in their drawers or closet. They will be a mess, but your sons will learn responsibility. And crafts probably aren’t going to happen at this stage so think about play activities that are low stress like using cardboard boxes and tubes to create an obstacle course for their cars or building forts with the sofa cushions every once in a while.
As far as a schedule, did you download the Mom’s Preschool Helper HERE? It’s more of a routine than a schedule, but helped to keep me sane when mine were all under 5 years old.
I pray that God will help you and encourage you. I would love to continue to hear from you so please use the contact form on ThePeacefulMom.com and send me an email whenever you would like.
I definitely have the same need for sanity with a “clean” house. I totally understand the idea of letting some things go so that I don’t miss out, but with kids all so close in age, it’s not always messes that can even be left (ie diarrhea on the walls, mud on the rug, spit up on the couch, dog poop on the carpet, ketchup EVERYWHERE [& when did i even give them ketchup???]) . Also a house totally ignored means clothes/shoes are lost, and we don’t find them till they no longer fit! Here’s how i’ve simplified some of my expectations and living to help me enjoy this phase:
laundry: 1 bin for my husband’s clothes (i don’t touch this bin), 1 bin for me and kids, 1 bin for bedding and linens
-once either the “me and kids bin” or the “linens” bin fills up, we put it in the wash (kids love to help)
– kids clothes get separated into piles “flattened” nicely for them to carry and plop in their drawers – i don’t fold their clothes anymore because if it’s at least in the drawers i feel sane
dishes: buy paper towels and paper plates. i will worry about the environment later. i run so many loads of laundry and dishes without paper goods, i think it all evens out. they use the same paper plate all day and have healthy “clean” snacks (nuts, seeds, things that aren’t wet or juicy) in an accessible location for my responsible one to grab for them.
toys: not everything is out at once. at their ages they don’t even enjoy playing with their toys if they’re all just out in one big heap of toys. they play with 1-2 bins at a time and have to clean up their own toys (easy if it’s all going in the same bin)
go outside: best way to “keep the house clean” while also enjoying your kids is spending lots of time outside. kids take off shoes before entering house, and we do a quick bath before naps if they get that dirty (otherwise just baths before bed)
my routine for the sanity:
oldest (3 yrs) is up at 6:30 – he gets himself an easy, clean hands breakfast (cheese, bag of almonds/cashews/pistachios/etc)
rest of the house slowly finishes waking up by 8 (i’m still in the newborn phase so i’m still not up till 8)
i change diapers and make a real breakfast (eggs or just anything “messy” like yogurt, applesauce, banana)
everyone gets wiped down afterwards then play with toys while i have my coffee
i finish coffee and do quick clean up of kitchen (counters, breakfast clean up)
i nurse baby while i do my makeup
kids clean up toys while i finish doing my hair/getting ready and change diapers (about 10 minutes)
we go outside till lunch (i make this my intentional, play like a kid at their level time. we are either in our yard or pack lunch and go on an outing. we aim to go to the park or a play date 3 times a week)
diaper changes then kids play with toys while i make lunch
lunch time – i nurse and read a basket of books (since kids take WAY longer to eat than adults lol)
after the books (while kids are still eating usually) i clean up kitchen and vacuum
kids finish, get wiped down, go clean up their toys from before lunch
while kids are finishing cleaning, i vacuum 1/2 the house (only takes me about 8 minutes) and spray down appliances if they need it
kids get freshened up and go down for naps
i have me time for devotions, switching loads around, emptying dish washer, plopping dinner in the instant pot, etc
if i did laundry then their piles of flattened clothes are ready for them to put away after naps
after naps is usually nursing, a little bit of mommy time (i try to do a toddler board game at this time), then free play with 1-2 bins of toys while i finish making dinner
after dinner is typically kid toy clean up while i tidy up kitchen again
during baths i can usually clean the bathroom (not a big bathroom. all my supplies are under the sink so i always have my eyes on the kids while i scrub toilet, sanitize counters, mirrors, and sink)
i hope this helps you even just a little! we all have different rhythms that work for us and different types of expectations we place upon ourselves that we can tweak while, hopefully, keeping the sanity!
Kimberlee Stokes says
Thanks so much for the great tips Jess!
Im so glad to have found this site!! I have 4 children, ages 4,3,2, and 8months….and another on the way. SO nice to meet someone who was once there….it’s such a unique situation to be in and it’s hard to find other mothers in a similar boat. Look forward to reading through your site.
Kimberlee Stokes says
Hi Meghan! I’m glad you’re here. The site has grown to include lots of information to help moms at all stages, so if you have a specific question that I haven’t answered, please let me know.
Landed here after searching “four kids under four”. I have a three year old, one year old and expecting twins (at 41).
Kimberlee Stokes says
Oh goodness! You will be busy Mama, but you can do it. I really encourage you to simplify as much as possible and once those sweet babies are here, focus on getting as much sleep as can so you can function. I hope that you will have some help, but I am always here if you just need to ask a question, vent or get a virtual hug!
Hello, I have 3 boys 6 years 5 years and 7 month old. We had just two kids for a while and we got the hang of it. Adding the third boys has changed everything…I feel like I have no time to rest or even sleep anymore. I also go to school full-time which is making thing a lot harder specially with homework. My 6 7 month old still hasn’t gotten into a structure nap schedule so everything is crazy. I really wanted to sign up for the gym this year but it doesn’t look like it for a while. From homewrok, to cooking, to cleanjng to laundry to grocery shoping, It seems like there is no time for anything wlse. We are trying to have fourth one sometime this year “if God wills” so that we can be done with the infant stage for good. I say this because after having my second baby we took almost 5 years before we had another kid and they both grew up together and it was this hard. I am so confused
Kimberlee Stokes says
Thanks so much for taking the time to comment. I am so sorry that you are having a difficult time. The first year to year and a half of a baby’s life are so full of change for both the mom and the baby.
When I had so many little ones it really helped me to have more of a routine (basically a list of what to do next) than a schedule. I am wondering if you need to drop back from taking so many classes right now until you can get him more settled into a nap routine and maybe put school off altogether once you are pregnant and you get close to having your fourth child. You need some space in your life to breathe and it doesn’t sound like you have it now.
Hopefully that helps a little. Please feel free to ask me anything else.
Hi! I’m currently pregnant with number 5… I have a 4, 3, 1, and 9 month old…..starting to feel anxious about how I’ll handle it all.
Kimberlee Stokes says
Hi Katie! How exciting to bring another life into the world, but I totally understand your anxiety. I strongly suggest finding some help. When my kids were small I tutored a high school student in exchange for babysitting. Maybe you can trade babysitting with another friend or perhaps you have a family member who can help out. You can also look for a Mom’s Morning Out program at local churches. Try your best to get the youngest ones on the same nap schedule and take some time for yourself while the older one plays quietly in his/her room. I rotated toys for rest time (Legos on Monday, kitchen toys on Tuesday, etc.) and they only played with those toys during rest time so they kept their attention for a little while. Hopefully your husband can give you a break at least once a week as well. Another key is getting as much sleep as is possible, which I know is limited with so many littles but make getting them into bed a priority so that you can get some sleep too. I pray that you will be able to find some support and encouragement. Please let me know if I can help you with anything specific. 🙂
Kal Grov says
Thank you for your blog!! I am a blessed mom of 3 kiddos and another on the way. By the time the new one comes my oldest will be 4.5 🙂 We wanted four kids, each one was planned and a gift from God! I shouldn’t worry about what other people think, but it hurts when they judge us for having too many kids. It feels like it is a changing world and having more then two kids is no longer the norm. Here’s to going against the grain! Cheers
The Peaceful Mom says
I totally understand Kal! When people would say “Wow, you have your hands full” I would respond with “Yes, full of blessings.” It’s too bad that our culture tends to devalue children but be encouraged — you are raising four little blessings and you are not alone. 🙂
Hi If anyone is responding to this still, I have three kids 3.5 and younger and just found out I am pregnant. I don’t have to work, but I choose to accept a part time work from home job and hire someone to help watch the kids and do the cooking/cleaning. Although I feel like I have a lot more energy (I am 36) and more mental sanity, I wonder if I will miss the time with my kids. I only miss a maximum of 2 hrs with each kid each day, and in return I have a lot more mental sanity. I am am wondering if I will regret it later though. I am just not good at just staying home and playing with kids. I pack them all up and take them places or go plant plants in the yard or show them things and have lots of fun, but I am not so good at just sitting and playing; I only last a few minutes at it. Any thoughts?
The Peaceful Mom says
Hi Veronica –
Congratulations on your new baby!
I think you are very wise to know yourself and choose a lifestyle that fits your personality. The amount of time you are away from your children is minimal and if it enables you to have a better attitude/feel better/enjoy your kids more when you are with them then GO FOR IT! Don’t let mommy guilt keep you from doing what you need to do to take care of yourself.
One other idea is to look at a site like KidsActivitiesBlog.com to find fun activities to do with your kids when you are with them so you aren’t bored.
Please keep in touch and let me know if you need more encouragement. 🙂
I just googled having four kids under five and I am so grateful to have come across this blog. I have three kids 5, 3, 2 and I’m right months pregnant. You never someone else is going through the same thing not unless you speak up. Prayer got my family where we are my husband got laid off his job 6 weeks after our second child so I rushed back to work while he stayed home, during that pregnancy I was on bed rest at 7 months so no work for both of us. Times were hard we moved in with my parents and then we saved up our money and bought a fixer upper house now we didn’t have to pay rent with the third child I had a lot of pain by three months my husband told me to quit my job so here we are no one has a job. Three months later he got a great job now I don’t have to work. I started to get into church doing a lot at church and even though I had the kids every where I went I was really not taking care of them like I should they ate and were changed but they needed more so I had to slow down and just gave all my time to my family because the can only be this age once and I don’t want to miss it.
Kimberlee Stokes says
Hi Lisa! I am so glad that you stopped by. Good for you for realizing that the time with your small children is important. It is a difficult season in some ways, but you will never regret spending this time with them. Like someone said, “The days are long, but the years are short.” Feel free to ask me any questions. 🙂 Blessings!
Im 23 with 5 kids under the age of 5 i love it. Iam truely blessed
Hopefully at 23 you have lots more energy than I had in my late twenties. 🙂
Yes i do 🙂 but also have lots of help from my husband he is so amazing. Works 7-6pm and still comes home helps cook clean and whatever else so life is slways busy but i wouldnt have it any other way
Hi! wow its rare to find other moms with as many kids so close together! I have a 4,3,2 and 9 month old… Looking forward to checking out how you survived!
I am a mother of four under five – Our son is 4, and three daughters ages 3, 2, and 10 months. I was working full time with an overlapping schedule to my husband, then full-time with the same hours as my husband with my kids happily attending a family-run daycare and getting mommy & daddy together on nights and weekends. I now quit my job this week due to my ethics not aligning with the corporation and an overabundant work load that they chose to not get help for. Now I’m back to the drawing board with full time with my kiddos. I’m looking at it as a blessing in disguise to spend more time with them while they are little. The only thing is we have financial problems every time we’re not both working. I filed for unemployment, and if they do provide those, it may be better than the cost of daycare in the short-term. We’re really at a crossroads for maybe moving to another area where my husband could make more and be in a more young family-friendly area. In the meantime, I appreciate your advice and encouragement that others are handling the same situation. I love that we have a family with four children, but it is sure hard.
Hi Amber! We were in the position of working opposite shifts for a season when the kids were very young. It was so difficult!
I am really glad that you are able to be with your sweet little children right now, and I hope you can continue to do so. I totally understand the financial difficulties though. If I were you, I would look at cutting everything possible out of your budget. With the time you have now, you can cook from scratch, save money on dry cleaning and entertainment, switch to a cheaper cell phone since you don’t need it for work, etc. You may find that you can easily live on your husband’s salary when you are organized and intentional about saving money. I would also think about selling any cars that you have a loan for, and buying a cheaper vehicle. That can take a huge chunk out of your paycheck.
A move might also be helpful to you, but another idea is for you to start a small business out of your home using the skills you used in the corporate world. You could do something locally like offer services to businesses in your area as a contract laborer, or you could start an internet business.
I am cheering you on! Let me know if you have any other questions. 🙂
Nancy Byrne says
I have four boys, 8, 7, 5 and 3. My 7 yo has severe autism, so I get the crazy and messy house! They are uber sweet and I love their preciousness! Thanks for your wonderful posts! I get great ideas to streamline my world!
Tara H says
I loved reading this. We have 5 boys ages 11, 9, 7, 5, and 4. Somedays I feel like I’m going crazy, but I love it. I need to take more time to just enjoy them though. Thanks!
I have 5 boys also, ages 16, 13, 11, 7, and 4. I feel crazy a lot too! : )
Heather Hazen says
I only have 2.. ages 2.75 and 7 months.. most days I am doing good for everyone to be alive and fed… Thank God the 2 year old is birth control.. I could not fathom having 4 or more!!
Bethany Baxter says
Heather, I was thinking the same thing. My husband and I have a four year old son and a 15 month old daughter and most of the time I feel so guilty for feeling like I couldn’t/wouldn’t want to handle more than two! I envy women like Kimberlee and the other moms with a small gang of kids.
Don’t feel guilty! You may change your mind when you get to a different stage (or not). Life is busy with children at those ages. 🙂
Love this post! We have four girls, ages 9, 5, 2, and 5 months. I so agree with the coordinated-nap suggestion. Nap time is SACRED at my house. I use it to do Bible study, catch up on Facebook, or read a book. Seems like the more babies we have, the more I enjoy them…perhaps age is mellowing me out, or maybe I’m actually learning something. Anyway, you have a beautiful family, and I love reading your posts. You are an encouragement to me!
Thanks so much Audra!
Thanks for reminder to cudle more with kids!
Thanks for sharing! Wish I would of had this about 3 years ago… 🙂 Well, we’ve survived (so far) and most of it is due to a lot of what you posted above – especially that routine and getting up a little before the kids whenever possible. It’s just nice to know we’re not alone with our little ones being 6, 5, 3, and 2 right now.
Hang in there Erin! They do get older and you will look back on these days with fondness and amazement. 🙂
That last picture is me right now 🙂 I have a 7 yr old boy then 3 girls 5,3 and baby. Whew!! We are a one car family so we spend most days at home. Thanks for the reminder!
We were a one car family through much of our “married with kids” stage. In a lot of ways it makes life simpler, but make sure you are getting some time away from home. 🙂
Ask TPJ says
So true. I’m a mom to four stair-step aged children. (7, 4, 2 ,& 9 months for now) Let go and let God you have much more peace of mind and enjoy when you aren’t trying to be “in control” of it all. Awesome post.
As someone who has a newly 5 year old, almost 4 year old, 21 month old, 14 month old, and am unexpectedly expecting, this is the most reassuring comment!! “Let go and let God…”
Kimberlee Stokes says
Bless you Kaylee!
Karen Laqua says
I’ve never seen pictures of the kids when they were little before. They’re so cute!!
Thanks Karen! It was fun digging these out. 🙂
This is the best!!! I currently have a 4yr, 2yr and 1yr old and am really thinking about another. And I feel like 3 is totally do able, so I’ve convinced myself that adding a 4th will ruin that. LOL! I’m really comfortable with 3 and seem to be able to still get a lot done. Did 4 send you over the edge??? Also, the “Growing Up” part is what REALLY freaks me out. Is it possible to be close and really connected to all 4 kids? Can you tell I’ve found very few moms to ask questions about 4 kids 😉 lol! SOOOOO glad I found your post!
Hi Kelsey! I will admit that having a fourth child did put me over the edge in some ways but it was because I had severe postpartum depression, very little family support and very little money. I don’t regret it a bit though. My fourth child is the sunshine of my life and while it is difficult to give everyone exactly what they want, or even need sometimes, it is so worth it.
I enjoy having four children even more now that we are in the teen stage. I love watching them develop into their own identity and talking with them about their hopes and dreams and difficulties. As far as spending individual time with them, it is really easy to set up one time each week where you take one child out on errands and then to get ice cream or another special treat. You can also stagger bedtimes a little bit so each child has their own special time with you.
Of course, I can’t tell you what would happen in your situation, but if you want another child you should listen to your inner voice (as long as your husband is in agreement 🙂 ). Blessings to you, and if you have more questions, please feel free to ask.
Ah thanks for all that! I’m trying to figure out if I have baby fever or in fact want another human being that will outgrown the baby stages 😉 I just SO LOVE the newborn and baby phase Im trying to figure out if I’m just in a phase or really do want 4. I think 4 just sounds so fun and so full! What an amazingly full life with 4 little ones 🙂
I will be sure to find my way back here if I’m expecting anytime soon. lol!! Thanks soooo much!
You are very welcome Kelsey! 🙂