Why Moms of 4 Are Actually Less Stressed Than Parents With Fewer Kids

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If you're anything like the rest of us, you've probably seen a mom out in public with a large brood of small children and automatically assumed that she must be stressed out of her mind. It's only natural to think that the more kids you have to wrangle around, the harder everything is for you. But according to the surprising results of a new survey, moms with four-plus kids are probably a lot less stressed out than the rest of us. 

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The folks at Today recently released the results of an elective survey they conducted through their site. After polling more than 7,000 mothers from around the country, they found that moms who have three kids are insanely stressed -- much more than moms who have one or two children -- but surprisingly, moms who have four or more kids reported having significantly lower stress levels than other mothers.

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Today asked participating moms to rate their stress levels on a scale of 1–10, with 10 being the most stressed and 1 being the least. From there, they found that the "average" mother rated her levels around an 8.5, but mothers with four or more kids averaged much lower levels. How is that possible?

As psychotherapist Kelley Kitley explained to Motherly, parents -- especially mothers -- with large families are likely less stressed because, while having more kids often means more work when it comes to things like grocery shopping and laundry, they are able to share the emotional load with so many different people. "They encourage each other, hold each other accountable, help out more to lighten the load at home, and the kids entertain each other," Kitley, a mother of four herself, explained.

What's more, a Norwegian study conducted in 2016 found that kids in larger families benefit just as much as their moms. Based on their results, the researchers posited that the more kids a family has -- and the closer in age those children are -- the less likely they are to suffer from mental health issues.

As for why three kids are somehow tougher than having one, two, or four children, Today spoke with Scary Mommy founder and mom-of-three Jill Smokler, who shared that a lot of the difficulties come from simply being outnumbered in a totally new way when you welcome your third kid. "Going from one to two was an easy, breezy transition. Two to three, everything was turned upside down," she said. "I do not feel like I have it together. You only have two hands! Just crossing the street and not being able to physically hold all their hands I find tremendously stressful."

Of course, the results of one survey do not mean you should aim for four as the perfect number of children for your family. Eirene Heidelberger, a parenting coach interviewed by Motherly, shared her skepticism of the results of the Today survey. "Children do not raise themselves nor should siblings be expected to raise their younger siblings," she argued. "It takes a lot of energy, mental resources, and money to raise a large family to ensure each child feels loved, special, and tended to."

More from CafeMom: Mom Perfectly Sums Up Why the Age Gap Between Your Kids Doesn't Matter

At the end of the day, there's no way to completely get rid of the stress that comes with being a mom; it's a part of the job description. But if having a house filled to the brim with little ones is what makes your life feel happy and complete, we salute you.

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