Two’s company, three’s a crowd, four’s too many and five’s not allowed…
According to research on the connection between stress levels and the number of children in families, the old rhyme may be right on the money. Or at least partially.
In a study involving more than 7000 mums, researchers asked participants about the stress involved in raising their children. The magic number for a more relaxed lifestyle might have you second-guessing your family plan.
Results from the TODAYmoms.com survey revealed that mums with three children are the most stressed-out compared to mums with one or two, or even compared to those with four or more kids. And the more you have after three, the less stressful it all gets. (Apparently.)
On a scale of one to 10 – with 10 being the absolute apex of stress – the average mum experiences an 8.5 in terms of daily frustrations – no surprise there. But what is surprising is that mums with four or more children seem to sail through the ups and downs of parenting better than mums with one or two kiddos. And mums with three kids – they appear to have the toughest time when it comes to juggling the never-ending demands of motherhood.
Seventy-five per cent of the mums surveyed admit that while money and work contribute to the worry, it’s the pressure to be the best and most yummy of mummies that causes the most stress. Mums with one or two children reportedly have a more unrealistic idea of trying to be “perfect” and wanting to do it all when compared to mums with bigger broods.
Dr. Janet Taylor, a psychiatrist in New York, says, “There’s just not enough space in your head for perfectionism when you get to four or more kids.” And on a practical level, it’s obviously impossible to survive each manic day unless you let go of the little things.
But while it’s always healthier for the psyche to ditch the OCD tendencies and focus on the imperatives, there’s only so much space in which to squeeze both your kids’ and your needs and wants; at some point, something’s gotta give – it’s up to the individual to determine what they’re happy to concede.
Deciding on what constitutes the most rewarding number of children is a highly individualised choice based on a number of factors, including personality, parenting style, financial limitations and life goals. Studies such as the TODAY survey are fascinating, but there’s always research that will controvert the findings.
There is no ‘one size fits all’.
And there’s a big difference between making a choice and learning to cope should we be presented no alternatives. Until science irrefutably proves otherwise, I say hooray for contraceptives, and ‘high-five’ to mums with a lengthier line of progeny. There ain’t no shame in either, and if you’re happy, and your lil’ tykes are, too, then you’ve probably hit your own perfect, magic number.