Q&A with the 4 Moms: dealing with comments on your big family, weaning babies, going from 1 child to 2 – and beyond!

4moms35kids 4 Moms: Cooking with leftovers {linky}

It’s Q&A week with the 4 Moms, friends, and here are a few of the questions I received on the Life in a Shoe facebook page.  So sorry if I didn’t get to yours this time.  I’ll try to make time to answer more questions in a separate post soon!

1.  Jennifer asked, How hard was it going from having 1 child to having 2 kids? And was going from 2 to 3 easier then 1 to 2? thanks!

 Jennifer, I think this answer depends on a lot of factors: the mom’s temperament, the children’s temperament, lifestyle, etc.  But I think the biggest factor might be the time between your children.  For me, one and two children were easy.  Three was harder – many say that it’s the hardest – but four was the hardest for me.  I think that’s because mine were so very close together.  My oldest was only 4 when my 4th child was born.

My theory is that when a child reaches the age of about 5 years, they are old enough to become a net asset.  That’s not to say that they can take care of themselves, but they can help enough to make life easier rather than harder: they can dress themselves, get a glass of milk for themselves or their younger sibs, make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, wipe up a spill, start the DVD player…Oops – did I say that last one out loud?

That means that when your oldest turns 5, adding children to the mix will begin to get easier rather than harder.  You’ve reached something of a tipping point.  If you have 2 children by then, 3 children will seem a little easier when the time comes because you’ll have a helper that you didn’t have with 2 children.  If you have 3 children when your oldest turns 5, then 4 will seem easier.

Of course the age can and will vary from one child to the next depending on the child’s maturity level and how much is expected, but you really can expect it to get easier as time goes on.

2.  Josalyn asked,  How did you decide when to have another? And how did you decide a comfortable budget not a selfish one?

 Josalyn, I posted a few years ago about our position on birth control and a bit about how we arrived there, so the short answer is that we don’t decide: we self-consciously leave that to God.  Perry has a more detailed post about our journey but it’s not quite finished yet.  🙂

Regarding the budget, we try to be good stewards of what God gives us, always tithing off the top and trying to provide for the future as well as taking care of current needs.   In the past, we had a more relaxed view of debt and often carried a credit card balance.  In recent years, we entirely got rid of the credit cards – even the “emergency” card.   Now we keep an emergency fund instead, and are working hard to pay off the modest mortgage on our home/land as well.

3.  Sara asked, Kimberly touched on this a couple of weeks ago, but I need ideas of things for my kids to do this summer! My oldest will be 8 yo, then we have a 6 yo, 4 yo, 3 yo, 1 1/2 yo and due in Sept. with baby 6! We need to increase our chore duties, but some other supervised ideas would be helpful! Thanks!

 Sara, we do a very relaxed school schedule year round so we don’t have to come up with ideas to keep busy during the summer.  🙂  However, the kids do have a fair amount of free time every day, and once their chores are done here are some of the ways they spend it:

  • Sewing
  • Drawing
  • Reading/researching a personal interest
  • Playing games alone, with each other, or with me
  • Water play, especially on hot summer days
  • Forced labor*
*Forced labor is primarily for those who utter The Forbidden Words.  You know what those are, right?  “I’m boooorrrrred.”
4.  Adrienne asked, What do you say to all the people with comments? With six kids eight and under, I’m going to go crazy. What do you do when they are negative within earshot of children?

Adrienne, I think being the second generation of a very big family gives me a huge advantage.  I have a very thick skin when it comes to those comments.  I have found that most comments come from people who mean well enough and may just be lacking in manners.  I answer pleasantly and positively and they just don’t bother me.  I often try to slip a little something meaningful into my answer:

Comment: You must be a lot more patient than I am.  I can hardly handle having one!

Answer: I wasn’t this patient when I had only one, but I think God uses kids to help teach us, too.  I’m still learning patience every day!


Comment: That’s a lot of kids.  Is it a religious thing?

Answer: Yes, we’re Christians.  The Bible teaches that kids are a blessing, so we’re thankful for each one God sends.


Comment: You have how many kids?!  Is this your last one?

Answer: We’ll see.  We believe kids are a blessing from God, so we’re happy to take them as He sends them.

Most of the time, people respond positively when I do – or I’m just naive and oblivious enough to think they are being positive.  Either way works for me.  🙂

The rare negative comments that the kids hear may become the topic of conversation later, but again it just doesn’t occur to us to be hurt by the comments.  It goes something like this: “Better you than me.  I can hardly stand my own 2 kids!”  Kids whisper as we leave, “I feel so bad for that lady’s poor kids.  It doesn’t sound like she likes them at all!”

5.  Lindsey asked, What do you do with all the completed work? Workbooks? Artwork?

 Lindsey, maybe I’m a bad mom but we keep little or no schoolwork.  The kids think it’s fun to be allowed to toss or dramatically destroy finished workbooks, and I encourage it because it’s one less thing I have to find a place to store.  They do keep journals and sketchbooks, as these take a long time to fill and require relatively little space.

We also have some artwork in the file cabinet, but often we choose to scan or photograph art rather than saving the original.  This lets us save it digitally and also makes it easier to organize and share.

6.  Kayce asked,  If you breast fed. How did you wean? Baby led, sippy cups? My daughter is 15 months.

Kayce, I breastfed all my babies so far.  In 8 out 10, weaning was a sort of joint agreement.  They began to lose interest and I was happy to let them eat more solid food and nurse less until we both entirely forgot about nursing.  Those 8 were weaned anywhere from 12-20 months old.

In two cases, the nursing baby began to transform into a demanding toddler who wanted to be nursed RIGHT NOW and didn’t deal well with delays.  Those children were gently but firmly weaned some time after their first birthdays (around 14-16 months, I think?) primarily by breaking their schedules up a bit: I purposely delayed the first morning feeding by distracting them with food or a cup of milk; I nursed them a half hour before bed instead of just before bedtime, etc.  When they learned not to expect feedings at a concrete time, it became much easier to fill them up on solid food and drinks and entirely skip feedings, and over the course of a few weeks they were painlessly weaned.


The other moms are taking questions this week, too.  Here’s what they say:

Upcoming topics for 4 Moms:

  • May 24 – Homeschooling when in a rotten temper

Recent topics:

About 4 Moms, including a complete list of all past topics


  1. I just wanted to comment on breastfeeding. I am expecting #6 and have breastfed 5 babies so far. 🙂 All boys. I wean them within about 6 weeks of finding out that I am pregnant. I find that it is a fairly natural process, I just distract them with something else and drop one feeding at a time.This has been anywhere from 15-22 months. Breastfeeding can be an amazing form of birth control for some women. I used the breastfeeding ” mini-pill” in between babies with the first 4. ( I know- boo! hiss!) For those babies, I got my period back anywhere from 12-17 months. After this last baby, number 5, we did not use any birth control whatsoever. I got pregnant when my baby was 15 months, and it was a guessing game when I would be due because I had’nt had a period of all. It just so happens that my pregnancy ended in miscarriage… followed by another very early miscarriage. My point in all of this, though is that breastfeeding *can* be an amazing natural rest period for many women’s bodies… but you have to do a lot of breastfeeding. I keep it going about every 3 hours or so for a very long time… ( Nighttime is another story if they are sleeping through the night) I would really encourage first time mommies to get some literature on breastfeeding and birth control. I think that God has designed our bodies to be amazing…. It just so happens that with a combo. of breastfeeding and my (sad) early miscarriages, we will have a 28 month age gap this time. God is in control. 🙂 Blessings to all the mommies out there,

  2. In my experience, it was the hardest after I had my last baby, when we went from 3 to 4. I had friends tell me that having 4 wasn’t much different than having 3, because once you have that many you don’t notice one more kid running around or screaming. But #4 was hard. Maybe a lot of it had to do with #4 being the worst.sleeper.ever. If you can even call her a sleeper. I have all girls ages 9, 4 1/2 , 2, and 9 months, but my oldest, God bless her… she has the best of intentions, but sometimes I think she has confetti between her ears instead of a brain. She at least won’t let the house burn down if I need to rest for a while. I don’t think. :/

  3. I mostly agree with your theory about the age of 5! But my theory has 2 other factors as well. 🙂 For some reason most girls seem to be better at helping to me. Just something I’ve noticed. Plus some babies are rather more demanding than others… So my theory is that if your oldest is a normally-helpful girl or an abnormally helpful boy, and your baby isn’t one of those who screams 22 hours a day for the first 5 months (I had one of those and it was the hardest 5 months of my life!), then when your oldest is 5 it will be the turning point. My oldest is a girl and my hardest transition was from 1 kid to 2 kids, very closely followed by adding a third! Just going from 0 to 1 child was harder than going from 3 to 4. My first 3 have almost exactly 2 years spacing, then 15 months between #3 and #4. I was scared. But lo and behold, my oldest was 5 1/4 when my 4th came along and I barely noticed, difficulty wise, and I think it’s because my 4th baby is a dream baby and my oldest is a very mature and “I want to help!” natured girl. It sure helps when they can use the bathroom alone, get their own drinks, and put on their own clothes.

  4. For me the hardest was going from 4 to 5 children. My oldest was 4.5 and they were all boys! …baby 5 was a girl! 🙂 But I think you’re right about the age of 5 thing…makes sense.

  5. I don’t know for sure of course, but we’re expecting number 3 right now and I think it is going to be a lot easier than number 2. The first two were only 18 months apart and it was hard for a while. Now my oldest is 3 going to turn 4 soon, but he can already help me with so many things, even things like hanging up small laundry items like diapers on clip hangers for the clothesline and peeling carrots. I am very surprised and grateful that he can already help so much because I really do need the help.

  6. This post was super helpful! We have 2 boys so far (3.75 and 18 months) and are hoping to conceive #3 soon… If this month is “the month” our oldest would be 4.5 when baby3 came… Having 2 was REALLY hard in the beginning for us, but my babies tend to have colic/reflux issues and don’t sleep or like to be put down at ALL the first 5 months or so… I am hopeful that the transition from 2 to 3 will be a little easier. 😉

    I do have a question about the breastfeeding/weaning. I am curious why you weaned sooner/quicker with the babies who are more demanding of nursing? My 18 month old is still nursing and has become very demanding about nursing very often here lately, and has never been a big eater (so it’s hard to fill him up with snacks/drinks!) and is hard to distract…. I am getting to the point of wanting to wean soon or at least cut back on nursing somewhat. With #1, he was a big eater and easily distracted so we weaned peacefully around his 2nd birthday in the manor you described with your easy weaners above.

    • Catie, I didn’t mean that they were demanding because they wanted to eat often. It was an attitude problem – they expected me to obey them instantly when they put in a request, acting as if they were the mother and I the child. It was a behavior issue that I could have and maybe should have dealt with directly rather than removing the circumstances, but I was also pregnant and dealing with extreme nausea each time so I took the easy way out.

  7. Hi, Kim! I was curious how I could ask a question for your Q&A. I don’t have a facebook account. Is there another way to submit a question? Thanks!!

    • Rachel, you can post your question here and I’ll do my very [pathetic] best to remember to answer you in the next round. I’ll also offer my apology in advance for forgetting. 😉

  8. I love that everybody (and really, I’ve seen so many people say it!) says that their little ones can get their own milk. Are my children just particularly puny and weak, or are you guys buying your milk by the pint, or what? No way can my five year old lift a jug of milk! Even a half-gallon is pushing it, though my seven year old can finally manage that. 🙂

    • Mother Lydia says:

      My almost-5 year old is very self-sufficient (He can make peanut butter crackers for himself if the lid is not put on too tightly!) and he can’t pour his own milk! He can barely handle the gallon to get it out of the fridge for me to pour!

    • Cindy, maybe it helps that our milk is never full… or maybe you do just have puny kids. 🙂
      I don’t let the 5yo pour from a full jug, but he insists that he can and occasionally proves it before I can object.
      Now the 23mo… that’s a different matter. He tipped a full jug on the counter last week and spilled half of it. On the bright side, I was comfortable letting the 5yo pour from the jug after that incident.

    • My oldest is a clutz. She’s 5. She takes after me. 🙂 You should see the mess when she tries to spread peanut butter or flip a pancake… OH! But her younger brother is 3 and he has no trouble making himself a sandwich and cutting it too, and he’s a pro at flipping flapjacks. Different talents I guess. He’s very coordinated. Anyway, I let the oldest pour herself milk when the jug was half full or less.

      Then we started buying raw milk in half gallon glass jars.
      There is NO WAY I’m letting my sweet little clumsy girl pour out of a glass jar. No way.
      So I put the milk into one of those iced tea jars with the little spout at the bottom. Still glass but now it stays in the fridge even while being “poured” from. Now both the 5 and 3 year olds can dispense their own milk. Problem solved. 😉

      • I love the tea dispenser idea! I have strong kids. My oldest held her head up on her own an hour after she was born, but was not at all able to do for herself until around 5. My second, was getting her own snacks and snacks for her older sister at 2 1/2. Making her own sandwiches at 3 1/2 etc… Both girls where getting their own drinks before 5 but never if the milk was over 1/2 full, they could take the milk to the table and get a cup from the dishwasher, but I would pour, less than half full and the 4-5 year old could pour.

  9. harmonyl says:

    My almost-3-year-old knows how to operate the dvd player _and_ the laptop. I’m pretty sure that makes me a pretty horrible mom… or just a mom who has been on bedrest too often over the last year. But I’m also quite certain it will be helpful when #2 arrives in about 6 months. 😉

  10. HeatherHH says:

    For another answer to #1. My first four children were all just under 2 years apart. My hardest transition was probably from #3 to #4. When #4 was born, my other children were 5 1/2, 3 1/2, 2 1/2, and 23 months. So, the oldest really wasn’t that much help yet. Plus, just a couple months after #4’s birth, just when I was recovering, I started to have symptoms of fibromyalgia and moderate Vit. D deficiency. It’d be over a year until I figured out the latter, as it declined into a severe deficiency and symptoms got worse. If it hadn’t been for my health issues, I’m not sure whether the #4 transition would have been any harder than to #3.

    • Isn’t your oldest a boy, Heather? I’m thinking that figures in, also, as in my (limited) experience girls seem naturally better at knowing what needs doing.

      • HeatherHH says:

        Yes, my oldest is a boy. And his personality has always been to be more lost in his own little world. Now, my 3 year old boy is much more observant than his big brother was at his age!

        I think my later children also had learned how to do various things better by the time they were the age of the oldest. Mama got better at training 🙂

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