You know that thing people say about how once you get to 3 kids, you might as well keep going because it doesn't get any harder? Well, like most bold faced cultural lies, there is SOME truth in it. Behold my musings on caring for a "larger" family of 4 kids and a baby.
For example, the older kids are able to help more by the time you get to that point - this can be a wonderful relief to the mom who has gotten through the years of several small ones and no one to help. However, in my experience, 4 children can make a mess of their toys, books, clothes, and bedding approximately 10 times faster than 2 children. Conversely, cleaning up takes 25 times longer with 4 children than with 2 (and probably 50 times longer than with 1, although it depends heavily on the temperament of that one, doesn't it?) because of the addition of distraction and fighting to the activity of cleanup.
Cooking food for 4 children is not appreciably different than cooking food for 2 children. However, getting seconds and thirds of food and drink for the good eaters while cajoling the "too picky to live" children and simultaneously feeding the small, messy boy while nursing the baby... I'll just be blunt, it's exhausting to the point of death. I will say that I feel the need to upgrade to larger cookware at this point because lately using my usual casserole dishes and pots is a fairly good way to ace Daddy out of his dinner - which may or may not matter depending on when and in what condition he arrives home, given his unpredictability in these matters.
Taking the children for outings has gotten really complicated in the last year. No matter where we go, near or far, someone has to use the bathroom. I think the short story is that no matter where in the birth order you are, having a baby and a potty-training toddler is the surest recipe for outing misery known to mom-dom. However, adding in big kids who have their own potty schedules and may be reluctant to go when it's convenient (although normally they do go then and then ALSO need to go when it isn't) but still need to be safely guided to and from the restroom means that on any outing, I will be visiting it more or less every 15 minutes. Even a simple trip to a playground can be curtailed after only 5 minutes of play because someone has to use the bathroom. And back home we go, wondering why we ventured out in the first place.
Anyway, it's been almost a year and things are still not "bounced back" here. I spend all day chasing my tail trying to just stay on top of the urgent and continual needs... trying to keep the kids moving forward in their schoolwork and keep them fed and keep the laundry moving... and every day the lesser tasks get perpetually sidelined for another day... which at this point looks like it will truly never come.
I'm not trying to scare anyone out of having a big family but don't do it because it "doesn't get any harder" after 3. It does. And just like all the other times, we adapt and we change and we pray and we cry and, if history has anything to teach us about this, eventually we do get back on our feet, stronger and better than before. Hoping that will happen soon.