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Want to be a 'relaxed' mom? Have at least four kids

WEST FARGO — Our fourth child, a daughter, was born this fall. As I write this, she is exactly three months out of the womb.

Throughout my pregnancy, as we battled wills with a 7-, 5-, and 3-year-old, I said to my husband multiple times, "What makes us think we can handle four?! This is going to be terrible!"

Turns out, maybe I was wrong.

While we have been blessed with "easy babies" with each of our children, this one (so far) takes the cake. We hear over and over that "once you have three, adding another is no big deal," and it seems that phrase is true. Going from three to four, when we've been outnumbered for three years now, is just the new normal.

Normal though doesn't mean easy, but it seems I give off that aura. Lately, multiple people have commented to me, "You seem so relaxed!"

I can't help the look of shock that takes over my face. I certainly don't feel relaxed.

Most of the time, at home especially, I feel stressed by the mess, irritated by the constant reminders I have to give and tired from the simultaneous cries of "Mama! Why. Aren't. You. Listening to ME!"

But if relaxed is the impression I give, then there must be something to it.

As I was pondering this recently occurring statement, a friend shared an online article entitled "Why Moms of 3 Are So Stressed - But Moms of 4+ Are So Chill." The article quoted a recent survey as well as a 2016 study, both which reflected my new status: once you get past the challenge of three children, the stress levels off.

Of course, everyone has their theories on why this happens, and every child and household is different. The common belief is that the majority of parents are hyper-vigilant and overbearing with their first child and continue to chill out with each addition. I think we've been fairly even-keeled with all of our children: they've been comfortable with sleepovers since a few months old, we've never owned a video baby monitor and our family rule is that if you can't remember when you last took a bath, then chances are good you need one.

Many parents I talk to feel that going from two to three was their biggest hurdle (man defense vs. zone), whereas my toughest transition was from one to two (getting an occasional break vs. someone always needing you). Now that I'm used to always being available to a small human, well, that's just the way it is for this season of my life.

On the last day of Christmas break, my middle son woke up and immediately asked if we could have a pajama day. Sure! They busted out the matching striped jammies, and everyone was in a good mood. However, we also needed to make a Target run for a snack restock.

"Do we need to put clothes on?"

"Nah! You can wear those."

As we traipsed through the store, mama with her Starbucks, baby with her paci and my three pajama-clad amigos, I actually did feel relaxed. We could browse the toy aisle without rushing, I let the kids hide in the racks, and I told myself that the side-eye looks I got from strangers were all reflective of their bemused enjoyment of my adorable offspring.