Study Shows 3 Is The Most Stressful Number Of Kids For Parents

Parents with three children are more likely to be stressed by parenthood than those with other family sizes, according to a 2013 study.

The finding is pretty shocking. Being a parent is difficult, period. And you would probably expect that it only gets more difficult as you continue to add more children to your plate.

But that’s not quite how it works. Instead, the study showed that moms with three kids are actually more stressed than those with four or more kids! They’re also more stressed than those with one or two kids, which isn’t surprising.

The study polled approximately 7,000 US mothers. Participants rated their stress level on a scale of 1 to 10. They also answered questions about the sources of their stress, like the pressure to be perfect, money worries, and work/life balance.

Having more kids can actually make life easier on parents, it seems. With each additional child, parents focus less on perfectionism and more on relaxing and enjoying their family.

See how psychologists explained the fascinating results below.

A 2013 study by the Today show polled around 7,000 moms about their stress levels.

The study found that moms with three kids were more likely to be stressed than those with either one or two kids, or four or more kids.

Surprisingly, parents with four or more kids were the least stressed out of everyone.

That’s partly because parents with more children aren’t as worried about being perfect.

“There’s just not enough space in your head for perfectionism when you get to four or more kids,” explained Dr. Janet Taylor, a psychiatrist in New York who also happens to have four kids of her own.



Parents with four or more kids are also more confident in what they’re doing.

“The more children you have, the more confident you become in your parenting abilities,” Dr. Taylor said. “You have to let go… and then you’re just thankful when they all get to school on time.”

Parents with one or two kids are also less stressed, which makes sense — they have fewer responsibilities on their plate.

“Going from one to two was an easy, breezy transition,” shared Jill Smokler, the founder of Scary Mommy.

“Two to three, everything was turned upside down. I did not feel like I had it together… just crossing the street and not being able to physically hold all their hands I found tremendously stressful.”

So three kids is a stressful number. Does that mean parents with three kids are screwed?

Actually, the study’s results might just be a reminder for Kate Middleton, Kim Kardashian, and everyone else who has three little ones at home to spend more time on stress reduction and self-care.

In the study, the average mom — with any number of kids — was at an 8.5 stress level on a scale of 10.

That level of daily stress takes a serious toll on the mind and body. A lot of moms even said that they feel stressed about being stressed, which definitely doesn’t help!

Instead, Dr. Taylor recommends an exercise for stressed-out parents.

Take a piece of paper and draw a pie chart that shows how you spend the hours in your day. Then flip the paper over and draw a pie chart of how you’d like to be spending that time. Pick one or two of the things that are on the second pie chart, and bring them into reality.

Because interestingly enough, 60% of moms reported that “lack of time” was their biggest cause of stress. And 46% of moms said that their husbands or partners cause them more stress than their kids do.

“You have to be able to say no to your kids, to your spouse, to your friends sometimes,” Dr. Taylor said.

“Instead of making the perfect lunch for your kids, go for a walk by yourself. Even if it’s just 10 minutes, take some deep breaths and focus on what you need.”

Every mom has to find her own balance. But if you have three kids, hang in there — and don’t forget to take care of yourself, too.

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