How Having Five (or More) Kids Changes Your Parenting

Are you the same parent with five kids as you were with two?

big family

Once you learn the ropes of parenting (which usually happens after having a kid or two), you probably feel like you’ve conquered the entire world. You’re a great mom or dad! You’ve got this whole parenting thing down. You could add as many kids as you want to your brood and nothing much will change, right?

Yeah...not quite. While you won’t become a totally different person—or parent—with every child you have, your parenting style is definitely going to adapt as your family grows in size. Three kids is not the same as five kids, or eight kids, or *gasp* ten kids. 

Since having five or more kids is generally the cutoff point for being considered a “large” family, here are all the ways your parenting will change once you hit that pivotal plus-five milestone. 

You Lower Your Expectations

Sure, back when you “only” had two kids, you could get everyone fed, well-dressed, and out the door to school in under one hour (all while washing the breakfast dishes, walking the dog, and throwing in a load of laundry). But having a big family means every task has to be prioritized, and you simply won’t be able to do everything in the same time frame. 

Maybe you can feed all five kids breakfast or get them all dressed in weather-appropriate clothing; you probably can’t have both. If that means some kids are putting on their shoes in the minivan (or wearing shorts when it’s 20 degrees out), then so be it. 

And the laundry? It will still be there when you get home (it always is!).

You Throw Out the Parenting Books

Who needs Dr. Sears when you’ve got the on-the-job experience of raising five or more kids?

Gone are the days of consulting outside “experts” each time you have a parenting question—now, other parents (heck, even your pediatrician!) come to you for advice, since you’ve “been there, done that” more times than most. 

A side bonus here is that you’re more confident as a parent when you have many children: you not only have the know-how to make reasonable decisions, you’ve basically been running a decade-long sociology experiment in your home and so far all your kids have turned out (mostly) fine. You must kind of know what you’re doing, right?!

You Embrace Frugality

We’re not saying that having a big brood automatically transforms you into an extreme couponer...but feeding, clothing, and housing more than a couple of kids isn’t cheap, no matter how budget-conscious you may be. When you start adding kids to your family, you start losing money in a big way—unless you become a master saver.

Parents of multiple kids learn to shop for quality second-hand goods, utilize cost-savings at warehouse stores like Costco, create meal plans around weekly sales and discounts, re-purpose old items into new ones, and pinch pennies whenever and wherever possible. Soon enough, it just becomes a way of life not to buy anything full-price or brand new.

You Adjust Your Standards for “Good” Parenting

Remember when you didn’t have any kids and you announced you would never be the type of parent who did X, Y, or Z (fill in the blank with your undesirable parenting topic of choice)? Well, now that you have five or more kids, you’ve learned that good moms and dads come in all shapes and sizes, and there is almost no limit to what you’ll do just to survive parenthood.

Does leaving dirty dishes in the sink for 48 hours make you a bad parent? Not when you have five kids! If your kids are wearing two different shoes outside of the house, are you negligent? Nope—just busy. Did your youngest son refuse to potty train until he was almost five? At least he’s not going to college in diapers!

The more kids you have, the more you realize that “good” parenting is all about loving your kids (and that you should take every opportunity to sleep in the first ten years that you can, even if it means having sticky floors). 

You Learn to Outsource 

How many hands do you have? That’s right, just the two...and they’re usually pretty busy with the care and raising of all your kiddos. So, there’s pretty much no way you can also cook and clean for your family all by yourself. Or entertaining toddlers 24/7. Or do all the grocery shopping, stay on top of the laundry, drive kids back and forth from activities, the list goes on. 

Moms of large families know that outsourcing certain tasks and chores is the only way to get through their never-ending to-do list. They learn to delegate responsibility—to older children, to extended family members, to affordable house cleaners, and supermarket delivery services. They not only get comfortable asking for help, they learn to accept it graciously rather than view it as a sign of weakness.

You Don’t Bother With “Fairness”

It’s the battle-cry of kids with siblings everywhere: “But Moooom! That’s not fair!” 

When you have two or three kids, you might be able to maintain some semblance of equality in your household. But once you have more than four, your parenting strategy becomes less focused on what’s “fair” and more focused on what’s necessary.

Your older kids might cry foul when you let their younger siblings stay up past 8 p.m. sooner than they were allowed to, but you can’t be in three different bedrooms at once, so that’s just the way it is. 

The other way “fairness” gets abandoned in favor of necessity as your family grows is in how you discipline each individual child. If you have five kids, you have five wildly different personalities living in your house, and each one may require a different approach when it comes to discipline.

Maybe your four-year-old needs a hug and some kind—but firm—correction, but your six-year-old just needs to lose their iPad time. Will that look “fair” to your kids? No, but you know them best, so you get to call the shots. 

You Look at the Big Picture

The things that seem monumental to you as a new parent (like diaper brands and consistent nap schedules) decrease in size the more kids you have. Why? You don’t have the time or energy to worry about Every. Little. Detail. 

Instead, you’re focused on the big picture: Do your kids seem happy and content? Do they have strong sibling bonds? Is everyone pitching in and contributing to the household tasks and family responsibilities? Basically, are you raising good humans?

If you can confidently say the answer is “Yes,” then you’re less likely to get bogged down in day-to-day minutiae and more likely to look at how your family is growing over time (think months or years, not minute to minute). 

2 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Maroto M. Saving, sharing, or spending? The wealth consequences of raising children. Demography. 2018;55(6):2257-2282. doi:10.1007/s13524-018-0716-1

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Positive parenting tips. Reviewed February 22, 2021.

By Sarah Bradley
Sarah Bradley is a freelance health and parenting writer who has been published in Parents, the Washington Post, and more.