REPORT Mothers of three report highest stress levels

Cute cat mom with kitten

Is there a reason humans only have two hands? In the words of one mom, maybe that’s a sign to close up the baby factory after two kids.

“Going from one to two was an easy, breezy transition,” said Jill Smokler, a Baltimore mother of three, told Today Moms. “Two to three, everything was turned upside down. I do not feel like I have it together. You only have two hands! Just crossing the street and not being able to physically hold all their hands I find tremendously stressful.”

According to a new survey of more than 7,000 visitors, mothers of three report higher levels of stress than mothers of any other number of children.

Sounds a little counter-intuitive, doesn’t it? Why are mothers of four, five, eight or 10 more stressed? It may be because of a little thing Today refers to as the “Duggar effect.” With four or more children, moms fall into simpler routines and habits. They also don’t have the ability to micromanage or feel anxious about little details.

The Duggar Family

“The more children you have, the more confident you become in your parenting abilities,” said Janet Taylor, a New York psychiatrist and mother of four. “You have to let go… And then you’re just thankful when they all get to school on time.”

The survey also revealed that approximately 1-in-2 mothers say their partners cause even more stress than their kids. After a 2010 survey found that spouses are more stressful than work, Cary Cooper, a British psychology professor, told the Daily Mail that partners often take out frustrations on each other. This negative cycle breeds even more stress.

Based on the Today survey, 60 percent of mothers believe it is more stressful to raise daughters than it is to raise sons. That may well be because of the pressure mothers feel to help their daughters keep positive body images or because mothers are more critical of daughters.

Regardless of whether mothers have one or 10, boys of girls, one thing seems inevitable: They are going to feel stressed. On average, the Today survey revealed moms report and 8.5 out of 10 on a stress scale.

The trick is not to feel stressed about being stressed — as 72 percent of moms reported experiencing.

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  • Ace

    Well I’m a mother of 2, and let me tell you I found (and still kinda do, 9 months later) it to be a very hard transition. Because with that transition it is the first time you are learning how to divide your attention between kids. Mind you we believe my eldest has ADD and my baby has had a multitude of medical problems so that didn’t help. And for a spouse to cause more stress than kids? That’s crazy. I don’t know what I’d do without my husband, he reduces my stress!

  • awoman

    My mother in law was a mom to 5 and two of her kids each have 4 and they all claim that going from 2 to 3 is the hardest.
    I think it is because you still have a certain amount of control over 2 that you can’t have over three. You have to learn to let go of that kind of control once you have the third and it is a hard thing to let go of, even if you fancy yourself a pretty laid back person. By the time 4 or more roll around, you’ve already learned that lesson.

  • B

    I have 3 kids and I completely agree with this.

  • Nathan

    Strange. I’ve always heard the transition from 2 to 3 was pretty easy. Going from 1 to 2 is what is really difficult. When I had my second child, I thought it would be the same as having 1 kid but just twice as much work. It’s more like 4 times as much work making that transition.

  • Ally

    I completely agree with this when I went from 1 to 2 it was hard dont get me wrong and I didn’t think it would be really that different adding a 3rd, boy was I wrong! You have 2 eyes, 2 hands,(normally 2 people, with your husband) but when you add in a 3rd it brings on a whole new level