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Why moms of 3 are so stressed—but moms of 4+ are so chill

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I have one child. Just one, single child, yet it often takes me a solid hour to get out of the house. When I've finally shut the door behind us, I wonder how people with a bunch of kids do it. Then again, sometimes I'll see a very chill parent getting off the bus while baby-wearing, pushing a stroller and simultaneously directing a small gaggle of school-age kids and think, She looks way less stressed than I feel. According to a survey of more than 7,000 mothers, she probably is.

A survey by TODAY found moms of four or more kids report lower stress levels than moms of fewer kids, but they have to get over a hurdle to get there. The survey found moms of three stress more than those of us with just one or two kids, but once you get beyond three, it's smooth(er) sailing.

Perhaps it's that moms of large families learn to better cope with stress and let more things go. Or perhaps women who have an easier time dealing with stress are more likely to want more kids. But, surprisingly, four kids seems to be the magic number when stress lowers for mothers.

This isn't news to psychotherapist and author Kelley Kitley. A mom of four herself, Kitley feels that moms of large families are often unfairly perceived as more stressed than they actually are. "So many women with large families get a bad rap," says Kitley.

According to Kitley (whose children are 11, nine, seven and five) large families mean parents reap the stress-relieving benefits of teamwork and sibling bonding. "They encourage each other, hold each other accountable, help out more to lighten the load at home, and the kids entertain each other," Kitley explains. "Having more than three kids certainly hasn't been a breeze—the laundry in and of itself is overwhelming—but overall, it's a lot of fun."

There is some scientific support for the idea that it's not just the parents in larger households who are less stressed, but the kids, too.

A 2016 study of Norwegian kids found those who grow up in large families have fewer mental problems, suggesting the households in general are less stressed. The more siblings a kid has and and the closer in age they are, the more pronounced the stress-reducing effects, say the researchers.

Of course, to get to the stress-protecting factor for kids and adults as indicated in the survey, you would have to get beyond the hurdle of having three kids and moving on to four, which isn't something some parents (like me) have any interest in doing. According to some experts, three can be as hard as the survey suggests.

"For some families, three is tough, because I've interviewed parents that said they had it under control with two—man on man defense—[but] with 3 kids, they were now playing zone defense, and it was trickier," says Dr. Jennifer Wider, author of The New Mom's Survival Guide and Got Teens.

Parental stress levels depend more on the attitudes in the family than the exact number of kids, according to Wider, but in her research, the overarching sentiment was that moms felt more confident and less stressed with subsequent children.

That's a phenomenon that's been dubbed "the Duggar effect," implying that once you get passed a certain number of kids, the stress levels don't increase with subsequent children.

A 2000 study out of Sweden suggests the opposite is true, and that parental stress levels actually do increase with the number of children in the home. The study contradicts the survey, and so do some parenting experts.

"I don't agree with these survey results," says Eirene Heidelberger, the founder of GIT Mom, a parenting coaching service that helps stressed out moms "get it together."

The sheer logistics of organizing a large family can be very stressful, says Heidelberger, a mom of three boys herself, and parents can't count on older kids to make things easier around the house. "Children do not raise themselves nor should siblings be expected to raise their younger siblings," adds Heidelberger. "It takes a lot of energy, mental resources and money to raise a large family to ensure each child feels loved, special and tended to."

Indeed, parenting requires a lot of us. A recent study found parents in general are more stressed than people without kids, but it's not our kids that are stressing us out, it's things like lack of paid leave, affordable childcare and sick time.

So in a world where those things are hard to come by, how many kids is the right number for a less stressful life? It's whatever number you want and think you can handle, says Kitley (and your instincts).

She doesn't want to see moms of one shamed for not giving their child a sibling any more than she wants mothers with large families to be criticized for their choices. She just wants moms to try and see the joy of parenting, because that will reduce our stress, no matter how many children we're leaving the house with. "The more we can enjoy it and embrace it, more than feeling like [parenting] is this daunting task, the better time we'll have doing it," she says.

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If there's one thing you learn as a new mama, it's that routine is your friend. Routine keeps your world spinning, even when you're trucking along on less than four hours of sleep. Routine fends off tantrums by making sure bellies are always full and errands aren't run when everyone's patience is wearing thin. And routine means naps are taken when they're supposed to, helping everyone get through the day with needed breaks.

The only problem? Life doesn't always go perfectly with the routine. When my daughter was born, I realized quickly that, while her naps were the key to a successful (and nearly tear-free!) day, living my life according to her nap schedule wasn't always possible. There were groceries to fetch, dry cleaning to pick up, and―if I wanted to maintain any kind of social life―lunch dates with friends to enjoy.

Which is why the Ergobaby Metro Compact City Stroller was such a life-saver. While I loved that it was just 14 pounds (perfect for hoisting up the stairs to the subway or in the park) and folds down small enough to fit in an airplane overhead compartment (you know, when I'm brave enough to travel again!), the real genius of this pint-sized powerhouse is that it doesn't skimp on comfort.

Nearly every surface your baby touches is padded with plush cushions to provide side and lumbar support to everything from their sweet head to their tiny tush―it has 40% more padding than other compact strollers. When nap time rolls around, I could simply switch the seat to its reclined position with an adjustable leg rest to create an instant cozy nest for my little one.

There's even a large UV 50 sun canopy to throw a little shade on those sleepy eyes. And my baby wasn't the only one benefiting from the comfortable design― the Metro is the only stroller certified "back healthy" by the AGR of Germany, meaning mamas get a much-needed break too.

I also appreciate how the Metro fits comfortably into my life. The sleek profile fits through narrow store aisles as easily as it slides up to a table when I'm able to meet a pal for brunch. Plus, the spring suspension means the tires absorb any bumps along our way―helping baby stay asleep no matter where life takes us. When it's time to take my daughter out, it folds easily with one hand and has an ergonomic carry handle to travel anywhere we want to go.

Life will probably never be as predictable as I'd like, but at least with our Metro stroller, I know my child will be cradled with care no matter what crosses our path.

This article is sponsored by Ergobaby. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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The series is coming to an end but the names George R. R. Martin gave his characters will live on in the classrooms and on the playgrounds of America.

As we mentioned last week, Game of Thrones inspired baby names graced the birth certificates of thousands of babies born in the United States in 2028. It's no surprise that a popular show influenced parents, but what is surprising is that parents of girls are more likely to choose a GoT name.

When you take Jamie and Jon out of the equation (because they were always popular way before GoT) the most popular names inspired by the show belong to two strong women: Arya and the Kahlessi.

As NBC data journalist Joe Murphy first reported, Arya is the most popular Game of Thrones inspired name in America, belonging to 2545 girls in 2018. There were not nearly as many little babies named Daenarys, but her Dothraki title, Khaleesi, comes in second place with 560 baby girls taking that one. There are also 19 girls called Caleesi and 5 little Khaleesies who got an extra 'e'.

As the New York Times reports, as a name, 'Khaleesi' is more popular than other major pop-culture characters, like Hermoine or Katniss or Tris. Those names never made it into the Social Security Administrations top 1,000 baby names, but in 2017 Khaleesi was ranked 630th and in 2018 it was the 549th most popular baby girl name.

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That's hundreds of spots higher than the name Brittany (or Britney) or even some more modern, trendy names like Ensley. It's also way, way higher Sansa, which was only given to 29 girls in 2018.

Even abroad, Khaleesi is a Queen when it comes to baby names. According to the New York Times, it's on the rise in the UK and Scotland, where several parents have created hyphenated versions, including Khaleesi-Destiny, Khaleesi-Grace, and Khaleesi-Marie.

Tonight the on-screen Khaleesi will meet her fate, but no matter what happens to the Mother of Dragons, plenty of moms have ensured this pop culture icon will live on.

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Plenty of modern motherhood paraphernalia was made to be seen—think breastfeeding pillows that seamlessly blend into living room decor or diaper bags that look like stylish purses. The breast pump though, usually isn't on that list.

It's traditionally been used in the privacy of our homes and hotel rooms in the best case scenarios, and in storage closets and restrooms in the worst circumstances. For a product that is very often used by mothers because they need to be in public spaces (like work and school), the breast pump lives a very private life.

Thankfully, some high profile moms are changing that by posting their pump pics on Instagram. These influential mamas aren't gonna hide while they pump, and may change the way the world (and product designers) see this necessary accessory.

Amy Schumer

Schumer has been super real about the realities of postpartum life since welcoming her son into the world and there is nothing more real than hashtagging your pump pic #ootd, because we know that for new moms sometimes this really is your "outfit of the day."

We're thankful to these women for showing that breast pumps belong in public and in our Instagram feeds.

[This post was originally published on May 31, 2018, but has been updated to include recent Instagram posts.]

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After quite a wait (he was born last week) Kim Kardashian and Kanye West have finally revealed their baby boy's name and it isn't what the internet was expecting.

While Kim had previously hinted at the name Robert, after her late father and her brother, the couple went with a name that makes sense given Kanye's new Sunday Services.

Baby number four for the Kardashian-Wests is called Psalm West, his mom announced via Instagram.

Psalm is the fourth child for Kim and Kanye, who are already raising 5-year-old North, 3-year-old Saint and 1-year-old Chicago.

Welcome to the family Psalm!

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Mornings can be so rough making sure everyone has what they need for the day and managing to get out the door on time. A recent survey by Indeed found that 60% of new moms say managing a morning routine is a significant challenge, and another new survey reveals just why that is.

The survey, by snack brand Nutri-Grain, suggests that all the various tasks and child herding parents take on when getting the family out the door in the morning adds up to basically an extra workday every week!

Many parents will tell you that it can take a couple of hours to get out of the house each morning person, and as the survey found, most of us need to remind the kids "at least twice in the morning to get dressed, brush their teeth, or put on their shoes."

According to Nutri-Grain, by the end of the school year, the average parent will have asked their children to hurry up almost 540 times across the weekday mornings.

We totally get it. It's hard to wait on little ones when we have a very grown-up schedule to get on with, but maybe the world needs to realize that kids just aren't made to be fast.

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As Rachel Macy Stafford, the author of Hands Free Mama, Hands Free Life, writes, having a child who wants to enjoy and marvel at the world while mama is trying to rush through it is hard.

"Whenever my child caused me to deviate from my master schedule, I thought to myself, 'We don't have time for this.' Consequently, the two words I most commonly spoke to my little lover of life were: 'Hurry up.'" she explains.

We're always telling our kids to hurry up, but maybe, maybe, we should be telling ourselves—and society—to slow down.

That's what Stafford did. She took "hurry up" out of her vocabulary and in doing so made that extra workday worth of time into quality time with her daughter, instead of crunch time. She worked on her patience, and let her daughter marvel at the world or slow down when she had to.

"To help us both, I began giving her a little more time to prepare if we had to go somewhere. And sometimes, even then, we were still late. Those were the times I assured myself that I will be late only for a few years, if that, while she is young."

It's great advice, but unless we mamas can get the wider world on board, it's hard to put into practice. When the school bus comes at 7:30 am and you've gotta be at the office at 8 am, when the emails start coming before you're out of bed or your pay gets docked if you punch in five minutes late, it is hard to slow down.

So to those who are making the schedules the rest of us have to live by, to the employers and the school boards and the wider culture, we ask: Can we slow down?

Indeed's survey suggests that the majority of moms would benefit from a more flexible start time at work and the CDC suggests that starting school later would help students.

Mornings are tough for parents, but they don't have to be as hard as they are.

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