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Sarah Biren
Sarah Biren
January 23, 2024 ·  3 min read

Mom Survey Finds Having Exactly 3 Kids Is the Most Stressful for Parents

Kids are cute, but kids are stressful! Whether you’re a parent, educator, caregiver or even camp counselor, you are no stranger to the stresses of taking care of children. Even though this stress is shared by people around the world, for some weird reason, they still find themselves comparing who is more stressed or who has it harder

Newsflash! There is an answer that has resurfaced from survey that was done in 2013 by TODAY Parents and Insight Express. So, now that you’re going to find out whose stress levels are actually higher, maybe we can settle the debate once and for all.

The online survey collected answers from 7,164 mothers. Now, it’s important to realize that these results aren’t coming out of a peer-reviewed journal, so you can take them with a grain of salt. But if you ask around to all of your mom friends who is more stressed out, the anecdotal evidence may be convincing enough for you.

The Mom Survey Findings

Here are the most significant findings from the mom survey: [1]

  • 46% of moms say their husbands or partners cause them more stress than their kids do
  • 72% of moms stress about how stressed they are
  • 60% of moms say raising girls is more stressful than raising boys
  • 9 out of 10 moms stress about staying fit and attractive
  • 60% say the biggest cause of stress is the lack of time to do everything that needs to get done
  • Moms of four or more report relatively low stress levels, surprisingly
  • Moms of three children stress more than moms of one, two, four or more

Looks Like 3 Is Not the Charm…

What exactly is stressing moms around the out so much? In addition to all those stats above, according to TODAY, the survey found that 75% of moms are more stressed out over their self-imposed pressure to be perfect as well as other mothers’ judgments. Jill Smokler, the creator of Scary Mommy captures this perfectly.

You always hear about the mommy wars, but I feel like we’re judging ourselves more harshly than anyone else,” said Smokler. [1] “Going from one to two was an easy, breeze transition. 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.”

Despite mothers of three appearing to be more stressed, the average mom reported feeling an 8.5 level of stress on a 10-point scale. Dr. Janet Taylor, a psychiatrist in New York and mother of four (two of whom are twins), believes this is normal. The whole “mom stress” thing is something she encounters daily in her sessions with patients.

“Moms are acutely aware of the fact they do not have the time to take care of their own needs. Forget reading a book, exercising, or fun hobbies. Some moms barely have time to shower,” said Taylor. [1] “Before you’re a mom, you take that for granted. When you are a mom you just don’t have the time… There’s just not enough space in your head for perfectionism when you get four or more kids.”

8 Easy and Achievable Tips for Stressed Out Moms

It might take a bit of extra work or planning to make these possible, but it’s going to be necessary if you want to maintain your sanity. [2]

  1. Go for a lunchtime walk or workout
  2. Treat yourself to a monthly pampering session
  3. Start hosting play dates so you can connect with other mothers
  4. Take a day off every once in a while
  5. Seek out local parent support communities
  6. Find healthy escapes like good books to read in those rare quiet moments
  7. Plan a lady’s night out
  8. After the kids are in bed, have a soothing hot bath

So, if you want a 15-minute chair massage, a relaxing bath, quality time with your partner or old friends, or some deep adult conversations… do it because you deserve it and stress can too easily take control of your life… three kids or not!

Want More Proof? Putting Kids to Bed Earlier Can Help Mom’s Mental Health, Study Says

[1] Dube, R. (n.d.). Mom survey says: Three is the most stressful number of kids. Retrieved from

[2] Dower, E. (2011, March 24). Stress Relievers for Busy Moms. Retrieved from