Friday, March 5, 2010

Number of Children

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When I wrote my post on Child Spacing back in January, I had people request that I talk about number of children, also.

Let me start by saying I do not believe there is one right number of children for all people. I won't type out a number and declare it to be the right number of children for all families out there. I hope no one was hoping for that :) In the same sense, there is no one wrong number of children for all people out there. I won't be saying "two is not enough" or even "one is not enough."

What I will attempt to do is give you some things to think about as you make this decision. It is a big decision. A hard decision for many parents. For me, the number of children is much harder than how to space them.

I think it is noteworthy for me to point out that I live in Utah. In Utah, I see a wide variety of family sizes. Within two blocks of me, there is a family with one child (done having kids--she is 16) and a family with 12 children--and everything in between. Among my close friends, we have come from families ranging from 2-14 children. We often talk about the number of children and the impact it has on a family. You might be interested to note that pretty much everyone loves the number of children that they grew up with. They might recognize cons to that number, but also see many pros. Most of my friends who grew up with a lot of children in the family were resentful of having a large family as a teenager, but now love it. Many want large families themselves.

Let me assure you that for those of you who are struggling with this decision right now, I understand it. I am right there with you. My husband and I are unsure if we will have more children or not. For us, deciding to have three was a no brainer. No hesitation. We both knew we wanted to have a third child. We have actually always planned on having at least four children, but after we had McKenna, we started to wonder if we were done. We still haven't answered that question yet.

I know lots of women who say, "when you are done, you know it." I have heard lots of neat stories about the parents just knowing they were done when the time was right.

However, I don't believe that is the case for everyone. I compare it to choosing whom to marry. You hear many people say, "You will know he is the right one to marry." That was me. I knew effortlessly that my husband was the guy for me. Well, that isn't true for all people. Not all people "just know." Some really have to spend time praying and pondering to know for sure. I believe it is the same for the number of children. Some "just know" while others are required to put forth great effort in figuring this out.

Ultimately, I think there are only three things that really matter when making this decision. I will list those last (now is the time when some of you, you know who you are, will scroll to the bottom of the post to see what they are. Those of you like me will read the post from top to bottom ;) ).

Here are some typical concerns people have as they try to decide how many children to have:
  1. Money: This is a hard one for me to really elaborate on because it really isn't a concern for me. I just know that it is for some people. Places like Babycenter.com have calculators that can tell you about how much it will cost you to raise a child. Don't drive yourself crazy like that! For one thing, you have no idea what the future will bring. Being able to "afford" a child today doesn't mean you will be able to tomorrow. When we had Brayden, we were dirt poor. Really poor. I was working, looking to the future and saving because I knew I didn't want to work after having a baby.

    Now, my husband was still in school (university) and we knew our income could only go up after graduation because he was working part time at a low-paying job. Any full time job would more than double our income, and our plans were that we would of course get a job paying much more :). But we carried our own insurance and had a $5000 maternity deductible. I guess we would have qualified for Medicaid, but that actually never crossed our minds at the time. We saved. And saved. And we did it. We didn't have much money Brayden's first year. We didn't spend much money at all and we lived with the necessities of life. And we were happy :)

    Today, my husband has a good job and excellent insurance with a $250 maternity deductible--much easier to swallow :)

    Anyway, I share that with you to show that I do know what it is like to have a child and really have no way to feasibly pay for the baby. My belief is you can make it work if you want to. But  you have to do what you are comfortable with :)
  2. Bedrooms: I know a concern for some parents is number of bedrooms. I get this. You might want your children to each have their own room. I will say that I have friends who shared rooms all throughout growing up and loved it. They have no bitterness about it. I totally understand the reason for wanting your kids to have their own rooms, but I wouldn't let that be a reason to prevent you from having more children.
  3. Vehicles: Often times, adding a child to the family requires you get a larger vehicle. Some people don't want a "larger" vehicle than what they have. Again, in the grand scheme of things, I don't think this is a reason to not have another child. I wouldn't let this be THE reason. But if you are clinging to it and labeling it as a good one, then maybe you just don't want another child and are looking for some tangible, logical reaon not to.
  4. Time: I think a valid consideration is the amount of time you will be able to have to dedicate to your children. You know the phrase "time is what you make of it"? I say this often, but "phrases" become "phrases" for a reason.

    When I was pregnant with McKenna, I gave up a lot of things in order to be able to put my energy toward my children. I have rough pregnancies. I remember reflecting at the time that there are a lot of things I don't need to do. There are lots of things I like to do, but very few I need to do.

    I have an aunt who once commented that you have time for things that are important to you. You make time for your priorities. So here is my point. I think you can have enough time available to you to spend with all of your children. The real question is are you willing to give up things in order to use that time. You have it. Will you allocate it.
  5. Baby Life: Some moms don't want to jump back to baby life all over again. I certainly understand this. We all know 0-3 months old is not my favorite time period. For one of my best friends, 0-3 months is her favorite period. 18 months is where she has trouble. We all have our periods that are more challenging for us. For me, I try to look at it this way. Baby life is challenging. It can feel isolating. But over your lifetime, it is only a few months. Then a couple of years with some toddler stuff, but then things kind of open up and relax and you have that child for a lifetime.
  6. Impact On Children: I think we often worry about the impact another child will have on the dynamics of our current children. I worried about this most when I was pregnant with Kaitlyn. How would Brayden handle not being the oldest? I am also interested in birth order, so I wonder what sort of impact this will have on personality. I think this is something to consider carefully and prayerfully. Generally speaking, children love their siblings. They love to have other kids around to play with. I know for Brayden and Kaitlyn, life is one big party. Seriously. They laugh and laugh the whole time they are together.
  7. Impact On Mother: For me, pregnancy is hard. I know that for my husband, a factor for his consideration with more children is the impact of pregnancy on me. It affects the entire family when I am down and out, of course. Mother's health might be an issue for some.
  8. Impact On Husband: I add this one because the pregnancy is so hard on me that I know it adds stress and pressure to my husband's life, though he does his best to hide it. He works to cover my slack, which I am sure gets tiring (I don't really know, I am kind of in a fog during that time). Again, these last two are another where I think, yes, it is hard. But in the grand scheme of things, it is a short time to have to struggle and be stressed. And in the end, you get a new family member.
Those are some factors that many people might consider, but in the end, I just don't think they really matter. What are my three things that really matter?
  1. Unity: I think it is important for you both to want another child once you actually go forward with it. I know sometimes one person starts out not wanting another child. Come to a consensus--an agreement.
  2. Emotion: I think you should have as many children as you can support emotionally. You can make finances work. You can live with space restrictions. You might not like a mini-van, but you can drive one if you need to. Just another sacrifice for your children :). You can make time. You can make it through and find enjoyment in baby life. Everyone in the family will adjust and love the new addition. But you want to be able to support your children emotionally. You want to be able to be there for them.
  3. Prayer: In the end, I think the most important thing you can do when making this decision is pray. Pray for guidance and pray to know if what you are deciding is right. You have no way of knowing the future, but the Lord does.
Other ways to look at  this decision:
  • What will you regret? I always ask myself this question when making decisions. Will you regret having another child? Will you regret not having another child? Sometimes you don't know for sure what you will or won't regret, but this question can help guide you.
  • Eternal Perspective: Try to keep the big picture in mind. When you try to step back and look at your life as one snapshot, a lot of the concerns really don't matter. Also, I know lots of moms with grown children who say something like, "When our children were young, four seemed like a lot. Now I wish we had more."
CONCLUSION
There are going to be benefits and drawbacks with every number of children. With two, you will have more money per child, but they will have only one other child to play with at home. There will always be perks and drawbacks no matter how many children you have.

The vast majority of people I know say three children is the hardest number. My friend's mom with 14 kids says three was the hardest number, which I find funny. Never mind 10, 11, 12...3. That was a challenge ;) For me, I personally don't find it hard at all. It wasn't much of a change for me over two. So what works for one won't work for another.

I have a friend 9 days younger than I with 6 children. She always says any number of kids is hard. I think this is true. She says one child was hard. Then she had two, and that was hard. Four was hard. Six is hard.

In the end, the decision of how many children to have is 100% personal. It is for you to decide and no one else to judge (though that doesn't mean you won't be judged--it is almost impossible to escape. My friend with "only" two gets judged just as often as my friend with six :) ). For some, it will be an easy decision that you "just know." For others, it will require much pondering, thought, and prayer. Do what works for you and try not to worry about what everyone else thinks about that. Good luck with your decision!

Please feel free to add your own experiences with number of children you have or had growing up! Share what you liked and didn't like.

35 comments:

mandgmom said...

I am a mom of two, but I would like to have three. My husband is not so sure... I have only one sibling, a sister, while my husband has two siblings--all boys. My MIL always says, once you have two, there's not much difference in adding more. I'm not certain that's true, but I thought I'd add my two cents, for what it's worth. Thanks for the great post.

The Curry's said...

Thanks so much for this post! I've often wondered this myself, specifically why someone would want a whole bunch of children. In my mind, I don't understand that. I've also wondered what factors determine family size. For my husband and I, it's honestly a matter of selfishness. Money is a minor issue, as well as space, but it all comes down to us having to give up even more of our own time. Sounds selfish, yes, but it's the truth. We are limited on time and energy as it is and we don't want to add more to that. We don't even want to add a pet! So for us, we love our family of four! It's the perfect number for us.

One more thing, DH has 3 siblings so there's 4 of them and I have 2 siblings, so there's 3 of us. We both knew we didn't want the number of children our parents had. We both felt that it was too many, so two is what we decided on and feel very comfortable with.

heather byars said...

I come from a large family. My father is the baby of 12. However, I only have one younger brother. I never felt that my family was small, because there were always so many of us besides my own personal family. I have so many cousins that are like brothers and sisters to me, that my family has always felt large. So, while my husband and I have two children, and we are pretty content to stay that way, our children will and do have so many cousins to play with, I don't feel that they are lacking in family to play and bond with. It is a blessing to us to have such a close knit family.

Laura said...

Thank-you so much for your honesty! I think it's hard for us women to admit that things are hard....the newborn faze, having more children, etc.

It is such good advice to just take a step back and look at the big picture! Realize that today's hard part will get easier and give you more experience down the road (because there will definitly be more hard things to overcome).

Most of all, a child is a blessing! That can never change, no matter if you have 1 or 19!

J9 said...

Thanks for sharing this! We're pregnant with our second, and know we want at least one more, but my husband and I don't agree on more beyond that. :) We don't have to decide this now, but within the past few months I've noticed that many of my friends are struggling with this decision. I think it must be a very hard choice, but apparently some people just "know" when they're done. I'm just hoping my husband and I both agree when that point comes...
You mentioned number of bedrooms... we're about to have our second boy in 6 weeks. I'd love to have them share a room once the baby is STTN, but haven't really thought through the pros and cons. Our house is big enough that they won't have to, but it just seems like it would be more convenient if they did. I don't know if you have any experience with this, but I would be very interested in reading a post about room sharing! :)
Thanks again!

Janelle said...

I think something else very important to consider is the needs of current children. I have a friend who always talked about having a large family. She now has two special needs children. She's not sure that she will be having any more. I suppose this figures into your emotional ability, but it is a little bit different and I thought I'd throw that out there! Also, I think it's important if you do have a child with a special condition that you don't just want another child in order to have a "normal" child rearing experience.

Mrs. E said...

well said Val ... this question is asked by every generation during their child-bearing years, and each couple must decide the right answer for them ... thanks for the 'balanced approach'.

Jennifer said...

We have two kids and my husband says he wants 8. I say let's have 4 and see how we feel. He just loves kids. I guess this has more to do with spacing, but I was ok with having our first two 21 months apart because my husband is home every night by 5:30 pm and is able to spend all his time with the kids until they go to bed. If his job required late hours or traveling, I wouldn't have been ok with kids so close together. There are so many factors to take into consideration. I think just taking it one child at a time is the best way to go.

Great post!

DoItAsIDoIt said...

When we had our 1st, and he was still a newborn, people would ask when we were going to have another. I thought they were crazy! Now, almost 3 years later, we are going to have another! I always say that we will take one pregnancy at a time and reevaluate. For me, I know that I wouldn't be able to handle spacing less than 2 1/2 to 3 years apart. I don't think I have the patience and tolerance and I would not be the best mom. You just have to be honest with yourself about your limits and remember that an emotionally stable mom and dad will either make or break a family.

Summer said...

valerie- thanks for writing this blog. i have no idea how many kids my DH and i will have, but i know it will be more than two. i grew up as one of two children and my younger brother is handicapped. as a result, i have many "only child" traits, and i've struggled as an adult to share, think of others first, etc etc. i also have a tendancy to be controlling. however, my DH is one of 13 (5 were adopted though). he is strong in all the areas i am weak, and i believe by providing a larger family they gave him plenty of years to learn how to get along well with others and different types of personalities.
i think it will be very hard for me to have more than 2 kids. i think because of my childhood i will struggle with not being in control as much as i would like. but i think its a gift to your children to build into their every day lives a chance to build character thru interacting with multiple siblings. i will really be relying a lot on my DH and his experience as well.
i would be VERY interested to know how your friend with was it 14 kids thought that 3 was hard and it got easier with 4? expand on that please!! LOL!
:)
summer
PS i hope you have more kids just so i can keep following your blog for newborn and young baby stuff while i'm having more babies! LOL! :) i know, there's the selfishness coming out again!!

Caroline said...

Thanks for writing this! Very well put! I was JUST having this discussion with my father the other day (He doesn't think it's wise for people to have more than 2 children, but my husband and I would love AT LEAST 3 kids! This post laid out in a very logical order some of the thoughts that I've been having on the subject, so it's very helpful!!--Especially since I just found out that I'm pregnant with #2!)

Justin and Julie said...

We are also pregnant with #2 and know we want to have at least 1 more too, possibly adopt. We plan to buy a house in about a year, but just can't afford it until then. So for now, we live in a 2 bedroom apartment. Like the women above, I am also wondering if you could do a post about room sharing and if you can do it when they are sleeping through the night. Also, just doing Babywise on limited space would be a great combo post. We are wondering if we should have this baby sleep in a bassinet in our room or in the hallway at night. We want our kids to share rooms growing up even if we have more space, but we're just uncertain about the young months when they wake up so often.

Kristy Shreve Powers said...

I would like to see a post on room sharing, too. We don't do that yet but since we have 2 boys, we do see that coming in the future.

Thanks for this post and to everyone who commented. I really like reading about the factors that go into this decision for people.

Sara said...

We just had our 2nd baby (interesting enough..my 2 year-old is Kaitlyn and the 6 -month- old is McKenna!!!! and I swear I just started reading your blog, it was total coincidence!!! I did a total double take when reading the names of your kids)...

Before #2, I was convinced that we would have at least 3. Everyone said that going to 2 would be way easier than #1. NOT FOR ME! The transition to 2 kids has been the most challenging, frustrating, and uphill battle of my life. I would never change the fact that we have 2 but they were both difficult babies and had challenging tempermants. If you could guarantee us this "easy" baby that we so often hear about - we would gladly have a third. But the risk is almost too high for us..

Thanks!!!

Kelly said...

Great post!

My husband and I always wanted two. Then we had twins. The first year/two were so hard I told people that I didn't even want a dog after that. Now they just turned two, potty trained and things are so so so much easier (well not easier, much more freedom) I can see myself wanting another one. I really want to know what its like to have one. To hold JUST one when they are crying and not have to choose. To bond with just one.

My husband, not so much. Either way it will be fine but yes, there is so much to think about when deciding on another one or not.

Amanda said...

For me, it comes down to my faith and what I perceive as my role in life. I am a wife and mother first and foremost. I love teaching and would like to get back to it someday but I'd rather teach my own children. I grew up as the oldest of 3 kids and always felt like something was missing and would have loved a bigger family. My husband grew up as the oldest (by 6 years) of 2 children and loved it. Then again, he grew up Protestant and thought everyone used birth control, lol! Poor guy married a Roman Catholic (my family aren't practicing Catholics) and over time I've realized the wisdom of the church's teachings concerning the connection between intimacy in marriage and children. At this point the two are intertwined for me and I cannot see separating the two so as long as I want to be intimate with my husband I will be open to more children. I'm assuming that'll be for our entire marriage ;) lol! My DH has really opened himself up to more children as time has gone on, but he has a smaller limit than I might have. If he ever feels like we need to be 'done' for some reason then we can always use NFP to avoid pregnancy after that. I definitely feel that both parents need to be on board with their plans for family size and their beliefs about the issues surrounding that.

Right now we have one bio child and are planning to adopt 1-2 more children from foster care this year. I have some minor fertility problems that are keeping us from getting pregnant right now, but I hope to have one more biological child since adopting an infant would be costly and difficult for us.

Lest anyone assume I don't use birth control because I just love pregnancy, I don't :) With my son I looked like death, dark circles under my eyes, lost weight, got pale, then swelled with water weight at the end and my legs hurt every day. I also don't care for the baby phase, it's a bit dull to me though they are awfully cute as infants!

I will say that I feel so lucky to have found Babywise and the Babywise moms I've met because it's really helped me to manage parenthood a lot better so I feel better equipped to handle more children. Every larger family I've ever met has a great deal of structure and organization to keep their household running smoothly and all the children happy (relatively) and taken care of.

Alison Franke said...

Val - you make some good points and they are well thought out, but I think you have overlooked two reasons. 1) Fertility issues - what I have learned is that the number of children for many are not within their control, so although they may wish to have more or space them 2.5 years apart for example, that is up to God to decide. 2) Age of parents - I wasn't blessed with children until I was 35, so for me the clock is ticking until 40 for both physical and personal reasons. I think many think about how old they will be when their kids are in college, etc. and that weighs in heavily into the decision.

I think these are important factors that can't be overlooked.

ys said...

I TOTALLY agree with Alison. I think those are very important factors.
I've had personal experience with this and known others with this. It's not as uncommon nowadays, unfortunately. I went through a LOT to have #1 (ended up doing IVF) and was blessed naturally with #2. However, that may have been a fluke that we got pregnant so easily. We are TTC for #3 but ultimately it is not going to be our decision. It is in God's hand.

And I think infertility is often tied up with age too. Chances are if you've tried for years having children, you are a bit older. And that weighs upon me and DH too as if we don't have another soon, I'll feel we may be too old and we'll just count our blessings with our 2. For me, I'm trying until I'm 35 because after that it is considered a "high-risk pregnancy",etc. So that's only about 1 year left for me. Also DH is older than me so I factor his age into consideration too. Nowadays it is much more common to have more "mature" parents:) And it does have its pros and cons. For example we are much more financially secure than we were in our early 20s just getting our of school. So there are always two sides to everything in life.

The Culbertsons said...

My husband and I want a big family - 6 is our number right now - and we have two currently. We both grew up as virtually only children because we have siblings that are more than a decade apart in age. We aren't very close to our siblings now and we want our kids to experience the close relationships that siblings share. I know it is hard when they are little (mine are 2.5 and 9 months now), but I think it is completely worth it and won't be a decision I regret. I'll have a lot of hands to help when they get older - a major plus!

Plowmanators said...

You are welcome to everyone and thanks for sharing your stories!

Plowmanators said...

Heather, I agree that it is awesome to have cousins to play with. My Dad is the youngest of 7 and we had tons of fun as cousins growing up. But me having one sister means my kids will only have a couple of cousins on that side...it eventually dwindles down.

Plowmanators said...

J9, I don't have experience, but I will round up and create a post with tips for you!

Plowmanators said...

Excellent points Janelle! Thanks for that.

Plowmanators said...

Summer, I have no idea. I am as baffled as you are! lol

Plowmanators said...

Congrats Caroline!

Plowmanators said...

Sara, lol! That is so funny that their names are the same...and same spelling!

I think that for a lot of parents, the unknown of the new baby is a big hinderance. If I knew every baby would be like McKenna was, I probably would be willing to have more than I might otherwise...maybe :)

Plowmanators said...

Kelly, I can see wanting more after having twins first. You would want to experience baby life again (sort of?). My friend with 6 kids has twins as 5 and 6. She wants another baby in order to have "just one" baby experience again :)

Plowmanators said...

Alison, thanks for adding those. Excellent additions.

Lauren said...

Thanks so much for this post and the others on number of children/child spacing.

My husband and I are just getting started--we have a 9 month old little boy (and yeah, I'd say one baby is hard! Of course, I was an only child for 7 years before my only other sibling was born, so I don't have much experience in the baby department). When I was 8 months along with my son, I developed a really rare pregnancy-related auto-immune disease. We want to have more kids--a bunch more!--but I know we'll have to carefully consider it since I am finally almost over the disease just now, and it is likely to come back with each pregnancy.

Your articles have given me some good, concrete things to think about and pray about, so thank you very much!

Lorna Terry said...

I, too, would like to have some other information on room sharing. I have a 3.5 year old, a 22 month old and 3 month old - all girls. Before DD3 was born I tried putting the other two in the same room. No luck. DD1 is too busy and won't stay in her bed no matter what I try. She decided every night to play with DD2 (even when she was sleeping), which caused us a lot of stress and frustration, and some VERY late nights trying to get them to sleep. So we just decided that DD1 would have to have her own room for now. DD2 is a wonderful sleeper, so when DD3 was about 6 weeks old we moved her into the same room. DD2 would sleep through when the baby would fuss at night, and naps are fairly seamless now. However, DD3 is STILL not STTN because I feel bad for DD2 having to listen to her for so long if I do CIO. I'm also recently having issues with DD2 coming out of her bed and playing with DD3. Normally it wouldn't be an issue - it's very cute when they play - except it will happen when DD2 wakes up from her nap and DD3 is on her way to dreamland. I don't want to allow it sometimes and not other times, because I think it would just confuse DD2. I just found the post on toddlers getting out of bed, so I'm going to read through that and see if there's something I can implement. Any other suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks!

Plowmanators said...

Lorna, it sounds like your problems are at nap time? Is that right? If so, I think just about everyone who has kids share rooms say sharing at naps does not work. It is best to figure out how to keep them separate for naps if possible, which might mean DD1 sleeps in your bed, DD2 sleeps in DD1 room, and DD3 sleeps in her bed. Or DD3 could sleep in a pack and play in your room, then the other two could sleep in their own rooms.

Ellyn said...

Valerie, I am not sure if this is where to post this. I could not find a post about taking the leap from one child to two. So my questions are: How hard is it really and when does it get easier? How do you nurse with a toddler running around? (My son always wants me to play with him now, what will it be like when I can't play with him?) I heard once to have a special toy box that comes out only during nursing times. Did you have tricks like this you can share? Any other moms out there, do you have tips? How do you sleep train when you need to attend to your toddler? How do you nap if you are used to napping everyday when your toddler naps? What if my son gets jealous? What if I can never leave the house? Another poster above commented on how hard it was going from 1 to 2, what do others have to say about that? I have so many fears about changing things up when life is so good to us (our 16 mo. old son is so easy and sweet) but at the same time I want him to experience having a sibling. So, I'd love to hear from you, Valerie, what it was like to go from 1 to 2, the hardest parts and what you did to overcome them. And I'd love to hear from other moms too! Thank you so much!

Plowmanators said...

Ellyn,

For nursing, see:

Nursing Schedule with Older Child(ren) : http://babywisemom.blogspot.com/2008/09/nursing-schedule-with-older-children.html

You can also find ways to play with your son while nursing--play cars one-handed on the couch, read books , etc.

How hard...I found going from 0 to 1 the hardest transition. 1-2 wasn't that much of a change for me. The hardest thing with that, I thought, was learning to get to know baby two as an individual rather than a reincarnate of baby one.

I found 2-3 the easiest...and most people seem to find 3 the hardest number, so I might be off :)

Do you have independent playtime? If not, I would work on doing that now.

See the sibling index for more on this:

http://www.babywisemom.com/2009/12/index-siblings.html

And I will look through. If I don't have a post on what you are asking, I will add that to my list and do it soon.

Ellyn said...

Val, The sibling link was exactly what I was looking for. Thank you. I thought 0-1 was way hard too. I read online that 1-2 is hardest for dads because now they have constant duties. I have a feeling that will be so true for my husband because he is all about taking breaks. I imagine the hardest thing for me will be that I love to get out of the house and take my son on adventures, swimming, gymnastics, story hour at the library, etc. so I hope I don't miss all those activities too much with him. I am also scared of missing my Sat. yoga class and such. I look at other moms with 2 kids and it seems that they are able to manage by wearing the baby constantly or doing the double stroller thing. Oh, and yes, my son does independent play (one of the most important things to me) so I know that will help. I'd love to see a post on going from 0-1 to hear advice and tips from other mothers on how to make that transition smooth. Why do I have such huge fears about taking the leap? I think it’s because I’ve heard such mixed stories about it. Some say it's so worth it because the kids play with each other and some say it was 10 times the work. Anyway, thank you so much Val!

Ellyn said...

oops, I meant a post on 1-2.

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