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:
- 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 :)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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."
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.