When in the ‘window” of opportunity for having children, there is an underlying pressure to know if we’re done or if we should plan for one more. Keep the baby clothes or give them away? Put the crib in storage or Craigslist it?Hurry up and finish grad school or take it slow? Try to have another one before I become a “geriatric mother” or concede to the fact that my body hates being pregnant? I analyze everything. Over-analyze. Anyone who knows me very well is nodding their head in obsessive agreement now. Ok that’s enough, you’re hurting my feelings.
Clearly there is no “right” number of children to have. Circumstances vary greatly between families. And for some, it’s just not an option for financial, fertility, or other life circumstances. It really is amazing to have a choice to have children naturally. The gift is not to be taken lightly. But with this kind of gift comes responsibility and the weighty decision to have more, or not.
This post is partly inspired by my visit to the dollar store with my 1 and 3-year-old, trying to pass the long afternoon with cheap new toys. Another shopper, a woman aged 60+, said
“Oh you’re so lucky to have two! I only had one child, and she moved to Saudi Arabia. She only has one son and I never get to see my grand baby!”
Despite the long line and my kids hanging from the stroller like wild monkeys, the checkout woman said passionately:
“I have a three-year-old and I am DONE! There is NO way I’m having more, I’ll go insane. I love my daughter. But I’m definitely done.”
Then the 60-year-old and the check-out lady politely duked it out verbally for another 10 seconds. The woman “in the thick of it” is done, and the woman looking back on her life from a more seasoned age thinks more children are better.
If you are in the same place in life, trying to decide if you should have another child or not, maybe my analysis will console, overwhelm, or help you write your own pros and cons list.
Why should I not have more children?
1. A friend has four children. She does an amazing job handling all that is on her plate. But, she let me in on a little insight. She said “no one tells you that when you have four children, that means when the stomach virus is going around, that is four people to clean up vomit after.” Noted.
2. Some siblings are friends for life (as mentioned above). But some never get along.
3. Pregnancy. I loved the part about growing a life and experiencing the miracle. But the side effects are as pleasant as having the stomach virus for three months plus many other mysterious pregnancy ailments (unrelenting eye infections in my case).
4. There is something to be said for the temperament of baby(s) you already have. Often you can tell a child’s temperament by six weeks old. One mother of two said she always planned to have three or four children. I asked her why she didn’t have more and she responded:”If you would have seen how much of a handful my first child was, you would be impressed that I had the guts to have a second”.
Truth. So if you have a fireball on your hands, you may consider your sanity as a real factor in having more. If you have a mellow fellow or a perfect princess, have more for the rest of us who are about to lose our minds.
5. Your other ambitions. I have seen women with three and four children have successful careers. I have also seen women stay at home for 20 years with their children, and THEN go back to school and have a fulfilling career. However, I have been told, with more children, it is simply harder to do.
6. You only have so much attention. When you have two, each gets 50% of you. When you have three, well then it’s 33.33%. It is tough being pulled in so many directions.
7. The first three years of a child’s life is like trying to hold on to an outside wing of a flying jetliner.
Why should I have more children?
1. Having a brother or sister is said (at least in my human behavior text-book) to be a gift to your child. Siblings are each other’s first friends and adversaries. They teach one another how to share and keep each other company. They feel a sense of camaraderie with that continues throughout life. Siblings are built-in friends. When parents get older, the siblings can help each other with the care taking decisions and share in the grief of loss.
2. People are not just babies. Most humans grow out of wetting the bed and requiring attention for 100% of the time they are awake.
3. More family to share holidays with.
4. There are few beauties in life that measure up to seeing your children love each other, help each other, and play together peacefully (if only for a moment).
5. What if one of them moves to Saudi Arabia or decides not to have children? Is it weird that I already want grandbabies?
6. They really are cute.
7. Kids add love, joy, meaning, intimacy, and fullness to life that is greater than I ever imagined (but I’m so tired).
Parenthood is a lifelong journey with many seasons, each ripe with their own richness and trials. So what do you think? Rock paper scissors? Que sera sera? Make it a logical or spiritual decision? What factors should one consider about the miracle of life?