Deciding whether to have a child is one of the biggest decisions a couple can make. The addition of a child, whether it’s the first or the fifth, unquestionably changes the lives of every member of a family. For many couples, particularly for women, the decision to have another baby is one they ponder daily. Many are torn between the reluctance to divide their time, finances, and attention between too many children, and the possibility of regretting not having had more. The reasons for having more kids or stopping at a particular number are as varied and different as the children they represent. Families are unique, and one size doesn’t fit all.
A Bicycle Built for Two
For many couples, family size is a lifestyle decision. The more children you have, the more logistically difficult it is to take vacations, ride on airplanes, attend extracurricular activities, or just go to the grocery store. Our society is designed around the four-person family. Most cars, even SUVs, can comfortably seat two adults and two car seats. Most dining sets contain a table and four chairs. Placemats and napkins come in sets of four. Hotel rooms have two double beds. Adding another child to the mix means spending extra time and money to make it work.
When Two is Too Few
“I love my two children; they fill my life with love and certainly keep me busier than I’d ever thought I’d be. But I have this nagging feeling that something’s missing,” says Ally. “I know that another child would turn our world upside down. We’d have to start playing zone instead of man-to-man defense! But I think about having another one all the time.” While two feels like the perfect number for most US families, parents of threesomes say that despite the extra workload, having a third child cuts down on sibling rivalry and fosters independence since only two children can have Mom or Dad’s attention at one time. Families of three also say that with three kids, there’s always a buddy around to play with, even if one sibling is away at school or at a friend’s house.
Eight Ain't Enough
“As soon as the nurse handed baby Max to me, I thought, ‘Are there any more in there? I need more babies,’” says Chelsea, a stay-at-home mom to three young children. Experienced mothers like Chelsea understand what a large family is like and thrive on the abundance of both love and chaos. Other parents choose to have lots of kids to recreate the positive large family atmosphere they enjoyed as a child, or to compensate for the loneliness they may have felt as a singleton. “I still miss not having brothers or sisters, so I want my son to have that relationship. He doesn’t have any aunts, uncles or cousins, so I want to create a family for him,” says Heather, mother to a seven-month-old boy.
One Is Fun
“I was completely overwhelmed when my son was a baby and couldn’t imagine taking care of any more children. Now that he’s a bit older, I relish my time with him; teaching him new things and watching him grow; I don’t want to divide my attention… or change diapers and walk around in a sleep-deprived fog again,” admits Allyson, a part-time marketing executive.
The decision to raise an only child is often motivated by the same reasons as having two or more children. Dad may have resented the lack of attention devoted to him in a large family, or Mom may have loved the special feeling of being a cherished only child. Other parents decide to stop at one because of finances. Either they can’t afford to raise more children or they’d prefer to give a single child “extras” like private school or piano lessons that might not be an option with multiple siblings.