I went to a bunco party in my neighborhood last week for the first time in over a decade. We moved here last year, so I didn’t know most of the 15 women who attended. As we got to know one another, I was asked this question over and over, “How many kids do you have?” Even after all these years, it’s still a question I feel the need to defend. How many children is considered acceptable, even preferable? It depends on who you ask. Ask someone in charge of a government’s labor force or retirement programs, they will say as many as you can. For a stay at home mom, I would guess at least two, probably more. We are seeing a trend now at Sunrise Montessori of more and more families choosing to only have one child. It’s a very personal decision with many factors involved.
Most couples who get married or decide to live together generally plan to have children (about 40% of all American households have a child under the age of 18), but with the changing times and the cost of living getting higher every single year, having a big family is no longer considered practical. In fact, more couples are now considering having only one child and some do not have any desire to become parents at all. The U.S. Census Bureau states that there are approximately 14 million only-children in America today. This comprises 20% of the children’s population compared to only 10% around fifty years ago. Source #1
How many children IS the right number? There are many thoughts around this topic, pros and cons.
One and Done
- Pros: Child gets more attention from parents, child is more independent, parents get more time for themselves, easier on the wallet, potentially a closer relationship with parents, not having to deal with sibling arguments.
- Cons: Child has more pressure to perform well, will not have a sibling to rely on to help their parents as they age, no nieces and nephews, no sibling.
- Stigmas: People will pressure you to have more than one, you will hear that only children are lonely/self-centered/have difficulty socializing, you may feel guilty not giving your child a sibling. Source #2
- My 17 year old son’s take on it: “I feel like I know you guys better than my friends know their parents. I like not fighting with a brother or sister but am curious what that would be like. I feel like you guys are able to afford more for me because it’s just me. But I think I would have been more socially adept if I’d had a brother or sister.” When I asked John how many children he wanted to have one day, if any, he replied after a pause that he’d want two children because, “I wouldn’t want them to struggle making friends like I did.”
Two for Two
- Pros: You know how to raise a child already, you may get a child of the opposite gender, gives your first child a sibling, hand me downs save you money
- Cons: Drain on time and money, more stress on the marriage, need more living space
- Stigmas: You don’t have as much money to spend on your children, can’t give both children as much attention as one Source #3
- Pros: Same as two children plus higher potential for grandchildren ;), more help with household chores, more support emotionally as they get older from one another
- Cons: Same as two children just more so, life is more hectic and it’s harder to stay organized, possible middle-child syndrome, study after study report that parents are more stressed having three children versus any other amount, harder to find seating at a restaurant since booths and tables accommodate four
- Stigmas: Same as two children but with the added caveat that three can make it harder to have a successful career, vacations are tougher to pay for and go on Source #3
- My take on it: I am the youngest of three girls. My sisters are about nine years and seven years older than me, so I felt like I grew up with siblings and also as an only child since they were out of the house by the time I was ten. Because my dad made more money as I got older, I received things my sisters did not, which caused some jealousy. If one of them decided I was being annoying (which let’s face it, with the age gap, that was almost 100% of the time), I had no chance to defend myself. 😉 Yet getting to go with one of my sisters after they learned to drive to pick up some Carls. Jr. french fries was pretty rad. Life as an adult was easier with two sisters when my father and then years later, my mother, died. Holidays were more fun, too. I really enjoyed seeing my nieces and nephews grow up, taking them to the movies, being the cool aunt because I was younger ;), and seeing what they did with their lives. I would recommend however if you are considering having more than one child that you don’t space them far apart if you can avoid it. I am not as close to my sisters as I would like to be and I think it’s because of our ages and different home life experience. In case you’re curious, my oldest sister had two children and my other sister had four, so none of us had three.
How many is the right number for YOU?
- Does your partner/spouse want to have another child?
- Are you financially capable of raising another child?
- Are you emotionally capable of caring for another child?
- Are you physically capable of taking care of another child?
Since finances are the top reason for not having more children, you may be wondering why I, as someone who had free child care since I was the owner of Sunrise Montessori, didn’t have another? Many, many reasons. For one, I am fertility challenged and John was a bit of a miracle. For two, I had a very hard pregnancy and experienced complications at the end which endangered my life a smidge, something I didn’t relish tempting fate on a second time. Three, I was happy with our family dynamic but I also, to be honest, wanted more time for myself and my husband. The thought back then of having another child made me feel like a panic attack was imminent, which I took as a sign to stop. I think every woman has a “number” of how many children she wants or can handle and the KEY is sticking to it. I’ve got a fantastic neighbor who never had children and it was a choice she made decades ago, happily, with zero regrets. I have a friend who has three children and admits she would have continued having more if her husband had been okay with it. I’ve also seen moms who either never should have had one or had too many. Children take up enormous resources of time and money and cause lots of gray hair, but also enrich our lives in ways we couldn’t have fathomed until having one. If you are still grappling with the decision of one, two, three or more, my advice is this: if you don’t absolutely want another, then don’t. But don’t take that as a permanent decision, wait to see if you feel differently. Time can change your mind…or change just solidify things. Either way, do what works for you and your family and just focus on raising your child(ren) to be loving, respectful and responsible people who are able to take care of themselves someday. That’s what matters in the end. 🙂