Reader Question: How Did You Decide on Your Family Size?

posted by Andrea | 06/9/2017
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Ever since I announced that Baby Dekker #4 is on her way, I’ve gotten so many congratulatory emails and comments from all of you — thanks so much!

A couple of the emails questioned how Dave and I decided what size family we want (or at least hope to have) someday. They weren’t nosey emails, prying for our personal information — rather, the questions were mainly because these readers are currently in the middle of trying to decide this exact same thing.

I know I have personally asked friends (especially older friends) this exact same question — basically for the same reason — so I thought it might be an interesting blog post!

One of the emails summed it up really well:

I’ve been a reader of your blog for about a year and have enjoyed following your family’s journey.  We are pregnant with our second (also a girl!) and have been talking a lot about family size, mostly along the lines of “Should we have 2 or 3 children?”

I was curious if you would consider writing a blog post on your decision about family size, or even introducing the topic so others could comment. We are finding there are so many reasons — pro and con. We realize it may not happen just because we want it to happen, but there is still a decision to be made! My husband and I are also in our late 30’s, so we don’t have the luxury of waiting a few years and then deciding.

Yes, I think we are all aware that just because WE want another baby (or don’t want another baby) doesn’t necessarily mean WE will get what WE want.

That said, I do think most people put at least some amount of thought or consideration into family size — and honestly, I know many girls (myself included) who think about their future family size before there is even a potential father in the picture 🙂

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted 5 kids.

I honestly have NO idea why this is the number I settled on (especially since I hated babysitting and have never been a ‘baby person’), but I’ve always pictured myself with 5 kids — long before I considered who the father of these 5 kids might be!

When Dave and I were dating, I mentioned my idea of 5 kids — and to my surprise, he didn’t totally freak out. He said he thought 4 would be nice, but would be willing to consider 3 or 5 as well.

We were engaged just a few months later, so clearly, I didn’t scare him away!

After that initial conversation, we honestly never really talked about our future family size much until Nora was about 1 year old. I think we were both SOOOOOO overwhelmed with becoming new parents of a very fussy baby that we both knew her first year of life was NOT the time to discuss more children.

I do remember feeling so sad when we finally talked about it and we both agreed we weren’t even close to ready to have any more children for a while. We even half-heartedly joked about not ever having more children — and I honestly think there was some degree of seriousness for both of us in that statement.

I knew I really did want more than 1 child, but I was also certain I could not repeat the torturously sleep-deprived first 18 months of Nora’s life with another baby.

Fortunately for Dave and I (both major planners) we unexpectedly found out we were pregnant with Simon when Nora was about 20 months old. I was initially very shocked, sort of angry, pretty scared, and extremely excited all at the same time.

And as many of you know, Simon was an angel baby who slept a ton, ate like a champ, and was generally happy almost all the time. Praise the Lord!

 

By the time Simon was 4 months old, we had already decided we wanted more children — and that we would ideally like to have the next baby fairly soon if possible.

I was pregnant with James just a few months later — and so excited to have our first “summer baby” who would be born when Dave was home all day!

I can remember being in the hospital the day after James was born and thinking, “Yes, I definitely want to do this at least one more time.” In no way did I feel like we were “done” having babies… and I don’t think Dave ever felt that way either.

.

Now, being pregnant with our 4th child (and knowing it’s a girl) I’ve had the very first thoughts of: “Maybe 4 is enough.”

Dave told me he’s had these thoughts too.

I’m not sure if I’m just tired of being pregnant while chasing multiple other little children or if the idea of stopping with 2 boys and 2 girls sounds very appealing to me… but all of a sudden, I no longer always picture myself with 5 children.

Of course, we are not officially closing the door to more children, but I do think both Dave and I could potentially be ready to move past the “having more babies” stage of life after this next one arrives.

We’ll just have to wait and see! 

On one hand, I think of all the “pros” to having a bigger family:

  • Lots of siblings to play with.
  • Lots of toys and clothes to share.
  • Another chance to snuggle a new baby (the newborn phase is actually growing on me!)
  • Another little person to love so much.
  • More personalities to enjoy.
  • More cousins and grandkids when they all grow up.

But I can’t help but think how different 5 kids would be versus 4:

  • We’d most likely need a bigger vehicle as 5 car seats can’t fit in our van.
  • One child would get their own room — or 3 kids would have to share one room.
  • More crowded in terms of bathroom usage, storage space, closet space, etc.
  • More expense for school tuition, family vacation, and even simple things like going out to eat or back to school shopping.
  • Less one-on-one time with each child.
  • Having an “odd child out” in terms of, we’ll either have 3 boys and 2 girls or 2 boys and 3 girls.
  • The “risk” of having twins and actually ending up with 6 children — a number I definitely can’t picture myself with right now!

Don’t worry, I’m most definitely not stressing or worrying about this in any way right now. I’ve just been thinking about it more because of the emails I got and because I was in the middle of writing this post.

Right now, we are all just super excited to welcome our 4th baby and enjoy life as a family of 6 for a while. We’ll take it one day at a time and see how we feel in another year or so!

So that’s my story… for now!

I realize this is potentially a hard topic for some of you — please know that my intentions are not to be insensitive, but rather to share my story and hopefully hear some of your stories too.

I know many of you are at the same point of life as Dave and me — wondering how many children we might have someday. But there are so many more who are done having babies (either by choice or by circumstance). There are also those who have chosen not to have children or who haven’t started families yet.

Whatever the case, I’d love to know if you have/had specific thoughts or reasons for why you want/wanted a certain number of children or why you stopped having children when you did.

This has always been an interesting topic among our friends and family members — so I know there are some good stories out there!

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96 comments

  1. Melissa

    06/21/2017

    My husband and I both wanted a large family from the beginning (it was something that came up in our discussions while dating) but also knew we wanted to adopted so we intentionally stopped having biological children when we had three (2 boys and 1 girl) and then adopted a sibling group of 5 (3 boys, 2 girls) from foster care. Both birth and adoption have been tremendous blessings to us as parents!

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  2. Pixie508

    06/14/2017

    When my husband and I considered family size, even before we were married, we always said “between 2 and 4” – I always thought we’d end up on the higher end of that. And then, I had 2 very difficult pregnancies, and 2 unplanned but very necessary c-sections. Kid2, much like Nora was an awful sleeper, until almost 20mo. We have 2 boys, and I get the “don’t you want to have a girl?” question all the time. After my first son was born, I realized that I really am best suited to be a boy mom. Then, we had a 2nd son, and again, I just love having boys. So no, I don’t feel the need for a girl. And, honestly, the risks to my and the baby’s health, plus the strain of my pregnancies on my husband and my existing kids just don’t seem worth it to us at this point.

    I’ve had several friends have babies in the last year. I love holding the babies, cooing at them, but I no longer have “baby fever”. I’m thankful to hand the baby back after getting a few snuggles in. I’ve slowly started selling/giving away our baby gear and clothes. For us, another thought is that we intend to send our kids to private Christian school, and that can be pricey, and it’s less of a financial burden to put 2 kids through than 3. We have the benefit that we easily fit in any sedan, we can play man to man coverage, we can afford more travel as a family, etc. Do I wish things could have been different? Every once in a while. But truly, I feel like our family is complete.

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  3. Laura

    06/14/2017

    Thanks for bringing this up! The post and all the comments were great!

    My husband and I are childless for the moment (between being poor college /grad students and now some infertility issues, we’ve made it to 30 without children, which is not what we were expecting!).

    I grew up oldest of four and he grew up oldest of six and both of us wanted a large family. Now, we’re starting to consider that we might not make it on the timing (not that it’s impossible).

    I was surprised when my mother-in-law said as her last one entered high school (basically an only child by that point), that she wished she’d put a couple more in the middle and filled in the long gap at the end. She said that having more adult children (and grandkids) would be worth the extra tired and hard moments in the middle.

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    Andrea Reply:

    yeah, probably easy for her to say that now — but she might have driven herself insane when all her kids were so young though 🙂
    I hope you and your husband are able to be parents someday, it sounds like you’d be great at it!

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  4. Tina

    06/13/2017

    Dear Andrea. This was really a fun post to read! We have four children, and I’m really ‘done’ now. But I always wanted to have four kids, as I grew up with three (younger) siblings and always loooved to grow up in such a big family. (My mother was a lone child that’s why she wanted to have many children :-)) My husband and I never really talked about this topic. Only after the third one did we have this conversation about if we wanted to have another one. I told him, that this was my “plan” all along, but that he must be aware that I wouldn’t be able to accompany him to official functions until the new babe is two years old (remembering my fussy nr 3). On another occasion (when I was complaining about never having time off with 4 kids) he told me, that he would have been happy to have only two kids, but he agreed to have more, because I wanted to, and we both knew, that it would be primarily my job, to care for them all week long, as he is very engaged in his job. So now we have four kids. And already during my fourth pregnancy I knew, that I didn’t want to go through another pregnancy while chasing the older ones around the house. And therefore I now have no problems to let go of maternity clothes and all the baby stuff, that we won’t longer need. It’s so freeing to be done with this phase!Tina

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    Andrea Reply:

    I honestly can’t wait until I’m officially to the point where I can purge all maternity and baby things. I’ve already gotten rid of all Nora’s too-small clothing, and I just purged all of James’ too-small things. I also got rid of a bunch of maternity stuff I know I won’t use.
    And, if I’m really being honest, I do purge quite a bit in between kids even (i just hate storing stuff) — but it will feel good to eventually put the baby stage behind us. That said, I plan to fully enjoy the baby stage first 🙂

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  5. Melissa

    06/12/2017

    From as long as I can remember, I never wanted any children. That continues to be the case to this day and works for both my husband and I. “Just us” is the perfect family size for us.

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    Andrea Reply:

    I’m glad you are confident in your choice — good for you. We have a few friends and relatives who have chosen not to have kids (most of them decided this before they were even married or dating). There are a lot of things you can do with your life without kids — our friends travel all the time. It seems so glamorous to us 🙂

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    Melissa Reply:

    With all the discussion about vehicles and the number of children in a family, it’s probably funny that we own a suburban even though we don’t have kids. We camp a lot and a whole bunch of gear fits in that beast of a vehicle.

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    Andrea Reply:

    haha — we have child-less friends who drive a minivan because they like the storage space and have 3 dogs!!

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  6. Angela

    06/12/2017

    It might seem silly, but vehicles might have been our biggest consideration in stopping at four kids! It’s really practical and comfortable to fit four kids in a minivan or SUV with three rows of seats – everyone has their own space. Add one more baby, and then you have to fit three kids across in the back row, which may not seem bad at first, but when the kids are all school age, someone is always uncomfortable and bickering. We’re on the go a lot (because all our kids are in sports/activities), so that matters a lot.

    I really wanted my kids to grow up with a bigger family, but didn’t want them to feel they were missing out on things that smaller families have either or have such a large family that we couldn’t afford to give our kids lots of opportunities (I grew up with a friend who kind of was resentful of her large family for those reasons). So while it’s trickier and more expensive to eat out, we still do it on occasion, and a table for 6 is easier to get than a table for 7. Vacations are a big deal too, and again, the 4 kids fit comfortably in the vehicle, and fit evenly in beds in hotels or cabins. We also fit evenly on amusement park rides, etc. (the two big kids are always together – they’re best buddies – and then my husband and I each take a little one – seems really silly, but I often think about how many times, in our past few years of vacationing, we would not have gotten to do the things we did if we’d had one more baby! It seems like no big deal when they’re babies and toddlers, but when they’re all in school, it’s a whole different world. Costs of activities is enormous (we have sports and music x4, and those are things I don’t want them to miss out on), and scheduling those activities (and attending all those games and concerts) while still preserving family time is not easy. I’m afraid that with more than four kids, we would have had to cut back on lots of those things.

    We are definitely very happy with decision to have four kids and it’s worked wonderfully for us! Many people asked us or assumed that we’d be trying for more, and I always joked “If we had any more kids, we’d have to buy a church van!” : ) And while I admire the really large families, that would be a very different lifestyle for us (in terms of what opportunities we could afford to give our kids) so a medium-sized family has been perfect for us, and four kids was our magic number! : )

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    Andrea Reply:

    The whole vehicle situation is our biggest “reserve” in wanting 5 children as well — so no, it doesn’t sound silly to me.
    I don’t want to be crammed in and I don’t want to drive a “church van”!

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    Angel Reply:

    We bought a Chevy Express custom van when I pregnant with our last child. It seated 7 wonderfully and came with a dvd player and nice sound system, tinted windows, pleated window coverings (not sure the proper name). Very comfortable van. We had it for 8 years and loved it. It was a custom van so it had some nice bells and whistles to it. Lots of storage and leg room. Made for easier time getting our baby in and out and plenty of floor space for changing diapers. It was not your average “church van”, lol!

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  7. Deb

    06/12/2017

    We have three, 24, 22, 20, boy, girl, girl. They did pair off, leaving one out, either by sex, or by interest, or whatever. I don’t think you can ever completely avoid that, no matter how many kids you have, as there are always different interests and personalities and some kids (my middle one) like to be a loner! 😉

    My ONLY piece of wisdom would be to wait until life is settled and things are running smoothly to make any major decisions. There are always temporary methods that can be utilized without a permanent commitment. Hormones, crazy kids and lack of sleep all make our brains not work quite properly, so it is best to wait for more clarity!

    That is my 2 cents!

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  8. Eliza

    06/11/2017

    I have always had a mental image of me in a country garden with three kids around me. But i have never liked odd numbers of children as i feel one would always be left out.

    Our first was a surprise and while i adored her it took me until well after my second child to adjust. But after my second was born i suddenly wanted a big family.

    But taking into account our need for travel (our family lives all around the world and likely always will. Because we love our family we will need to travel to visit them) and my tendency to get anxious, we decided to stay at 2. It does always play with me, though.

    Finally i think for environmental reasons 2 is a good number.

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    Andrea Reply:

    You know what– I always pictured myself making Christmas cookies with 5 kids around the table with me — so funny how we have these visions!

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  9. Zeinab

    06/11/2017

    I knew your site for about a week. I live in Iran. Here is common to have 1 or 2 children, but I like to have 4 or 5. Now we have 2 sons: 5 and 2.
    I only have a sister and I know how it is valuable to have more brothers and sisters, as my husband has.

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  10. Dana

    06/10/2017

    I’m not sure if it’s really appropriate for a childfree person to pipe up here, but since there were several factors that went into our choice of our “family size” I thought I’d mention a few:

    1) I came from a home of 2 kids where my sister and I HATED each other until we were adults. We were four years apart and we fought horribly. My parents both worked full time and we spent 4-6 hours a day in childcare before and after school.

    2) My husband came from a home of 4 boys being raised by a single mother, and while she was an awesome mom, life was pretty stressful for them in many ways. My husband got in a lot of trouble as a kid – he was THAT KID.

    3) Growing up, some of my closest family friends and my other female role models were women who lived non-traditional lives (“traditional” being “get married have babies”) – one of the ladies never did get married or have children, and another married pretty late in life to a man who already had grown children from a previous marriage.

    4) I am a teacher and I deal with middle-school-aged children ALL. DAY. LONG. In addition, I teach in the arts in public schools, which means that when our state budgets start to cut things down, my programs are always the first on the chopping block, so my job security is always a little tenuous.

    5) My husband was retired from the military on psych disability in 2004 (as were several other members of his unit) and has been unable to do full-time work since then, which absolutely affects our income and of course impacts his daily life as well.

    With all of those factors, we didn’t think that ours would be a good home to raise children. I fully believe that my husband would make a wonderful father (he is fantastic with his nephews and goddaughter), and I like to think that I would be a decent mom, but there are so many other things that would make life wayyyyyy more difficult than it needed to be, both for us and for kiddos.

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    Andrea Reply:

    It’s TOTALLY appropriate for a childfree person to comment — I have many childfree readers (believe it or not) and I’m sure they would all love to hear your story.

    Thanks so much for sharing Dana!

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  11. Alicia

    06/10/2017

    I love this question, and post! It’s so interesting to read other people’s stories.

    My husband and I both came from 2 children families. I knew I wanted a large family, but thought that number was 3. My husband was DONE after 2. Like done done. For some reason I could NOT let it go, though. For years I tried to make peace with 2, but I felt in my heart we were supposed to have more. Lo and behold, I very surprisingly became pregnant with #3!

    After that, once again my husband told me no more, he was definitely done and happy with 3. But for some reason after my 3rd was born I still felt like someone was missing. In fact I vividly remember when my 3rd was about 3 months old and I still felt so disorganized, sleep-deprived, and a little bit crazy, I would go to pick him up out of his crib and it was like I was still searching around the crib for one more. Call it hormones, but it was that moment that I knew we were meant to have 4.

    And sure enough, here I am 2 years later, 6 months pregnant with #4! 🙂 We are definitely done after this one. 😉

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    Andrea Reply:

    haha — enjoy getting back to your normal body once this last baby is born! I think that’s what I’m most excited about right now — not changing sizes all the time!

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  12. Katy

    06/10/2017

    My husband and I decided pretty early on that 4 would be a good number. We had those 4 within 5 years, and the youngest didn’t sleep ever. (At least that’s what it felt like!) So we were pretty sure we were done. I even very publicly said so, and wrote a blog post or two about it, and gave away every single baby thing.

    And now I’m pregnant with #5.

    Once my youngest started sleeping, and therefore I started sleeping, I was able to see that most of my reasons for being done were kind of superficial. Except for that whole sleeping thing – I need that! But the rest – I like coffee and wine, my last pregnancy was hard, and what if we end up with twins (which my husband still likes to tease me about because my first appointment to hear the heartbeat is still a couple weeks away).

    In fact, one of the first questions people have asked as we’ve told them is “I thought you were done?” So even if I feel that way after this pregnancy, I may not be as quick to announce it this time!

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