How do you know when your family is big enough?

How do you know when you have finished having children?  How do you know when your family is at its natural capacity and enough is enough?  This is a question I’ve been having with my husband for years now.  The Minx is 2 in a few weeks and I remember one evening when she was just 11 weeks old I lay in the bath and wrote an email response to a journalist looking for a case study on exactly that question for a magazine.  I reread my answer to her tonight and I still feel the same way.

My husband and I are both one of 3; I’m the eldest of 3 girls and my husband is the middle child.  We come from very family oriented backgrounds.  His sister is younger than him by about 8 years because his mum was desperate for a third child but his dad wasn’t and I think it took a long time for his mum to persuade his dad that it was a good idea.  Then it was not what he wanted.  Now he wouldn’t change that decision for anything.  My husband’s extended family is much smaller than mine. He has “just” two aunts & uncles and four cousins, whereas I have ten aunts&uncles and too many cousins/cousins’ children to count!

Growing up, I loved being a part of something so big.  Despite the size of my family we have all always been close, and I really want my children to be a part of something like that. Men are very practical creatures. My husband (as his dad did before him) feels that his family is complete; particularly when people keep telling us that as we have “one of each” we don’t need any more.  He doesn’t see what having a third child could possibly bring to him except for washing more nappies, teething, toilet training, and going through the terrible twos an extra time.  On top of all that, he thinks more about the practical side – how can we afford another child?  As well as all the every day things that we already have to deal with we’d need to upgrade everything – bigger car, bigger holidays, bigger house, bigger supermarket bill.  After all, how do you fit three car seats in the back of a Corsa?  We have enough to live cheaply but comfortably just now.  We holiday with family in Britain and “sacrifice” things like Sky TV.  If we have a third, he wonders where else we’ll cut our cloth whilst still having some sort of reasonable work/life balance.

For me, though, family isn’t about creating the picture perfect family – mum, dad, a son and a daughter.  It’s like something inside me longs for another child.  I’ve always known I wanted children, even when I was ten and playing with my baby cousin.  I am happy when I’m surrounded by my family, and love children, which is one of the reasons I became a teacher.  I can’t believe that the Minx may have been the last time I would ever be pregnant (even if being pregnant was one of the most uncomfortable things I’ve ever experienced), that it may be my last time I hold my own newborn, see their first smile, celebrating their first tooth whilst lamenting that their cute, gumsy smile is gone.    If I accept that I’m never going to have any more children then I’m as well giving all of her outgrown things to charity and clear out all of my son’s old things, and yet I’m just not quite able to do that.  I can totally see where my husband is coming from.  I can fully appreciate the financial and practical implications, and yet that is not enough to override my internal biological clock.

When we’ve discussed it in the past it has always been a theory; something very distant.  Sometimes during my pregnancy a third child would come up in conversation – for instance, if we were talking about sorting through my son’s old baby things, or whether we needed to change our buggy so that it could last for a third child or just get a buggypod for the side of the old one and wear it out!  Whilst still pregnant, my husband would smile indulgently at his hormonal wife and tell me that that was all a long way away.  However, since the Minx has arrived he has gone from non-committal to telling me that he really didn’t see himself having three children because to him, his familty is complete and having a third isn’t necessary.

I made it clear that whilst I couldn’t say for certain that I’d have a third child, the discussion isn’t closed.   I’ve found that if I say that I won’t do something and later change my mind, he finds that hard to understand and deal with.  Maybe it’s a man thing.  He knows that the idea of making such a big decision against having more children upsets me so he won’t outright tell me no – yet.  But I know I’ve got an uphill battle on my hands to persuade him.

For the moment we’ve reached a stalemate, with me saying that I don’t feel I’m ready to stop having children and with him telling me that he really doesn’t know that we can afford another one.  Right now it’s particularly hard because my sisters are having their second children, and friends are moving on to their third.  I want to weep with jealousy.

I know I’m not alone in feeling like this.  Many of my friends have said that they would like more but that their partners aren’t as keen.  Some have said that they’re going to wait until their children are at school and then have another as some of the practical concerns won’t be such an issue then – the children can use smaller car seats, they may have enough money to move house, they won’t be paying out ridiculous amounts for child care.  Another friend, whose children are now nearly five and three, said that she really wanted a third until her youngest turned 6 months and then she just felt that she didn’t want to go through that baby stage again.  That’s kind of the moment I’m hoping for.  That one day I’ll realise that I’m happy to not have any more and to be able to clear out that baby stuff without too much heartache. Until then, I’m going to pray that someone designs cheap, narrow car seats that will safely fit into my car and remove at least that obstacle from my path.

One thing’s for sure though: I love my family – and my husband is a huge part of that.  Whatever decision we come to will be reached as a family.

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10 responses to “How do you know when your family is big enough?

  1. I hope you and your hubby manage to reach a happy medium. For me, even though I know I couldn’t cope with another child on top of the 4 I already have, it doesn’t stop me getting broody, especially when I see newborns, as I love tiny babies! Having our 3rd was an easy decision but having the 4th was harder and that’s why there is a bigger age gap between the 3rd and 4th. Part of me would love another baby, and I don’t think I will ever stop wanting one, but I know deep down that 4 is enough. It’s not just the practical matters, with 3 daughters I would adore another son but with the eldest just turning 9 if I did have a another son there would be 10yrs between them which is too large and age gap and would stop them being close and I think if I had another girl hubby would leave home, we’re already dreading puberty with the 3 we have!

  2. The feeling of wanting another child has never left me. I love my three children very much but for some reason my mind and body wanted more so because of this, I had no choice but to leave the final decision to my husband. All three pregnancies were extremely hard on me, so in real truth my body could not have dealt with another. It is a tough, tough decision to make and I wish you the best in coming to that decision.

  3. I’m expecting number 3 at the moment. We always agreed we’d have at least 3, but I still like the idea of 4. My husband is against 4 because, like yours, he’s practical about our finances. He’s also convinced if we tried for 1 more we’d end up with a 2nd set of twins, giving us 5 kids! It may change when the boys reach school and our childcare costs drops. I hope when the time comes we agree. I hate the idea of money limiting our family. Good luck, whatever u decide. Xx ps we had to get a bigger car when we had twins and our double buggy wouldn’t fit in our car boot. We found a fab 7 seater for a really good price, so a bigger car doesn’t need to cost thousands. x

  4. I always thought I would have a big family. In my head I thought 4 kids would be wonderful. The reality was, that it took me a long time to get pregnant (successfully) with my son. He’s now nearly 3. Number two is dearly longed for and I am determined to keep going for as long as I can to make that dream happen. Beyond that, I’m not sure any more. The whole trying thing has been such an emotional rollercoaster, I think for my sanity, at some point I need to draw a line under it.

    Good luck with your decision. It doesn’t matter how many children you’ve got, if you feel that longing, then you feel that longing – you can’t hide it. I always loved the idea of having a big family and my children being part of that too. I can really identify with how that must have been fabulous for you growing up and why you would want that for your own children.

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  6. After my second I had PND and was adamant she would be the last. Prior to this we had always speculated that we would have 3. When the baby hit 1 and suddenly started playing with her big sister, we enjoyed them so much more that I suddenly couldn’t bear the thought that we would never have another baby. I’d never really been broody but started feeling envious of pregnant women and feeling weepy looking at baby clothes. I even thought of names for my imagined 3rd child! When I finally broached this with my husband he admitted he was feeling the same ( we’d decided shortly after arrival of number 2 that that was it). We went ahead and had number 3 (another girl!) and enjoyed her so much, we were more confident as parents and our older 2 adored her as much as we did. I do now feel my family is complete, although I do have odd twinges, like the cot bed finally going a couple of weeks ago!
    My main feeling is that you will never regret having a child but you may regret not having a child!

  7. i feel the exact same way. i have 3 girls, oldest almost 4yrs, younger 2 are t2 month old natural twins. but i still want to try for another baby despite the financial expense it cost us, we had to buy a bigger car and move house in the space of a year. the stress was immense but i still feel deep down that my family is incomplete and i would love to try for another baby & pray that its a boy so that my family will feel complete….hopefully lol, but i am at a higher risk of having twins again, the prospect of having a 4th baby doesnt worry me financially but the thought of having twins again would leave a huge dent in our finances. my partner hasnt said either yes or no about trying again but his facial expressions said it all. think mainly because we might have another girl….i know that sounds aweful in saying that as what you have is what you get but after 3 girls a boy would b nice. i’m 25 and not ready for my reproductive system to retire just yet…i have even been clocking my periods and ovulation dates since after having the twins just so i can time it right in getting a boy lol….all in the hope that in 3 or 4 yrs we will agree to try again….hopefully lol :-/

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