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.