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The Duggar family makes me wonder how you decide how many kids to have?

Categories: Parenting & Family, Working Women Issues, Your life


The Duggars have 18 children. They had 17 at the time I was reading this interview with them over at ParentDish, but their newest baby was just born. 18. I am just going to type that again so you know it’s not a typo.

But back to the interview. As I was reading it I started to think about how families make the decision about how many kids to have. Because I think it’s one of those, you know, LIFE DECISIONS, which might come easy to some but is likely emotionally and otherwise charged for others.

If you want some quantitative evidence to back this up, let me just tell you that my post titled Why is it such a crime to have an only child? is the most popular post on this blog, with over 100 comments and going. And the recent episode we recorded on Momversation, about deciding when to have another child, now has the most comments from viewers than any other, including those covering discussion-inducing topics like natural vs. cesarean birth and how to deal with your family if you can’t stand their politics.

I am a fairly rational person and like to think things through. (Well, most of the time. Those ridiculously uncomfortable 4 inch red heels I got on “sale” for $200 a few years ago are testament to the contrary.) So when it comes to deciding how many kids to have, my husband have a LOT of conversations about it and consider a lot of factors (including how we’d juggle more kids and our fairly demanding careers, which apparently more and more people are considering.) But I know many other couples who think it’s strange to have such rational discussions about having kids and they are more intuitive about it, for lack of better terms. “We just did what felt right,” a friend told me after she got pregnant with their third child. In a less pleasant interaction one mom I met mentioned, in passing, that she thought it was strange when people considered things like money when thinking about having more kids. “That’s just cold,” she said.

So I am curious — how do you decide how many kids to have? Do you think things through and consider things like money, work-life balance, etc.? Or do you follow the what feels right approach and don’t over-analyze?

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7 comments so far...

  • our first baby was a surprise, but ended up being the best thing that ever happened to me. Our second pregnancy was unexpected, but welcome…but ended in miscarriage. Which made us realize we wanted a sibling for our first. This pregnancy, which will be our second born child, was planned because of that desire.
    And we will most likely not have any more. I have clinical depression, and pregnancy wreaks havoc on my emotional stability. perhaps in a few years, if we feel I can handle it, we may try for one more. But no less than three years down the road.

    rebecca  |  December 19th, 2008 at 7:02 pm

  • I always wanted 6 kids. My parents had 6. Most likely not a coincidence.

    Because I always believed in big families, that always colored all of my other dreams. It was never a matter of compromising my professional or wealth ambitions for children. I wouldn’t have pursued a path that wouldn’t make sense for a mom with lots of kids.

    For the record, I am an attorney, MBA, and CPA, so no, I didn’t drop out of high school because I couldn’t think of anything but kids. But for the most part, I’ve seen my career as a means to an end rather than “the end.” Yeah, I enjoy the meat of my work, but it’s never been the “most important thing” to me. And I was single and childless until I was 41.

    I am stopping at 2 because I’m older and I get tired. I don’t believe I’d be as good of a mom if I didn’t have at least a part-time career and community involvement, and between my career and my domestic duties (I’m single so I get no help unless I pay for it), I get pretty darn tired by the end of the day. It’s not about money or “my identity” or any of that stuff. My parents were always broke and I put myself through school; I know my kids could do the same if they needed to, and frankly it would be good for them. For those who have the energy and the desire to nurture many kids, I say more power to them.

    SKL  |  December 19th, 2008 at 10:23 pm

  • My Dad and Stepmom have four kids (two boys, two girls) and I always thought I wanted four as well. My husband comes from a family with three kids, so he always wanted three, max.

    We had our first two kids (boys) twenty months apart (I KNOW). After Nathan (second) was born we were so busy and tired we contemplated stopping there. We weren’t sure, though, so did not take any “permanent” measures.

    When Nathan was a year old we both realized that we wanted one more. Just one. We did, and the bonus is that I got a girl :)

    While we do not want to be pregnant again, we are open to the idea of adopting. The thought of kids out there just like mine who don;t have parents makes me weepy.

    So. We just both “knew” when we were done bearing our own children :)

    Angella  |  December 20th, 2008 at 10:17 am

  • I decided on how many kids to have based on things like money, work-life, and balance. I have never felt called to be mommy and only mommy. It’s just not in my DNA. So, for the sanity of any eggs that weren’t used…your welcome.

    Atara  |  December 21st, 2008 at 8:44 am

  • How did I decide how many kids to have? When I had my first, I swore I would never have any more ever again. Then when my first turned 3 and I turned 25 Something happened. Some kind of urge. I mention my age, because many of my friends who are also in their mid 20s talk about how they want babies. I did think about our finances and everything else around us. And decided that it was ok for us to go forward.
    So now I got two kids. If you were to ask me how many kids I wanted before I had kids, my answer would have been two. Today, it’s two. I highly doubt I will have more . I think part of the reason is because I work and my work, my accomplishments are very important to me. I also want to invest in my children, be sure I can afford various extra curricular activities for them, and so on.

    Vera Babayeva  |  December 21st, 2008 at 9:12 pm

  • I’m an only child and never really thought about how many children I wanted to have. My son A was born in the midst of my mom’s cancer treatment. My husband and I had pretty much decided that our NYC life would be perfect with us and our son. Except then my mom died when my son was 10 months old and I experienced the loss of a parent as an only child. It’s not fun and it’s really really hard. And then it makes you think about what’ll happen when the other parent eventually dies and you’ll have to deal with that completely alone.
    Not only that, but I wanted to have a child to name after my mom. Soooooooo, we made the decision to have another child - so A wouldn’t be alone to deal with the things in his life that would be made easier with a sibling.
    We now have 2 wonderful sons, A and C and are happy with our decision. We also sold the NYC apartment and moved to the boonies, but are happy with that decision too. It’s still weird for me to live in a house with more than 1 child, but I adore them both and am glad that they won’t have to deal with us in our old age without anyone to complain to :)

    Lynne  |  December 23rd, 2008 at 9:59 am

  • I have two beautiful daughters and do not feel I need to “keep trying for the boy” or “have as many kids as God will let me”. I feel God gives us the common sense to know when to stop; whether it be age, health issues, spouse, financial, or just a feeling that you know its right. I’ve seen the Duggar’s and also know of women with many children indirectly put people like me down who have only one or two children and it frustrates me because it’s easy to talk from your soap box when you’ve had the ability to have complication free pregnancies and can pop out kids like candy. It’s easy to talk when you haven’t had to be on bedrest for premature labor, had to give yourself insulin shots and be on a very restrictive diet 7-9 months into your pregnancy when you just about want to eat everything, having a baby in NICU with severe jaundice due to complications with delivery, two miscarriages back to back three months apart, kidney stones, infections,etc. My husband and I both agree we are extremely blessed and frankly want to keep it that way. I’d like to spend our lives together enjoying our family and not worrying about complications related to pregnancies. We also agree if we so desire to have another child, we are open to adopting.

    wendy  |  April 28th, 2009 at 8:42 pm