How Many Kids?

Posted On: 07.25.12

I have four sisters. I now have three girls of my own. I am 99.999% sure our brood is complete.

I’m not sure why, but I’m endlessly fascinated by the question of how many: How many kids? How many kids do people have or want or long for? How many kids did people have in their family growing up and how did this affect their desires for their own future family? How many people want zero kids, none at all, and why? How many people want as many kids as they possibly can have physically and afford financially, and why?

Is there a right number of kids? Is it irresponsible to have too many? Is it selfish to have none? Is it desirable, and somehow morally sound, to have a moderate number of progeny?

I have no answers here. I’m just curious. Curious enough to ask all of you.

How many kids do you have? How many do you want? If you do not want children, why not? If you do want children, why? Do you think some people should have more kids and some people fewer? Do you think there are any hard and fast rules here? How did the size of the family you grew up in affect (or not affect) your visions of your current or future family?


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32 Comments for: "How Many Kids?"
  1. Tessa S.

    I have no children, by choice. My younger brother, who has also chosen not to have children, put into words what I was thinking when he said :’If it is possible for me to inflict on my own children even a fraction of the suffering my parents inflicted on me, I don’t want to take the chance.’ I don’t think that deciding not to have children is selfish. Selfish to whom? Perhaps what is ‘selfish’ – or thoughtless – is having a not-so-wanted child. Or a child that is not properly provided for. I don’t regret not having children. I love my life just the way it is. If I’d had children, my life would have been different and I would have loved it just the way that it was. It isn’t about what is ‘better’. Having children, or not having children. It’s a combination of the time, the place, the season and the individual(s). I’m a high school teacher, so I am surrounded by wonderful youngsters on a daily basis. I’m also very close to my older brother’s two children and my two best friend’s six children, so I’ve certainly not ‘missed out’ on any of the joys and sorrows of raising children.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      “It’s a combination of the time, the place, the season and the individual(s)…” I couldn’t agree more. I just find this to be such an interesting topic, the whys and why nots of family-creation. I am also selfishly digging around a bit as my next novel is about three women in their thirties who do not have kids (for different reasons). Thanks so much for your perspective here. What your brother said about having kids is particularly powerful, by the way. Thanks, Tessa!

  2. Jen

    Great question! Growing up I had one sister that was 19 months younger but watching tv shows like Brady Bunch and Eight is Enough made me wish for a bigger family when I was growing up. All those brothers and sisters looked like a fun, happy way to experience childhood. I knew I wanted a big family of my own one day…

    I had my first boy and it was the happiest time of my life up to that point. I was completely in love with my little fella. I couldn’t wait to have more and when I had my second son the experience was very different. The youngest was extremely colicky and difficult. I was also quickly approaching 35 and didn’t have it in me to try for another at that time. My husband and I counted our blessings of two healthy boys and decided it was enough.

    The youngest has calmed down considerably and is getting ready to start kindergarten. I sometimes wish I had another little guy in our brood but then hear the neighbors baby crying at all hours and feel relieved that it’s not mine.

    I find myself already looking forward to grandchildren though!

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      It’s so interesting how our desires evolve, isn’t it? Until recently, I was convinced that I wanted four kids (if you’ve been reading, you know this) and just recently, I’ve really come to terms with being done. I love the idea of three little girls growing up together, a sweet trio of youth and hope… I love the idea of getting my life and my mind and my body back a bit. I love the idea of having more and more time to think and to write and to enjoy them, my creatures. I must say I have not quite thought ahead to grandkids, but I am sure that time will come, right? Thanks, Jen!

  3. s

    I love my life. When I thought about my life I always pictured a family–husband and two kids. As I approached 40 and realized that my knight in shining armor wasn’t going to arrive, I decided to have a child by myself. I knew that although I loved my life that if I didn’t at least try to have a baby I would regret it later. So 2 1/2 years later I am finaly pregnant and due in December. I am thrilled. I know that this will be my only child because, at almost 43, having another (if it was even possible) would be too much for me financially and physically. Having grown up with a sibling slightly younger, it is difficult for me to imagine that my child will not know what it’s like to have a brother or sister. That being said, I’m so glad I’m able to have taken control of my own destiny and had the family I wanted.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Oh I am so excited for you! Really. And there is something magical, I think, about a December baby. I love your first sentence here. “I love my life.” How many people can utter that simple and amazing sentence? Oh, and if you need any help naming that baby of yours, just say the word πŸ™‚

      Thanks, s!

  4. I only ever wanted 2. I grew up in a tight family of 4. My husband also had only one sibling but wanted to have a big family–5 kids were his ideal. Number 3 came by accident. If I enjoyed pregnancy more and had the money to hire outside help, I would consider it. But I am looking forward to feeling like myself again and regaining a little freedom as my youngest gets older. (I may also feel this way because all 3 are under the age of 5 right now. Perhaps if they had been spread apart more it wouldn’t be so taxing.)

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      3 kids under 5? Sounds somewhat familiar. I do have a fair bit of help and am beyond exhausted, so I hear you. I am really falling in love with the idea of re-finding myself as a person, not just a mom, after these years in the “trenches.” Don’t get me wrong – my girls are my world and always will be, but there is also a person, a discrete individual who I once knew and tended to more thoroughly whom I am eager to meet, and get to know, again. Does this make any sense?

      Thanks, Alisha!

  5. Katherine

    I watched this recently:

    And it was super informative. Basically, we have reached “max babies” in terms of world population. This was news to me as I had always thought that there was a world population crisis and we weren’t supposed to have dozens of kids if we were going to be responsible world citizens. Not true, apparently.

    I guess that means its totally a personal choice — how nice:-).

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      So interesting! Thanks for the link; will be sure to check it out. Hope all is well, Katherine. xoxo

  6. tara

    well, i have four children. in the beginning, i wanted six. unfortunately, i had two miscarriages after my first child, and two miscarriages after my second. i realized then, that i was totally content with two. then number three came as a surprise, and number four as a total shock. there is 10 years difference between my oldest and youngest and i’m finally, at 40, in a place where some of my life is back. for example, they can all swim underwater (i’m not a basket-case every moment at the pool), they can all make themselves light meals (i’m not a slave to their whims of hunger), and lastly, the oldest is old enough to babysit (i’m am free to make plans…in the evening…regardless of husbands plans…any.time.i.want!!!) i wouldn’t change the way things have turned out for anything in the world (no.s 3 and 4 have really taught me things about myself that are invaluable), but i do know for a certainty, that i was perfectly content when i thought i was done at two. you can’t miss what you never had; you only think you can.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      You can’t miss what you never had… So true and so interesting to think about. Your comment reminds me (thank you) that we can concoct these elaborate life plans and then really things happen as they happen and we adjust and evolve as they do. I’m not going to lie that I feel a twinge of envy when you say you have four because that is always the number I had in my mind, but it is also amazing how fast that twinge fades when I focus on the fact that I have three darling girls who are my world. Not that I want to rush things, but now you have me longing for a time when my kids are a wee bit more self-sufficient. Won’t that be a wonderful something? Thanks, Tara!

  7. Dara

    There are so many factors that go into this decision. In my experience, how many sibs you had is certainly part of the equation.

    I believe I want two (just as my sister and I were two), but if I have just the one I already adore, it will largely be byproduct of ambition. I want to direct. I want my own show. I want my work to be another child. One child currently feels manageable along with all the creativity my situation demands. I have enough time to give my baby the love and attention she deserves, and enough time to focus on writing without it feeling like a drain.

    I fear a second child will change that happy balance… But I admit, after a romantic evening and a bottle of wine, I may overcome that fear. πŸ˜‰

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Gotta admit, I am curious to see what you guys end up doing. Either way, somehow I know you will make it work – the parenting along side the big-time creative career stuff. I hear you on the ambition thing though. As you know, I have three kids, and I love them to itty-bitty pieces, but I’d be lying if I said they haven’t derailed me some from profound professional ambitions… I welcome this derailment/detour/delay – hey, it was a wonderful part of the plan, but I am also truly eager to plunge back into my writing and my thinking in a way that I feel cannot truly and totally happen when my kids are so tiny. Anyway, just thinking aloud but maybe you and others can relate. Hope the Creasey trio is having a good summer! xox

  8. Coming up (fast) to my thirty-ninth birthday. Just got married this year. No kids in the life-plan. Never had them in the life-plan. Could never, no matter what time in my life I was in, ever picture myself with kids, oddly. And I love my niece and nephew to bits. Spend tonnes of time with them. But I still never envisioned my own life with kids. My husband and I talked about it. We both agreed if it was ten years ago when we got married, we’d have given it a go. But it’s not so here we are…I was a quirky alone for a long time, poured every bit of my soul into my career and here I am…hope this helps for the novel! Can’t wait to read it, I’ll be so interested to read about that. πŸ™‚

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      I think it makes perfect sense to love kids and to want to be around them without wanting them for ourselves. I also admire the fact that you and your husband have taken stock of your age when coming to a conclusion on all of this. I do not think there is an age beyond which people should stop having kids (I know some absolutely top-notch and energetic and wonderful older parents), but I do think it is important for us to think about all of the factors that go into rearing a child. Thanks so much, Carolyn!

  9. Dana

    I have a younger sister by 4 years, and while she is a kind, lovely human being, we are not a good match, and, to be honest, I don’t feel that my life is any better with her in it. I don’t necessarily wish that I was an only child, but I also don’t particularly enjoy my sister. My husband is one of six kids and he loves his siblings, but also sees the benefits of not having so many kids.
    I always thought I’d want two kids, but now I have my daughter (age 3) and I think we might be done with just the one. My husband and I are both really busy, involved people with other parts of our lives, and believe strongly that we need to feel happy and balanced in order to be good parents. Being a mom has been much harder for me than I expected, and I think perhaps sticking with the one will allow for the most enjoyment for all of us. Finances, flexibility, plus my fear of giving her a sibling she doesn’t really like make it hard to “want” a second, but I am not settled with it yet.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      I wonder if we are ever truly “settled” with these things or whether the doors swing open as long as our fertility is there and in tact? Such an interesting question to me. I so get what you say about how you and your husband need to feel happy and balanced in order to be good parents. I feel the exact same way. I think too many parents lose themselves (and their quest for happiness) in the mix of parenting small ones (makes total sense to me, but still) and I think we need to be thoughtful and do what we can to protect our identity as individuals and also those goals we have that might be beyond the purview of parenthood itself. Thanks so much for weighing in, Dana!

  10. So long as a family can provide for their children (food, clothing, shelter, emotional support, love) then I think it’s up to them to decide how many (if any) to have. For us personally, we’re stopping with one biological child. Our reasons have to do with health (not sure we want to go through another pregnancy knowing how early our first one arrived), age (hi, I’m almost 40!) and finances (oiy!). However, we’re remaining open to expanding our family through adoption in a few years when our son is out of daycare and we have moved into a bigger home. To be continued…

    • Oh, one more thing. Both my husband and I grew up with one younger brother each. However, both of his parents and my mother were only children and turned out to be pretty remarkable people. So, we’re confident we can raise a pretty remarkable, well-balanced child without siblings, should that wind up being the extent of our immediate family.

      • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

        So interesting, Nilsa. I know a lot of people with wonderful and amazing only children. There is something incomparable and amazing about the breed of attention and devotion only an only child can get…

  11. I have no children by choice. Both my husband and I came from families of 4 kids. Growing up, I always wanted to be an only child. It seemed like it would be wonderful to have all of the resources and attention of my parents.

    My parents were both PhD students when I was born, so I didn’t have as many financial resources as my younger siblings. It seemed like there was always money for everything they wanted, but I had to forgo certain activities or toys when I was young. I remember asking for a trampoline every year for birthdays and Christmas. When I was in high school, my younger siblings got that trampoline.

    I was the 2nd child of 4, so I never got to experience the full attention of my parents. But since my older brother has Down Syndrome, all the expectations were in my court. I was there to help encourage him to reach developmental milestones by watching me. I was the effective oldest, doing everything first, without any of the benefits. When the other 2 arrived on the scene, I also had a large role in taking care of them. Both of my parents worked, so we had years of au pairs until I turned 16 and was old enough to drive my siblings to their after school activities.

    I feel like I did enough mothering in high school. I already get annoyed at my husband’s crumbs. How could I survive the messes of children? I enjoy being able to make decisions for myself without considering how it would affect children. I like going out and not worrying about babysitters. I like not doing homework. I like the freedom of easy travel. Plus, kids are expensive!

    My husband is 10 years older than me, and both his parents got ill and died young. So his prospects for a long life are not good. I think it would be hard enough to raise a kid with him, but I don’t think I could bear the prospect of doing it alone.

    My husband loves kids, but he sees a hundred new ones every year as a high school teacher. I don’t dislike kids; I just don’t want to live with them. I’m a good aunt and kids seem drawn to me. But it’s great to know that I can hand a baby back when he/she starts crying. It’s also nice to know that I’m not responsible for little human lives.

    My mom wants grandchildren terribly, but I have repeated told her not to look to me. I think my sister will pull through for my mom soon. I don’t think being a parent automatically allows you to assume that you should be a grandparent. Your kids are their own people.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Thank you so much for sharing this. I am surrounded by people with kids and raising kids and find myself to be genuinely interested in, and curious about, the myriad decisions not to have kids (probably why I am writing a book about it) and this is all just so interesting and real to me. It sounds like you and your husband are very thoughtful people.

  12. Monica

    I believe it’s not if we want children or not, but really up to the will of our Father and Mother Mary how many kids they send. Children are a blessing, we were all children at one time, I am the oldest of 1 younger sibling. We were a small family, only the 4 of us. On the other hand, my mom was the 2nd oldest of 6 children, my dad of 8 children. It all depends on how many blessings our Lord sends. Nonetheless, it’s always good to remain curious, I am also or so I have been told. πŸ™‚

  13. We have two. I’d love two or even three more! But at the same time, I love our life as it is so much, I can’t quite imagine adding another baby to the mix. Our younger child is nearly 4, and we’re talking about traveling to see family overseas – a prospect that felt overwhelming when they were younger.

    Aidan, I’m always astonished at the thoughtful and varied responses you get … thanks for raising the question!

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Thanks so much, Abby! I know – the idea of being out of diapers and traveling as a family – all of it is quite compelling. But does that beat the yumminess of a new baby? Such tricky emotional terrain. Hope you are well! xox

  14. Nan

    Hi Aidan, I was in your class at CLS and read your blog posts from time to time with interest. This one really hit the mark for me. As an only child who desperately wanted siblings, I have always wanted a ‘big’ family – but never could (and still can’t) define what that means. My husband is one of two, and now that we have two, is ardently opposed to more. I feel terribly ambivalent: on the one hand, all his arguments make sense. Do I want to go through the difficulties of pregnancy, childbirth, nursing, sleepless nights, and colicky babies again? Can we really afford a car big enough for 3 carseats, vacations with one extra plane ticket, ski and swim and other gear for a third child, private school tuition for a third? Do I want to extend the period we are in now of caring for two helpless little people, where we constantly sacrifice our sleep and ourselves, albeit for the best cause ever? On the other hand, I can hardly believe that I won’t have a third. I cried when I stopped nursing my second just recently – I couldn’t imagine never doing it again. I have safely stored maternity clothes and outgrown baby things – I just can’t bring myself to part with them. Does everyone feel this way? Do others share my meanderings, or do they know that they’re done when they’ve had their none or one or two or three?

    I’m also not really sure my reasoning is sound: what does it mean to have a big family? Is my desire to have a third selfish because it comes from wanting a feeling of fullness that I never had as a child, as opposed to really wanting to nurture and raise another person? What if my children aren’t close, as my husband and his brother aren’t? Will that defeat the purpose? And worse, what if my visions of storybook family holidays, surrounded by the bustle and buzz of three adult children, their spouses, and one day their children, never materializes?

    I’m not sure what to do, and perhaps the passage of time will point me in one direction or the other. Stay tuned, I guess. Hope you and your beautiful girls are well.


    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Hi there! How have you been. What a treat to see you here, Nan! What an honest and thoughtful comment. I hate to say (what you probably know) but I don’t have any ready answers for you. These things are so elusive and ineffable and truly defy logical thinking and compartmentalizing. Yes, practical questions (car sizes and tuition costs, etc) are relevant, but at the end of the day, the heart wants what the heart wants, right and it is hard, if not impossible, to shake these kinds of deep desires. It’s so interesting what you say about wanting a “big family” because this is what I had (four sisters) and this is what I have always craved for myself. I have said to myself, and to my husband, that having three feels big – even though for me it is on the small side of big, I think that even two kids can feel like a big family though if you allow yourself to truly immerse yourself in the magic and the mayhem and the chaos of it all, you know?

      Another thing that I think about is that it is so important to really figure these things out as a couple. If left up to me, I think I would consider a fourth (not necessarily go for it) but my husband is adamant about being done and I love him and we have a wonderful and honest marriage I don’t want to compromise by harassing him about another child I am not even sure I truly want. Does that make sense?

      For what it’s worth, I’ve really taken to the idea of being done. To getting back in shape once and for all, to going on romantic dates and vacations, to snagging more and more sleep, to celebrating the creatures who are here and happy and healthy… If you need some convincing on the done front, you know where to come.

      Ultimately though? Time. It will help you figure it all out. So wonderful to know I am not the only one who asks these big and impossible (and important) questions!

      All my best,

      • Nan

        Thanks for your reply, Aidan. One thing in particular struck home – the idea of not wanting to compromise your happy marriage by harassing your husband about something he doesn’t want, and you’re not sure you want. That’s how I feel too: if I were really, really convinced that I wanted another baby, then it would be worth it to go the mat for it. But I’m not sure, and ambivalence isn’t a great reason to fight with my husband about it.

        In any case, I do hope time makes things clearer, as you suggest! In the meantime, there are two gorgeous little boys who are already here and who already bring us great joy.

        All the best,

  15. While there is no mathematical formula to figure out the right number of kids per family there is a way to figure out the right support system ratio. Economics will also play a part in this equation, but for the most part you need to look at what other adults are around that you can trus to help you with your kids in the event of an emergancy. Do you have someone your life who can go to the soccer games and dance recitals for one child when your other child needs you at the science fair or Who can sit with the other four when you start those weekend trips to look at colleges? It you have an extended family or a network of child friendly friends who are happy to pitch in then go forth and make the Octo Mom look like a dilatente. But if you know that it will be a struggle to support them, or find proper care in an emergency, then spend some energy thinking about the best way to devote quality time to a smaller number of kids.

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