Some Thoughts on Family Size

First I need to preface this by saying that this is absolutely not a decision we’re going to make at this point, or anytime soon at all. It’s just something I’ve been thinking about, and Christopher and I have discussed it some.

Recently I read through a fairly long thread on Hellobee on the topic of being “one and done.” And it really got me thinking and questioning some assumptions I’ve always made. This is mostly a direct copy and paste from my private journal of my musings on the topic, so it’s a bit less polished and more stream of consciousness than usual. (Note, DH is “dear husband,” a common shorthand on message boards that is faster than typing his name. I may start using it on here all the time.)

I have *always* assumed I wouldn’t be one and done. I’m essentially an only (I have a half sister and brother, but they’re 14 and 16 years younger than me, and I’ve never lived with my dad anyway), and I just always thought that I didn’t want to have my kid be the same. I’m not entirely sure why, since I didn’t hate it or anything. I did always kind of wish I had a sibling, or even a twin, but honestly I have some major issues with attention so I might well have hated it! (Especially a twin. R was due 4 days after my birthday and I was honestly worried that she’d be born on it and I would be mad.) I was super excited when I found out my stepmom was pregnant (I was 13 and living several hours away at the time), but I don’t actually think it was good for my relationship with her or my dad. I even said when I was younger that I wanted 10 kids, and meant it! Clearly I’ve changed my mind there, but I still always thought 2 or 3 would be a good number.

DH, on the other hand, wouldn’t be upset with none, is fine with 1 and will not even consider more than 2. He has a twin sister and 2 younger brothers, and he had 2 stepbrothers for a good while around late elementary into middle school age. He does NOT want that sort of thing for his kids. Not that it’s likely, but it colored his opinions. And he also saw how hard it was on his mom, trying to get them to all of their activities (he alone played soccer, year-round baseball, football, and basketball for most of his life), and how hard it was financially even with child support from his dad. He now constantly worries about money (and he makes plenty, and we live in an area with a very low cost of living, so he has NO reason to worry) because of an entire childhood of growing up with less than would have been ideal. So he also worries about the cost of raising too many kids, and worries about having kids who wind up worrying about money like he does.

So, all that to say, I’ve been reading through this thread and it’s really got me reconsidering things. For one thing, I have no solid reason to feel like I really want more than 1. As many pointed out, just having siblings doesn’t mean they’ll be close. DH isn’t terribly close to any of his siblings, even his twin. He doesn’t have a ton in common with them, so they have little common ground except a shared childhood. But we both have some best friends that we’re super close to, so clearly siblings aren’t the only source of that kind of close relationship. And I don’t know that I have any other compelling reason. (I’ll be honest, if our first isn’t a girl (which would mean something going wrong with this pregnancy, which better not happen!), I might wind up feeling so much gender disappointment that it makes me want another, but that’s a terrible reason to have another that might not even be a girl!)

And on the pro-one and done side, I actually do have some good arguments. As some others said, I have issues with patience and bouts of depression and anxiety. The pressure and stress of two little ones could exacerbate all that badly. With one, on a bad day I think I could just hand her off if I need to, or at least not feel as overwhelmed as I would with two. I nannied very briefly for two toddlers, and swore off any more jobs that were with more than one. Why do I feel like that would be any less overwhelming if the two were my own?

I’m currently on my fourth pregnancy, but have no living children thus far. Do I really want to go through any of this again? Since we technically have no reason why we can’t have a healthy pregnancy and baby, theoretically we might be able to have a second in one go. But our history makes me feel like the odds of that aren’t great, and even if it went fine, my anxiety levels during pregnancy these days are NOT good. Do I really want to go through all that anxiety, plus the exhaustion (and potential nausea/sickness, though I’ve been lucky on that so far), etc of pregnancy while taking care of a small child? I do love being pregnant, but a lot of the fun has been sucked out of it, and I don’t think having finally made it through one successfully will change that much. Also, this is (hopefully) my re-do for having had a traumatic birth experience. If this goes well, or just not horribly, I will hopefully be able to feel a bit better about that. But do I really want to do it a third time?

And then there’s the issue of being able to focus on just the one child, as many have brought up. I was SO relieved we weren’t having twins (not that there was much of a chance, but I was trying to worry about something other than there not being a heartbeat at the first ultrasound), because I was afraid that having to deal with two at once would mean that I would miss too much. I want to be able to focus on one and really enjoy every bit of it as much as I can, not be pulled in multiple directions all the time. Except why does that feeling suddenly not matter once they’re not teeny? Doesn’t the same argument apply to having a second child, no matter how old the first is? Yes, having them farther apart means the older one is more self-sufficient, and splitting up the newborn stage means less exhaustion all at once, but still, a second child will *always* mean that much less time/attention for each of them. One child means more time to focus on them, more money to do things with/for them, etc. Heck, it’s silly, but I love to throw big parties and DH will be much more on board with big birthdays if it’s only once a year!

And DH’s reason for being fine with no kids (well, he used to be. I think after losing R he’s more determined to have at least one) was always that he wanted to be able to travel, and retire relatively early, and just have some freedom as we get older. Assuming this LO is healthy and on time, we’ll both turn 30 within a few weeks of her arrival. That’s not old by any means, but the clock is still ticking. If she’s out of the house by 20, we could have most of our freedom (however much you ever have with a kid, even a grown one) back by 50. And without the extra financial burden of a second, retirement would be easier to swing at a younger age. One could be a compromise between the 2 we’ve been planning and the none he kind of wants, at least financially.

So lots of good reasons. But a couple of worries, and interestingly not all ones I’ve seen addressed in the thread so far. First, I’m currently a housewife and plan to be a SAHM, including homeschooling at least for a bit. I’m sure it’s ridiculous, but it almost seems wrong to be a SAHM for just one, with no plans for more. Like it’s lazy or something? I’m not sure where that’s coming from, aside from the fact that all the SAHM’s I know have at least 2, but I feel like I’ll be judged. But honestly, the idea of being a SAHM to just one is kind of exciting! I’d have so much more time to really do fun things, and go fun places! It seems like socialization would be harder, but I’m not sure that one makes sense either. If I’m homeschooling, I’ll need to put more effort into being sure they spend time with other kids no matter what. A sibling is not a replacement for outside friendships and learning about relationships. Part of me also worries that it will be harder because if DH keeps his current job, it will mean moving every few years. That’s part of why homeschooling is helpful, but will also make it even harder to form good friendships. A sibling would give them some consistency, seems like. But I moved multiple times growing up, and while yes, it was occasionally lonely, it wasn’t that big of a deal. Most of the friends I had growing up varied even when I wasn’t moving (by which I mean, we didn’t move for the first time until I was 9, and at that age I was not still friends with the same people I had been friends with at 5 anyway). Hopefully I can get LO into something like Girl Scouts or a particular sport, so there can be sort of an “easy in” with other kids, rather than finding new types of groups to join each time.

And my other concern, is that I just don’t know what I’d do with myself on some level. I’ve always known that our kids would eventually go to school, or just grow up, and I’d need to find my own identity/purpose outside of parenting. I never finished college, never found a career, and as I said before I’m now a housewife. I find a lot of satisfaction in just being a good wife and homemaker, but I also don’t think it’s enough, especially since if something happens to DH where does that leave me? I’ve kind of been counting on being a mom to give me more of an identity (wife and mother seems better than just wife) and to help buy me some time on figuring all that out. But with only one, that’s less time. It’s going to be an issue no matter what, but part of me sort of panics at the thought of having to figure it out any sooner. Though I will say that I’ve been volunteering at the library for a few months, and I LOVE it. I’m not sure there’s ever going to be a career in that (I’d need a degree, and it’s not like it’s a growing job market), but maybe volunteering is enough. If DH does keep his current job, there would be no major financial pressure for me to work. I don’t know. I do know that’s a really bad reason to have multiple kids, but it still is something that comes up when I think about it.

Anyway, like I said, this isn’t something we’ll even consider making a final decision on for a LONG time. It’s too important to decide in haste. But… honestly it’s so freeing to think of only having one! On some level I’ve been worried about how I’d handle two for a long time. It just feels so overwhelming, and when I see moms out with more than one I feel zero jealousy (unlike when I see them with just one). I actually wrote this last week some time, and since then I’ve considered some more drawbacks, but none of them seem compelling, just things to be aware of and work to overcome. (For example, when you only have one you can wind up focused on them too much, and too attached, and it can be overwhelming for the child, especially as they get older and are trying to find their own identity and break free. Your relationship with your only child is likely to be one of the closest you’ll have in your life, but you can’t let yourself become too dependent on them.) I’ve been reading the book “One and Only,”  (because I don’t do half measures, if this is on my mind, I’ll be researching for weeks!) and it’s really good and has been helpful in really thinking through all the different aspects. The more I think about it, the better I feel about not having a second. And DH is totally fine with it as of right now. When I told him I was thinking about it, his response was exactly what I predicted, “we can retire earlier and travel more.”


So that’s where we are for now. I’m glad it’s something I’ve come to think about sooner than later, since it makes me that much more aware of the need to enjoy my pregnancy. It might be my last! I guess we’ll see. 🙂



One thought on “Some Thoughts on Family Size

  1. I so admire your bluntness. I have a lot of the same thoughts that you write, but you have the courage to put them out there. It’s beautiful because it makes women like me not feel so alone or like I’m a bad person for having that thought. Thank you! 😊

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