The “Right” Number of Kids

How many kids do you have?” the dental technician asked me while her latex-gloved hands were working inside my mouth. I could feel her knuckles against the inside of my lips, expertly moving the mirror and probe from tooth to tooth.

Now really isn’t the right time to be having a conversation, I thought, but I made a noise that sounded like “two” as much as I could and held up two fingers above the paper bib lying flat on my chest.

“Oh, two, that’s a lagom number. Two is perfect. I also have two kids.”

I know that this woman was only trying to make small talk with me while she scraped the plaque off of my teeth, but it struck me as somewhat of a rude conversation to be having with anyone, let alone a stranger. 

Who is she to be saying two is the perfect number of kids?

What if I wanted more but couldn’t have any?

What if I secretly wanted five babies but my husband said no?

Why do so many people feel the need to comment on the number of kids someone has?

The number of children anyone has is such a personal and emotionally charged topic that it usually doesn’t go well when strangers bring it up casually. I spat into the white porcelain bowl and watched my diluted blood swirl down the drain, and left without saying anything more on the topic.

Frankly, it’s none of your business how many kids we have. And most certainly, I don’t need your value statements added to any number I throw out there.

Many of my girlfriends struggle with finding the “right” number of kids for their families. They are looking for that feeling of completion. That “I’m so done” level. Except, I don’t think it exists until you’re well past that point.

Maybe one more baby and then we’ll be done…

The decision shouldn’t ever be one-sided, although, generally the partner who is done will be tough(er) to convince to get back into the diaper phase once they are out.

 

Remove emotion from the equation

Maybe it’s better to take the emotion out of it. I knew that if I let emotions make decisions for me, we’d end up with more babies than we could handle.

Instead, I suggest the balanced approach…some emotion but some practicality as well.

Think about your physical health during pregnancy—will you be at a higher maternal age? Did you have an easy/hard pregnancy before? C-section? Repeat C-section? Is adoption an option? 

Consider the spacing of ages between siblings. Will your kids be close in age or far apart with their siblings? Do you care or is this important to you?

Think about how your marriage/partnership might change when introducing a new baby into the mix. Comedian Ali Wong referred to babies as “marriage grenades” during her Netflix special and I found it to be an accurate description, if not slightly insensitive. 

Think about your career. Are you and your partner okay with taking time off when your baby needs you? Parental leave, sick time, etc., what are your options?

These are all rational factors to consider when thinking about another baby.

 

Budget

It’s rude to talk about money, right? But let’s talk about it. 

If your family travel a lot because you live far from extended relatives, then the cost of travel will definitely play into your decision.

We live far from family and in order to visit, the cost of four airplane tickets is much different than five or six. Ignoring the undeniable costs for our family would be a large mistake.

Will you need a larger car? A larger house? 

Increasing from 0 to n kids comes with additional expenses that should be weighed into the equation. I’m not saying it needs to be the main factor, but it should be a factor, for sure.

In the end, it’s none of my business

I want to reassure you that at some point, you’ll feel “done” and that the answer as to how many kids are “right” for you will be crystal clear. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen.

For various reasons, you may be unable or unwilling to grow your family and nobody should make you feel bad about that—definitely not strangers, friends, or family or even yourself.

Sometimes, the best we can hope for is to feel marginally unsure and unsatisfied with where things stand. Absolute uncertainty eludes most of us.

But really, it’s none of my business how many babies you decide to have and you don’t have to tolerate anyone giving you grief over it.

If they don’t have sharp metal instruments resting against your gums, feel free to tell them to mind their own business and walk away.

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