Written by Doctor G

Family Planning: One Kid or Two?

HI Dr. G,

I searched your site to see if you had anything on there already for this question, but I couldn’t find it. It may be an odd question for somebody who chose to have 4 children! My husband and I are in the process of planning our family. We have many mixed feelings about how many children we want to have: one or two? The idea of having one child is great: more money for the family, more time and resources devoted to our child, easier to find a sitter and go on dates, easier and cheaper to take vacations, no sibling bickering. I have done a lot of babysitting recently besides my job for extra money, and the bickering and constant vigilance and work that being with 2 children requires is completely exhausting! Especially when they are not the same age…and I can’t guarantee I would have twins, to escape THAT.

On the other hand, we worry that it’s healthier for our child to have a sibling, that maybe they won’t learn a lot of important things without a brother or sister. Would our only child grow up to be selfish and socially stunted? My sister and I never got along as kids, but we are great friends now. My husband and his brother got along great as kids, but they don’t now (he didn’t even show up to our wedding). We are really conflicted. Is there any advice you can give about which is better overall, one or two? (Just don’t say 4…we couldn’t handle that, I know it!)

Thank you,

Naomi in Delaware

This is a great question. I’m guessing, Naomi, that you (like me) are a planner! When something as important as having kids is on your mind, it is tempting to think that it is necessary – even possible – to plan it all out. There is a Jewish saying, approximately “People plan, God laughs.”

I do indeed have four kids, my husband is the middle of three and I am an only child myself. There are all kinds of “right” families with every possible combination. The information and opinions that you already have are important and valid. Of course you will create possibilities in your mind. But there are so many things you don’t yet know.

Each child has a unique personality. You may get a child so easy-going and generous of spirit that you see no need to put your family into money stress having another. Your firstborn might be so cranky and tough to please for the first period of time that you can’t imagine voluntarily having a second! You may get a child that teaches you lots about parenting and you desperately want to have another to ride the ride again. Once you meet that child and see how the three of you fit together as a family, the question of doing it again may be more easily answered than you thought.

Each conception and pregnancy experience is different as well. Some couples conceive easily and some women have a very easy time of pregnancy. I of course wish this for you. But, should you have any struggles, it can be overwhelming to think that you HAVE to go through this again soon! It’s OK to see how it goes.

I believe that siblings have a lot to teach children. Far more important, though, is intentional parenting. If you have a child and you see a need in his or her character development, it is clear to me that you will find a way to meet it. Siblings are great, but those lessons can be learned from cousins, neighbors, children of friends. And you can always write back to me then!

There is one more point you touch on that I think will bring out strong opinions in a lot of people: adult relationships with siblings. My one true regret as an adult without siblings is the lack of company in the tricky business of parents. When my grandfather was dying, my dad actually apologized to me for not giving me a sib to share these tough moments someday. His advice was to marry someone who would truly share my burden, and I’m proud to say I took his advice. Besides, there is NO WAY to predict how our kids will handle their relationships as adults, and no guarantees. Though I do believe that intentional parenting can help.

Naomi, as you and your husband walk this path, you will learn much and be surprised by more. Never fear, you’ll find your way.

P.S. I know you wanted a number. Sorry.

Anyone else have any “how many kids are best” answers?

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7 thoughts on “Family Planning: One Kid or Two?”

  1. I have no specific answer as to number and there is no need to come up with one as you have explained this issue so well. As the older of two brothers I know there were many times we did not get along, but I now realize that there were times we did get along. As for the past 25 years we have been closer than ever when we no longer had parents to talk with and turned to each other.

    As you well know my wife and I decided one was enough and responded to questions of when would there be a sibling by saying “we quit while we were ahead”. You are also well aware how well that turned out so no complaints here.

  2. I won’t give you our backstory, but I will share this: One day, we were in a restaurant, and the hostess said, “YourFamily, party of three”. And we knew that was not right for us our or our child, from that point forward. Family is one life changing moment at a time. We had much dealt to us, and yet in a split second we looked at each other and we knew our child needed a sibling.

  3. It happens like that. I have a friend who looked at the 6th chair in their dining room set and realized their family would be truly complete if they were lucky enough to get a child to sit there. They adopted! There are all kinds of ways and times to make family, and I think they are more than one can imagine when starting out.

  4. Naomi,
    Life is a compromise. Number versus quality. No! not what you think! Number of kids and YOUR quality of life. Although more is fun (to a limit – I know a family with 16 kids) but this comes with a price. I can tell you I would feel better if I had unlimited time to spend with my kids and be part of their growing up. The more kids I (or actually we) have, the less I have time to spend time with them individually. I want to be a part of their life, and them to be a part of mine.

    In addition, due to my work in a fertility clinic, please do not wait. decide what the best number of kids that is right for you and go for it. Do not wait to long until age is an issue and it becomes difficult to have the other kids just because you wanted to make more money/live in a higher slandered of living/just have fun/can not afford it now or any other reason.

    Oh, and I do not mind that they nag every so often, but this is the next Post.

    1. A friend once said to me, “If you wait for the right time in your boss’ mind for you to have a child, you’ll never have one. Which would probably make your boss very happy.”

  5. I agree with the thought that siblings help each other learn. I saw that in my family of 3 kids. Right now, we have just one child but will probably have at least one more. We have a girl now, and my thought is it would be nice to have another so they could be friends. I think two girls would be closer than a boy and a girl. Then maybe a boy after that to round it all out. He wouldn’t have another brother to play with, but he’d have me, and essentially I’m just a big kid anyway, so that will work out well.

    1. I have to say it sounds like you have figured a way to order up the genders on demand! If you have, that information would be quite the money-maker. Most of us have a picture of the types of sibling- and parent- relationships we would get depending on age and gender. Kids can surprise you, though. I hope your family turns out exactly as you’d like!

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