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!)
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?