July 12, 2012

Family Size, and How It Influences Family Size

Caitlin and I were emailing more about the decision to have children, and something came up that I want to talk about with a larger sample.

I was mentioning how people often cite their own families of origin when explaining their reproduction decisions---but that those decisions can be completely opposite. For example, one sibling from a six-sibling set can say, "Well, I came from a big family so that feels natural to me"---while someone from the same sibling set can say, "Well, I came from a big family and I don't really want that; we're planning one or maybe two kids."

And it's hard to know how much we're affected by society. When we say, "There were two kids in my family so that seems right to me," how much of the "seems right" is from growing up in a family with two kids, and how much of it is from growing up in a society where two kids is the norm?

And we're probably also affected by what's typical in our extended families. Did everyone have two kids except your family which had six? Or did everyone have five or six kids except for your family of two kids? Or was your family with the majority?

Here's what I would be interested in knowing: How does the size of your Growing-Up Family figure into your thoughts and decisions about how many children to have (including if that number of children-to-have is zero), if at all? That is, would you say a sentence such as: "Well, I came from a family of ____, so I _____"? Or wouldn't you do that? (In which case I would still want to know the size of the family you came from, and the size of the family you're making or intending to make.)


Sonia said...

I have a sister, and the two of us were super close growing up. Now I have two boys, and they are practically inseparable despite the 3.5 yr age difference. I am thrilled. And I feel like I should *want* to be done having children now -- the little one is going to be 5 in three weeks and starting K in the fall, and I am 35. But I still want one more baby. My mom was one of those people who came from a huge family, had 2 of her own kids, and was more than content to stop there. But I see people with big families, and think it is so much fun (ask me about my family reunions. 8 aunts/uncles, 25+ cousins, plus all my cousins' kids. It's a blast!)

Anonymous said...

I'm the oldest of my mom's 5 (though the youngest wasn't born until after I married). The middle 3 were born in 3.5 years when I was 8.5-12 and I was designated "the built-in babysitter." You'd better believe that's excellent abstinence education for a girl!

I knew I didn't want more than two kids. (My husband is the older of two. He loves his sister, but she was a nuisance to live with.)

We are happy with our only child!

The Curmudgeon said...

I'm an only child raised by a single parent (my father died during my mother's pregnancy.) I'm not much of a kid person, so I plan not to have any children. However, I was an egg donor three times when I was younger, so biologically, I have between 0-9 kids. :)

Rachel said...

This is one of those things where it is hard to isolate the factors. I would say that my family of origin did not effect my family size now. I was the youngest of three and have only one. But there are things about my choldhood that resulted in my current choices. We were poor and I dont want that for my son so I know I can give more financial things to an only. Also my brother was significantly older than me and somewhat abusive, so I really dont want to add a baby now even though we could sorta afford it now.

Suzanne said...

I'm from a family of 3 and my husband is from a family of 4 and we want...3 or 4. Although our own family dynamics are REALLY different (he talks to his brother daily and sisters regularly, I don't even have my brother's address and my sister moved to Africa) we both liked growing up in medium-sized families. Although I guess now 4 is considered a lot.

Becky said...

I had one sibling growing up. My husband was an only child. I've got #2 cooking right now. We always knew we'd attempt more than one. (He jokes about having "only child" tendencies, but they are more likely the result of having over-indulgent parents). I like the idea of a big family in theory, but I can't imagine having the patience to pull it off. If #2 is another "easy" kid, and my baby rabies is still going strong, we may attempt a third on down the line.

My dad was one of seven, the oldest and youngest being 10 years apart. 4 of these siblings had two children each. 1 had 3, 1 had 1. The last will never have kids. I think they'd all had enough "big family" for one lifetime.

Ann Wyse said...

Interesting! I'm from a family of 3 kids, my husband is from a family of 2 kids. I lean towards just 2 kids, he leans towards 3 kids. He doesn't want to be a "typical" two child family. And I feel (based on my experience growing up??) that 3 children might start to get a little more chaotic than I could handle.

HereWeGoAJen said...

I'm the oldest of two (and my little sister was WAY annoying until she was at least 25) and my husband is the oldest of three (and he and his two brothers got along rather well for siblings). So it makes total sense that I want five kids and my husband wants two. (My reasoning for five- if you have six, you have to buy a special car and etc. So I want the maximum amount that "regular" life is prepared to handle.) I've accepted that since it will have taken us six years of trying to get to two kids, that I will never get to five. Plus, I suppose my husband should get some say in this too. ;) We've agreed to consider each kid on a plus one basis and I think we will likely go for a third, but we will see when we get there.

Snoopyfan said...

My husband is the oldest of 3. He and his sister are 3 years apart and his younger brother is 8 years younger. It was always 2 against 1 and my husband didn't want that for his kids.

I have only a younger sister and we are close.

My husband only wanted 2 kids and that was what I knew growing up so it was fine with me. After I had our 2, I COULD HAVE had more, but the feeling wasn't so strong that I HAD to.

Sarah said...

I was from a family of two children. I have three children, though if I had my choice I would have wanted four. I wanted many children without getting to be a big crowd. Only one sibling felt lonely to me growing up. My husband, however, came from a family with three children and only wanted two kids, if any. He likes our kids well enough, but he didn't want Children, as it were.

If it makes any difference, my brother doesn't have any kids and doesn't want any. He'd rather have his own fabulous, quiet life. NOT a kid person. But I don't know for sure what is influencing his decision. His wife doesn't want any either.

A. said...

Interesting thoughts. I know the size of my Growing Up family does influence my thoughts about my own family size. I was one of four kids, and both of my parents were also one of four kids. Having only one or two kids is not the norm in my extended family. My husband, on the other hand, is one of only two kids, and his family has always seemed very "quiet" to me.

Because of all this, I gravitate toward "larger family" thoughts for my own family - I like the idea of lots of people around for the holidays, lots of support when things are rough, etc. However, we have two kids, and we've decided to stop there. If we had more resources, more house, lived closer to family, and my hormones didn't take such a wacky, frustrating turn every time I pop out a newborn, I'd want one or two more. But none of that is the case, so instead we have our family of four, and we are happy.

Bitts said...

I am an only, and my husband is the youngest of 3. If he had only wanted one, that would have been ok with me, because I really enjoyed being an only child. He didn't love the dynamic of 3, because there was always an odd child out ... Admittedly, it was never him, though, because he was the only boy and definitely the Golden Child. Now, he is very close to his middle sister (as am I), and his oldest sister passed away before I showed up.

So it was 1,2, or 4 for us. Our #2 was pretty big surprise (what causes it, again?!?) and both my pregnancies were extremely difficult & high-risk, so once #2 was born healthy, we decided to stop. There's no way I could be even a barely adequate mother to the 2 I already have if I were pregnant with another

Also, you know, man-to-man coverage vs. zone defense.

Denise V. said...

Good topic! I'm an only child and do not have children primarily for medical reasons. I'm not sure I would know what to do with more than one, though since that was not modeled for me. My mother is the middle of seven and decided to only have one. She grew up very poor and I think she just wanted to be able to give me more of what she didn't have.

Charleen said...

Well, for my husband it definitely impacted his decision. He is an only child and hated not having any siblings, so he wants at least 2.

I come from a family of 2 kids, and our family will probably be about that size. More might have been a possibility if we'd started younger, but now that I'm approaching 30 (the age I'd always pictured myself being DONE having kids) and we haven't even started trying yet (for financial reasons), I definitely think we'll stop at 2.

Jessica said...

My husband and I each came from 3 kid families where the children are close in age. There are 3.5 years between me (the oldest) and my youngest sister and 4 years between my husband (also the oldest) and his youngest brother.

I want to replicate our families exactly. Well...almost. I don't want three kids in 3.5 years, but I DO want three in 4.5 years or so. We have two and, to me, our family just doesn't look complete. I think this is simply because I grew up with three kids in every picture. (Dumb reason.) Mainly I don't feel "done" with babies.

I grew up in a two-parent household, though, and my husband with a single mom. He wants few children so he can give them maximum financial support (paying for a lot of their college is important to him as he feels his huge student loans hold us back financially). He thinks two is plenty and really doesn't want to add a third. He did say, though, that I feel more strongly about a third than he does (although he has better reasons!), plus I'm the one who has to deal with morning sickness, etc, so if I really want a third we can.

I often think we're lucky that at least our opinions aren't flipped - I know families where the husband wants another and the wife doesn't want to be pregnant again. That would be hard.

Kristin H said...

My mom was one of 5, and they all had just one kid except my mom, who had 2. My dad was one of 7 and they all had 1-3 kids. My mom says she was done with 2, and my dad says he wanted a bunch but since my mom was done, he was done. Personally, my husband and I are each one of two, and we stopped at two. I thought I might like to have 3, but when I had two I realized I had my hands full.

jonniker said...

So I come from kind of a big blended family of seven kids, and while I loved it, and have really nothing but positive things to say about my sibling relationships, I really only wanted two children. However, had I started EARLIER in life, and perhaps not been dealt the Hand of Infertility, I could see having three, because babies are like crack to me.

Anyway, the point of this is to say that what ABSOLUTELY turned me off to having just one child is that I am the ONLY product of my two parents, despite having a lot of siblings. I have a lot of HALF siblings from my parents' love lives either before or after I came on the scene.

My parents had an acrimonious divorce. It was hard, it was exhausting, it was a lot of cliche things. But what made it IMPOSSIBLE for me was that I had to go through it ALONE, because everyone else only shared ONE parent with me.

I swore right then that I would never, never have just one child with my husband, because I know from experience that when shit goes down and you're the only one, it is VERY LONELY.

And now I have two girls, and I marvel every day that they already have something that I don't have, which is two parents that they BOTH share. Oddly, it made me feel better if Adam wanted to leave me for a young hottie, because at least my kids would have EACH OTHER as they went through it.

I reiterate: I was alone, and it was horrible.

Leah said...

This is fun! I'm the youngest of 3 girls and we've all always gotten along (my mom says it's because she never let us fight). My father is one of four and my mom is one of two, though she said she had wanted a fourth child and he was fine stopping at two. I'm glad I made it! :) We're not at all close with my dad's side of the family and my mom's side lives 1,000 miles away so growing up I was always jealous of friends' large families and family events and always said I wanted no less than three. While I'm nowhere near baby ready, I am somewhere in the 3-5 camp-ish and hope my sisters have at least a few children themselves/stay nearby so we can have the big family gatherings I was always jealous of growing up!

Stimey said...

I have one sister. Growing up, having one sibling was great. As an adult I felt like more than one sibling would be nice to have, hence my three kids. I would have had more (I LOVE the idea of five kids), but I personally just can't handle parenting that many. But, honestly, I feel like the more kids, the bigger the support network when they are older.

Anonymous said...

I came from a family of four kids. Because I know how much work it looked like, and because my husband and I will always both work we will only have 2 max.

Amanda said...

I come from a family of two, I have a brother and we were not close at all. My husband is from a family of three, a brother and a sister and they are very close.

We have two children and our decision was entirely financial. We felt that we had what we could afford to raise in the lifestyle that we want to raise them. We both wish we could have more kids. Me because I don't speak to my brother and wish I had more siblings (both my parents had huge families)and wish it for my kids as well and my husband because he does love his bro and sis and wishes for more of that for his kids.

kate said...

I was one of four, and my husband was one of four, but we have two and are probably done. My husband would say definitely done. I think the only influence coming from a large family has had is that I sort of feel like two kids is a little meager, even if practically speaking, I don't know how we could manage more than that. Both of us liked having a slew of siblings, though.

Aimee @ Smiling Mama said...

Love this question! I come from a family of 3 (two girls, one boy) and we have a really great dynamic now as adults so I always said I wanted 3. But now I have two boys and the thought of 3 is somewhat overwhelming. BUT I know so many people who have just one sibling and they don't get along, and that worries me. Hopefully my boys will grow up to be great friends.

d e v a n said...

Well, I came from a family of 3, and I was the middle so I always wanted to have an even number of children. It seems like odd reasoning now, but that was what I was thinking going in. I told DH I wanted 2 or 4. However, when I had #3 only a year after #2, I decided 3 might be OK. (we went on to have 4 anyway. lol)

He came from a family of 4 and always thought 4 was the perfect number.

Life of a Doctor's Wife said...

I have a little brother - he's six years my junior. I adore him. My husband also has one sibling - a younger sister.

However, he and I are pretty much on the same page about just having one. (Although some people in our families are ADAMANT that there MUST be at LEAST TWO KIDS, which, well, is something we will deal with when we deal with it.)

I think the reason for that is I feel like I would personally be the best parent to one child. But we shall see. I'm open to changing my mind.

Melanie D. said...

I'm third of three kids in my family and am quite a bit younger than my brother and sister. The only thing I knew was that I wanted an even number of kids (I have a weird thing with even numbers any way). I now have two kids and will only have two kids. I kept telling my husband that if we had three kids, we would have to have four. So we went with two. I think if we hadn't had a boy and a girl on the first two kids, we probably would've had more.

Jen said...

My husband is from a family of 3 and I am from a family of 3 as well (though my younger is sister is my half sister and ten years younger than me). When we first were married, my husband wanted 3 - 4 and I wanted, truthfully, 0. I don't like children in general. Now that we have had one, my husband wanted no more and I wanted more. As many more as I could get! It's weird how things change.

Anyway, I think the only reason I could get my husband to agree for another is because he's close with his siblings as am I. I want my child to have at least one person he'll know will always have his back. That being said, we are done at 2.

shin ae said...

I think this whole thing is tricky. I haven't thought about it as it applies to family size, but I have thought about it as it applies to other life decisions. For instance, I have caught myself (and others) saying both, "I chose to do this because my mother ______ and I didn't want to do that," AND, "I chose to do this because my mother _______ so it felt natural," at different times. None of the blanks are intrinsically "good" or "bad" decisions. So the point is that the choice of the mother is used to explain the daughter's choice, no matter what the daughter's choice is.

I think that is the true nature of things: not so much what our actual choice is, but that we tend to consider our choices in relationship to our parents' choices, no matter WHAT it is that we decide to do.

Please forgive me if someone else has already made the above point. I didn't read the comments yet.

All that said, my mother had two children and so do I.

Lawyerish said...

As you know, I can GO ON about family size, so I am loving this conversation.

My family on both sides has followed the typical American trend of shrinking by the generation. Two of my grandparents came from very big families, like 7 and 9 kids. In the next generation, my dad is from a family with four kids, and he and his siblings produced, respectively, two, four, two and two children. My mom is from a family of three daughters, and they had two, two, and one.

In my generation, those of us who have kids have been all over the map (and some of my cousins aren't done yet, I think) -- two or three kids for several of my cousins, but three of us (all from families of two kids) have single children.

I have an older brother (four years apart) and I enjoy having a sibling. My husband has one younger brother. I am 100% happy and fulfilled with one child. My husband would prefer to have two children. I don't think either of us is especially swayed by our family of origin; it's mostly about our station in life, what we feel we can handle, and a (perhaps silly/indulgent, to others) sense that our daughter is as good as it gets.

I do think that the distance in age between my brother and me (and perhaps that we are opposite sex) gave an almost only-child-like feeling to part of my growing up. We never went to the same school at the same time; we didn't get involved in the same activities; we played together from time to time, but it wasn't like we spent every waking hour together. While we are close and I adore him, he lives far away and I have even closer (and almost as life-long) relationships with female friends who are my same age. So for me, giving my child a sibling/siblings does not feel essential, in that I think she can create family-like bonds with other people.

Interestingly, I have met a lot of adult only-children lately, and every one of them has told me they loved being an only child (in the context of me saying I am one-and-done). Many of them have or plan to have two children, though from what I have gathered it was more about what they and their spouse agree upon or can handle than their feeling like they were alone/lonely as a child.

I will say that the close friends I have who plan to have three or more kids also came from families with more than three children.

Susan C. said...

I'm the youngest of six (with a large gap between me and my older siblings) and my husband is the youngest of five, 3 of which are much older half-siblings. I had nieces and nephews by the time I was in middle/high school. I've never been a "kid person" and knew even then that while I love being an aunt, I couldn't see myself having children of my own. My husband and I don't have children, and don't plan on having any.

I'm not sure how much of that is influenced by seeing my older brothers and sister have children while I was growing up, but I do appreciate that no one in my family has ever questioned my (and my husband's) decision.

Jean said...

Me-4/2 boys then seven years later, 2 girls-I'm the oldest girl. Husband-3 boys-he's the youngest (boy, howdy, is he the typical baby of the family or what?)with 7 years between he and his next older brother.

We decided on 2 for one simple reason - we would replace our each of our places on the earth with one child. I had a friend from a family of 14. She loves her siblings but is only genuinely 'close' to one of them and always said that in addition to the huge volume of work for the kids in the family, that her mom was always so busy with EVERYONE that she never had time for ANYONE.

Beylit said...

This is complicated. Technically I come from a family of 11 children and the husbeast comes from a family of 12 children. Technically.
It was just me and my brother until I was 11 and then there was the addition of 1 step sister and the occasional visit of a second step sister. I consider myself to be from a family of three children really.
For him it is a family of four children, rather older twin sisters and a much younger brother.
We plan on having kids, but the size of our families growing up was never one of the factors in deciding how many we want to try for. We actually decided on a number of pregnancies I was willing to go through and capped it at three. That in no way means three children however because twins run on both sides of his family. Both of his parents have sets of twins, they both have sets of twin siblings, and sets of twin aunts and uncles or come from a twin. We are just sort of prepared for that inevitability.

M.Amanda said...

My Growing Up family absolutely has influenced how many children I want. I grew up as the 3rd of 4, so I've wanted 2 or 3. With a toddler and baby now, I'm leaning toward 2. We'll see if that changes to 3 when the strain of caring for an infant lessens.

Growing up, it always seemed like four kids strained the resources just a bit too much. There wasn't as much money for toys and trips and nicer stuff, enough time for our parents to give everyone as much attention as they needed, space for everyone to have privacy.

Okay, maybe I'm a little bitter that my brother took away my place as The Baby and all the perks, but the reasoning is solid.

My husband is the middle of 3. He wants 3 or 4. Of course, I handle the lion's share of childcare duties. I'm not sure he understands just how much energy, time and money it takes to raise a child.

Shrugged said...

I'm the elder of 2, and I want 2 kids. Well, I do now that I've had one. I wanted more until I realized how difficult parenting actually is. I think mostly it's just because I like kids, particularly toddlers. Should have become a preschool teacher! I'm keenly aware that my sister was my closest childhood companions and now one of my closest friends, and that's something I want for my own daughter. My husband, on the other hand, is the middle child of three (or the second eldest of 4 or 5, of you count his parents second families). He had a poor experience as a second child; often taking a backseat to his elder brother. So he wants only one child, or two with a 6-7 year gap between.

Kate said...

My husband and I both come from families with 3 kids. I had always planned on 3, but after 2 easy babies I didn't want to press my luck. Plus, as they get older, they are harder, aren't they? Sticking at two boys and I thank God for the wisdom of NOT giving me the girl I wanted.

M.Amanda said...

I also want to say that in our extended families 3 seems to be the magic number. That's fine for one family, but then our family get togethers always seem just. so. crowded. 2 parents + 3 kids + spouses + 3 kids per family = 17 people in one house for the kind of big holidays they like. And our families like inviting aunts, uncles, cousins....

melissa.cureton said...

I am the older sister of one brother six years younger. My husband is the younger of one brother 18 months older. I know I want my kids to be closer in age than my brother and I were because we didn't get along until I went away to college. I thought I wanted 4 kids until I had a pregnancy full of terror and pain in the last trimester. So, now I want 2z. My husband's brother died in a terrible car accident 10 years ago so he is pushing hard for 3 as he has no siblings. We will see how this pregnancy goes. Tge kids will be 37 months apart if all goes according to plan.

MomQueenBee said...

I grew up in a family of five children, and my husband was the 10-years-later bonus child of older parents. When we began talking about children my attitude was "as many as possible, as quickly as possible" and his was "....hmmmm, maybe?" Of course, we've ended up with four Boys, and this size of family is perfect--for us, not for everyone--but only because Husband put his mind to being a good father and excelled at it.

Anonymous said...

it's such a crap shoot, isn't it? i know very few sib sets who are genuinely close as adults, but those that are close as adults are best friends, which must be nice. neither my husband nor i are close to our sibs (one of 3 each). we decided to have only one kid for a variety of reasons, but one big reason for me is i never felt like i had any privacy as a kid growing up (we lived in close quarters, as i imagine every family does with more than 2 or 3 kids, unless you're wealthy). my kiddo will probably wish she had a sibling....you can't win :)

Saly said...

OOOh, I love this topic.

My dad was one of 6 (2 much older half siblings, and then his 3 full siblings) and my mom was one of 4. Family parties growing up were always a real hoot because there were so many aunts, uncles and cousins. My parents and one of my dad’s brothers are the only couple on either side to have more than 2 kids. My mom always wanted 4, but after my brother and me (I am the oldest) struggled with getting pregnant. She ended up having my youngest brother when I was 11. (Something I find intriguing—she referred to him as her “late in life” baby. She was my current age when she had him.) So even though I am one of 3, my growing up experience was more of 1 of 2. My middle brother and I are very close. My youngest brother? Not so much. Hub is also 1 of 3, with one full sister and 1 half brother.

Based on being close to my brother, my plan was to have 4 kids. 2 close together, and once they were in school, pop out 2 more close together—instant companionship, right?. Bud and Lucy are 19 months apart, but Liv threw a little wrench in our plans, born when Lu was just 3. Hub is perfectly content with our 3, and would have been fine with only 2. I still waver between being done and wanting that 4th, but the older my kids get the harder it seems. I don’t want anyone being odd man out. But I do love the idea of kids and company in my old age, and many grandkids.

Anonymous said...

it's such a crap shoot, isn't it? i know very few sib sets who are genuinely close as adults, but those that are close as adults are best friends, which must be nice. neither my husband nor i are close to our sibs (one of 3 each). we decided to have only one kid for a variety of reasons, but one big reason for me is i never felt like i had any privacy as a kid growing up (we lived in close quarters, as i imagine every family does with more than 2 or 3 kids, unless you're wealthy). my kiddo will probably wish she had a sibling....you can't win :)

JodieG said...

Hmmm-- My mom was a family of four kids, my dad an only child. They seem to have averaged and came up with 2. My husband is one of two.
We wanted a big family. My husband said 6 kids. I said 3 or 4. Then came major infertility and we call ourselves lucky to have 2. I wanted a third child, but my husband felt overwhelmed by our twins and we both felt old and slow.

Gwen said...

I came from a kind of complicated family of origin. I have one full brother, but then my parents divorced, my dad remarried a woman with one child and they had one together. So the house I grew up in had 4 children. But we weren't close, so as an adult I identify myself as just having a brother. I do think all of that influences my decisions, because I grew up wanting a big family in order to create the big, noisy, loving families I fantasized about, rather than the complicated, conflicted, angry one I had. My husband has one brother, and he always wanted two kids, he liked having a sibling but never saw the need for any more kids than that. He wanted to be able to invest a good amount of energy and money in each kid, which he worried we couldn't do if we had more. We ended up having twins first, then a singleton, so 3. And we're probably done, although every now and then I still think about that theoretical fourth kid longingly. Then my husband reminds me of how much I hate pregnancy, how little tolerance it turns out I have for chaos and noise...and then I figure that three is probably enough for me.

Curly Girl said...

Me-Oldest of 2; brother is 5 years younger. (Technically 1/2 brother, but for all intents and purposes, full. I never knew my bio father, and have always had my dad(his father) since I was 16 months).

Husband-3rd in a series of 4 boys, total age range of 10 years.

Us-He has a 9 1/2 yr daughter from previous marriage we have 50%, 27 month toddler, and I'm currently 13 weeks with our second. We've agreed this is our last.

My husband's family went through some very lean times, and he has been very hesitant about adding more. He's a bit leery of toddler and baby sharing a room when the time comes, being able to afford vacations, luxuries, etc. and I feel a lot of that stems from his younger days of car repairs with duct tape and food stamps.

I grew up somewhat lonely due to the age difference, and always wished for a sister (in hindsight, someone who I could be closer with during the younger years-we are close now so I think it was more for that than a girl sibling).

I would love to have more if we had the appropriate resources-financial, family, mental, etc. but we are cognizant of our limitations. Being a blended family plays into it as well, in that no matter how smooth things are there are always some bumps in the road and I don't know if adding more would help at all.

As Jonna said, I relish in the fact that our children can go through things together, and not be alone. When my parents divorced 5 years ago (I'm 28) I had friends for support but having my brother completely understand was so comforting. Someday when we get sick, need daily assistance, die, etc. it will be nice to know that they have the potential of a close support system.

On my husband's side, our new baby will be the 10th grandchild, (ages 9,9,9,7,6,5,3,2,18 months) and many of them are close right now, so I hope that they will continue to stay close and have big-family experiences with their cousins. We all live withing an hour of each other, and visit quite often-In fact, SD left this morning with a good chunk of my in-laws, so 6 of the 9 cousins are on their way to Colorado to spend a week together.

lyndsey said...

I came from a family with 2 kids, and we were the "small" set in my extended family. All my aunts/uncles had 3 or 4 kids, and my parents are from sibling sets of 3 and 4. Also of note, my brother and I are 8 years apart, so he moved out when I was in 5th grade and for most of my life I felt like an only child.

I don't really think that coming from a family of 2 kids has had much effect on me, since I am currently 27, childless, and completely unsure of how many children I want if I even have them (and yes I'm aware, there is a clock on this sort of decision). Until recently my husband and I thought we might decide not to have kids at all. Now we've "decided" on 1, in 3 years. And discussions of future children are not to be had until after we see how we do with the first one haha. Sometimes I can see myself with an only kid, like I kind of was. Especially if that kid was a girl and could be my "buddy" like I was to my mom in my teenage years and beyond. But there is also something nice about siblings. Although I would certainly want them closer in age than my brother and I were (and that would also be necessary since I probably won't have a kid until I'm at least 30). Also, sometimes I am jealous of my cousins from 4-siblings sets who are so close and basically form their own tribe. I can kind of see myself as a mom to a troupe of kids... assuming we had the time and funds to support that kind of thing.

So basically... i have no idea what i want :)

Shari said...

I'm an only child and agree with all the previous commenters, especially Jonniker. No fun going through shit all alone. My husband is the middle of 3, one good brother and one nobody gets along with. We have 2, and I would like to have a 3rd (you know, the "spare"), but I don't think financially we can wing it, considering we live in a 2-bedroom house. Plus I'm getting up there in age.

Lisa said...

I am technically the middle of three, but since my younger brother wasn't born until I was almost 18 (and my older brother almost 21), I don't know if it really counts. I *grew up* in a house with one sibling I didn't particularly get along with. I mean, he's FINE, I guess, but we weren't close, and still aren't. My older brother and I are almost three years apart. (My parents married at 17, had my brother 6m later [ahem] and then had me at 20. They ooops!ed my little brother when I was a senior in HS.)

My husband is also the middle child of three, but his family is completely different. He and his older brother are 11 months apart and the younger brother came along 2 years after my husband. My in-laws treated the oldest as a god and the youngest as a baby (a dynamic still in play today, btw) so my husband was. . .forgotten. This very much colored the way he wanted our family to look.

HE wanted only one child, and I wanted two. He conceded to having two (I never wanted an only for reasons I won't get into here) but "required" that they be far apart. Like SIX YEARS or more. He wanted each of them to have a babyhood and a childhood with no competition, basically. I talked him down to four years, which is what we have. It works for us.

g~ said...

I come from a family of 6 kids and I loved (almost) every minute of it BUT I only have 2 because both my husband and myself just knew the moment we got pregnant with the second that we were DONE. I am incredibly close with my sister (8 years younger) but still very close with all of my other sibs.

marilyn c. cole said...

Loving the comments here, and how you posed this question.

I come from a two-kid family, and my brother especially has been a huge handful for my mom, though for some reason I've always envisioned having three. (Based on Jonathan Taylor Thomas and his two brothers on Home Improvement?!) My husband comes from a four-kid family, and has talked about wanting "as many as possible," relating the conversation to his friend who comes from a family of 14 or so, with a wide range of ages and adoptions, etc.

When I mentioned to my mom that we probably wanted "more than two" -- she almost groaned on my behalf. "You have no idea how much work 'just two' will be! That is plenty!"

We'll see -- we've both recently turned 30 and don't have any yet! I know at least one of his siblings is shooting for four.

Not to mention they were home-schooled (for non-religious, just hippie intellectual, reasons) and he and his siblings have all mentioned wanting to do that with their own kids. :-o

Suki said...

My husband and I both come from 2 child families, and from the start we both said, "probably 2 kids, maximum of 3 if we really like this having kids business". We currently have 1 child who is the end result of a long battle with infertility and I find myself conflicted on having a second. If I were a "normal" person who could get pregnant more easily, I would have a second in a heartbeat, mostly to give my son a sibling. But the further we get from his pregnancy and birth, the harder it is to think about diving back into the insanity that is fertility procedures. I love my family and my life exactly how it is right now, which makes it hard to think about going through so much work and stress to add another. But then I think about my incredibly social little guy, and how I want him to have a buddy, and for his kids to have cousins, and it feels selfish to not try for a second.

Jess said...

I'm one of two kids, and I want two kids. Torsten is an only child, and he wants an only child. HOWEVER, I should note that while his lack of a sibling relationship makes it harder for him to understand why I want two kids so badly, his reasons for not wanting a second kid are about practicalities, not an ideal family size. Basically he thinks things are perfect now and kids are a hassle so why would we mess with a good thing? But when we discuss, he acknowledges that there were a lot of drawbacks to his only child upbringing and that he wants something different for Callum. So while he IS influenced by his own family size (I think if he had a sibling he would be more likely to be willing to put up with the hassle for the second kid), it's not as direct as "well I liked it that way so I want my kid to have the same."

Karen L said...

My husband and I each have one brother. When we first discussed family size he said two but he wasn't firm about it. It is just what he pictured because that is what he grew up with and that is just what is done. (And my brain does also register 2 children as the canonical number.) I said 2 to 4. I don't think my 2 to 4 idea was heavily influenced by my family of origin, probably more by what was common in my area (extended family, classmates etc ... )

So for my husband, the size of his family of origin was a more conscious part of his thinking but then for both of us other factors influenced our choice to have the third. 1) Our brothers will likely have no children and I kinda feel like I had to make up for lack of cousins with one more sibling than the canonical number. 2) I don't know if it's selfish but I feel a little safety in numbers both in terms of support network and if my kids marry/partner into large extended families I don't want us to get overlooked at holidays and such just because there are fewer of us. Or maybe that will backfire and if they partner into small families they will *have* to go to the other family to keep them from being alone.

Alice said...

i'm one of 2, and always assumed i'd want two as well. except then i hit 25 and still was unsure if i wanted ANY kids... and then 30... still no baby fever.

NOW i'm almost 32 and thinking about Life Planning Situations with my boyfriend, and for some reason have decided 3 might be ok/fun, except for the fact that there is likely no biological way for that to happen considering we are not yet married or trying for kids, nor will we in the near term.

so basically i wanted no kids throughout the entire Fertile Years and now that Time Is Starting To Run Short i've somehow decided on three...?

Kalendi said...

My husband is from a family of six kids and I have two siblings. I wanted a large family (more than three or four) and he would have been fine with two. We were never able to have children and now that we are in our fifties I like our quiet, less complicated life.

Tess said...

Fun comments!

Our families of origin haven't really affected our decisions on family size, I would say. Both Tosc and I have same-sex siblings close in age, and he can't stand his brother, whereas my sister is one of my best friends. So. I guess we realize that either of those situations could be the case and it sort of cancels out any sibling-as-bestie arguments.

Also, at this point we are both divorced and in blended families, and I am from a divorced and blended family as well, so what we "wanted" or what was "ideal" is so far in the rearview that it no longer seems relevant.

Luckily for both of us, our kids now all have a sibling from their other parents, so in a way we've sort of outsourced the whole issue without having to address it ourselves. Win.

Trina said...

I came from a family of 2. Me and my brother. My mom said she would have had more children but her pregnancies were so hard she didn't want to go through it again.
I have 2 children. I am DONE. I didn't think I would ever have kids. I was very ambitious in my career and my parents are alcoholics and I didn't want to bring a child into that craziness. Then I met my husband and his family was so normal I knew it would be OK. My parents got sober before I had my kids. My husband and I decided on 4 kids. After I had my first, I totally changed my mind. I had no idea how hard it was going to be. I have anxiety and it kicked into high gear after I had kids. Now that my kids are older (7 and 4) I sometimes think, I could have another baby. But then I think about being pregnant again and no thanks. :)

Pickles and Dimes said...

I have a younger brother, as does Jason, but we've made the decision not to have any kids. We didn't come by the choice lightly, and I know our parents are disappointed (even if they're careful not to show it). It was the result of many, many thoughtful discussions consisting of many variables: happiness with our lives as they exist right now, age, jobs, not being able to sell our house in this crappy economy, living in a sketchy, non-kid-friendly area, income, etc. If we had met when we were younger, the choice might've been different, but who knows.

Once we made this decision, I thought I would feel bad about it or scared or regretful, but I haven't. Not even once. It's the right call for us. Plus, now we can spoil everyone else's kids. :)

Laura Diniwilk said...

For me, my family size definitely shaped by view of the "perfect family size" before I had kids. I came from a family of 3 kids, so that seemed right to me. However, once real life set in and I realized how much time/money/effort it takes and that I started having kids MUCH later than my own mother, the size of the family I grew up in mattered less and less, and what was right for the family I was creating became clear on its own.

Melissa said...

Interesting! I am from a 3-kid family (oldest) and my husband is from a 4-kid family (youngest). We have 3 kids, but the oldest are twins; we might have only had 2 otherwise (because we are older and the second pregnancy about did me in.) I really only thought I'd have 1-2 kids. My husband would have welcomed any ridiculous number, had he started younger!

Laura said...

I come from a family of two children and always wished I had one more sibling. It seemed like it would be kind of nice if my one brother wasn't available, there would always be someone else to connect with. I thought just having one sibling was kind of lonely. My husband is the oldest of seven and hated being from a large family. He would have been a happy only child. So... we settled on three children as a happy number for us. I think he would have been o.k. with one or even none, but I love that my two boys and one girl have each other to travel through life together. Fun comments to read!

Elizabeth said...

I come from a family with three kids. In my imaginary world before I realized that things like money and temperament while parenting and rough pregnancies actually affected how many kids you had, I wanted to have at least three, maybe up to five. Four sounded like a good number. Now we have two, and I'd be REALLY HAPPY AND DONE FOREVER with three, but I am not sure we'll get there. (2 bedroom house under water, horrible pregnancies, furloughed husband, etc.) It feels horrible letting these things decide whether or not to have another kid, especially when you look 30 years down the road when these things won't! matter! at! all! but I still can't quite yet persuade myself that I'm ready to feel like I'm JUST about to throw up for another nine months.

Michelle said...

I come from a family of two kids and the husband from a family of three kids. We settled on two because that is what seemed to fit for us. I don't know that our own families played a huge role but probably some.
Now? He says he wants a third child (despite having my tubes tied 18 months ago when our second was born.) It had been a theoretical topic of conversation for a couple days now. I'm not on board now but I'm not ruling the possibility out in the future as in 2-3 years.

Kara said...

My husband and I are both the oldest of four, and ironically, in both cases the fourth was an "oopsie" baby significantly younger than the rest of the crew. We always knew we'd have 3 or more kids. We have 3, and because of a really high risk third pregnancy and delivery, we won't be having any more.

My Mom is the 4th of 6 kids and always wanted at least 6 kids, my Dad had other ideas and wanted to stop at 3. Then number 4 came along when they were almost 40. He now says that he wishes they had more kids in the gap between #3 and #4, so they would have had 6 or more kids.

-R- said...

H's parents each came from families with 13 kids. When H's uncle met his wife, they both agreed they wanted small families. Turns out that the wife meant 2 kids, but H's uncle meant 6 kids. Ha. (They now have 3 kids and are done.)

I came from a family of 2 kids. I wanted 2 kids. H came from a family of 5 kids. Ideally he wanted 3 kids but is happy with 2 kids.

My mom told me somewhat recently that she had actually wanted to have 3 kids but my dad had said he only wanted 2 kids, and they stopped at 2. It blew my mind! We were a family of 4! I can't imagine having another sibling!

Wendy said...

I am an only child, and it was very important to me to have more than one child. Hubs has one sister and quite a few stepsiblings.

We have 2 beautiful girls and wanted at least one more but health problems made that impossible, so we are happy with our 2.

Anonymous said...

I'm the oldest of 3, my husband is the oldest of 2, but he grew up in a house of 5 kids. I wanted four, he wanted two. I had 2, and forced myself to be happy and content with this (and I WAS) and then about an hour after I decided I was happy and content, he asked me if I wanted another one. After my 3rd was born I wanted the fourth and we fought and fought and he said no way. We fought because I felt like his reasons for not wanting the 4th were ridiculous, not because I don't respect him. The older the 3rd gets, the better I am though. I looove the big-family chaos and the big parties etc which is why I wanted a big family. But there's enough drama in my own family, I think we'll do ok. But I am sooo jealous of people who have 4-6 kids and especially the kids I grew up with, just seeing them close with their siblings now. I don't know if my upbringing at all influenced me, the only reason we have 3 was because he was a compromise to 4 haha... and I'm pretty sure my husband only wanted 2 because that's what his parents did. He is very much influenced by them, but I tend to do what I want without regard for anyone else's experience. I also feel very different than my family, like I don't quite fit in. As for having a sibling, we fought and fought and were never close until we all moved out and someone invented Instant Messenger, and now we talk all the time. My husband grew up close with his sister and now only talks to her 4 times a year. My kids are all really close and I hope they stay that way. Sometimes, though, I think about what it would be like to have one kid and put your whole into this one person.

Sarah said...

This is something that has always fascinated me. I vividly remember sitting in church as a kid mentally going through families of people I knew trying to find patterns.

I am the oldest of 3 children and always, always, always wanted a minimum of 3. I love the idea of lots of kids, big families, etc. My husband has a half sister that he was raised with and has 2 other half sisters that he met at a teenager. He wanted 2 kids.

We now have three kids and we're both very happy with our family size. If I had unlimited resources, I would want more children, but I feel very complete with the three that I have now. Before I had my third, I felt such an internal gnawing for another child, but I don't feel that way anymore. I feel very at peace with my family size and I'm happy for that.

So, to summarize, I definitely feel that for my husband and I, we were influenced by what we came from.

Hillary said...

I am fascinated by this.

I come from a family of 4 kids. My husband comes from a family of 2 kids. I have always said that because of my experience with siblings I could never have only one child. On the other hand, I also wouldn't want more than 3 kids. I think we're pretty confident that we'll try for another in a couple of years but I doubt that we'll go for the third. A huge family is nice in theory but for us it's just not plausible.

Sara said...

My family size definitely influences how many kids I want. In fact, 2 weeks ago, I said the exact sentence you mentioned: Well, I came from a family of 3, so I always thought I would have 3. My husband came from a family of 2 and originally he only wanted 2, but now he's come around to 3 (number 1 is due in December - we'll see how we feel after that!)

Mrs. Irritation said...

I am an only child and we have an only child.

My husband and I both come from very small families. He has one sister and his mother, but is close to neither. Originally he wanted 3 kids, but we got older and after we had one, we decided to stop. We talk more recently about whether we should have another but it won't happen.

Anonymous said...

I am the youngest of 3.
My husband grew up the younger of 2, but has two much younger step-brothers. He doesn't really consider hmself one of 4 siblings.

We have 4 kids, and plan to stop there!

Here's the interesting part: we live in Ireland, where 4 kids isn't very unusual, or even considered a 'big' family. I'd say over half of the families in our kids' school are 4 or more kids (and the rest might have more babies!).
My husband's family is English, though, where 2 kids is definitely the norm, by a long way. They were surprised when we told them we were expecting #3, and downright shocked about #4.


Allyson said...

I have one brother and a pretty small extended family (4 cousins, combined!). DH is an only child, but has a larger extended family. We both want 4 kids...definitely the opposite of what we both had.

Portia said...

I have one sister, who has been my best friend since birth, so I have always wanted at least two kids. I couldn't imagine having an only child, but I could picture having more than two, especially if my husband wanted that. I don't know if I would want more than three, though.

My fiance is an only child, and he thinks only children have it best. He has agreed to two children, but absolutely no more.

So I guess for us, our own family sizes have set our default idea, but we were both willing to expand upward a little. We'll see if any of this holds once we actually have kids!

PinkieBling said...

I grew up as an only child. I have two half-brothers who are 10 and 12 years older than I am and never lived close, so I barely even them growing up. My dad passed away when I was 16, but my mom didn't remarry until I was 27, and that's when I gained 2 (adult) stepbrothers. I LOVED being an only child, and used to threaten to run away if my parents had another. My mom had two ectopic pregnancies and lost both sets of tubes, so it never happened.

All that said, I would like to maybe have two children, but I would be perfectly happy with one. That's probably a good thing, since I'm freewheeling into "advanced maternal age" and I haven't even started yet.

Matt is the baby of five, one of whom was killed in a car accident as a teenager. He wants two kids at most, as well.

MelissaInk said...

Interesting topic. My husband is one of two, and I am one of two. I'm not sure the number of children was so pressing for us as the distance between them. My husband is nine years older than his sister, I am seven years from my brother. We both disliked the distance (and it probably didn't help that our distant siblings were also of the opposite sex). At the same time, we weren't really ready to have another baby when our youngest was two. So, it's ended up at three kids, each about three years and a couple months apart. I think he would have stopped at two, but having two boys, he was open to a third. I'd like four, but I'm not sure he'll come around. I'd say my husband probably sees two as normal, more so than I do. I was always fascinated by my friends who had lots of siblings. Seemed like you could bounce from one to another.

Anonymous said...

Ah - I love this topic! You didn't even mention how some kids end up with many siblings due to the parents divorcing/remarrying (etc!).

I only had a sister, and my husband is the middle boy of 3 boys. We have 3 kids. We started out wanting 2, and had the "perfect" set-up with a boy and a girl, but then we decided another would be great, so now we have boy-girl-girl. Being that I didn't have brothers and husband didn't have sisters, it's fun and interesting for us to raise both genders. It helps a lot that he was the middle child (because some of the stuff our middle does is very WTF? for me, but husband understand).

All of our sibling have kids (if everyone comes for a holiday, there are 13 kids), and, well, I don't like it very much. Growing up I had few cousins (one aunt had step-kids, but they lived far away, another aunt had a baby when I was heading to college; the cousins who lived close were few) so holidays were more relaxed. I'm not used to every family gathering being chaotic. I wonder how my kids feel? Will they want that for themselves?

I have a niece whose parents divorced when she was an only child. Now she has 6 half-sibs and a step-sib. She lives with 4 half-sibs (big-ish age gap between her and them, so she often babysits).

There are just so many factors to what and how people decide. Many of which are out of our control. Heh - also a very good reason to discuss such things prior to marriage!

CAQuincy said...

Well, I came from a family of two, so I...don't usually say this sentence.

My family size decision wasn't really based much on my parent's or parent's parent's decisions. I have always loved kids and have always wanted four. (Granted, my husband changed his mind at three--and then WHOOPS! fate gave us four ANYWAY! HA!)

My mother is still wrapping her head around the fact that I had more than the "standard two" (She came from a very, very poor family of six kids--guess why she only wanted two?). My father is thrilled beyond belief (He always wanted more, but my mother said NO WAY). And if my MIL were still around, she would be thrilled also (she also had four).

People are funny. We hear all kinds of responses from "Wow! FOUR!" to "Well, now you need to have another one so #4 has a playmate" (due to the 7 year's age difference between #3 and #4). And I know some folks are a bit judgy about how we can afford all of them. But others are just as HAPPY for us and our happiness in our family and know that in the end, the money doesn't really matter. Much.

Anyway, we're with the minority with most of our family and friends. On average, most of our friends/family have the "standard two" (except in the cases of "tag-a-long step-children"--or the "Surprise! Twins!" scenarios).

Clarabella said...

Oh, I love this question because I think about it all the time.
I am the oldest of three siblings, 3.5 yrs older than my brother and 5 yrs older than my sister.
I always wanted a posse of kids, like 4-6. I still do, but I age and finances will certainly prevent that.
Our only son is now 5, and we just want one more.
If I had unlimited resources and a personal trainer, I would have as many kids as I could. Sigh. If only.

Clarabella said...

Oh! I forgot the second part of the question: I don't think my own family size growing up has anything to do with the family size I'll have myself. Our family has been determined by circumstance, career, etc. Honestly, it was hard for us a lot of the time growing up with 3; two of us were ALWAYS ganging up on the single, for MANY years. In fact, it's only as adults that we've all become really close, and while I know that may be true of sib-sets of 2,4, etc., I think it had a lot to do with how many of us there are.
My partner only has one brother, who is six years older than him, so many times in his life, he felt like the only child. He would be fine with just the one, but he is totally willing to have another. I don't think I could convince him of more than two.

Unknown said...

I come from a family of four kids, and I would ideally like to have four kids of my own. Seeing how my mother was younger than me when she had me, though (and I'm the youngest), and I haven't had even one kid yet, I'm guessing that four isn't in the cards. I'd like to have at least three, though. My family was always the one with the most kids when I was growing up, except for some of the Catholic and Mormon families. I always liked that distinction. In my extended family, my aunts and uncles all had families of one to three kids. I think I want a big family because my family gets along so well. I can't imagine having grown up without multiple siblings. My own siblings have mostly started their own families - one family has three kids and the other has two - and they're both sticking with that. Their choice regarding family size was determined by their age when they got married (both older siblings got married in their late 30s) and their spouses' wishes. My own choices are curtailed both by my own age (early 30s) and by my husband's wishes (he was an only child). We shall see if we are lucky enough to even have one!

Jenny said...

I grew up with two younger siblings close in age to me, and I'm sure my mother would have had more if her health had permitted it. Instead, our family took in foster kids, so there were babies around all the time. In the end, my parents adopted two more kids, so I now have two more (much younger) siblings: a family of five. My husband has one brother.

I always thought I'd have at least three kids and maybe more -- maybe four or even five. But as Elizabeth said above, that was my imaginary world, where temperament and money and terrible infertility didn't come into the equation. We adopted a daughter from China and then had the HUGE surprise of a pregnancy and the birth of a son, and now we are all done having kids. :)

LizScott said...

I am the youngest of three - I have two older brothers who are 4 and 7 years older than me. I also have an HUUUUGE network of cousins - I believe there are 39 in my generation (though I'm only close with say, 11ish of them.)

I did not grow up near my cousins, but we spent many summers/holidays together, and as adults have frequently traveled together and meet up often. My brothers and I as adults have become quite close (though I would not say that we were growing up.) I would say that being friends with my brothers/cousins is one of my favorite things about my life.

It's because of this extended network of siblings/cousins that I personally would not want to only have one child - I'd like at the very least two, preferably three. I'd like my kids to have the chance for the type of sibling/cousin relationship that I have.

Having said that: My stepdaughter is (currently) and only child, and I'm a little in awe of the relationship she has with her parents. Because it's just her, they have the time to really interact and BE a part of her life, it's not as hectic, they're not juggling lots of calendars, etc. It's interesting to see, and I'm learning from it, because I have no experience with only child otherwise.

My husband is the oldest of two, and while he and his sister get along, they don't' really KNOW each other, and he personally is fine with just one kid (One more, that is.) A lot of that is logistics. He's fine with having more than one, but I also know he kind of wondering if I'll cry uncle after the first kid and admit additional children would be too much work :)

snoozical said...

Interesting!! My husband and I are both the youngest of two. I am close with my 2 yrs older brother (after many years of Intense! Hatred!), and he isn't particularly close with his (4 yr age gap). I also have my cousins' family, that has five kids, as an influence. I didn't want ANY kids till I was 22, when i switched to 'maybe one.' Then married my husband and decided we wanted 1+, and would reevaluate after each one. I theoretically wanted siblings, as that relationship is important to me. AND I think a lot about how an only child versus sets of siblings navigate certain things - divorce, death (of parents or sibling etc.) and I personally think its be easier to have MORE to shoulder that stuff. Then, I also always thought my cousins seemed so FUN - there is always something happening! Hard to be mad at all of your siblings at once! And now that everyone is grown up, it's even better - weddings, babies, big family vacations. I'm jealous of that.

So we decided to have one and reevaluate, as we weren't sure how I'd manage pregnancy/baby/career etc. Turns out babies are like crack to me. We've been talking about having the next one since like week 4. My husband is as excited about it as I am, or maybe even more so. We are both surprised but happy about that. So, we will still reevaluate after each one, but I could see us with a gaggle.

Melissa Haworth said...

I'm one of two kids as is my husband. When it was looking like we'd only have one we tried VERY hard for a second because that did "seem like the right number" For us, it is. I'm glad my children will have a sibling but a larger family would be tough for us energy/money wise

Nik-Nak said...

I would definitely say that.
My mom raised three children basically alone. I always say...."Im gunning for three. My mom did it wonderfully alone so I think my husband and I can do good with three. Plus I want my daughter to have the close sister relationship that have.

Lisa said...

I will add that I grew up next door to a family with 11 kids (a baby a year for the first five years the first four were boys omg omg omg) and out of those 11, I think only one has more than 2 children of their own, especially the oldest girl (who was #5). She never wanted ANY and had one.

Anonymous said...

I'm the oldest of two and my partner is also oldest of two.My brother is 3.5 years younger than me--we were never very close but are starting to talk more now as adults. My partner and his sister are 7 years apart so he always felt like the built in babysitter/ parent rather than a sibling. It's important to him to have kids closer in age because of this--2-3 years between each child.

When we talk about having our own family, I am sort of drawn to the idea of having 3 children, simply because the odds of getting along with one sibling seems better. My partner wants 1-2, depending on how well we can handle parenting. He also cites our 2 kid families as why we would have 2 kids.

Fine For Now said...

I am 13 months younger than my sister and we grew up with a single mom until the age of 14. The husband is 3.5 years younger than his brother. We have a two year old girl and a baby boy (due TODAY!!) on the way. The husband always wanted 2 kids but close in age as he felt far apart from his brother growing up, but close now. I was not close at all with my sister and while things are closer now, we will never be besties. I have always wanted 4 children since I felt very lonely as a child. Now that we have almost 2 I think 3 is a better number for us. Even sitting here on my due date I am still dreaming about the next baby. The husband has said the whole pregnancy so far that we have one of each we should stop. But just recently started entertaining the 3rd child idea. I plan to wait and see how having 2 goes and then decide if a third is good for us. My mom thinks three is way too much to handle and I will know I'm done after the baby is here, but having raised to kids on her own until the teen years, you can see where she's coming from, but it isn't going to effect how many kids I have.

Sam said...

This is all so fascinating! I come from a two-kid family and my husband was the baby of a three-kid family. I know my own family was shaped intentionally with just two kids because my mom was the youngest of three. She said someone was always left out or being ganged up on, and she didn't feel like she could handle three kids. My husband has similar feelings, he worries about having a middle child.

So far we only have one kid and now we're finally trying for another (our son is turning 5 next week). I am open to having three kids because that seems like a 'big' family to me. I like having family gatherings with lots of people and cousins and all of that. My dad is an only child, and my brother and I are the only grandchildren with just one cousin from my mom's side. Still, my husband and I have agreed to see what the 2nd kid is like and if we can feel like we can handle more.

Melanie said...

My parents both came from large families, and I am the 2nd of 4. I loved having a big immediate and extended family growing up. Holidays and parties were so much fun and I want my kids to have that so much. Before I had any kids I wanted 4. Now I have one daughter - pregnancy was hell for me but my daughter is PERFECT. So now I can actually picture myself just having one. The only thing holding me back is that love of big families - I would be so sad for her to miss out on that! Plus, I think having at least one sibling is important when big things happen - parent death, etc. I don't want her to be alone. But when I imagine being pregnant again it makes me cry. And then I cry because if it wasn't for my body's failure, I would be happier to have lots and lots. So basically I don't know what to do. It's very frustrating.

The Mama Beth said...

I have three siblings-one "real" and two "half" brothers. I am closest to one of my half brothers, one I don't speak to, and my youngest brother and I pretty much exchange holiday greetings and that is it. My husband has three living siblings and one who died in 1998. We currently have three young children, 3,2,4 months. Our intention is to have at least one more. Growing up I did not get along with my "real" little brother and my "half" brothers are so much older they didn't really factor in. I have loved seeing the dynamic that my husband's family has-they are very close, and I think that it would be awesome to have lots of kids who are close to each other, and then they will grow up and their kids will be close and so on and so on.

Ms. Key said...

For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to have 3 or 4 children myself. I have been waiting to be a Mom my whole life (and am still waiting, really, haha, but maybe I'm getting closer to that day happening in the next five years?! PLEASE GOD?!). Anyway, I've always loved kids and cannot wait to have my own -- keep in mind, I've also been a day care teacher, a baby-sitter, a nanny and now a real elementary school teacher. Kids are my life! haha.

My dad has a biological older brother (three or four year age difference), and then an adopted sister who is about 9 years younger than him. My mom is the only sister in a family of seven (four older brothers, her, two younger brothers). I grew up with family all around us, with many cousins at the holidays and at the family cottage. We LOVE babies and family. As one of the eldest cousins, I welcomed in A LOT of baby cousins over the years.

Most of my uncles have two children, a couple of the families have three kids. There are no "only children" in our family.

My parents had me, then 3.5 years later my brother Miles. And then... 9.5 years after that... surprise little brother Scooter. Well. Honestly? I have LOVED having a brother who is 13 years younger than me!! I have loved our family being a little bigger than just Miles and I.

Frankly, I cannot imagine having less than three kids myself... but of course, having not even tried for kids yet, there could be medical or other factors that could effect my true final number of kids. Generally, I'm hoping it will all work out, and that when I get going having kids I'll be able to have the family of at least three children that I so desire. I want a big family for holiday times!

Gina said...

I am an only child and I knew I wanted more than one. I was aiming for three, but ended up with two. I had a happy childhood, but I always wanted siblings and envied people who did have them. I knew I didn't want just one.

Beth said...

I grew up in a happy family as 1 of 4 kids: 2 boys, 2 girls. Great family dynamics and possibilities for pairings, combinations, games etc..

We have 2 kids and that is all we will have. Reasons for this include that we are slightly older than your average parent and we feel that more kids would require more work and patience and energy than we have at this stage. Going into our marriage we talked about having 2 or 3 kids (my husband is 1 of 3 in his family) but after our 2nd was born we were both sure we were done.

carrie said...

LOVE this discussion. It very much did factor into our family planning. I came from a family of 3. Me - Brother - Sister. My sister and I are extremely close and my brother was kind of always left out. So in my mind (now looking back it could have been a number of other things...) 3 was an awkward number - someone was always left out. When J. and I got married I told him "2 or 4 kids...I want evens." THEN I had a girl first and so, so, so wanted for her to have a sister. But also was not sure I could do 4, so before we found out #2 was a girl, I waffled a little. "Maybe...if we have a boy, I really want a sister for #1 Girl...maybe we will do 3?"

Thankfully #2 was indeed a girl. J. looked at me after the crazy birth and said, "So...ok? We done?"

Happily we are. Got an even number, got sisters, got a complete family. And honestly, have never even thought...what if? It just felt right.

Justine B said...

I had just one brother. He is my best friend. I love that we have a close relationship, but I also love kids. I am hoping to someday have large family....hopefully 5 kids!


Amanda said...

Both of my parents came from families of 9 children, and had 6 children (though their siblings all have 1-4 children), but it's really more like two sets of 3 due to spacing (I'm the oldest, the first 3 of us were born in less than 3 years, then the next three were born when I was 16-22 years old).

My husband's parents were from families of 2+2half and 4 children, and have three widely-spaced children, with my husband being the middle child, he has a sister who is six years older and a brother who is eight years younger, so he says that there were some elements of being an only child even for him as the middle.

When we got married, we said that we'd like to have at least 4 children, relatively close together because closeness in age played a big factor in our sibling relationships as children and into adulthood. We have 2 now, and probably will have at least 3, but we'll be evaluating on a one pregnancy at a time basis as to just how many children we do have in the end.

Eva.G said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Maggie said...

I am an only child and never really thought about how many kids I wanted. My husband is one of two and was pretty firmly committed to the idea of having two kids. Then we had our first and he was . . . not an easy baby. After that my husband decided maybe only one kid was fine. It was only about four years after my first was born that We thought we'd like a second. We finally have a second and two kids is just right for us. I don't think for me it had much if anything to do with being an only child, but for my husband 2 kids (like his family) was what he considered to be the right size.

Eva.G said...

I'm the oldest of two (I have a brother), and my husband is the youngest of 3 boys. I've always been close to my brother and we still are as adults, and the same goes for my husband with his brothers, even though he's 10 years younger than the oldest and 6 years younger than the middle brother.

My dad came from 5 kids, and it's interesting that none of his siblings have had more than 2! Either 1 or 2 kids. They've told me never to have more than 2. :-)

As for my husband and I......we've been trying for a year and a half, and still no child. It just depends on how many I can have, or how many we can afford to adopt. I enjoyed my family of 4 I grew up in, enjoyed our lifestyle it afforded, and never really wished for more siblings, so 2 is appealing to me. However, going through infertility makes you want what you can't have, so right now I feel the need to have lots of children. My husband wants at least 3. I imagine we'll try for at least 3, and be very happy and blessed with what we can get - even if that's just 1!

Rei said...

I was an only child, my mom was an only child and my dad had 1 brother. Now, I'm pretty sure I'm done with one. I hear about only children being lonely and all, but I didn't have any problems with it. Travel's a lot cheaper with only 1 to worry about!

Surely said...

I have two siblings but because of age spans, I was nearly an only child. Kevin just has his brother but his mother had a stillborn child and only quit having kids because she had to.

We ended up Not having kids but had planned on just one and done.

Our decision was more we knew we could handle one but not more. We knew our limitations.

Bird said...

So I am an only child and always grew up wanting to have a large family of my own. My husband has 3 siblings and is very close with all of them and wants a large family. We currently have 2 and would like a 3rd (and most likely a 4th) but have not figured out timing (he draws on his own growing up family for spacing ideas and I draw upon my childhood wishes for kid spacing.)I think we are both heavily influenced by our growing up families but even though they were very different, they led us to the same decision.

Interesting topic!

Jen said...

I am the youngest child in a family of nine children, and I really loved being part of such a huge family. It was always something that made me unique, because most of my friends were from families of two or three. My mom was one of 4, and my dad was one of 3. My dad's brother also has nine children!

If it were possible financially, I think I would love to have 5 or 6 kids, but our family does feel complete with just the two girls we have now.

Anonymous said...

I am the oldest of three - my sister is younger by 21 months and my brother is younger by six and a half years. My dad was an only child (his mother had several miscarriages) and my mom has two siblings, one who had three kids and one who had two.

My husband and I are having...NO kids! ;) My sister already has one and wants four. I think she'll have at least three. Not so sure about my brother yet.

I would guess that your growing-up family influences your own family's size and spacing, but I would also guess that your own experience of your childhood and your parents influences it as well. I had a great childhood, but have always been independent, quiet, and needed my own space and time to be by myself. I am not particularly close to my family, and my dad died when I was in my mid-twenties. My husband has a small family - only one sister (older) and his mom, as his dad left the family when he was young.

Despite our decision, I still follow your baby names blog with interest and have lots of fun giving (gentle) advice to friends who are now onto having their second and third children.

It would be great if you compile and post the feedback you receive to your question. It's such a good one that it makes me wonder if there hasn't been some study done somewhere about it!

Stephanie said...

I have a younger sister and it was just the two of us. I think probably the majority of people around us had two kid-families (maybe 75% or so?) including family and friends.

I LOVE big families. LOVE. My MIL is one of five siblings and they are all pretty close and the cousins all grew up together and now, even though the big family gatherings are more rare, everyone still gets along and I just LOVE IT. I want that for my children/family directly.

I want three children. Firmly. (Okay, I would totally have five, but logically that is out of the question because we can't afford it and I'm okay with that.) I have always wanted three. For some reason, two just seems "too perfect" and I know that doesn't make any sense at all, but it's my reasoning for wanting three. Now we have a boy and a girl and I'm desperate for my husband to agree to a third, even more now that we have one of each sex. It is hard to explain why and I know I sound crazy, but now that I have the boy and the girl, I feel COMPELLED to have a third b/c the boy/girl thing is REALLY too perfect. It makes me uncomfortable, like karma has a target over our family b/c we're too perfect and something bad will happen. Unless I have that third child.

Because that makes SO MUCH SENSE. (Please convince my husband to have another one. Not now. The baby is only 4 months old. I can wait a year or so. I just need to *know* it's (hopefully) in the future for us, to at least try for a third.)

I sound like a lunatic. I understand that. I'm fairly sane and rational though, IRL. Promise.

As to your general questions, I think it's a fascinating topic. Can't wait to read through the responses! (And as you can perhaps tell, it's a sensitive topic for me right now. MUST. HAVE. THREE.)

Courtney said...

I came from family with 2 kids and always thought I'd want 3. Second child did me in though and we're sticking with just the 2 kids.

bluedaisy said...

Wow- a very popular topic! I have one older brother who is almost 9 years older than me. I always knew I wanted to have "more than two" kids because I liked the idea of a larger family. We have three children and if finances weren't a significant concern, we would be trying to have one more.

Tara said...

I think the only thing that influenced our family choice regarding this was: "We both come from divorce families, so we are going to make every effort we possibly ever can to not put our kids through that." (Not to say that divorce is wrong or it isn't necessary sometimes or that it happens for perfectly legitimate reasons, just that we wanted to avoid it at all costs.) As far as having a bunch of kids, we always wanted just two, and are comfortable now with just one, but are still considering adoption in the future to make it two. I came from a family of five kids (over three marriages, and four kids in my full-time custody house), and my husband from five that he knew (three in his full-time custody house, eight or nine total over 6 marriages?). Our childhoods were more shaped by our parents' divorces than by the number of our siblings.

Paul Leavitt said...

Well, I am number 3 out of six (four boys, an then two cute little girlies!), so that does kind of seem normal to me, But we definitely haven't been surrounded by large families like that, so I know that it's not the societal 'norm' (though I am still 19, so I can't claim to have seen everything). My dad only has one brother (who never married), and my mom has 3 siblings, and none of them have more than three kids, so even in my extended family we are still a bit of an oddity.
I personally want to have as large a family as the Lord will bless me with (hopefully He gives a whole bunch), not just because I come from a large family, but because I see the benefits of having many siblings while growing up, and because in the scriptures, it talks quite a lot about how children are a blessing, and an example often used of a blessed man is that of having many children.
Great thought provoking post!

Maureen said...

I grew up the second oldest in a family of 5. Almost everyone we knew had at least 4 or 5 kids in the family, many had even more. As a kid, I craved alone time, my own space with peace and quiet, but never had that. As one of the older kids, we took care of the younger kids, now we realize my mom was clinically depressed, at the time we thought she was just a night owl. She would sleep all day and basically get up when we went to sleep. This was in the 60's and 70's.

Long story short, my husband and I have one child who is now 18. I feel in a way we gave her the childhood I wish I had. I definitely feel my childhood influenced how many children I had, and I have never regretted my decision. Luckily my husband and I agreed on this, so I know I was lucky.

Diane said...

I come from a family with two girls. I don't think I can say it had any bearing on how many children I had in the end.
Before I was ever married I said I wanted 6 children but the reality changed my mind a bit.
In my first marriage I had two children. In my second marriage I had two children. And then God changed my mind about children and I had 5 more. So all up I have had 9 children.
My sister has 3 children.
My Mum is proud of the fact that she has 12 grandchildren just from her two girls.

Crafty Beth said...

I grew up in a family with two kids (as did my husband), When I was younger I always wanted more than that, not because of my own nuclear family, but because we had NO cousins on either side, so we were the only kids around ever at any family function, and it just didn't feel like enough. Since having my two kids though, you couldn't pay me enough to have another one. Even though at this point, it looks like they might be in the same no-cousin situation as my brother and I were!

Lasha said...

It has definitely influenced me. I'm the oldest of 6 and took a long time to decide about having kids ... Now very happy with our two. Most of my siblings feel the same, although one is thinking about going bigger with 4. Interestingly, both my parents came from small families: my dad was an only child and my mom had only one brother - and they both really wanted 6 kids. I wonder if my own girls will do the same thing and have big families (right now, the 5 year old wants to get married and have a dog instead of a baby, ha!)

NellaBean said...

I am an only child and I knew I wanted siblings for my children - how many was (is) the question. When I was little I thought 6 sets of b/g twins sounded awesome (Bobbsie Twins Super-sized!) but then I started babysitting and decided 12 kids were 12 too many. :)

I have a handicapped parent who has needed to live with us for the past 10 years (I'm 34 btw). Yes, I married a saintly man who doesn't offen mind sharing his home with MIL. But being an only child means my parent is my responsibility. My parents divorced when I was 15 and now the other parent is beginning to have serious health issues too. Sometimes the long, dark tunnel of sole responsibility begins to look like a twisting abyss of despair - luckily there are bright ladders; there are fantastic things about having my parent live with us too. However, I wanted my kids to have financial and emotional support when it's their turn to parent the parents.

My husband comes from a family of 4 and they're all so close even though we all live so far apart. So, I kind of had a goal in mind of 4.

We have two boys 18 mo. apart. I'd love to try for number 3 but ... two difficult and high-risk pregnancies have left me a little gun shy. And would I then feel the need to give the 3rd a special, close-in-age sibling buddy? My two boys are BEST friends, is a 3rd an outsider when the age gap would be 4+ years?

(I am SO enjoying reading everyone's stories! Thanks Swistle - you have the best questions and commenters!)

Sunk Costs said...

having a twin sister always made me want girls close together. i have that, 2 girls, but i don't feel done yet. husband is the 3rd of 3, and i don't love the dynamics of their siblingdom, so i'm reluctant to stop at 3. i love the idea of a big family, but i don't relish the cost/logistics (primarily real estate, travel, and feeling like we have to scrimp or sacrifice quality of life for the kids). currently my hope is to have one more, then adopt- maybe a sibling pair.

Anonymous said...

I am the middle of three children (all born in a 4.5 year time span) and my husband is the oldest of 2 (born 10 years apart). I wouldn't say the line "I'm one of three so..."

I personally think children should be had in pairs so as not to be left out. I want more than two so that gives me four.

My husband would be happy with just two.

We have an 8mth old boy now and are hoping to start trying in dec for baby #2.

Beth said...

SWISTLE: Great discussion question. One suggestion/request: Would you consider ever doing a follow-up post after you post a question for discussion like this. I'm assuming you read the comments so perhaps a little summary of your thoughts in your next post? No scientific analysis required - just Swistle's impressions.

I'm thinking of something a little similar to Motherlode (NYTimes) where questions are posed for debate and a follow up post summarizes opinions. Thanks for considering this.

Barb said...

Interesting discussion going on here! I think I was influenced both by my own family's size growing up and the culture around me. I'm Mormon and live in Salt Lake City, so the norm is families with lots of kids. (I'm defining lots as 3+). There are three kids in my family (me and my two siblings) and I felt like we were strange because we only had 3 kids in our family.

I grew up wanting to have a "big" family of my own, and because of my experience, to me that is more than 3. I'm grateful for that because the reality of having lots of kids is definitely much harder than I knew when I was dreaming it!!

My husband is one of 6 kids which is the more typical "large" family in my community (at least it was a generation ago).

christina said...

I'm an only.
Husband is the youngest of 2, but they are 7.5 years apart. Effectively he's an only child.

I wanted at least 2, possibly 3. Part of it was because I didn't have many kids my own age around. Part of it was because my dad (primary care giver - I had a SAHD before it was cool!) passed when I was 8 and I felt like I had no one that could understand. A sibling would have a better chance of getting it. Not that I plan on kicking off... but life happens.

Husband was a first ok with maybe 1, possibly 2.

We had the first kid. Easy pregnancy, a little labor drama, healthy kiddo. High need out the wazoo. We agreed to wait until she was 18 mo to discuss a second. I got pregnant when she was 19mo.

Drama filled pregnancy (possible trisomy), easy birth, healthy kiddo who is also high need in varying ways. I never wanted to go through that type of drama in pregnancy again. Husband was ready to get the snip immediately.

We finally agreed we were done when kiddo 2 was 1.5. I think if we lived in a different time when we had more help nearby or financial resources weren't as big of a deal, we'd have more. The kids are pretty close overall, they have their moments.

There needs to be an instruction manual for only children raising more than one child. The "sibling things" have been educational. lol I have to call my parents and ask "is this normal?" or I call all huffy while my folks just laugh saying that's brothers and sisters do that.

EG1972 said...

I have VERY strong feelings about this. As an only child I knew 100% I did not want to have an only child myself. I always thought I'd have 0 or 2. I had a terrific childhood and still have a great relationship with my parents, but have always felt a small sense of being alone in the world somehow.

I was lucky enough to meet a great guy (who has one sibling and no preferences regarding how many kids he would like to have) and we have two little dudes who are less than 2 years apart and I feel such peace that they'll always have each other.

They are just little still but will grow up to be best friends and never fight or hurt each other, right?

I actively bite my tongue (unless asked) when I talk to people who have only one.

velocibadgergirl said...

My husband has one brother (a year younger) with whom he fought constantly until after college). They get along well enough now. Husband wants two kids at most (and might've been satisfied with just one, though I plan not to find out). I've tried to talk him into three a few times, but he says even numbers are better because if we had three kids, two of them could gang up on the other.

I have one sister (six years younger) with whom I'm very close now that we're both adults. Our parents did foster care from the time I was four until I was sixteen so we usually had up to four foster siblings at a time.

I thought for years that I just wanted two. Since my first kid turned out to be easy and awesome, I'd be thrilled to have five more just like him.

Unfortunately due to many factors (size of house, income, age, husband's very strong preference), we'll almost certainly stop after two kids. But oh, the babies I long to have!

Umiyyad said...

I am the middle of three girls, close together in age, and I count both among my very closest friends (I have one other friend and my mum who are as close). I LOVED growing up with sisters and knew I'd never have an only child (as far as my choice was involved).

My husband is the youngest of three more widely spaced siblings but he has stayed, if not very close, then at least on very good terms with both of them (big brother 8 yrs older, big sister 4 yrs older).

Before we had kids i always used to say, "Well, we're both from families of three kids so we'll probably have three ourselves." And we were pretty much agreed on three.

When no2 was about one year old, for various reasons there was a sea-change and we both felt very happy and content with our two boys (2 yrs 4 months apart). We had a rough first year with no2 and were feeling (much to my surprise) no desire for another.

I thought we were done.

Then we moved to a different place, more settled situation and a bigger house and by the time we'd been there 3 months we had made a fairly reckless decision to try for a third after all, and I got pregnant immediately.

So I guess we are heading for three after all (due in October). There will be a 3 yr 2 month age gap between no 2 and no 3.

I am absolutely adamant that this is the last one, I do NOT want another pregnancy nor another baby after this one!!

But my husband says we can't make that decision until no 3 turns two at least. Hmmm.... so to spare his feelings I am toning down my "And this is the LAST ONE!!" when I talk to people... but I still feel like three completes our family. And I think that has a lot to do with my family background. Three just feels right to me.

And if my kids love each other half as much as I love my sisters, I'll be a very happy mummy.

Alicia said...

My husband's an only child, and I was almost an only child (I have one half-brother, 10 years younger, who probably won't have children), so we decided that if we wanted family around when we got older, it was a DIY project. We have four, and that's perfect for us.

British American said...

I come from a family of 2 kids. So does my husband. We have 3 kids and now we're done.

The thing I do think about is that my family had a girl & then a boy - which is how our family started. Watching my daughter and her younger brother reminds me an awful lot of me and my brother.

Then we had a 2nd son (3rd child) so that makes me think of my husband's family growing up, where there were 2 boys.

It's as if we combined my family and his family growing up.

I still would have liked to have a 4th, but it's not on the cards.

Wanting a 3rd was somewhat to do with being so far away from my side of our family. (I moved countries.) Plus my kids have no cousins - DHs brother doesn't want kids and my brother does one day - but he's single and lives in a different country than me. So I liked that having a 3rd gave us a bigger family - my first son now has a brother and my daughter now has 2 brother.

I did notice that my one grandma had 6 kids, but then only went on to have 4 grandkids. My Mum and her siblings either had 0, 1 or 2 kids.

I do like that I have a bigger family than I grew up with. Though it will be interesting to see if my daughter is less close to her first brother than I was with mine - because I figure middle boy will start to gravitate to his younger brother, rather than his older sister at some point. Currently they are 7, 4¾ and 1 - so older sister is a much better playmate than toddler brother right now. But there will be a different dynamic when they're say 11, 9 and 5.

British American said...

Also want to add that I feel more influenced by the families I see around me. A lot of the families at our church have 3 or 4 kids, so I don't feel like we have a big family. (And seeing the families with 4 kids, makes me wish we did have 4.)

Anonymous said...

I am the second eldest of 7 kids. (From the same two parents. Weird, I know). I loved being a part of a large family and I plan on having at least 4 children myself. My siblings all tended to get along as children and we are very close now.I love having other people who share the same memories, and family gatherings are always lively and fun. :)

My siblings fall along the spectrum of "one or two at most" and "the more the merrier" depending on their personality.

I will say watching my dad and his sister manage their elderly, ailing parents has made me glad for my Aunt (9 years older than my dad) that she wasn't left an only child. The stress of dealing with the financial, emotional and physical strain of being caretakers to your parents would have been more then she could bear. It would be a ridiculous reason to plan having more than one child, but I'm glad for her that it worked out that way.

Lynnette said...

My husband and I both come from blended families. Me- oldest, full sister 2 yrs younger, Mom remarried and had 2 boys, 15 and 17 yrs younger, Dad remarried and had 1 boy 21 yrs younger. When I was a kid I always felt like my family was pretty small and wanted a baby brother, and through various circumstances, became the oldest of 5 with 3 baby brothers and I absolutely love it.

Husband is the oldest of 3, all 2 yrs apart, plus a 12 yrs younger half-sister, and now some more step-siblings.

We have an almost-3 girl, an 8-week-old, and I definitely do not feel done. It helps to have dreamboat babies. I'm pretty sure I can convince my husband that three is a pretty good number, especially since we have great relationships with our siblings. In a perfect world, I'd have 4, but finances, age, fertility, and his preferences will probably stop that from happening.

LazyBones said...

I'm the oldest of 6 girls. My mom was a SAHM from when I was born in 1976 until my youngest sister started kindergarten in 1995. I could not see myself "sacrificing" that many years to take care of babies, so I wanted 2, 3 at the most.

My husband was an only child, until he was 18 and his mom had another boy. Then when he was 22, his dad had a daughter (his parents divorced when he was 4, so these are both half-siblings). He wanted more than 1, also said 2, maybe 3.

We didn't have our son until I was 32, and then our daughter at 34. Surprisingly, I LOVE having babies and don't consider it a sacrifice at all to care for them. Had I known, and started younger, I could easily have had at least 4 kids.

However, given my age, and the fact that I lost my job and now have decided to homeschool (but still need to make a living, so I need to become some sort of entrepreneur), we will probably stick with 2. Homeschooling is a more intensive form of parenting than I ever planned to do, so I remind myself of that whenever I feel sad about all the babiesbabiesbabies I would love to have!

Nic (NotPerfect) said...

This is such an interesting conversation!

I'm not in a place where I'll be having kids anytime soon but I want them, oh yes.

My parents are each one of four. There are 12ish year age differences between the oldest and youngest in both families (maybe more, I'm not 100% sure). Some are close, some are not. The close relationships on either side aren't really predictable. In fact, I believe only two on one side talk once a week or more.

I'm one of two. We are not close. We're cordial and care about each other but we're not friends and do not speak with any regularity. This is the result of adolescence coupled with a divorce. I don't think we ever had a chance to be close. [insert ugly family dynamics here.]

I don't know what my ideal number is, something in the neighborhood of enough to be able meet the needs of each without going crazy and more than zero?

I am afraid of getting my heart set on a number because I don't know my capabilities and my limitations and what I'll be able to provide for my children. There's a fiscal responsibility, of course, but my emotional capacity? Oy. Can I really teach them how to be kind and build relationships and love people? Can I let them know each and every day, verbally and non-verbally how loved they are? So, my goal is to start with at least one and go from there.

I imagine my future husband might have preferences that I'll have to take into consideration as well.

Elsha said...

Love this topic!

My husband and I are both from big families. I have 4 siblings Brian has 6 siblings. However, my family is traditional (my parents celebrate 39 years this year!) and Brian's family is blended. He has 3 half siblings (all from his mom) and 3 siblings from his dad's first marriage. (Also he doesn't know his bio dad and was adopted by his mother's husband at like 8 yrs old. It's confusing.) Anyway. Point is, we both very much enjoyed the chaos of growing up in a big family and wanted the same for our kids.

I always wanted 7 kids, and Brian would be fine with that, I think, but I'm not sure we'll get there. While I was pregnant with our third we thought we'd probably try for a fourth soon. However, Daniel (who was born in March) has Down syndrome (big surprise at his birth) so now we're not sure when/if we'll have more. I HOPE we will, but there's more to consider now.

Also, after my in-laws got married (when Brian was 8 ish) they decided they wanted kids together, so 2 of his half siblings are MUCH younger than him (10 & 13 years younger) and he's always said he didn't want to do that as a parent. I'm totally with him there. I mean, we've been married for 6 years and his parents STILL have kids in high school. Crazy.

As I mentioned, I have 4 siblings, but the desire for a big family is definitely not universal among us. At the end of this year I'll have: a sister with 4 kids, me with 3, a sister with 2, a brother with 1 and a brother with none. Nobody has declared they're finished, but I'm pretty sure I'm the only one who wants more than 4. I'm also the only one who married someone who has more siblings than I do so that may play a part.

Kira said...

Interesting. And I'm loving reading the responses!
I'm one of two kids, which I assumed to be right and good. But then I started having my own actual kids, and they are just so amazing! At least, I think so. And so I decided I wanted four. Or five.
Then I ended up divorced, with three sons. One of the great griefs of my divorce was that I really really wanted another baby. And when I met my husband, who grew up as one of six kids, my puppy-pile of boys wasn't the slightest bit intimidating to him. It even sort of...felt like home.
So to sum up, my family of origin size didn't really affect how many kids I wanted (I'd still have another if if if), but thankfully, my husband's did.

G said...

My husband and I are both the youngest of two. We both have one parent who is one of two and one parent is one of more (4 in my case and a blended family of 6 in his). We both have cousin-sets of mostly two.

When we started talking about kids, we talked in terms of two because that seemed "normal" to us. But, we also both wanted a boy and a girl, so the agreement was that we would have 3 if the first two were the same sex. This decision quickly turned into "two, maybe three."

It wasn't till after our second child was born --girl to follow our first son -- that we realized that we had different expectations of the likelihood of that "maybe." And that was ALL family history based. All those sets of two between us? Mine are mostly boy-girl; his are ALL same sex. So, while I had been merrily assuming that we would probably get our two genders in two tries and be done, he had been merrily assuming the opposite.

In the end, our third child was an agreed upon compromise because he wanted a third more than I didn't. (Yes, we are not gender typical.) While pregnant with our third, I began expressing frequently that I was done doing this. My pregnancies were all pretty easy, but my third was my first C-section, which pretty much clinched my opinions of being done now. My husband agreed more for financial reasons, although I still think he would have happily had more if I had wanted them and we could afford it.

And now, we foster children, meaning our family size can range from 3 kids all the way up to 6 with very little notice.

nicole said...

I have six kids. I'm from a family of 3 kids, Husband one of two kids. Our family size has been informed by our faith more than anything else.

Sophie said...

I come from a family of three kids, so I want three or four of my own.

Maureen said...

Just read through the comments, and boy am I in the minority with only one child. I do want to address a poster above who said she bit her tongue when people only had one child, her being an only child herself.

Her experience is not everyone's. My daughter has never once longed for another sibling, she doesn't feel "alone" in the world. Just because you have siblings, doesn't mean you have friends for life.

As you can tell, I get a bit ticked when people assume things about only children. I remember someone saying they never learn to share, which is bull. My daughter has a generous nature, she was always the first one to offer her toys, food, whatever to other kids.

I support the choices of every family, and I would hope I would receive the same consideration.

Julie said...

My husband and I both come from families with two kids. I have one younger brother and he has (had) one older brother (who died 8 years ago at age 36). Our parents come from families of 1, 2, 3, and 4 kids (plus one step-mom who is also one of 4).

We have two living children and one who was born too soon to survive. I desperately want another, but my husband is fairly adamant about stopping, so we are at somewhat of a stalemate.

Both of my parents, my MIL, and my husband have had a sibling die. That left my mom and my husband as "onlies" and my dad and MIL with 1 and 2 living siblings (FIL is an only child). A major part of what influences my need for another child is the fear that one of our kids might be left without a living sibling. I don't doubt that the baby we lost also plays into my feelings...both for another baby and for another, more normal pregnancy.

My husband's reasons for not wanting another baby are all centered around his concerns about his age (early 40s) & there not being enough of him to go around with another child. We are able to afford more children, so that is not an issue.

I would love to read more about couples who were not on the same page about how many kids to have and how they resolved such a dilemma, as we are waist-deep in just that very situation now with no idea how to find our way out.

Anonymous said...

I came from a family of two kids. However, my father was one of five and my mother, despite being an only child, spent a lot of time in the company of her cousins who were also a family of five. My brother is eleven years younger than me. I've always liked the bustle surrounding large families and as an only child for the majority of my childhood I always longed to be part of something bigger. We have three kids. Initially, my husband only wanted two (he's the oldest of three) and I spent a few years trying to be okay with just two. Ironically, around the time I was like "Okay, no more babies, this is our family" he started saying how maybe we should have a third. I think he realized how quickly it goes. So we did! Maybe if I started younger (or was a more patient, zen like mom) we'd have more. I look at my dad and his siblings and they are all in their fifties and still have relationships and then I look at his aunts and uncles all in their seventies and they still have each other. I want them to have each other as they get older.

amyunicorn said...

I came from a family of only one child (me), and that drove my desire to never have an only child home. I had to have at LEAST two children. We didn't have a third due to finances (or lack thereof).

Blythe said...

I am an only child and my husband is #3 of six. We have one child and don't plan to have more. We started relatively late (35) and I have always been OK with the idea of having just one child, having had a good experience myself. (My mom wanted more but had fertility problems.) My husband would have been fine having one more, but he was definite about not wanting a large family. He & his siblings are quite close as adults but I think he felt that his childhood was really chaotic. I love that we can be part of his large family with lots of cousins around while still having a small nuclear family unit.

Anonymous said...

I come from 2 kids, my husband comes from 2 kids. We have 3 together -- he has one from previous marriage (we've been married since she was 4). So, our 'in house' kids are 2, which is just the regular old normal number in my mind -- but we are 3 total. I think the fact that my step-daughter is not in our home full time probably contributed to us having the 3rd because most of the time it kind of felt like we only had one (not that we really thought like that -- she is just as much a part of our family as the others, but she just isn't here all the time to fill up the house :-).


Jenny Grace said...

I come from a family of five. I love my siblings fiercely and have always wanted a big family, and I know my siblings who are old enough to entertain such things think the same (my sister always wanted 4-5, but is compromising with 3-4(her husband is from a family of 2), my brother and his wife both want 'at least 3' (they're having their first this fall, she's from a family of 4).

Now both of my parents ALSO came from large families (my dad from a family of 5, my mom from a family of 6), but their SIBLINGS had relatively few children. I have 8 first cousins, all together. So maybe they all felt differently about it.

For added analysis, my dad's parents both came from small sibling sets (his dad an only child, his mom one of two), but I think they were just having babies till they had a boy (my dad is the youngest.

My mom's parents both came from large families (her mom - one of five, her dad - one of six), and for the most part they all had children and and plenty and how, etc. I believe my mom has over 30 first cousins.

At this point I'm just babbling because I'm up at 1:15am with no good reason, but I am super attached to my large family, and we're all fairly close, even second cousins, etc. I grew up feeling like my siblings, although the people who I fight with the most and who irk me beyond all reason at times, are also the people who know me the best, and the people I love the most, and I adore my family, and so I always pictured having 4-5 kids.

Of course, I only have one, but that's because life doesn't always work out the way you think it will.

Magic27 said...

I am an only child with no cousins my own age (and I have no contact with most of my much-older cousins anyway), only one grandparent (and she died when I was 19). My ex is also an only child, with even less family than me.
We knew from the outset that, given the ridiculously small amount of family available, we wanted at least 2 children. We had two daughters (after losing our first child at 5.5 months of pregnancy) and he would have liked more, but pregnancy was very complicated for me (both girls were born premature) and the younger one was a very, very difficult baby (wouldn't eat, wouldn't sleep) and I just couldn't face going through that again.
My ex and I are now apart, the girls are 10 and 8 and their family is essentially me and my ex, my dad, his mother. That's it.
They don't get along as well as I would have liked, and that breaks my heart - I would have given ANYTHING for a sister when I was growing up - but I hope things will improve as they get older and realise that they really do only have each other...

oilandgarlic said...

Interesting topic. I think for many people, two factors are finance (lack of ) and sibling relationships. Neither my husband or I are close to our siblings so we never thought of having a second one with the assumption that they would be close. We did end up with 2 but probably can only afford 1 financially! It's tough.

Anonynous said...

I grew up as one of four kids; my mother is also one of four (and always wanted four) and my father is one of three. I always wanted 3-5 kids, but I'm 33 and still (very sadly) single, so that seems unlikely. Also, I'm pretty poor. I am open to ART or adoption or whatever it takes to get to three kids in the future. Three of my five first cousins are adopted and another one has Downs syndrome, so I know things can get complicated. There is also the matter of how many I'll be able to afford and if/when/whether to consider having kids (biologically or adopted) without a life partner.

MamaK said...

I'm the baby of 3 (10 yr gap) and hub is 3rd of 4 (all within 9 yrs). We currently have one, medical issues. We wanted 3-4, or maybe more... because of our growing up experiences. He loved it, I wanted my sibs closer in age... but that isn't how it's worked out so far, oh well.

Swistle, I have a question for you though: what do you think about mothering larger numbers gradually (normal biological ways) versus becoming a mother of 4 kids at all once (adoption/steps)? I mean, HOW does the rate at which you add kids to the family affect you/us as we "grow into" being moms?

I ask because one SIL is pregnant with her 8th (one died at childbirth) but another SIL had 3 teens then adopted 4 girls under the age of 6. Both seem pretty good at organization, patience, handling or living with "chaos". I doubt I'd be that good if all of a sudden I had 4 more kids, but maybe if I added one every 2-3 years, I'd grow into the skills/personality without noticing? IDK, what do y'all think?

stephanie said...

I am the older of two girls. My parents, along with most of my extended family, died very young. NOT AT THE SAME TIME.

But, that made me want to have an ENORMOUS family because my sister and I were pretty alone and that sucked.

However, life happens, as it does, and my husband and I have major fertility issues. That coupled with the fact that we married in our mid-30s made us lucky to walk away from IVF treatments with two daughters of our own. The shop? She is closed.

We would have liked to have a couple more, but we are so grateful for the two we have.

Swistle said...

MamaK- Oh, interesting thought! The most I added at a time was two, when the twins were born. My guess is that it would be very hard to add a cluster of children to a household with, say, one child or two---but not as hard to add a cluster to a household that already had a cluster. Even with the second child, I found I was letting go of certain standards and ideas (about housework, for example), and after the twins were born there was another shift. After Henry, I remember thinking I could handle even TEN kids if they just kept coming one or two at a time, because they were added to an existing system. But I also feel like once someone gets used to handling a group, they can handle another group---so, like, if when my kids were all teens/adults we suddenly adopted another set of five young kids, I'll bet those skills would still be there. ...After perhaps a short delay of panic and overwhelmedness!

Daycare Girl said...

My parents are both the oldest of four. My mom said she always assumed she'd have four too since they were both accustomed to that. Then I was born, and she realized kids were more work than she thought, and it was seven years before she had my sister and then they were done. She never said it in a mean way, just like oh, I changed my mind and it was fun to spend time with just one kid, etc. So growing up I thought maybe I'd prove her wrong and have MORE than four! Kids are not that hard! I will be a better parent! Blah blah.
Now I have two. And I married a guy who is the middle of three boys and was pretty adamant about not wanting three because he didn't like being the middle child and doesn't want to do that to our current youngest. We're done, and I'd still like more sometimes, but for the most part I'm good with it.
My little sister, however, has five and is not done. So at least one of us accomplished the goal. :)