I have one daughter, Fallon, and she is all I’m likely to have, barring winning the lottery and my wife leaving me at the same time. But then, if I do win the lottery she’s less likely to leave me, so that’s moot. What’s more, Vladimir Putin just put the brakes on my musings of traveling to Russia and picking out a teenage counterpart for my daughter. Americans can’t adopt Russian kids anymore.
The point of my preamble is that while I have one child, I have thought about having two. In fact in this article you may witness the author’s genuine evolution of thought on the subject. I’m not sure what’s better: one or two kids. I want to say two, but let’s look at it for a moment. For everyone contemplating the same thing this should be worthwhile.
When I was a younger man about to have our first baby, I was so in love with my wife I actually worried: what would having a child do to our love for each other? Was it a zero-sum game and the love we shared would be divided by three rather than two? Sounds stupid, I know, but I was young.
After Fallon’s birth I realized our new whole was greater than the sum of parts. The love and happiness present after Fallon’s birth was even more than three – it had multiplied exponentially. That’s great news for all of you making the big life change to parenthood.
I imagine that same exponent applies to additional children, but other factors would likely start to play more of a role in your decision.
By the way, for those of you concerned about the money and not having enough to have a baby: no one ever does. I asked around about that also before we had ours. From rich and poor alike I was told they didn’t feel they had enough. So if children are really in your heart, I say one should be in your house.
There are strong reasons for stopping at one child, though. Studies have suggested
- People with children are happier than those without
- Children are one of the greatest sources of adult happiness
- More children than one, however, make mothers less happy
- More children than one does not affect happiness for males
- Children add strain to marriages, which is alleviated when the last leaves home
- There is a significant increase in one-child homes
After a year or two we talked about it and decided to at least wait before having more. We wanted – we insisted on – a certain economic ability, on a certain quality of life for Fallon. We decided we’d rather have fewer kids but be able to provide a higher quality of life as opposed to churning them out and feeding them all mac and cheese for eighteen years.
The benefits so far have been pretty good, to tell you the truth. One child often seems plenty to handle, and obviously she receives all of our child-raising attention. It’s obviously much more affordable than many children as well. The benefits seem obvious.
But there are doubts. I know how much – while we had almost nothing in common growing up – I am extremely grateful to have my brother today. And then there’s the idea that they are company for each other while young. The older sibling may even learn life skills involved in helping raise the younger to some degree.
I have read posts of only-children who hate it, and it seems their venom is a result of not having more quality personal bonds. I realized my wife and I have worked hard to prevent this by providing my daughter with close friendships and time with her cousins as much as possible. I also know that social networking can keep friendships alive and even close for an entire lifetime, despite distance. SO perhaps things are changing.
Three or More
My mom was one of three and that seemed pretty ideal for them. They were all close as adults, and my cousins to this day are more like brothers and sisters.
A good friend has five kids, and I believe four of them are adopted. He’s a pastor and as far as I can tell they love their situation.
A good friend of mine has seven. Seven. Their life is much different than ours, to say the least. They run a much more structured household, with almost militaristic order and an almost complete lack of private or free time. That said, they have seven by choice, and they are some of the happiest – if busiest – people I know. My friend also does quite well financially, so that has to be considered also.
However, my own father was one of seven and he did not seem to like it. He describes a free-for-all of hungry kids grabbing potatoes off the table in survival-of-the-fittest fashion. Darwin may have been interested.
Some years ago I helped a customer to her conversion van in the parking lot and noticed she had a lot of kids. I asked how many and she said twelve. Again, I was young and I might not say such things today, but I first told her she deserved a gold medal, and then asked her if she had any advice.
“On having lots of children?” she asked.
“Yes,” I said.
She looked around for a second and then told me, “Don’t!” Hitchcock may have been interested. Instead of The Birds, The Babies?
It would seem the factors in your decision may be:
- Available time and attention
- Plans for education (theirs and yours!)
- Your life plans (It’s hard to travel with your wife with a newborn.)
- Ethnic, familial, or social customs
- What priority having multiple children is for you
And factors in how well this all goes may be:
- The concern and ability of the parents to create and lead a loving group
- The personalities of the kids
That last item is a wild card.
I’ve looked over average number of people in US households and average number of children per family in the US but decided it does not say much knowing the answers are roughly 2.6 and .9 respectively, with regard to deciding on one kid or two.
Where your family planning falls will be a function of your values, so the above factors will be given different weight in every combination of parents. You will simply know how much children mean to you, and most people seem to arrive at a point where they have enough, and there’s no crime in that decision.
As a side comment with some possible relevance, Mark Penn in Microtrends isolated a solution for overpopulation: educate women. That’s sounds pretty sexist here in the USA and Canada but women are still second-rate citizens in some other other parts of the globe we won’t name. Actually it would apply here as well. The more education a woman has, the fewer the children, according to his research.
But I do agree that
“As a source of adult happiness and fulfillment, children occupy a pedestal matched only by spouses and situated well above that of jobs, career, friends, hobbies and other relatives.”
So in conclusion I guess my mind has not changed. I would love to have had more children, at least one more, but did not. Apparently my wife and I are not alone in that decision. The trend toward one-child homes makes me feel better, given the example I had from my parents (and grandparents) was to have many kids.
The studies, national trends and my own experience suggest one is a great number. Other examples and your own heart might suggest otherwise.