Have you always dreamed of having a large family? Maybe you grew up as an only child, and remembered how lonely it can get without siblings around. Or perhaps you always envisioned a sweet smaller household with one or two children. No doubt your spouse also has an ideal image of family size – and not necessarily the same as yours!
Planning a family is an exciting undertaking for every couple. While a welcoming attitude to “whatever will arrive” is one way to go, planning family size is another equally option. If you are the type that prefers to make a conscious choice about the number of children you will try to have, there are lots of factors for you to consider.
Here are some tips to help you in planning the size of your family:
It’s best to set a specific time and place to discuss this issue with your partner. This is not a “passing in the kitchen” type of discussion, but rather an important, life-altering conversation. Take your time over coffee, maybe even bringing pad and paper so you can jot down thoughts, ideas and things to consider. You want to be able to sort through all possible factors the number of children you want to have, how you want to space the births, methods of birth control, financial considerations and so on.
Decide as a Couple
Whatever decision you come up with, make sure that it’s born out of consensus. Parenting is a partnership, and family size is a critical area couples need to see eye to eye on. Ideally, family planning should be a topic that was explored even before you decided to marry, but if you didn’t happen to do that, don’t worry: just do it now! If the topic is difficult to talk about calmly, enlist the aid of a therapist to help tease out the issues in a more peaceful and productive way.
Remember: There is No Such Thing as an Ideal Family Size
An ideal size of family is only what is ideal for you and your spouse. That an “only child grows up a spoiled brat” is a myth; conscious parents can always surround the sole apple of their eye with friends and situations that would give the child a balanced view of life. The same can be said about the argument that children tend to lose individuality in a large family. Supportive sibling relationships can actually be a blessing and children with a built-in group of playmates may thrive on less parental attention. Although there are lonely only children and lonely kids who grow up in large families, there are no rules for which size of family can lead to loneliness; there are so many factors involved, many of which have to do with parental skill and competence.
When you are thinking about the number of children you’d like, also think about how close or far apart you would like them. Always keep in mind of course, that what you’d “like” and what you might “get” could be very different. Human beings are not totally in charge of their reproductive capacities. People have unexpected periods of infertility or ultra-fertility, miscarriages and stillbirths, twins and triplets. There is a saying, “Man plans and God laughs” which certainly applies often when it comes to family size. However, assuming that things went the way you were hoping they would, consider the impact that close spacing might have on your lifestyle, career, health and emotional well-being. Do you think you can handle it? If you put generous spacing between each birth, how will family life be later on when part of your family is young and part is in the teens and how do you feel about that picture of family life?
Factor in the Logistics
When you plan, it makes sense to thinking about finances. Remember that there are hospital bills for childbirth, school tuition expenses, and the basic necessities of life like food, clothing and shelter. Will you want to send your kids to camp or private schools? Will you want to have family vacations? If a child has crooked teeth, will you want to provide orthodontics? What if there are special learning needs requiring special tutors, therapists, schooling – would you be able to handle whatever comes your way. No one knows the future – keep in mind that family “planning” will always have to leave an open door for last-minute adjustments and changes based on what develops along the way.
Do you have the time and energy to invest in your kids? If you and your partner are both working full-time to catch up on bills, can you really provide a new baby the attention he or she deserves? Are you physically healthy and strong enough to raise a new child? Do you need lots of time to recuperate after childbirth?
You might also consider your home and community environments. Does your home have enough space for kids? Does your neighborhood have resources available to assist you in parenting? Would you be raising your kids in a community of like-minded values? Or, will you be making a move to a different home and community? Can you afford to do so?
There are lots of things to talk about and dream about. You don’t need to know everything or plan everything down to every detail. You just need to get on the same page with your partner and work together toward building a family. Discussing things openly helps give you the best start in raising your family.