How Many Kids Is Too Many?

A few days ago, my husband came home from work and related how a discussion about kids had broken out in the teachers’ lounge.  Apparently, one of the youngish, single male teachers had been quite adamant about the proper amount of children a person should have: two.

Any more than that, he swore, would be too much time, too much money, and too much hassle.

Not long before this little discussion took place, I had followed this post over at Early Mama, discussing the same question.  The theme of the post was, of course, that having two children seems to be some sort of ideal. Just right. Not too many, not too few.

I get it, I do. I was terrified to go from one to two kids, because I knew, in a sense, that I would be losing any type of freedom I had. With one kid, we were still at the cute family stage. Mom, dad, and adorable, mobile daughter. Once there were two, gone was the cute, young, blooming family, and in came The Brady Bunch feeling. Suddenly, everything became infinitely harder. Shopping, cooking, even getting dressed in the morning. And don’t even get me started on the horror that is simply trying to get out the door to any function on time. So I can’t imagine what three will do.

But what bothered me most about these “discussions” were the arguments that it wasn’t fair to any potential third (and beyond) children to bring them into the world, simply for a lack of extra finances.

One mother stated that she wanted her kids to have all the opportunities for success that she never had, another felt like it was irresponsible to “get” pregnant if you were poor, others felt it wasn’t right because the children would not have enough attention in a big family.

I find it scary that some people try to determine the “right” number of kids to have, as if such a thing exists. But even more so, I found the focus of money in relation to family planning scary.

Especially as someone who had a surprise pregnancy at a time in my life when I wasn’t financially stable (what college student is?) and I relied on help to make it through. I felt like an inadequate mother for that very reason. And I saw the truth of the feelings conveyed through the words of strangers online–

Poor mothers should be more responsible with their childbearing.

It scared me to think that we have become so focused on providing for our children that we think it’s about money.

Yes, of course, we need to shelter, clothe, and feed our children. But is a mother who is not able to do those things any less of a mother than me because I am able to? Does she love her children less?

We want to nurture and provide for our children in every way possible. But I think we do have to remember that our children don’t need special lessons, or fancy colleges, or the latest and greatest toys to grow up into loving, caring adults. The true lessons that we as parents want to instill into our children can be found in a family–kindness, love, laughter, and what it means to share a room, a house, and the world.

After all, they grow up so fast…



  1. Well said Chaunie. As the 13th out of 14th children I say how dare anyone say I should not be alive,because I did not have the opportunity that your spoiled rich kid has. Many good people are made from poor families and many delinquents are made from rich.And vice versa. And no matter how much money I have my children are going to learn to work. Its funny because how can we even watch reality tv and come to the conclusion of the pretentious young man in your post. There are the Duggars,who,despite 19 children clearly have love and stability,and are raising responsible,caring adults; and then,for instance, there are the Kardashians, who are fun to watch,but really kind of a mess.(Sure there are more than 2 children but it is clear those children are raised with every indulgence.) It is as selfish and rude and ignorant for someone to tell me that I should have only 2 children as it would be for me to tell someone else they should have 10.

  2. Yes! I have had to deal with many unsolicited opinions from strangers, and friends, too, as my bulging belly has been accompanied by my two little ones. And we are only on #3! But people do seem to have strong opinions about *two* I was recently comforted by a salesman my parents age who said that he only had two but really regretted not having a third. Yes, we live in a small house, and yes, my children will have to share a room. But I think they will be better people, more likely to know how to share and compromise, for it. Thanks for writing.

  3. Thank you, Joanna! My husband is #5 out of 6 kids and he is the light of my world. He has changed so many people’s lives for the better. And his parents shouldn’t have had him? Why, because they couldn’t afford to buy him brand new brand name clothes? No. Not having those things MADE him the selfless, humble man he is today. He went to college on mostly scholarships. Every single one of those 6 kids went to college, in fact!

    And can we just talk about Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Steve Jobs? ALL college dropouts. Their potential came from within. So parents have got to let go of this idea that money=opportunity=success=happiness. You know what equals happiness? Family. Love.

  4. Joanna, I scrolled down to post a cooment and when I started to read your post I thought, “Wait a second…I already posted a comment? But I just finished reading this..” Haha! Looks like I don’t need to add one thing. We have practically the same upbrining, experience and viewpoint on the matter! 🙂

  5. I absolutely understand what you’re saying, and I agree that having a lot of money doesn’t make a better parent. And “more money” shouldn’t be a reason to stop having more kids. But I think “money” should be a factor to consider, only because it involves the family’s happiness. I would never say “I don’t want to have another kid because I want to send my first son to the best college possible.” I wouldn’t stop having kids because I want my son to have more “stuff” – whether that’s toys or clothes or fancy lessons. Never. BUT that being said, I don’t like to struggle. It makes me fight with my husband and turn into a stressed out crazy person. And who wants a stressed out crazy person as a mom? I want to give my son (and possible future sibling) the happiest environment possible. One with a strong marriage not tested by the weight of financial problems (and that weight’s been known to destroy the best of couples); one with a comfortable environment.

    I grew up in a lower-middle income household that was constantly struggling. And while we certainly were given amazing thrifty memories (so many crafts and stories and hand-me-downs) and happy bonding moments, and while we never felt cheated by a lack of opportunities, there was certainly stress around us. Stress and anxiety that my sister and I very much felt, and it played a big part in my childhood. I just don’t want that in my adult life, or for my children. I think it’s more than wonderful if you can live a thrifty, simple life and have a large family without being a stressed out crazy person. I wish I could be that person; but I’m not. And I just want to make my family’s life as happy as it can be — emotionally, not materialistically. I’m sure I could have 12 children and love each and every one of them as much as any mother could — from my mental institution.

  6. That of course is just me, I need to clarify! I don’t judge anyone for having more than 1 or 2 children. I think it’s wonderful! I even think that if the Duggars want to have 20 kids (safely) and TLC will pay them to do so, then whatever. They’re actually pretty good, loving parents. It’s impossible to judge something so personal.

  7. I am one of nine children, and have three kids of my own (one set of twins). Our choice to not have any more kids simply has nothing to do with money and everything to do with the fact that I don’t trust myself to be a good parent to more than three children – keeping up with three is enough. Having been raised with so many siblings, I got away with a lot as a kid, and presume that my kids will do the same but to a much lesser degree. I also believe that kids with a closer relationship with their parents are better able to deal with the world around them, and if they can’t at least there is a support network ready and waiting with no line. If you as a parent feel that you are up to staying close to that many people in your life, I say go for it. But if you’re not, that’s OK too.

  8. In 1979, when my husband and I were married, interest rates were in the high teens. I had just graduated from college and was in an entry-level-to-the-entry-level job. He was still in college. We figured that we could either have kids or a house but not both. So we had kids. Four of them. And then we felt that that was enough.

    Meanwhile, things improved for us and we got a house. And *right* after we bought the house, he lost his job. But we were determined, and we kept that house. Things worked out.

    The kids are grown and mostly gone, and we have the two most wonderful grandchildren in the world. All of the kids are a joy.

    The interesting thing is that my husband’s parents never planned kids, and he is #10 of 10. I’m #4 of 4, and I was SOOO unplanned and was going to ruin my parents’ lives, as my mother kept telling me until I told her it hurt to hear that. If they could have chosen not to have me — if abortion had been legal and *respectable* then — I would not be here. And neither would my four kids and my growing brood of grandchildren. Because of money concerns that, it turned out, were not even reasonable.

    Do what you think is best. I’m just glad that I’m here!

  9. I think it is responsible to take finances into consideration to some degree, but you should not use that as the only measurement of whether you should have a kid or not. To know that when you are through school and can afford it better and to make a decision to wait until then is responsible (thinking through a time table and making a plan, it could be anything). But as most people know, kids tend to come not on our schedule very often. Parents can only plan to a certain extent.

    I don’t think people should NOT have kids because of money concerns, but I also don’t think someone who can hardly afford the ones they have keep having children. It really is a fine line and will be different for every family.

    My dh is a teacher, I work from home part time and we have 4 kids. while we do without a lot of things and have to live a very frugal life, my kids (and us to an extent) get all the things we need and much of what we want. My dd is still living her dream of being a gymnast even on our limited teacher’s salary. Just because we don’t make a lot of money doesn’t mean my kids don’t get to follow their passions and dreams. We say yes plenty, just not to everything.

  10. My Dad was the 4th of 5 kids.Unfortunately his Dad died when he was 12 and his youngest brother was 5.It put quite a strain on my Gran in those days because she didn’t have a very good education&it was tough supporting the family financially&emotionally.She did it,so I’m sure if any of us,with both parents in the family,could definitely do it!My dad just had 2 kids coz of the worry over my money,but later on,he said he wished he had more kids!So I’m going for it!I’m on pregnancy number 3&I would like 4,if possible!I also have a step son&I notice just how loving our kids are to each other&they really dont have everything!But they play&they use their imaginations!Some people do comment on your third child,’Another one!’,like you are mad!I think some mums just can’t cope with more than 2!Anyways!x

  11. Momof 2boystwingirls says:

    I am the oldest of two kids. And I hated it. It was always one or the other. We were 5 years a part, so we didn’t have much in common . I always wanted at least one more sibling. I have 2 boys, and twin girls (wow, it was twins!) I think some people can “handle” a large family, and some cannot. It’s best to know yourself and your limits. But I don’t think you should push your beliefs on others. Just because I can handle my 4, like the precision of the military, does not mean you can even handle your one without help. It’s just the way it is…we’re all different and that’s what makes it great. But don’t let it all be about the money. We can afford ours. And they get tons. But we are not paying for EVERYTHING when they go to college. And they WILL get a job at 16 also.

  12. I say if you can pay for them have them. But if you can’t you need to rethink it. do not expect me or other taxpaying people to keep giving you food stamps so you can feed them for the next 18 years. Most of us are not rich ,we do without to feed ours. My kids know work is what pays for everything not handouts. Helping people is one thing but I know some that are on number four and have never paid for the birth or the food that feeds them and I feel that is wrong. Sorry but that is how I feel.

  13. Hey, why not just be like folks in Sub-Saharan Africa. Have as many kids as you can, and if there isn’t enough food to feed them, well then they’ll perish. “No man, no problem” and all that. It’ll all work out in the end.

    Or if you had much compassion in your heart to begin with you might not have any kids at all. Creating a new being to suffer in the world is pure ethical negligence. But try telling that to your average person today, they doesn’t care. They just has cravings for being a parents and will see them satisfied come hell or high water — and the vast assortment of fears, pains, indignities, uncertainties, and the like that their offspring may suffer never enter the equation.

    Ah well, circle of life. No skin off my nose. I just find it to be ethically bankrupt, having any children at all, especially when the world is already so full of people.

  14. Oh great, I can’t fix the grammatical errors in my post. ಠ_ಠ


  1. […] Chaunie asks: should money be a factor in family planning? And here are some posts from […]

  2. […] main argument in How Many Kids is Too Many? is valid, especially for parents who want a large family. And I can understand her point of view […]

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