Contributed by Nadia Persun, PhD
When is your family complete? How many children is enough?
“Three is a crowd,” my husband told me when I shyly brought up the question, whether we should have more children. Maybe it was the complicated nature of the question or just the wrong timing (dinner), but we managed to get into a long discussion that culminated into an argument. An hour overdue, banana bread in the oven interrupted us with its burnt smell.
I don’t even know if I want to have more children, but I have been plagued by the question the last few months. We have two. They are at the age where I can forget about buying mountains of diapers, carrying ten pounds of baby paraphernalia anywhere I go and performing the never ending gymnastics of helping my kids with every move they make. I am finally becoming just a tad more relaxed, re-learning the joy of adult company, uninterrupted conversation and eating meals using both of my hands. After years of being home bound, we’ve taken some fun trips and vacations. It’s a slow transition from complete chaos toward some Zen moments. I don’t know what prompts me to revisit the idea of procreating some more, volunteering for another few years of a ten fold increase in stress. Is it my genuine desire to have more kids or succumbing to the pressure of the much discussed in the media factor of declining female fertility, that after a certain point, makes family expansion an urgent, “now or never” kind of an issue?
My husband, a logical and practical person, appears to have an intact memory of what it was like dealing with pregnancy, midnight feedings and diaper changes. He has reminded me of the sleepless nights, drawers full of diapers and formula, no vacations, and other paybacks for having small children. “Do you remember how unaccompanied trips to Target were like a vacation, the only way to get a break and some quiet time?” he said, desperately trying to retrieve my memory and penetrate some reality below the surface of my brain. I’ve appeared to use mostly the left side of my brain, talking of the sweet baby smell and the warm feeling of snuggling with a tiny body.
What is it about moms that seems to wipe out most of the pains we go through during pregnancy and baby time, wanting to do it again? Why do we often consider another round as soon as a child is out of diapers? Maybe it’s the biology or the social pressure that defines what moms ought to have and to be, implanting in our brains the notion of that statistical average of having 2+ kids, a house in the suburbs and becoming a soccer mom and a wonderwoman.
We talked about our dilemma some more the following day, reaching the decision to get rid of the countless neatly labeled boxes full of baby clothes and toys. They are going to be re-used by other families, not us. My husband said that he wants to spend his time and energy raising our already existing children, giving them our undivided attention and resources. He is heavily vested in spending time with them: feeding, playing, teaching, driving around and dealing with their insomnia and sick moments. Thus, he deserves to be heard. It was the decision that made sense to us, right for our family. How did you make yours, knowing when your family is complete?