Deciding on the number of children you both want can be a source of contention between couples. However, it’s important to keep in mind that no matter what your plans are, your body may have other ideas.
Should you have only one? With today’s rising costs of raising children and the pressures of career and family life, more and more parents are drawn to the idea of concentrating their resources on one child. The upside is that they get all of their parents’ resources: time, money, and energy. These children tend to function more like first-born children: higher levels of intellect and achievement. The downside is that you may well have to defend your choice to stop at one. Even complete strangers may feel it appropriate to question your choices. Despite the fact that research has debunked the myth of the only child, the general public has yet to get the memo.
Should you have two children? The upside is that this is largely considered the ‘perfect’ family size. You will not have to field any questions or concerns about a ‘lonely’ only child, and your eldest will have a companion. Many people feel that raising their first has been going so well, why not extend those skills to another child? The downside is increased costs, less time for you—and for your marriage--and less energy. All of your resources will be divided by two.
Should you have three children? The upside is there will be plenty of labour in the house! Chores can be spread out among the siblings. Siblings have one another for support. The downside is the concern regarding the “middle child” or the child that is left out — the favourite of neither parent. Additionally, all resources will be tighter. You will find that simple things such as getting a table for a meal out are more taxing. Bigger house, bigger car and more of everything seem paramount.
Should you have four or more children? Right now, about 15 percent of couples are brave enough to be vastly outnumbered by their children. The upside is that older siblings can help with younger ones. For those couples who really want a boy or a girl, more children does increase the odds of getting what you want. The downside is the costs of raising so many children. Additionally, your other resources are spread very thinly. There is less of everything: time, money, and energy.
The number of children you decide upon is a deeply personal decision. Keep in mind that what you decide today is not set in stone. Many couples go into thinking they want two or three and then change their minds and scale back. Conversely, other couples think they want one or two and then end up with many more. Take it as you go.