How We Answered “Should I Have Another Baby?”
I have actually asked Google this question more than once.
I know, I know, we have a lot of kids. Why am I asking, right? But it never fails, baby fever hits one of the two of us when the smallest person in our house is somewhere between three and six months old. The “should we have another baby?” conversations start again, and the decision feels monumental. At this point, we don’t agonize nearly as much as we used to. I fully acknowledge that this could be because we’ve lost our minds. However, I like to think it’s because we’ve realized some really awesome effects of having a lot of kids…or even just one more. So if you’re asking the question, “Should I have another baby?”, here’s why I think the answer should (almost always) be yes.
Multiple kids entertain and teach each other
If you currently have one kiddo and are wondering how you’ll keep up with another, go ahead and put that fear to rest. Siblings are by far the best form of entertainment in town. The amount of time you have to spend entertaining children decreases with every child you have. This is even more true if the children are close in age. There is always a buddy (or two, or three…) to play with. The more people there are in the house, the greater the likelihood you are going to find someone who wants to play the same game as you do. Also, siblings are way more fun to play with than parents, and get tired of the game much less quickly.
Plus, multiple kids learn so much from each other. The older kids have an influence and authority with the younger kids that is tremendously different from parental authority. The littles enjoy learning from the bigs as if it’s part of a game, and our kiddos have taught each other awesome things like how to write their names or how to put away their laundry. Having multiple children often means there are some things you only have to teach once.
1+1 doesn’t always equal 2
Along those same lines, there will also be many things you’ll only have to purchase once. Unless you’re having multiple children at the same time, the cost of a second baby is not going to be nearly as much as the first was, because you’re able to reuse baby furniture, equipment, clothes, etc. While it is true that there are things that have to be paid per child (like soccer team fees or college tuition), there are tons of things that don’t! As a family of 8, we get lots more mileage out of things like family memberships and hand-me-down shoes. When considering the cost of having another baby, just recognize that the cost of the baby #2 is not going to be equal to that of baby #1.
You are capable of more
One question I get asked constantly as a mom of six is, “How do you do it? I’m sure I couldn’t handle six kids.” Here’s the thing, though: I didn’t have six kids. I just had one more, and then one more, and then…you guessed it. Like the frog in the boiling water, when you continue to add to your family, you slowly adjust your perspective and increase your capacities.
I remember being terrified of two kids. Our first two babies were born a year apart, and the thought of having a baby when I already had a baby was so intimidating. Taking one baby grocery shopping felt overwhelming, so I had no idea how I would ever leave my house again when I had two. But Baby #2 arrived, and I figured it out. My response to the above question is almost always, “You do what you have to do,” and it’s true! There have been seasons that have been difficult for sure. But looking back, I recognize that it was in the difficult seasons that growth really happened, and that I was able to conquer things that initially seemed insurmountable. As moms, we need to know that we are capable of so much more than we give ourselves credit for!
Life lessons are built in
The life lessons that kids learn as a byproduct of having siblings are invaluable. There is nothing that will teach a toddler how to share like having the 24/7 exercise of sharing toys with the brother who’s a year older. Not to mention the practice in patience they will gain as they daily learn to wait their turn for mom while she cares for the newborn baby. Siblings are guaranteed to have regular disagreements in which they’ll have the opportunity to try out conflict resolution and problem solving strategies. One thing we’ve been consistently impressed by is how much growth is produced in each of our children when they become an older sibling.
Sibling relationships are the best!
I adore my children individually. But there is a whole other level of precious-ness you discover when you watch your children love and bond with each other. And each new baby adds another depth of dimension to the sibling dynamics and relationships. The older ones care for and dote on the little ones. The little ones admire and look up to the big ones. The boys look adoringly at the girls and tell them they’re beautiful, or the girls are genuinely impressed by how strong the boys are, and your heart completely melts. They read books together, spend hours engrossed in an imaginary game, and spontaneously give each other kisses, and you can’t fathom the tapestry of your family without the richness of the relationships of each with the other.
JAMIN RESPONDS: All agreed, but you just left a bunch of reasons out. But really, people – the charade of this whole post is ridiculous! Anyone coming to us to hear what we think about having another kid already desperately wants another kid and is just in denial about it. No one is going to the Toyota dealership asking if it’s time to buy a new car or asking a timeshare salesman the best way to vacation. If your wife is reading this post, it’s time to buy another car seat, man. You’re having a baby. Don’t worry. You’ll love it. It will be great.
That’s the wrong question. It’s crazy to me that this is the way this question gets asked. It shouldn’t be “Should I have another baby?” it should be “Should I stop having babies?” So I’m going to answer that one because it’s a better question. But first, a few reasons kids are the best:
1 – Perspective changing. This is really all of them. Everything that follows is some variation on this theme.
2 – Marriage. We used to fight about stuff. Dumb stuff. We looked out for ourselves. Now we look out for the kids. And then…OH!!…this is what it feels like to serve another human being. Suddenly the marriage is better too, now that we’re better at not looking out just for ourselves.
3 – Fulfillment. Either because Darwin says I’m only here to pass on my genes or because God says we’re supposed to ‘be fruitful and multiply‘, everyone agrees: babies are the most important game in town.
4 – More kids is way better. True, this is prejudicial. Not everyone feels this way, but having several younger siblings does so much for the maturity of older kids! They learn so many important skills. And they learn everything better. The best way to learn something is to teach it, and with a bunch of younger siblings, there is an ever-present classroom of little people eager to learn.
Plus, when there are a bunch of babies around, the older kids learn earlier that they’re not the most important things in the universe and that they can, indeed, wait for what they need. I’m not just ignoring them – there are actual higher priorities and they can see that to be true. This also pushes them to be more resourceful sooner. I CAN get you a sippy cup in a few minutes after I put the baby to sleep…OR…you can try to get your own sippy cup right now. It’s a little messier, but they learn to take care of the things they really don’t want to wait for.
5 – More kids is way better. Still prejudicial. Having several older siblings does so much for the development of the younger kids. We have a culture and the older kids help perpetuate it. When I tell the kids to do something, it feels way different from when another kid tells them to do it. The little people might obey my instructions, but they absorb sibling instructions. When I say “Let’s put on your shoes so we can go,” it’s seen as a request for obedience. When an older sibling says, “Let’s put on your shoes so we can go,” it’s seen as an opportunity for an adventure.
Plus, the older kid gets double experience tying shoes! The herd is easier to move than the individuals, so when it’s time to move, we grab a couple big kids and the rest naturally move with the group. It’s subconscious obedience. When there’s just a couple kids and we say, “It’s time to go,” there’s more of an opportunity to fight the instruction.
6 – More kids is way better. This one is just a fact. Especially for controlling parents like me, having more kids than I can micro-manage is really good for them. They have so much more freedom to explore and succeed and fail on their own than if I were there to help them make all the best, most efficient decisions all the time. They get to screw up and get away with it.
Of course, there are degrees of appropriate intervention here. For some parents, this might be a really negative thing, but I’m sure if I had fewer kids I would have to fight the urge to sterilize their lives to an unhealthy degree. But we’ll see…check back in with me when they’re experimenting with drugs and have a their first baby at 15 and see if I’ve changed my mind on this one.
Now the Cons List:
This is a combination of reasons I think we should stop having babies, bad excuses for not having kids, and some terrible reasons I’ve heard for having kids. Do NOT:
1 – Have kids to save the marriage. The whole point is that kids are the focus once they’re around. To bring someone into your life to make your life better without compensating them I believe is either called ‘torture’ or ‘slavery’ or both. Kids for the sake of the marriage will almost surely destroy both.
2 – Wait to have kids until you’re ‘ready’. Not even really sure what this means. Like don’t diet until you’re skinny enough? Don’t bathe until you’re clean enough? They make you ready. There’s no way to practice. Jump in. And let the change wash over you. Like a refreshing waterfall and a kick in the face. Just depends on the day.
3 – Wait until you can afford them. No one can afford them. They’re a huge waste of money. The finances will never make sense. Also, you’ll always find the money. You can make more money. You know what you can’t make? More youth. More time. God and nature wanted babies to start happening young and keep happening frequently for a reason. Time is not fungible, money is. Don’t waste what you can’t get back saving up what you could.
4 – Afraid to adopt. It seems reasonable to fear that the connection won’t be the same with adopted kids as it would with ‘your own.‘ Out of the…dozens?…of friends I’ve talked to who adopted, every single one has debunked that fear. Hopefully we will adopt a couple of our own soon. Our foster care system sucks! No matter how terrible a family I provide, it will likely be heaven compared to what they’ll get in the system.
5 – Have kids if you feel like you shouldn’t. Like marriage, kids are a terrible, terrible idea unless you just can’t help yourself. No pros and cons list is going to outweigh your gut.
6 – Be over-run by fear. I’m afraid…I’ll be as bad as my parents…I won’t be a good parent…I don’t know how to do it right…I might ruin them…I won’t be able to [current activity…[infinite list of fears. Every good parent has all these fears. You’ll be fine. Or not. You might be terrible, but so were your parents, and you found a way to manage, right? You’ll do better than that because you have those fears, and it doesn’t seem they did.
It’s only been since 1960 that you had a choice in the matter (thanks to Katherine McCormick for her work in contraceptives!) Before that, the universe thought everyone should be a parent. As it turns out, the universe was wrong. But not that wrong. Good parenting is available to everyone who is selfless enough to pursue it. You got this.
7 – Have more kids just because you like all the rest of them so far. I’m really not sure where the flaw in this logic is. We like all our kids and I’m sure we’d like the next one too. Seems like one more would be great! But I can’t find the brakes on this thing. With this line of reasoning, I don’t know what keeps us from having a circus-worthy number of kids. (I hear ya – you already think we’re circus-worthy.) So maybe this is a great reason to keep having kids!?
8 – Have kids for what they’re going to do for you. Had 4 girls but really hoping for a boy this time? Had 2 kids and favorite number is 3? Have 3 kids but want to have more than your sister who also has 3? Have 1 and your mother-in-law said you couldn’t handle 2? Whatever role is assigned to that kid before they enter the world will be the Sisyphean weight that will destroy so much joy, not to mention, the chances that they will actually fill the role to your satisfaction is basically zero. If there are any conditions for what having this kid is going to have to do for you, just walk away.
WENDY RESPONDS: Sounds like we agree, we should keep on having more kids! Oh wait, there is one more con…pregnancy. Never mind, six is good 😉
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