How to Know You're Done Having Babies
When my husband and I first got married we waffled back and forth on whether or not to start a family and if so, when. There were a lot of obvious variables to take into account - finances, our rickety car, our housing situation, our job situations - then life took over and there we were on our first wedding anniversary, waiting on our due date for our first babe. Less than a year after her birth we were washing the baby clothes, getting ready for the arrival of our second when we looked at each other and said, without hesitation "enough is enough."
Like every other parent who decides their family is complete, our reasons were varied and there were quite a few of them.
Deciding to start a family is complicated, but deciding to stop having babies can be too, especially because what's right for one family isn't necessarily right for another. Indeed, the magic number is different for every family and the reasons are as well. Whatever your reasons are, here are some things to consider if you and your partner are deciding on whether or not to expand or complete your family.
Your Partner Doesn't Want More Children
Though he was game for one more, my husband and I knew we were done having kids when I said with all certainty that I never wanted to be pregnant again. Although that may have bummed him out some, we went into our parenting partnership knowing that we're a team and as a team, both players have to be in the game or we're both going to lose (and so will the kids). If you want more children but your partner doesn't, take some time out to think on why you want more kids and why your partner doesn't.
Will the reasons change down the road (like a job switch)? Or, are they more permanent (for instance, my biggest reason for not wanting to have another child was a reoccurring pregnancy-related condition that my husband and I would never be able to change)?
If you're at an impasse, consider how your ability to effectively parent with your partner might change if they're no longer excited about the size of your family or if they feel overwhelmed by the reality of another couple of years of babyhood.
You Don't Plan to Upgrade Your Vehicle or Home in the Near Future
For some, this isn't a factor that holds much weight but for our family it was. We are happy with the size of our home and size of our vehicle, both of which fit our family perfectly. If we had any more kids we'd have to upgrade both of them and since we live in a condo we can't just add another room onto our place, so adding another member to the family would mean selling the home we're in and finding and moving to a larger one on top of figuring out a new set of wheels with a third row - all things we're not prepared to do at this point in our lives.
If you're straddling the line between having another kiddo and closing up the baby-making factory, taking some time to think about how it will affect your current housing and vehicle situations will help to point you in the right direction, whatever that may be.
You Don't Handle Sleep Deprivation Well
This one was huge for me. While a lot of my friends were going back to work six-weeks postpartum and looking bright-eyed and bushy-tailed whenever we had baby playdates, I had some mornings where I seriously questioned how I was going to survive that day on forty minutes of sleep. Some babies sleep better than others and apparently mine sleep the worst of anyone's, ever. When deciding whether or not to have another baby, expect that that baby won't sleep (and maybe be happily surprised when they do!) and then ask yourself how well you function when sleep deprived. Does it increase any existing anxiety or depression? Does sleep deprivation affect your ability to drive, make it to work on time, or get through a shift? If you're a stay at home parent, does sleep deprivation make it difficult for you to enjoy the kids you already have and to provide a quality home-experience for them?
Earlier this year, my youngest finally started sleeping (mostly) through the night and I went from a zombie-mommy to getting up before the girls and enjoying a quiet cup of coffee before beginning the day. I went from functioning at a minimal level to being able to dive back into my work, comprehend my studies and keep up with the dishes, laundry and appointments without feeling like I was going to lose my mind. It's amazing!
Then I got a puppy, so. Back to square one...
Babyhood Takes a Toll on Your Mental Health
While we're on the subject of sleep deprivation, consider how the postpartum period affects you and your partner's mental health, whether one of you deals with postpartum anxiety or depression or just doesn't deal well with constant newborn crying, it's something to consider deeply before expanding the fam.
You've Put Your Career on Hold to Start a Family
Something to consider when you're deciding whether or not you're done having children is if you've had to put your career on hold to start your family in the first place and whether or not you're longing to go back to that career.
When I started my family I definitely wasn't leaving a career of any sort behind (unless you count Livejournaling a career, ha... ehhh), so I had no desire to return to my pre-baby life, but many of my friends who were also starting families had worked hard to get their degrees and establish themselves in their industry before having kids. If having children has forced you to put your former career on hold or slowed the pace more than you were expecting, you need to ask yourself for how much longer you're cool with that, if you even want to go back at all, and how a new baby would affect that scenario.
You Want to Be a Stay at Home or Work From Home Parent
This is simple logistics. The more kids you have at home, the harder it is to concentrate on tasks when you're home based. As I write this, I have a toddler with a hand down my shirt trying to chit chat with me about how I'm her momma (she's like, really obsessed with me). That's okay, I can handle that because it's just her, but multiply these distractions by that other hypothetical baby my husband and I considered before coming to our final decision and I don't think I'd be able to write the rest of this article before it was time to feed the kids their dinner and take them out to play.
You're Financially Insecure
More basic logistics. Naysayers will say that kids cost you millions of dollars - I consider that an investment - while others will insist that kids cost hardly anything. The truth, in my experience, is that babies are cheap, kids are expensive. For the first year of each baby's life, my girls required not much more than the cost of gas to get them to their frequent checkups, and whatever food I personally needed to eat to nurse them efficiently.
Then they became little kids who love My Little Pony action figures, sparkly shoes and those extremely costly organic bunny fruit snacks. They dirty clothes faster than I can wash them, go through an entire cabinet of unbreakable dishes by each evening and get super hyped up about having a rainbow of tinsel professionally beaded into their hair to the tune $2 a strand (just multiply that by the rainbow, okay?)
Do my kids NEED rainbow tinsel and organic bunny fruit snacks to survive? No. They don't. But, without totally spoiling them, I like to provide my kids with the things and experiences in life that make their little blue eyes light up, and while those things may not cost much initially, it all adds up. Take even those little things out and basic needs like healthy foods, a hot bath before bed and well-fitting pajamas still get expensive. If you're not in a place where you feel financially secure, it makes sense to consider whether you'll realistically be financially secure enough to add another baby to the family or if it's time to consider your family complete and put your future energy into working towards financial security.
You Would Like to Continue Helping Your Kids Financially as Adults
I know that some of you are reading this and you're like, "hell to the no, my kids are out and expected to be fully-sustained adults as soon as I hand over their 18th birthday gift" and if so, then just skip over this part because it's not for you then.
For us, when we started our family, we knew that whatever kids we brought into the world we'd want to be able to help and support even after they've started families of their own (if they decide to do that). Being able to realistically help contribute financially to our adult children's future was a definite factor in our deciding to limit how many kids we had.
You Haven't Completed Your Education
I don't believe that college is for everyone, but for those who find that it's important to them either personally or financially, it's something to consider when deciding how big to grow your family.
In my case, I definitely had to put school on hold while I started my family, but felt unsettled by the thought of never going back. Knowing that I'm not able to do much of anything (including college) when I'm pregnant and that babies and toddlers need a lot of attention that makes homework difficult to finish, factored into my decision to not draw out the pregnant/baby/toddler years any longer.
If your kids are older, in school themselves and you're considering having another baby or going back to school, then homework with just one little babe around the house is probably doable. But if you're already in the throes of toddlerhood and playing with the idea of going back to school, you'll need to decide if you're really up for potty-training, diaper changes, 2,000 word essays and pop-quizzes all in the same day.
You Plan to Send Your Kids to Private School or to Homeschool Them
When I was a kid, my parents sent my brother and I to private school briefly, the cost of which was enough to make your eyes pop straight outta your head like a character on an adult-themed cartoon. After private school, they pulled us out and homeschooled us, which, though much cheaper, also required a hefty time and energy investment - the cost of which multiplies with each child.
So, if you're planning to use an alternative form of education for your kids' school years, consider how your ability to effectively attain that education might change with each added child.
You or Your Partner Suffer From a Pregnancy Related Health Condition
Unfortunately, a lot of medical conditions that occur during pregnancy can't be predicted until you're actually pregnant. This was true for our family - we found out when I was six weeks pregnant with our first that something was really, really wrong after I couldn't even get out of bed without help. It turns out I have a condition that occurs only during pregnancy called hyperemesis gravidarum, and it's reoccurring so we can expect that with each of my pregnancies I will, without doubt, be affected by it. This was a huge reason I was ready to call our family complete after our second daughter was born. I just didn't want to put myself, my husband or our kids through that again (or our moms who cared for me during my pregnancies, God bless them).
Other conditions that may be isolated to pregnancy like gestational diabetes, hypertension or severe anemia are all valid things to consider when deciding on whether or not to have more kids.
You Expect Your Kids to Go to College
Not everyone does and that's okay. But if you do, you should plan to start putting away for that schooling while your kids are still little. Common sense says that the more children you have, the more money you'll have to save up for college later on.
You Want to Travel
This is simple: travelling is expensive and the cost is usually based per person. The more people you have in your family, the more it will cost to travel. If travelling is a priority for your family, calculate how many kids you can realistically afford to travel with and factor that number into your desired family-size.
You Want to be Able to Enjoy Spontaneous, Unprotected Sex
Just kidding about the spontaneous, you're a parent! But if you're ready to ditch birth control long-term and enjoy sex without wondering if you're going to make a baby then that's a pretty great indication that you're ready to call your family d-o-n-e done.
(I feel obligated to say, if you're not in a monogamous relationship, even if you've taken precautions to not have more children, you still need to use a condom or barrier since other forms of birth control don't protect against STD's and STI's).
Your Marriage or Partnership is Suffering
If things feel heavy between you and your partner lately then they won't feel any lighter if you have another baby. That's not to say that you need to stave off another pregnancy forever, but if the stress of raising a family is starting to weigh your relationship down it might be time to consider your family complete and refocus on strengthening your relationship.
Your Marriage or Partnership Rocks!
Equally, a steady, healthy relationship is an awesome reason to get off the baby-train. If you feel that your family has struck a balance and you're finding time to connect with your partner then this kid-to-parent ratio may just be your sweet spot! Don't tip the scales!
You Like Your Gender Combo
Maybe you have four boys already and from hand-me-downs to shared toys, the whole thing has become seamless - how would a girl work into the mix? If you don't relish the idea of having to start over with a new gender or you're feeling really fulfilled by the gender combo that already exists, why mess with perfection?
You're Ready to Embrace Routine and Tradition
Some people I know are amazing at handling life with a new baby - most specifically, all of the Vlogging families that my oldest likes to follow on YouTube. They manage to make the world around them literally look like Arendale while giving birth every ten months all while raking in millions of dollars in ad revenue and sponsorships.
I'm not one of those people. Having my kids be just a bit older than brand new has made it so much easier for me to make the holidays, birthdays and seasons a more exciting experience for my kids because I'm not wringing spit up out of my hair every hour. I decided I didn't want to rattle that by continuing to throw myself back into newbornland. If you're like me and find life easier to handle as your kids get further from mashed peas and dirty diapers, then it might be time for you too to reel it in and seal the deal on being finished with having kids.
Going on Family Outings is a Priority
Don't get me wrong, growing up, I was friends with kids who came from big families and they got out and had lots of fun together. Probably more fun, because they were like their own club, with every member in on the same joke. But it was definitely more complicated for their parents than it was for mine, who just had to load my brother and I into the backseat for a night out on the town. For the short time that I had only one child, everything was exponentially easier than it became when her sister arrived. From going to the doctor's office to out for pizza, every activity took on planning around not just one, but two kids and I imagine this gets trickier with each subsequent baby. If you're feeling maxed out when you take the kids out imagine what it would be like to add another to the mix. If it blows your mind then you're probably at a great place in life to say a big fat N-O to another kid.
You've Stopped Having Baby Daydreams
Before I had my first daughter, I spent a lot of time thinking about babies, looking at pictures of babies, holding other people's babies, watching cute baby videos on YouTube and daydreaming about what it might be like to have one of my own (it involved a lot of handmade baby clothes which is just not my reality at all). By the time I had my second baby, reality was fully set in and that excitement over babies was waning. As my kids grow, I've found myself so psyched about the stage that they're in that the idea of a newborn has steadily lost my interest.
If you're finding yourself more excited about exploring with your kids and less excited about dirty diapers and midnight feedings, you're probably ready to move on from the baby stage altogether.
You Like to Dress Your Kids in Expensive Stuff
I'm looking at you and I'm looking at me and I'm looking at allllllllllllllll the Instamoms peepin' this little article here. Unless your bank account allows for you to keep adding chubby cheeked models to the latest Tea Collection, you've gotta stop. I've gotta stop, we've all.got.to.stop. Because that shit's expensive and it's not sustainable long-term as our kids go from sleeping neatly in a bassinet to slinging tubes of mom's red lipstick at each other while she showers.
If you're thrifty, sale-savvy and really good at making hand-me-downs work for your family then you can probably have ten kids and still dress them to the nines. But if you're not as motivated to spend wisely yet can't help yourself from a dozen pairs of Freshly Picked moccasins, then just multiply that cost by the number of babies you plan on and decide if that's a habit you can continue. The kids, I mean.
You Really Want to Lose Weight or Just Take Your Body Back
For most women, breastfeeding equates weight loss. In my case, it was the exact opposite, and breastfeeding my daughters caused me to pack on a good twenty pounds each time around. It wasn't the end of the world, and yes, it was worth it, but after a while it took a toll on my self-esteem. Once my breastfeeding days commenced I was able to take more time to myself to exercise, eat healthy and take better care of my body which made me feel so much better, inside and out. Getting pregnant would have started the cycle all over, and while it would be worth it if I really wanted another baby, I got to the point where I wanted my body back more than I wanted another baby.
If you're feeling ready to take back your body and move on from the days of stretch marks and extra baby-weight, that's a totally valid reason to consider your family complete.
You Require Quiet, Alone Time
Some parents really thrive on busyness while the rest of us start to crumble under it after a while. If you're someone who gets overwhelmed easily, needs extra time to yourself to get centered and practice self care, that's easier to do the older your kids get - and much harder to find time for with a baby.
Your Childcare Resource is Your Immediate Family
Everyone has a different childcare situation, but if like me your sole childcare resource is your immediate family, you have to take into consideration how adding another babe to the brood would affect your childcare provider - will they feel outnumbered? Will it be more than they can take on? Is that more kids than will fit in their vehicle for outings?
The Kids You Already Have Need a Lot of Attention
One of my children is very clingy with me (booby grabber mentioned earlier on) and the other is extremely sensitive. I don't mind this, I want to embrace these aspects of my kids and I feel like with only having two, I can do that. If you're recognizing a need for extra attention in your own kids it's okay to say "all of my energy is going to this" and refuse to spread yourself any thinner.
You've Found Your Happy Place
You know what I mean. That place where you look around and realize you've been breathing deeply and calmly without intention. You're not just okay, you're actually happy, you're excited about tomorrow and the next day and the day after that because you're not exhausted, you're not overwhelmed. You've hit your stride.
You're there. Close this tab. Schedule one of you the appointment and never, ever look back.
What About You?
How did you know that you were done having kids? What variables did you factor in to come to your decision and how many kids do you have? Let me know in the comments below!
© 2017 Kierstin Gunsberg