When To Have More Children: A Rational Framework To Consider

Are you thinking about when to have more children? My wife and I have been thinking this ourselves. We have two children currently and are wondering whether to try for a third. We hear having a third can be the hardest since we'd be outnumbered.

Having children is a personal choice. There is no right or wrong answer. However, once you have children, it's hard to imagine anything more precious in your life.

If you had a billion dollars, you would willingly give it all away to save your child's life. Well, unless you were J Paul Getty, who refused to pay for his grandson's ransom until his ear was sliced off.

Given children are priceless, it stands to reason that we should all have as many children as possible. The more you have, the wealthier you will be!

Unfortunately, we all have our physical, biological, and financial limits. Not all of us can afford multiple children. Some of us may feel bad knowing that the more children we have, the less quality time we get to spend with each one.

Even if we could have many children, our personal well-being may suffer after a certain number. After all, children require a Herculean amount of effort to raise properly.

Deciding When To Have More Children

Since having more children is a personal choice, let me offer up some suggested guidelines. Please don't run me over with a steamroller with these suggestions. My goal is to help couples make an important decision for the good of the overall family.

The last thing you want to do is have children when your relationship is strained or when you're financially struggling. If you end up separating or divorcing, your children may suffer.

Here are some things to help you decide when to have more children:

1) Regret Minimization Framework

The regret minimization framework is a great way to decide whether to do anything big. In the case of children, you must ask yourself whether you will regret having children more than you will regret not having children.

If you think you will regret not having children or not having one more child, then you should decide to have children or one more child.

Regret is one of the most powerful feelings. The worst type of regret is when you didn't do something due to a lack of effort. When it comes to children, even if you can't have children, your regret will be highly diminished if you and your partner gave it your best shot.

2) When Mom's Body Has Fully Healed

“It takes nine months to make a baby and nine months for mom to heal,” said one of the doctors we visited. Therefore, it is recommended to start trying for another child after nine months have passed, at the earliest. Many pediatricians recommend an 18-month gap from birth to conception.

Further, pregnancy often reduces lactation. Therefore, if mom is currently nursing your youngest, you may want to wait to get pregnant until after baby has weaned. A common goal for nursing is one year.

3) After You've Reached A Net Worth Milestone

We all know that raising a child can be expensive. The more expensive your location, the likely more expensive it is to raise a child. To help prevent the cost of raising a child from straining your relationship, it's best to come up with certain savings, net worth, or income milestones.

Back in 2017, the USDA estimated the cost to raise a child to 18 was about $233,000. With inflation factored in, the USDA estimated the cost would balloon to roughly $284,570. Therefore, a good goal before having a child may be to grow your household's net worth by another $300,000.

For parents in more expensive coastal cities, a more conservative net worth growth goal may be $500,000+ for each additional child. Although such an incremental net worth goal may sound like a lot, think about how many fewer broken households there would be if parents had more financial security.

4) After Both Parents Are At Least 90% Sure They Want Another Child

Given it takes a village to raise a child, at the very least, both parents need to be at least 90% sure they want another child. It is unfair to each other if one partner is indifferent while the other partner really wants a child. A strained parental relationship is unfair to the child, who has no say in entering this world.

It's worth both partners recording a daily percentage certainty rating for at least 30 days to account for life's ups and downs. It is during those difficult nights when a couple's current infant isn't sleeping or when their toddler has been particularly difficult when your certainty rating is especially important.

It is too easy to decide to want another child during perfect harmonious days. Record the bad with the good. It's hard to ever be 100% sure about anything. Therefore, I say having at least a 90% certainty average over 30 days is what both partners need to shoot for.

5) You've Had A Generally Harmonious Relationship For The Past Year

The last thing you want to do is get a divorce soon after a child is born. A child can easily further damage an already damaged relationship. Please do not believe a baby will bring strained couples together!

It's worth reviewing your entire year and discussing whether both of you can handle another child. Again, focus on the particularly difficult days or weeks. Studies show that children lower happiness in parents, even though children bring much more love and joy.

Daniel Gilbert, Stumbling On Happiness - when to have more children
[Daniel Gilbert, Stumbling On Happiness, Babble Founders TED Talk]

6) Your Health Is Stable

It takes a lot of energy to raise a baby. You've got to get through the late nights, constant holding, and the consistent mini-heart attacks you will experience trying to protect your child from injury or death.

If your health is on the decline, then you may have a difficult time caring for your child once born. If a child cannot spend quality time with his or her parents, then it may be best to delay having another child until both parents are healthier.

Ideally, you want to be healthy and live as long as possible for your children. Of course, we just never fully know about our health and life in general. As a result, every parent must get at least a term life insurance policy to last until their children become independent adults.

7) You're Below A Certain Age

In America, you often go to the geriatric ward if the mother is over 35. It's been like this for decades. It sounds funny, but going to the geriatric ward is great because you get extra care.

Today, 38 is likely the new 35 given we are living longer since the 1970s. After about 40, complications go way up. Further, the older you are, the less time your child will have with you.

Fertility chart by age - when to have more children

The sad reality is that biology has not caught up with our desire to make more money and climb the corporate ladder. Couples are having babies later in life. As a result, many couples have a difficult time having a baby, let alone multiple babies.

For men, conceiving a baby at an older age is typically easier than it is for women. However, is it really fair to your child if you have him or her after 60? By the time he or she graduates from high school, there's at least a 50% chance you will no longer be alive.

8) You Fear Loneliness For Yourself And For Your Kids

The pandemic has shown us that having companionship is very valuable. Having another sibling to play with is a blessing when schools are shut down. Having multiple siblings should help with social skills and stronger feelings of community and love.

As a parent, if you are afraid of being alone in your old age, having multiple children should help improve the odds of always having someone who will take care of you.

Having multiple children may also provide more peace of mind that your children should always have each other during times of difficulty.

9) One Or Both Parents Have Reliable Job Security & Healthcare

Having a baby is expensive. It can cost $30,000 to have a baby in America. If your baby is premature or has other issues, expect the birthing cost to skyrocket.

Unless you are already independently wealthy or have a stable business, at least one partner should have a stable job with healthcare.

The cost of healthcare is one of the biggest reasons for bankruptcies in America. Not only are healthcare premiums rising at 3X the rate of inflation each year, the actual costs of health services are skyrocketing as well. It is a shame that healthcare is mainly tied to employment.

10) You can afford a big enough house

Having little ones significantly shrinks your house. Suddenly, you hear all their screams, crying, and whining. You try to isolate one area of your house for play, but you'll find the play area gradually expands to multiple rooms. With the pandemic keeping most families at home longer, utilizing more of the house or apartment has become commonplace.

Ideally, you want to have each child sleep in his or her own room. This allows for more independent sleeping. Can you imagine your 3-year-old sharing a room with a 6-month-old that's always crying? It's possible, but nobody would ever sleep!

Further, it would be nice to have a house big enough or have a smart enough configuration where the older child doesn't disturb the baby during the day. As parents know, having a regular nap schedule is a must for babies. Not only are naps good for a baby, they are great for giving parents a break.

Personally, I think the ideal minimum house size is 500 square feet per person. In other words, if you have a spouse and two toddlers, then ideally, you'll live in a 2,000+ square foot house with four or five bedrooms. Having an extra room for the working parent to sleep undisturbed is huge.

One of the reasons why the housing market is so strong is because all of us are spending more time at home since the pandemic began. Therefore, make sure your house is big enough.

11) You Want To Try For A Specific Gender

Have you ever met families with three or more kids of the same gender? Well, you can bet your buns of steel that after two kids of the same gender, they were hoping for a different gender.

Most parents I speak to say they are happy with either gender. However, a good many parents would like one of each. I have a 1,000+ person survey that says 70% of parents would prefer one of each.

12) A History Of Genetic Disorders

It is a miracle every time a baby is born perfectly healthy. There are thousands of genetic issues with varying degrees of severity that may cause a child to live a more difficult life. We are likely all carriers of some type of genetic abnormality.

Some of the most common or well-known genetic disorders or diseases include:

  • Downs syndrome (Trisomy 21)
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Tay-Sachs
  • Hemophilia
  • Huntington's Disease
  • Muscular Dystrophy
  • Thalassemia
  • Angelman Syndrome
  • Spina Bifida
  • Autism
  • Asthma
  • Cerebral palsy

The list goes on and on. Given roughly 15% of the global population (1.17 billion people) have some sort of disability, and between 110 – 190 million people have a significant disability, we must show empathy and kindness to all. You just never know what someone is suffering from.

If your first baby is born with a significant genetic disorder, there is probably a higher likelihood your next child will be born with a similar or different genetic disorder.

You must make a calculated decision whether you have the resources to support another child with a disability. And perhaps, because you are already experienced with one child with a disability, you will be more than capable of caring for another child with a disability.

I like to think that God gives special children to parents who are most capable.

13) How Much The Primary Caretaker Is Suffering

The non-primary caretaker needs to carefully observe how the primary caretaker is holding up during the initial years of parenthood. In the first year, the primary caretaker is usually the mother due to breastfeeding.

Everybody handles sleepless nights, fussy babies, whiny toddlers, and moody children differently. Those with a higher tolerance and plenty of patience tend to have more children and vice versa.

The key is to not suffer from Dunning-Kruger and think you have more patience and tolerance than you actually do. This is where the secondary caretaker needs to be super observant if the couple wants to make a logical decision.

We often forget about how difficult the first six months of childcare really are. This amnesia might be an evolutionary way to trick us into having more children than we really should. Our pediatrician even joked about this one time.

I know plenty of couples who divorced within 10 years after having children even though they know working things out is better for their children. Children can be very difficult on a marriage that isn't properly aligned.

14) The Amount Of Childcare Provided By The Husband

Once you have children, no longer do you think being a stay at home parent is an inferior job. Being a stay at home parent from ages 0 – 5 is much harder than working a day job. And usually, that stay at home parent is the mom.

Relationships tend to sour when one parent is perceived to be doing an unequal amount of work. A stay at home mom may be bothered that her husband only cares for the baby or plays with the children for 1-2 hours a day. Meanwhile, a husband may get annoyed because he works 10 hours a day, spends 1-2 hours with the children a day, and then most of the weekend with the children.

Percentage of women and men who are stay-at-home parents

Some parents are super caretakers. They have the energy to take care of multiple children with ease. Some are exhausted being a stay at home parent to just one or two. If you find yourself in the latter camp, and your partner does not put in enough hours a day that you find acceptable, then you probably shouldn't have another baby.

The Ideal Number Of Children To Have

Now that we've gone through all the considerations on whether or when to have more children, let's look at some surveys regarding the ideal number of children to have.

In the United States, nearly half of adults consider two to be the ideal number of children according to Gallup polls. The next most popular option is three children, preferred by 26 percent. In Europe, the ideal number of children to have is also two.

In 1957, only 20 percent of Americans said the ideal family meant two or fewer children. Instead, 72 percent preferred having three or more.

The main reason for the decline is due to the rising cost of raising children and more women entering the workforce.

What do you think is the ideal number of children to have?

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The Pandemic May Shut Families Out

The pandemic may actually shut out many couples from having more children as well. So many families are resource restraint with most schools still on a distance learning plan. Parents are dropping out of the workforce to stay at home and take care of their kids.

It’s also good to think about how to navigate pregnancy with the new vaccines. Since pregnant women were not tested before approval, this is another element of uncertainty. Will this new type of mRNA vaccine hurt babies or not?

How can anybody guarantee vaccine safety until thousands of pregnant women are voluntarily tested and their children are studied over many years? Nobody can know for sure. Therefore, we've all got to take calculated risks and hope for the best.

Considerations About The Vaccine And Pregnancy

Taking a vaccine is also a personal decision you have to make for yourself. Since there are fetal risks if a mother is exposed to COVID-19, these are the options to think about if you are thinking of having another child during the pandemic.

1) Get the vaccine before pregnancy. Then wait a month or two before trying to get pregnant. This should cross out the vaccine as a potential risk to the baby. It will also ease your fears of catching the coronavirus at doctor visits and in the hospital.

2) Get pregnant before getting the vaccine. Then, don't get the vaccine while pregnant. Instead, wait until after delivery for the mother to get the vaccine. By waiting until after delivery to get the vaccine, parents can cross out the vaccine as a potential risk to the baby in utero. Of course, you are free to get the vaccine while pregnant to.

3) Don't get the vaccine before, during, or after. If the majority eventually get the vaccine, then your chances of getting COVID-19 declines.

The issue with getting the vaccine before getting pregnant is that you may have to wait for months. For women under 30 who have no fertility issues, waiting six months is not a big deal. However, for women over 35 or with fertility issues, time is more precious.

We don't mind being in the back of the line to get the vaccine. However, my wife is also turning 41 in 2021. Therefore, our chances of conceiving are likely under 5%.

These are tough decisions every couple has to figure out on their own. The best person to consult with is probably your doctor. At the very least, it's probably worth having the male partner get vaccinated to minimize the risk of contagion at home.

All these unknown variables are a reminder that if you want children, having children in your early 30s is probably best. Figuring out when to have more children is complicated enough. Doing so at an older age when biology may not cooperate can become very frustrating. Throw in a pandemic and then everything becomes one big crapshoot.

Our Thoughts On Having More Children

The decision to go from one to two children was fairly easy. We thought it would be nice for our son to have a sibling. We were already in the trenches, so having a second child wouldn't be so much harder. The ratio of one child to one parent sounded good.

However, we have some concerns about having more children because we are older parents. Genetic disorders and complications increase at our age. We feel very blessed to already have a second child. At one point, we thought we would never have children because we tried for so long to have our first.

It's already difficult to feel like we spend enough quality time with both kids every day. This is despite having them home all day. Adding a third child seems like it would dilute our attention of each to a guilt-inducing level.

With two children, we are each able to care of them more easily. And with more childcare help, my wife and I can have more breaks and time with each other.

Going From Two To Three

Having a healthy third child would be amazing. I know I will never regret having him or her decades from now. My family can currently afford to have a third child. We've planned for one extensively by building up our passive income and going through various budgets.

If we successfully have a third child, we will have to buy a new vehicle with third-row seats and potentially a new house as well. We'd also have to set up another 529 plan and Roth IRA as well. These are all financial strains that can be overcome. Thankfully, siblings have preference for grade school admission.

With three children, unless we get full-time help, we will always have our hands full. Unfortunately, we have no family support in San Francisco, hence one of the reasons why we'd like to move to Hawaii.

For over 10 months, I've woken up by 5 am on average every morning to write and get all sorts of online business requests out before my kids wake up. I do so because writing when the kids are awake is impossible. Life would be easier if I could sleep in until 7 am or 8 am, but I biologically can't after two decades of waking up earlier.

When preschool opens up in 2H2021, life should get better. However, while we are in the thick of child-raising, it's hard to think about adding on even more responsibility.

Further, I don't want to give up my writing. Writing is my joy. Writing helps me think through difficult situations. The harder life gets, the more defiant I get. I have a desire not to let bad situations get me down. However, like many of you, I'm mentally and physically exhausted.

Finally, after three years and nine months of being a stay at home dad, I've come to realize I'm not very good at being a dad. After about four hours of childcare, I start feeling restless. I don't have the patience or endurance to take care of a child 8-12 hours a day. I want the freedom to do other things.

I'm constantly amazed at parents who enjoy taking care of children all day. Maybe it's a guy thing, but all my friends who are fathers have full-time jobs. Therefore, they find childcare much easier.

Kids Are The Greatest Blessing

As I've grown older, I've noticed those with the most resources tend to have the most number of kids. This may be obvious to you. But when I was younger, I tended to focus on why some poorer families had many children.

Now the answer is clear. Given how precious kids are, the logical conclusion is to have as many precious children as possible. Money is not needed to procreate. However, money and time are needed to raise children properly.

Unfortunately, it's sometimes hard finding someone you love and trust enough to have multiple children with. Further, at some point, having too many children may seriously hurt a relationship due to the financial, physical, and mental strain.

Both parents must equally want to have another child. Otherwise, things could really sour down the line.

Sadly, we and other older families are running out of time to have more children. However, we are thrilled with the children we already have.

Please Get Life Insurance

If you have children, please, for goodness sake, get life insurance. If there's one thing this pandemic has taught us, it's that life is full of risk and uncertainties. Getting life insurance will help minimize that dreaded feeling of uncertainty. You can get the best life insurance rates with PolicyGenius. Compare and contrast various offers that best suit your family's needs.

Unfortunately for me, it looks like I can no longer get an affordable term life insurance policy due to my age and a sleep apnea diagnosis years ago (which I think is gone).

In retrospect, I should have gotten a 30-year term policy when I was 30, not a 10-year term policy. I will revisit the option of converting my existing term life insurance policy into a whole life policy before it runs out in 2022.

Related: The Cost Of Raising Many Children Isn't Just The Money

Readers, how did you decide when to have more children? What was the experience like going from two to three kids? Did you struggle with finding enough quality time to spend with your children? Did you have any guilt that you weren't spending enough time with your children? What was the hardest thing about going to three or more children? What was the best thing?

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54 thoughts on “When To Have More Children: A Rational Framework To Consider”

  1. Obviously, I’m not only reading this but also writing a comment because I’m searching peoples experience with a 3rd kid, which is what I have been both wanting and dreading so badly. Constant mood shifts about having a 3rd one being a great choice vs being an overwhelming one. We’re in 40K debt in credit cards (mostly from taxes) which we seem to have a plan to pay off in a couple years. Because of this, I don’t think I have the option of being a stay at home mom even though that’s what I’d love and emotionally need to do. I’m 42. We’ve been trying, not sure if I’m pregnant right now but I’ve been struggling with anxiety thinking about how much I want this and how much I dread it at the same time and being brave then feeling stupid and giving up. I also dread thinking about college expenses, kids sports expenses, all other financial burdens as well as not having time to myself to attend the projects I have been planning. I’m just in a stuck place and wish that I had a resolution that kept me going for trying for a 3rd one or an insight that maybe staying with 2 is better. The anxiety I have makes me think I should probably stop since my mind doesn’t seem to stop worrying thinking I might be pregnant (I may actually not be)

  2. There are some valid points to this article and some contradictions that I have experienced myself and would like to share with you all. First are the agreements.

    Regret minimization framework: This is absolutely true and should be the primary endpoint for making these decisions because I would have regretted not having three but don’t regret stopping after three, or as one put it 35stop.

    Allowing mother to heal: this also has a lot of truth to it but has some general time spacing. My mother had 3 children the 18months apart. My wife was recommended 24 months. I agree with the 18 months appx but I’m sure if a couple really wanted Irish twins they could do it if that’s what they wanted and everyone would be ok. So the time between is tough to pinpoint. I have 2 friends each with children 17 years apart. Guess they thought into it too much, j/k.

    Money: You’re never going to be in a situation where you feel like you have enough money to raise kids. For example I didn’t wanna have kids until I paid off my college loans but then I realized we probably wouldn’t have been able to have three kids because my wife would’ve been close to 40 for the first one. Then science & people start saying that your too old, hence a valid argument that the human genome Hasn’t caught up with our capitalism endeavors. Both parents, mothers more so than fathers, are pressured socially as caregivers & professionally in the workplace.

    Couples relationship: This one is huge and took me by surprise personally. I have had a close relationship with my spouse the whole time but the relationship changed after having kids. In other couples, I’ve witnessed a mother say that they did not want to have more than two kids because she was doing all the work. Her Husband must’ve been a hands off dad. Not as common, I heard a father tell the mother not another kid unless she is promoted in her career.

    Time to yourself: Waking up at 5 AM to do your work at home is very admirable and depresses me to think that I would be having to do that too in order to get some free time from my children. It is 100% true that they suck the freedom and personal time from you that you had before. If your not careful, you can lose your identity and overall health.

    Fatherhood: Mothers MUST have a special gift that many fathers struggle with. On the days I have them all day, it can be very tough because I don’t have the patience my wife has when they misbehave. Nevertheless I can see her drained when I see her afterwards and it’s definitely a depressing sight! Everyone needs a break & they will drain you to your core if you let them. The graph is spot on. Here are some differences with what I’ve seen and experienced.

    Car: most always you can find a way to put 3 car seats in the back. We have SUVs so they fit, but the older child goes in the difficult to reach car seat and buckles himself in. I knew a mom who was proud of her 3 kids fitting in the back of her Honda Civic.

    Home Space: 500sqft per person may be too much where as 1/1 barn may be too little. It’s all relative! You have to find a sweet spot for your family. We did live in a 700sqft 1/1 apt with the first child (it was very hard and I don’t recommend this), and it helped us save for a down payment on a home. By the time he turned 1, we moved into a 1800sqft 4/2. We are still in the same house and it’s totally fine because if we want, each child can have their own room, but 2 have been sharing and deeper friendships are forged by sharing a room.

    College fund: We really don’t know what the climate will be like for college funds in the next 15 or 20 years but it is good that the intention of having a fund for them is there. I just don’t know if these 529’s are the best idea for a college fund when they are limited in how they can be used and my child might not even go to college! Perhaps an alternative to the 529 that’s transferable for other things.

    Look I wouldn’t say that I have mastered this challenge whatsoever, but I guess what I’m trying to say is you have to do what works for you and your family situation more than analytics. Yes of course there is a breaking point of not having any more, and for me it’s unfortunately no more than three kids. I wanted to have 4. It’s just too expensive and personally draining compared to the 1950s or even the 80s. As a brief example, car seats expire today, and everyone is watching ready to take a picture or video off their phone to and parent shame you compared to back then. Sam I think your ready for that 3rd. Thanks for all that you do.

    Kind regards, Paul

  3. Happy New Year.

    The main qualification for whether or not a couple should have children is adequate parental emotional intelligence. The ability of the parents to regulate their own emotions when their children are upset and throwing tantrums, whether they are 2, 4, or 14; and therefore be able to bring up children without abusing them in any form: yelling, sarcasm, spanking/physical hitting, triangulation, and other kinds of emotional manipulations.

    Otherwise they will bring into this world children who are traumatized and grow up to be narcissistic or violent persons, or both. This cycle continues generation after generation, in rich or poor families.

    Worse if they come from families with means, then you will have narcissistic rich assholes who can get away with things like trying to ruin a country’s democratic institutions. Or start wars with other countries under false pretenses.

    The best thing a person can do before deciding to have children is to go through an education of emotional regulation and how to build connections with children.

  4. I am 43 and recently had my third. I do not believe your statistics are correct for 40+ year olds. It totally varies, especially based on the health and wellness of the mom.

    Also, you don’t need another car going from 2 to 3. We just bought new car seats (Dianos) that fit three in the back. Much cheaper than getting another vehicle.

    I have a 4 year old, a 2 year old, and a 1 month old. They do not need tons of attention, because they have each other, especially the two big kids. This guilt you mention seems unnecessary. My kids adore each other and love helping me with the baby.

    We live in a one bedroom home!!! It is a converted pole barn, and we are completing an addition. We also live on 20 acres. I would definitely pick small home, big yard over big home, small yard, especially during a pandemic. One bedroom per person, with an extra one for the working parent…ha! Can’t even imagine that.

    I enjoyed your article, but do take issue with the points, as mentioned above.

    1. I concede, maybe the statistics are wrong after all these years. And it is easy to get pregnant after 40. Although all the feedback I’ve had and research I’ve done says otherwise.

      And maybe most / many families of 5 are OK with living in a one bedroom and can work in the living room with the kids. I just haven’t met any of them either.

      Different strokes for different folks I guess!

    2. Although some people may be able to have kids after 40 easily, this is not true of the majority of the population. I know way more people that are trying and failing to get pregnant at 38+ then people that are actually pregnant at that age.

      Also, many people dont talk about trying at that age. You only hear of the success stories. If you had a child after 40, consider yourself lucky and blessed.

  5. Really glad to read this timely post and comments. I just found out I’m pregnant with my first. My husband and I decided to start trying a little before Thanksgiving but we had no idea it was going to happen so fast. Don’t get me wrong, I feel very fortunate since we’re both pretty old (late 30s/ early 40s). But neither of us were truly ready, and I was feeling a little horrify about how a child would change our lives and our relationship. I just thought we’d have a few years of marriage to ourselves. But reading everyone’s comments made me feel more at ease and even glad we didn’t decide to wait longer.

  6. Great points. We upgraded from a 1700 square foot house to a 3200 square foot home after my 2nd. I would’ve love to have a 3rd if, he or she can magically turned 3 without all the hard work of the first 3 years haha! But really, the hardest part for me is giving up my interest and identity if I have more than 2. We are not so wealthy that we can outsource all of the domestic chores. Even if I have the money I would still need to put in a lot of effort to educate and discipline and provide love for each. I am a stay home mom but I hope to have my own career again some day. Having a 3rd one will make this dream even harder.

  7. We had 4 kids in 5 years. I used to joke that I wanted six, but my wife put her foot down. When the kids outnumbered the adults it was challenging, but it really isn’t different than a stay-at-home parent managing 2 children. My wife went to part time work and reduced her hours after each birth down to full time stay at home mom after number 3. We moved away from family and friends for my career when the kids ranged from 21 mo to 6 yrs. My wife moved 4 months ahead of me to get the kids started in school. That was 25 years ago and she still hasn’t forgiven me. She is an amazing mom. Raising kids was a true blessing and we devoted all of our time and energy towards it. We now have 2 grand kids, which might be the best part of raising kids. We’ve also lost 2 of our kids. One died at 19 from substance abuse while at college and the other died last month at age 28 because Covid restrictions pushed him in the wrong direction to deal with his anxiety and depression. These heart aches aren’t a reason to avoid having children. The time with them was special and their memories will be with us forever.

    1. Wow. I’m amazed at your wife. That is a lot of work and physical suffering to go through over 5 years.

      I’m sorry to hear about your two kids. The restrictions due to COVID is really putting a number on people’s mental health.

  8. My decision to have a third child ended up a disaster. He has a severe intellectual disability, non verbal and will require 24-7 care for life. It has destroyed our family’s quality of life emotionally, physically and financially. No family history of disability so a complete shock. I wish I had just been grateful for the two healthy kids I already had and not taken the risk of having another.

    1. I’m very sorry to hear this. Before the pandemic, I spent time volunteering with foster kids and disabled kids. The amount of work and patience required is Herculean. My neighbor has a daughter who is a paraplegic with cerebral palsy. It is so tough and I truly admire your strength.

      I want to believe that God gives special children to the strongest, most resourceful, and most special parents. Thank you for being a SUPER MOM!

    2. My heart is with you. We adopted a child because my husband has a genetic disorder and IVF didn’t work in our effort to avoid passing that to another generation. Unfortunately, the child we adopted seemed perfectly healthy until shortly after the adoption was finalized. Sever intellectual disabilities. Non verbal. She will be 6 in a few days and still in diapers, like your son she will also need life long care. My heart breaks for her. For our “normal” son, and for my husband and I. I envy those parents who will one day be an empty nester. If she will likely only attain the intellectual abilities of a 4 year old does that mean I will be on that part of the chart forever? I hope not.

      I too have wished that I would have only stuck with our first child. But despite all this we are trying for a third. Am I crazy? Maybe.

  9. Just had my 3rd baby October 1st. It was a surprise pregnancy, I’m 36 and my husband is 40, our other kids are 7& 4.

    We have all girls and the comments from people will not stop about if we were trying for a boy, will we try again etc (replying “vasectomy scheduled for February ” makes them uncomfortable and stops them from asking more questions)

    I’m a stay at home mom and my husband is a east coast city firefighter. There is definitely some resentment like you mentioned because all of our children never slept well, exclusively breastfed (for 2 yrs) cosleep and this last one has reflux so not much sleep for me and not much my husband can do because of me nursing plus he is working a lot of 24 & 36 hour shifts due to many being out because of covid.

    When it comes to attention…its really not a problem for us because our other kids are older and understand when I can’t engage. I see it being a challenge if kids are just say 18 months apart. They are absolutely in love with their baby sister and just want to help and hold her all the time.
    I can really appreciate large families, I’m the oldest of 5, have 29 aunt and uncles, countless cousins… compared to my husband who can count his entire family on his 2 hands.

    I know people who have 7 kids and are low income and I know people who just have 1 and desperately want more but are having infertility issues (she is in her 40s) children bring much joy in every situation.

    Children are my greatest wealth , without them life would be boring and a lonely retirement. I have a elderly neighbor who is divorced and has no kids. Her favorite time of the day is when she walks her dogs and talks to my kids… I would never want that future for me.

    I agree with you, if you want them have them
    before 40 because infertility is one of the greatest disappointments in life.
    As Jordan Peterson says “responsibility brings meaning to life”

    Loved this article !

  10. My wife and I were living in Seattle, both working, when we had our second son in 2015. We knew we wanted a third at dinner point, but could not afford Seattle with three children on a single income.

    We moved to a more affordable city, my wife became a stay at home mom, and we ended up having our daughter soon after. Our children are now 7, 5, & 3.

    I will admit that my wife believes her job got exponentially more difficult from 2 kids to 3. She jokes that if she knew how challenging it would be she wouldnt have had a third.

    Finding quality time to spend with 3 small children is a concern, but there are a lot of experiences they have together that we could not recreate as parents.

    Financially we are extremely lucky. When we had a third child we upgraded the car (Tahoe) and the house. My business has done better than expected during the pandemic. One of the my reasons for wanting a 3rd was financial; I could afford it comfortably while many others could not.

  11. What a fantastic post on Christmas, thank you, I will certainly share! Long time consumer ( my Dad referred me to the blog ) first time poster. My wife and I have four children, 27, 25, 21, and 18 and live in the bay area. I was blessed with a good career and my wife stayed at home. A good job plus division of labor really helped. Going from two to three was the biggest leap, but at the same time, not so much because we had experience and the children help each other. My opinion is that many want material things of life at the expense of the most important. Having a big family is possible and joy, but parents need to be intentional, like reading this blog! Two parent families are key as well. From what I can tell you are a great father and hope you grow the family. I think your biggest challenge is living in SF and all the complications of raising a family there. Education is another wildcard, but again college educations without debt is possible. I’m glad you mentioned the vaccine. It’s very new and my opinion is that adults who want children should not rush to get it. More information on how it impacts pregnancy is needed. Happy New Year!

  12. Eric Hakanson

    It’s really good that you stated your assumptions, as these may not apply to everyone. In my case, for example, I wanted to leave an inheritance of some kind to our son, and had a nice inheritance of my own from my parents. So I used some of my inheritance to super-fund a 529, which with growth has handily paid for our son’s 4 years at a UC, and can go on to fund college for family for a very long time–long after I’m gone. Note that 529s, to my reading, are inheritable, and beneficiaries can change significantly, not just to children.

  13. Good points to ponder Sam as always! 3 years after #2 I had been bringing up #3 possibility to lukewarm feedback. Then as 33 YOs We had discussions that it was time to make final decisions due to the 35 hard stop general rule.
    Ultimately we were blessed with #3 5 school years behind his siblings. I can’t imagine live without him now. And the dynamics are “large family” Vs “small family” one else you cross the tipping point to 3!
    If you have two and they are different sex it is almost like two only children.
    When you remove the financial aspects it is still a lot to digest in the decision to change to a large family dynamic.
    Our 3 are in their 20’s now working in their careers.
    You are so right about the value of time with them growing up! You will treasure the moments and miss them for sure!

  14. What a great article. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this.

    The points and reasons given here make a lot of sense.

    I found this line rather unfortunate,
    “Parents are dropping out of the workforce to stay at home and take care of their kids.”

    I also saw this on the news whilst watching CNN. Based on what I’ve read and seen on TV, childcare is pretty expensive in the US (I’m based in Johannesburg, South Africa).

    It seems like the cost of childcare doesn’t justify going to work when one can stay at home and watch the kids instead.

  15. No one is ever ready for a child or another one for that matter and the older you get the less likely you like messing with your rhyme of life.


    Having as many children as close together as possible is best for their sibling relationship IMHO.

  16. Hi Sam,
    We have three kids, 20, 18 and 16. We would totally do it again! Watching them opening presents this morning brought tears to my eyes…they were sharing what they got and just being silly like they were 10! But seriously, I have read a lot of your posts to know you are a planner and smart guy. Tragedy happens. I lost my only brother and best friend 7 years ago in a bicycle accident. I yearn to have a sibling to share my life with. I am 50 now and an ^only child”. It is lonely sometimes especially during this pandemic. Thank God I have my hubby and three kids! Merry Christmas!

    1. Sorry to hear about you brother. But happy you have a nice family of you own.

      I’d love to hear more about the transition of going from 2 to 3 and the difficulties it posed. How was the childcare arrangement like between you, your husband, and any outside help if any?


      1. Thank you Sam.. We’ve made the decision for me to be a SAHM since my oldest was born.. The transition from 2 to 3 was hard but we hired a sitter who comes in the mornings to help out which helped a lot! I know it’s a luxury to be able to stay home but I feel it’s the right thing to do for my family.

          1. I think going from 1 to 2 is harder and by the time my 3rd came along I’m more relaxed and have more confidence in my parenting skills (my 3rd is also the easiest one) LOL.

    2. Hi Sam,
      We are parents to 3 children, ages 10, 21 and 24 (yes, the same marriage.) I had wanted to have our 3rd earlier, but my husband made a huge career shift – hence the reason we waited so long.
      The pandemic has made things crazier than ever for new parents and for those thinking of becoming new parents. I had my youngest at the age of 39 and we have zero regrets.
      I actually wished we had four, but I got 3 healthy boys and that’s more than I could ever ask for. (The heart always has room for more, but the head not necessarily lol!)
      It’s been tough (and lonely at times) for the youngest as the 2 older boys have moved out. But, life has a funny way of turning on a dime. Our middle son lives in DC and is only a 3 hour car ride from home, but our oldest graduated college in CA and works for a huge tech company outside Seattle as an engineer. We just found out he’ll be moving home for a few months – since his company’s offices have closed for Covid. What a blessing it will be to have him home – as he’s been gone since he graduated high school.
      My advice would be try for baby 3. 41 is still quite young and I’ll bet you’ll have no regrets at all!
      Blessings and stay safe! In my opinion there’s never a right time to have more kids- all in all having kids can never be a totally rational decision:)
      Merry Christmas!

  17. Hey Guys, Merry Xmas. Kids are such a blessing and a I feel so lucky to have my three. Two to three is a bit of a transition but not as much as the first two (1->2, and 2->3). Sam, if your thinking about it then just do it. Sounds like you want to, and just need to jump in. Wishing you and yours the best.

    1. Thanks!

      Do you think the transition to 2 was harder than the transition to 3? I’m thinking the opposite because we feel we are already struggling with just two!

      I’d love to hear more about the transition of going from 2 to 3 and the difficulties it posed. How was the childcare arrangement like between you, your husband, and any outside help if any?

      1. Yes thought transition to one child was hardest, than one to two, two to three was less of a change since you are already used to juggling responsibilities. In addition, typically the oldest begins to get more independent by the time number three comes along so less demanding of time. Other thing is you already are used to the gear, equipment, food, preparing for travel with kids etc. We have a 5, 2.5 and 4 month old so each about 2.5 yrs apart. Main difference is just the time demand on your free time since they are all young. I m guessing this eases up a bit when all are in school, but then activities take over. Like I said, it is also nice to see them interact with each other and for some reason the three kids together seem like a tru sibling interaction as opposed to two (not sure how to explain this though).

  18. Have 3 children now 31,27 and 24. Wife stayed home throughout their early childhood, she never worked full time until they were out of high school. Did significant home schooling. Enjoyed kids very much, wish we had another. Housing and finances have so little to do with raising and enjoying kids. Now that kids are planning families of their own we have to look into getting a bigger house so they can all come home for the holiday’s and there will be enough room. At least now we can afford it.

    1. Can you share how much time you spent taking care of your kids and homeschooling them?

      I don’t know about housing and finances having little to do with raising kids. Many people struggle coming up with enough money to buy a house, have one spouse stay at home, etc.

      1. Agree Sam. I feel my wife and I are 10 yrs behind previous gens financially due to student loans. At age 39 and her almost 36, I’m just now feeling like we are in ok financial shape and on pace for retirement before age 70.
        All this has taken place without a kid b/c of the extra burden it puts on 2 working adults.

  19. Hi Sam,

    Thanks for the posting. Very timely. With not much luck in my love life and approaching 40-year-old, I’ve decided to have a kid on my own (using anonymous donor sperm) next year, aka being choice mom. Your posting definitely helps me to be more realistic with the expectations and hard work that it will go into raising a kid on my own. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and all the great postings.

    Merry Christmas!

  20. Merry Christmas! Currently pregnant with #3 right now. It was a bit tough to mentally gear up for it, but we both felt we would regret not having a third, so went for it. The next year will be just awful, but I will be glad when I’m fifty (hoping your chart is wrong ;). I had certain net worth and career milestones I wanted to hit before having kids, but if I could do it over, I’d have thrown all that out the window and started 5 years earlier. Good luck to you and I wish your family health and happiness!

    1. Congrats! If you find the time, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the transition from 2 to 3. But I do like how you are already expecting next year to be “just awful”! Setting low or realistic expectations is really half the battle to happiness and satisfacation!

      I would have started 5 years earlier as well. But I do wonder whether I/we say this because we now have the privilege to easily afford raising kids now.

      1. I will let you know how it goes! I have a friend with three children and now that his youngest is about three years old, he is talking about wanting to pick up a hobby, which gives me great hope. It’s difficult to wrap my brain around the fact that my children will become less physically demanding the older they get, even though I’m already seeing it in my nearly five year old, and I think that’s what makes 3+ children doable.

        I agree that not having to worry about money relieves an enormous amount of stress and frankly made going for #3 easier. If finances were an issue, we likely be sticking with two, but I do hate that I waited – I think I would have still hit my career/financial goals regardless and would love to have had the additional time with my kids. I didn’t realize how much I would value that until I had my first. However, better late than never and I’m so grateful to be in a spot where having a third is an option.

  21. 15) When you think that world governments have decided they’ve solved global warming…

    j/k – (a) they won’t decide that even when they already have. (b) if that was a consideration, you wouldn’t have had the first kid to begin with.

    Happy New Year everyone!

  22. Hi Sam.
    I read this post because I love your analysis overall and wanted to see what you had to say!
    I am wondering, however, Could you point me to any posts where you analyze financial management for those of us who don’t have, and won’t have kids? Or just respond… What kind of things would you suggest for us loners… Like, should I even get life insurance? What is a good idea to do with additional savings at retirement or death? Etc. Really appreciate it!

    1. Hi Amanda,

      There are literally over 1,800 posts that may help in your situation. Easiest thing to do is Google “whatever it is you care about + Financial Samurai” or go to the search box on the top right hand corner on a laptop.

      For life insurance, if you have no kids and not much liability, it’s not as necessary.


  23. Merry Christmas!

    This couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. I and my wife are expecting our first child in May 2021. Some of these points were things we discussed and talked about before we had children. I guess some of these questions come naturally if you have a certain disposition to life.
    1) was something that played heavily for my wife. She would have regretted not having children. 2) obviously doesn’t apply (yet).
    Point 3) was something that was on my mind. The milestone I had in mind was 100K EUR, which I reached a number of months back now.
    4) doesn’t apply but 5) to 7) most definitely did. 8) didn’t apply again but) was important for both of us. Since I have a stable job with amazing healthcare for both hospital insurance and very extensive outpatient insurance which includes dental for everyone, staying healthy without worrying about the financial side was a given.
    10) I don’t completely agree with this point. Sure a minimum of space is needed to live good but I don’t believe you need mansions like some US families to have, especially an ideal configuration is a luxury more than a necessity. As for point 11) That doesn’t apply yet either ;)
    It might sound harsh but luckily 13) doesn’t apply to us and I hope it remains that way when our first is born.
    For 14) I only hope I’m the type that has the energy to work and play with our baby.

    Phew, quite a list but I think you summed up pretty much every reason one can think of when discussing having another child.
    Thanks for the amazing post =D!

    1. Congrats! And definitely come back to this post and tell me your thoughts on having more space (10) during your baby’s first 12 months of life!

      It’s always fun to compare what we imagine and reality.

      1. Hahaha, Yes, I’m bookmarking this and will do that :D
        I believe I’ll be able to give you a solid answer since we will move in 2 months from our 40m²/430.55ft² apartment in the city to my late grandmother’s house which is quite big (~200m²/2152ft², room for 4) plus a large garden with terrace. After a year we move again to another city apartment that is currently delayed by 10 months(!) of 65m² with two terraces but no private garden.
        One thing is for sure, it’s going to be an interesting experience.

      2. Hey Sam- I wrote to you a few months back with our situation. 2 parents, 1 infant in a 500 sqft place. It’s been rough but we’ve been saving a lot. I’m happy to report we have made an offer on a 2200 sqft house in the ‘burbs! 2021 will be amazing.

      3. So our daughter is now 16 months, and we have moved since this post to a bigger place, though not the huge McMansions of the US. The space we have now is ideal for one or two kids and is also manageable to clean.
        As for having a second one. We are not doing it yet. Too many struggles with the first one. She is a bad sleeper, and we haven’t had a full night’s sleep since she was born. So, all in all, it’s mainly 4 – 6 that is holding us back. It’s just too hard at the moment. We do still have some years before we reach 35 so there is time but if we are still in doubt at that time, it’ll probably remain with 1.

  24. Father of Three?

    A very timely post for me, personally. After watching my two girls (age 3 and 1) open their gifts this morning, Mom surprised me with a positive pregnancy test in my stocking! We had discussed having a third, but thought it would be some more time before it actually happens! Not looking forward to writing a check to daycare each month for three kids now… I think it will be equivalent to my mortgage payment! But the downsides stop there. Couldn’t be happier to be a family of five, as I was growing up.
    Fingers crossed we stop here, though!
    Merry Christmas!

  25. Thanks for keeping it real Sam! It takes a great parent to be able to say such honest things and discuss such important things to consider before having more kids. Taking care of young kids is absolutely exhausting no doubt. I’m impressed you can go 4 hours straight especially with as much as you do! You sound like an amazing dad and your kids are very lucky to have you. Enjoy the belly laughs and squeals! They are priceless. Happy holidays!

  26. We have three grown millennial kids. They weren’t expensive but they certainly are priceless. Each was three years apart, with their mom being 30, 33 and 36 when they were born. Three was not much more work than two. I had a demanding job that kept me on call basically 24x7x365 but there was enough time with them. Their mom stayed at home and I was the dad the neighborhood kids all came over to play with and to listen to my homemade scary bedtime stories when our kids had sleepovers. Those were fun times and they are all great productive millennial adults now. I can’t imagine a life without them. As a parent I know you share that indescribable wonder of holding your baby and of watching him grow. Merry Christmas Sam!

  27. Happy holidays! Thanks for the very relatable post. I agree there are a lot of different factors to consider. Age is a big one for me. I started pretty late and while there are benefits like more financial security and having the time to do a ton of traveling before kids, the downsides are health decline, medical risks, less energy and less time. Most of my friends started their families 7, 8 years before I did. That’s a big difference!

    I really had no idea how much time, energy and effort it takes to take care of young children until I became a parent! What a wake up call! They really are such a priceless blessing too. Now it’s time for me to go celebrate. Happy Holidays everyone!

  28. Hey Sam, not much to say but Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. The kids wake up in about 15 minutes and yours was the only news/blog/other I opted to read this morning. Thanks for keeping things real, being human, and sharing openly about financial and other family considerations. Best to you and your family.

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