01 Jul My Picture is Complete
Questions begin the minute you say, “I do”: ”When are you having kids?” “How many kids do you want?” And they don’t stop even after you have a child. Once my husband and I had our firstborn, the questions continued, this time about when we would have another. I’m still shocked people felt they had a right to continuously question the number of children we should have.
There has been a shift in the country toward smaller family structures. According to a Gallup poll (Gao, 2015), many Americans consider a two-child household the ideal family size. This is due to a number of reasons, including the increase of women in the workforce, childcare costs, and use of birth control (Gao, 2015). With all of these valid explanations for a smaller family, why is there often still so much social pressure to have a large family?
As my readers know, I am an only child. My parents related to the reasons I already described, but also felt having more children would increase the stress in their lives, keeping them from being able to ensure I had more opportunities than they did. Now that I am a parent, I understand how difficult it must have been for them to move from their home in Brazil and establish a life in the United States, with no family nearby to lend a helping hand. I am fortunate to have a great network of family and friends to call on and I can imagine how stressful life would be without that support.
When I met my husband, I told him right away I wanted at least two children. As an only child, I always longed for a sibling. From a young age I envisioned a family with at least two children by my side. After our son was born, that desire continued. However, once I was pregnant with our daughter, I felt it should be my last pregnancy. Carrying her was a difficult 9 months and I had changed a great deal from the time I delivered my son to when I got pregnant with my daughter. In that time, a miscarriage and numerous health problems left my body exhausted and emotionally drained. Therefore, I couldn’t imagine going through another pregnancy. I will admit, however, that when she was born and I saw her face, I wanted to do it all over again. The feelings of exhaustion from the pregnancy faded and the desire to have a third child stayed with me throughout her first year of life.
It wasn’t until I was at a dinner with my girlfriend that my feelings changed again. She and I had delivered our daughters 15 days apart and our sons were also close in age, so we were walking the path of parenthood together. What stood out in our conversation was that she said, “When I look at our family picture, it doesn’t look complete.” This made me think about my recent family photo and how I felt when I looked at it. That’s when I knew: my family looked complete to me. Although I wanted a third child, I wasn’t sure it was for the right reasons. With reflection, it dawned on me that what I wanted was to relive those newborn days with my kids. I wanted to be pregnant with them again, deliver them again, and possibly feel all those new mom feelings again.
As time has passed since my childbearing years, I’ve learned that two is my limit. My plate is full, overloaded even. I must admit, saying I’m not having any more children feels surreal to me. My whole life I’ve taken steps to reach the point of having children. Shutting the door on that part of my life is so defining. But I now realize that’s part of growing older and moving forward. Although the memories that pop up on my social media from years past make my heart ache for the little babies my children once were, I don’t necessarily want to start over with a new child.
These are my feelings toward the size of my family. This is not the story for all my friends. I have many friends who have gone on to have 3 or 4 children and some who felt complete with one. My friends with 3 or more children constantly amaze me. They seem to be “doing it all” while I feel like I am barely getting by, with fewer children in tow. But when I see them, I understand their family picture probably didn’t feel complete before and I get that. I can’t sit in judgment of why they decided to have more children, or why some of my friends had fewer. I’ve come to realize it’s not my business.
It surprises me that to this day people still tell me, “Just have one more.” I used to respond with, “Great! Are you paying for them?” Now I simply smile and say, “That ship has sailed!” I am reminded of something my mom always says, “People will tell you the water is warm and to jump in. Then you have kids and you realize the water is very cold!” That’s so true. Having children is a lot of work and extremely demanding, although the reward is quite extraordinary. What works for your family doesn’t necessarily work for mine, and vice versa. That’s something I’ve had to learn over the years. Parenthood is the one job, in my opinion, that doesn’t get easier. New milestones come with each day as my children grow older. Parenthood is exhausting and full of surprises, but I have found the fulfillment I need. I had the number of kids that works for my family. I had to take a step back and examine my life to appreciate what I wanted to handle as a mother. I don’t think you have to receive the validation of those around you. I believe people should take on parenthood knowing it’s a growing experience and one that will have many twists and turns. Nothing is set in stone and only you know when your picture is truly complete.
Gao, G. (2015, May 8). American’s ideal family size is smaller than it used to be.
Retrieved from www.pewresearch.org
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