Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Why "Do You Want More Children?" Is the Wrong Question

Society at large assumes that people will stop having children after number two or three.

If you have five or more, you are obviously crazy and really bad at following social norms  so there's no telling what you might do.

The question parents of 5+ get is no longer "Are you done?" but "Do you want MORE?!?"

And I really do detest that question, mostly because I think it's a strange question to begin with.

A child isn't like an iPhone or a new car, where all I have to consider is how it would impact my life. Saying that I want  or don't want  a human being to exist based on how it affects me is just weird.

Even if Phillip and I were positive we were at maximum capacity and couldn't possibly handle having any more children, I still wouldn't feel comfortable saying "I don't want any more." That statement reduces kids to messes and noises. It dismisses the worth of a life by making it all about what I want

But I know what people are getting at. "Do you want more children?" isn't the existential question I'm making it out to be.

They're asking if I really want to spend another 2 years changing diapers. Do I want the exercises in sleep deprivation, eating dinner standing up every night, and packing like I'm going on a 10-day tour across Europe every time I leave the house?

They're asking if I somehow enjoy the sacrifices inherent in being a parent.

And my answer is: not all the time. I'm as lazy and selfish as the next person. Whenever Phillip and I talk about any big purchase or life decision, the first question I ask myself is "Would this create more work for me?"

There are tons of things I don't want because they require sacrifice. I don't even like to have live plants in the house because you have to, like, remember to water them.

Parenthood does include some drudgery and unpleasantness, I won't argue with that. But there's more to it than just the endless loads of laundry and school lunch-making when they're young.

What really bothers me about the question "Do you want more children?" is that it's terribly short-sighted. The intense and sometimes brutal years of parenting young children are brief. I won't always be changing diapers and waking up 200 times a night. For most of their lives, my kids will be adults, and I think the best part of parenting is yet to come, when they're all grown and flown, and I get to watch them make their own lives for themselves.

Only talking about children in terms of what the parents "want" doesn't take into account the fact that kids aren't little forever. One day, they leave the nest and affect the lives of thousands of other people. A kid isn't just my kid, they're also future neighbors, coworkers, spouses, parents, and friends.

Doesn't all that matter in the decision to bring another human life into the world? In light of that, doesn't the fact that I'll be wiping rear ends for another couple of years start to seem less important?

I struggle with how to answer the question of whether I want more children, especially when it comes from the guy behind me in line at Staples. He's in the middle of doing his errands; he wants a quick "Yes, I want a hundred kids" or "No, I'm never getting pregnant again" response so he can hurry up and get to the post office before it closes.

But everything that runs through my mind can't be summed up with a simple "yes" or "no."

The truth is, I'll always want more children. I'll always want to witness the miracle of another tiny, perfect little person fitting just right into our family, filling a gap I didn't even know was there. I'll always want the fulfillment of raising another human being to go out into the world to do their best.

What I want, though, isn't always the right thing for our family. It depends on what Phillip and I feel we can handle and what's best for the kids we already have, for starters.

As it turns out, "Do you want more children?" isn't the only question there is to ask.

Click to Share:
Unremarkable Files


Renee from A Baker's Dozen said...

As the mother of 14 I agree wholeheartedly. Babies, children are wonderful, not at all like a houseplant or new iPhone :)
Thanks for linking up with the #shinebloghop

normaleverydaylife said...

Great post! There is so much to consider in having more children. Also, someone may not "want" more children, but if God brings another into their family, that desire will change and they won't be able to imagine their family without that person!

Unknown said...

I feel you! We just had baby #5, and it seems like every week someone is asking if we want more. I've taken to just shrugging my shoulders because I really don't know how to answer. Some days I do, some (hard) days I don't want to look at another baby ever again. But I love LOVE having children and raising them and I know the little years won't last forever. And I also know how much I want each of my children, even if I didn't think I did before they were conceived. I know that if I had one more child or 5 more, I would feel that way about each one and wouldn't be able to imagine my life without them. After all, God knows what we need even when we don't, children included! Thanks for the great post, I'm sharing it to my FB.
-Miranda at

Jenny Evans said...

I think the weirdest feeling is looking back at old family pictures, before your youngest was born, and wondering, "How could we not have known s/he was missing?" Amazing how each child comes and perfectly fills a hole in your family that you didn't even know was there.

Veronica said...

This post really spoke to my heart. We thought we were done after two, following society's norms without hesitation. And then, The Lord began to work on my heart and then my husband's. We began to pray for direction and His will and somehow, even though we thought we were still being careful, we ended up pregnant and are now thrilled that our sweet Sera Grace will be joining us in a few short months. These are His children, and we are so blessed to have been entrusted with their little lives, albeit for a short time. I no longer know how I will answer the question after she is here, but I know that we will continue to seek His will for our family.

Anonymous said...

I must have been inspired to read this blog. While I do want more children, I don't know if it is in the plans for our family. I have to remember that there are three people involved in this decision: God, my husband and myself. My husband is concerned about my age, my emotional state for months after having a baby and the size of babies that I have (the last two were 10#s and 11.5#s--non-medicated natural births). But it is good to know that "wanting more children" is a righteous state of the heart and shows that my will is in-line with God's will for families. I have beautiful children who need their mother. And there is much to be grateful for in my beautiful life.

Unknown said...

I usually joke that I would love more babies, but not more kids. But now with 7 I get a lot more pleading for me to please tell them we are done cause asking if I want more might put ideas in my head!

Anonymous said...

Jenny, once more you've hit the nail on the head. A beautiful post, extolling the inherent worth of life! God gives life, not us!
Thanks you.

Susan Carroll said...

As a mother of six, who would have loved a seventh, so well said!

Anonymous said...

The bigger picture is God’s plan for future generations. It’s much easier to raise a Christian than it is to convert one. Hence, the reason Islam is growing like a birth control. I believe the Church really shot itself in the foot when they took the reins and started their own family planning rather than leaving it to the One who knows what the heck is going on everywhere.