Sunday, April 26, 2009

Family Size: How We Decided

When I was in junior high school, my best friend was one of five kids. Brynna was the second oldest, and shared a room with the only other girl, her sister who was the youngest and at least 6 or 7 years younger than she was. In junior high friends are very important, and we spent a lot of time together -- her with my family and me with hers, after school, on the weekends, and even on summer vacations.

I loved all the activity at her house, and the way that Brynna stuck up for her younger siblings. It made me wonder if I would like to have a large family. By the time I was grown and married, I knew that I wanted children, but was sure that two or three would be plenty.

At my husband's urging, we waited for five years after we were married before we got pregnant with our first child. I felt like I was ready to have a child much sooner than that, but honestly, it was as much an excuse to quit working and become a full-time homemaker as anything, and I ended up agreeing with Terry that job dissatisfaction was a bad reason to have a child.

Since people begin asking right away, "When are you going to have another child?" Terry and I started the dialogue, and he was unwilling to commit to another child. Knowing him as I do now, I know that he was not ready to start the discussion, but when he was ready, he broached the subject. In the meantime, how did I decide? How did I come to terms with the fact that we disagreed on when/if to have another child and that this is an issue which has no compromise?

I did just as Mary Ostyn suggests in her book, which I just reviewed on 5 Minutes for Mom, A Sane Woman's Guide to Raising a Large Family. Wait and pray. Eventually we both reached agreement. Kyle and Amanda are 5 1/2 years apart, and while I would not have thought that it was an ideal span, it has turned out to be a great thing for me and my husband.

Yes, it's easier. I still struggle with patience, and I know that moms of many are quicker learners in this desirable character trait. Financially, college tuition will be spread out. Activity-wise, we haven't had any conflicts because only Amanda is involved in sports and clubs for now. I had thought that sibling rivalry and bickering wouldn't be an issue, but it is, although probably not as much as in closer siblings. They don't play together as much as siblings closer in age (or same sex), but I'm surprised at how close they are. In addition, as in a larger family, Amanda is responsible for helping me out with her brother. She's not quite babysitting yet, but will be soon. The fact that she's been a helper since he was born will help her with babysitting other children in the future.

Since Amanda was an only child for so long, one mistake I made was putting some things off. Things that I thought would be better to do if we were a bigger family -- a "real" family -- such as family activities. Many people mistakenly assume that single child families result in spoiled children, and I can honestly say from my experience that our family was probably less child-centered then than it is now.

I know that this is the perfect God-given family for us. That certainly doesn't mean that we are perfect or that I am a perfect mom. Far far from that. However, it confirms that one family-size or means of growing that family are not for everyone. If two people agree and seek God's leading about the how's and why's and when's of building a family, then I think that ultimately that family will be blessed.

What about you? Did your initial thoughts about family size change over the years? Was it difficult for you and your spouse to come to terms on the how's and why's? Do you know for sure that your family is complete, or are you unsure?

Read my thoughts of Mary Ostyn's book A Sane Woman's Guide to Raising a Large Family. I found it delightful and whether or not you are familiar with her Owlhaven blog, I think that you will find her writing to be informative and accessible. You can also enter to win a copy.


Martha said...

We did the old compromise...I always wanted 4 kids, he wanted 2, so we had 3. Looking back, I would have been happy to wait a year or two (first was born right after second anniversary) but having an older husband who didn't want to be the old dad, we started up. I'd still love another but each year, that feeling moves away. We can leave them to go out without a sitter. They will all be out of the house before I am 50 so we can do all those fun trips that we have wanted to do. One draw back is that I am always the youngest mom,even with my youngest! That is a little frustrating!

Katrina @ Callapidder Days said...

I loved reading this! As you know, I thought our first would be an only...for a long time. Post partum depression hit me hard and scared me, and I admit that one was definitely easier. My husband was super laid-back and didn't have strong feelings one way or the other. He was happy with one, but would be happy with more. So when I was finally ready to do it all again, he readily agreed. I'm so glad we have our two. The spacing has been great (though definitely felt like starting over), and I love seeing their interaction.

I do agree with you about being more child-centric now than with just one.