Two Kids and Counting: How Do We Know When We’re Done?


A friend once told me, “If you feel that your family isn’t complete, that feeling won’t really ever go away.” This friend has four children, and as she put it, she had to “beg, borrow, and steal” to get that last one from her husband who felt they were done. She, however, had that nagging feeling that her family just wasn’t complete.

This is an idea I’ve been thinking about lately as we contemplate our third child. We’ve long said we wanted three kids and it was pretty easily agreed upon. As my sister once said, what if you only have two and one turns out to be no good? That puts a lot of pressure on the other one. While I sincerely hope all my kids turn out to be good, I’ll play it safe and have an extra.

Plus, I’m one of four. This is a lot of kids by today’s standards, but I love having a big family. It’s always meant there were plenty of people and chaos at every holiday and gathering. We all turned out pretty well, but if one of us hadn’t, there are three others to shoulder things like aging parents and family drama.

So, three. Three kids has been long agreed upon. But lately my husband and I both waffle in the ups and downs of parenting a toddler and a baby. On one particularly good evening, the kind where your baby giggles and reaches for you and your toddler playfully hugs you so hard he knocks you over in a fit of laughter, my husband said, “Who knows? I’m not committed to stopping at three. If they keep turning out so great maybe we’ll have four.”

Four? Was he trying to start a fight? Four was not the agreed upon number. My uterus fluttered in a silent protest. But then I thought about it for a moment. I’m one of four. I love having a big family. If my parents could do it, so could we, right? Yeah, maybe four. Maybe it was a flutter of agreement.

The topic of baby number three came up a little sooner than expected when the cost of two kids in daycare meant I made no money and we decided I would stay home for a few years with the kids. We figured since I was going to be home we should probably get to that third baby sooner rather than later. The timeline was moved up (by roughly a year, I might add) and we started abstractly planning to get pregnant with that third baby sometime this past summer.

Then one night my then 9-month-old was up all night. I mean, ALL night. My exhausted brain began to berate me. What are you thinking? A third baby? You already have a baby. He’s still permanently attached to you and you want to go and make another one? No. In fact, maybe two is enough.

In the morning said sleep stealing baby was smiling and adorable again and I softened. The baby stage is pretty short after all; we’ll survive. But the pendulum keeps swinging. Two kids? Three kids? Four kids? Heck, why stop there? The Waltons were pretty happy and they had a whole mess of kids. But then an article pops up on my news feed about why parents are less happy than their childless peers. Okay, maybe three is the cap.

So how do you know when you’re done. Is it just a feeling? And if you feel that you’re family is not complete, was my friend right? Will that feeling not go away until you give in and have another baby? What if that feeling never comes? The Duggars never seemed to get that feeling of completeness. Surely we might just have to cut ourselves off at a certain point.

I’m not sure I have the answer to this, but I can say, as my coffee kicks in, three kids doesn’t sound so bad.

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Emma Nelson
Emma is an Athens, Ohio native, who moved to Westerville seven years ago after a two year stint in Chicago. She lives with her husband, Matt, and their two boys, Lincoln (3) and Silas (1). Emma is a journalist turned marketing assistant turned teacher turned stay at home mom. So far she loves her newest gig, though she’s probably just okay at it. Keeping two young boys occupied means lots of exploring Columbus to find all that is not only kid friendly, but also adult friendly. Emma enjoys writing things in her head that she never actually gets down on paper, getting lost in the rabbit hole that is YouTube with her kids, and playing a game with her rambunctious boys that her oldest likes to call “attacking boys” (you can pretty much guess how that goes for her). Emma has a B.A. in journalism and political science from Miami University and completed further study at Ashland University to obtain her teaching certification in secondary English Language Arts. You can contact her at [email protected].