Dear Not Your Average Mom: Is our family complete?

Dear Not Your Average Mom,

You have 7 kids. That is impressive. My dilemma right now is this: I have 3 kids… one is from a previous relationship… I have a wonderful husband and we have 2 little boys together. The dilemma is should we have another one? There are a MILLION and ONE reasons not to… obviously we are considering it if I’m even writing these words but I’m looking for insight, advice, really anything from someone who gets it… Why did you have 7? How old were you with the last? I’m 37 right now and just starting a second career with the plans to go on for a masters degree. Agh, I need help… some days I feel too old to have another one… then I think, “Is our family complete?”

Signed,

Unsure

First, let me preface:

I am not a doctor, psychiatrist, therapist, social worker, and I do not have any degree in child development, marital counseling, or anything else like that.

Okay. Now that the disclaimer is out of the way I’ll start with the easy ones.

Why did we have seven kids?

Well, Number 1 and 2 were already in the picture when my husband and I got married ten and a half years ago.

They were four and seven years old. I got pregnant with Number 3 about a month after we got married.

I gave birth to Number 3 when I was 35. I had Number 4 at 37. I had a miscarriage at 39. Number 5 arrived when I was 40. Number 6 at 41. And finally Number 7 when I was 42.

Then, having given birth to five healthy kids in a little over six years after the age of 35, I  figured I had gambled enough and won.

So I got my tubes tied when I was 43.

Why did we have seven?

To be honest, I believe I’m one of the most fertile people on the face of the planet.  And we did not take many precautions.

Or any.

So the reason why we have seven kids is partly genetic, partly because I just love being a mom, and partly because my husband and I were irresponsible.

Now what advice do I have for you?

Here is what I think.

I love having a big family.

LOVE. IT.

I love that the kids have so many siblings and are never really alone.

I love holidays and family dinners and being able to enjoy experiences through the eyes of kids at all different ages simultaneously.

And I love my kids more than life itself. I wouldn’t change anything for the world.

That being said, there are some things I think my kids are missing out on.

I don’t know your financial situation.

But obviously, the more kids you have, the more of a financial burden you give yourself.

And no, money isn’t everything. It doesn’t buy happiness.

But right now I am in a situation where I need to make money.

And so does my husband.

And I’m not talking about making money so that the kids can go to college.

We can’t even think about that right now.

I’m talking about making money so that my kids can eat.

So I can keep my house.

One of the kids definitely needs braces, and another is looking like she will, too. Who knows whether the three youngest will need any work.

There is no money in sight for that, not to mention sports and birthday parties and Christmas and field trips and school supplies and shoes and and movies and…

I never thought about this when I was pregnant the first time. Or the second. Or the third…

I certainly never anticipated the downturn of the economy or the fact that we’d lose money on the sale of a house rather than make it or my husband losing his business or a whole bunch of other unpredictable stuff.

And so now we are in trouble financially.

And the need to work is taking away from my ability to spend time with my kids.

I am making it work as best as I can, but I very rarely get to spend significant amounts of one-on-one time with my children.

And that bothers me.

A lot.

In addition to not having the time I’d like to have with my children, the financial issues have put a huge strain on my marriage.

Huge.

So I would advise anyone thinking about adding to their family to really consider that.

If you have a really big nest egg, that’s good.

If not, well, you’ve been warned.

Then there is this…

There is a mom I know who just had a little baby.

She is one of the cutest babies I have ever seen.

And I mean that. I want to kidnap that baby. I see her, and my uterus immediately starts turning its gears.

My youngest is now three and a half.

She’s not even close to a baby anymore.

I miss that skin and that smell and those spastic flailing arms and the legs that kick when a baby is excited and giving a bottle and crawling and the “mamas” and rocking in the rocking chair.

But that only lasts for so long.

And that’s not a reason to bring another human being into the world.

Plus, yesterday was Mother’s Day.

And do you know what I did?

I sat by the pool and drank a beer.

While my kids were swimming.

I didn’t have to walk directly behind a toddler who was constantly about to run into the pool and plunge to his or her own death.

I didn’t have to follow a crawling nine-month-old who was shoving every bug, rock, and handful of sand she could into her mouth.

I didn’t have to change a diaper or whip a boob out or even get off my ass for over a half hour.

And that was awesome.

Initially it took me a while to accept that the baby-making phase was over.

But now that I’m no longer in denial, now that I’m sleeping through (most) nights, now that I can sit and actually watch my nine-year-old play baseball rather than chase around an eighteen-month-old who is  constantly trying to run into the parking lot and onto the field or who is about to fall ten feet to her doom off of a slide that she managed to climb onto in the five seconds I wasn’t watching her like a hawk,

now that I don’t have to worry about all that,

although it’s not the amount of time I’d like to have, I can at least give each of my kids some attention.

Not just the babies.

And now that I’m out of that really, really, labor intensive, dependent phase, now that I have a little more time for each of the kids, you know what I also have time for?

Myself.

I neglected myself for a long time.

And I think my focus is not on whether or not my family is complete, but if I am complete.

And I’m realizing that sleep and money and a healthy marriage and financial security and the ability to challenge myself and do the things I want to do are what make me complete.

And if all of the members of my family and I are happy and healthy, then my family is complete.

I don’t think it’s about the number of members in the family, but the “completeness” of each person in that family.

Quality. Not quantity.

Lots of ingredients go into making a family.

Just like making a cake.

You can have plenty of flour, but without eggs or sugar or baking powder, it’s not going to be complete.

Just as too many eggs in the mix can make it inedible.

Or at least much less delicious.

The more kids you have in the equation, the less time you will have for yourself, and the less time you will have for each member of that family.

The less time you will have for your second career.

And for your masters degree.

Or for your other kids.

If that is a trade off you are willing to make, then it’s totally worth it.

But if it’s not, well, then you might want to fold your baby-making hand.

I don’t know if that’s helped you or not.

But for me, I’m realizing it’s about balance.

If you can add another kid into the mix and have balance financially, physically, emotionally, spiritually, and maritally then go for it. 100%.

But if adding another child into the mix is going to tip the scales too far in one direction, well, then maybe the answer to your question is right there.

Please vote!

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8 replies
  1. Marilee Boothe
    Marilee Boothe says:

    I thought that when my son turned 20 years old and my daughter 17, my family was more than complete. I had it made and was coasting. Then God laughed at me and at 44 I had a baby. An infant after 17 years is like starting ALL over again!! Is it hard at my age, unbelievably. Would I do it over, even though he wasn’t in the “plan”? Absolutely. I guess what I am saying is that I went through my entire 30’s without having any more kids and was sure I never would have anymore. Now, my husband and I are set in our careers, we have the house and are blessed financially. My older kids adore their baby brother and I get lots of help from them. Even if you decide at 37 that it isn’t the right time for another child, who is to say that in 7 or 8 years when you have that Masters Degree, you won’t decide to have one more? You just never know. Susie’s advice is so spot on and as always, full of common sense!! Whatever you decide, I hope you keep us updated!!
    This post was the perfect way to start my day!!

    Reply
  2. Lee
    Lee says:

    I absolutely love this post! My husband and I have 4 children in the home and it is chaotic at times. But, I LOVE IT! I only have two biological children but my 2 step children live with us. We contemplated having another for almost 4 years before we got pregnant with our son. He is now 8 months old and I wouldn’t trade the world for him. I think it all depends on each relationship, lifestyle, and how much time both parents have to spend with the children. My bestie has 5 children and she amazes me. I have learned so much from her and how to make what could be a really stressful life a breeze. I must admit I do look forward to being able to have a brew by the pool and not worry if my little guy is going to dive in.

    Reply
  3. Sarah
    Sarah says:

    I love that you brought up the money aspect of it. I don’t know why but it seems like people want to believe that because “money doesn’t buy happiness” that means you shouldn’t consider it. Life is not a Disney movie! Of course you have to consider it. Consider money when you choose your spouse, your job, your location, your house, etc. Money is a big part of life! Be real.
    XOXOX

    Reply

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