Making Babies

I have a story in today’s Washington Post Outlook section about my desire for three kids (and, conceivably, four — did I just write that?!?) It is, I hope, a fun riff on the very real conflict many parents feel between the size of their families and the size of their wallets.

The cost of raising kids is rising far faster than our earnings. Estimated household income rose 24 percent during the past 10 years, while the cost of raising a child rose 66 percent. Whether or not to have kids and how many to have were once choices that could be made without poring over Quicken and breaking into a sweat about college bills. These days, prospective parents find themselves wondering whether a wife’s paycheck will even cover the cost of child care, let alone help provide for a family. Couples have to grapple with long-term weighty questions like, Will you have to move antifungals farther away from work and spend more time commuting in order to afford enough space to house a child (or two)? Can a wife take maternity leave if it’s unpaid? Just how much do you have to give up to afford a child? These questions of work arrangements, child care and housing are enough to send prospective parents into despair. No wonder so many of us put off child-rearing until we’re 35.

Not surprisingly, more couples today can barely eke out an only child. According to the U.S. Census, the percentage of women having only children rose from about 10 percent to 23 percent from 1980 to 2000. A family of four is as large as most couples are willing to get. Though some brave parents of two boys decide to “go for the girl,” for most people, once you’ve gotten the requisite boy-girl pair, you’re done. 

Anyone here felt similarly conflicted?

6 thoughts on “Making Babies

  1. Tom

    I enjoyed your article and, with four children under 5, am quite concerned about how we will manage the cost. We try to encourage imagination-type play (one of our favorite toys is a giant cardbord box with holes an doors cut out of it), but preschool and food are growing our budget faster than our income, and saving for college is a monthly challenge.

    Just as an aside, we have successfully used sign language (more, milk, eat, etc.) from about 12 months with great success. It cost us nothing, allowed babies to communicate basic needs without crying, and did not supress speech development (as far as we can see).

  2. Ray Weigel

    My wife and are not conflicted. We currently have two and would have no problem affording another child.

    But while the cost of having children is definitely a concern, I think the issue isn’t so much the expense but the fact that there are appx. 6.5 billion people in the world, and our leaders are saying that is going to lead to global environmental catastrophes. If you keep it down to two or less kids, you’re helping. If you have more than two, you’re contributing to the problem.

    This also makes it sound like you’re saying kids are status symbols. The richer you are, the more you get to have. I would never put children within that context.

    Thanks for the thought provoking post,


  3. Amanda

    My husband and I are expecting our third child in a matter of weeks. We weren’t trying for any specific gender, just wanted to add one more to our brood. It is an expensive endeavor, financially and otherwise, but one that we are passionate about. I read once that one of the greatest things you can give your child is one or more siblings. Watching our daughters these last two years I know it to be true.

    According to the commenter before me, our decision to have a third means we are contributing to environmental catastrophes. We are a one-car family that buys local and tries to tread lightly on the environment. I question whether our family of five, just by virtue of being five people, will do more harm to the world than a family of four. I’d like to believe that environmental impact has vastly more to do with how we live than who live.

    That is all beside the point, I wish you much luck and fun as you embark on the wild ride to three…or could it be four 😉

  4. Candace Hill

    I would have had a third child, if I had not started out late in having children (not my fault, took awhile to find a spouse.) Baby three would have been after age 40 for me.

    But, with the second pregnancy, perfectly healthy by the way, I showed up positive on every prenatal test I was given. I was in the drs. office weekly getting all the extra tests to make sure I didn’t have cancer, and all sorts of other terrible conditions, and I was always dragging my first child along with me.

    Once again, I was two weeks “late” and my body refused to go into labor on the drs. timetable and so, again, my birth was overly medicated for a perfectly healthy 10 lb baby and a perfectly health me.

    Every time I thought about what I would have to go through medically for a third pregnacy and a third childbirth, I decided I was happy with my two. Sometimes I still think about that third baby . . .this is why so many women take in big dogs with the youngest in the family reaches a certain age. With my husband’s animal allegies, that’s not an option either.

  5. Andie S.

    Dear Pamela, I read your story about “and baby makes 5” article and wanted to commend you on your decision to have another child. I am a mother of six children and trust me, after three, it was easy to have the others. The children as they get older are really quite helpful to each other and to me. I am fortunate to be a homemaker while my husband works. As your children grow, the challenges will change through time, but you also learn and grow and adjust to the needs for your children. I had my last child at 40 and I wanted to have one more, but it was not meant to be. You will be fine, just love and respect your children and you and your husband will be very rewarded. Thank you. P.S. Okay, just be aware of the turning 2 stage and also when they hit 13 to 15 years. Something about that age group.

  6. chrystal

    I very much want three children. (Though I don’t know why.)

    Things that cross my mind: I am concerned about overpopulation, adding another consumer to the planet, the cost of day care and lastly my age.

    I found a spouse late in life. My first child was at 38. As we try for number two, I am 40.5yo. I’ve always wanted my children to be spaced further apart, rather than closer. Thanks to daycare costs, that turned out to be how it would work best for us.

    I don’t know if we will make it to three, but it is a tentative plan in the back of my head. But for now I will work on having a second.


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