Archive for February, 2012

Reader Letter

It’s time for a reader letter:

Dear Winsome Parenting,
Sorting through my bookmarks, I came across your insightful and witty blog again. I hope you’ll write more soon!

My question for you is: how does one decide how many children to have? More specifically, my husband and I are asking ourselves this question.

We have two children (5&3) and are wondering if we’re done having children or if we should consider having one (or two) more.

Obvious to me is to think about family economics and dynamics, parental responsibilities and lifestyle… But when we add it all up, we just can’t decide. We have two healthy and happy children. They’re out of diapers and we sleep through the night. We’re having fun with two, we fit in a car, we travel well. But- is something missing? Would we have more fun as a family with more children? Or would our resources be stretched? (I’m thinking more about time and attention, not money here. We are frugal and money can be made.)

Sigh.

I value your opinion and await your thoughts.

Signed,
Is it time for more or are we done?

Dear Is it Time,

Thank you for your email, and for reading.  I have been working on many other projects, but I was excited to get your letter and to have some motivation to return to the blog!

Adding another child to your family is obviously a personal decision which depends on many variables, and, as you’ve pointed out, the main considerations for many come down to resources.  Will there be enough…Enough money?  Enough time? Enough room in the house and car?  Enough love?  It sounds like you’ve got the financial side taken care of, but a lot of people get so wrapped up in the money stuff that they barely consider the emotional implications.  But the same tools that can help you make a financial decision can also help with the emotional one.

Many parents say they can’t have another child because they can’t afford to.  What they usually mean (and of course there are exceptions) is they don’t want to change their lifestyle or lower their standard of living to accommodate another child.  I say this without judgement–it’s a valid consideration, especially because it is extremely difficult to imagine a lifestyle that is below the one you are currently living.  The question is, why is it so hard?  The answer lies–in part–in hedonic adaptation, a psychology theory from the 70’s that is still being refined.

Hedonic adaptation is the tendency for people to get used to their lives and to remain at a fairly level set point of happiness.  If something good or bad happens to them, it might cause a blip in happiness, but they will soon return to their normal level.  For example, if you look at paraplegics months after their accidents, they are just as happy as they were before they were paralyzed.  Lottery winners are the same–their winnings only make them temporarily happier.  We all get used to the mundane details of the lives we are currently living.  If you have two bathrooms and two cars, you consider that normal.  If you have four bathrooms and four cars, you consider that normal.  But the flip side is, if you downgrade from four bathrooms to two, you will soon get used to the change.  Your new life will be your new normal.  You can harness this tendency to consciously downsize, lowering your standard of living until you can afford the things that seemed out of reach before.

But what about the emotional resources?  What about time, attention, and love?  Will everyone get enough if there is one more kiddo vying for all of these things?  Because of hedonic adaptation, you have gotten used to your family dynamics, and it’s hard to imagine how you could fit in another kid when things are going so well.  But hedonic adaptation will also allow you to quickly get used to the new addition, and you can expect that your life will feel normal again soon.

After a new member of the family is added, of course there will be adjustments to be made.  Maybe the bedtime routine has to change.  Maybe the other kids will have to share a room.  Maybe you will have to trade in your car to fit another car seat. Once these challenges are figured out, however, everyone will settle into their new routines and be just as happy as before.  But now the family has the added bonus of an extra person.  That means an extra warm body to snuggle, an extra player for family game night, and an extra chance for one day having lots of grand kids!

Those of us who are lucky enough to have the emotional resources and the ability to grow our families should be truly grateful.   We also need to be mindful of the fact that this gift will not last forever.  There are many families who wait to have a(nother) child but then find out it’s too late.  (Unfortunately, even adoption can get more difficult as you get older.)

I have to add that I am biased toward bigger families.  I have always wanted to be a Von Trapp family singer, or at least part of the Brady Bunch.  I believe children are a blessing and that people are our most precious natural resource.  And I am currently working on Baby #2, due in May, so my pregnancy hormones are potentially skewing this as well!

Like other parents who are anticipating the birth of their second baby, I sometimes wonder how another baby could add as much joy and love to our lives as our first one has.  But I have faith that our hearts will grow and soon we won’t be able to imagine life without our two boys!

So, if you are leaning toward adding another child, I say go for it!  You will find that just as you can make or free up more money, you can make and free up more love.

You will adjust to the disruption that a new family member causes, and before you know it, your now-larger family will be the new normal.

-Winsome Parenting

 

Do you have any advice to give our letter writer?  Leave a comment below!

February 19, 2012 at 9:02 pm Leave a comment


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