When I was a little kid, my favorite board game was the game of Life. I begged people to play Life with me, and then, when we played, I would get mad if I didn’t hit every single space that gave you another kid. I wanted twins, boys, girls, it didn’t matter: I just wanted to fill my car (and often a second one) with babies. When we played house, I had 10 kids. I would tell people that, when I grew up, I was going to have 10 kids, whether my future husband wanted them or not.
Fast forward a few years to real life. In real life, as an adult, I have four kids: Six year old twins, Cade and Avery, five year old Sienna, and 18 month old Adele. When people ask if we’re done having kids, we now say yes, because we don’t plan on having any more babies. What changed between those board games of Life where I hoarded children as though they were shoes and now, where we have decided to stop not even halfway to my goal?
Kids are different than babies. While babies exhaust you physically by keeping you up all night and getting into everything, kids exhaust you mentally. From the time we wake up to the time their
rotten sweet little heads hit their pillows at night, they take up every. single. little. bit of mental acuity that I possess. From arguing about food to challenging my responses to their questions to reminding me that I said we don’t eat sugar (so why are you eating cookies, Mama?) to debating why or why not it is or isn’t okay to do ANYTHING and EVERYTHING, my kids wear me out. I used to think that when they slept through the night, or when they knew that they shouldn’t shove their little fingers into outlets, life would be easier. I was sure my life would slow down when they were older and I would have more time to myself (HA! What’s that?!). Clearly I didn’t spend enough time around young children when I was a teenager, because I was completely delusional.
Despite this, I love my kids. We have more good days than bad, and I love seeing their personalities grow and develop. As I’m mourning the end of one phase in their childhood, I’m blown away by how fun they are as they enter the next phase. I haven’t experienced a stage that I didn’t completely love yet, and I don’t think I ever will. Some ages are a bit more trying than others (age three has been the toughest at our house across the board), but they all have unique qualities that make them enjoyable.
Even though we are certainly done having biological babies, and I know that that is the right decision for our family, I have days where I flat-out bawl like a baby that Adele is my last. She still nurses all night long at 18 months, because every time I consider night weaning her, I start to cry. The thought that she is the very last baby I will every breastfeed is so incredibly bittersweet for me. I look at her and realize that even if she night nurses for another year or two, it’s fine with me, because after that, I am closing a door on this chapter of my life. I can’t make her sleep in her own bed yet, because there’s not another baby to take her place. I am allowing her to be a baby as long as she desires, because I believe it’s what is best for her, but also because I am simply not ready to be done with babies.
I don’t want this to sound like money is everything (and believe me, it’s not to us), but I do believe that parents have a responsibility to be financially wise when it comes to having children. Kids are expensive! I feel like we are already stretched with the lifestyle we like to live and the financial responsibility of raising four children, so more (at this point in our lives) just doesn’t feel right or fair to the kids we already parent. So in the spirit of full disclosure, the cost of having a large family did factor into our decision.
A big part of deciding to be done having babies is simply that I know my limits. Right now, the needs of my four children challenge me to the max. I think there are plenty of parents out there who can handle a large family of six or eight or 10 kids and give them exactly what their children need. I, however, don’t think I turned out to be cut from the cloth that is capable of doing so. With four kids, I already have to be very conscious of how much time I spend with each one, making sure a child isn’t feeling isolated or neglected in the midst of the busyness of raising our family. I want them to have as much love, affection, and time from Carl and I that they each individually want and need. Those requirements are different for each child, but I want to be there for them however they need me to be, and I know that by adding more children into the mix right now would make that impossible for me personally. Also, because we don’t spank our kids, discipline requires a lot of thought and time. Some days it takes hours to work through issues that the kids are having behaviorally, and I don’t think I could take the time needed with each one of them if I were to keep having babies.
So as you can see, a lot changed between those games of Life and now. We do hope to adopt from Africa one day, but have put that on the back burner while we allow our kids to grow a little. We are hoping that by the time the twins are middle-school age, we will be ready, but we’ll see. I figure that if I still have the desire for more children and a large family in four or five years, and it’s God’s plan for us, then we will add to our family in a different way than we already have. And while I probably won’t breastfeed our African babies, I can wear them, co-sleep with them, and love them the same as I have my first four. For now, I am trying to remember to enjoy my sweet little ones and remember that maybe someday I’ll have my family of ten (or maybe just eight).
Do you want a big family? Why or why not? Leave me a comment and tell me why!