If you ever asked what I think the perfect number of children is, I think you’d be surprised. Two kids is where it’s at! Of course, I love having four children for so many reasons. For starters, I genuinely look forward to big holidays one day when we’ll have so many people around our kitchen table that we must bring in an extra table from our garage. I also strangely like that our house always has plenty of noise and energy. It is never dull. And I love that no matter who comes in and out of my sons’ lives, they will always have built-in best friends in their brothers.
But I also recognize that big families are not for everyone. While I enjoy chaos and schedules that always overlap and have learned to accept bedtime routines that never end, I also know that it can be a recipe for stress and a life of non-stop action. And this is why people ask me, “What number of children is a good number to go to?” I always answer, “Two kids.”
When I consider all the physical, mental, and emotional parts of parenting, my heart tells me two is the most practical number for someone who wants children but maybe doesn’t want to feel like the parenting intensity level is on high at all times.
Reasons Why You Should Have Two Kids
I recognize this sounds contradictory when I have chosen to have more than two, but here’s why I recommend having two kids.
1. Two kids allow for one-on-one attention.
We’ve all heard the adage that parenting two kids is (wo)man-to-(wo)man defense, and parenting three kids is zone defense. And while it is funny, it is true! (Even though I’ve never played basketball.) This means that if you and your partner are together, having two children sometimes allows you to divide and conquer. Sure, there are times when one parent is doing all of the care, but your ratio can be one-on-one when you go out to eat or vacation. And that allows for chaos to be minimized. Even though some strong-willed little ones can equal three kids. 😉
2. The little years don’t last forever.
When you have more than two children, you likely end up staying a longer duration in the toddler years (Read: changing dirty diapers, cleaning out rotten milk sippy cups, and dealing with threenager’s attitudes . . . ), and while those phases can be cute, they can also seem slightly more exhausting if you stay in them a decade. (Although I’m sad to end those years in my house.) With two children, those young years come and go more quickly. It can allow you to move into the less physically draining and more mentally draining (teenager) years more quickly. There is something about walking out the door knowing you don’t need a diaper bag, a change of clothes, or a snack that feels freeing.
3. Finances are practical.
Life is expensive, especially if you’re looking at daycare costs! And if both parents are working, they can spend a college savings worth of finances on daycare fees by the time your children start grade school, which can sometimes make it seem more reasonable for one person to quit their job while littles are at home. But what if both spouses like their jobs? It seems better to make those costs work for a shorter period of time with two children. Managing extracurricular fees, camps, saving for college, and all things that come with child-rearing seems a little easier to swallow when it stays within the bounds of planning for two children versus three or four. When our third son joined the year-round swim team, we got a congratulatory letter saying we were funding half the swim team. (I kid. I kid.) But our bank account looked like it.
4. Schedules are maintainable.
After three children, I always told my friends that staying at home with them no longer had periods of feeling like I had nothing to do. It kept me busy, and I hit all my daily steps. After I had four children, I told my friends I needed to hire a nanny to help me keep up with their after-school activities, even though my sole job after school was to be a taxi driver. Because in this supercharged world of insane practice schedules for everything from piano to football, it is hard to have much of a life once children begin getting involved in activities. With two children, I feel that keeping a proper balance between two schedules is still realistic. Because after three, you might as well install a mini-fridge in your vehicle.
5. There is a probability that both can be in a good mood simultaneously.
I say this jokingly but also with seriousness. One of the hardest things about having four children that can be mentally wearing is that the odds don’t work in your favor regarding everyone being happy at the same time. It’s like a scientific fact that is yet to be proven. Even if three of your children act like angels, it seems like one will always be grumpy or acting out – which tends to bring down the whole crew. But with two, the odds work in your favor. I feel confident that when I leave the house with just two, they will likely maintain a good mood. Or that I have the tools to get them in a good mood regardless! (Threats and chocolate.)
6. They have a sibling to play with, and no one gets left out.
While some people desire just one child, most parents seem to like the idea of their child having a sibling. Having two children allows for just that. Your first child receives a sibling and playmate. And there is no competition with what sibling to play with. (Three children can leave someone out.) Two makes your house feel full without feeling like it will burst at the seams. And if you wanted only to buy a two-bedroom house, two kids can feasibly share a bedroom for longer than they want to admit. My sister and I (just the two of us in our family) did until we were in third grade. And we survived!
So, what is your idea of the most practical number? Do you agree with these ideas, or do you have different opinions? I think it’s important to end by saying while two is my practical advice number for the average person on the planet, it was not the favorite number for my house. Two never felt like quite enough. Neither did three. Apparently, I like things that make me work hard!