How Many Kids Is Too Many Kids? Asking for a Friend

So really, guys, how many kids is too many kids?

Ever since I miscarried my fifth pregnancy last March, I have been asking myself that question. Don’t get me wrong—4 kids is a lot of kids.

Next year, for example, when they are all (finally) in school, I will be packing 20 lunches a week and negotiating 4 parent teacher conferences and attending 4 music shows and a passel of open houses and making SO MANY BIRTHDAY CUPCAKES.

Even if we try to limit each kid to 2 extracurricular activities, that’s 8 activities a week. And as you know, when kids get older, their sports practice more frequently and travel longer distances and compete multiple times a weekend. 4 kids means a lot of hockey and boy scouts and dance and gymnastics and baseball and—you get the idea.

Surely we are using up our fair share of resources, too. Is it conscionable to have a large family when overpopulation threatens the earth’s carrying capacity and the effects of climate change are more noticeable than ever before?

Did I mention that I’m too old to be thinking about another baby?  I turn 40 in May, and my youngest child will be 5 by then. I have made it through the slog of the preschool years with my body and my sanity basically intact. Stretch marks and mild anxiety attacks DON’T COUNT. Shouldn’t I quit while I am ahead and enjoy wearing sophisticated shoes to the bounce house place and bringing a coffee and a book and curling up on the bench because my kids are too big to need me to wear the grippy socks and prove to the world I can bounce without peeing my pants? (That’s another thing! I CAN BOUNCE and not pee my pants. Another baby would seriously tempt fate there).

Just for a minute, maybe we should talk about money. I don’t know if you know this, but kids are expensive. They eat. A lot. They outgrow their clothes. They lose their winter coats. They think gloves and hats and mittens are a (magically) renewable resource. 4 kids in college—yikes. Not to mention all of the braces and bikes and computers—I shudder to do the math.

What would another baby do to my career?  To the novel I have been waiting 39 years to write and type faithfully every morning? To my marriage? To my sanity? To my sleep schedule (that’s one amazing thing about bidding goodbye to the baby years—the sleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep)? To my relationship with my tween and his brother who is almost a tween?

We are blessed beyond measure to be happy and healthy and engaged in thoughtful, rewarding work. I am so grateful for my already-larger-than-normal assortment of children. (The assortment is large. The children are all on the small side).

But.

No day in your life is more magical than the day a new person appears in it. Think about they days your children were born. Have you ever been that close to a miracle? Now imagine a tiny baby burrito-ed in a hospital receiving blanket in one of those weird plastic boxes on wheels surrounded by small faces and fat little hands as your rowdy pack of kids meets a new sibling. It’s sublime.

Fast forward a little bit to see your living room strewn with squeaky toys and board books and those huge plastic baby-holding accessories that you never really get to use because the baby is always right there in your arms or on your chest or literally strapped to your body. Remember how a baby smells and the warm, damp weight of a baby pressed up against you, a soft little head with flaky skin always in kissing distance of your lips. In the middle of the night when you are exhausted and stumbling out of bed, your reward for your efforts is that sweet suckling pig of a creature who loves you so much it can’t stand to go more than a couple of hours without you, and even though you move—and look—like a Walking Dead extra, you feel the same way.

Smash cakes.

Shambling toddlers.

Lisping little voices and their intoxicating malapropisms.

I want all of it again. One more time. The last one, I swear.

My husband points out that I have said this after every child and then after every child I want another one. Like cookies. What can I say? I am a binge-birther. 

Or, I would be if my old-lady body would cooperate. It’s not infertility if you already have lots of kids, but there’s this fifth-baby-shaped hole, ache, weight, want that isn’t going away even though the stick never has a second pink line. Anymore.

How did you make peace with the end of the baby years? Tell me, won’t you? I really want to know.

Sarah Jedd
Sarah Jedd has a Ph.D. in communication arts from the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she teaches and studies the rhetoric of Planned Parenthood. Sarah has 5 (F I V E) children: teens Harry and Jack, elementary schoolers Cooper and Dorothy, and sweet baby Minnie, born in August 2020. Sarah blogs about being a mom of many at harrytimes.com and overshares on IG as @sarahjedd. Sarah, her husband, and their kids live in Verona with the world's laziest dog.

21 COMMENTS

  1. #3 and #4 are twins. Definitely made me content with our four kids! Twins are 10x harder than 1 babe (in my opinion!). Not to mention that my chances are now higher for twins in subsequent pregnancies, and I do not want to have twins again! Don’t get me wrong – I LOVE them, but I am sooooo done!

  2. I have seven kids all of them 2 years apart. Currently 2,4,6,8,10,12 and 14. 4 boys and 3 girls. And I feel 100 percent like you took the words right out of my mouth. I would love more children my husband says you always say just one more. It’s been 2.5 years the longest I went without being pregnant when you think about it I was pregnant or nursing a baby for 14 years straight. I struggle daily with the fact that I am aging still only 37 so have time if for another but my body is showing wear and tear and my kids are starting the every night activities as mentions and 3 of them play completive soccer which is a 4 day a week commitment and very expensive not to mention the oldest is starting to travel the entire state to play games. So I can go on forever why I should be happy we are blessed with 7 happy healthy no medical issues pregnancies and children. But I can also go on for days what I just want ONE more. It’s such a battle. If it was just me in the decision I would be pregnant but I also have an amazing husband who has supported me and the children and my older children are now pointing out that one will be in high school next year and my youngest kids may hardly know him or that our house is already crazy why add more and I always say it’s full of love and since we are already crazy what’s another 😜. Our house is full and usually we have few friends around so we have between 10-12 kids in the house daily and I love it. I also work full time nights as my husband works full time days so I lack sleep to make it work. It’s possible as I also manage one of the soccer teams. Many call me super mom I say I just do what I love. i don’t have an answer but many say once you are past the diaper and toddler stage your feelings change. I don’t think that will happen for me and it sounds like it hasn’t happened for you. But at the end of the day one child or 10 we are all blessed to be called mom. And our pros and cons list could go on for days.

  3. I had 5 kids when I miscarried my 6th. We weren’t expecting that baby and were already “done”. But I felt a hole in my heart, it may have been the loss or it may have been that we needed one more baby. Then, surprise! One more baby came. Now, our family feels complete. Is it a lot of work? Yes. Is it overwhelming some days? Yes. But I love seeing all of them together, loving and caring for each other. It is so much fun.

  4. I could have written this. I’m the mom of four who is aching for a fifth but struggling with my health and not sure that dream will ever become a reality. And it’s enough to make me want to cry. I hope we both get our fifth babies!!

  5. You don’t have to be finished. If you’re heart and home is open to more kiddos, you could be a foster parent!!! We’ve been liscensed in Dane County for 2.5yrs. Let me know if you have any questions!

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