Deciding on number of children - Mothering Forums
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Frugality & Finances > Deciding on number of children
HeatherAtHome's Avatar HeatherAtHome 11:47 AM 05-14-2010
How do you make such a huge decision? Currently, we're childless but thinking of taking the plunge. Children could come to use through birth, fostercare ("short term") or adoption through fostercare. We're open to all.

We have a 'small' 3 bedroom house, under 1000 sq ft. Our living area is large enough and laid out well with plenty of open areas yet also some 'away' space. We live in the country with lots of room outdoors to run around.

We'll also need a new car in the next year or two as ours is 12 years old, a Ford and just hanging on.

So, all this is making me think about number of children. The way I see it, we could stay 'small' with three and under or 'go big' with 4 or more.

When I think about a vehicle, I prefer to stick with a car. Cars are generally less expensive to buy and drive over minivans, right?

As for the house, I can imagine having 4 small children running around and sharing bedrooms, but I can't imagine 4 teenagers lounging around or be willing to share such small bedrooms. We could always add on some day, but that would cost a bit.

You might say this is all way off in the future, but we're applying to become foster parents so we'll have to say how many children we're open to having in our home. I know they have space requirements but I'm not sure what the rules are for this province specifically. They might say we can have only one child per bedroom or it could be two.

How do you decide something like this? Am I leaving out other important factors?

ETA: Well I know I AM leaving out other factors but thought I'd start with these!

eirual's Avatar eirual 12:04 PM 05-14-2010
I think for now your answer would be 3. They'd fit the house, the car, and in the present it works.

If things change down the road you can upgrade as need be or renovate a basement or attic or make it work however you see fit.

...start with one and go from there....baby steps!
justmama's Avatar justmama 03:34 PM 05-14-2010
I have a 900 sqft 2 bedroom 1 bathroom home and 3 kids. It's a little cramped now that the oldest is 9 and moody and wanting her space but it works. A year or two ago, it didn't feel cramped, but the older they get, the more "in each other's way" they become and the more cranky they get. I would stick with 2 or 3 in your current situation if you are asking my personal opinion.
wife&mommy's Avatar wife&mommy 03:40 PM 05-14-2010
I agree, I'd say 3 for now, see how that goes, and then decide on others if you think it could work at that time.
freestylemama's Avatar freestylemama 04:31 PM 05-14-2010
My advice is to start with one. We have a small house and one regular car, and we would be really squeezed if we had another.

I know lots of people say babies are free, but our experience has been pretty expensive so far. After insurance, we paid about $1600 for our midwife, I quit my part-time job and graduate assistantship (worth $30,000ish/year), our daughter had reflux and required lots of DO visits ($300 or so in co-pays), she needed cloth diapers ($800 or so including laundry) and clothes ($500 or so for the first year), a car seat ($300ish) a stroller ($250ish) a bike trailer and helmet ($400ish). We bought a new, safe car ($20k). I ate a ton while pregnant and nursing. Since she's older, we've bought her a little bed and some furniture ($500 or so).

Now that's she's older, we send her to a great preschool part time that costs about $500/month. We joined a more $$ gym because it has daycare.

Our families are far away, so we travel a lot to see them. When we fly we have to buy her a ticket. If we had another kid, our current car would feel really cramped with our luggage and two car seats. Kids are expensive. They're awesome and wonderful, but they definitely cost money. When we go on a date, we try to trade kids with another family. If we don't, we pay $30 or so for a couple of hours out.

We're also committed to helping our children pay for college. This is a whole other issue to consider. . .
Teenytoona's Avatar Teenytoona 05:09 PM 05-14-2010
MY gram raised 8 kids in an 800 SF house in suburbia (moderate yard, nothing spectacular). My mom raised me and my 7 siblings in a 1300 SF house in suburbia. We shared rooms, space was cramped, we whined and fussed about it. Of course it wasn't perfect and we were jealous of everyone we knew with a family small enough/house big enough that people had *their own rooms* but that's just material stuff. We made it through it all, and now I look back on certain aspects of those times fondly.

As adults, both my mom & her siblings, and me and my siblings are pretty close, way more than most folks I know and their siblings.

I say, you have more pluses, since you're in the country - kids/teens can roam, commune with nature, get outside. But like others have said, start with one and go from there, see how it goes.
EFmom's Avatar EFmom 05:15 PM 05-14-2010
Everybody approaches this differently.

There are obviously more than financial considerations. Personally, we were concerned about overpopulation, the ultimate impact on the environment, and we both experienced large families growing up and absolutely did not want that for our kids.

We have two children. From the financial end of things, we wanted to be able to finance our own retirement. We don't give our kids tons of material stuff, but we do give them a great deal of enrichment, which is important to us. We also needed to afford to live in an excellent school district because homeschooling would be my worst nightmare.

Babies are fairly cheap, but they get expensive as they get older. We spend a lot of money on music lessons and instruments, sports, dance, etc. It is $$$. It also requires a great deal of time and attention.

I personally wouldn't have kids that I couldn't afford to send to college, so we are saving quite a bit for that, but I can't see how we could do this with more than two.
JamieCatheryn's Avatar JamieCatheryn 05:35 PM 05-14-2010
We take them one at a time, and figure nothing we can do as a married couple short of abstinence or surgery is remotely close to a sure thing in prevention, all we do is decrease the odds and take what blessings come. With adoption we'd need to be much more mindful, as that's a deliberate decision. I don't think I'd add more children to our family that way if I didn't have a room for everyone.

So far, as a SAHM and WOH dad in the early years with our boys, the tax credits and tuition grants they earn us have completely covered everything they really cost, medical, clothes everything. We did buy a minivan, paying about 1k more than we would have paid on a similar car and getting 2-5mpg less. No doubt education and food will start costing more as they get older, but with our frugal living style I don't expect it to be that significant unless/until we pay for private school or college. Tuition costs of course will multiply per kid.
mommariffic's Avatar mommariffic 05:39 PM 05-14-2010
I pretty much agree with everything EFmom has said

For me, the biggest decision is time. Can I give 4-5-6 kids the same amount of time they deserve that I can give 2? I personally can't. Can I give that many children the opportunities I could give 2 in terms of things like travel, books etc? Nope, probably not. So, I'm done having kids and feel blessed we could have the two we are [soon!] going to have.
HeatherAtHome's Avatar HeatherAtHome 05:44 PM 05-14-2010
Costs: we're in Canada so healthcare is covered, DH has great dental insurance through work (covers 90% up to $1000-1500/year), preschool is free, daycare is $7/day. I'm a big believer in buying clothes second hand (especially with young kids, they grow out of things so quickly!) with some new outfits sprinkled in. And we have various strollers, bouncy seats etc that get passed around the family.

College: I know this view may not be popular but I think it's overrated. I would help any child along the way with living expenses etc but feel that they can apply for student loans and bursaries to cover tuition.
Reasons for this:
1-I feel like if they're paying for it, they'll appreciate it more.
2-college isn't as expensive here. (Close to $5000/year?)
3-DH and I aren't loaded. If we were, we'd put money away for kid's college but I don't see not having money for college as a reason to NOT have kids.
4-They don't have to go to college. They can do whatever they want.

Overpopulation: I think about this too. Also, I know there are kids in fostercare waiting to be adopted so why not give a child who's already out there a home instead of bringing more into the world. Although having our very own bio child would be nice too.

Big costs would include:
Cribs-we're planning on fostering kids aged 0-4 so thinking of buying good quality three in one cribs. If we're using them for a very long time, I want them to last. Would think about using them mainly as cribs or toddler beds, not so much as a single.

cloth diapers

Carseats-Would go for convertibles.

Car-something we need to buy eventually anyways. Would probably stick with a car (hopefully find the right car/seats to fit 3 across the back to keep options open) but can see feeling pressure to get a minivan...

I guess the big thing is:
I'm not sure how we're going to do the kid thing. My heart is in fostering but I'm not sure if we're going to do short term where kids go back home (help many over a short period of time) or foster/adopt (help few over a long period of time)

Also, I guess when it comes to number, short term I would start out with 2 kids but have more eventually. But, what if a sibling group needs a home? 3 or 4 kids? I know you can refuse but I would have a hard time saying no. 3-4 young children would fit fine in our home (there would be an adjustment period though!) 3 would fit in our car but not 4. So then I think about a minivan....
HeatherAtHome's Avatar HeatherAtHome 05:53 PM 05-14-2010
Quote:
Originally Posted by Teenytoona View Post
MY gram raised 8 kids in an 800 SF house in suburbia (moderate yard, nothing spectacular). My mom raised me and my 7 siblings in a 1300 SF house in suburbia. We shared rooms, space was cramped, we whined and fussed about it. Of course it wasn't perfect and we were jealous of everyone we knew with a family small enough/house big enough that people had *their own rooms* but that's just material stuff. We made it through it all, and now I look back on certain aspects of those times fondly.

As adults, both my mom & her siblings, and me and my siblings are pretty close, way more than most folks I know and their siblings.

I say, you have more pluses, since you're in the country - kids/teens can roam, commune with nature, get outside. But like others have said, start with one and go from there, see how it goes.
That reminds me. Our neighbour grew up in this house so he's a great source of info. I can't remember the numbers, but I think he said he had 9 siblings? I just remember wondering where they all slept!

I have 4 siblings and we grew up in a smallish 4 bed/1 bath house. And yes, I agree it makes you closer. (we appreciated each other much more once we left home!)
Teenytoona's Avatar Teenytoona 06:44 PM 05-14-2010
Quote:
Originally Posted by HeatherAtHome View Post
That reminds me. Our neighbour grew up in this house so he's a great source of info. I can't remember the numbers, but I think he said he had 9 siblings? I just remember wondering where they all slept!

I have 4 siblings and we grew up in a smallish 4 bed/1 bath house. And yes, I agree it makes you closer. (we appreciated each other much more once we left home!)
Bunk beds!! Also, when you're that full a house, your room is just not the place you spend tons of your time (unless you're lying on your bed reading or something).

And WRT larger families, I refer folks to this thread. In my opinion/experience, larger families don't mean you have way more stuff, and your per capita usage of said stuff is much lower.

In my growing up (and my mom's) we didn't have all the stuff that most kids have, or all the money to do all the other thigns. But I don't think it matters that much (except for when you're 11-14 years old and your whole life depends on how other see you ). On top of that, alot of folks, esp here on MDC are all about using less, buying less, reusing, etc. Much of that figures in to having a large family.

Now that said, I'm not about to have 8 children myself (though my mom is #2of 8 and I'm #2 of 8 and I used to think I was destined to have 8 kids because of this!). I did not inherit the good mothering skills my foremothers have. 1 birthchild and 4 stepchildren are enough for me! Though, however, I do wonder what it will be like for them as adults and not having the super-sized family gatherings.
cristeen's Avatar cristeen 06:58 PM 05-14-2010
I think finances are also something very important to consider. Are you planning on SAH? Are you happy with the local schools or would you need to drive further/pay for private school? Or will you be HSing?

Have you considered the additional ongoing costs of having kids? I know our electric bill went up by 50% when I added in cloth diapers and the extra heat, but you add in kids who don't turn off lights, leave the TV on, etc, and it can get out of control. Increase in grocery bills (especially if you're talking adolescent boys), extracurricular activities, trips to museums, all that good stuff. When you're talking about 1 kid it doesn't seem like so much, but when you multiply that by 2 or 3 or 4, that number can grow amazingly and you have to consider your family's earning power. If you're planning on SAH while your DH works, what's his potential for increases/raises (or vice versa)? If you're both planning on working, will you have enough time between you to give quality time to each child?

Honestly, for me, the time/attention aspect is far more important to consider than the $ aspect. Can you honestly handle 4 high needs kids? (If you assume every child is high needs, then you've prepared for "worst case scenario") Can you give each enough time and attention to deal with their individual needs? Or are you going to go insane trying? (I have days wondering if I'm going to be able to manage my 1 "fairly easy" child without going insane, contemplating 4 is enough to freak me out.) I think just starting out, all parties would be best served by starting w 1. Once you've figured out that you can handle that, then you can increase.
Poddi's Avatar Poddi 10:03 PM 05-14-2010
I'd also say make them one at a time. Suppose you want 6, do you know you'll be able to make 6 babies? Our first baby was quite high need (autism) so we stopped after two. Sometimes I'm really craving for a third one but know it'll be too much for me to handle. Our SIL says she wants 6 kids, but so far she doesn't have a job and her DH works contract jobs, and they rent a tiny little house and have plans to travel around the world. I think she might end up with 2 or 3 if she's lucky. There's just not enough time in life (during reproductive time) to do everything they want to do.
Delicateflower's Avatar Delicateflower 12:11 AM 05-15-2010
Quote:
Originally Posted by eirual View Post
I think for now your answer would be 3. They'd fit the house, the car, and in the present it works.
Not in car seats, they won't. You can fit two car seats in the back of most sedans. So, unless you want a gas-guzzling SUV or minivan you'll be limited to two foster kids at a time.

Quote:
Honestly, for me, the time/attention aspect is far more important to consider than the $ aspect.
For us, the time/attention and our parenting skills are what has decided the number of kids, not money.
cappuccinosmom's Avatar cappuccinosmom 01:01 PM 05-15-2010
For us, the whether and when was decided before we were even married. Both dh and I have faith-related ethical problems with the use of birth control. So having children, and possibly many, was something we accepted when we decided to marry.

Nothing's guaranteed though. I would have thought, back then, that 8 years without birth control would mean at least 5, maybe 7 kids. We only have three living children and present circumstances (dh out of the country) prohibit the possibility of me getting pregnant any time soon.

So, the first thing I would say is, have your "wants" but understand that life/circumstances/God may have other plans for you.

The situation you describe we would view as a perfect "starting place" to last us through 5 or 6 children. We would be saving what we could to either add on or buy larger as things started to get cramped. But even when it did get cramped, having the land would make it very easy to live with, for at least 3 seasons out of the year. We have already bought a 2000 minivan for $3,000, so the price for a larger vehicle isn't something we worry about--it just takes some searching and barganing.

We live a very home-centered and frugal lifestyle, so adding more children hasn't increased our costs dramatically. The most noticeable increase has been food, of course, but that is manageable. Our electricity and heat bills have been stable for the years we've had kids. Apart from our home, we've stayed out of debt so we're not struggling to play catch-up with bills. That makes a big difference.

Whether one child or 10, we are not counting on being able to afford college for any of them. We would if we could, but we're really focusing on other options. Academic excellence as a precourser to scholarships, and we will be digging for all kinds of scholarships when the time approaches. They'll also be welcome to live at home, making workign their way through college a little easier. By the time mine are in college, who knows what the situation will look like? I'm particularly interested in the availablity of online courses because we're homeschooling and I would love to be able to let them get several years of college courses under their belt in their last two years of highschool. Ds is on track to graduate at 16, so that's definitely a possibility.
Happiestever's Avatar Happiestever 07:45 PM 05-15-2010
3 is great! But start with one and go from there.
AAK's Avatar AAK 10:30 PM 05-15-2010
FWIW-- we had a taurus with 2 kids. Got about 22mpg (but I rarely drive hwy miles). When baby 3 arrived the carseats would not fit in the taurus so we got an inexpensive minivan ($3000). I could easily fit 4 carseats (any model) in that thing. It got 18mpg (again, town miles). So, the 4 mpg difference (when I only drive about 10K miles a year) isn't enough to nix the idea of 3 or 4 kids.

Just chiming in on that aspect!

Amy
phathui5's Avatar phathui5 12:43 AM 05-16-2010
For now, we've decided to stop at four. Until we had our fourth child, I just didn't feel like our family was complete.

We live in a fairly small house, 3 bedrooms, 1 bathroom. We got a minivan when I was pregnant with our third because we didn't want to be squashed in our car (and we probably would have had to buy something else anyway, because we couldn't fit three car seats in out little car).
crunchy_mama's Avatar crunchy_mama 10:02 AM 05-16-2010
Quote:
Originally Posted by cappuccinosmom View Post
For us, the whether and when was decided before we were even married. Both dh and I have faith-related ethical problems with the use of birth control. So having children, and possibly many, was something we accepted when we decided to marry.
Although, we didn't convert until 5 yrs into our marriage. At 11 yrs of marriage and the age of (almost)31 we now have an almost 6, just turned 3 and 6 m.o. I have used NFP and abstinence for a few months here and there after 1 and 2 due to stress levels(that combined w/ lact am. gives us that space). However, after each child it has gotten easier. I had heard that 3 would be the big challenge but it has went pretty smooth considering. I find more time I never thought I had and chuckle now at how busy I was before kids or with just 1.

Our house is 1800 sq up and down but down is unfinished- I believe that is plenty for however many kids comes our way- I am very much for room sharing. Our current vehicle is 7 passenger and will be used until we run out of room or it completely dies.

As to increasing food costs we are constantly working on increasing what we grow/produce ourselves and seeking out sources for bulk items.

Also, we keep a debt free life beside our mortgage allowing a lot of freedom there- our house will be paid off in 7.5 yrs as it is. We definitely have splurges but are always looking for ways to cut the budget as well and simplify. We save up for big expenses as well to keep debt free.

So, we try to keep on top of the financial aspect best we can and as to the time, energy and love it has always worked itself out.
HeatherAtHome's Avatar HeatherAtHome 12:21 PM 05-16-2010
Quote:
Originally Posted by cappuccinosmom View Post
We live a very home-centered and frugal lifestyle, so adding more children hasn't increased our costs dramatically. The most noticeable increase has been food, of course, but that is manageable. Our electricity and heat bills have been stable for the years we've had kids. Apart from our home, we've stayed out of debt so we're not struggling to play catch-up with bills. That makes a big difference.
This is us too. Any trips I see us taking are more of the camping/driving type vacation (staying within the province because of foster children).

I'll be a SAHM. I don't work right now (we decided that the amount of work I can do at home, getting this place ready for kids etc is more important than whatever money I could bring in with whatever min wage job I could find). DH's income is nice and stable with yearly increases and great benefits.

The big question that's bothering me is the vehicle as it will be coming up soon. We don't buy cars every day, we're only on our second vehicle EVER. Our first we had for 3 years, this one for almost 7. So, I figure whatever vehicle we buy I would plan on fitting our lifestyle for the next 5 years. To top it off, I *just* thought of my student sister who lives nearby, doesn't have a car and will soon have TWO kids. I drive her around a lot, visiting our family out of town, taking them shopping, running errands etc. Now I'm feeling more pressure than ever to have a minivan.

I;m biased against minivans. I want to be one of those young hip families with the compact car and a green lifestyle. I can pull off the green lifestyle with more kids, just not the smaller vehicle.
weliveintheforest's Avatar weliveintheforest 12:38 PM 05-16-2010
Quote:
Originally Posted by Delicateflower View Post
Not in car seats, they won't. You can fit two car seats in the back of most sedans. So, unless you want a gas-guzzling SUV or minivan you'll be limited to two foster kids at a time.
it depends on the seat. it's tight, but you can get 3 across with some models.

With the cost of kids, I think it goes up significantly as they get older. Clothes cost more (even second hand), shoes cost more, swimming lessons, hobbies, food, admissions to places, travel costs, birthday parties, etc.

We are not really letting finances decide how many kids we will have, but we are aware that by choosing to have more children we are going to be sacrificing some things.
Norasmomma's Avatar Norasmomma 01:19 PM 05-16-2010
I'd see how the first one went.

Pregnancy can be extremely easy or extremely rough, I've had both. After being pg with my son, I don't want to be pregnant again(and his was easy compared to many women).

I guess for me finances haven't really made a decision. Plus you never know what the future holds, DH had a awesome job , the economy tanked. He was off since our son was born 7.5 months ago.
HeatherAtHome's Avatar HeatherAtHome 02:00 PM 05-16-2010
I find it funny how some people pop in saying "start with one" and talking about pregnancy.... I know I wrote a lot but I wonder if anyone read past the title sometimes.
sanguine_speed's Avatar sanguine_speed 03:16 PM 05-16-2010

sanguine_speed's Avatar sanguine_speed 03:21 PM 05-16-2010

rebeccalizzie's Avatar rebeccalizzie 03:41 PM 05-16-2010
Quote:
Originally Posted by HeatherAtHome View Post
I find it funny how some people pop in saying "start with one" and talking about pregnancy.... I know I wrote a lot but I wonder if anyone read past the title sometimes.
That always makes me laugh too People rarely read the entire OP even when it's fairly short.

Car wise, you really can find a sedan that fits three car seats, or it's possible (depending on the ages you end up with) that you will only need one car seat, one booster and room for another kid. We have a CR-V and can't do it (I'll have 1 FF, 1 RF and a teenager once baby is born) but we could have with my DH's old Accord. It would have been a tiny bit tight for the teen, but we could have rented a minivan for vacations.

Anyway, if the car thing is important to you (and it's not a bad thing to consider) 3 is at least possible with a non-minivan, especially if you have to buy a new car in the next few years anyway so you can look for something bigger. And I do think as they get older, house space becomes a little more important, so I don't know that I would consider more than 3 with your configuration, and two might be closer to my comfort level. My two littles are going to share a bedroom, but it's a big bedroom and we have a family room where we keep all the toys.

Good luck deciding...I'm not sure what I would decide in your position, either 2 or 3 probably but I don't know which way I'd go!
EviesMom's Avatar EviesMom 04:01 PM 05-16-2010
Quote:
Originally Posted by HeatherAtHome View Post
I find it funny how some people pop in saying "start with one" and talking about pregnancy.... I know I wrote a lot but I wonder if anyone read past the title sometimes.
I still say start with 1 though. I know you said you're applying for foster care, and for that *maybe* put down 2, but I wouldn't put down more than that. I would think starting with only 1 foster child would be the best plan. I doubt that is set in stone forever once you apply. 2 would mean you could take in siblings, but even then, I think with no kids now a jump to 2 would be a major shock.
HeatherAtHome's Avatar HeatherAtHome 04:28 PM 05-16-2010
I know it would be an adjustment. I do have experience with kids and I have my now 4 year old niece over for visits up to 6 days at a time (so I already have bed, toys, books etc.) and know the feeling of 'wow this kid is always there' vs the babysitting for a couple hours 'wow, kids are fun!' mentality. Heck, we even lived together the year she was two. (Long story, lets just say my mom welcomes us all home and bring our families with us if needed! )
Drummer's Wife's Avatar Drummer's Wife 07:00 PM 05-16-2010
I agree that you should start with one (and I know you mean likely fostering). It is a huge adjustment to go from having no children to one - even if you have tons of experience caring for children. If you feel comfortable accepting another foster child, and you have the space and resources needed, you can let the agency know. As someone else said, they aren't going to place you with four children if you have a sedan and too small of a living space - so it's not just your preference in consideration. I *think* that you have to have separate bedrooms for each foster child, but this may depend on the rules where you live.

yes, some larger sedans (like full-size, not corollas or prius or civics) can fit 3 narrow carseats - but if there is a chance you would have more than 2 children in the near future, I would get a bigger car to start with. If you don't want a minivan, then you are pretty much left with a 3 row SUV.
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