Great News: You’re Allowed To Have Only One Kid!

hands1It was a black and frosty night, sometime in the dead of winter 2007. I was in the rocking chair holding my baby son, who was about one year old at the time. I was offering him a bottle and I knew he needed food, but he was upset and had been screaming for much of the night. My wife and I had been trading off baby shifts as usual so each of us could get half a night’s sleep, which is a very helpful tactic since the sleep deprivation stage of raising a child can go on for more than a year.

“Wow, raising kids is an incredibly difficult thing”, I thought to myself, “But worthwhile in so many ways. Every day this little guy advances through more milestones, and it’s amazing to think he will be walking and talking pretty soon, bonding with his parents over common interests and learning, and maybe even staying up at night to care for his own son or daughter someday. It’s too bad we have to start all over in only a year, to have a second child and go right back to zero. I’ve survived this first year of sleep deprivation, but can’t help but to dread two more years of it”.

Time went on, and we continued to reap all the joys and strains of parenthood. We took him on hikes and reacquainted ourselves with the joy of being alive, through the eyes of someone who is seeing it all for the first time. The three of us took trips together, read books, made snow forts and blanket tents and wooden boats, and mixed it up with family and close friends often.

But it wasn’t always easy, or even fun. Our marriage was stretched to the thinnest of threads at times, as the needs of the child displaced the needs of a relationship. Personal interests and even a moment’s peace and quiet were long forgotten. Social and travel opportunities were postponed for years, or indefinitely, because they weren’t compatible with our son’s temperament or limited diet, no matter how much we worked on the various issues. In the thick of the bad times of raising a young child, you sometimes feel like your whole life has been one long screaming, screeching, smashing, crying argument.

Luckily, you tend to wake up the next day and it’s back to joy. But it is still essential to say what most people avoid saying: parenting is more than just curling up on a couch with their cute little faces gazing at you while you read them an adventure novel (which is the way I always pictured it).

So anyway, one day we had a two-year-old son and thus it was time to produce the next child. He was sleeping well and flourishing beautifully, and the two children would be spaced closely enough that they could be friends eventually. We dutifully started making the arrangements, and I braced for the next round of caring for an infant. I looked far into the future and pictured my future 8-year-old explaining scientific concepts to the 5-year-old using the teaching medium of Lego, and determined that all would be well. Then I pictured them at 28 and 25, and it was even better – helping them with their houses and careers, traveling together meeting their girlfriends or boyfriends or spouses, and a lifetime of friendship. If only there were a way to get there without the torture stage.

At that moment, my wife came home from the library with a nice load of books. One of them was “Parenting an Only Child”, a book about only children and how most of the conventional assumptions about them are wrong. They do exceptionally well as children, flourish socially, and end up with lives that are at least as happy as people who grew up in larger families.

Thinking about it, this was the main reason I was assuming we’d have two kids. You have the second one as a gift to your first one, so they can go through life together. After all, I have two older sisters and a younger brother, and my wife has a younger brother as well. We both have fond memories of our childhoods together and we get along with them well today.

But on further reflection, most of my social life as a kid was with other kids that were closer to my own age. And my relationship with my parents was probably diluted by the high effort (both financial and emotional) they had to put into raising such a large flock of us. Their marriage broke up towards the end of that multi-decade effort, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the strain of kids was part of it. Hell, a full 40% of my own friends and acquaintances who had kids when we did in 2006 are already divorced. So once again, there are negatives to be considered alongside the positives.

The bottom line is that we read the book, and then poked through a few other books and articles on the same topic, and I was sold on the idea.

“Honey! This is amazing news! We’re allowed to have only one kid, and everything still turns out great! This is what WE should do!”


Mrs. Money Mustache was thrown slightly off balance, since she had brought home the book expecting discussion rather than such an immediate transformation, but the more we discussed the issue, the more we realized it was the right one for us.

Having (or not having) kids is an extremely personal decision, and it’s not something that I (or your friends, parents, in-laws, church, government, religion, or society) should really have much say in. It’s between you and your partner, and even then it is questionable practice to try to force a partner into having more of them than he or she wants.

As a person who tries to put things into a logical perspective, kids are a tricky one. After all, it may seem somewhat illogical to voluntarily create a new being, and make such a big sacrifice to your own life to support it. Especially since there is no shortage of need in the world – why not help others instead of creating still more need?

On the other hand, if your goal of living is to understand what being a Human is all about, reproduction is pretty logical. It is the reason for all life on the planet, and it really the sole purpose of your existence from an evolutionary perspective. It would be hard to say you’ve had the full experience of humanity without experiencing this core part of it. Every cell in your body exists just to allow this to happen. That still doesn’t mean that you should have kids, it’s just an explanation for why it could be considered logical at some level.

The bottom line is that there are enormous positives and negatives that go along with your baby-making decisions, and it helps to step back from our dumb evolutionary programming (see the part about every cell in your body above), and realize that following your immediate emotions is not usually the path to the happiest life. You could even make an oversimplified decision-making chart on the issue. For me, it might look like this:

Figure 1: My own family planning chart.

Figure 1: My own family planning chart.


For others, the chart will look totally different, and that’s fine too. The real point I wanted to make here is that it was nice to find out that One Kid is a wonderful way to go, and how nicely it has been working out for us. If you didn’t know you were allowed to do this without being perceived as a weirdo, I hereby give you permission.

Further resources:

Parenting an Only Child: the Joys and Challenges of Raising Your One and Only by Susan Newman, can probably be found in your Library, as well as possibly on Better World Books (used) and Amazon. And there are many other great books, documentaries, interviews and videos about the idea.





  • Patrick September 10, 2014, 10:11 am

    I made a similar argument a while back on Reddit, that to save money, have less kids. I was answered with: “World will end if everyone does that” – sort of like the “what if everyone became frugal” thing.

    • SB September 10, 2014, 10:19 am

      Ha – I suspect the “typical” Reddit audience might have had something to do with the nature of that response!

    • KruidigMeisje September 10, 2014, 10:20 am

      There would be enough land left over in a generation after climate change start to kick in,then, if indeed everybody would do this. That would be a nice thought!
      (IF, because humanity is not really a species where everybody is easily of the same persuation or habit.)

    • Free Money Minute September 10, 2014, 3:56 pm

      The other thing to consider is that the earth is a VERY BIG PLACE….with lots of resources. Unfortunately, Americans use way more than they should. They should at least dial it back to MMM’s recommendations. Live close enough to bike to work and do not over consume. We can all live good, long lives and invite bring many others along for the ride.

    • Huck September 10, 2014, 7:27 pm

      I think the “world” would go on just fine without humanity in it.

      • lurker September 11, 2014, 5:18 pm

        good thing because it may have to….just saying

      • Doctor K March 4, 2016, 11:11 pm

        If all insects on Earth disappeared, within 50 years all life on Earth would end. If all human beings disappeared from the Earth, within 50 years all forms of life would flourish.”
        — Jonas Salk

    • Reilly September 10, 2014, 10:53 pm

      I’m certain that the world won’t end if everyone has 1 child, but I wonder if there is a study on just that. It would be an interesting read.

    • jimbo September 11, 2014, 5:54 pm

      I wouldn’t worry – all it means is that there will be fewer people like you, and more people who are unlike you. The future is one of fewer secularists and more religious zealots.

      • Edith June 14, 2019, 12:43 pm

        Children don’t turn out to be copies of their parents. My parents are Republicans, I am a Democrat. My parents are religious, I am not. And they were a religious couple who opted to have one child only. My husband and I are not religious and will have one child only too. I mean, life is more diverse than your comment shows.

        • DuckReconMajor May 27, 2020, 1:51 pm

          This exactly. The thought that the future is somehow going to be more religious is crazy. It was only recently in human history that secular viewpoints didn’t get you shunned or killed. And the previously unthinkable rate at which we can access and discover new information means parents have an ever worse time controlling their children’s viewpoints, should they even want to do so.

          Some folks take the movie Idiocracy a bit too literally. Humanity as a whole is always getting more intelligent.

          Even if that stuff all were true, I’d still rather a child be born to a “dumb” family that loves them than one that just had them over some eugenic nonsense whose heart wasn’t in it.

    • JB September 19, 2014, 10:05 am

      Everyone won’t do it, just like everyone won’t become frugal, but if they do, there will be less fast food restaurants and fewer cell phone stores.

    • Cubert December 31, 2017, 6:15 am

      Sometimes, Pete, et al, you wind up with twins (or, gasp, triplets.) Sometimes, it’s outside of your control. That was the case with us. It’s nice to have the option to even have kids, as some can’t conceive or conceive without incredible expense. It’s even nicer to have the option to pick whether you’ll have one or two at a time. And then at the end, you’re incredibly blessed if your child is born free and clear of birth defects, autism, or other common ailments. Sometimes, we simply don’t have a choice on this front. I respect your decision, but the title of the post sure hits a nerve.

      • Maisha October 28, 2020, 2:49 pm

        You may have misinterpreted the title. He’s saying you have the option to have only one child, if you want. And he’s not saying that morally you should only be allowed to have one child. I interpreted it the second way myself just reading the title but his last line cleared it up: “If you didn’t know you were allowed to do this [have one child] without being perceived as a weirdo, I hereby give you permission.”

        Tricky sentence structure wreaks havoc again!

      • An Autistic Adult January 18, 2021, 11:35 am

        Autism is not an ailment, and being non-autistic is not a blessing.

  • Mr. Frugalwoods September 10, 2014, 10:14 am

    I have 2 siblings, and while I love them very much I don’t feel like they were essential to my growth and social life.

    I know plenty of only children who are now turning 30. They span the gamut of life experiences, and it doesn’t seem like they are more selfish or self-absorbed than friends with siblings.

    They are, though, much less likely to have tons of student loan debt. When you only have one child the financial resources go farther. It’s not a good/bad thing (working your way through college has it’s benefits), just something I noticed.

    It think the suitability of growing up an only child may also depend on the type of environment. If the family moved every year and didn’t put down roots in a place… then I could see how having the constant presence of a sibling could be grounding for a child. Similarly if you lived in an isolated area where peer social interactions were less common, then having a playmate on the homestead could be nice.

    Basically, I agree with you that it’s a personal choice and whether you have 1 kid or 10 kids, they can turn out wonderful or terrible :-)

    • Sarah November 4, 2015, 3:48 pm

      You make great points! We were those kids who moved a lot and lived in isolated places, so we really benefited from having each other. My parents did three kids in three years, which sounds so crazy, but I like the logic of it. You only go through every stage once and then you are done and on to the next.

  • usmarine1975 September 10, 2014, 10:15 am

    We are awaiting our 2nd Child and for us it is a good thing. Not sure just yet if we will venture to 3 or not. Our first was not horrible. He slept through the night from the beginning. First couple weeks he would wake up once. He has always been a great sleeper. Now at the age of 2 he has a lot of energy but is just so fun to be around. I can’t imagine life without him. I agree it’s a personal decision.

    • Holly September 11, 2014, 6:58 am

      We have two and decided to stop while we were ahead. Both of our kids slept well as babies and were extremely healthy.

      Good luck with your baby on the way and I hope he/she is the excellent sleeper your first child was!

    • John Dwyer September 28, 2014, 9:19 pm

      Just wanted to comment that the pattern I’ve seen with friends is that they have a wonderful easy first child and say “wow! That’s not that bad”. And the the second child robs them of a year of sleep. Good luck. :-)

      • Edith June 14, 2019, 12:46 pm

        Terrible babies who don’t sleep much are more likely to be only children… I bet studies would come up with that result, ha ha

  • Ivy September 10, 2014, 10:17 am

    A bit obvious, but I wanted to point out that the chart does not include adopting a kid! If you adopt a child, you aren’t adding to resource consumption at all, but you still get the benefits of having a child. :)

    • Kera McMiller September 10, 2014, 11:56 am

      I love your point, Ivy. I believe this is a strong consideration, since many of my friends and family have been dealing with not being able to bear children.
      There are also may organizations and churches that help with the monetary weight of adopting. And if you don’t want to dedicate to many years, you can always adopt an older child or teenager; if you prefer not to have a baby. Everyone needs love.

    • Edith September 10, 2014, 12:08 pm

      Nice point! I think adopting is the most wonderful thing in the world! Congrats to all of you who have done that! The planet and our society have much to be grateful to you!

    • bogart September 10, 2014, 12:21 pm

      I wonder if this is true. The one person I know personally who placed a child for adoption went on to marry the man who was the genetic father of the child she placed, and they’re now raising four kids they have had together as a married couple, in addition to knowing (as birth parents) the child they placed. While all the children are thriving and a source of joy to their parents (and of course that is the important thing), if what we are counting is people-on-the-planet/resource-consumption, my friend (and her husband) might well have had fewer children, had they not placed their first son for adoption. And my impression is that a surprising (to those working with limited knowledge of actual adoption) number of U.S. placing parents are women (and sometimes men) who are already parenting kids and feel they do not have the resources to support another, and that this is also true of a number of international adoption situations (plus, of course, simply bringing someone to the US from a less developed nation almost by definition increases that individual’s resource consumption, whether they’re coming as an immigrant or an adoptee).

      None of which, of course, is an argument against adoption, a wonderful way to build a family. But I’d guess that the “less resource consumption” (than a child born into a family) idea is far less accurate than one might at first guess.

    • bpepy September 10, 2014, 8:30 pm

      We adopted our first child and subsequently had three more. None were planned but all were welcomed, and though I wouldn’t recommend having four kids, especially now (it’s a lot of work and expense), I’m really glad we did. Ours are grown now and having adult children is a true joy! We take vacations with all our kids and grandkids (only four of them!) and everyone enjoys it. We all spent a week In Glacier National Park in July and had a wonderful time.
      We have another reason for being very glad to have more than one child. One of our sons died at age 31 from brain cancer. This was devastating, but I can’t imagine how much worse it would have been if he had been the only one. I know this isn’t a reason for having more than one, but for us it was a blessing.

      • KellyAnne October 6, 2014, 12:51 pm

        I have thought about this scenario more often than not, especially because I am dealing with Infertility and just being grateful for the opportunity to parent 1 child whether biological or adopted, both expensive measures to build a family, doing either twice is double the financial burden. The thought of losing an only child frightens me. I am so sorry for your loss.

    • Shawn G September 11, 2014, 7:46 am

      My wife and I have two biological children and plan to adopt as well. There are many older children (8+) in the U.S. who need forever homes and we hope to be able to give at least one a home. Adoption is a great way to have children.

    • Mama Breeze September 11, 2014, 11:28 am

      Thank you for another timely article! As a mother of an adopted son who is almost 2, I was debating on that fact of we NEED to have another child, or the fact that we can’t let him grow up as an only child.

      It is great to read other sources that only children are indeed happy and well rounded. So here is to lowering our resource footprint an raising our beautiful adopted son!

    • Dr. Peppers October 9, 2016, 10:25 am

      I’m way late to this comment section, but I have to say thanks to all of you for the positive thoughts on adoption. Our story is a little unusual in that we can (as far as we know) have biological kids, but our “firstborn” landed in our lives when he was 8 and we were just into our 30s. The road to adoption is beautiful and tragic and complicated – and it was right for us. We know some couples our age who have chosen to have no kids, and some friends with lots of kids (some through birth, some through adoption) – it’s all good! As someone who used to think I’d follow a more “traditional” path and get married young and have a boatload of “my own” kids, I’d encourage anyone to question their own assumptions and think outside the box about this phase of life. I’ve learned that “family” comes in all shapes and sizes. :)

  • Patricia September 10, 2014, 10:19 am

    I wasn’t going to have any children but ended up with what I consider two ‘only children’! I don’t think I fit on your chart. At 19 I had my son with my 1st husband and decided one was enough. For this, I was verbally attacked several times over the years by other mothers for being so selfish as to have just one! That marriage ended and eventually I met and married my wonderful soulmate and had a daughter. The kids are 13 years apart and really were raised more or less as only children and I parented for over 30 years – first as one of the youngest moms at school and then as one of the oldest. The kids were close until my son left home and now that they are both adults they are starting to become close again. Now I have grandchildren, and with them we really do curl up and read adventure stories together (and can send a cute picture to prove it) so hang on to that vision for the next generation MMM!
    PS Both of my ‘only’ children have literally dozens of really good, loyal friends. No suffering that I can see.

    • Melissa September 12, 2014, 5:10 pm

      I did the same as you! Married, had a baby, divorced. 18 years later, I had child # 2. I asked child #1 if he was ever bothered by not having a sibling? His answer was no. He said we showered him with love and he always felt lucky not to split our attention with other siblings. Now he’s got a younger brother and he told me that he’s glad he’ll have someone else with him to decide which nursing home to put me in. :-)

    • Kellen September 15, 2014, 12:51 pm

      I have a sibling 12 years older than me. It was always nice having a much older sibling around to babysit occasionally. And now that I’m getting closer to 30, we are also becoming more like friends.

      I have another sibling 1.5 years older than me, and we’re not really close at all.

  • Scott September 10, 2014, 10:19 am

    Sounds good on paper, and I agree with most of what is written here, but my wife was an only child and very lonely. I had a sister four years younger and we were very close. Seeing how close we still are as adults sold my wife even harder on wanting more than one kid. She wanted three or four, so I figure I will get off lightly having one more and stopping at two.

    • laura September 10, 2014, 11:08 am

      There seems to be some poor kind of logic here. Your wife is likely confusing her own life with her child’s. Just because she had shitty circumstances growing up (I had the same- very lonely, unwanted pregnancy – lonely single child), doesn’t mean her child will too. Thus is she wanting multiple children for her own benefit/peace of mind, or for her child?
      It may very well end up that none of your many children will feel they’re receiving enough love, and thus end up being competitors rather than best friends as intended. But if you the parents don’t understand your selves and your own motivations, who can tell?

      • Jaclyn September 10, 2014, 12:46 pm

        Laura, how could the wife possibly know if more children will benefit the life of her first child until everything is said and done? Especially since their first child (I’m assuming) is still very young. Of course they are making parenting decisions based on how they were raised. You can read as many books as you want, but your own life experiences will always influence your decisions. Almost every major decision I make for my son is based off me not wanting him to grow up the same way I did. At 11 months old, I can’t ask my son, “20 years from now, do you think you’d benefit from having a sibling or would you prefer to be an only child?” All you can do is make the best decisions you are able too until your children are old enough to express their feelings and desires. And even then, you still have to step in as a parent and guide them safely.

        • Scott September 10, 2014, 1:12 pm

          To take this a step further than just reading books, my wife actually has a degree in early childhood development. You still make decisions based on your prior experience. In her case that includes her own childhood, as well as a good amount of experience raising other people’s children for a living.

      • Scott September 10, 2014, 12:56 pm

        I think you are reading too much into this. She had, and still has, a wonderful family and was very much wanted. I am truly sorry to hear that you weren’t (or didn’t feel you were). There’s a big difference between dealing with poor circumstances and realizing your admittedly great situation could have been even better. I think you need to know the kind of person you are in this situation as well. We are not very social people and only have a few close friends we spend time with. Our extended family is also not very large. Having one more kid makes our family feel a lot bigger and we have seen first hand how much happiness that brings us and our son.

    • Druid September 10, 2014, 3:01 pm

      I think a lot of the loneliness that is perceived from raising a single child can be avoided by certain parenting techniques. If the parents are active with the kid and have a lot of time to build a strong bond then the child should not be lonely. Parents can also get the child involved in sports and other social activities at an early age.

    • crazyworld September 10, 2014, 4:42 pm

      I am with you on this…had/have a great realtionship with my sibling. Have an only child (not by choice, started late and could not have another). He is lonely many times and my heart breaks for him. You can have friends, but are they with you every evening, at night, weekends, trips? Sharing your experiences and thoughts with parents is way diferent than sharing with siblings, who would be preferably close to your age.
      Also depends on personality of the child. Mine is not naturally outgoing or confident about hilself, not into sports much. I am constantly trying to oraganoze play dates, which is itself a pain. We live in a regular suburb but kids aren’t really out playing in the street anymore. As he gets older, he will have to make his friends himself. His personality being what it is, unless it changes, he may not be as successful. Eventually, we will grow old and die. He will need to shoulder this himself. I can only hope that he has his own family before that happens. I don’t agree with the “studies” in this case.

      • Kamil September 11, 2014, 10:58 am

        Having grown up in a large family (5 sisters) myself, I can assure you that just being siblings doesn’t make you close. Just a louder Thanksgiving table! It helps to have shares life experiences and frame of reference (upbringing) but isn’t essential. I have several friends who are like sisters to me and much closer than at least two of my biological sisters. My husband and I have only one child who has always made friends easily but also something of an introvert (in the Myers Briggs sense) so is comfortable with the quiet evenings and mornings. Have you tried involving your child in activities other than team sports? Music, martial arts, dance, visual arts classes can be great ways of helping your child find a more compatible community.

        • Julie September 12, 2014, 1:30 pm

          I recommend Cub and Boy Scouts also to non-athletic kids. More outdoors oriented and he will have an instant set of peers in his Pack or Troop.

          • crazyworld September 16, 2014, 12:52 pm

            Yes, I understand there is no guaranty your sibling will be close to you. But there is a 100% guaranty that you will not have a close sibling, if you do not have one to begin with.
            My son, unfortunately does not like cub/boy scouts. And yes I have tried a full gamut of activities. Most did not hold his interest. Of the ones continued, those have not been a source o friendships at all since they have been outside the school system, so we only meet these people for a few sessions, then a new session starts and not everyone is in from the last time. And its not like people dawdle after the activity is done.
            Also, we moved to the US as adults and there is no close family nearby, ie no cousins either. I am doing what I can to encourage a lot of play time with a couple of kids at school that he enjoys hanging out with. Only time will tell if there are any long term friendships.

    • Andrew September 11, 2014, 2:02 am

      *shrugs* I guess it’s different for everyone. I have a sister close to my age. Growing up we just butted heads and fought as children. Once we got past that, all we would do is hang out with our own groups of friends.

      We were close for a couple years in our early 20’s, but then life got the better of us and we moved to different states. So even though I have a sibling, I personally wouldn’t consider loneliness of the child to be a reason to have 2. After all, that’s what friends are for.

    • Jessica January 10, 2020, 10:28 am

      Just a 37 year old only child chiming in to say that I’ve never been lonely as a child or as an adult. I was simply too busy playing with kids in the neighborhood or helping my parents around the yard to really contemplate how my life would be different with siblings.

  • Victoria Wheeler September 10, 2014, 10:20 am

    As an only child myself, I can attest from the child’s perspective that it was an excellent deal while growing up (All the attention! All the resources!).Obviously I am biased, but I also feel pretty certain that I turned out okay and did not miss out on anything huge by being an only child. (I am sometimes envious of the funny stories and fond memories my husband has of growing up with two brothers, however.)

    Only child-dom has only become somewhat more onerous now, as an adult in my late-twenties. My parents’ health is not what it once was, much less my grandparents’ and my great-grandparents’. There is a lot of pressure on me at this stage, as the sole child, to be that support network for them in their old age (as mentioned in the article), which is exacerbated by the fact that I live a few hours away. I do wish now that I had a brother or sister to share in the responsibilities of supporting my family. I suspect in the future, I will also wish I had a brother or sister to reminisce with about what it was like growing up in my family.

    • SR September 10, 2014, 10:59 am

      I am an only child as well. And I think that as my parents age there is definitely a benefit to not having siblings involved in helping them or caring for them. From what I’ve heard from friends, siblings rarely all agree on what to do or how to do it. There always seems to be one or more who don’t get involved and piss off the others. And there is usually one or more who just want to throw money at the problem while others can’t afford to. And, more often than not, it seems as though one ends up taking advantage of the parents by taking money or other things from them. There seems to be a lot of drama. Taking care of everything myself is much easier.

      • Dottie June 24, 2018, 6:10 pm

        Actually, go to any aging caregiver forum, and you’ll discover it can be a huge blessing being an only as parents age and/or become ill. Many times, siblings make one another miserable in those situation as there are a lot of battles over control of what happens to the parents, money, and even how much work each person puts in to care for the parents. My DH’s parents are aging, and he is an only. I am *thankful* we don’t have to deal with this kind of nonsense.

    • SisterX September 10, 2014, 12:52 pm

      This! My MIL was talking to me just the other day, saying how glad she is to have her brother to lean on as her parents age. For me, I can’t even imagine how crazy I’d have gone over the last couple of years if I didn’t have my brothers to lean on through my dad’s heart attack and mom’s diagnosis of early dementia. My husband is fantastic and amazingly supportive, but it’s just not the same as having a sibling.
      That being said, I still really don’t think that it’s an excuse or reason to have more than one kid. If you don’t want more than one, don’t have more than one. (Not that you were saying it as a reason to have more than one, I just wanted to be clear about my own view of it.)

    • Katherine September 10, 2014, 10:39 pm

      “I do wish now that I had a brother or sister to share in the responsibilities of supporting my family.”
      You assume that a sibling would be as conscientious and as involved as you. My sibling is still treating our mother as her main support network for her ongoing health and financial issues, while my partner’s sibling certainly does not seem to be doing his share of keeping my partner’s mother company, helping fix things around the house etc that my partner does. Complaining about siblings and how they are doing much less than their share might be more draining than being an only child.

      • chacha1 September 11, 2014, 12:51 pm

        My husband and I are currently engaged in the preliminaries of what is going to be a very long and drawn-out process of getting his mother safely out of her burdensome house and into assisted living. He should be getting help from his two siblings. One of them lives even farther away from my MIL than we do (MIL is in San Francisco, we are in Los Angeles, sister is in Seattle) and has a retail job. So sister obviously cannot do too much with regard to the frequent on-site actions required.

        The other one, an older brother, lives in San Francisco and is doing NOTHING to help. He is not even going over to help MIL take out the trash every week, which she is afraid to do because the house stairs are a deathtrap and she has already fallen once.

        The existence of a sibling does not in any way, shape, or form imply the existence of active help – or even of inactive support. This negligence is definitely taking an emotional toll on both my husband and his mother (and by extension on me).

        • Ava Rao September 12, 2014, 12:21 am

          Neither does the existence of parent in any way, shape, or form imply the existence of active help.

          While in reality a child has absolutely zero say in their conception, had I been consulted, I would have said “Don’t have even one child, but if you’ve already had me, please, for the sake of all things just and good in this world, STOP!”

          In my family, all benefit was routed to the parents and the children were abused & neglected. For five decades, my father played the brilliant, sadistic master who cultivated a grandiose public façade as a tireless PTA President and volunteer, while privately torturing his three children and his wife. His wife shared in the economic wealth generated as a part of the “parental unit” and, therefore, had a built-in incentive to stay.

          All gratifying things were routed to Dad only. In our family, every source of joy was re-coded. Holidays, food, money, and companionship were all re-programmed to be associated with panic, fear, withholding, coercion, and/or retaliation. Only Dad got those. Mom coped by grooming her three children to be her bodyguards-therapists-confidantes-caregivers by telling us that she was abused for our sake. To exit the insane asylum, I had to bribe Dad.

          The sibling I theoretically should be close to has taken on my Dad’s role. When I got sick with cancer and was desperate for family support, Dad came for less than a day and split the day between all the places where he could drink free wine or food, but left for his million dollar mansion without giving a penny of help.

          There are sometimes good reasons why adult children may not want to provide “free caregiving” for other members of their family.

          I also believe my decision to not have a child is really the greatest service I could provide to society, but I’m not getting a medal for not-reproducing-a-sadist.

          • JLW April 10, 2016, 5:12 pm

            Thank you so much for this comment. My own childhood and adult experience was very much the same as yours. I too have chosen to not have children, and am facing a lot of bizarre stigma and accusations of being cold and selfish for it. It’s really quite amazing.

    • Emily September 16, 2014, 3:50 pm

      I’m an only child as well, and very much agree. Did I turn out to be just about as well-rounded and social as everyone else? Sure (although, admittedly a little weirder). But the older I get, the more I wish I had someone that I could call and say “Mom’s lost her goddamn mind again,” and have them *really* understand what I’m feeling. I’ve also moved away from where my parents live and can’t help but feel like one day I will probably have to move back there because there won’t be anyone else to take care of them.

      I will say, though, I gained a WHOLE LOT more independence naturally than many of my peers. It drives me bonkers when I’m meeting up with someone and whoever gets there first is expected to wait for the other to arrive just so we can walk inside together and they don’t have to look like they’re in public alone. I’ve actually gotten the “you’re an only child, aren’t you” comment on numerous occasions because of things like this.

  • Lance September 10, 2014, 10:22 am

    We have one child. We had hoped for more, but it’s not in the plans. Life is hard with or without kids. I know marriages with or without kids that failed and I also grew up with a family down the street that had 17 kids and somehow that worked out (although I wouldn’t recommend it). Being a parent is just like money, you have to take the time to invest in your family. If you expect things to work out without some effort then good luck with that and get ready for some major disappointment and harder times. We would like to have more, but realize with one child we are set for life financially and already have our child’s college paid for at 5 years old. Money doesn’t drive our decisions for our family life planning, it’s our own to make (as suggested above), but whatever you decide to do in life just make sure you don’t half-ass it.

  • Geoff September 10, 2014, 10:22 am

    As the parent of a 5 year old only, I agree with almost everything you said. The only part I don’t agree with is not being perceived as a weirdo. I still feel the stigma (unless I’m just paranoid or I truly am a weirdo).

    • Kalena September 10, 2014, 11:54 am

      I was surprised to read in the OP that having only one child is stigmatized, but you and others are echoing that here. Well, imagine having NONE! Half wonder what’s wrong with you, and other half give you a sad, pitying look. I’m very happy and comfortable with my status and decision, but it’s always awkward for both parties when someone casually asks how many kids I have. Maybe I just need to work on my response.

      • Trudie September 11, 2014, 9:35 am

        Ditto. No kids here. Strangers sometimes ask, “And how old are your kids?” or “Do you have kids?” The answers are straightforward, but the response is always a bit pitying.

        It is by choice, but I haven’t yet settled on a response to the question. I don’t feel like I really owe anyone an explanation, but on the other hand I really dislike the “pity look.”

        I think I may say, “Our lives are as we want them and we have plenty of kids in our family to love.”

      • Dan the Librarian September 11, 2014, 10:04 am

        Untrue! At least where I live. My wife and I are DINKs (Double Income, No Kids), and the reactions we get, if any, range from jealousy to insane jealousy. We have friends with kids we can visit and spend time with when we want. But don’t have the horrors of poopy babies and selecting the right nursery school and paying for SAT study group, etc. :-)

        And of course, we miss out on things like playing catch (since our friends don’t appreciate baseball the way they should) and relearning the Krebs Cycle while helping with homework. C’est la vie!

        Note that the chart says childless folks can be lonely in old age. Isn’t that pretty common among folks with kids, too? Isn’t that the nature of growing older? Become old and grumpy and unpleasant to be around, so nobody wants to hang out with me anymore? Obligating kids to put up with me seems so unfair.

        • Trudie September 15, 2014, 11:23 am

          I think there are cultural differences in how people view the “kid thing.” Our community is very kid-focused, so we are an anomaly. I suspect that the pity response is not universal.

          I agree with your “lonely in old age” argument as well. I think that as families get more and more geographically spread out it’s not common that family are just going to be dropping in all the time once dear old Mom and Dad reach old age. I think there are a variety of needs (emotional, financial, caregiving) that it is not reasonable to expect children to meet. I think it is good for all of us to worry about that as much as we can ourselves; to make decisions about how we want our “twilight years” to be without burdening kids. By default, they still end up worrying about some of the unpleasant aspects, but I don’t think children are a necessity for warding off old-age loneliness.

  • Mark Ferguson September 10, 2014, 10:25 am

    I solved this issue by having boy/girl twins. Lol. It actually has worked out Perfect. They are three and it is work but twins aren’t as hard as many people think. They do the same stuff, are in the same stages of life and have someone their age to always play with or fight with. With kids staggered in age they tend to have different schedules, different interests and I think it may actually be harder than doing two at once.

    • misterfancypantz September 10, 2014, 11:22 am

      That was going to be my comment, but you beat me to it :) We solved the problem with twins also, ours are both girls, so I am thinking of having a 3rd to maybe get a boy, but that’s a crap shoot so it probably won’t happen.

      As far as siblings though, my wife’s best friend is her sister, and the age difference between my sister and I is almost 10 years so growing up it was different than in adulthood but we are extremely close now.

      Having a sibling is in my opinion is very important, everyone makes there own decisions and there is no reason an only child can’t be well adjusted and a multi-child family can’t have issues. We have several only children families in the extended family some are better off then others and some families with siblings are better off than others. I think like all decisions how you parent is more import than how many children you have, if you think it will be a financial burden don’t have more than one kid, if you think you can’t dedicate the time to more than one kid then only have one etc…

      I don’t think there is a formula or a right or wrong answer… I couldn’t imagine life without my sister and I am so glad my daughters will always have each other.

      • Blue September 10, 2014, 12:17 pm

        Yeah, but you can’t know that your kids will always get along and be friends and have each other. For every wonderful sibling relationship there is a terrible one, or estranged one, or worse.

      • Josh September 10, 2014, 1:53 pm

        Both of you beat me to it, your twins must be older and thus require less attention than our almost 2 year old twin girls (that’s my hope at least). Not necessarily by choice, but we went the route of 1yr of exponential sleep deprivation another twin parent mentioned below, although after seeing a few friends juggle newborns and toddlers I’m not sure that’s really any easier of a route. I also have a 14yr old step son so we’re doing diapers and sex talks at the same time but I wouldn’t have it any other way!

        As MMM and many others who’ve replied commented it’s definitely a personal choice with many factors involved that tend to change over time, once we had the twins my 4 kid wish list was reduced to 3 which probably better aligned with my wife’s desires anyways. A household of 5 on one income (daycare for 2 was almost as much as my wife’s social worker salary) is definitely a challenge but we’re increasing our badassity daily and have benefited greatly from the ideas on this blog and others reducing our living expenses significantly over the past couple of years and are actually saving more than when we were a 2 income 3 person household. Up to this point, working through the challenges of parenthood has helped us focus more on the important things in life and actually caused my wife and I to grow closer, something I hope will remain true as we continue on this journey!

        • Lori September 10, 2014, 8:32 pm

          We struggled to have a child for years. We both wanted to parent and had decided to parent the world at large then I unexpectedly conceived our son. Later we had our second pregnancy and it turned out to be twin girls. 3 babies in 2.5 years! It was grueling! But they are 10, 8 and 8 now and we are having a blast. I wanted kids because I could almost hear them calling me. My husband was fine with kids or without, until they were here. Now when he thinks how life would be without them, it almost pains him to think what he might have missed. We are growing mustaches to spend more time with them. There is no doubt it’s a huge commitment. I don’t recommend it for people who aren’t passionate about having kids. I’ve known couples who had them that should not have. I applaud people who have the strength to be authentic. The first act of love for your kids is planning them and bringing them into a world where they are wanted. It’s really all about knowing yourself and making mindful decisions.

          I am a little amazed to hear an argument to not have kids because of the resources they will consume. The same argument could be used against musical instruments, art and other senselessly beautiful things that ‘used up’ resources in their creation. It seems a strange kind of poverty to me.

          • Katie September 10, 2014, 9:36 pm

            I love the way you describe children.

            I personally have gone through the experience of losing a child, and I am so glad that I did not take on a set approach to the number of children.

            Perhaps I have a different perspective than some on here, but when I look at my children I do see individuals that are beautiful and worthy of existing for their own sake.

            I firmly believe that parents should not have children unless they want them, but to dismiss children as a negative based solely on perceived consumption is a very narrow view. I can remember the days after my son’s death when I was jealous of families that were broke financially but still had everyone. It was a strange sort of poverty that I had no choice in.

            • Joel September 15, 2014, 7:32 pm

              Katie, your story touched me deeply. We as well have lost a child, she was the second of five girls. We would love to continue to have more children but the physical strain of the pregnancies were starting to create issues for my wife. I wouldn’t be surprised if we adopt down the road. There is no greater endeavor (for us at least) than raising a family. The consumption /material aspect is not a very relevant part to my wife and I. Retire with 10million sans children or retire with 2million and a truly abundant life – no brainer.

            • Bpepy September 26, 2014, 7:10 pm

              Katie and Joel, I feel for you, for we too lost a son (see my post above). We feel like our children are a great blessing and I can’t imagine not having kids. Ours are very close to each other and close to us. (And I’m very close to my only sister). Two of them live very near us, which is their own choice, and the third lives a few hours away but we see her and her family often. We are retired (our kids are 35 to 44) and have no intention of moving anywhere–we love being near our kids! We never have worried about using too many resources by having children–we’ve always been frugal and saving, and now we enjoy our retirement (I was a stay-at-home mom, so I never really retired–I still cook and clean and such!)

        • Jeff September 11, 2014, 3:59 pm

          Having kids in diapers around seems like it would really help reinforce the avoiding unwanted pregnancy part of the sex talks!

      • Guillaume September 12, 2014, 2:56 pm

        I’m truly sorry for your loss Katie, and even though I suppose you can,t understand what it is like to lose a child until you do, I feel a lot of empathy for the hard times you must have gne through.

        Take care

    • Kim September 10, 2014, 11:31 am

      You beat me too! We have twin girls (fraternal) and I think it’s the best of both worlds, although I think boy/girl may have been better (for experience sake). However I’m writing this in the week after taking them both to college… ON THE SAME FREAKING DAY. So when you go through things with twins… you go through them very intensely because you’re dealing with two different children at the same time. My husband and I have divided and conquered a lot though, so good teamwork is essential. I agree that up to a certain point, twins can be easier than one, but about high school the tides change.

      • Susan September 10, 2014, 9:54 pm

        PFFFFFT, up at night with one baby? Amateur- my kids are twins, LOL.

        They are old farts now at 28 so my memories of feeding two infants in the freezing cold dead of winter in NYC while MTV entertained us all have faded a bit , but hey.

        Here’s a tidbit-parenting NEVER stops. Ever. And that’s kind of a cool thing, to me.

  • Mike September 10, 2014, 10:29 am

    We have three kids and I think this is about right. Having three is incredibly tough, sometimes rewarding, and always fascinating. I think less depends on how many you have, but more of what sort of people the parents are. We have friends that have many more than three and they seem to function very well. Others struggle with one.

  • Ryan September 10, 2014, 10:30 am

    “why not help others instead of creating still more need?”

    This is a pretty common view–that humans just use resources. The truth is that humans also create resources. It’s why Malthus was proven so staggeringly wrong. Population has grown steadily for hundreds of years yet poverty and premature death have plummeted, because the humans that have been born have learned to produce more with less. A human invented plows, tractors, trucks, and crop breeding techniques that, in developed countries, changed agriculture from being the dawn-to-dusk subsistence activity of almost everyone to being done by just a small portion of the population, who now produce enough food to feed the rest of us. This has freed the rest of us to do other things, like researching drugs that alleviate suffering or using a blog to teach others how to have happier lives!

    Your boy will almost certainly contribute more to the world than he takes from it. And while your choice clearly makes perfect sense to you, had you instead chosen to have a second, that human would have done the same.

    • David McKenna September 10, 2014, 3:15 pm

      Good to see a positive person with a positive view of humanity. So many others on this blog see human life as a pestilence, with nature and feel we are stuck in a zero-sum game of resources. Natural gas was not a resource until humanity figured out how to use, transport, and store it. Oil sands were not a resource until the same. While we should be careful using resources, unless we stifle innovation with regulation, bans, etc. people will come up with ever newer and newer sources of resources and solutions.

      Have we really reached the limit of what is possible with nuclear power?

    • KB September 10, 2014, 5:48 pm

      Thank you for bringing up this point. Children raised well -often by thoughtful parents who often decide on small families- grow up to be adults who contribute yo the world. Yes, for 5 years children consume and require resources much like a pet, and consume differently for another 10-20 , but they return giving to the world for another 50, 60, 70 years. I understand why people home in on the impact of the baby and child years as they are family planning, but it’s far more practical to consider the positivr impact of an entire adult life.

    • Weedy acres September 14, 2014, 5:18 am

      “Every stomach comes with two hands attached and every mouth is backed by a creative intelligence equipped to leave the world a better place,”

    • Money Conscious September 17, 2014, 6:03 pm

      Ryan – absolutely agree! Resources come from human ingenuity, not from the earth itself. Raising children is the least selfish thing one can do for the world — you invest 18 years (or more) in a little human so they may become a productive adult that others can employ.

      There’s no “right” number of children (unless you’re a horrible parent, in which case zero will do just fine). Children do well with siblings and without. A lot of people have cited bad relationships with siblings as further evidence that having only 1 child may be better. I tend to disagree; conflict is an important part of life and even if we don’t always (or ever) get along with our siblings, they teach us a lot about how to deal with others.

    • Bob September 21, 2014, 10:17 pm

      I don’t really agree humans are “creating” resources. Maybe 1,000 years ago, even 500 years ago, this was true…but the development of consumerism (which only occurred about 50-100 years ago) means we are using up more resources than creating.

      Consider that most jobs today do not “create” resources – other than farmers, water-based work, doctors, etc. Most people work in roles like retail, marketing, finance, etc. Even engineers and technicians, as their work often goes into consumer products rather than necessities.

      • Rick September 22, 2014, 11:35 am

        They might be difficult things to measure, but in what sense are we using more resources than we are creating?

        As to your other points, I think there is still a lot of progress going on in terms of creating resources. The engineers, farmers, doctors, etc. of the past 50 years started the Green Revolution, which gave us enough food, created the internet which has sped up the sharing of ideas, cured/controlled a swath of diseases, and started shifting us over to non-fossil fuel energy. They did this all with the support of the financiers, who provided the capital, and the retailers who, for a modest sum, brought all the necessities to their neighborhood, if not their doorstep so that they could focus on the engineering/farming, etc.

      • Rick September 22, 2014, 11:48 am

        And the fact that fewer of us are doing the “productive” work of farming compared to 500 years ago (or compared to many developing nations today) is actually a good thing. It allows everyone else to go off to the cities and get educations and work in the jobs that drive technological progress.

  • Chuck September 10, 2014, 10:31 am

    My new bride and I have been tossing this back and forth – originally we were all about having a litter of children with the mindset that: “We are good people living life the right way, we should raise an army of little badass minions that will be even better than us!”

    We are nearly debt free, and once the last of student loans are paid off we could simply not have kids, and likely have a 20-year career before retiring at 45. The two lifestyle choices are vastly different, but both very appealing in their own way.

    • Subversive September 10, 2014, 4:58 pm

      My wife and I have gone with the ‘army of badass minions’ choice (4 kids, 7,5,3 and 2 months), and chaotic abundance (with heavy emphasis on the chaotic part at this time) sums it up quite nicely. It’s pretty fun though, and I look forward to having a family bluegrass band or hockey team. :)

      • thegreenworkbench September 11, 2014, 10:41 am

        I grew up in an honest to goodness, string-strummin’, toe-tappin’, family bluegrass band (four brothers) and I highly recommend it!

  • Ellie September 10, 2014, 10:34 am

    My husband and I took the “no kids” route. I endured decades (my entire stretch of potential child-bearing years) getting unsolicited advice on how much I would regret that decision. Once I was trapped next to a guy on an airplane whose grief over not being a grandparent, because his only son and daughter in-law had decided not to have children, led him to tell me that I was making a terrible mistake. I even had a therapist who tried to convince me to have a child!

    Many of my friends and acquaintances have one child. My husband is an only child who never longed for a sibling. He was very close to his two cousins growing up, and that was fine for him.

    The people who, in this age of population explosion and diminishing resources, are still having large litters of children, those are the ones screwing up the planet. Responsible, thoughtful people who carefully consider the right number of children for them are doing themselves and Mother Earth a good service.

    • Zol September 10, 2014, 12:01 pm

      I also am not sure i want kids (have another 5-10 yrs to figure it out but still going back and forth). People think only having 1 is stigma try telling them you are thinking of having none!

      P.S. Assuming people aren’t mooching off of me i’m totally OK with them having as many as they want :)

    • JDC732 September 10, 2014, 1:19 pm

      Questionable argument here especially because it seems to be the richest, most consumptive countries that have the lowest population growth. As MMM has stated, it is the entitlement attitude and luxury habits of the first world that are driving wasteful consumption, not an over abundance of people on the planet.

      • LaPriel October 5, 2014, 8:00 pm


    • brokeatm September 10, 2014, 5:06 pm

      Please please please don’t judge everyone who has so many children. I am one of four children all born on different forms of birth control. The last was with an IUD. Birth control is not 100% effective and not everyone made the “choice” to have so many children. I hated the looks my mother used to get when she took us all out grocery shopping. Parents with 4 children also get stigmatized. I know of several families who didn’t get the choice of whether or not they had children. So, maybe these people are creating more humans who will take more resources, but as a previous poster said, I’d like to think my mother raised us all with an mmm mentality and we were put on this earth to better it. The three of us who are grown are doing just that. So think twice when you write something so negative about people who have “litters” of children (as my physics teacher in high school told me).

    • Mark September 10, 2014, 9:25 pm

      Ellie, Same here. I love my friends who choose to be parents, my childless gay friends, and my heterosexual friends who decided parenting wasn’t for them. We all seem to be having a fully human experience to me. I also look less harried than most of my parent friends and have vastly more free time and choices. I’ve grown to find entertaining the commonly surprised and fumbling reaction from parents, laced with a touch of pity, followed by a change of subject, after you say that you don’t have kids. This is usually after a younger parent asks innocently and enthusiastically, “So, do you have kids?!!!!” wink, wink, nudge, nudge). The response to your answer, “No, we don’t” is akin to the blank look one ALWAYS gets from debt-ridden, paycheck-to-paycheck normal Americans when you ever dare suggest that you won’t have to work until near-death. I also find that the older parents, on the other hand, whose kids are entering the sullen teenager period, increasingly respond to my statement with something like “Man, that must be nice.” I, in turn, feel a touch of reciprocal pity as I decide on the spot to go for a bike ride on a gorgeous afternoon knowing that my parent friends are spending their gorgeous day going to another eternal soccer game out in the suburbs or worrying if they are off getting pregnant. But god bless ’em, I respect their choice, am glad my parents were like them, and I know that I don’t understand their fulfilling lifestyle any more than they understand mine. Regardless of external factors like kids, we each get one life before we each take a very long dirt nap, so we need to get used to regularly shrugging off others’ well-intentioned, yet altogether biased and ignorant opinion about this or that factor and get on with creating and experiencing the thing in our own unique, fully-engaged way. Cheers.

      • earlybird September 20, 2014, 8:59 pm

        Mark, you very eloquently said exactly what I was thinking. All I need say is “Ditto!”

    • Catherine September 11, 2014, 10:36 am

      “The people who, in this age of population explosion and diminishing resources, are still having large litters of children, those are the ones screwing up the planet. Responsible, thoughtful people who carefully consider the right number of children for them are doing themselves and Mother Earth a good service.”

      I would suspect that my family of 7 doesn’t screw up the planet any more than a childless couple. We have purchased exactly two cell phones in 7 years. We have one TV and one computer. We grow some of our own food, pick apples from an abandoned orchard (with permission of course), walk to yard sales to purchase clothes, don’t travel by airplane which is a huge greenhouse gas contributor. Everything gets used by more than one person before it is either retired or passed along. Our garbage can is no larger than any of the others around us – neither is our house for that matter.

      Also, even though I have a litter of children, we have carefully considered the right number of children for myself and my husband. Implying that large families weren’t carefully considered is insulting.

      Only child, no child, many children – it’s a personal choice and I’m sorry that people feel the need to comment so much about your choice. Not surprisingly, I get quite a few comments myself.

      • Scientist with training in ethics & philosophy September 13, 2014, 7:23 am

        Your declaring it a personal choice doesn’t make it one. We still all use and contribute to a common pool of resources.

        Will your family still be using 2 cell phones and one trash can in 20 years?

        • Catherine September 14, 2014, 11:50 am

          It IS a personal choice. The impact may not be localized to my family, but the choice is very personal. And the point I wanted to make was that each child was carefully considered, wanted and is loved beyond measure by both of their parents and their siblings.

        • KBL September 15, 2014, 12:13 pm

          Sure they’ll be using more in 20 years than today. The children will also be contributing substantially more to society in all sorts of ways. For one example, they’ll be paying into Social Security which will subsidize the retirement of many who had no children of their own.

    • JB September 19, 2014, 10:08 am

      I will never regret not having kids and after about 10 years, we had to tell our mother to just stop with the “i want another grandkid talk”

  • Dan Wilcock September 10, 2014, 10:34 am

    Nice post. You are right to maintain that there is no “should” with this topic other than the necessity of taking responsibility for raising the children we choose to bring into the world. Since you retired early to work on this “project,” I can tell the subject is near to you. Perhaps it isn’t ironic that the post hardly mentions money at all and the language you use is kind of tender–not the usual “I have a fist you need to meet” lingo. You sensibly reserve that for truly dumb things, like watching lite beer commercials.

  • LeisureFreak Tommy September 10, 2014, 10:37 am

    I totally agree that it is personal and nobody should be questioned for having one or no children. I believe you should have as many (or not) children as you want to have as long as you can afford them both financially and emotionally. As you said, its a long term investment. Having more kids than you can care for is far worse of a human condition than having one or none. I am the oldest of 4. We had 3, my oldest a son. and his 2 little sisters about 2 years apart. All very different in their adulthood, all bring blessings. Our son passed away at age 21 and so the family is now 1 short other than in our hearts and memories. If you are fortunate enough to see the results of your investment into your kids you realize its one of your life’s biggest accomplishments.

  • C September 10, 2014, 10:40 am

    I have a brother and sister, and can’t imagine my childhood without them. However, I truly appreciated having siblings as we navigated the deterioration and passing of our father three years ago. Everyone’s parents die, but having someone that shared my history, vested interest, and grief was invaluable.

  • Chris September 10, 2014, 10:42 am


    This article is so perfectly timed, you have no idea! Our first child is 16 months old, and we randomly have the second child conversation. We made a rule that we won’t have a serious discussion until our daughter is two, but we still have the occasional check-in conversation.

    Right now, having a second child feels like a horrible idea, but everyone makes the age old argument about your kid having a friend to grow up with.

    Did people forget what it was like having two teen age kids in the house? I remember what I was like, and we were NOT friends…

    We’ve loved the experience so far, but doing it all over again sounds like a HORRIBLE thing to do willingly. It also seems like a financially irresponsible thing to do, not to mention each kid will get half the attention and focus that one kid would.

    I can’t predict the future, but if I had to guess, I’d say we’re going to be a one child family as well. If we really want a second child, maybe we’ll adopt instead. It wouldn’t be horrible to skip the early infant stage as far as I’m concerned and give some poor innocent child a leg up in the world.

    Thanks for the article!


    • Growingupgreen September 16, 2014, 2:35 pm

      I could have written this post except my daughter is now 2.5. We are so balanced and happy, is it cowardice to not want another child to upset that? Every parent of 2 tells me to do it, have the 2nd and I will be happy with my decision but I’m so torn. My husband does want a 2nd and he changed his mind from being ok with a adopted 2nd to wanting to experience the birth and upbringing of his own 2nd and a 3rd possibly adopted child (!). In fact I’ve set my own cut off date to 35 year (I’m 33 now). If I don’t get pregnant intentionally or otherwise by 35 I will go tie my tubes. That seems to be the only way I can force myself to make a decision and stick with it.

  • Sblak September 10, 2014, 10:42 am

    You ought to also give people permission to have no kids, as well as to have as many kids as they can responsibly care for. The number of kids a couple chooses to have should be decided by the couple and agreed to by both people in the relationship. Nothing is worse for a relationship than having kids while one partner does not want them. Some people should not have kids until they can change their situation and learn first to care for themselves.

    I am in the 3+ tier in your chart (four kids). In the pros section you flippantly note that multiple children lead to chaos and sports teams. That’s true. But in reality it is similar to having one child. I have deep one on one relationships with each of my children, and each has changed me, taught me something unique about life, humanity, and given me a unique sense of joy. It also does take more resources.*

    In your cons you say “someone is going to need to devote their entire life…” What you probably meant is “two people will need to devote their entire lives…” because one person cannot easily raise 3+ kids. I would say you need support of grandparents for more than one kid as well. No, not financial, but emotional support and babysitting. You should also add that you will experience multiple times the pain, worry, and exhaustion of raising one child.

    Whatever you decide, choose with your eyes wide open.

    *Consumption is not necessarily greatly increased with multiple children. It can be, but it’s not necessary. We never buy new, we live a small home, we ride bikes, we make our own food at home, we use hand-me-downs, and teach our children to care for nature and the world. I think of it as planting additional seeds of anti-consumption in the world.

  • Kye September 10, 2014, 10:42 am

    THANK-YOU!!! Deciding to experience raising children by no means requires you to have many. I had entertained the idea of having a second one last year, thinking I could hack the sleep deprivation if it stopped at one year… As my little insomniac just now started sleeping consistently after 21 months, “I’d rather set myelf on fire” has been the response in my head to the question of a second one. But in spite of repeatedly declaring no plans for another kid, my mom still insists on keeping a baby gate tucked away at her house for the next one, and I still get bewildered looks from (usually non-Mustachian) colleagues when I admit to not wanting more… despite arguing that I’ve seen little anectodal evidence that siblings will be friends or any of them will be successful or willing enough to care for declining parents…

    No, you have more than one because you REALLY REALLY want them.

    I’ll definitely be seeking out that book, soon.

    • Julie September 12, 2014, 1:49 pm

      I got tremendous pressure from Mom and MIL to have a second child. For us the decision was more for health reasons, but I was amazed at the comments from co-workers, other Moms, etc. Do what is right for your family. Our only child is turning into a wonderful young man and doing just fine without a sibling.

  • Erik Y September 10, 2014, 10:43 am

    Thanks for writing this. A lot of folks don’t realize what a serious commitment having kids is. The financial implications are real too. It’s not that you have to save for each child’s college so much as what choices you can make or not. When you have more kids the need for bigger housing, bigger cars and more stuff may limit how much you can save and when you can hit FI. Granted that most Americans have way more house, car and stuff than they need, but even buying eight bicycles is more than three and takes more space to park. We have six kids and all of the pros and cons you listed are true. Our friends who only had one or two kids are pretty much done and free, while we have two seven year olds :). Each family should think about what works for them and not succumb to outside pressures, as you said children require a lifetime of commitment and a pretty intense 16 – 18 years “hands on”.

    • jkenny September 10, 2014, 11:18 am

      Nice comment. My Mom (who had 12 kids) always said “If you stop to see if you can afford it, you’d never get around to having kids!” Having been raised in such a large family the notion of doing a written cost benefit analysis on having the right-sized family is startling. In the end, I think it’s all good as long as you own the decision and slather your life with love and laughter through all it’s unpredictable twists and turns.

      • Zol September 10, 2014, 12:08 pm

        I have to disagree jkenny. Knowing i can reasonably cloth/feed/care for a child is paramount in my decision to have a child or not. I’m fortunate enough to be in a situation where i can very much afford it but i know so many who struggle who simply can not. It doesn’t benefit the child or the parent if the parent can’t reasonably afford the child. This is just my personal opinion and i don’t mean to offend. However if you don’t believe me try to volunteer/support in various (less well off) towns with the church or local youth groups or homeless shelters and you’ll see the other side of what i’m getting at. It’s heart breaking in a lot of instances.

  • TMAT September 10, 2014, 10:47 am

    I have one child who is now five and went through many of the same feelings you did. I read the book “One and Only: The Freedom of Having an Only Child, and the Joy of Being One” by Lauren Sandler (borrowed from the library, of course), which makes many of the same points you make here. Basically, her end conclusion is that you should only have multiple children if it is something you (as a parent) truly want, and not just because you think it would be better for the first child. Only children are no worse off in any metric than children with siblings (and by some measures, only children have advantages — most notably with respect to parents’ resources, both financial and emotional). For anyone debating having multiple children or just looking for reinforcement of their decision to have only one, I recommend this book.

  • Emily September 10, 2014, 10:47 am

    When our daughter turned one we decided to not have any more. We get push back from relatives all the time. The big decision now is when to get the snip….

    • Laura September 11, 2014, 7:17 am

      Hi Emily. The first year of raising the first child can be the hardest. The second child, born three years later, seemed so much easier because we had some experience. You may want to consider waiting until your child is 3 before your husband gets the snip. The snip can sometimes be undone but there are no guarantees. I have two friends you had the snip shortly after their child was born and later changed their minds. The reversal worked for one but not for the other.

      • Emily September 11, 2014, 10:38 am

        She almost two and a half now and we’re even more sure now. We haven’t been able to come up with any reason that is good enough for us to have another child yet. If I got pregnant by accident we would be very excited. But I doubt that we would actually make the choice to have another child. Our one is right for us.

  • Sarah C September 10, 2014, 10:49 am

    I am the happy parent of an only child who will stay that way. I love my brother and am thankful for his presence in my life, but in no way feel that I am robbing my child of something essential by not giving her a sibling. I really learned to feel ok about this choice when I heard one mom of three say that when she and her husband had two kids and were thinking about having a third, they both just had this feeling that “one place at the dinner table was still empty.” I brought that analogy to my husband, and we agreed that our mental “dinner table” feels complete with just one.

  • Brandon September 10, 2014, 10:49 am

    Don’t forget that many of the reasons our society has historically encouraged having children (and more children than fewer) was that it ultimately did fill an important need – taking care of owns parents in their old age. As people have fewer and fewer children, (and Social Security status today proves this to be true), there are fewer working adults (and children) to care for the elderly/retired. Historically, parents would have many children in almost a selfish manuever (if you can call it that) to ensure that they will be well-cared for as they get older.

    Just want to throw this perspective into the mix.

    • Dr Bill September 10, 2014, 3:07 pm

      It’s an important one, Brandon, to be sure. There will be more parents living with their children as benefits are inevitably cut in the homes where, for lots of different reasons, the retirees lack the resources to withstand a societal hit like that. So, did you Teach Your Parents well? (Crosby, Stills and Nash)

      • CT September 10, 2014, 4:58 pm

        Brandon, historically (and even today in the US & abroad) there are other reasons too. If a family had a lot of land/wealth they needed someone to inherit it (once upon a time that meant sons; but because male/female was luck of the draw families were large to give adequate #’s of sons). Land is power! Also, children worked to add support to the family. Children as young as 8 yrs. had/have a slew of morning chores, watched flocks all day and then had evening chores. Other children worked/work in factories, or collect(ed) recyclables, sell newspapers & more. Some may say selfish to have so many; others may say survival.

  • MandalayVA September 10, 2014, 10:58 am

    When my husband and I got married, we’d planned on having one child. As the years went on, however, we kept finding reasons to put it off. When I sat down and really thought about it, I realized that I’d only wanted to have a child because … well, that’s what was expected of you after marriage. The idea of having to be completely responsible for another human being scared the shit out of me. When I made the decision not to have children, it was like having a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. It helped that when I tentatively broached the subject to my husband, his immediate response was “oh, thank God!” and to make an appointment for a vasectomy. I did get “bingoed” a couple of times–“bingoed” is a term used by childfree people to describe the standard (and repeated) arguments people with children will try to start with you, stuff like “don’t you want to give your father another grandchild?” (My response–“he’s got six he’s ignoring now”) or “who’s going to take care of you when you’re old?” One quote I’ve heard sums it up pretty well–“I’d rather regret not having children than regret having them.” Because the only thing worse in society’s eyes than not having kids is saying “I shouldn’t have had kids.”

  • superbien September 10, 2014, 10:58 am

    Thanks for being so honest about the impact on your marriage. Especially for difficult or ill or severely allergic or whatever kids.

    Definitely you get to make your own decision, and glad you found a good solution for you.

    My own childhood was a big family (6 kids) and I am so thankful. Several of my siblings are extremely close friends, and I like the others. (Note: not the case at age 12, for any of us). I think I’ll stop with two myself though… due to finances, time, inclination.

    My one row of thumb from observation is never stop at 3!!! 5 is also hard, but not as bad as the mean dynamics that show up with 3 kids. Either they are always the same 2 against 1, or there are treacherous shifting alliances, Survivor style. (Note: this bad 3 dynamic happens with adults and dogs too, not just kids) So no odd numbers other than 1.

    • Ellie September 10, 2014, 12:11 pm

      It depends a lot on the age difference and sex of each sibling. I had a two-years-younger brother and a seven-years-younger sister. I don’t recall any mean dynamics or fighting growing up. My brother and I adored our baby sister.

    • SisterX September 10, 2014, 1:04 pm

      As the odd man out in a family of four, this is BS. Sorry. I was the only female in my family and can’t even count the number of times I heard, “Ugh, we’d better stop. The girl has shown up and she’ll cry.” Never mind that the youngest was 11, 9, and 5 years younger than the rest of us. I was the one they picked on because of gender. We’re really close now, and they’ve all grown up to be amazing, non-female-hating men, but it still burns me when I think of how many times they excluded me when we were kids.
      As we got older and the older two stopped being so dumb, the youngest did get excluded simply because he was often too young for things. “Sorry, the movie’s R rated and you can’t go.” The number doesn’t matter, there will always be things kids choose to exclude one another based on, or things which will force exclusion.

    • DMoney September 10, 2014, 6:27 pm

      lol, I had long worried about the “middle child” scourge of 3 kids. Then husband and I ended up with twins on the second go round. I’m hoping this will free us from the “middle child” issues. First born is special because he’s oldest, first, etc. The twins are special because they are freaking identical twins and people think that is awesome (which it is). Too early to tell about the ganging up thing yet!

  • Paula September 10, 2014, 10:59 am

    My husband and I had kind of a sideways pressure about having children. His sister had two kids when we were married (who’ve since grown up to be wonderful people) and they were looking for cousins! But I was 42 and he 36 when we married, and I was not about to start a family in my forties- not saying I couldn’t have, but I didn’t want to. So the niece and nephew didn’t get cousins. Which will hopefully be made up for when we kick the bucket and leave them everything.

    • Ascalon September 17, 2014, 11:41 am

      LOL – I use this tactic on my Brother and Sister ALL the time. Both are currently single and I keep begging for cousins for my 2 little ones (in a nice, non-intrusive, but `have you tried dating websites`kinda way)

  • Big Guy Money September 10, 2014, 11:01 am

    I think my favorite part of this post is your vulnerability shown. Raising kids is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had the pleasure of being a part of, and for me seeing the ‘softer side’ of MMM is a nice change.

    For us, we stopped at 2 kids – 15 months apart. I always joke that if we would’ve had our son first, we would’ve stopped at one. That Little Guy was not happy at all for his first year on this earth, and an entire summer was spent holding him and bouncing up and down on the edge of our bed because it was the only thing that settled him down. It was very rough. He was about 2 years old when we divorced (we didn’t divorce because of it, but I’m sure the stress didn’t help anything).

    Thankfully, we had the unique opportunity to get back together, re-marry each other, and do things the right way. Our life now is better than I ever dreamed it would be. We’ve (mainly my wife) tossed around having another, but our family is complete. Frankly, I don’t think either one of us wants to go back to sleep-deprived zombie mode.

  • Sean September 10, 2014, 11:04 am

    I am an only child and I wish I had a sibling. It might’ve been a product of having parents that are not very social and by extension they weren’t that social with me. I was also very shy growing up so having someone I dealt with every day might’ve helped with that. But, it might be more of a case of the environment I grew up in and the idea that forcing me to interact with someone else my age rather than the fact that I was an only child. I bet if my parents were more outgoing and social I would have a different outlook.

  • Tara September 10, 2014, 11:17 am

    I have known since I was a child myself that I never wanted to have children. I am 48 now and have never regretted this decision. I would have preferred to be an only child when I was a kid and am not close at all with my only sibling, but now that my parents are getting older and he lives very close to them, I am glad to have him around to help them out so don’t have to worry so much. So it ended up being valuable having a sibling from that perspective, but I did not enjoy it at all growing up. We have nothing in common and only see each other twice a year when I am visiting my parents. Once they are gone, I doubt we will have much contact, but who knows.

    • Diane' September 11, 2014, 2:30 pm

      Tara, I knew that I did not want kids as a teenager. Everyone said ‘wait until you’re older. I waited. No change. Everyone said ‘wait until you meet the right guy’. I did. Nothing. Everyone said ‘wait until you’re married’. Happened at age 24. Nada. Then finally, ‘wait until you’re biological clock starts ticking’. Tick tock, I’m 43 and no change and no regrets. Having kids is the BIGGEST decision you will ever make in your life, and letting people influence you into something you don’t want or are not prepared for may end up being your biggest regret in your life.

  • Amanda September 10, 2014, 11:23 am

    It’s amazing how we think we know everything about raising kids right before we actually have kids. I used to think there was a right number to have and a right spacing to have them at. At this point I have seen an exception to every rule and just tell people that there is no one right way, just what works for your family.

    I have to admit, it might be harder to just have one as they get older. Having another is built in entertainment for your first so they are not always looking to you. But as long as the parents are willing to interact with more with their child to compensate it’s fine.

    We are about to have our third and I think we are probably getting as much grief as someone who has decided to stop at one. Somehow having anything but two kids is wrong, but we decided to just do what works for us a long time ago.

    • Laronda September 11, 2014, 8:47 am

      I completely agree about people (myself, too) thinking there is a “correct” number and spacing. Our “two-years-apart” plan went out the window when the reality of raising a baby hit. And our ideal number went from four to two and then to three. The decision of whether and when to have kids is like any other big decision in life: you do the best you can with the information you have and the endpoint you’re aiming for, and then life smacks you in the face and you adjust…and then readjust. If our third had been first, we likely would only have two–and they’d be quite far apart. She’s nearly finished us off with colic, multiple food intolerances, reflux, etc. Similarly, if we’d had our current crappy medical insurance with our first, his complicated birth and extended hospital stay would definitely have impacted our family planning. There are uncountable variables going on here, and I have no idea what those calculations look like for others; therefore, the best I can do for them is keep my mouth shut :)

  • EMML September 10, 2014, 11:24 am

    I also agree that it is a very personal decision. Personally, I prefer more than one, but I totally get the arguments for wanting to be done. I have an almost 2 year old and an almost 4-1/2 year old. Life was way easier before they came around, and it will be easier when we no longer have to modify our entire lifestyle around their wants and needs. Still, they bring us a lot of joy, and I do believe that they bring each other joy as well.

    I’ve been friends with a few only-children that desperately wished that they had a sibling. I remember wishing for more siblings growing up, as there weren’t other kids to play with in my neighborhood.. I have a half-brother and half-sister. Even though I don’t get a ton of help from them in caring for my mother, at least I get a little from my brother. It was helpful to have them around when my dad died as well. Lately, I have been hearing more and more of only-children that like being onlies. I think that maybe society is set up better for them now than they were 30 years ago. It’s more common, and it’s easier to interact with peers over the internet, than it was over the phone back when I was growing up.

    The overpopulation argument bugs me though. If the people who care about the earth have less kids, while the rest reproduce with abandon, what do you think we’re going to end up with? More people that don’t care about the earth. To respond to that argument, I would counter that people with good* genes should reproduce as much as they can stand and are able to raise their children well. If all the smart, healthy, caring people end up with much fewer children than the rest of the population, what do you think will happen to the proportion of smart, healthy, caring people in this world? We will be overpopulated by more people that aren’t as smart, healthy or caring, which, I believe, would exacerbate our environmental problems.

    Obviously, you can contribute in other ways by teaching/guiding children that aren’t your own, or even starting a blog and teaching/guiding thousands of adults. I was just taking the logic out to a much larger scale, and down several generations. The Idiocracy argument, if you will.

    *you can decide what you consider good genes are for yourself. That are many different good traits you can have, I just picked a few for an example. Obviously, not all are genetic, but a caring person is probably more likely to raise children that care about our planet as well.

    • ellie September 10, 2014, 11:37 am

      YES! THANK YOU. “The overpopulation argument bugs me though. If the people who care about the earth have less kids, while the rest reproduce with abandon, what do you think we’re going to end up with? More people that don’t care about the earth.”
      It’s just as rude, judgmental, and off-putting to be told not to have kids as it is to be told to have kids.

    • Charles September 10, 2014, 11:51 am

      Best comment so far!

    • DP September 10, 2014, 12:17 pm

      I agree with this comment about overpopulation. To take it one step farther, I think that it’s extremely pessimistic to assume that one more child invariably results in a net loss of quality to Mother Earth. I completely agree that it’s up to parents to decide how many children to have, but don’t feel guilty having another child because you think that child is going to consume too much of the earth’s resources: who’s to say that child won’t contribute to exciting discoveries to combat world hunger or pollution?

      • JB September 10, 2014, 12:22 pm

        The United States has land for days and days. We are far from being overpopulated. China and India have 2 billion people. We have 350 Million. Many cities will have to start to build up instead of out if they think they are running out of land.

    • Druid September 10, 2014, 3:32 pm

      “The overpopulation argument bugs me though. If the people who care about the earth have less kids, while the rest reproduce with abandon, what do you think we’re going to end up with? ”

      I wonder what the world would be like if every couple(good and bad genes) focused on raising one quality person? There is a chance that smarter parents will end up with smarter offspring, but it is guaranteed that these smarter people will contribute less individually due to the extra energy expended on parenting a large family.

      A person who has the potential to create life changing technology today may not do so because he has five kids in tow. I am not qualified to know which scenario results in the best end result, but I do wonder if the world would be better off with the great minds of today not counting on their children to compensate for their lack of production.

      • tr October 26, 2014, 5:41 am

        Druid, yours is the best comment I’ve seen in this thread, for so many reasons. I agree that humanity should strive for quality, not quantity–both in terms of contributions and in terms of quality of life. (I.e, the earth’s resources can provide wonderful rich lives to a reasonable number of people–or lives of hardship for excessive billions). But I think your most important point is to not discount the potential societal contributions that the current generation could be making if they weren’t burdened with so many kids.

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow Jeff September 10, 2014, 11:28 am

    Do you think that Regret could also be a con of not having a child/children? Looking back with regret could be worse on your pysche than the missed fundamental experiences.

    I wonder if you would consider writing an article in which you address Regret.
    For many people regret is debilitating and prevents them from taking corrective action. In a financial sense, someone might regret not having started saving sooner or all of their over-the-top consumerist purchases that got them into severe debt.

    PS – I listened to your interview on Listen Money Matters and was pleasantly surprised to find out that you too are fascinated by the universe. You should check out Brady Haran’s channels, http://www.sixtysymbols.com and http://www.deepskyvideos.com. All of his channels are great and provide high level information in an easily digestible way.

    • Mrs. Money Mustache September 10, 2014, 11:39 am

      Great point! Regret is something a lot of people have trouble with and I think the second child is sometimes a way to ensure there are no regrets. I also hear a lot of people say: “You’ll never regret having a second, but you may regret not having a second.”

      MMM and I are not prone to regret – I’ve never regretted anything in my life and I don’t think he has either, but maybe for some people, this is a big part of the equation.

      By the way, my favorite Universe show (that I like much more than Cosmos) is “How the Universe Works”, which is also on Neflix. Thanks for those other recommendations – we’ll definitely look into them!

      • Kalena September 10, 2014, 12:07 pm

        ALSO: You may as well add “regret” to every single column and not just that particular one!

      • Kay September 10, 2014, 12:58 pm

        Before having a child we were sure we would have more than one. Mostly for the same reasons you guys felt – shouldn’t they have a sibling to play with and go through life with, would they feel lonely in the world. All that changed when my son arrived. Post-partum depression and sleep deprivation from a child with colic can wreak havoc on just about every aspect of your life. Honestly, we never really hear enough about how difficult it is to have a child. We hear about the joy, but not the counterbalance of anxiety, frustration and exhaustion.

        I am the type of person to feel regret and I know that I would have always regretted not having a child – no matter what anyone would have said to me. I’m so glad to have this experience. As a woman, being able to experience childbirth was fulfilling – for the reasons outlined above – this is literally what my body was made to do through thousands of years of evolution. That being said, my son is the most wonderful and most difficult endeavor in my life. I appreciate you writing this. I think more people should support the decision to have “just” one or even no children.

        • Julie September 16, 2014, 9:07 am

          Post-partum depression, insomnia and other health issues caused by childbirth were the reason we have only one child. Being a mother is one of the most fulfilling experiences I’ve ever had, but also the most difficult. I just couldn’t go through that again, and don’t regret our choice to have one.

    • Kalena September 10, 2014, 12:00 pm

      If you’re the type of person to regret every decision (zomg what if it’s the wrong one!?), then this indeed would be a “Con,” but if you are that type of person then you are probably going to struggle quite a bit with parenthood in general.

    • JB September 10, 2014, 12:19 pm

      We don’t regret not having kids and never will. We both grew up with divorced parents and neither one of us really has the parenting instinct. The con about “who will take care of me”? is a joke. There is no guarantee your kids will live near you or want to live near you when you get old. You might end up being a bad parent and push the kids away permanently. I do know I will have enough money to hire someone to take care of us if it comes down to that.

    • Mr. Frugal Toque September 10, 2014, 1:58 pm

      I’ve seen the Regret argument, but I don’t think it would actually work – even though it’s used very often.
      If you think about it, it’s probably not a rational argument anyway.
      Should Potential Regret be used by the child-having to encourage child-having in others?
      What you’re basically saying with this argument is “Having children isn’t much fun, but when you’re older, you’ll wish you went through the misery.”
      That might not be a healthy childhood or a healthy attitude toward parenting.

      • 5 O'Clock Shadow Jeff September 11, 2014, 11:34 am

        Whether you believe it’s a good argument or not, Regret exists among most people and torments them – not only about having/not having kids – which seems to be the only way that people interpreted my original comment. .

        MMM might help those that need it to not dwell on their spendthrift past but to focus on “fixing” their financial future.

      • Ellie September 11, 2014, 11:53 am

        Great point!

        Another one that has always puzzled me is the criticism of non-parenting as “selfish”.

        So…people have children because they feel an obligation to nobly sacrifice themselves? Riiiight.

    • Jen September 11, 2014, 7:10 am

      Interesting question, but it could be turned around as well. What if someone DOES regret having children/another child after succumbing to pressure/cultural norms? It seems as though that type of regret would be more difficult to live with and would also (probably negatively) affect another human who would not be here if the decision had gone the other way. It’s not a decision that can be reversed.

      (The question posed in the second sentence is hypothetical. I do not have children and do not plan to [infertility + joy and satisfaction with my status as an aunt/godmother]. I agree with MMM’s original premise that this is an incredibly personal decision.)

    • AEBinNC September 12, 2014, 12:33 pm

      When I was trying to decide to have children or not I read The Parenthood Decision. In it the author studied people that had children and those who didn’t. She found that people who chose to have children were happy with their choice later in life. The same was true for people who chose to be childfree. The people who did have regrets were those who wanted children but weren’t able to have them or never found a partner they were willing to have children with.

      My thought is that the way the brain works, it brings us back to our natural state of happiness. We become accustomed to the way our life was and it becomes harder to picture how things would have been different. Or, maybe by making an active choice it inoculates oneself from regret to a certain degree. Either way, it stands to reason to make your own choice the best you can and try not to fret. I am envious of people who always just knew, “I don’t want kids” or ” I really want kids”. I’m sure, having a higher degree of certainty also helps.

      • Nikki September 15, 2014, 11:27 am

        I’m jealous of people who have always known whether they wanted children as well. I have been unsure about kids my entire life. When I see my niece and nephew I always leave wanting children. But then I think about how much my daily life will change and I’m not 100% sure I can handle the chaos that kids inevitably bring into your life. I’ve read everything I can find on the topic and it just confuses me more and more.

        I don’t think I will have a lot of regret, regardless of what happens, because I can see great benefits in both scenarios.

        • AEBinNC September 16, 2014, 7:57 am

          I got involved in Big Brothers / Big sisters and volunteered at a local elementary school. Even though I enjoyed the time I spent with my “little” and the other kids, I always came home revealed that my wife and I are childfree. That’s how I knew children weren’t for me.

          If you come home and you would like children, I think that is a strong indicator of which way you should go. Just my 2 cents.

  • Beric01 September 10, 2014, 11:29 am

    Oldest of 6 kids here (recent college grad). I wouldn’t have it any other way – it truly is great to have a family of siblings to go through life together with, particularly as we’re pretty frugal as it is. And my parents are amazing. I wouldn’t mind having kids someday, and if I do, it definitely won’t be just one.

    The problem with having a social life with only people of your own age is that you don’t learn to relate with people of different ages. I actually get along way better with adults much older than me and younger kids than I do with my own age group. And that’s quite important, as at my current workplace everyone is at least 15 years older than me.

  • Mr. Frugal Toque September 10, 2014, 11:29 am

    The Toque family had a similar discussion after our second kid. Our original plan, which was actually written down somewhere, was “Two or more” children. We’re highly confident we’re done at this point, the second kid now being six years old.
    Do you have stats on the relationship between number of kids and divorce? I’m not questioning that you did what was right for you and your collective stress levels, but the fact that “40%” of your friends with kids are divorced would actually be lower than the 50% divorce rate (which probably varies by how you slice up your demographics).
    Separately, it seems that having more siblings in a house means that the children will grow up to have more successful marriages. (Possibly because they’re used to living with lots of people their own age? I have no idea.)
    If that’s true, we’re in a weird, generational flip-flop, where having lots of kids breaks up your marriage but makes your children less likely to break up in the future.
    In the end, though, there’s no arguing with people making the right decisions for themselves. You look at your stress levels, your financial situation and you make your decision for yourselves. Anyone intruding on this process – without explicit permission – needs to be shown a path to the door.
    It’s good to remind people they don’t have to cave in to these external pressures.

    • Tristan Hume September 10, 2014, 1:23 pm

      I may be able to shed some light on the statistic mismatches. The 50% divorce rate was a figure from when it peaked in 1980, it is significantly lower now (http://images.huffingtonpost.com/2008-12-10-divorce2.jpg). Also that psych today experiment looks far from a randomized controlled trial, I would hazard a guess that the effect is caused by higher socioeconomic status families having both less children and lower divorce rates on average.

      There was an excellent series of Freakonomics podcast on marriage and the issues of children, happiness and divorce that go with it: http://freakonomics.com/2014/02/13/why-marry-part-1-a-new-freakonomics-radio-podcast/. That’s where I learned that the commonly cited 50% statistic was a temporary peak.

  • DanielSon September 10, 2014, 11:31 am

    “The bull must remember that he was once a calf”

    Even though I am a huge proponent of being child free, it’s also very important to recognize that the above quote is very important.

    I do hate how people assume that having kids is an “automatic” thing or some kind of requirement in life..

    Good topic especially for a personal finance blog.. It’s a 300k chore these days, and not for everyone..

    • slay September 11, 2014, 1:09 pm

      i doubt MMMM are spending 13K/YR on their kid…

    • Mr. Frugal Toque September 12, 2014, 6:38 am

      It’s important to point out that Mustachians are people who can spend $24k per year on an entire family of four.
      Over 18 years, that’s about $432k for all of us. Even if you pretend the children are half of that (they aren’t, what with economies of scale and all), that’s only $216k for the kids, or $108k each.
      That figure about the cost of child rearing is usually inflated by assumptions about cell phone plans, constant wardrobe updates and sports cars when they turn 16. Please don’t believe such numbers.

  • Mrs. Money Mustache September 10, 2014, 11:33 am

    I just have a couple of things to add for those also thinking about this decision:

    One thing that made things a lot easier for us is that our child insisted he didn’t want a brother or sister, ever. For years his message never changed and to this day (he’s almost 9) he is very happy being an only child.

    I struggled with the decisions at first for a long time. Finally, we decided to wait until our son was 5 and see how things were going. It was a huge relief for me to just let it go for a while and live life normally. Lo and behold, when he turned 5, my resolve to stick with our one-kid plan was even stronger. I was sure at that point that we were done.

    It’s a difficult choice to make (and for many, there is no choice), but I think that it is an often overlooked absolutely wonderful choice. I love our little 3-person family.

    P.S. We never considered adoption, for our own personal reasons, but for some families this is a fantastic option. What a wonderful, giving adventure to embark on – not to mention what you’re doing for another little human being. It’s nice to see so many families adopting.

    • Miser Mom September 11, 2014, 7:36 pm

      About the “ps.”: A woman we know who has one child offered our family some clothes that her son had outgrown. Some of the outfits, he’d never even worn. My son (adopted) was amazed at this — why did she want to give us these brand new clothes? I explained that her son had grown too big for them. My son asked, “Well then, why doesn’t she just adopt a younger kid who can wear these clothes?”.

      Our family has sort of been in the throes of adopting kids to fill up empty space in our house, rather than getting a smaller house once our grown kids fly the coop. So I see where my own son comes up with this approach — but I don’t recommend this strategy for people hoping to retire early!

    • EscapeVelocity2020 September 11, 2014, 8:28 pm

      Did having a boy make it easier not to have another? Specifically, if the first were a female, would you have been so complacent about stopping with this one special girl??

    • Joe B September 16, 2014, 7:03 am

      My child/children wouldn’t have a say in the decision making process.

      • Nicole November 2, 2015, 1:11 pm

        Yeah. I thought that was odd too.

        • Mr. Money Mustache February 24, 2020, 9:12 am

          Wow, this is an interesting sentiment! Joe and Nicole, I’m not sure if you two are parents or not, but it sounds like you subscribe to an authoritarian belief in parenting, like “It’s my house so I set the rules.”

          I have not read enough studies to have any idea if this is a good strategy or not, but I will still share my own, somewhat different thoughts:

          1) as a kid, I was always given a voice in the household and left to make my own decisions. Whether or not to do my homework, when to come home at night, etc. This worked very well for my (very stubborn) personality type, and I chose to do well in school and take good care of myself. I definitely feel this has influenced my path in later life too, very much for the better.

          2) Most kids are born obedient and easy to mold, but some (for example me and my son) were trouble since the day we were born. You could NOT control us no matter what – there is just no limit to how much we will fight back. Taken to the extreme, the only way to override a will this strong is to keep your child in a jail cell. So you need to appeal to a child’s logic and self-interest instead.

          But I admit this is kind of off-topic. The real point is, “should you ask your existing children when considering whether to add more?” – and the answer is “if you value their opinions as members of the household”

          In our case the answer was a clear yes, especially since the main reason we were considering a second child, was to end up with two people who would be each other’s loving siblings for life.

          • Can we talk more about this? February 24, 2020, 12:16 pm

            If your child had been very vocal about wanting sibling how much would that have pushed you in the other direction?

            Would there have ever been a scenario where you would have not gone for another if your first had really wanted one? (I mean other than you straight up couldn’t afford it, or some such clear cut reason)

          • Juan February 24, 2020, 12:56 pm

            Completely agree with MMM on this one.
            I’m an only child. Growing up my best friend had a brother 2 years younger and they fought ALL THE TIME. And it’s rough fighting, think bleeding noses, constant bruises and tears, etc. While that’s not everyone’s experience with a sibling, it definitely played a part on me asking my mom not to have any more kids (not sure if me asking had any bearing, but I sure would have been upset if I ended up with a sibling after specifically asking not to). It’s worked out well so far. I was lucky to have plenty of school and neighborhood friends and never felt alone.

            Now, as parents, my wife and I were pretty much 50/50 on whether to have another kid. What pushed us over the fence to try for another one, was my daughter’s constantly saying that she wants a sibling. If she was firm on “no”, I don’t think we would have tried.

            I’m not saying a kid should wholly make the decision, but I definitely think their input should be considered.

  • Matt V September 10, 2014, 11:34 am

    I appreciate that you have approached this subject delicately. Just as parents who want no kids or only one kid hear people chime in with unsolicited and inappropriate comments, people who have large families get a lot of impolite crap thrown their way too.

    My wife and I have one child (7 months old) right now, and are planning on probably having around 4-6 in all. While the first couple of months were a terror, the rewarding parts are coming very fast, and I feel almost ready for another already! My experience so far is that the difficult parts of having a kid have forced me to grow and become a better person.

    My chart looks very different from yours, and a large family may delay my early retirement by a few years to a decade, but as far as I see it, an ethos of embracing hardship to become a better person is pretty darned Mustachian!

    • Rebecca B September 12, 2014, 9:09 am

      I just want to second the idea that a large family will delay early retirement, but I’ve had 4 kids (all boys) and I really, really like them. 80% of the time they’re awesome and hilarious and not a pain in the neck, and quite frankly that’s a pretty good happiness rate for anything in life. I grew up in a large family, so did my husband, and both of our parents are still married. Honestly, kids haven’t been the biggest stress on our marriage: Money and debt have been. Would we have had more money if I’d worked and not had kids? Maybe. But my chosen profession would never have made me loads of cash (ever).

      I did meet a lady once who had 10 children; the first eight were docile and obedient children, but the last two were holy terrors (bless their hearts). So when the last two came along, this woman was like “I quit!” because they were so difficult. It always cracks me up thinking about finally quitting after a mere 10 (I don’t actually want to have 10, I just think it’s funny that 8 kids don’t make you wanna stop).

  • Prudence Debtfree September 10, 2014, 11:42 am

    It sounds like your little guy gave you quite a time as an infant. I remember once asking an older woman how she had handled the baby stage when baby wakes up crying every few hours through the night. The woman hesitated. “She cried once her first night at home,” she eventually said. Essentially, this mother had experienced having a baby without suffering sleep deprivation! I wonder what our world’s population would be if that were the case for everyone.

  • Sarah September 10, 2014, 11:46 am

    I’d love to see you update the Pros and Cons in the chart with the financial impact of having children. At ~$250K per child how much does that impact retirement? How many more years do you need to work for each child you decide to have? Call me heartless, but the decision to have children should be analyzed with the same degree of financial rigor as any other major life choice. Personally, my husband and I created a full ROI analysis looking at the costs of raising children and the return we could expect.

  • Clint September 10, 2014, 11:49 am

    We wanted more than our one beautiful daughter, but God had other plans for us. I hope that doesn’t mean MMM is God, because I get the impression MMM isn’t so sure about a supreme being … which means I might not really exist. :)

  • JD September 10, 2014, 11:50 am

    In my experience, and that of my family and friends, costs don’t really double with the second child. Even children of the opposite sex can wear hand-me-downs (tee-shirts, onesies, knit shorts, sneakers) for several years so clothing costs don’t have to double. Food costs didn’t go up 25% when we added the second child to our family, nor did it for others I know. We just had fewer leftovers. We didn’t outfit a nursery all over again; we used the same stuff, including cloth diapers, and the second child played quite happily with the first one’s toys, bike, etc., as she became old enough. Books were shared the same way. I got a discount at daycare for having two there, a discount at the dance studio for two students, and a discount at some functions and other classes, etc., so those costs, while increased, weren’t doubled. I even got assistance with financing their college because I had two in at once. So the idea that costs double doesn’t hold true for me at all, and a badass person can always find cheaper ways to raise a child or children than statistics claim. I sure did.
    I would never argue that an only child is automatically deprived — he or she usually isn’t, and often has a very, very fine life — but I would argue that for some only kids, the lack of siblings will be felt in their older years. When Mom and Dad are gone, or senile, and the aunts and uncles are gone, the cousins long moved away and out of touch, it can leave a middle-aged adult aware of how much he or she depended on a parent or parents for family stories, history, facts, birth family companionship and heck, old medical histories. I have seen this, not for me, but for my spouse, some friends, and an in-law. The older I get, the more I am grateful for my two siblings, never mind the bickering we always did as kids. We love each other dearly now and with the loss of our parents, are even closer than ever.
    One other comment — I’ve read that Germany has a large amount of childless couples, and that it is actually a problem for the country, so that they are trying to actively encourage child birth. Is this true? Have you seen this information? If so, what do you think?

  • Edith September 10, 2014, 11:53 am

    I’m an only child and there’s not a day I have regretted it. You can’t miss what you have never had, the same way you can’t miss cigars if you have never smoked one, or red lobster you’ve never tasted. Being happier does depend on relationships, but they don’t have to be blood related.

    I consider my friends brothers and sisters, cherish their companionship and dedicate time to them. I don’t have any cousins either, because my mom is an only child also, and my dad’s brothers and sisters didn’t have any children. People see me sometimes as a lonely person when they learn this, but they don’t take my social life into account. My parents have given me everything I could possibly need to get ahead in life, and I learned a lot from being around adults while growing up. Another advantage is that I’m not jelous at all! I have never had to compete for someone’s attention and love, and I’m not used to being compared to others, so I’m not of a competitive nature!

  • Magpi September 10, 2014, 11:55 am

    There are so MANY variables and meanings that children have to us. I have no children, my husband has two. One we see sometimes – she’s grown, but is mentally behind her peers, and is routinely sabotaged in any development of life skills by other family members, who enable her dependence on them to fulfill their own self-definitions. The other he lost in custody battles, and wishes he knew. Each of us has a sibling – mine I was very close to, and wish I talked to more, but she’s across the country, we’re both very busy, and we don’t share any friends. His was 14 years older, not close at all, and we’re just starting to see her a little now. Both my sister and I are wary of our own father, and not willing to ‘be there in his old age’. Children come, or they don’t. They ‘succeed’ (any definition) or they don’t. These ideas we pick up about what children can be to us adults…they’re myths. The only universal truth I have seen in my or my friends’ experiences is that we learn and grow when we take care of someone. (But that someone need not be a child.)

    I regretted giving up my childbearing years to my first husband (adamantly against children), married someone who was happy to raise more with me…and then discovered I didn’t want to share ‘us’ with anyone, didn’t want the sleep deprivation, didn’t want to realize years later I’d unwittingly perpetrated my parents’ sins into a new generation. Nothing is guaranteed, not passing on genes, nor beliefs, nor property. What IS important to us is living the good life in this season – whatever, and whoever might be involved in that, for whatever the season might bring. (We might become foster parents. But not yet.)

  • Mata September 10, 2014, 11:57 am

    I’m in a unique position. My parents split when I was young, and when I was 25, both had new kids. One had 2 kids that are one year from each other, the other had only one kid.

    This is what I learned:
    1. You shouldn’t have kids in your late 40s, your body is not meant to, you don’t have the energy for it. It’s far easier when you are in your 20s and 30s.
    2. Unless you are wealthy enough to have a nanny, then it’s far easier. This is why celebs and some career people are able to do the kid thing later in life.
    3. An only child in the give a lot of attention stage (0-7) is actually more work in a lot of ways. The two kids a year apart with each other will play a lot with each other and become built in attention occupiers once they are 2 or 3+. You will actually have more free time with two kids than one that way. The one with an only child quickly realized this when a relative with a year older child came over. Their kid didn’t ask for attention constantly and preferred to play with the other kid than interact with her parents. You can approximate this by making the kid constantly play with other kids in the neighborhood, but that is harder in the earlier years, and with our helicopter parenting styles preventing ‘free range kids’ that we had 30-40 years ago, it’s going to be harder to find other kids for your kid to play with constantly.
    4. Kids scale, 2 is the cost of 1.5, especially if you don’t live in expensive places, or do things that have linear unit costs with them like soccer camp.
    5. When siblings have a large age gap between them, they might as well be only children because they wont be too interested in playing with each other.

    • Bob Werner September 16, 2014, 10:35 am

      Opposite point of view here. Our oldest of 7 is 29 our youngest is 7. I was 49 and wife 45 on the birth of our son. He in many respects is an only child much of the day. He requires almost no attention. From age 3- 5 he spent the days occupying himself while I rehabbed the basement. No problems.

      We spend about 1 hour per night of enjoyable reading and interaction time. Do I have the energy of a 25 year old. Probably I do, as most of them I meet are lazy ass, screen addicted and immature. Do I have much more patience and wisdom. I sure think I do. Do we have a nanny. Nope.

      We worried that he is socially not clicking with his peers. This is probably true to some extent. He is shy. But I think this has nothing to do with genetics and not so much to do with not having close siblings. He is extremely bright. Being the youngest in his second grade class of 200, he excels at reading and math. I think this is because mom and dad read and do math with him everyday.

      I believe it was BF Skinner who said that in a perfect society the young should have children in their early twenties and that the grandparents should raise them.

      From my perspective of 55, I think that would work fine.

      In a perfect MMM world, readers here should be FI by age 35, so parenting as many kids as you like would be a breeze without money and work pressures.

  • Kalena September 10, 2014, 12:06 pm

    I have several (SEVERAL) friends who are still supporting their kids after age 20 (some well after age 20). I’m sure for the MMM crowd it’s easy to say there’s a cutoff, but when it’s your child, will you seriously kick them out when that time comes? Or not give them cash when they lose their jobs or have other dumb luck? I don’t know if I could look out for myself first in those situations, but I will say that it makes me much more confident and relieved that I don’t have any of my own.

    • Rocketpj September 11, 2014, 8:38 am

      I saw a comedian once who provided me with the solution for kids who won’t move out. Starting on their 21st birthday, the house becomes a clothing optional zone. Friends over, girlfriends, boyfriends, whatever – here comes dad’s saggy arse getting another cup of coffee. They’ll move out within the month.

      That said, I’m more likely to charge the kids ‘rent’ if they aren’t in school – but quietly put it into a bank account and give it to them when they choose to buy a home.

      • JB September 11, 2014, 8:47 am

        My parents paid for college, but it was cheaper back there. I was required to have a job most of the time. Not long hours, but something. I moved into my dad’s townhouse for a summer. never went back. Worked 4 jobs while trying to figure it out. Never thought about going back to the parents.

  • CincyCat September 10, 2014, 12:09 pm

    Here’s the sum total of our “should we have a 2nd child, and is now the right time” discussion…

    Mr. CincyCat: Hey, wanna play with a little fire?
    Mrs. CincyCat: Sure!

    9 months later… LOL!

    Wouldn’t have it any other way, though. Both of our kiddos are amazing, and we can’t imagine life without them.

    • CincyCat September 10, 2014, 12:11 pm

      I will have to say that we took rather permanent measures to ensure our family stayed at 2 kiddos once the little one turned five. That does take the whole “wanna play with fire?” fun off the table, though…

    • Sandmaninator September 10, 2014, 12:30 pm

      Hehe that’s awesome!
      Too many over think this decision, IMHO. Yes, it is a life and death decision, but, come on, we are just stupid mammals. Enjoy it!

      In the long run, evolution makes this decision for humanity. The math is, couples need to have 2.1 children to merely maintain population level. Below that, like we see in much of Europe and Japan, the population skews old and declines. Germany has changed it’s immigration policy to import more folks from abroad.

      Wife and I have 3 and we’ll be raising them with environmental sustainability as a focus. 5 of us in a Jetta TDI Wagon is a squeeze but, fine, really.

    • Frugal Paragon September 10, 2014, 1:41 pm

      This may or may not be how I wound up with two children… 16 months apart.

      • Big Guy Money September 10, 2014, 2:20 pm

        Ha! Ditto, except 15 months apart. I will say they’re closer than I ever remember myself being with my siblings growing up.

  • Robin September 10, 2014, 12:10 pm

    We have only one child and I always just EXPECTED that I would have more than one because that’s what you’re “supposed to do.” It took a long time to even convince myself that having only one would be okay and was probably the right decision for us. I don’t know why there is such a stigma behind having an only child. Sometimes people talk to you like you’re doing your only child a disservice by not giving them a sibling, but no outside perspectives should make you question this very personal decision.

  • W September 10, 2014, 12:12 pm

    I completely agree. Its very mustachian to be skeptical of the “Right” way to do any thing.

    I can’t resist dropping a counter point in here in the form of a book, though:
    which has a very mustachian premiss. Namely, one probably underestimates the joy that “future you” will derive from having more kids and over values the pain that current you will endure with another small kid. While not spelled out in the book this is similar to how many people have trouble saving because they don’t value “future you’s” desires enough.



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