453 comments

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.

 

 

 

 

  • Katie September 10, 2014, 12:15 pm

    Yes! That you for this post. My husband and I have only one child, and that is how it will stay for a number of reasons. Among those reasons are the fact that I can at times become a little cranky with raising a 3 year old, and I feel that my crankiness would increase with each child, making it unfair for my husband, son, and myself. My husband and I are also planning on semi retirement in 7 years, and are worried about how multiple children might affect that dream. Third, as a parent of an only child, I feel as though we are able to wring each and every little experience that we have with our son out to it’s fullest. I feel we might lose that ability stretching our parenting skills over multiple children. I plan on taking our son on a long camping trip this summer, just he and I. My husband is a chef and I am a teacher, so he will not likely be able to go with us since he does not get the time off that I do. A trip like that would be very difficult if we had multiple children. To each his or her own when it comes to how many children, but we are content with one. By the way, I myself am an only;)

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  • jessica September 10, 2014, 12:20 pm

    We had our 2nd when our first was 5. The experience was enlightening! I didn’t realize how much I learned through the 1st that made the 2nd so easy in the been there done that, enhanced skills way. Perhaps this is why 2nd children tend to be more mellow?

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    • WageSlave September 10, 2014, 12:39 pm

      I think it’s just the luck of the draw. Our first was an easy baby (though semi-hard due to “new parent syndrome”). Our second was so hard. She never slept during the day, and would cry if not held. Starting around 5:00pm until around midnight, she not only had to be held, but swaddled, bounced, and “shushed” continuously, otherwise she’d scream inconsolably. That lasted about six months. We used fancy (and crazy-expensive) amino acid-based formula and acid reflux meds, not sure if those helped or only kept it from being still worse. If she had been our first I would have stopped at one! Although my wife disagrees. :)

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      • jessica September 10, 2014, 3:05 pm

        Perhaps!

        Yes, our first was a nightmare experience. Which is why we waited 5 years for a second. I think having the tough one first made me very aware and prepared to ‘give it my all’ emotional ly and mentally so to speak the second time around (I was aware of what could come). I made to sure have care for the older sibling so I could dedicate a lot of time to the baby. I definitely think if my first was easy I would have had a second thinking differently!

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    • EMML September 10, 2014, 12:40 pm

      I think part of it is that you stop trying to be so perfect too. When it was just one, I would fret when my 1st son didn’t eat dinner, or I would try to cater to him more. Now, its like, if you don’t want to eat this, tough, I’m not making different food just because you decided you don’t want this today. 15 minutes later, I like tacos now, mommy! Good.

      Reply
  • insourcelife September 10, 2014, 12:20 pm

    My wife and I have a 2 year old son and a cat all living in a 3,200 sq. foot home. We always joke about needing to have another child just to somewhat justify our big house :) Joking aside, now that the memories of sleepless nights and stress are fading we started talking about having a second child. Both of us would like our guy to have a brother or a sister. Probably because both of us have siblings of our own and feel that it was a positive and important part of growing up… And if the second kid is not in the cards then I see a real estate move à la MMM in the future!

    Reply
  • Justin September 10, 2014, 12:23 pm

    I wish I knew this before I had kid #2 and #3. No one told us. At least they aren’t very expensive.

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  • Alain September 10, 2014, 12:24 pm

    I only have one kid as well, my daughter Andrea, but do you realize that there is negative population growth in all the industrialized country in the world? The only reason why the U.S. has positive growth is because of the immigrant. It is nice as a parent to have just on kid, but It is strange to think of what our demographic will look like 40 years into the future.

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    • Mr. Money Mustache September 10, 2014, 3:21 pm

      Sounds great to me – the whole world could use some negative population growth, and especially in the richer countries where we consume more per capita!

      I feel that the economic problems of a gradually aging population are much easier to solve than the environmental issues of a rapidly growing one. This is because even in the most conservative case, we still have millions of young people being born every year, being raised in an incredible surplus of food and educational opportunities, made possible by the technology we already have and continue to invent.

      On top of that, “old” people are turning out to be much more active, healthy, energetic and productive than we had assumed they would be at this age.

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      • Beric01 September 10, 2014, 4:13 pm

        Tell that to Japan.

        The problem is most societies’ welfare programs are based on the growing populations of the past, where the young support the old. If there’s not enough young people, either the old don’t get supported, or the young pay incredibly high taxes, thus demotivating them to work and pay taxes at all.

        After 2050, global population is expected to decline according to some UN estimates. This may have serious impacts on the ever-growing elderly population. As a Mustachian, this is the main thing I’m concerned about – that my taxes on my investments will need to go up extremely high to support all of the welfare programs, meaning that my ‘stache is no longer sufficient to last me for the at least 50 years I need it to.

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        • SisterX September 11, 2014, 10:43 am

          Your argument doesn’t actually convince me that worldwide population decline is a bad thing, just that an economic system based on perpetual growth is rather silly and should be done away with. Preferably before the population decline starts.

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  • Katie September 10, 2014, 12:27 pm

    This is something I am currently struggling with. We have 2 children, 2 and under. They are 20 months apart. To say it hasn’t been easy is an understatement. My 6 month old, who can sleep through the night if he wanted to, is currently waking every 2-3 hours. I have a trip coming up with him soon, so sleep training him isn’t a great option until I am home. For much of the past 3 years, I have been sleep deprived. I have also been either pregnant or breastfeeding for all but 2 months of the last 3 years. However, I wouldn’t change having these two amazing children for anything. Hubs says he is done, I am on the fence. I am asked constantly if we are having more children and I tell people, “can’t I just enjoy these two right now and decide that later?” And that is what I am doing. I know to add a 3rd quickly would be so, so hard on me, therefore, no matter what, we won’t even think about trying until our son is over 2. I am still full of all sorts of extra hormones, so we (really me) am just waiting to see what time will tell.

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    • DMoney September 10, 2014, 6:34 pm

      Preach! We had 3 in 19 months. First one and then twins. I’ve been pregnant or nursing basically for the past 3.5 years. Twins are now one, stopping the nurse about to re-take control of my body, woohoo!

      Hubs and I often wonder if we would have had the third if we had a choice in the matter. We normally laughed and shake our heads, “Probably not!” But of course we wouldn’t trade it. And it’s getting easier. Pretty nice having them all so close. Every day they play more and more together, entertaining each other. A joy to watch the way they enrich each other’s lives.

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      • Katie September 10, 2014, 7:20 pm

        Before I had my own child, I used to think twins “couldn’t be that much harder”. Now, people like you are my hero. ;) Even now, our children play more and more together, so I know it will get easier (or at least I keep telling myself as I walk around in a caffeinated zombie state).

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  • Birstles to Stache September 10, 2014, 12:29 pm

    I’m glad you take note of the chart’s “oversimplification”, because it really is just that. As the oldest of 3 I could not imagine my life without my siblings being there. As some of you have mentioned, only children do typically have more resources available to them and are thus much less likely to have the crippling student loan debt that multiple sibling children like I have. That being said there really is no better means (in my opinion) of social development, support, and love than that which comes with siblings. My brothers and I are all very different young men now that hardly agree on anything, but growing up there was nothing that we wouldn’t do for one-another. So many of the only children we interacted with simply were not on the same level socially that we were. Not to mention the fact that the three of us could basically enter any group of peers and be able to sway the opinion (everything from what was cool or not, to what games we played etc.). In essence I had a support system with me wherever I went, and while those with Mustachian values and lifestyles will ideally be able to provide much more time, energy, and care in the development of their child, as an adult YOU CANNOT BE THERE FOR EVERYTHING. You can talk with the teacher after school about the bully your child is dealing with, but you will not be there to help him up after he gets pushed down. You can talk to the parents of the child on his baseball team who makes fun of him, but you can’t tell the other boy to shut it before you kick his butt. These are the things that my brothers and I did for each other that no amount of parenting could ever substitute. I can appreciate your perspective, but I have to respectfully disagree. I embrace 2-3 additional years of student loan debt, for not having to worry in high school about being ridiculed because you were not messing with one guy, but three guys. Just something to think about…

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  • WageSlave September 10, 2014, 12:33 pm

    Hey MMM: you’ve been very open with your life and finances since starting this blog, though I’m often curious about life before the blog, particularly when your son was a baby. IIRC your timeline, you were already retired from your corporate job when he was born.

    In this post you acknowledge how hard it is to be a parent of a baby. In the first couple years particularly, that hardship comes from time demands and inevitable sleep deprivation.

    I’m assuming you weren’t working when Junior was a baby, or at least didn’t have any higher-priority time obligations. Would you have a different (softer) attitude about some of your hard-line, face-punching criteria for someone managing a newborn AND a full-time work?

    In particular, the DIY-everything mentality. I agree with DIY in principle, but it’s more “time expensive”, particularly compared to outsourcing. During the accumulation stage (pre-retirement), I suspect most people (especially those with young children) have more money than time. You only become “time wealthy” in retirement. As a parent of a 16-month old and a 3.5 year old, any additional DIY I would attempt would be at the expense of time with my family or sleep. The baby just started walking and literally needs constant supervision; the toddler doesn’t yet have the attention span to be interested in debugging a broken HVAC, or figuring out why the toilet keeps running.

    I about fell out of my chair when I read your comment in the last post where you said you’re going to start outsourcing your taxes. We outsource taxes and a few other things. Yes, it’s pushing back the FI date a bit, but it’s either that or miss out on more of my kids’ development (since I already miss so much due to work), or strain my marriage.

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    • Sandmaninator September 10, 2014, 1:24 pm

      MMM has lots of great advice but unfortunately, it is of somewhat limited use for the majority of people that are not in the MMM household’s unique situation. If I could re-do some past purchase decisions, perhaps I could have achieved FI before starting a family, but, here I am with 5yo, 3yo and 10mo kids and a full-time job. I have tried lots of DIY but it is very tricky to manage considering my other obligations.
      I put the 10mo in a backpack while mowing the lawn; I enlist the 3 and 5 year olds in spreading coffee grounds on the lawn; and generally try to think of ways to kill multiple birds with one stone.

      Having kids before becoming FI is kind of like being on the back side of the money wave but, ces’t la vie!
      It will take my family longer to get there but, still plan to be FI before 50 (hopefully before 45).

      Reply
  • moreofus September 10, 2014, 12:33 pm

    I would like to second the truth that costs do not double. “Double” how anti-moustachian. I have 4 children under 6 years, planning for a 5th. My wife schools the children at home. I have not had a pay raise in 2 years and have an operating budget of $24.5k. I have not slept through the night in 6 years. We have had a blast the entire way. And it has been really, really, really hard – mainly on account of sleep deprivation. But to which child of yours would you turn to and say, “you were one too many.” Would we say this of our selves? Life is worth the pain and suffering – worth striving in to live beyond the muck and mire.

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    • Huck September 11, 2014, 12:41 pm

      Yeah, it’s great. You’re really selling it. No sleep for 6 years, no raises and your wife is chained to the house like it’s the 50s. Sign me up!

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      • familyfirst September 11, 2014, 2:02 pm

        With two children under two, I still get plenty of sleep. Even if I didn’t, that wouldn’t stop me from wanting at least one more. According to Mustachianism shouldn’t we realise that doing something that appears hard (ie riding a bike everywhere, not getting to Starbucks, and not having very much stuff) often leads to greater happiness?

        My wife and I decided to have kids while we are very young and have the energy for it. With our kids being so easy, and my wife loving pregnancy we’ll probably still only have 3 (maybe 4). For us our kids are our lives and FI is something that will eventually come. We never worried about having enough money to support having kids, (we had our first while I was still in school and my wife stopped working) not because we are wealthy, but we are frugal enough to have saved half of everything we made even with very low paying jobs.

        When making the kid decision, my only advice is to make the decision as though money isn’t a part of the equation. If your a true badass you’ll make it work.

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        • CincyCat September 13, 2014, 2:12 pm

          Making the decision as though money were not part of the equation is VERY mustachian. MMM has used this analogy before. I recall him using examples such as “would you buy 25 TV’s?” or “you love living in this apartment/house. If you had 5 million dollars, would you really move just because you can afford it?” In my mind, the decision to have one or 10 kids is much the same.

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        • wild wendella September 15, 2014, 9:27 am

          I have one son who just turned two. He is finally starting to sleep through the night, but it’s very inconsistent. One night he may sleep 10 hours straight, and the next he may wake up and be inconsolable at 1:30 and at 4:30. I work 10 hour days. From my personal experience with two years of sleep deprevation (which is torture, btw) I’m going to suggest you would have a different opinion if you had spent more than a year being torurtured by unrelenting lack of sleep by someone you loved more than anyone else in the world, and suffering through complete lack of functionality at work while being your family’s sole bread winner.

          Excellent article, MMM.

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          • Ava September 15, 2014, 5:08 pm

            While it sounds good to make the decision without regards to money and I agree with much of the thoughtfulness and realism displayed in these posts, this particular decision has a moral implication given that parents have a duty to financially support the child and the child will be seeking jobs in an American economy in which there is a growing concentration of wealth, diminishing wages for most, skyrocketing student loan debt, and millions of young (and old) people struggling.

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  • Jennifer Roberts September 10, 2014, 12:39 pm

    We have two now, having thought for a while that we might have only one. Our oldest was almost five when his little brother was born. Our oldest was very upset about the idea at first, but now they are best buds. I’m keeping an open mind about more kids, but I can’t see myself having more than three. I’m the oldest of five, but never felt a desire to have a big family of my own. The fact that my husband is from England plays into things, too. Next summer the four of us will be flying to England for my SIL’s wedding. Paying cash, of course. Ouch. It will be our first trip since having kids. With a larger family we wouldn’t be able to do it.

    The biggest factor for me, moreso than finances, is what I am actually capable of, physically and emotionally. It really irritates me when people pressure me to have more kids as though it’s no big deal.

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    • Dan November 11, 2014, 3:24 pm

      Jennifer, I am the youngest of five and have only two kids, and would love to have more. Unfortunately my wife doesn’t want them, but we have a 2900 square foot home with only two kids. Yes kids aren’t free but they aren’t expensive either, especially if you live the way your grandparents did, which was to hand down clothes from child to child, plus I notice we waste less food than when it was just the two of us.

      Reply
  • 1967mama September 10, 2014, 12:41 pm

    MMM,
    As a mother of 8 (one marriage, no adoptions, no twins!) I’d like to thank you for the respectful way yourself and Mrs. MMM have expressed yourselves here. Some of your commenters….not so much. Just as you made a choice to have just one child, we made a choice to have many. No regrets! It’s been a wild ride!

    Reply
    • Happyback September 11, 2014, 9:14 am

      As a mom of 7, I concur!
      Everyone has a choice. That’s the wonderful part!

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      • Dan November 11, 2014, 3:26 pm

        As the youngest of five, I am very glad women like you (and my mom) exist or I wouldn’t be here. People can’t believe I am the youngest as I have a great education, a nice job, a great house and plenty of cash, but all of my responsibility was learned because of the big family, not in spite of it.

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  • Horatio Spifflewicket September 10, 2014, 12:41 pm

    So, Mrs. Spifflewicket and I had a different sort of discussion. Our “First” child was twins… (boy/girl fraternal) which makes everything more “exciting”. (They are 4 now, and I love them to bits, but take the “sleep deprivation” part and recognise that the number of coincident children is an EXPONENT not a multiplier.)

    Then we hit that two-year old lull when everything is lovely. We had MANY conversations, and ended up deciding that two was enough. If we’d only had one, we likely would have decided that ONE is enough. We knew that we were serious about being done when we started listing cloth diapers on Craigslist and didn’t immediately pull the listing when someone made an offer. :D

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  • Wade September 10, 2014, 12:43 pm

    1 and done. We have 3 awesome girls (14,11,6). They were/are a lot of work and a lot of joy. Much like investing and other topics, having kids is a very personal decision. 0,1,2,3,11. Go for it and try to maximize your happiness.

    Whatever you choose, you are not choosing all the other paths. There are some days that bothers me. I want to have a go at being single, having 0 kids, have 8 kids.

    1 and done.

    Reply
  • Tawcan September 10, 2014, 12:44 pm

    I have a 10 months old son and I am definitely living through the sleep deprived part of life. In fact I probably only got 4 hours of sleep last night (not continuous). Having said that, it’s so rewarding seeing him learning new skills and laughing things. Whether to have a kid or not is really a personal decision. I know quite a number of people that do not have kids but have pets. These people always say that their pets are their kids. Sorry pets are not kids, your dogs and cats do not require the same amount of attention as raising a human baby.

    The Mrs. and I are planning to have more kids. I would like one more, since I grew up with one sibling. The Mrs. would like 3 kids in total but I’m not sure if I’m ready for that. It’s still open for discussion.

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    • Tara September 10, 2014, 1:03 pm

      I have pets not human kids, and to me, the pets are my kids. Your comment is insulting and condescending. I have maternal feelings for dogs that I don’t have for human babies – saying they are my kids is not referring to the same amount of work as raising a baby but to the feelings I have for them.

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      • JB September 10, 2014, 1:10 pm

        Pets are great. We have two cats. We love our cats. I don’t have to worry about what they are doing 24 hours a day. They aren’t kids. They don’t ask questions, they don’t have to attend school. Yes, we love our pets, they are part of the family.

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      • EMML September 10, 2014, 1:26 pm

        I love pets, and never discovered my maternal instinct until I had a dog to take care of, but they aren’t children. At a few months, children are already smarter than your dog will ever be. That fact may seem irrelevant, but it makes your interactions so much more important/complicated/rewarding. Having a dog is like the easy vision of raising a child by reading adventure stories together. If you have a tough time with a dog, you just rehome it. If it gets too sick, you put it to sleep. You may send it to school to learn to obey you, and that’s the extext of it. You don’t lay awake at night wondering if you are doing the best you can to raise your dog to be a healthy and productive adult.

        Yeah, its different. A lot different

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        • Valerie September 11, 2014, 11:39 am

          Of course it depends on the dog, but dogs can be (and generally are, unless you have a really daft one) a whole lot smarter than an infant. I’m passionate about dogs (they’re my favorite species after humans!), but I don’t think of them as children. They’re more like friends, partners, confidants. I view the human-dog friendship as the greatest symbiotic relationship on earth. We provide for them, and they do amazing things for us that we can’t do nearly as well on our own (lead a blind person down the street, find and lead us to a lost child, herd giant flocks of sheep, sniff out cancer). Dogs are so flippin’ amazing, and I will continue to feel that way about them even after I have children. In fact, that’s one of the things I most look forward to about having kids – sharing with them how amazing these four legged friends of ours are. :) /tangent

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          • EMML September 11, 2014, 12:25 pm

            Why don’t we revisit that after you’ve had a baby of your own. It was a shocking realization to me. Just because they can’t talk yet doesn’t mean there isn’t a whole lot going on in their brains.

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      • Tawcan September 10, 2014, 2:09 pm

        I’m sorry Tara I don’t mean to insult you or anyone that has a pet. We have a cat for pet as well. What I’m saying is that having a cat or a dog is not the same as having a human baby. It’s completely different. Sure you can say that your pet is like your kid. Our cat is like that before our son was born. But amount of work required is completely different.

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        • Huck September 11, 2014, 12:38 pm

          Yes. A cat or dog would never require as much work, become a teenager that hates you and take all your money. Animals are much more grateful

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    • SisterX September 10, 2014, 1:37 pm

      I have a 9 month old and a cat and a dog. And you know what? We refer to the dog as our oldest child. She is just as much a member of our family as the baby, and so is our “middle child”, the cat. I don’t love them in the same way, but I do love them just as much. I’ve had my dog for 11 years, so I’ve put a lot of work into raising her. On days when the human baby is driving me crazy, the pets are a calming influence. We’ll even joke, “[Cat], you’re the favorite child today, because I hardly saw you. Thank you for that.”
      To belittle someone else’s feelings toward their pets, just because you can’t understand it, is just mean.

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      • Tawcan September 10, 2014, 2:14 pm

        Again my comment was simply to compare the amount of work required for raising a pet and a human kid is completely different. Perhaps I should have mentioned that we have a pet cat too. We refer to our cat as our son’s big sister. She would often sit close to our son and look after her.

        I did not say anywhere in my original comment that people shouldn’t treat their pets as their own kids. It’s fine that you call your pets as your own kids, but the amount of work needed is completely different than raising a human kid.

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      • EMML September 11, 2014, 12:29 pm

        If there were a fire in your house, and you could only save one of them, which one would it be?

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        • Catherine Marie September 12, 2014, 9:54 am

          Exactly

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          • lurker September 15, 2014, 5:01 pm

            if there were a fire the dog would save you and the cat would save herself.
            I have two cats and I like them a lot by the way.

            Reply
  • Valerie September 10, 2014, 12:48 pm

    I have one older brother, and we were quite close growing up (fought like cats and dogs when we were younger, but enjoyed each others company as well). Now we’re in our early 30s, and we live in the same city. I hardly every see him or communicate with him, not for a lack of trying on my part. I’m not quite sure why that is. I would love to have a close relationship with my brother, but the fact of the matter is I see him so infrequently that I hardly even know who he is anymore. We actually had a huge discussion/argument about this just the other night after months and months of no communication. My brother insists that he really cares for me and loves me, and we both said we intend to spend more time together. But honestly, I don’t know if that will happen. Just some food for thought for those who assume siblings will always be close and involved in one another’s lives.

    Reply
    • crazyworld September 10, 2014, 8:04 pm

      Just like any long term relationship, there are ebbs and flows with siblings. Whateve your brother is into, is taking his focus right now. He will come around. I can pretty much guaranty it.

      Reply
      • Valerie September 11, 2014, 8:45 am

        Thank you for taking the time to say that. It’s something I really needed to hear right now. I certainly hope you’re right.

        Reply
  • Pretired Nick September 10, 2014, 12:58 pm

    Heh, I came to the same conclusion that we’re just going to have one. If I was younger, I think we’d definitely have another, like you said for the support of the first one. I’ll be heading in for the snip-snip soon. Interesting that you highlighted the full human experience point. That was exactly the reason I decided to go ahead and have a kid, something I hadn’t even considered until I was into my 40s.
    Our main challenge, I think, is to avoid raising a self-absorbed narcissist. I see it so often in only children, but I don’t think it’s guaranteed if the parents can avoid smothering the kid with attention.

    Reply
  • Ellie Arroway September 10, 2014, 12:58 pm

    This particular post hits so close to home! I for one have been advocating for just having 1 child for myself and my husband (we’re currently trying to start a family). When the discussion of children come up with friends and family and I indicate desiring having only 1 child, I’ve been met with very ignorant and baffling responses such as “Oh that’s totally wrong, you’ll raise a lonely child” or “Oh your child will end up spoiled” or “Well since you already have one child, you might as well have 2”. These over generalized responses really do anger me. As if you aren’t able to spoil children when there’s more than one of them?! Or assuming that all children who grew up without siblings are incomplete or grew up fundamentally lacking. These are old wives tales that are still propagated today.

    Ultimately, this decision is up to me and my husband. We’ve taken into consideration our ability and capacity to handle stress, our desired lifestyle, financial situation, ability and desire to work in the future, etc.

    My decision is colored by my experience growing up. I am the youngest of 4 children of working parents. I remember life being quite chaotic and stressful for my parents, particularly for my father who earned the lion share of the income. Sometimes I wonder how he did not have a heart attack or stroke… I can still remember him vividly with his face so red, veins on his forehead about to pop-out as we lived paycheck to paycheck, living our messy, chaotic lives.

    There were also memories of being taken out of classroom, then told by school administrator that I wouldn’t be allowed to take final exams if we didn’t pay the balance of the tuition fee the next day (this was in grade school – can you imagine?!).

    My parents were full on catholics that firmly believed in not using birth control… So after having 3 kids, I came a year later after the 3rd, obviously not planned.

    I do think my parents left it to chance in the child bearing department. They were obviously not equipped to have 4 children. By the time I came, they were tired, haggard, and angry. I don’t think they realize to this day how much stress having 4 children caused them. It was obviously unfair to me as well, I feel like I should have had parents who had the energy, capacity, and financial ability to raise me. Honestly, more than financial security, I needed time and energy.

    I hope that parents make informed decisions when having 0, 1, or more than 1 child. I do see couples in extreme stress and at wit’s end with 1 child and then wanting to have another immediately – and then wonder why they are so stressed and so thinly stretched – not even stopping to think, “Oh we wanted this and decided to do this”.

    Franky, I don’t think there’s a lot of planning and analysis going on before having children – which I think has the biggest impact in one’s life and sanity. This goes the same with home purchase (the argument being “stop throwing money away in “rent”), careers/jobs (the argument being “you need to keep climbing the ladder and you’re worthless without a title/career).

    Reply
    • Ellie Arroway September 10, 2014, 1:16 pm

      I was going to add that my decision as well has to do with my experience growing up. I am the youngest of 4 children of working parents. I remember life being quite chaotic and stressful for my parents, particularly for my father who earned the lion share of the income. Sometimes I wonder how he did not have a heart attack or stroke… I can still remember him vividly with his face so red, veins on his forehead about to pop-out as we lived paycheck to paycheck, living our messy, chaotic lives.

      There were also memories of being taken out of classroom, then told by school administrator that I wouldn’t be allowed to take final exams if we didn’t pay the balance of the tuition fee the next day (this was in grade school – can you imagine?!).

      My parents were full on catholics that firmly believed in not using birth control… So after having 3 kids, I came a year later after the 3rd, obviously not planned.

      I do think my parents left it to chance in the child bearing department. They were obviously not equipped to have 4 children. By the time I came, they were tired, haggard, and angry. I don’t think they realize to this day how much stress having 4 children caused them. It was obviously unfair to me as well, I feel like I should have had parents who had the energy, capacity, and financial ability to raise me. Honestly, more than financial security, I needed time and energy.

      Reply
  • Lisajram September 10, 2014, 1:04 pm

    We have 3 kids: 1 son adopted from Guatemala (age 8), 1 biological son (white, age 6.5), 1 daughter adopted from Korea (age 4.5). So far they are the best of friends. I usually find the two boys sharing a twin size bed at night because they are so close. When they chase their little sister down to give her hugs and kisses before bed time, while she’s giggling her head off, my heart just soars. It’s everything I dreamed about.

    But with that said, raising kids is tough! So much harder than I thought it would be (and they are just normal, happy kids! Nothing that isn’t typical). I wouldn’t change a thing, but this parenting business is no joke. Sometimes I feel like with every joy is an almost equal amount of stress.

    PS. We didn’t adopt to “save a child” or “do a good deed”. We adopted because we wanted children. Sometimes that sentiment rubs me the wrong way. I wouldn’t want them to feel like they were some project, or that they have to feel grateful. My husband and I are the lucky ones.

    Reply
    • Mrs. Money Mustache September 10, 2014, 1:19 pm

      Thanks for your P.S. You are absolutely right – now I feel like an ignorant fool, but I appreciate being educated. :)

      Reply
    • Kate in NY September 11, 2014, 9:04 am

      Good point, Lisajram. We have 3 biological children and 1 adopted (from Ethiopia, when he was 7). When people praise us for “saving” our adopted son, I answer – sweetly, of course – if we had wanted to save children, we would have sent the money we spent on his adoption to an orphanage in Ethiopia. We wanted another child, and he needed a family – that’s what it’s about for us. Our eldest child just left for college, and even though we still have 3 at home, it already seems far too quiet. My husband and I are contemplating adopting a sibling group – a “second batch,” if you will. Bring on the chaos, the mess, the financial tumult – for us, it’s worth it.

      Reply
  • Kathy O September 10, 2014, 1:08 pm

    I’d like to see a similar article on whether or not to have pets. Pets are a big budget item. I think a lot of people get cats and dogs without understanding the costs.

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    • Frugalina September 10, 2014, 7:16 pm

      Good point Kathy O…I did so much research before getting our furkids/dogs to ensure the right breed/temperament/cost factors that it’s a good thing I’m childless by choice. It might be beneficial if more people did a little homework before “investing” in kids or animals.

      Reply
  • Interestingreadinglist September 10, 2014, 1:15 pm

    I agree with your points, it is about personal choice.

    Personally I love my sister more than the world itself, and couldn’t imagine life without her, and have learnt an incredible amount from our relationship. But all the only children I know are not wierdos, or in fact any different to anyone else.

    It is questonable as to whether money should be taken into account in such decisions. Maybe it should, because with more money you can provide a better life for your self/child/children. But it shouldn’t be the motivating factor, as more money doesn’t neccessarily mean more patience/love, which is really what you need an abundance of.

    Anyway, enough about all that, how on earth are we going to tackle population growth? ;-)

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  • LB September 10, 2014, 1:17 pm

    Interesting discussion. We’ve had similar talks with our neighbors/friends who, as do we, also have one child.

    I would also like to add that fostering is a wonderful option for those who are considering adoption, or who don’t want to add a child to the family permanently but have a sense that they have “more room at the table.” There are plenty of kids everywhere who need a safe home and a little love even on a temporary basis. I have a friend who is very involved in the fostering system around here and she’s really opened my eyes to the need.

    Reply
  • Greg September 10, 2014, 1:20 pm

    There are two interesting books on this subject that are worth a look, if you’re struggling over whether to have kids: Why Have Children? by Christine Overall, and Better Never to Have Been by David Benatar. Overall’s book is the better of the two, but if you like controversial ideas, Benatar’s books is worth the time.

    Reply
  • Ben Luthi September 10, 2014, 1:23 pm

    Both my wife and I come from large families, and growing up, I always wanted a large family. But now that I’m a lot older than I thought I would be when we would have our first child, it seems more and more that the decision really doesn’t need to be based on pre-conceived notions or, as you said, religion, family, and all that jazz.

    We definitely want more than one, but the process of life and reality has done a great job at tempering our decision of what we want.

    Reply
  • Jennifer B September 10, 2014, 1:24 pm

    This is one of those “it depends” kinds of decisions. It depends on the parents, it depends on child # 1 and there’s no real way to know if the decision you are making is the “right” one until you are pretty much beyond the point of being able to do anything about it.

    I had 1 younger brother. We fought like cats and dogs growing up, get along famously when we’re together, but don’t keep in close touch for most of the year.

    My husband has 2 younger brothers. They keep in decent touch for most of the year, and get along well when they see each other once or twice a year.

    We got married at a later age, and have ended up with 1 child. She was (and in many ways still is) a difficult kid. I couldn’t imagine trying to deal with another baby when she was a baby or toddler. I pretty much knew that we’d be done with one when we were done with diapers and I realized I never wanted to go through 2-3 years of that again. But now, I can see how good she is with other younger children and think that she would have been a great older sister.

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  • Rachel September 10, 2014, 1:36 pm

    Who thinks that one child is strange? I thought it was people like me who were looked at weird and criticized by strangers in grocery stores for have 5 well behaved kids with me. I am constantly accused of being a daycare!

    Reply
    • Lisajram September 11, 2014, 8:23 am

      What is “normal” these days anyway? I have 3 kids that are 3 different ethnicities/races. I get the looks/daycare assumptions too.

      Reply
      • Louisville September 11, 2014, 11:23 am

        I have never, ever, not once in my life, heard anyone deride anyone else for having only one child. Who are these people?

        Reply
      • Gerard September 15, 2014, 7:20 pm

        I remember taking five kids — Black/Asian, Black/White X2, very blonde White, and Mayan — to the museum in Ottawa and asking for the Family rate. Got the sweetest smile from the cashier!

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    • Mr. Frugal Toque September 12, 2014, 6:42 am

      I’ve never criticized anyone for having lots of kids.
      I have, probably, on occasion, stared in awe.

      Reply
  • Kassandra September 10, 2014, 1:38 pm

    I read this site a lot but this is the first post that compelled me to comment. It really is such a personal choice whether to have kids, how many, or none at all. In my case I have no biological children and I don’t want any. I am married and have a beautiful step-son. I also grew up with an amazing experience of have not one, but two step-fathers over the course of my mom’s lifetime. Both of those men were awesome men and my bio dad could never come close. I have a deep appreciation for what a positive step-parent is in order to model after. Dh and I did go back and forth and finally we decided we would focus on raising our son to the best of our abilities and not have a child from our marriage. Do we get flack? Yes and at times it can be quite hurtful. But the people who are so quick to judge don’t live our lives and therefore really don’t understand how and why we came to our shared decision. The point in the post about how one spouse can really want to have children when the other is more leery of it needs to be addressed and should have likely been covered before they got married in the first place. If life were always so simple.

    Reply
  • Resy September 10, 2014, 1:41 pm

    What a great post. I will be checking out that book. I have a kid from a previous relationship and my husband and I feel my kid id enough for us. We get such pushiness and it’s even hurtful that people wouldnt consider my kid as his “fully” becausr he isnt his biologically although he is his (only) father in every sense except that one. I sighted with relief when i finished reading this, thanks MmM gor the posotivity!

    Reply
  • Michael G September 10, 2014, 1:52 pm

    I must have missed that check-box. We came back from the hospital with twins.
    We also somehow missed the “two for the price of one” special everyone tells us about. (I’ll admit, it was funny the first couple times)

    All things considered they’re pretty awesome though. Wouldn’t trade it for the world. This marks their first week of kindergarten. 5 years later mom’s finally starting to get back a little personal time. :-)

    Reply
  • Sunny Days September 10, 2014, 2:01 pm

    Raising a family is rewarding, joyful and also a huge responsibility. I had two, they are 15 months apart and are now young adults in their 20’s. I did not plan the second one so close to the first, and was not sure I was “ready” for baby #2 so soon. But it was a wonderful experience! I did not want additional children at the time and thought 2 was perfect! Now, however, I regret not having more kids. I wish I had more. Having adult children is so wonderful, I cannot even explain how much happiness, love, humor and companionship they add to my life. I am 50 years old, and I don’t know anyone that regrets the children they have, but do know others that like me, regret they didn’t add another child or two to their existing brood . That being said, I think that those who feel certain they do not want to raise a family are most likely making the right decision, and should remain childless.

    Reply
  • Free to Pursue September 10, 2014, 2:18 pm

    Thank you to the MMM family for addressing this very important, and very taboo, topic (it’s almost as taboo as discussing money…).

    I was an only child and had a fantastic childhood. I was treated as a small adult and, as a result, behaved well in social settings, which earned me the privilege to go to many venues and to travel to many destinations with my parents.

    I never had an issue with daycare and/or with my parents occasionally vacationing without me. Life, and my parents, have been incredibly good to me. I got the attention and support I needed, without being coddled. I was encouraged to be independent and to forge my own path.

    My own future is childless by choice. I have never had the pull of motherhood and, unless something drastically changes, I likely never will. I live a fulfilling life. I’m grateful every day and don’t feel anything is missing.

    I wish for everyone to have the opportunity to determine within themselves, and their own marriage (if applicable), what they want in this very important, and very permanent, aspect of life. It’s too important a choice for it not to remain intimately yours and yours alone, regardless of what society deems acceptable or desirable.

    Reply
  • Carey L September 10, 2014, 2:19 pm

    My husband and I got married a little on the late side. We had a baby in our late 30’s; tried hard to have another, but it just did not happen. I am an only child, and was looking forward to experiencing the rough and tumble life of a multi-child family. But it quickly became easy to adore our wonderful family of 3. We stayed put so that our boy could have strong lasting friendships in our semi-rural town. We always had kids over at our house, never said no to a sleepover, and invited friends to join us on family vacations. Now those friends from kindergarten are in college, and they still come to our house.

    There was never a kid’s table at our house, so our son got a fabulous vocabulary at a young age. He’s just a superbly happy, settled person.

    One regret – we live far from our relatives, so no aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents at football, or band, etc. I envy the multi-generational families in our town who show up for everything.

    Reply
  • Lisa September 10, 2014, 2:20 pm

    As the only child of two only children, it was my plan that I would only have one child. As a child, when it was too quiet at my house, I could always go to the neighbor’s and join in the chaos of their 9 kids. That carried forward to marriage, too. Hubby dearest is the baby of 5 siblings. The only times I really regretted not having a sibling were when we went to amusement parks. It would have been more fun to have a friend along. (when we took our son, he brought a friend.) On the plus side, I was always able to converse and enjoy the company of adults. I have noticed there are more and more ‘only’s around. My 17 year old has three friends who are also only children. I’ve wondered many times how people with more than child handle it, with all of the activities of children nowadays. I’m exhausted from the one! :-)

    Reply
  • Nil September 10, 2014, 2:23 pm

    While an only child can certainly grow up just as well as one with siblings you are leaving out the downside risks.

    Having one child is putting all of ones eggs in a single basket. Many parents seem far too overprotective of their lone offspring. Plus due to the randomness of genetics and our world even the best reared child can occasionally grow into a violent sociopath, or perish due to some unforeseen tragedy. Either could be devastating on the parents to lose their only child and to potentially be questioning themselves over whether they somehow failed in their role of parenting.

    Having multiple children can spread that risk. While no one wants to see any of their child face such awful outcome, I find a bit of reassurance in believing with very near certainty that my parenting skills and efforts should enable at least two out of my three children into growing into the sort of adult that would make all the time and effort I’ve put into my family all worth it.

    I suppose my wife and I just prefer to diversify our parenting portfolio. We cannot dump quite as many resources into each child (for example we could afford to send an only child to the most elite private school in our area, but with 3 kids they will have to settle for just going to a good public school), but in exchange we can set back relaxed while my oldest scales too high up a tree, makes daredevil jumps, or goes off exploring the woods content in the hope that those experiences will outweigh the 1/1,000,000 risk that he breaks his neck or gets picked up by a stranger and with the knowledge that even in that worst case scenario we still have a couple other loving children to focus on raising.

    Reply
    • insourcelife September 11, 2014, 8:15 am

      Ha, that’s awesome… You just summarized my “Backup Kid” theory. You know, similar to how you can’t just have the President, you need a Vice President whom you’d keep in an undisclosed location! I usually use it to get a reaction because it’s such a taboo way of thinking, but based on your comment I can now say that there are people that actually thought this through.

      Reply
  • Jen September 10, 2014, 2:30 pm

    I don’t know if it’s been said yet but I disagree that having a second kid doubles your expenses. I have two and when we had the second we already had the bottles, cloth diapers, crib, etc so that was a big chunk to not have to buy again. Same with entertaining them; they have few toys that are truly theirs alone. We certainly don’t have two of everything. I don’t doubt that having one is cheaper but I don’t think it’s quite the blow to the wallet as is portrayed.

    Reply
    • Rick September 11, 2014, 6:45 am

      I agree. I just had my 3rd kid and we have enjoyed all of the economies of scale that you describe.

      Reply
  • mysticaltyger September 10, 2014, 2:33 pm

    I have a number of conflicting thoughts on this topic. As a child free gay man, I abhor the idea of pressuring people into marriage or having kids. I remember being age 12, thinking to myself the one big advantage to being gay was I didn’t have to worry about having kids. Little did I know lots of other gay men followed the social programming and got married, had kids, then got divorced (Uggh…what a mess!!). But at the same time a major problem has been developing for decades now. The middle and upper middle class mostly already don’t need to be told the message MMM is delivering They are already not having that many kids. It’s the poor and uneducated who are having a larger than average number of kids, and they’re generally doing it in very unstable (financially and otherwise) arrangements (usually out of wedlock, or in marriages that are more likely to end in divorce). The research from even the liberal leaning think tanks is pretty clear that the single parent family arrangement isn’t goo for kids (and often not for the parents, either)….but this is becoming the norm. The middle class on up have fewer kids because they say they can’t afford them, and the poor and uneducated just go ahead and have them anyway, even though they can”t afford them (by middle class standards and expectations). So it’s one of these conundrums whereby what’s good for individuals isn’t necessarily good for society. It’s really no surprise there’s been a big jump in income and wealth inequality the last several decades when we look at marriage and child bearing trends. I really don’t know how to solve this conundrum. I would like people like MMM and Mrs. MM to have more kids, and fewer poor and uneducated people to have them…but the exact opposite is happening. It looks like America is headed toward being a 3rd World country at the rate we’re going.

    Reply
    • aj September 10, 2014, 10:46 pm

      Wow, so many great points in one post. The issues you postulated have been discussed for years (Daniel Moynihan a Dem Senator from NY wrote a book on this very issue in the 60s) and after trying some fairly horrendous supposedly scientific based methods (forced sterilization etc) I think modern western society has thrown in the towel and given up on trying to manage who does what when regarding procreation.
      I’m a libertarian all good with throwing in the towel approach, but it does get tiresome to hear people talk about income inequality and the gap between rich and poor. This gap is not a government conspiracy, it’s economics at work. As you pointed out wealthy people tend to make good economic decisions and the opposite tends to be true as you wind down to the bottom of the economic ladder. There was a time when people were forced to stay at the bottom of the ladder, but those days are long gone. There is a direct link between education and financial success and yet so many at the bottom refuse to use the free education to get the hell off the bottom. Why that still happens today is a great mystery to me. And then to have more and more kids just adds salt to the wound. It’s baffling.

      Reply
    • Mr. Frugal Toque September 12, 2014, 6:47 am

      Fortunately, the tendency right across the entire world is for people to have fewer and fewer children as the quality of their life and education goes up. The concern that “poor people in Africa” (or wherever) would continue to have 12 children even after infant mortality went down turned out to be unfounded.
      It makes me very happy, actually, to know that a good blast of public education and healthcare solves the overpopulation problem rather than making it worse.

      Reply
      • Aj September 13, 2014, 9:40 pm

        I don’t know about solves but it’s going in the right direction. There are still a lot of people on earth who use childbirth to improve self esteem. Education and health care help but too many people still have kids they can’t afford – bad economic decisions lead to poverty squared.

        Reply
  • KS September 10, 2014, 2:41 pm

    MMM needs a biology lesson – only a fraction of any living being’s cells are dedicated to reproduction. All the romantic notions of having children who will provide companionship in their parents’ old age is also horribly outdated and infrequently achieved. Family=dysfunction. Gotta remember that anytime someone is trying to emphasize their ‘family run business.’ Argh, no thanks, I prefer the efficiencies of publicly-held ones.

    Reply
  • Francisco September 10, 2014, 2:47 pm

    I do think it is a personal thing for everybody.

    For me for example, my older sister (1.5 years older) has always been one of my best friends, and my playmate through all our childhood. I think we both have supported us in significant ways through out life and can’t picture her not being there.

    Also, there is the fact that eventually our parents will die, and when that time happens, I really think that having family is an incredible support. I think that for many people (not, all but certainly for me its true), parents are like this “safety” place/persons, where even if things go wrong, you can ask them for advise and help. Once they are gone, if you have no siblings, it is when in a sense, you are truly alone.

    So for me, I’d really like to have 2 kids :)

    Reply
  • Bert September 10, 2014, 2:55 pm

    People are very opinionated about only have one child to my wife and I. People will speak very negatively about only children until my wife or I tell them that I am an only child. We personally have never had the desire to have more than one child but people act like we are doing something terrible.

    Reply
  • Electriks September 10, 2014, 2:55 pm

    I was an “only child” (probably not a PC term) and always feel that I missed out on a great experience. I will say that I am probably abnormal but not because of a lack of siblings.

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  • Brandon September 10, 2014, 3:11 pm

    Axe the silly child tax credit. Why are we subsidizing something that people will do anyway?

    Reply
    • Gerard September 15, 2014, 7:24 pm

      In Canada at least, it’s because government feels that we need a few million more young people to pay the bills when all the boomers retire broke, and there are political repercussions to getting them through immigration.

      Reply
  • Aldo September 10, 2014, 3:14 pm

    I grew up with a brother and a sister and it was a lot of fun, but I also have friends who were only children and they also had a lot of fun. Life is what you make of it. That being said, I think I’m going to shoot to have two kids so they can entertain each other. I had one cat and she was driving me nuts, I then got a second cat and they just play with each other and leave me alone. Hopefully it will be the same with kids.

    Reply
  • Mr. Dumpster Stache September 10, 2014, 3:25 pm

    As the oldest of nine, the idea of raising my son as an only child seems strange. We will hopefully have at least one more (but no more than four total!). I loved having a big family as a kid, but the amount of energy and years required to raise that many is more than I want to spend on this stage of life.

    Reply
  • Green Girl September 10, 2014, 3:36 pm

    Bill McKibben (environmental writer and activist) also has a book on having only one child: http://www.billmckibben.com/maybe-one.html

    I chose not to have children and I thought that if I regret this in my 40’s, I can adopt. Well, I’m 41 and I LOVE the fact that I don’t have kids. I totally understand the feeling people have of wanting children, but it is just not for me. It is interesting though because my brother also does not want children and my sister really doesn’t either but her husband wants a big family. Not sure how well that will work for my sister, but I find it interesting that all 3 of us kids feel the same way.

    Reply
  • CL September 10, 2014, 3:43 pm

    Father of seven here. Having a large family was not something we originally intended, but along the way we found:
    – one child is certainly enough, in terms of the heightened stress, impact on our relationship, and the financial costs a child brings.
    – more children are possible, if you are financially, physically and emotionally capable to provide each with proper care. (and we all might have differing ideas about what that care entails) We do have plenty of friends who have one or two children, and they feel their hands are full. That’s fine!
    – our capacity as parents and money managers has grown as the family has grown. And so has our delight.

    Reply
  • Brenda September 10, 2014, 3:45 pm

    I had my first child this year, and so far, I still want another if the timing works out. That’s a decision that will wait until this little one is two years old.

    My husband was an only child, and he seems to have turned out alright. He doesn’t feel deprived for lack of siblings.

    As a third child myself, I would stop at having two children. My older siblings were a lot older than me so I might as well have been an only child. My mom was almost 40 when I was born and she acts 20 years older than she is. So I was really like an only child raised by tired grandparents with mean teenagers hanging around. I set a personal age limit on my childbearing, and if I don’t get pregnant again by that time, then I’ll be happy with one child.

    If I have a second child, my biggest challenge will be teaching them both to get along with each other while still being independent.

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  • Lis September 10, 2014, 3:54 pm

    I agree with the points that MMM made, especially about how it’s the couple’s decision, not anyone else’s, on how many kids they’ll have.

    As an only child, I like to think I came out just fine. I’m independent, a go-getter, confident. I like to think I’m not a spoiled brat. I do value my privacy and need more alone time than most people I know with siblings. I come from a small family, and neither of my parents communicate with their siblings (which shows that, just because you have multiple children, doesn’t mean they’ll be the best of friends growing up or as adults).

    Some of the cons I feel about being an only child, which may or may not be unique to me – when I was a kid, teasing was a foreign concept to me. So when kids on the bus started making fun of me, I took it very personally. It wasn’t anything terrible… the standard “girls have cooties!” and that type of nonsense. I just didn’t get it because I didn’t have a sibling to tease or to tease me at home. I grew out of that, and that had no lasting effect :) Also, when my mom was diagnosed and being treated for breast cancer, that was an extremely difficult time for us. Between me and my dad, we tried our best to support my mom and support each other, but it was rough. My friends did their best, but none of them “understood.” (Some friends had parents that survived cancer, but I admit I got wrapped up in my own head during that time period). I remember admitting to a counselor I saw in college then that I really longed to have a sister, someone who got what I was going through, while we were going through it.

    Lastly, coming from a small, private family, crazy family gatherings tend to overwhelm me. The first time I met my boyfriend’s parents (I was only expecting to meet them and his brother), they surprised us with inviting the entire family over (I later learned that that was only HALF the family… oi vey!). My boyfriend went right along with it because it was nothing new for him, but holy smokes was that a shock for me. It wasn’t bad, just surprising.

    Reply
  • Druid September 10, 2014, 3:56 pm

    I would love to see an article on the costs associated with each kid and its impact on the early retirement lifestyle. The Wall Street Journal claims that raising a kid costs $300,000(not including costs after age 18). With college and the additional support that young adults need now days the number is most likely over $400,000. If that same amount was invested in the stock market over 18 years you would be looking at a nest egg big enough to live on for a decade. You start to add 3 or 4 kids to the equation and retirement will not be an option for even frugal people. Everyone has their priorities, but I would love to see Mr. Money Mustache’s breakdown of the impact on early retirement for each additional child!

    Reply
    • Lisajram September 11, 2014, 8:32 am

      This would be hard to do, imo. Just as there are vast differences in what we spend in our day to day lives, there’s a vast difference on what we spend raising children. It certainly can be done. Root of Good retired at 33 with 3 kids… http://rootofgood.com/

      Reply
  • Zoe Keeland September 10, 2014, 3:58 pm

    MMM, thank you for pointing out another “given” that I may be holding on to against my best interest.
    For as long as I can remember, I thought I would have two children. I still may, though the prospect of losing all that sleep again is daunting. I now regularly ask myself if I really, really want a second child. Considering the huge commitment involved, I have decided to hold off until the answer is definitely – if it ever is.
    Good sibling relationship is not a sure thing. Social skills, especially conflict resolution, are learned things. You don’t just have to manage your relationship with each child, but also their relationship with each other.

    Reply
  • Pengepugeren September 10, 2014, 4:35 pm

    Great post, MMM. As the father of a 10 months old boy I’m right in the middle of the tough period. It’s amazing but extremely hard. 90% of all spare time is just gone. Its absolutely worth it but I newer imagined it would THAT tough. Though I never thought I’d be able to feel such a powerful love either.

    I used to want four kids, now I sometimes wonder if we have the energy for even one more, but we both think we’d regret it if we don’t get him a brother or sister. Luckily we still have a year or two to consider it.

    Reply
  • Cindy September 10, 2014, 4:48 pm

    I haven’t read all the comments but I have read many. Forgive me if I repeat something that has already been said. I speak as the parent of two adult daughters. I felt many of the same feelings you felt MMM during those very early years but I can say now that nothing – absolutely nothing has given me more joy and pride then rearing my children. My biggest (only) real regret in life is not having more children. So instead of planning not to have another child ever plan not to have another one just yet and keep your options open.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache September 11, 2014, 6:21 pm

      Glad you feel that way, Cindy – congrats! I’m sure my mind will not change, as it gets more happy about the decision every day. And my options have been closed for at least a couple years now :-)

      Reply

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