459 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.

 

 

 

 

  • Catherine Jean Rose September 10, 2014, 5:02 pm

    I have three children. Came from a big family (5 kids) and so did my husband (5 kids). Had my tubes tied after #3 – regretted it about four years later. Think about adoption frequently. I guess “to each his own!”

    And now…for a tasteless joke I can’t help but repeat…

    Did you hear about the two Mexicans on the TV Show, ‘That’s Incredible’? One was an only child, and one had auto insurance.

    Bah-dunk-a-dunk

    P.S. I told this one to my hispanic neighbor and he laughed.

    Reply
  • Per Diem September 10, 2014, 6:01 pm

    There’s nothing like having children to force and “adult child” to actually mature into a real adult by realizing that the world does not in fact revolve around them and their needs. I’m not convinced that a “fully empowered adult lifestyle helping others” is possible if the world still resolves around me, me, me and my needs! But maybe to the above average mustachian type the odds are raised.

    Anyways I have 2 blessings of my own and have been foster parents of 2 infants, one of which we get to now adopt. I would encourage all to consider fostering as its kind of the best of both worlds. You get to fill a tremendous need in a broken Fd up world and try out having more kids at the same time. You may find that more is better and not that much harder and that you have more love to share. And then you get an excuse to buy a larger car, like the 10 year old minivan I just bought, 100,00 miles and leather baby!

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  • CT September 10, 2014, 6:17 pm

    Love the chart especially the 3+ column “chaotic abundance”. I would argue though, that some folks may feel “chaotic abundance” with 1 child or even 2 children. I felt it a quite bit with 2 kids; I often said that with all their activities it felt like having 4.
    As a side note: I cannot believe people are so interested in the number of kids other people have. I have never been asked about the number of children my husband and I wanted. Neither family nor friends inquired, advised or joked about it–ever. We are very active in church where most of the families are very large, and were never even asked by any of them of our family plans. What is with people?–as if it is any of their business. I have 2 grown sons; the married one has 2 children (2yrs apart) I have never asked him about his family planning and can’t imagine I ever will. It is none of my business. When the time comes (family planning time) for my second son, I won’t meddle there either.

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  • Lilith Katz September 10, 2014, 6:34 pm

    I’m an only child and don’t remember ever feeling lonely growing up. I was alone a lot but I had an active imagination, friends, and didn’t mind being by myself. Granted, I’m an introvert so that may have had something to do with it. I was also totally spoiled as a kid, for a big part of my childhood, I got anything I wanted. I had my own tv, game system, and stereo by the time I was 7. You would think that would have set me up to be a huge consumer but it didn’t. For whatever reason I stopped wanting things. Now, almost 40, I have an awesome job, a great husband, and a significant ‘stashe. I wonder how many other Mustachians are “spoiled” only children?

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  • DMoney September 10, 2014, 6:55 pm

    Nice job, MMM, on a post which will be a bit polarizing to your base. Makes for more interesting comments.

    Most of what I would say on this has already been said (i.e. to each his own, kids are a ton of work, I’m grateful for my sibs now as an adult, elder care). Here are two mildly original thoughts on the matter.

    1. In response to the whole “divided attention from the parents” argument, I’ve always thought the added attention from the sibs kind of negated that.

    2. Really?! No one has mentioned the whole “Idiocracy” premise? If you’re not familiar with the movie, it’s a satire/comedy movie set in the future in which only the dumb have procreated because the PhDs and such kept putting off child bearing for education and careers (and FIRE??!) until their eggs were too old, and at some point several generations in the future, the entire human race consists of blithering idiots. Okay, so that’s not likely to happen. But here in reality, my husband and I are both earners paying top bracket income taxes. And our siblings are earners. And in all likelihood our children will be earners, pulling the proverbial wagon while lots of other new American humans ride on it.

    In our family, we’ve provided this country with three future wagon pullers. That’s gotta be worth something?

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  • conchita September 10, 2014, 7:35 pm

    sorry MMM but having two kids doubles the cost? that kinda thinking doesn’t sound very mustachian to me!

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  • Joe September 10, 2014, 7:37 pm

    Long time reader, first time caller:
    I read your blog regularly and love everything. So far.
    This is the worst piece you have written that I have read.
    Please provide a citation to the part where you state that having more kids somehow might be a cause of divorce. I might add that the only “only children” I knew growing up had difficulty sharing with and relating to their peers (citation required). I encourage you to advise your readers to have more than one child not as a “gift” to the first born, but as an essential learning device.
    Unless apple has an app for it.

    Peace.
    And othewise keep up the good fight.

    Reply
  • Lou September 10, 2014, 7:43 pm

    I think it’s hard to give a definitive answer to the 0, 1, 2, 3+ question until you’re doing it in retrospect, at the end of your life, and even then it’s nigh on impossible. I have two kids, 14 and 10. I fervently didn’t/ don’t want any more small kids – my 10 year old is still borderline, even though she’s absolutely no trouble by kid standards – but am having a fantastic time parenting/ mentoring my 14; he’s a wonderful companion for eating out, travel, just hanging in the kitchen, etc. I can fully see that when they’re adults, I might, as someone mentioned earlier, wish that I’d had more so I could have more adult kids in my life.

    On the other hand, despite these being planned-for kids who are just great, with thankfully no health or behavioral issues, there have been days-a-plenty when I’ve wondered what the child-free version of Me would be like. I haven’t worked since my oldest was born, and we’ve been expats for the last 7 years; all of my identity has been based around managing the kids through their changing environments. What might Working Me have been like?

    On my imaginary third hand, my expat life would’ve been unthinkable without there being two of them. Because they were two, we decided to put them into a non-English speaking school for 3-4 years – so much easier to do this when they would have a friendly face on the playground! From that flowed my social life, integrated into the local network rather than living in an expat bubble.

    Two has been just right for living overseas and constantly moving. They are extraordinarily close despite the 4 year gap and being opposite genders, because they have a unique shared experience and have been somewhat thrown back on each other’s company more than their peers. More than two, though, would just get expensive for plane tickets :)

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  • Rocketpj September 10, 2014, 8:14 pm

    We were convinced that one was the number for us, until at one point we somehow changed our minds (and then got pregnant basically instantly). Not twice the work – a second child triples the work and makes life a lot more complex (think competing schedules).

    3 is off the charts, if you ask me. It has to be somebody’s full time job at that point.

    Planet wise, my sister has opted out of kids altogether, so as a collection of DNA strings we are just holding our ground but at least not creating an ever expanding burden on the globe.

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  • Scott September 10, 2014, 9:32 pm

    I agree that this is a personal decision, and I would never dictate what is best for another. My perspective, which I share in case it helps anyone else make a decision, is that each of my four kids adds so much joy to my life that I can’t imagine not having any of them. There are very hard days, but overall, it is not as hard as you might think.

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  • Happyback September 10, 2014, 10:03 pm

    “…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 mom of 7 beautiful children, I totally agree! Every couple is different, and each needs to make decisions that are right for THEM-intentionally. I wish others would step back and respect people’s decisions. I respect yours, and hope others will, too. I wish people would respect mine (and my friends that choose the bigger families intentionally).

    As for extra costs…after I had one of each gender, there were no additional costs, really. You get more skilled at fixing things (rather than buying new), gifts take care of many “new needs”, and the children are a blessing in the family…they help with chores, bring laughter at tough moments, and generally are like having more love around you…and who can’t do with more love?? My kids that are old enough have all gone to college, participated in sports, and have everything they NEED in life. They earn it. When they don’t need/want it, they give it to the younger ones.

    Everyone decides what works for themselves, but just like I don’t buy the current CPI numbers, or the gov’t numbers for anything, really, I don’t buy their child raising expense numbers. Those are ridiculous.

    Children are a blessing. If you choose that blessing, then take care of it, cherish it, nurture it. If you don’t that’s your choice…you’ll have another set of blessings to nurture, cherish and care for.
    ;)

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  • Brendan September 10, 2014, 10:18 pm

    I truly believe that the decision to have no children or 1 child is between God and the couple involved.

    However if that decision is made based on selfish reasons then you end up selling yourself short. What happened to being badass? If anything a frugal person is more equipped to handle the amazing human challenge for raising children, versus a money driven luxurious lifestyle of achieving useless material goals in place of creating new human beings to experience this planet along side us.

    This whole blog goes past the point where we save a bunch of money. It attemps to teach us that biking through a snow storm is not only difficult and counter cultural, but enjoyable, human, and beneficial to us in a way that could be described as feeding your soul. It’s this base level emotion the shows us our true selves, and that our lives are not some simple trip from birth to death.

    Yes one child is OK.

    Mr Money Mustache – are you sure that it’s ok for you?

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  • To Kid or not to kid...that is the question September 10, 2014, 10:32 pm

    I’m a fan of all things financial, investing etc and even veering off into indirect financial issues like extreme frugality and spartan lifestyles are cool, but advice on kids and parenting are not what I was expecting to find at the Mustache Shores. Having said that, it’s your party so you can do what you want to…. and since you put the issue out here for all us internet monkeys to read, I’ll throw some bananas into the cage.

    Kids are tough to have and tougher to raise, but to me the simple issue was about selfishness. Was I going to be the eternal teenager who only worries about his own personal wants and needs or was I going to be able to break the me me me lifestyle that I was living and sacrifice things I wanted, for the needs of another person? At the end of the day having kids is about giving up things, sacrificing things for others.
    Most financial independence discussion are about striving to improve the life of an individual. Having kids is about sharing and improving the life of a group of people. I don’t begrudge those who choose not to have kids, but to those who do it’s a most spectacular lesson about how to become a much better person than you thought you could be. My kids taught me how to evolve from a selfish twit into something better.
    I’ve been able to amass a substantial amount of material things (including money) working in a creative industry, but that success pales in comparison to the satisfaction I get from being able to raise my kids.
    To me it’s a strange sort of nihilism to claim that the world is just too filled up with people to add a few more to the planet – extremely anti-optimistic isn’t it?

    As far as having more than 1 kid or not, I don’t judge others, but I’m extremely thankful that my parents chose to have 4 boys and a girl to allow me to share the ups and downs of my life. Besides having a helluva lot of fun over the years, my family has been more important to my financial success than any budget, investment or job. Not because they gave me material things but because of the lessons they taught and continue to teach. As I watch my kids grow I see them helping each other in similar ways.

    I know there are millions of people who do just fine without kids and never miss a beat, but for me it was the best, most creative decision I’ve made.

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  • Madeline September 10, 2014, 10:54 pm

    I am an only chid (adult now,duh..) and it was ok.I was introspective, but had friends,I did well in school. I did not have a great relationship with my parents, they were busy career people and mostly left my upbringing to my grandmother,who lived with us.In adulthood, our relationship remained cordial, not as close as I would have liked.I envied close families with more noise than mine. But mostly I did ok. I married a guy with 3 brothers and thought we would all be “close”..raise our kids up together, family picnics and trips together. HA! NOT! Everyone scattered, and my son hardly knows his cousins. My sister in laws all have trouble getting along as a family and the oldest brother tries to bully everyone, even in adulthood. I had an only child, myself, as my husband did not want a large family.

    Now that I am older, I wish I had some extended family near me, some close nephews and nieces.I wish I had HAD 2 or 3 kids,myself.. can’t go backwards.. also can’t predict that the family/children you DO HAVE will be “ideal” close to each other OR you, the parents!

    It’s a total crap shoot, I think.just muddle through and do what you think is best–somehow it all works out as it’s supposed to..right??

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  • Katherine September 10, 2014, 10:57 pm

    Glad you posted about this, MMM. I’d been wondering for quite some time why you only had one child if you were both retired prior to having a child, simply because so many people seem to want 2+ children but don’t feel like they have the time (still working) or the resources.

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  • EM September 10, 2014, 11:22 pm

    The Duggars (aka 19 kids and counting) were debt free before they had their children! Just sayin….. ;)

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  • Dave September 11, 2014, 12:07 am

    Thanks so much for writing this post. I’ve read most of this blog but never commented until now! But thanks for all the posts; the work that goes into writing them is much appreciated. I was actually thinking of contacting you to ask for a post on bringing up an only child!

    We are 8 weeks into our first child, and are already coming under serious pressure from family and friends (and doctors!) about when we are planning the second. Saying we’re not sure about a second seems to produce the kind of reaction I’d imagine would follow the announcement we had decided to abandon our daughter on a neighbour’s compost heap.

    I will be looking for that book on Amazon for sure, but if you ever have time to write a follow up post on things that have worked well and things that haven’t in your single-child family that would be great that would be much appreciated.

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    • Mr. Money Mustache September 11, 2014, 6:02 pm

      It will take many more years to get the full perspective, but so far there have been NO disadvantages to having just our one boy (or my “Best Boy” as I call him). Just advantages, as far as I can tell. It’s almost like he has siblings anyway, since he has friends over so often. But then he gets some much-needed alone (and parent) time when there are no visitors.

      Reply
  • Zoltan September 11, 2014, 1:41 am

    We wanted a second child because we both grew up in families with siblings and we would have liked to give the same experience to our firstborn (3ys). Our second daughter (1y)is so wonderful that now it would be hard to imagine the family without her. The two kids give us so much joy that all the sleep deprivation and other hardships (giving up your previous lifestyle etc.) seem to be minor difficulties. As you write, decision on having or not having children is perhaps the most personal decision a couple can ever make.For me, the hardest thing in having kids is that I cannot declutter our home and life as much as I want to…

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  • Pengepugeren September 11, 2014, 2:50 am

    I think he meant that the books let his off the hook in the sense that they contained evidence for the fact that having only one child is not hurting said child.

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    • Mr. Frugal Toque September 12, 2014, 6:52 am

      I read that as kind of facetious. It’s much like the way this blog lets all of us off the hook for
      a) not buying our children iPads
      b) not buying fancy sports cars as nice as our neighbours have
      c) not working until we’re 65

      Reply
  • Clément September 11, 2014, 4:54 am

    Having grown up as a single child, it was awesome. No sibling to bother me, my parents had money to go on cool vacations together, paid Masters degree… As other said, you can’t regret what you don’t know.

    But now as an adult, I wish I had siblings that I could ‘join forces’ with in dealing with my parents. It’s almost impossible to get them to understand that their behavior can be annoying or infuriating at times. They’re retired teachers, so their decades of experience teaching has considerably leaked in the way they interact :) I wish I had somebody on my side.

    With that in mind, DW and I decided on at least 2 (and we’re there). After that, we’ll see how it goes.

    So when you’re a kid: awesome being alone. When you’re an adult: you’d better have awesome parents. I’ve got several friends who were also single child, and they have the same issues dealing with their parents during adulthood.

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  • nicoleandmaggie September 11, 2014, 5:44 am

    Too late for us. But I will say that our contemplation post on whether or not to have another kid gets a lot of hits from Google from people wondering if it’s ok not to want a second.

    One also, of course, doesn’t have to space them 2 years apart. I can’t imagine having a toddler and a baby.

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  • Dave LaLonde September 11, 2014, 6:31 am

    I grew up in a household of five sons with a single mother. Unfortunately, my wife and I do not have children. I have many, many nieces and nephews that just as much as my children. I think the whole idea of having children should be based by personal scenarios.

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  • Sallie September 11, 2014, 6:52 am

    Long time lurker, first time commenter!

    We were married almost ten years before we had our only daughter in 2006. We had not planned on having an only but that is how it worked out. High-risk pregnancy, complicated c-section, high-need baby, being older… We decided to be thankful we had a child at all (and I survived) and be done. There have been times Caroline has asked about having a sibling, but I think she understands as best as she can at this point.

    I also agree with the comments that having a sibling guarantees nothing. I have a brother and we are not close at all. I also know a number of people who grew up in larger families and would never make the same choice for their own children. And I know happy only children who grew up to do the same. There is no one answer.

    We also homescohol and work at home so we never really feel we fit in anywhere, especially when you throw in being older parents with a younger child. (She’ll be eight in a few weeks.) That was the catalyst for focusing on those kinds of topics in my own blogging. Homeschooling an only is becoming more common, but most homeschooling blogs are geared toward families with multiple children. My hope is to encourage families with only children and/or children who are wired differently (spirited, high-need, highly-sensitive, right-brained, etc.). Anyone reading this with an only or differently wired child would be very welcome to stop by!

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  • Abigail September 11, 2014, 7:56 am

    Grateful for this post, but had a mixed reaction. As a single woman at the ripe age of 29, I have no desire to marry or have kids. While I am not opposed to either, I especially feel the pressure to have at least ONE, and have not known how to respond to the lack of a desire to reproduce in myself. I adore kids, but have little desire to have a person’s entire precious life depend on me. I feel like MMM’s ideas suggest that’s acceptable, and in some cases, wise.

    However, a huge part of the reason I can embrace life alone is because I have three siblings and two incredibly supportive parents. They aren’t together, but I still had a great childhood and feel like I’ve been given a lifelong “home” despite living 7,000 miles from them all for the time being. In addition, I have many beautiful nieces and nephews I get to spoil and encourage throughout life, with little fiscal cost.

    In other words, the reason I feel free to live singly and forgo kids is because I come from a large family. As a result, I feel quite satisfied with the “do what’s best for you” and “no 1-size-fits-all” approach.

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  • Lori September 11, 2014, 8:02 am

    I personally feel the “rules” for children are (1) take good care of them (physically, emotionally, raising them to be excellent human beings); and (2) enjoy them. How many is individual. As a homeschooling mom of 8 (and not your typical reader, I’m sure), it truly is a great joy to both parent and to launch kids into the world who truly enrich the world and are a force for good in an often sad world.

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  • Stephaniekb September 11, 2014, 8:05 am

    We had our son through the international surrogacy. Paying to have someone else carry your baby seems very anti-mustachian, but we outsourced to India for a savings of approx. 75% of the domestic rate! Basically as soon as we brought our newborn home I started lobbying my husband to go back to India for a second, but now I’m glad he resisted. His reasons were that we were old (I was 44 when our son was born), as well as the better lifestyle we could afford to give only one child. My son has a strong sense of family, and he has cousins who live nearby so we hope that he has peers when he grows up who serve the same function as siblings. And I have to echo the comments that giving your child siblings does not guarantee that they’ll be friends or allies later in life….

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  • anti1b September 11, 2014, 8:18 am

    MMM, while I respect your article and fully agree with it being a personal choice, I’d like to mention 2 points I think may have been missed or glossed over.

    1st and probably most prominent is that multiple offspring increases the chances that your legacy will succeed and not fail. You can view this in terms of financial success, athletic success or whatever your fancy is but I think everyone would agree that premature death (before old age) would not be as successful as living a long and fruitful life perpetuating your beliefs into the world through future generations actions. While we live in the wonderful country of U.S.A., the chances of dying before natural causes is decreasing due to medicine and I assume you would teach them how to avoid the dangers of the world. Unfortunately no amount of parenting/training/teaching can ensure that your child doesn’t become a crack head or other un-natural or natural causes deprive the world of their life. There’s also the natural risks of illness or disease. I would liken this akin to how you invest in multiple stocks to spread risk and this should also be considered with children. This risk avoidance has been around for millenniums but is being overlooked quite frequently in modern times due to the advancements in technology on numerous fronts. You’re accepting all of the risk of putting the worlds future of having another you into one vessel. This seems very uncharacteristic of you after reading your blog for quite a while and understanding your natural/groomed risk aversion tendencies.

    2nd is what I call the put in what you get out principle. While you do reflect on why our physical bodies are in this existence to perpetuate the species. I could go on a tirade about what all that means but for this instance, if you look at the lives of your wife and yourself, there is simply no way you can put the amount of effort into one child that your parents and society put into both MMM & the misses. The effect of this IMO can be seen as a part of the deteriorating culture we are living in. Now that children are seen as burdens for the successful, we have seen a sharp decline in the procreation and advancement of the children that would reflect the values that brought about that success. I’m glad you’re having one child and not 50 as that is the goal for my stock portfolio and not my children portfolio. I hope it all works out for you guys and your little one!

    3rd as it’s already been covered adoption is a great option, as a success story of our system I can say it doesn’t ever feel perfect but it can be pretty good.

    Keep up the good blog and the entertaining posts.

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  • Bob Werner September 11, 2014, 8:50 am

    7 kids here – 3 mine, 3 hers, 1 ours. Much of the reason I’m planning early retirement at 65! lol

    Nice take on the planning issue.

    One thing I may caution, as I ran a Family Planning Clinic for 5 years is that the pill absolutely does not work. The manufactures state that it is 99.9% effective. (big lie) What that means is that the manufactures believe that 1 out of every 1000 acts of intercourse on average results in pregnancy. No one would fly a plane that crashes 1 out of every 1000 flights!

    My experience from the clinic was that about 40% of our patients were pregnant within 2 years. The older the patient the less likely. I assume this is because of diminished sexual activity. There are many reasons sited for failure including but not limited to: to low a dose, forgot to take them, use of antibiotics, use of antacids, use of other medications, not taking them at the exact same time everyday, and just outright being ineffective.

    The best contraceptive method is what is known as the Double Dutch method common in Europe. They have very, very low unplanned pregnancy rates but more sex. Double Dutch is any two birth control methods combined, such as the pill and condoms.

    Any reader here that thinks they are safe with birth control but only using the pill may have a big surprise.

    But what I really wanted to comment on was “Divorce.” Seems the topic never comes up around here, yet it is likely to occur with 50% of the readers and has a super huge financial footprint. Could you write us little about how to long term plan for that?

    Special Thanks, Bob Werner

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache September 14, 2014, 6:58 am

      I’d think that a Mustachian lifestyle is ideal for better surviving divorce as well: minimal cost of living, plenty of flexibility, a range of skills that could bring in income if needed, and continued accumulation of wealth even after retirement. If my household were to split up right now (purely hypothetical of course!), we’d both still be retired.

      Reply
    • Katherine September 14, 2014, 5:40 pm

      The figure given for contraceptive effectiveness is that 1 of 1000 (your figures) people reliably and correctly using that contraceptive will fall pregnant EACH YEAR not each time you have sex! It is based on actual results, not beliefs. Though there may still be flaws in the studies done. There are also issues with the contraceptive pill being less reliable for some groups – I only know that it is much less effective for people with a higher BMI but there may be others.

      The Double Dutch method you mention is no doubt more effective however :)

      Reply
  • JJ September 11, 2014, 9:08 am

    Mr MM,
    Just wanted to add a different perspecitve. Our son was an only child for 7yrs of his life and the older he got, the more he would tell us that he wanted a sibling. We decided to adopt and had our daughter .Although they fight like cats and dogs, there is a lot of love in our family. Yes, we are sleep deprived, yes we spend twice as much money, but man it is worth it knowing they will look out for each other even after we are long gone.

    Reply
  • Joe September 11, 2014, 9:17 am

    I always thought this study was interesting: http://www.parenting.com/blogs/show-and-tell/kate-parentingcom/study-two-daughter-families-are-happiest

    It proves scientifically what we could probably guess: that the number and sex of your children can impact family harmony.

    BTW, you can pick (with a surprisingly high degree of accuracy, when done correctly) the sex of your child, using the “Shettles Method” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shettles_method

    We’re batting 100% with it :)

    Reply
    • Aaron September 11, 2014, 12:42 pm

      Batting 100% with how many kids?? Unless you have a lot of kids, you should attribute your “success” to chance before you start spreading pseudoscience. Most scientific studies require a p<0.05 (less than 5% that the results occur by chance) before you consider the results real. Therefor you should have at least 5 consecutive sex-anticipated kids by your "method" (0.5^5=3%) before you start evangelizing .

      It's too bad the first study you linked left out 1 child families; their inclusion could have added something to this discussion. I couldn't find the original study, though, and I'm concerned a magazine survey doesn't follow the same statistical rigor as a real scientific study. Their ranking is probably due to chance as well.

      Reply
  • Paul September 11, 2014, 9:24 am

    ..”reacquainted ourselves with the joy of being alive, through the eyes of someone who is seeing it all for the first time.”

    “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!”

    These are great comments. 1,2,3+….children will have an unbelievable impact on your live beyond the badassisty of saving money.

    Reply
  • Lise September 11, 2014, 9:27 am

    Of course it’s a personal decision as to how many children you will have however, I wanted to say that that I believe there is more to the parenting experience with more than one child. Learning how to deal with disagreements .. teaching them to encourage each other … to be supportive of their brother and sister .. to be proud of them and to help them. I know as a mom of two boys I’m grateful that they will have each other growing up. My best friend and her hubby decided to have one child and sadly, her hubby became ill and died last year. I think about her son and who will he have when she goes? She was an only child and her family is also gone and her hubby had sibs but they were estranged so this boy literally only has his Mom as his family. I grew up in a big Italian family with holidays full of aunts and uncles and cousins and I wanted that for my children.

    Reply
  • PK September 11, 2014, 9:41 am

    Feels like every number is manageable, but requires you to acknowledge how the other kids (if any) play a role.

    Having multiple kids is great because you don’t need to try as hard to teach sacrifices, patience, getting along, not getting your way, etc. – just put the kids in a room and let the lessons begin. An only child can learn the same lessons just as well (or better), but it requires a little more thoughtfulness and planning by the parents.

    Having less kids is great because your defense isn’t overwhelmed. Double coverage of a single child is a lot easier than a stretched zone. A little more thoughtfulness and planning (and assistance, from elder kids or outside help) is needed to keep 3+ kids safe from sabre tooth tigers and themselves.

    Long way of saying any number is right, but I might also offer that MMM should edit his “Cons” column to add “could be lonely in old age if you mess it up” to every single scenario :-)

    Reply
  • Fandre September 11, 2014, 10:03 am

    An interesting article on the microeconomic consequences of family size, a luxury of the modern post-industrial, post birth control era. Its also interesting to ponder the evolutionary c consequences of this one life altering choice.

    The new modern capacity to chose family size seems like a new selective pressure to me. Is frugality an inherited trait( genetic or cultural) and, if frugal people tend to have less children, will the presence of the mustachian gene diminish in the gene pool over time? It could explain why stoicism/mustachianism is relatively uncommon in the general population. Mustachianism must also be a recessive trait. :) But, seriously, I think there is a wide variability in people’s innate biases towards immediate consumption or delayed gratification and that is due in large part to gene expression. There is probably a genetic component to it but does it translate into having fewer children? My hunch is that it does and it surfaces as a tendency towards world views that favor less children: people are a cancer on the environment, etc.

    A counterargument might be that less mustachian people might actually be delayed gratifiers and might choose to have less children because they are aware of the costs and would prefer to buy more stuff in the long run instead of having children now. I don’t know what motivates other people so its hard to contradict that. However, I think that people who are less biased towards delaying gratification don’t tend to think in these raw economic terms. In my mind the desire to buy stuff is highly correlated with one’s bias towards less planning and immediate gratification.

    Since selective birth control is a new selective pressure it hasn’t had its chance to work its way through the gene pool yet. Will mustachians be around in a few hundred years if they are systematically eliminating their frugal genes from the human gene pool? The classic proof by contradiction argument is that homosexuals prefer not to procreate so therefore homosexuality should be absent from the gene pool. Homosexuality is common so homosexuality is therefore not genetic. Its a broken argument because gene expression is usually not binary. There are shades of melanin, for instance, as there are degrees of self control, altruism, violence, etc. in all people. Selective pressures change the probabilities that traits will appear in the gene pool but its awfully hard to eliminate a trait entirely.

    Reply
  • Joe September 11, 2014, 10:12 am

    I have 2 brothers and it’s nice to know I have someone to depend on when shits hit the fan. In our family, we were brought up to depend on each other and family is the only one you can absolutely rely upon. Yeah, sounds a little Godfatherish, but it’s true.
    We only have one kid and that’s okay too. I would have liked 2, though. At least we have 1 so I’m very thankful for that.

    Reply
  • Steve September 11, 2014, 10:54 am

    Great post! This is a discussion that has been evolving ever since my wife and I started seriously dating (and I am sure it will continue to evolve). We started at opposite positions: I wanted 1 child and she wanted maybe 4. We’ve slowly moved to both being comfortable with 2. I would still be comfortable with 1.

    Sigh, being a bit of a selfish DINK, I rather enjoy the DINK lifestyle and look forward to having it for at least another ~3-4 years. Of course excited to have a kid (or kids) but not yet!

    Reply
  • Judi September 11, 2014, 11:41 am

    As an only child myself who is in her 40’s now, and I want to give my perspective. I really, really, REALLY wish I had a sibling for several reasons. This is one of the biggest reasons I decided to have a second child.
    1) I have a parent who is mentally ill, an addict, and now aging and will need a lot of care. This will be my burden alone. Now, I get that having a sibling doesn’t necessarily mean that I would share this burden with them financially, but at least I would have some emotional support.
    2) I really just would have loved to have that relationship in my life. I see what my two kids share and it gives me a bittersweet joy that I can’t really describe. The sibling relationship is the longest relationship most of us have in our lives.

    Reply
  • GreenGirl September 11, 2014, 12:03 pm

    I had a kid because I didn’t want to get Darwined out of the gene pool! It took many millenia to get to where I am now! (p.s. he’s turning out just great.)

    Reply
  • Alice September 11, 2014, 12:09 pm

    I am an only child and I came out ok. But, remember, the biggest gift parents can give their child is a sibling.

    Reply
  • JaneMD September 11, 2014, 12:12 pm

    Sadly, I am no longer in synch with this community. I had two kids a year apart and worked full-time happily. My husband and I thought it made our marriage stronger and the last two years trying to conceive again was both expensive and heartbreaking for the two of us. I changed jobs, got one closer to home, biked to work every day, imagined life with just two, and was extremely unhappy. Finally 6 months pregnant with #3, bike is in the storage closet and I am very happy. Still hoping for 1-3 more kids to follow this one. (Kindly refrain from commenting or trying to convince me otherwise, I doubt any argument will top what our family lost at Auschwitz.)

    Reply
    • Alice September 11, 2014, 7:17 pm

      I hope you have many more healthy children.
      Alice

      Reply
  • Aaron September 11, 2014, 12:13 pm

    Some interesting arguments for both sides. Like a lot of things, I think you just do whatever you want and choose some books/arguments/friends that defend your decision. We’re expecting our second next spring. I work in a hospital, so I definitely appreciate that the elderly with offspring have much better support than those without (on average). I hope I get the same support from my children. Still, we’re only having another because the first one (now 11 months) is so much fun

    Reply
  • markon September 11, 2014, 12:17 pm

    Fewer kids is definitely more mustachian. I am 36 and have a 4 month old. We struggled to produce this one but she is wonderful and (probably) enough for us! I’m not sure how people can afford two or more because I already want to give the first one everything I have.

    Reply
  • Len September 11, 2014, 1:04 pm

    The main purpose of having multiple children is to increase your odds of grandchildren!
    That’s the real payoff….

    Reply
  • David September 11, 2014, 2:24 pm

    In the old days people thought it was wise to have a “spare”. Might still be true today.

    Reply
    • Mr. Frugal Toque September 12, 2014, 6:59 am

      I suppose … are you from a royal line in succession to a throne? Do you anticipate a high chance of assassination? Then it might make sense, from the standpoint of the stability of your Realm, to have an “heir and a spare.”

      Reply
  • Sandy September 11, 2014, 2:26 pm

    I totally disagree with you about not getting sleep after having a baby. We chose to have only one child who today is a software engineer, earning his degree at the top of his class on a full-ride academic scholarship and could easily take “early retirement” if he chooses but has not as of yet. Except for the first week after we brought him home, he slept through the night constantly until 6am. The simple trick was to get him good and tired during the daytime hours. I could never understand all of the complaining because we never had any issue with him.

    Comfortably living below the poverty level off this wasteful culture.

    Reply
    • Mr. Frugal Toque September 12, 2014, 7:06 am

      Sleep patterns are highly child dependant. A relative of mine had twins, a boy and a girl. The girl slept through the night in short order. The boy was a nightmare. The amusing part of it was the (as yet childless) aunt who was full of advice for her sister on how to get the boy to sleep through the night.
      Eventually, the aunt had a baby, and the baby slept through the night, and the aunt felt so wise.
      So she had a second child, who was a nightmare.
      I don’t know who said “I told you so” to whom, or when.

      Reply
    • lizzie September 12, 2014, 7:09 am

      You were just lucky. My second was like your first. My first . . . not so much. My very wise sister-in-law, mother to three wonderful grown men, always said that the second child teaches you that what you thought were all your wise parenting choices are mostly BS because they don’t work with every child. She also had a story about a patient of hers who had eight children. The first seven were no problem. The eighth was colicky. She didn’t have any more.

      Reply
  • mr_tiny_'stash September 11, 2014, 2:43 pm

    Hi MMM,
    I was introduced to your blog around a year ago…and have spread it to lots of friends and co-workers. Since then I’ve changed my attitude on savings greatly, and have begun chipping away at our large mortgage debt (my family lives in notoriously expensive Silicone Valley – something I’d like to change).
    I understand and appreciate your super positive world view, but can’t help but notice that only one article (that i’ve seen at least) is about a time that you f’ed up. It seems either MMM’s poop doesn’t smell like the rest of ours, or you’ve made a single mistake in your entire life.
    Everyone makes mistakes, learning from that is important. I’d love to see occasional articles with titles such as “The Time MMM scrwed the pooch on ‘insert topic here’, ‘The Time MMM shot a nail through his hand with his fancy new nail gun’ ect.
    Shit happens, as a reader I’d love to hear how you have rebounded from adverse situations with yoru positive outlook on the world.

    Reply
  • Frivid42 September 11, 2014, 2:54 pm

    Great stuff! As a father of 3 kids and a lover of bluegrass music I had failed to see the connection before:-)

    Reply
  • Bakari September 11, 2014, 4:18 pm

    Feeling stressed?
    Try not having kids!
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4AhGvR0143s

    Reply
  • Mark September 11, 2014, 4:36 pm

    First, let me say that I believe that the decision to have children (and how many) is a very personal one. To each his own. Second, I have no problem with the fact that you, MMM, and your wife decided that one was the correct number for you. Excellent choice — continue to lead a good life.

    I must point out, however, that whining about sleep deprivation and not wanting to go through the “torture stage” again as justification for not spawning a team of mini-mustaches exhibits a serious lack of badassity. MMM is supposed to be a disciplined renaissance man who can forgo an expensive latte in the morning, lay sheet rock in the afternoon, and then read his kid a story in the evening. A ‘stache is not afraid of a poopy diaper or a 2 am feeding. The fact is that you grew soft as your son got older and became less needy. It seems that you might just have some unused muscles that got a bit flabby, but you could whip them into shape in no time! Mr. Money Mustache, fear not another baby peach fuzz!

    Reply
  • One and Done September 11, 2014, 5:05 pm

    MMM – I know you look at both sides of issues and the short-term and long term costs and gains. As a counter to only having one kid, did you read economist’s Bryan Caplan’s “Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids?” Thoughts?
    http://www.amazon.com/Selfish-Reasons-Have-More-Kids/dp/0465028616

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache September 14, 2014, 7:10 am

      Pretty funny suggestion in that book. But what if you enjoy the free time and less harried lifestyle of a single kid, where you have more time to really connect with him, rather than just serving as a giant logistics coordinator for things like food and sleep for a large collection of humans? Even if you’re not into travel sports and international violin lessons, it is still a massive undertaking just keeping several kids alive and healthy!

      Reply
      • Dan November 11, 2014, 3:36 pm

        That really depends on the people. My parents had 5 kids and we never had paid sports lessons, music lessons, and had great freedom to roam our neighborhood, play outside, and just enjoy life. I now have two kids of my own and plenty of wealth and I believe I learned this in part from the frugality required of being in a larger family.

        Reply

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