457 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.

 

 

 

 

  • Des September 18, 2014, 5:33 pm

    There is a solution that gives children siblings without the parents have to take on the full burden of more children: co-habitation! If two couples live together and each have a single child, the kids still get to grow up with a playmate, but the burden on the adults is significantly decreased. Yes, you will give up some privacy, but I think the gains are more than worth it. Couples can each take a weekend night away while the other minds the household – date night every week! We really duplicate a lot of effort and resources maintaining separate households for every family.

    Reply
    • Dan September 18, 2014, 6:16 pm

      Yeah this is a really good idea.
      Two friends of mine (sisters) are both mum’s (one’s single).
      They live next door to each other with one child each and share supervision of the kids
      The kids are together almost all the time and are just like brother and sister.
      The parents can get night’s / weekends off when needed and the kids are loving it !

      It might hard to find another couple with a single child and make this work in other circumstances though.
      If someone has to move for work or has a falling out/difference in parenting style it just wouldn’t work.

      Reply
  • Sumitha September 19, 2014, 8:22 am

    This topic really hit close to home for me. We’re among those folks that can’t have a second one. My “ideal” image of a family always had two kids. So, at first I was very disappointed and would look longingly at all my friends who have two. But over time, I’ve come to really appreciate and enjoy the quality of my relationship with my daughter and husband, as well as the overall quality of life. I’m not sure how all that would be if we had two kids as I’d hoped, but I’m happy now with what we have. Sometimes, I even wish I’d made the choice consciously, instead of it being handed down to me :)

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  • Gena Kukartsev September 19, 2014, 3:28 pm

    Wow, such an unexpectedly whiny article from MMM! Baaah, my only kid makes it too hard for two young adults who do not have day jobs. Seriously, this article is not unexpected because this leitmotif was there from the start but I think it is so out of spirit with everything else MMM has to say.

    Yea, it is a very personal decision and all that but I still personally think that this is as far from badassity as it gets.

    And what about that overpopulation and planet eating shit? There is no convincing evidence that we’re overpopulated. And each person is very obviously a net positive, otherwise we wouldn’t be progressing. And kid rearing (I have two) is not a 20-year-old sentence.

    I liked a book by an economist Bryan Caplan “Selfish Reasons To Have More Kids” on this topic. Among other things, it convinced me that raising kids is fun, not that difficult if you do it with the right attitude, and everyone who wants kids in principle should have more.

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    • Improvised Wisdom September 20, 2014, 12:54 am

      …Kind of rude, I think, to hit someone when they’re showing a personal moment. Overpopulation exists, not because of world population, but because the current population in many developed countries loves to take more than they need. MMM never stated anything about there being a 20 year sentence for raising a few tiny people. His sentence was the baby years( the year where you don’t get much sleep). You remember, those months where you(or your wife, but I will assume Gena is a female name in this case) couldn’t sleep because of a parasite kicking you so damn often, sitting on your bladder, being a pain in general? Add on the year or so(only like 6 months here… a little parental pride for my walking national emergency) where you’re waking up at nasty hours to feed the little ball of skin that isn’t able to do anything for themselves? I will read this book, “Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids,” because it looks interesting. But I find it rude to hit him where it hurts, just because his words don’t hit home for you.

      Reply
      • Gena Kukartsev September 21, 2014, 1:18 pm

        Wisdom, not every argument is a “hit”, this one certainly was not intended as such. I think that this is an area where MMM is dead wrong. Everyone still is very much entitled to choose how many kids to have, if any. But it would be wrong to justify not having more kids as a service to the society.

        20-year sentence I believe is from MMM’s table in the article… just checked that, it is not a quote but that is how it reads, “20 years … dedicated…a few more years added to your sentence.”

        Anyway, this is not an attack but an argument. I am convinced (at the moment) that every new kid is a net positive to the society. I also kinda feel that it is a moral duty to bring them if you can (especially if you live, like us, in the first world like a king – shameful to talk about hardships when we are pampered like you wouldn’t believe). But ok, moral duty is a hard thing to sell. So Bryan Caplan in “Selfish Reasons…” also shows that there are selfish pragmatic reasons to have more kids.

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    • Mr. Money Mustache September 21, 2014, 11:58 am

      No convincing evidence?! Have you been willfully ignoring all of what science has said in the past 30 years? Every fucking measurement of our ecosystem is in heavy decline other than localized pollution in rich countries.. Climate change, for example, is a function of number of humans multiplied by emissions due to fuel consumption and land clearing.

      We are making great economic progress, but ecological progress will only start happening when more of us acknowledge that there is some work to do.

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      • Gena Kukartsev September 21, 2014, 12:31 pm

        Hey MMM,

        thank you for the reply. I am a scientist myself, and of pretty liberal persuasion. This should not matter (ideally) but perhaps it will help not getting sidetracked by fighting nonexistent prejudice.

        There are legitimate concerns about pollution. There are also tons of recent breakthroughs from hi-tech to genetically modified crops, air and water quality is getting better, there is no shortage of food, fuel and minerals (there are huge problems with distribution though). Life is getting better, and a big part of it is ideas and productive population. We need more of it, not less.

        BTW, I am almost quoting from “Selfish Reasons…” but I hope it is for the better (if you read one page, let it be page 8).

        Long story short, cutting population is not nearly an adequate measure to solve ecological problems. If anything, it seems hugely counterproductive.

        P.S. My name does sound female in English but it is a Russian name, I am male (not that it has any relevance to the discussion but someone asked).

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    • DoItYourself September 21, 2014, 9:40 pm

      I am with you Gena on the idea that each person is a net positive. I believe we as a society have begun down a slippery slope of devaluing human life. I get an uneasy feeling reading many of these comments. I get the sense that children are being defined as parasites before even being born. Maybe we should have forced euthanasia at age 60? If you’ve retired at age 30, you’ve enjoyed yourself enough by 60 and shouldn’t feel entitled to anymore of the earth’s resources. Maybe if you don’t get good enough grades in high school, we should terminate you. After all, you will just be consuming and not contributing to society.

      I appreciate what MMM is trying to get at. That it is OK to have one kid and to not let the world tell you otherwise. But, I think some of the discussion is getting carried to far. Each person is valuable and has something to contribute.

      Reply
  • Jimbo September 19, 2014, 9:15 pm

    Late to the comments, but we were walking through Costco and ran into some friends with an adult son. He was back from college and with them. We just had a son at the time. The parents went on about all the adventures they went on with their son. We asked the son how he felt about it, and his response was that it would have been nice to have someone close to his age on those adventures. Our children (now 4 and 1.5, almost exactly 2.5 years apart) have their squabbles, but are generally a mutual admiration society. We are somewhat insular as a family, in that we don’t make extreme efforts to do playdates and such, so the kids spend a lot of time together and it’s been great so far.

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  • Improvised Wisdom September 20, 2014, 12:39 am

    Wow. This is the first time commenting. Been reading your blog since October of last year(2013), and find it to be the best thing for my now wife and I(shes’ a big fan of both the site, and finds the forums to be more than helpful.)I currently have an eight year old, and while I do remember the stress in the relationship for raising her, there was a much bigger reason that her mom and I divorced. I do, however, truly love and appreciate the effort put in to tell people that they don’t need to even have children if they don’t want to. I find it liberating to hear that even if you aren’t a professional, who has put their life into their work, it’s ok to not have children if you don’t want to. I grew up the youngest of 7. While she grew up one of two, ten years separate. We are planning on having our own children in approx. 4 years. Well, it’s probable that I mean a child, but she says twins run in her family. We’ll say one birth and call it safe. in any case. I personally want one to essentially replace each of us. It’s only a thought from me, and I am more than happy to let my wife decide what she wants, as it’s her body the baby will be eating for nearly 2 years. In any case. I apologize for the long comment, but thank you for everything you have done for us so far.

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  • Philip September 20, 2014, 8:56 pm

    I read a few of the comments above about pets before posting this to make sure I didn’t repeat anything (still, a distinct possibility!) One of the things I thought about after reading this article is that, well, I already have kids but I don’t have a pet yet. Am I allowed to not have a pet?! I think so. My kids will probably survive if they don’t have a dog or a cat. In fact, there are so many other dogs and cats around I can’t tell that it would make much difference to them if we never get one.

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  • Heather September 22, 2014, 3:20 pm

    A great follow-up guest post might be, “Staying Mustachian with 2+ Kids”…

    Reply
  • Postscript September 22, 2014, 4:00 pm

    Another rarely mentioned advantage to a single child: God forbid something happens to the parent(s) when the kid is young, it’s much easier to place a single orphan than a bevy. Friends, relatives, or even grandma can usually take on one more kid, but adding two or more to an existing family is really significant – particularly if any of the kids have special needs.

    I say this as someone who lost my incredibly healthy, fit, organic-food-eating sister to breast cancer last year at 37 and almost became a mother of four as a result…

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  • Ryan September 23, 2014, 9:18 am

    Only a singleton and worried about sleep? I exercised my Stoicism by having 2 at the same time, where 1 suffered from severe reflux, thus requiring feedings every 1-1/2 hours. Nothing like pushing the boundaries. Having only 1 baby at a time would be a cakewalk, but I always remember that having 3 would be worse.

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  • Blacorc September 24, 2014, 8:32 am

    Is it just me or is this pessimistic view of the value of human life directly opposed to MMM’s other writings such as “Why We are Not Really All Doomed”? Ezekiel Emanuel had an article recently about why he wants to die at 75, to be less of a burden to society. Knowing that MMM wants to live to be 120 wouldn’t that be “consuming too many resources”? If he doesn’t view himself that way, why wouldn’t he give the same benefit to children? Shouldn’t our children be given the opportunity to innovate and solve the problems of their generation? Won’t we find some technology a la the Nail Gun that will help the “burden” of human life on this planet? Seems contradictory to me.

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  • Janny September 25, 2014, 2:41 am

    It seems to me the bottom line is self-awareness and non-judgementalism, because there really is no right or wrong in the number of kids one chooses to have. I have been firmly in the camp of more than one, maybe because I haven’t known many only children, coming from a religious background where everyone I knew had 4-12 children. I no longer belong to the religion and the “righteousness” of having lots of kids doesn’t cut it as a good reason. But I still hold the view 2 is generally better than one, for two reasons: 1. As a parent of one you can’t imagine loving another child as much as you love the first, but you can and do, and it actually feels like much bigger love than you’d think possible for 2 kids. In this respect all of the solid reasons for having only one child seem a bit small. 2. Siblings as friends and as responsible, caring people are as much about good parenting as raising responsible mustachians. There are no guarantees, but the values can be taught. I have 5 grown children, 4 of whom live nearby. All are friends who are self-aware enough to work out hurt feelings etc., and all would do anything for each other. We get together frequently and have an instant party. Introverts keep to the edges, extroverts are right in the middle, and everyone keeps in mind respect for differences, which admittedly, can be difficult. But the togetherness, fun and ready support network far outweigh working through the difficulties. Especially the small children difficulties. Those disappear extremely quickly from the memory once the kids get older, need less, and eventually become your friends as well as your children.

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  • April Meiergerd September 26, 2014, 10:53 am

    Thanks for this addition to the blog. My husband and I are parents to one child, our 4-year old daughter. Almost everything you said really hits home, especially the realization that IT IS OK to just have one! Whew! Maybe in a few years we will change our minds, but for right now we are content with our only. Who cares if people think I am weird. That ship sailed a LONG time ago…. I am a teacher, a roller-derby girl, a Snow White impersonator, a crazy coupon lady AND a wife and mother…weird is just a side effect of awesome! Ha!

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  • E.T. September 26, 2014, 6:19 pm

    This story actually makes me sad. It sounds like you had a really difficult baby. My 1 year old is far, far more easy going (and easier) than that.

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  • lylegentry October 7, 2014, 12:33 pm

    I prefer to follow biblical teachings rather than the Godless, liberal agenda. We are commanded to “be fruitful and multiply” and I intend to do just that!

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  • Jamie October 10, 2014, 9:53 am

    We had two kids for the exact reason MMM mentioned–so they could go through this tough life together and have each other. It was one of the best decisions we made. We almost didn’t do it, and they are 3 years apart, but you’d be surprised at how well they play and get along now that they are 10 and 7 (both girls). If anything, having two kids gives my wife and I MORE time than if we had one, and having the same gender is another gift that I didn’t recognize at first (me wanting a boy obviously). We don’t have to constantly entertain one kid because they have a sibling to fight/play with, the older one mentors the younger one. The list of benefits to having two kids goes on and on.

    That being said it is 2X the effort and expense–but even this is not totally accurate. Our second was much easier than our first, and we were able to enjoy watching her grow a LOT more than our first who was much more difficult and picky.

    If I had the drive and the money I’d have 4 kids. I would love to have 2 boys and 2 girls, that to me is an amazing legacy. Ecological footprint be damned, people that use that line are often scapegoating other inadequacies. The utmost goal in life is to make your mark on this earth. . .and for us common folk who will never be poets or great scientists the best way to do that is to see what kind of progeny we produce and pass on our genetic material.

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  • nick October 12, 2014, 9:52 am

    Divorce rate increases with more kids? Maybe for you. That is not a fact, it depends on the person.

    The study: Douglas Downey of Ohio State University and Donna Bobbitt-Zeher of the National Opinion Research Study at University of Chicago interviewed 57,000 adults from all across the US. They presented their results were presented at a recent meeting of the American Sociological Association.

    Researcher Doug Downey observed adults who grew up as an only child were least likely to marry. Those who did marry were the most at risk for divorce than adults who grew up with at least one sibling.

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  • ShaniL December 14, 2014, 2:49 am

    Well, I went ahead and had SEVEN children, and they are the best thing I’ve ever done. Expensive? yes! Sleepless nights? – 22 years of that! Each one of my children is going to be a contributing member of society, and we need more of those!

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  • Gina January 7, 2015, 10:03 am

    The time/money accounting is a little off. Having 2 children doesn’t cost twice as much as having one — each subsequent child is cheaper since you already have all the stuff. Also, for the time taken to be a parent, if it’s 20 years with one, each child only adds a couple of years to that. Even if you have the first and the last 20 years apart (which is pretty much the maximum time assuming you get married in your early 20s) that only doubles the time you have to actively parent.

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  • Eric B. February 9, 2015, 6:07 am

    Mr. MMM,
    Did you just assume that more children increases the odds of the parents divorcing or is there statistical evidence for that? I tried to find evidence with a few internet searches, but I couldn’t find anything one way or the other. I did, however, find that larger families substantially decrease the odds of the children themselves getting divorced after they grow up and get married.

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  • Laura February 25, 2015, 7:34 am

    My parents have put pressure on me to have more than one child because they think it is important for a child to have siblings once parents are no longer in the world. I think about this sometimes and all I can hope is that my only will have lots of friends and a family of his own so he will feel have a support network in place for that time.
    Money could never replace the loss of a parent, but I do hope to soften the blow by leaving an inheritance. Many siblings no longer speak to one another after they lose their parents because of issues over wills. At least only children will not have to deal with that type of squabbling.
    There are so many good reasons to have one or none children, but for me one important reason is that I am an introvert. I value my alone time. I like people, but I almost always prefer a one on one relationship, so one child is perfect for me. If my son has different social tendencies, perhaps one day he will have a gaggle of kids which will make smile with joy for him.

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  • Daniel February 27, 2015, 1:30 pm

    Great post! :) I’ll show Figure 1 to my wife :)

    We’re planning at least 2 kids, but I would be very happy if we had three. I’m not sure why – I have one brother, so I don’t know how it feels to have two brothers or sisters. But kids can give you so much love! And you can three times more love from 3 kids ;)

    In addition, in Hungary (where we live) the state provides crazy tax benefits if there are 3 children in a family. For instance, my current net salary is $825 (150% of national average). With one child: $907, with 2 children: $1,000, with 3 children: $1,370 (!). Moreover, if you have 3 children, they get free books and lunch at school. (And the whole family gets 90% discount on all train and bus tickets in the country.) Basically, if you have 2 kids, it’s crazy not to have a third one :D

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  • Mihaela August 29, 2015, 9:12 am

    I am an only child. I have no issues with that. I am a pretty happy person and have a healthy relationship with my parents and grandparents. 95%of my friends have brothers and sisters and the family model for the middle class here is 2 children. My husband also comes from a family with 2 children.
    When I got married and our son was born, my husband really wanted a second child. Me – not so much. Even though we raised that one for the first year without substantial expenses – we bought only reusable diapers, carriers instead of stroller, I breastfed for 2 and half years, he has never eaten food from outside, but mostly what I prepare for us, 99% of his clothes are passed down to me from friends with older boys, I was not sure I want to contribute to consumerism with a second child. And here comes his 1st birthday, I have to get back to work, because we are still paying mortgage. And here enter nanny costs. My heart hurts :D I started my own part time business, beside my full time job. Finally my son is at the age where he can go to public kindergarten or at least at a parent coop which is significantly cheaper than the nanny (although we had a pretty cheap nanny). So I asked my husband if he is still thinking about a second child. Surprise – no, he was horrified at the cost for this year and a half of nanny. So now we will use the “nanny money” to pay the mortgage faster :)

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  • Carolyn September 18, 2015, 10:25 am

    I started reading MMM a few months ago. At which point I already had four children! Yep, four. I totally agree with the chart at the end “someone better devote their lives to this.” That’s what I’ve done, my husband is the breadwinner. (Although, I do bring in money with side projects). We homeschool our children and have centered our entire lives around meeting their needs and helping them grow up into healthy adults. I totally understand making a different choice! But, to speak to the resource argument-i.e. we have produced more mouths for the planet to feed-We devote our lives to our children. I have about seven friends that I still know from high school, of those, only three of us have chosen to have children, and I am the only one who has more than two. It could be argued, from my small sample, that the population is still dropping. I strongly believe that people should have only as many children as they are willing to actually raise. Not for the faint of heart, but then again neither is life.

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  • Erin K February 26, 2016, 3:22 pm

    I’m a little behind on your posts (reading from start to finish) but figured you would have something on this topic. Did a quick search and here I am.

    I quit my job this morning. My husband and I are about half way to our savings goal at 35 yrs old. We should be there in a few more years despite the loss of a second income. My husband is a software engineer with significantly more earning potential than I had (like…x6). We have 1 kid (5 years old and in SK) and don’t plan to have any more. My boss (for 23 more business days) said this when I told him I was resigning: “So what, you’re going to stay at home with only 1 kid?”.

    Did you run into this? People judging you negatively because you have the audacity to give an only child a stay at home parent (2 stay at home parents no less!!)? My husband had a stay at home mom and wants that for his daughter. I grew up an only child and my parents both worked because they had to because they are not quite as badass as me. They did teach me to work hard and save my money so that I can retire early (they just had no idea how early I was going to be able to do it and they are proud of me!)

    –Nervous about judgemental people in KW Ontario

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    • Will J February 27, 2016, 1:05 am

      Congratulations! I’m envious.. In my family I am the one with 6x earning potential, but I would stay home in a heartbeat if it were the other way around. Staying home can mean doing many things for your family, yourself, and your community, and can actually accelerate the path to early retirement, especially if it leads to lower expenses. As many on this site can attest, early retirement doesn’t mean you stop doing things. Unfortunately, it sounds like your soon-to-be former boss is simply not as badass as you are!

      Reply
  • Chenay May 23, 2016, 10:08 am

    Thank you for being so honest about your experience parenting a young child. My kid just turned two and it parenting her is equal parts fun and draining. We are going for the second kid sometime later this year, and I’ve definitely thought about going through the crazy baby stage and how hard it’s going to be, but I also see it as a challenge and a chance to “do it right” since I’ve been through it all before.

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  • Mark August 21, 2016, 7:44 am

    I came from a family of 5 children, my wife is the oldest of 5; and we have 5 children. Each child, each sibling, each in-law brings their own uniqueness and special attributes to the family. I can’t imagine limiting my life to only one child–it would be like reading only one author, or listening to one musician. Friends come and go, but family is forever, for better or worse.

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  • Be September 20, 2016, 1:19 pm

    I want to preface this comment by noting that people will criticize others for their breeding decisions no matter the number of children (zero through infinity) involved.
    That said, my mother birthed 6 kids and both parents each had 2-3 step children per each post-divorce relationship (13 children in total) and they did not have the resources for all of us. Financially, emotionally, physically or any other ‘-ally’ you can think of.
    Whether your child regrets your decision on how prolific you want to be is really a matter of chance, circumstance and personality. For me, my parents choices may have informed my preference for a controlled population draw-down to voluntary human extinction…or it may just be my personality. All one can do is make a choice based on the best information, as is available to you at the time, about what will make your future self happy.

    Reply
  • Abandoned Cubicle October 11, 2016, 4:11 pm

    Ahhh, *this* post… Dated around the time I first stumbled across MrMoneyMustache.com. At that time, our twins were a little over a year old (we had to keep both, despite the article’s suggestion.) We expected to retire whenever-never while planning an upgrade to mini-mansion and shiny new mini-van. Instead, I dove in, and now, two years later, am within 3.33 years of early retirement (and gladly, no big house, or new car.) Thanks, Pete, for sharing the wisdom and making it fun along the way. We’ve even thought of moving to the front range based on all the wonderful things you’ve posted about Longmont. You’ve got friends in Minneapolis if you’re ever in the neighborhood. Oh, and we have lots of very nice craft-beer tap-rooms and bike paths – a fine mix!

    Reply
  • Trip November 3, 2016, 1:12 pm

    Hi MMM,

    Thank you so much for writing this article. I’ll need to check the reference books you mention. My wife and I currently only have one child, but we’ve been deciding whether or not to have a second child.

    My biggest fear is ending up with twins and then jumping straight from the 1 to the 3+ on your chart. I’ve known too many others that have had that happen to them. Uggh..

    At one point several years ago I wanted to blog on why the world needs lower birth rates worldwide and most families having 1 or 2 children. I now think that people will naturally come to that conclusion if we can improve their financial literacy around the world.

    – Trip

    Reply
  • Rachel January 15, 2017, 4:37 pm

    Yes!!! This is very similar to the childbearing decision-making process my husband and I went through. Always planned on having two kidlets, had one and realized he was all we wanted/needed. Read all the books and articles on raising an only child, polled friends and family who are only children, and we feel pretty confident with our decision. I find myself having to defend our choice and explain to others that the stereotypes surrounding only children are baseless. I know people with siblings who have the very same negative personality traits that people tend to assign to only children. Also, I know plenty of adults who don’t speak to, or see, their siblings for various reasons. And, as a Mustachian, we feel secure in our ability to provide (attention, time, physical needs, etc.) for one, so we can live a peaceful life and focus on teaching him to be a kind, productive human, rather than being overwhelmed and stressed out. My husband and I know our limits and “one and done” is perfect for us.

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  • Dads Dollars and Debts May 5, 2017, 8:29 am

    Rereading this article for the 3rd time in a few years. Our son is now 2. We went through IVF to have him and while we are not willing to do IVF again, we are debating birth control vs no birth control. My wife and I are still on the fence about numero dos so we are going to keep slow playing it .

    Reply
  • Mrs Small May 6, 2017, 1:47 pm

    This posts resonates with me. Thank you for writing it. Family size is an emotive topic and is something I personally have gotten into debt for because I thought at one time that having more than one child is what I was ‘supposed to do’ so forked out silly amounts of money on IVF.
    I have a 4-year son and after a lot of soul searching can now see that having one child is just as beautiful as any other family size. What I find frustrating is that most of the ‘mainstream’ articles I stumble upon to do with family-size normally conclude that one child is fine but more than one is even better – what a load of ****!

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  • A September 12, 2017, 9:41 pm

    Dear MMM,

    First off, thank you for being a magnificent life-changing influence on me. Secondly, I recently read a book I think you’ll love, highly relevant to Mustachianism: (“The Accidental Superpower” by Peter Zeihan) that really opened my eyes about the importance of healthy demographics (among other key factors, like geography) in determining the economic future of a country, or for that matter a state like Colorado! (hint: the future is very bright!) In fact, the author points towards America’s uniquely healthy, growing birth-rate among developed countries and how it will help solidify America’s future whereas countries like China, Russia and Germany are due for upheaval as their baby boomer generation enters its retirement phase and there simply won’t be enough producers, consumers, tax-payers or even young immigrants to evade economic atrophy. It’s a book that may add some interesting contrast to your thoughtful post above, as well as powerful relevance to many of your other ideas about optimism, choosing a geography, city planning, saving/investing, betting on America, the energy revolution, and Mustachianism overall. Hope to grab a beer with you someday!

    Reply
  • Rum Tum Tugger February 17, 2018, 1:38 pm

    The number of kids to have – or whether to have them at all – is a personal choice that families should make for themselves free of outside pressure. In terms of producing a well-rounded adult, the most important thing is that children have a supportive and nurturing environment, and this comes not just from the parents but also the neighborhood/community. This is true whether you have one kid or ten. As they say, it takes a village.

    As soon as my wife and I had our first son eight years ago, we knew we wanted another one. That desire became even stronger when our second child passed away shortly after delivery. For us, the ONLY way to recover from that experience was to have another one, which we did nearly three years ago. Sure, having more than one has slowed the growth of my ‘stache (we are a one income family), but some things are more important than that.

    After researching on this blog and many other sources we are making positive changes including developing a budget and just being more deliberate about our spending (Is this piece of clothing/meal out/other retail item REALLY worth my freedom?). We are even considering moving out of state to further minimize our life costs. Eventually my wife will go back to work at which point we should be able to easily save half or more of our income. I look forward to graduating from a wispy lil’ molester mustache to a lush handlebar one. Or maybe a Fu Manchu. :-D

    Reply
  • Catalina November 13, 2018, 9:24 am

    I think I just worry that if one of my (not-yet-existent) children dies at some point before I do it will be too hard to grasp if I don’t have another one. Is this a twisted thought?

    Reply
  • Juan July 30, 2019, 12:33 pm

    Interesting to re-read this article now that I have a 2 year old daughter. When I first I read it I had no kids and just nodded my head. It seemed logical, and as an only child, I had an amazing childhood and would like to think I turned out fine.

    This post resonates even more now as we consider the possibility of having a second child. Does it matter if child #1 is a boy or a girl? As I said, I did just fine as an only boy. Part of me (probably a not so rational one) thinks a girl might benefit more from a sibling given some of the societal pressures and disadvantages that are unique to women. I know that women are just as capable, if not more, than men. But part of me still feels this way. Am I crazy?

    Reply

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