Indeed, why have three children?

One of the nice features of WordPress is that I get a little statistics page telling me the search terms used to find my weblog. I’ve had a significant number of hits from people looking for “three kids” and “why have three kids” and “deciding to have three kids” so I figured I’d actually post a series on the topic.

This would also work for “why have four kids” since the ultrasound says in April I’ll have to retitle this weblog “Seven angels, four kids, one family.” 🙂

The question “Why have three children?” is backward as it implies that two children is the standard to which every human being must conform, and those who have more need to have a reason to do so (and a good one at that) and those who have not spawned the correct number of offspring also should have a good reason.

It’s patently ridiculous, and I know a better title should be in order, but I’m pandering to the search engines here. I’m more likely to get someone reading if I use the language the person is already using. 🙂

Here are my basic assumptions, which I know are countercultural:

1) You do not need a reason to have a baby.
2) Babies are not inherently useful and therefore a baby’s existence cannot be justified. Any attempt to attach a reason to a baby’s existence devalues the baby.
3) There is always a reason NOT to have a baby.

Having set up those ground rules, I want to go back to item number two. If you have found a good reason to have a baby, then I would suggest considering again. Because being useful is not the same as being welcomed.

The plumber is useful. (Which reminds me–my Patient Husband wants me to call the plumber today.) But I do not welcome the plumber into my home. He comes, performs a necessary service, and leaves again with money.

A baby is not useful. But I do welcome my babies into my home. They come, consume resources, and they stay. I want them to stay. They want to be here.

Home, for them, is a safe place even if they screw up. If my plumber screws up, my home is no longer a place he is invited to be, and I expect him to correct the problem.

My plumber needs to bring some value into the home. My children do not. They are not expected to.

The whole idea that Americans have bought into, that every child must be actively wanted and pursued, is not based in reality. Children are not an asset, like upgrading your kitchen, in order to increase the desirability of the life you’re living.

Let’s put it another way: you probably have more than two friends. If you met someone interesting at a venue you attend often, would you go home and list for yourself the benefits of making a third friend? Would you google “Why have three friends?” Would you read books for advice about what life would be like with a third friend, and then decide whether the individual was potentially useful enough to you that you should cultivate a friendship?

Wouldn’t you instead go over, introduce yourself, make small talk, and enjoy being with that person?

At risk of stating the obvious, babies (and children) are people. Not assets. We need to enjoy being with them rather than considering what they bring to us. And that, too, is countercultural.

There’s far more to say, so I’ll keep going tomorrow.


  1. Ivy

    I’m grateful that, here and now, babies can be a choice. For most of human history, and in many places today, one has babies because one needs them–to work in the fields when they are old enough or to barter in arranged marriages to merge land. It’s good to be in America in the 21st century.

  2. philangelus

    The problem is that in America in the 21st century, too many people think that YOUR babies are THEIR choice. We saw that firsthand when a doctor actively campaigned to have me abort Emily, even though there was no danger to me and no difficulty to her (since I wasn’t even her regular patient!)

    Why have I encountered hostility over Kiddo#3 and open shock over Kiddo#4? Why was I being told over and over that after Kiddo#2 my family was “perfect” because I had a boy and a girl? Because too many people think my family size is their decision.

    When parents feel the need to justify the babies they do have, there’s a problem. Then families aren’t *choosing* to have a baby as much as being told what to do. And that’s ridiculous.

  3. Cricket

    Perfect is what is right for you and the others your choices affect. Perfect is often what you make with the hand you’re given. Your babies have a nurturing, capable, stable, supportive home. I drew blood biting my tongue when an elderly woman told me, 9-months pregnant and shopping with my almost-3-year-old, that she hoped I had a girl so my family would be complete. (Mom would have been proud of me, and I really don’t think giving in to my first impulse and refusing all her good wishes would have done any good; if she hadn’t learned by then,…)

  4. Johanna

    Well I am glad there are posts like these for me to read! I just found out I am pregnant with our 3rd child/baby I have a 6yr old girl and 14mo old girl too. I was surprised that it really happened! And now I am just stunned… And you are right this world is stuck on 2.5 children. So these post make me stronger in my descion to have more than 2 kids and so what if everyone has their opinions about what I Should do in their eyes! It is clearly a blessing and my oldest can’t wait to count down to the due date all over again! It is so wild to think we are going to be one of “those” families 🙂 I grew up with one parent and one brother and I now want a big family to celebrate Christmas and Thanksgiving with we are blessed and always have too much left overs on the holidays LOL! This will be fun! Thanks guys for your informative posts!

  5. leo

    All great points thank you all. I havent heard any of such -ve comments and especially the implied statements, yet mostly because we have not announced, but we are so happy that we are expecting our 3rd! I certainly grew up in a utilitarian setup, but I dont regret that one bit, I used to help my parents with farming. I’ve learned the value of work from such early experiences, so I see the point made in this regard. What I was mostly looking for was some reassurance that the workload from #3 is incremental to that of #2 and a major overhaul from the current childrearing experience. With #2 we’ve certainly had a lot of re-use of things like clothing, toys. All the best to everyone with your growing families.