Why have three children: it’s all about flexibility

Once again: I’m not writing for the already-decided. This series is aimed at families who end up at my weblog specifically looking for reasons it’s okay to have another child. The search query list tells me it’s a lot of people.

Back when I was an English major, a professor explained the difference between “proscriptive” grammar and “descriptive” grammar. Proscriptive grammar tells you how you SHOULD say something; descriptive tells us how people actually say it. Consider this series descriptive rather than proscriptive.

Some individuals assume every married couple will have two, and no more than two, children. “Their boy” and “their girl.” A family in the paper, after having the first baby of the New Year, stated flatly that they will have a second child, but “definitely not any more than two.” And I can tell you for myself that after having two, people began to ask “was it planned?” when we told them about #3 and #4.

I’ve been told by one mother that she would kill herself if she had a third child. That’s the most drastic statement I’ve heard (and no, it wasn’t for emotional reasons.) I’ve heard from a number of others that they had planned the number of kids they’d have from long before they were even married (and strangely, always two) and that they “can’t imagine” having a third child.

What I want to ask, and I don’t because it would be rude, is if they’re so inflexible in every other area of their lives. When they got married, did they also decide they would move every five years, or that they would own a green Accord? Did they set in stone that they would always live in a colonial in Western Springfield?

What my Patient Husband and I have done is to reassess after every child. We look at our energy levels, the needs of the individuals already in the home, the resources available, and our emotional reservoir. We pray for guidance and discernment. And then we react accordingly. In some cases, we’ve delayed seeking pregnancy at a planned time because I was simply overwhelmed with other emotional demands. And at other times, we adopted a neutral stance: neither trying nor preventing.

I have to admit it amuses me when someone who urges me to “fully trust God” with my writing career, or my child’s welfare, or a decision about my Patient Husband’s job, later tells me that she “couldn’t possibly” trust God to decide the size of her family. As if God is terrific with the employment section of the paper, and a financial wizard, but He can’t figure out how many kids a family can handle.

It pays to open up and reassess where we are, even when we think things are Perfect. We should involve God or Providence if that’s part of our worldview. Many times we’ll find we’re right where we need to be. But in some cases, we may listen to our lives and hear an echoing emptiness we can’t quite place at first. Some of those times, it might just be a missing family member we aren’t hearing yet, and maybe the time has come to open the door and see if anyone comes inside. Maybe.


  1. Becky@FamilyandFinances

    I like this series! My husband and I don’t have kids yet, but I always thought I wanted four kids and he thought two. When our dating got serious, we decided to meet in the middle and make it a tentative three. Obviously, we plan on being open to change 🙂