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Are You Done?

In January, one of America's most famous large families is expected to add baby No. 18. The Duggars -- led by dad Jim Bob and mom Michelle will know when they are done having kids when she stops getting pregnant.

For those of us of different faiths and beliefs than the Duggars', the question of when we're done is a different kind of personal decision.

For a couple of years after the youngest was born, I yearned for a girl. Then, the youngest one got potty trained and I relished having a diaper-free house. Now, on older son's 7th birthday, I look at friends with younger children than my own and think, "Better them, than me." I look at babies and think they're tiny and cute, but I don't want another one of my own.

The question of knowing when your family is complete is one that reverberates over message boards online from time to time. Some answers:

  • I had "no nostalgia as I put away the baby stuff. In my heart, it just feels right. It did not after our second," wrote one mom on the D.C. Urban Mom forum.
  • "When you look at pregnant women and think, 'Thank God that's not me!' " -- wrote a reader at parenting.com
  • When you feel like Julia Roberts when she said to Vanity Fair last year: "You only have so much energy and you want to put so much energy into each child. I wouldn’t know how to have five kids. And they’re a really good trio, these three."

What about you? Are you still in the middle or done with having kids? How do you know?

By Stacey Garfinkle |  December 8, 2008; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  The Debate
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Comments


"For those of us of different faiths and beliefs than the Duggars', the question of when we're done is a different kind of personal decision"

It's still a personal decision. Each person is an individual.

Jim Bob made up his own religion to avoid property taxes. Talk about gaming the system!

Posted by: jezebel3 | December 8, 2008 7:09 AM | Report abuse

We won't do anything permanent after this one is born. I want to reserve the option for a third, though I doubt we'll have a third. I've had relatively easy pregnancies, but I'll be in my late 30s with #3, which is the edge of my comfort zone. I'm not too concerned about being able to afford it, though that's a high priority consideration. Then there's that gut feeling. If our family feels complete after this one, then we'll be done. I wanted at least 1 girl and at least 2 kids, and that's what we'll have soon, so anything more is just a wonderful bonus.

Posted by: atb2 | December 8, 2008 7:57 AM | Report abuse

Actually, "Is this blog done?" would be the more appropriate question.

Posted by: anonthistime | December 8, 2008 8:12 AM | Report abuse

We always said we'd like two kids, with the option for a third for gender variety (said tongue firmly in cheek). However, with this baby I'm having in February (our second girl), we'll be done. Nature has dictated that I can't have any more kids without medical intervention, and I don't have the financial or emotional resources to go through IVF again.

Posted by: newsahm | December 8, 2008 8:33 AM | Report abuse

I'm pregnant with #3, need a scheduled C-section, and can't bear to tell the OB to tie my tubes while she's in there. We might be done, or might not be, but we'll decide later.

Posted by: inBoston | December 8, 2008 8:40 AM | Report abuse

"Are you still in the middle or done with having kids? How do you know?"

Although it's possible to add another weasel to the family, It's not in the plan. The fact that I get all the animals' , (4 kids, 2 cats and a dog), nnames mixed up when I yell at them is a good indication that I've reach my mental limit in handling all the responsibility that comes with managing a family.

But I need to be very careful. Everytime Ms Weasel holds a baby, she gets that look in her eye that leaves me to say something like, "Look, honey, we already have 4 kids, if I ever wanted a fifth, I would go to the liquor store and buy it."

Posted by: WhackyWeasel | December 8, 2008 8:44 AM | Report abuse

LOL, Whacky. Your last sentence made me snort.

We are done having biological children but are considering adoption or fostering.

I think the Duggars are irresponsible to have so many children. I've noticed that people who come from large families (6 or more kids) do not repeat their parents' choices when it comes to the number of children they want. Kind of like experience is the best teacher.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | December 8, 2008 8:51 AM | Report abuse

we are done. We have a healthy boy and girl. We feel blessed to have two healthy kids.

We don't have the time, money, energy, or youth for more then that. I had a tubal right after my son was born. So god willing we are done.

Posted by: foamgnome | December 8, 2008 8:58 AM | Report abuse

We have 5 and that is certainly enough, although people do ask us at least twice a day if we will keep trying for a boy!

I knew I was done as soon as I found out I was pregnant with the 5th. We are almost diaper free after 10 straight years of it and I am so excited, I might throw a party! :)

I am not sure how someone manages to pay attention too and give each of 18 children what they need. I feel spread very thin trying to give each of my girls individual attention. I don't think it would be fair to them if we chose to have more.

Posted by: thosewilsongirls | December 8, 2008 9:06 AM | Report abuse

We have two boys and although my MIL keeps lobbying for a girl (she has five grandsons) I think we're done. We are each one of three, and the middle ones are both 'typical' middle kids. So we kind of don't want to have a middle child. I think four seems to be a good number, but I'm too tired for that idea. I kinda hoped for twins the second time around, cause then we'd have three, but that didn't happen.
In any event, my husband tries to convince me by asking if we wanted to make our second into a middle child. Well, I told HIM that he would never be 'lost' in the crowd, he is quite a strong personality.
Anyway, I think I'd discuss a third, if my husband was even open to it, but he's completely not. He's already planning on selling the house - and figuring out where we're moving - for when the youngest (who is 3) goes to college.

While I was in labor for the second, the nurse asked if we were doing a tubal after he was born - and I was completely unprepared for that. I had no idea that they ask that. So I said no, and I'm happy to have done that.

My sons are lobbying for a sister. My husband tells them if they want another sibling, they need a new father...

Posted by: atlmom1234 | December 8, 2008 9:43 AM | Report abuse

"people who come from large families (6 or more kids) do not repeat their parents' choices"

WorkingMomX.

I don't know that I would agree with that. I have 7 brothers and we have 4 children. But then again, Frieda only has 1 sibling.

How did I when it was time to quit? I just had a very strong gut feeling that 4 was all I could "stomach."

Posted by: Fred_and_Frieda | December 8, 2008 9:45 AM | Report abuse

Thrilled with the one I have! Do not feel the urge for more. Also, too old (post 40 yrs).

But "to each, his one". It is a very personal decision so for those of us with smaller families, please stop asking if we're ruining our only child by not having more babies.

Posted by: ishgebibble | December 8, 2008 10:07 AM | Report abuse

Must need more coffee - that should be "to each, his own"

Posted by: ishgebibble | December 8, 2008 10:07 AM | Report abuse

I disagree with a lot of couples who want to just limit themselves to two. My parents did that and my younger sister has turned out to have a lot of problems, including socially and financially. Right now we barely speak. When my parents pass, I am sure the problems will come my way (if I am still charitable to her). I could sure use another sibling to help out - or at least be a sounding board. Also, I always wanted a brother. Respectfully, I question whether some of those limiting themselves to two kids are doing this because they are determined to not interrupt their careers. I think the lesson from this blog (and Leslie's) is you can't have it all - no matter how hard you try. Also, no matter how good a career you have, it doesn't match holding your child. Timely post for me. My wife just informed me that she's pregnant with our second child. I am 41 and she is 37. Age is a concern but I am very happy. And have asked my wife to stay open to more.

Posted by: Dadat39 | December 8, 2008 10:21 AM | Report abuse

I look at how much my kids get from each other, and I do think that having more siblings would mean they would get more from them.

My husband then reminds me about the relationships each of us have with our sibling. I tell him I (think?) it's perhaps possible that part of that is due to parenting.

I think with a larger family, while the parents probably feel kind of stretched thin - I look at them, and see how the siblings get more from each other. I.e., while they each may not have a lot from the parents (they get what the parents can give) - they have others in the family to get a relationship from as well. And when there are many siblings, some get along with others, and you have more 'opportunities' for more relationships.

I see my two kids who are so completely different, and I find it a gift to them. I think that they might not have 'dealt' with someone else in life so unlike themselves, but they are sort of 'forced' to live together and learn from each other and find out the way the other ticks, even if it's so different from themselves. I find this to be wonderful. So far they get along for the most part (making each other laugh, playing with each other, etc) - of course, they get into it with each other as well. I shudder to think of the day when they get older and are better able to plot against us, though...

Posted by: atlmom1234 | December 8, 2008 10:23 AM | Report abuse

Please disregard the nastiness in the prior post. Not my place to judge anyone.

Posted by: Dadat39 | December 8, 2008 10:27 AM | Report abuse

My parents did that and my younger sister has turned out to have a lot of problems, including socially and financially. Right now we barely speak. When my parents pass, I am sure the problems will come my way (if I am still charitable to her). I could sure use another sibling to help out - or at least be a sounding board.

Posted by: Dadat39 | December 8, 2008 10:21 AM | Report abuse

There is no guarantee that your relationship with your second sibling would be any better than the relationship you have with your sister.

Posted by: jezebel3 | December 8, 2008 10:28 AM | Report abuse

dadat39 - I definitely hear you. I met a women who was older and her children were grown. She gave me the advice to have at least three, as she had had two kids - and one of them passed on (cancer, maybe?) - and she felt her other child was going to have a burden, in that her and her husband wouldn't be around forever, and therefore he(she?) would be 'left alone' in the world at some point.
I think because many of us didn't marry until we were older, we didn't necessarily get the time to plan. My husband says one reason he wants to stop is that he wants 'me' back. I.e., we were only married for 2 years before our first bundle of joy. He enjoys going out with me and traveling, etc, but we are limited because of the kids, to doing all that we want. So he tells me he wants to look forward to a time with me...and that's one reason to not have another.
And, these days, people aren't necessarily living near so much family. I am very close with cousins on my mom's side (and pretty close with most on the other side). My sisters and I are their only cousins (there are two of them). So while in the past, extended family may have provided more of a network (my FIL is an only child and he treats his cousins as siblings) - that is not the case as much these days.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | December 8, 2008 10:33 AM | Report abuse

"Respectfully, I question whether some of those limiting themselves to two kids are doing this because they are determined to not interrupt their careers."

Dad at 39, you are old enough to know the term Zero Population Growth. Remember how many of our parents' generation stopped at two children because they wanted only to replicate the population, not to increase it. It was seen as the socially responsible thing to do. I know people of my parents' generation who cannot understand, and make comments about those who have more than two kids that are as disparaging as your comment suggesting that those who stop at two are being selfish in favor of their careers. ZPGers would say that it is selfish to give birth to more than two children.

Posted by: janedoe5 | December 8, 2008 10:38 AM | Report abuse

But it's not so selfish to stop - no one is obligated to have or not have children. It is a very personal decision.
I personally feel guilty for having my own kids when there are so many kids out there who need a home. That drags on me all the time.
So not having more kids cause you don't think you have the strength, money, or whatever, - I think it's the opposite of selfish, actually.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | December 8, 2008 10:50 AM | Report abuse

While I think that having 18 children seems a bit extreme, it does appear (from my limited knowledge of the Duggar family) that they are financially self sufficient and so their choice to have an extremely large family is not placing a burden on the rest of us.

I, on the other hand, have only one child and I think that's going to be it for me.

Posted by: NHmom | December 8, 2008 11:04 AM | Report abuse

workingmomx: "I think the Duggars are irresponsible to have so many children. I've noticed that people who come from large families (6 or more kids) do not repeat their parents' choices when it comes to the number of children they want. Kind of like experience is the best teacher."

Agree with you re: the Duggars, although it's their choice.

Re: kids from large families not having large families of their own: I'd like to see hard data. I can't find any. But my mother's brother and his wife have seven kids. Those seven cousins of mine have, if memory serves, 1, 4, 5, 4, 7, 2, and 4 children. (And the one who has only one child had a LOT of medical issues that dictated that decision.)

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | December 8, 2008 11:37 AM | Report abuse

I thought for many years that I didn't want children then I felt that I would like to have 1 child. I didn't think I had what it took to parent more than 1.

Now that I have 2 part-time, I think I have found my happy spot and won't have any of my own. My husband doesn't particularly want any more either so this seems to be a good decision for our relationship.

I love the kids when they are with us but discovered that I also need alone time to recharge my batteries for their next visit. This need doesn't seem like it would co-exist well with my own child that would be full-time in the house.

Posted by: Billie_R | December 8, 2008 11:40 AM | Report abuse

Don't forget that not everyone has that choice to make. Secondary infertility is the inability to have a child after the birth of one or more biological children. Though it is actually more common than primary infertility, it is an often unacknowledged condition. Secondary infertility takes away the choice of achieving your ideal family size. And the pain is underappreciated by those who tell you to be grateful for the child you do have.

Posted by: itsasecret99 | December 8, 2008 11:58 AM | Report abuse

My fourth and final was born this past June. We have 2 boys and 2 girls. We decided to stop at 4 because we felt that we would not be able to give each child the attention he/she deserves if we added another sibling. But also, I had my tubes tied because I have had 4 c-sections and my doc was beginning to warn me of the risk of uterine rupture.

I'm still sad as I put away the baby clothes that my youngest has already outgrown, knowing that he's my last baby. But I think we've found what's best for our family. I can't imagine having 18 as the Duggars have, but I'm sure that's what's best for their family.

I'm the youngest of 2. My parents simply can't understand why we wanted any more than two children.

Posted by: MEALmama | December 8, 2008 12:06 PM | Report abuse

AB, I have only anecdotal evidence for my theory. I'm quite close with a couple of women who are from large families, and whenever I come into contact professionally or personally with someone from a large family, I run my theory past them and usually find that neither they nor their adult siblings are repeating the big family scene. Again, my two cents, for what it's worth!

Posted by: WorkingMomX | December 8, 2008 12:07 PM | Report abuse

I don't think having more then two means you will automatically have more support for your parents. Often times, people move far away from their parents for jobs or spouses. So it is not a given that there will be any more support.

You may also not necessarily get a long with multiple siblings as well.

I think people think about having more kids in the ideal sense. They forget the work, the stress, the money etc... It may not be so blissful if you actually had to live with 4 or 5 kids.

Posted by: foamgnome | December 8, 2008 12:10 PM | Report abuse

WorkingmomX: One of my closest friends was one of 10. Each one of her siblings and she decided NOT to have a big family. Although they all love having each other now, they all agreed that there was never enough money, never enough time, and never enough attention growing up.

Jane: The green peace people today say we should not have more then one child because US people use up so many resources compared to other people.

Personally the Duggars strike me as odd. They also claim their house as missionary housing, so they don't have to pay property tax. I am not sure I would consider that self sufficient. But heck, to each his own. I still think it would be no picnic to have 18 kids.

A lot of women and men decide not to risk birth defects. Since people are marrying later and consequently having kids later, the risk increase. I, personally, felt very grateful for my two healthy kids and decided not to risk a third. My SIL was 34 and pregnant this spring when she terminated her pregnancy due to multiple birth defects of the fetus. It was tragic and I thank God every day for my two healthy kids. While it is rare to go through what she did, I just did not want to chance it.

Posted by: foamgnome | December 8, 2008 12:16 PM | Report abuse

I believe Jim Bob Duggar represented his district in the US house for at least one term - this allows him to collect a pension for life (yes, for two years service to his country).


Posted by: atlmom1234 | December 8, 2008 12:31 PM | Report abuse

Re: kids from large families not having large families of their own: I'd like to see hard data. I can't find any. But my mother's brother and his wife have seven kids. Those seven cousins of mine have, if memory serves, 1, 4, 5, 4, 7, 2, and 4 children. (And the one who has only one child had a LOT of medical issues that dictated that decision.)

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | December 8, 2008 11:37 AM | Report abuse

What are the education levels of the women who became mothers in this group? How recent are the births/adoptions?

Posted by: jezebel3 | December 8, 2008 12:33 PM | Report abuse

Well I had one of those weekends where I kinda wished I hadn't had ANY kids. Originally I wanted three but divorce put an end to that. I have 2 girls. My closest friend growing up had four brothers and I always loved the chaos over at her house. Probably not so much fun for the parents.
Under present circumstances, two is all I can handle financially but my girls love each other to pieces (most days) and I bet a third would have fit right in.

Posted by: annenh | December 8, 2008 12:37 PM | Report abuse

atlmom - actually, Duggar served in the Arkansas state legislature; he was never a US Representative (yet :-). And members of the US Congress have to serve 5 years to qualify for a pension, which means that a Representative has to win 3 terms; a Senator qualifies after one term.

jezebel - I have no freaking clue. :-) (Actually, of my uncle's two daughters, one's an RN and the other's a chiropractor. I don't keep in touch well enough to know what the wives of my uncle's five sons do.)

foamgnome: "It may not be so blissful if you actually had to live with 4 or 5 kids." Hey, I resemble that remark! :-) We're done, though - four is enough! I'm WAY too old to go through that again.

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | December 8, 2008 12:42 PM | Report abuse

AB: okay - I stand (or sit, as the case may be) corrected.
Dunno about the pension plan for the Arkansas state legislature....

Posted by: atlmom1234 | December 8, 2008 12:47 PM | Report abuse

"Don't forget that not everyone has that choice to make. Secondary infertility is the inability to have a child after the birth of one or more biological children. Though it is actually more common than primary infertility, it is an often unacknowledged condition. Secondary infertility takes away the choice of achieving your ideal family size. And the pain is underappreciated by those who tell you to be grateful for the child you do have."

Hear, hear.

Posted by: newsahm | December 8, 2008 1:14 PM | Report abuse

I think our whole family would be thrilled to add one more. DH is 51 and I'm 49, so we're running out of time - though I'm healthy and fit, and not the least concerned about any health/age issues around pregnancy or childbirth.

It took me ten years to conceive the first time, five years the second, and I haven't been able to again, since a miscarriage in '01 just a few days before younger son's 4th birthday. In the last 3-4 years we've pretty much accepted that the universe (or my low fertility) has decided that we're done. If the universe changes its mind, it would be most welcome, but very surprising.

Posted by: SueMc | December 8, 2008 1:57 PM | Report abuse

This Duggar family gives me the heebie-jeebies. The girls have NO privacy, they all wear dresses or skirts, whereas the boys get to wear jeans, and they all look like little Stepford kids.

If they love kids SOOOO much, then let them adopt bi-racial, special needs, or older kids. But oh nooo, they have to keep pumping out more kids every year, and that's selfish.

Posted by: Alex511 | December 8, 2008 3:22 PM | Report abuse

Well for me, the majority of people should not have ANY children at all. But once you choose to make that a personal choice, it's hard to put a number limit.

Posted by: EmeraldEAD | December 8, 2008 4:30 PM | Report abuse

We have two daughters, ages 6 1/2 and 20 months, and we had originally wanted three kids, but decided to stop at two. That choice was made for several reasons. First, our finances are already stretched to the limit; a third kid would not be a good idea for that reason. Second, I'm 34 and my husband is 41, so if we waited the same number of years to have a third kid, the risk of birth defects would be much higher. Third, my husband and I are both volunteer firefighters, and pregnancy for me both times meant being on light duty for ten months (which meant there wasn't a whole heck of a lot I could do during that time because almost EVERYTHING there involves major physical activity). Fourth, having more than two kids just seems environmentally irresponsible, given the fact that there's already six billion + people on the planet and we know what impact humankind has on the earth. It's better not to have more than two kids because that puts us past replacement level. Fifth, the pregnancy with my younger daughter started with two months of 24-hour-a-day morning sickness, so another pregnancy would probably give me a major case of hyperemesis gravidarum. That's something I really don't want to risk!

Keeping those factors in mind, I decided it was time to do something drastic after she was born. We're fertile as turtles; it took less than a month of trying to "land" our first daughter, and our second one was a contraception baby-we were using birth control as carefully as possible, and got pregnant anyway! So after she was born, I got "spayed." No regrets about that...I'm glad to be able to concentrate on enjoying the kids we have, and it's nice to be able to love my husband without worrying about contraception anymore! We're able to raise our kids and pursue our interests (and introduce the kids to those interests as well-we're looking forward to the day when we can take them camping for a weekend, or when they're old enough to join the fire department, or even go fishing in the river, among other things).

That having been said, the Duggars give me the creeps...they are actually BRAGGING about having so many kids and letting their God decide for them when to stop! Excuse me, but (insert the name of the deity or deities you worship here) gave us brains and the ability to decide for ourselves when and how many kids to have, not to mention the ability and knowledge to invent and use birth control! Not to mention that in this day and age with over six billion people on the planet and our knowledge of humankind's environmental impact on said planet, having that many kids is just plain irresponsible! If you want to have that many, then ADOPT them!

Posted by: dragondancer1814 | December 10, 2008 12:13 PM | Report abuse

With regard to large families, my aunt and uncle had five girls and one boy. My cousins have had 9, 3, 3, 5, 2, and 6 children respectively. I don't think most are done. All are college educated, some with advance degrees. All are intelligent, thoughtful, active and engaged members of their communities as well as attentive and loving parents. Do they go on fabulous extravagant vacations, no - but those kids are tremendously loved and well cared for.

Personally I am 1 of 4 and would love to have 3 or 4 babies. We're pregnant with our first so we still have some time to go. My husband, an only child, longs for a large family. I think it was really lonely for him having no siblings. Many of my only children friends feel the same way.

I can't imagine having 18, but more power to the Duggars. I don't think they are selfish. To me that word more accurately describes parents who believe their children are the most smart, brilliant, funny, athletic child out there who can do no wrong. That kind of selfishness knows no family size.

Posted by: jenrellis | December 10, 2008 5:39 PM | Report abuse

I would love to be done. We have one son, 18 months, who, while a bit of a challenge the first six months in terms of nursing/sleeping, is a wonderful, sweet, relatively easygoing little guy. I can't imagine we'd be that lucky a second time, even though knowing what we know now, the nursing/sleeping might be easier. I just have no desire to be pregnant, birth a child, nurse, or have sleepless nights again. I see people with more than one child and get the shakes. With one, I can do so much more for him and with him. With two, all I will do is try to keep up. Financially, we both need to work, and I do not think we can afford day care for two so that's a consideration. DS has lots of cousins so I think that will have to do. DH would love more, but I just don't see a time when that would sound appealing. I had a bad relationship with my sister growing up, and I wouldn't wish that on anyone. And you can't assume your kids will take care of you or each other, so I think you should only have another if you want the experience of having more than one child, and I don't want/need that experience. But, I somehow cannot part with all of his baby stuff. Go figure.

Posted by: Laura118 | December 11, 2008 12:17 PM | Report abuse

I'm a long time Vermonter, but I have a totally different perspective on this, after living mostly overseas the past 5 years, in Africa and now China.

I'm a Dad with 4 children and at the age (68) when "All of My Kids Have Kids". So I guess growing up in that size family didn't scare them off!

Last Spring my wife and I had dinner in an American-type restaurant in Hong Kong. A young couple with a small baby moved into the table next to us, along with a slightly older looking woman. We said Ni Hao, and Hello, and smiled at the baby. The older woman sat closest to me, holding the baby. "Are you the Grandmother?", I asked. "YES ! " she replied.

"Where are you from?", they asked?
...America

"Do you have Grandchildren?"
...Yes

"How many?"
..Um, I have 11, I replied.

Their faces were shocked. Their jaws dropped. Too late I realized that they were living under a government-enforced "1 Child" policy, and I was looking at the only Grandchild this woman might ever have.

I said something lame about "We have big families in Vermont", but I felt really bad about "flaunting" my big family.

Since then I have traveled more on the Mainland, where I live. I spent 3 weeks up in Hunan province with a Chinese friend, Peng. We stayed a week in his Grandfather's small village, where people told me a waigoren (foreigner) had never been before. Everyone I saw worked hard. Many families had young children being cared for by Grandparents, while the parents worked on the larger cities, like Peng. But the children and the Grandparents were smiling, and apparently well fed.

But I don't bring up the number of Grandchildren I have, occasionally mumbling "Many". Peng must translate that in some acceptable form...

His Grandfather had 4 children, back in the days when farmers were allowed larger families. His mother had 2, because she was still in a farm village. Peng, if he marries, will only be allowed one. "The World is big, he says, and there are many different ways. I want to understand the differences, and the people, and the cultures."

I've taken so much for granted, living in America. I'm trying to help my Grandchildren understand that the whole world is not like their neighborhood. I send them photos, and we talk about them.

Some are here:
http://www.terryking.us/photoalbum/v/china/

Regards, Terry King ..On the South China Sea in Shekou
terry@terryking.us


Posted by: terryking228 | December 15, 2008 9:43 AM | Report abuse

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