To 4 Or Not To 4…

family of 6
Party of 6?

Our social worker stopped by for a quarterly home visit yesterday and mentioned that our foster licence will be up for renewal in a few short months.  As he started handing over the stacks of paperwork that would need to be completed for renewal, he stopped himself and asked, “Wait, do you want to renew?”

That answer was an easy ‘yes’, but the real question it gets at isn’t quite so easy…Do we want a 4th child?  That is a question we’ve been wrestling with since we welcomed our youngest 2 1/2 years ago.

I’m so jealous of my friends who describe the feeling of knowing their family is complete.  They have their first, or second, or third and just *feel* done.  I’ve never had that feeling.  In fact, I have powerful moments in which I distinctly feel like I have a child I haven’t met yet (a son, while we’re being honest).  As our magical mama would describe it, I feel the pull of a spirit baby present in my life.

And, yet, despite the feeling that there may be someone missing, my family is so beautifully full.  I have to disagree with the recent Today survey…3 is a wonderful number of kids to have.  Active, bustling, never a dull moment, and always someone to spend time with, a family of 5 is all the wonderfulness of a larger family while still being manageable (except, of course, for the f*$%ing laundry!!).

With my kids at the ages of 7, 3, and 2, we are really hitting a sweet spot of enjoying each other’s company and taking advantage of the fun of childhood without it being too much work.  So, a big question is whether a 4th would add to the fun, or throw off the balance entirely.  My wife was out of town this weekend and I brought the kids solo to Lake Compounce.  I’m happy to report that we had a fantastic time and everything went smoothly!  Throughout the day my mind drifted to the question, “Could I do this with 1 more?”

Of course, there is so much more to consider in adding another child, especially when it tips the scales officially into the “large family” category.  Finances, space, scheduling, non-tangible resources (individual attention, love, patience), and support from extended family and friends.  That last one is a biggie.  Large families don’t seem to be the norm these days and though I don’t believe family size should be determined by outsiders’ thoughts or opinions, the size of our family inevitably has an impact on those around us.  There are the minor ways like a more crowded dinner table for the holidays – and bigger ways, like appointing a guardian who would be comfortable managing 4 children in the unlikely event something were to happen to my wife and I.

Three children was an easy decision for us, our goal, really, from the beginning.  Now this question about a 4th is anything but.

Anyone else struggle with the decision of adding a 3rd, 4th, or more? What were the biggest factors on your pro/con list?  How much weight do you give to support from family and friends?

On the other hand, have any of you decided not to have any more children despite lacking that feeling of “done” in your heart?

A part of me wonders if it simply is not in my nature to feel done…perhaps I’ll always feel the pull of the many beautiful children in the world who need safe and loving homes?

ps – It would be remiss of me not to mention that May is Foster Care Awareness Month.


17 thoughts on “To 4 Or Not To 4…

  1. I have only one baby right now, but the person I’ve been seeing for a while has three. We are considering combining our families very soon which will make four children, ages 5 and under. And to be honest… we see a 5th in our future! I think following your gut is the most important thing. I sense very strongly that there is “one more” out there… although I never dreamed I would even consider having 5 children, and to be honest, that fifth may have to wait a while, at least until the oldest 3 are in school!

  2. Personally I feel like the adjustment from 3 to 4 was the easiest but I may have just been in such a daze my memory is not clear. I do get the comments and looks, any outing is an ordeal, trying to coordinate schedules and equally spread attention seems impossible most of the time, my home is complete chaos, finding babysitting is a pain, it’s expensive and cramped and I’m pretty sure I’ve lost my mind. With all that said I wouldn’t change a thing. I can’t say that I have that complete feeling either though. We go back and forth about having another, fostering or adopting. We’ve put the decision on the back burner until we can get into a bigger house. I do believe whatever decision you make will be the right one for you. You have a beautiful family now and should you choose to grow it I don’t believe you ever regret welcoming another child into your life.

  3. So as a mom of 4, I think it is the perfect number! Our oldest 2 are twins and we knew we wanted a third, if we were lucky enough to have another. After our 3rd was born, I can remember rocking her to sleep one night and sobbing hysterically thinking that this would be my last baby. We had NEVER considered 4, but I just didn’t feel our family was complete. Most people assume that we only had #4 to try and have a boy, which is not the case. After I had J (#4), i had this wonderful feeling if being a completed family. I do have to say, having 4, especially as close in age as ours ( I had 4 kids under 2 1/2) is tough. Even things as mundane as daycare drop off and potty trips while out and about have to be coordinated with military precision. We are a bit of a freak show and garner lots of comments while out. Paying for 4 kids in daycare, not to mention clothing them is no joke. But when it comes down to it, I would rather forgo some material things and sanity to know that my 4 girls have each other. I am an only child and I get so much joy from watching them interact. Elise, you are a super mom, and whether it is to 3 or 4 or 40, and child that comes into your life is going to be better off for it!

  4. I don’t feel done and I’d live a 3rd but medically it’s not a good idea for me to be pregnant again. I’m open to the possibility of adoption, but that will have to wait a few years. My life is full with the two I have and I’m grateful for that.

  5. I was waiting to see what Kate would say!! This is a tough spot to be in Elise. You are such a loving and compassionate person, if a 4th IS in the future for your family, that’s going to be one lucky kid. I will admit here that lately I too haven’t been feeling “done” and am starting to wonder if another child is in my future (and I’m only talking about 2 kids 😛 )

  6. Elise, I am struggling with this issue. I too feel envious of women who know that their family is complete. I thought, when our third daughter was born, that I would experience this feeling…but it never came. I have been struggling with how to weigh tangible items (money, space, cars..etc) versus intangible items, and how much those factors should impact my decision. I also wonder if I will ever feel done….ugh, such hard decisions!

    1. I had a feeling you’d understand! Its funny how the difference between 3 and 4 kids feels so much bigger than 1 to 2 or 2 to 3.

  7. Oh Elise, I LOVE this post and like Steph said above, I’m also in the “iffy-zone.” Three is such a GREAT dynamic in our family right now. Part of me (a large part) thinks I shouldn’t mess with that, as we are really starting to hit a beautiful groove. But…………

    ……even though A LOT of times I feel so DONE with the baby thing, I do feel like someone is still missing.

    I’m not ready to say I’d EVER want another child. But I’m also not ready to EVER give up the dream of one.

    1. P.S. I still have maternity clothes and baby clothes packed away. During my huge cleaning purge I just couldn’t part with that stuff yet. I think my heart knows more than my mind (or husband!) is willing to admit…

  8. I can’t imagine how difficult this decision could be as I am only at the beginning of starting my family, but I will tell you my mother had 3 of us all in school between the age of 5-8 and thought she was done. She had gotten rid of all the baby stuff and had us in school full time. Then my little sister Stephanie came along…my mother couldn’t believe it and I can’t imagine how tough it is but I can tell you one thing. Stephanie is one of my best friends and we are so close despite the 6 year difference and I cannot imagine my life with her and my two other sisters.

    I know whatever you choose it will be good for you and your family 🙂

    1. We’ve definitely put some thought into waiting a few years to add the 4th…its good to hear the age difference wasn’t a factor for your closeness to your sis 🙂

  9. This question is always a tough one for me. Audrey is still so tough, but I can see the light at the end of that tunnel. There are times when I really feel like we could manage a third child. But, I know, for various reasons, that we consider ourselves done. No more actively pursuing another child. However, if the fates aligned and it happened, neither of us would be upset. What I’m saying is, I understand feeling iffy. I’m there.
    Side note: You took three kids to LC by yourself?! I consider surviving Stop & Shop with mine a win. HERO!

    1. Part of me definitely wishes we could just “leave it to fate” (however small those chances would be) – that might make it a little easier. And, friend, I far prefer taking them to LC than Stop & Shop…the grocery store is the one place I REFUSE to take them by myself!

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