Are You Ready? The Good. The Bad. And The Neutral.
We recently held focus groups across the Salt Lake Valley here in Utah. We constantly heard the same priorities iterated when it came to family preferences. No matter their income, religious background and beliefs, political affiliation, or preference in family size, nearly all of the participants generally agreed on the same good, bad, and neutral reasons for determining a family’s size, especially the first three reasons listed below.
There are many things to take into consideration when determining your family size. These common threads may apply to you, or they may not. Regardless, please take them into consideration as you plan your family.
- Financial health — It’s certainly possible to raise a variety of family sizes on a variety of incomes. However, when planning whether or not to have children there are many questions to first consider: How much money do we need to create a healthy and happy home? What sort of education do I want to give my children? Do both parents want to work? Does one want to stay home? What are our travel goals? How many diapers can we afford? Do we want pets? What is my healthcare plan? What do we want to spend on food? Do we have a savings plan? Are we able to financially care for the number of children that we want?
- Physical and emotional stability — Children take a lot of time and patience. Not to mention poopy diapers! It’s worth thinking about your own physical and mental health. Do you have the energy for certain quantities of children? What’s your patience level and ability to handle chaos? Please consider how you might handle special needs children?
- Relationship with spouse — Nearly all participants talked about the importance of having a strong, stable relationship with your spouse. If you’re married, how’s your relationship? Participants also talked about the importance of both partners wanting children (or not wanting children) and being 100% committed to that decision.
- Environmental concerns — The earth is a precious, precious resource. You want to leave this world even better than you found it, right? You’re dedicated to being the best steward of the environment that you can be. Ponder the impact that a large family has on the environment: just think about the diapers alone, not to mention the higher uses of water and other natural resources. Many participants listed the environment as a good reason for limiting the number of children two parents may choose to have.
- Career aspirations — Many families list career aspirations as a neutral reason, but most consider it to be a positive reason to take into consideration when making your family decisions. It’s absolutely ok if one parent chooses to stay at home or if both choose to work. Ask yourselves: what do you both want to accomplish?
- Community support — Several talked about the need of strong support from family and friends in raising children. Do you have the resources and aid you need?
- Temperament of the first child/pregnancies — Guess what, newborns do cry (often a lot!) and pregnancies are not always glowing women floating on cloud 9. Many families list these factors as a major influence on their family decisions.
- Examples of families around you — Maybe you knew a large family that was chaotic. Perhaps you were an only child and wished for more siblings. What you observed and experienced as a child affect your family plan today.
- Age — Whether we like it or not, we all age. Age can affect the size of your family. Some of you might be concerned with being an older parent and worry about how that can affect your family size.
- Cosmetics: Size of your house/Neighborhood/location/mortgage — Some families take into
consideration the neighborhood they live in, location, or even the size of their house when making their family plan. Most participants listed this as a neutral reason.
- Religious reasons — Most participants listed religious reasons as a negative reason for limiting or increasing the number of children a person may plan to have, but a few listed it is a neutral. Where do you fall on that spectrum?
- Desire for a certain gender — Many, many families often end up with more children than they had planned because they were trying for a specific gender. Yet despite that frequency, our participants listed that as a neutral.
- Tax Break — Sure kids are a great tax break, but if that’s the only reason you want to start a family, you’re probably not prepared for all the work, attention, and love that is required!
- Using kids as leverage to get support from family/government — Financial stability is listed over and over as a primary reason to think about when making your family decisions. If you need external support to be able to fiscally handle children, you may not be ready to start a family.
- To fix the relationship — Guess what, this rarely works out!
- Religious reasons — This was most frequently listed as a negative reason. Nobody wants to feel pressured. Your religious beliefs should certainly influence you, but if you are not financially or mentally ready to have children, most agree that religion alone shouldn’t push those not ready to have children too soon.
- Family/Friend/Community pressures to have kids — It appears to be a universal: Nobody wants to feel forced. Kids and parents are happiest when the parents knew that they specifically wanted that child or children, and not because others told them they had to have children.
- Peer pressure to engage in social norms — Reiteration number #3: nobody likes to be told what to do when it comes to family planing. Your perfect is up to you!
- Just because you’re still fertile — While this was frequently listed by participants as a reason their parents had a certain number of children, they viewed it as a negative. Children want to feel purposeful.
- Leaving it up to chance — This works for some families, but for many, having children by chance makes them loose their sense of intention, preparedness, and purpose.
- Need to fulfill an unfulfilled dream — News flash: your children won’t be happy if you vicariously live through them.
Bottom line: If you want children, can you support the number of children that you want?
We hope that considering the questions above will hopefully aide you and your spouse as you begin, or continue to develop, your family plan.