The Great “Should We Have Another Child?” Debate

By Stacie Cockrell, Cathy O’Neill and Julia Stone, co-authors of Babyproofing Your Marriage (Harper Collins, 2007)

The Numbers Game
Do you and your partner agree on how many children you want? Does one of you have visions of a Walton Family existence whereas the other thinks one or two is more than enough? If your family math isn’t adding up, you’re not alone. This debate rages in homes across America every day. According to a poll on, 21% of couples are not in agreement about the ideal size of their family (“Yeah, she can have another one, but it just won’t be with me!”), and another 43% just “think” they agree.

The stakes are high and the calculus is complicated. Some couples turn the numbers game into an intricate math equation, with each new variable (child) requiring an economic analysis that would make Alan Greenspan proud. You know: one more child means waiting for a bigger table at a restaurant, another plane ticket for vacations, another college tuition, another gallon of milk per week, that you won’t all be able to fit into a taxicab in New York City, or that you’ll have to cave in and get that minivan. All for a question that requires a seemingly simple numerical answer.

Many couples reduce their ideal number of offspring with each new baby. For example, when they got married, Mike told Cathy he wanted six kids. After the first, the number was cut to five, and after the second, he concluded that three would be just fine, thank you very much.


    “We are debating having a third. There are days when we look at each other and say, ‘This is a two-kid day.’”
    —Ramon, married 10 years, 2 kids

The Spacing Game
And what do you do if one half of the couple wants to compress diaper duty into the shortest possible time span and the other wants to space the kids three years apart?


    “Each year we wait to have that third kid, means another year tacked onto the time it takes to raise our family. At this rate, we’re going to be attending PTA meetings when we’re sixty!”
    —Dennis, married 10 years, 2 kids

The Crying Game: How the Debate Is Settled
Basically, it’s a zero sum game. Someone’s going to lose.


    Short-Term Impact Analysis:
    “Even though I didn’t want another baby, the lure of having lots of sex was enough to convince me.”
    —Alan, married 9 years, 3 kids

    Long-Term Impact Analysis:
    “He only wanted two and he won. I think there are a few subjects where the no’s always get to win. This was one of them. It took me a few weeks to reconcile to the fact that we would not have three. However, when I thought about how tough things could be if we had three and he wasn’t 100% committed to it, it became a no-brainer.”
    —Vivian, married 6 years, 2 kids

Guys, we hate to say it, but 99% of the time, the woman gets the swing vote. And really, until men get pregnant and breastfeed, that seems fair to us. Several couples, however, told us they’d used a high-stakes bartering system to come to final terms. Laura told her husband that she would have a third as long as she never, ever had to cook dinner again. Bill extracted a promise of weekly sex from his wife in exchange for a fourth.

Oh yeah, and be careful what you wish for. We know quite a few couples who, upon going for that second or third, got pregnant with twins ...


By: Stacie Cockrell, Cathy O’Neill and Julia Stone
Co-Authors of
Babyproofing Your Marriage (Harper Collins, January 2007)


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