When is enough, enough?

How do you know when your family is complete?
As a mid-thirties mother of two, it’s a question that is on my mind. Would a third child enrich our lives even more than our very lively two girls already do, or would it break us – in practical terms, emotionally, financially and, in my case, with a shopping list of postpartum ailments, physically too?
I grew up in a family of five. I was the middle child, and a classic one at that – an introvert, with a strong independent streak – and although we all had a lot of fun together, now and then I was embarrassed by our loud, raucous, sometimes even unruly family. Apparently our parents contemplated having a fourth child, but settled on getting a large dog instead. We all loved that dog like a sixth human family member. Around that time I decided that when it came to making my own family, two children was a sensible number, plus a large dog.
But it turns out my husband came from a much less loud, less raucous, less unruly family of four. Growing up, he says he wished for more noise, more activity, chaos even, and for this reason he has always had the number three in his mind for his brood. So how do we determine whether our family-of-four-plus-dog is enough? When do you close that door?
Now, I love my kids with all my heart, and yet they drive me nuts, on a daily . . . no, hourly – sometimes even a minute-by-minute – basis. Right now, we’re in the thick of it as we contend with sleep, feeding and toileting difficulties, as well as the general drama and chaos that two children under four tend to create. And although the idea of more children makes me feel a little ill at present, I can’t say I particularly have a sense of our family being ‘complete’.
Sasha Dumaresq, one of the administrators of Inner West Mums, used a wonderful analogy to describe to me the moment when she knew that her family was not yet complete. Despite having her hands full with two toddlers just sixteen months apart, she looked at her couch one day and realised it felt too empty, too neat. There was room for another, and so it was: they had a third gorgeous girl. Now, she says, the couch feels ‘absolutely full enough’. We just got a bigger couch . . . There is room for quintuplets on it. Gulp.
Whenever I look at the busy, somewhat chaotic families of five (or more) that I know ­– my closest friend growing up was one of six children, which really looked like chaos at times – it is impossible to imagine that family without the last child. My nephew was a late third addition to my sister’s family and he is the true life of that particular party. (Love ya, Benj.) As for those other considerations so often cited in these discussions ­– the questions of whether you will cope practically, emotionally, financially, even physically – they usually seem irrelevant by then. You just make it work. (It’s true, however, that sometimes nature answers this question for us as age-related fertility issues set in . . . )
While I’m 99 per cent certain I’m done making little Grants, I’ll admit there is still that very slim (one per cent, to be precise) chance that one morning ­– when I’ve actually got some sleep – I’ll wake up and decide that, in spite of my sensible-middle-child sensibilities, three is a good number. Or perhaps we’ll just add another large dog to the mix to amp up the levels of chaos in our household and know for sure that enough is enough.
More from Ginny Grant:
No Judgements, please
Triumph or Trauma
Riding the Merry go Round
Friends, Near or Far
My ( Child’s) Kitchen Rules

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