Deciding If Your Family Is Complete

How do my husband and I know when it's time to stop having children? We're expecting baby number five in a few weeks. That will make a total of five kids within the space of five years! I've seen a lot of Christian literature on the subject of starting a family, but how can we tell when enough is enough and our family has reached the ideal size? Other moms have told me, "You'll just know when it's your last one," and I guess they're probably right. Still, I can't help wondering if there are other factors I should bear in mind. Any advice?

We can’t provide you with a fool-proof formula that will enable you to know when it’s time to stop having babies. “Ideal” family size has to be determined on a case-by-case basis; the only definite statement we can make about it is that it’s certain to vary from household to household.

There are a number of different factors to be taken into account in making a decision of this kind-factors which are likely to shift and change as the family grows. These might include the age and health of the mother, the couple’s desire for another child, the stability of the marriage, and maybe even financial considerations. Secondary issues such as genetic problems, stress, and a wide variety of medical challenges should also be weighed.

To a certain extent, then, those moms who have told you that “you’ll just know when it’s your last one” are absolutely right. They’re right in the sense that this is a decision you and your husband have to make for yourselves, with generous amounts of prayer and perhaps counsel from family members and friends. Nobody else can make it for you. On the other hand, we’re all aware that some babies have a way of taking their parents by surprise. They arrive on the scene without first having the courtesy to consult mom and dad’s plans. These kids often turn out to be extra-special blessings. In every case they are reminders that God alone holds sovereign sway over every human life.

In connection with this last thought, we’d suggest that this is also partly a question of the thoughtful use of contraception. As you probably know, there are some couples in the Christian community who would argue that it is never up to mom and dad to decide that this baby is “the last one.” They would maintain that the use of any form of birth control whatsoever is contrary to the will of God because it expresses an unwillingness to accept the gift of life whenever He chooses to give it. Others disagree, of course. Here at Focus on the Family we take the view that husbands and wives have to settle this question for themselves under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

If you think it might be helpful to discuss these ideas at greater length with a member of our staff, we’d like to invite you to call Focus on the Family’s Counseling department. Our trained counselors will be happy to discuss your situation with you over the phone. They can also provide you with a list of referrals to licensed Christian family therapists in your area who may be able to offer further assistance.

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