Maybe One More?

Parenting a big family in a small world.

Are you crazy if you want to add another child— or two or three— to your family? Not at all! Here’s what it takes to raise a lot of kids, and why having a big family doesn’t have to be much harder than having one or two children.

Though not as common as it was a couple of generations ago, families with three, four or more kids may be on the upswing, according to recent news stories. But because small-sized families have been the norm for so long, many of today’s parents aren’t sure how it’s possible to raise more than a couple of kids— and plenty of parents wonder why anyone would want to!

If you’re considering adding children to your family, you’ve probably got a few fears and a lot of questions. Can you afford it? Can you give each child enough attention? Where will everyone sleep and eat?

If you’d love to have a bigger brood, you’ll figure out the particulars with time and consideration. Just don’t be scared by myths. Here’s the real scoop on raising a larger family.

Can I afford a bigger family?

Sure, raising kids can be expensive. But the articles you read assigning children a set price tag from birth to age 18 often don’t take lifestyle into account. For instance, will each of your children really need his own toys, clothes and bedroom?

Many parents with three, four or more kids expect their kids to share bedrooms at least some of the time. Though sharing bedrooms might have fallen out of style, it was once an expected part of childhood. Plus, it can teach valuable lessons about negotiation, sharing and getting along with others.

To avoid squabbles, parents should ensure each sibling has a special place to keep his or her stuff safe and private. Parents can also come up with a variety of creative solutions, like turning a walk-in closet into a bedroom or a hang-out spot for an older child craving privacy. Other ideas include turning one room into two separate spaces with a divider or curtain, and converting an attic, attached garage, basement or den into an extra bedroom. In other words, you don’t have to add onto your home every time you add a kid!

It’s easy to over-buy for that first baby. However, by the time you get to child number three, you realize how little wear and tear most baby items and clothes get— and if you keep accumulating toys from older kids, you’ll soon be drowning in clutter. Many parents find that having a bigger family forces them to get serious about reducing the amount of stuff that comes into the house. A bonus to down sizing: Everybody’s better off for it. Instead of buying a bunch of toys for each child at holiday time, some families invest in a group present, such as a large-screen TV or a trip to an indoor water park. Similarly, many families focus their celebrations on spending time with family and loved ones, rather than on gift giving and spending money.

If you’re thinking you may want to add more children down the road, invest in quality, gender-neutral clothes and toys now. A set of quality blocks may be loved by children, and possibly grandchildren, for years to come, while this year’s “hot toy” will probably be broken and forgotten by the time the next baby comes around. Likewise, it’s unlikely that you’ll put a pair of pink pants with rhinestones on a future baby boy, whereas simple denim overalls are cute as well as versatile. It’s fine to buy a few fashion-forward (and gender-specific) things, but a better investment is to find neutral, well-made items you can pass down from child to child. Can’t afford to buy high-quality clothes off the racks? Try shopping the end-of-season clearance sales at stores with a good reputation for quality and value. Stock up on items like plain-colored T-shirts and jeans, which never go out of style.

Can I handle a bigger family?

When I encounter moms of one or two kids in the grocery store or at a playgroup, I often hear something like: “How do you do it? I’ve got my hands full as it is!”

A big family can seem overwhelming when you’re adjusting to having a child or two. Yet, by the time you have your third or fourth baby (or beyond), you won’t be the same parent you are now. You’ll have had nine months of pregnancy to get used to the idea of a big family. Also, most people add babies one at a time, so you’ll probably have ample time to adjust before your family triples in size! You’ll learn how to balance each child’s needs against the needs of the family, and your kids will learn how to wait their turn. If you have twins or triplets, the adjustment will be more sudden, but cut yourself a lot of slack and you’ll get the hang of meeting multiple needs at once.

Taking care of four kids isn’t necessarily twice as hard as taking care of two. Big families may often be noisy and chaotic, but siblings also provide each other with built-in companions, meaning children in a big family may play more cohesively and crave less entertainment from Mom and Dad. Of course, big families also mean that siblings may get in more trouble— and then cover up for each other.

Parents of many children usually quickly determine that, if they’re going to maintain a big household, every family member has to chip in, except the infants. Having regular chores encourages kids to develop responsibility and feel like competent team members, something many contemporary children don’t get to experience.

In a household of many kids, giving each child individual attention may be tricky, but it’s not impossible. Creative moms and dads plan one-on-one time with each child, whether it’s taking a child on a special playdate away from the rest of the family, chatting with a kid solo after school, snuggling with a child before bedtime or even escorting kids on errands one at a time so they can connect with a parent while filling the grocery cart.

Family size is a personal decision, however, parents should not feel guilty or crazy if they want to raise a houseful of kids. With careful planning, flexibility and a sense of humor, you can add more kids to your family and love it. Well, most of the time.