Big Decisions

The Moment We Knew We Didn’t Want Any More Kids, According To 13 Parents

Some decisions are by choice. Some are by necessity. Some are a complicated mixture of the two.

Originally Published: 
Dad on couch with three children — two boys and a girl

Kids are like Chinese buffets, whiskey shots, and Star Wars movies — there comes a time when you know when enough is enough. Many couples head into parenting with a plan, dictating how many kids they want, how far apart they want them, and, if they’re bold enough, exactly how they’ll be split up between boys and girls. But plans change and the realization hits that makes you say, “We’re good. We don’t want any more kids.”

The average size of the American family is relatively small — roughly 3.14 people, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. And the costs, pressures, and risks associated with raising a modern family can’t be denied. This has something to do with why two-child American families are ideal to half of the population, and the number of large families is decreasing.

But when it comes to the question of when parents realized they didn’t want kids anymore, it all depends on the parents themselves. Some decisions are by choice. Some are by necessity. Some are a complicated mixture of the two. Despite many initial plans to the contrary, these 13 parents made the call to hit the brakes on the childbirth express. Here’s when they realized they didn’t want kids any more.

1. On the Way Home from the Hospital

“There wasn’t really any specific moment or incident that made us say, ‘Okay, we’re done.’ But, driving home from the hospital after the birth of our son, we just felt complete. It was just this calm, serene, completely peaceful vibe. Maybe we were exhausted, and just sort of basking in the dizziness of that whole whirlwind, but that feeling of wholeness was so strong that we both knew we were done. We didn’t talk about it then, but a few days later we were talking about having another kid, and my wife brought up the emotions during the car ride. I said, ‘I felt the same thing!’ And we just let it be, content with our completed family.” – Robert, 35, New York

2. When We Missed Our Jobs

“When we had our son and our daughter, both my wife and I had to take significant time off of work. As strange as it sounds, we both really love our jobs. So, while being with our kids was wonderful and rewarding, we definitely missed the joy of fulfilling careers. We never really discussed a specific number of kids. We just knew we wanted a large family. But, of course, things changed, and we realized that we might be happier getting back to work and not trying to spread ourselves too thin.” – Marc, 37, Ohio

Maybe we were exhausted, and just sort of basking in the dizziness of that whole whirlwind, but that feeling of wholeness was so strong that we both knew we were done.

3. When We Had a Girl

“We had two boys, then our first girl. We’d planned for another kid after her, but she just exhausted us to the point where we said, ‘Hard Pass’. I don’t know what it was, honestly, because babies are pretty much the same when they’re really young. But as she got a little older — and, admittedly, so did we — she just became a handful. The boys were pretty easy, so maybe we paid for that with the karma. And, of course, we love her dearly, and wouldn’t trade those memories for anything. But she made us realize our family was complete pretty emphatically.” – Samantha, 38, Ohio

4. What I Stoped Fawning Over Other Kids

“I love being a mother. But I do think there’s an element of novelty to the whole thing that definitely wears off. When we had our first child, I was enamored with, like, every baby I saw. I wanted to touch them, hold them, and just be near them. Then, with our second child, I felt the same things, but only like fifty percent of the time. And even that went away pretty quickly. It went from, ‘OMG! A BABY!’ to ‘Aww. A baby.’ to ‘Excuse me, could you move your stroller? I need to get by.’ We didn’t fight it, looked at how wonderful our family was already, and decided to call it quits.” – Erin, 37, Florida

5. When Our Second Child Got “Stuck”

“When my wife gave birth to our second child, he got stuck on the way out. That’s the most basic way I can describe it. And she was in such intense, incredible pain for, like, hours, that we threw in the towel on having kids pretty much immediately after checking out of the hospital. Like, on the car ride home. She said she didn’t want to go through that again. I said I couldn’t imagine how she did it, and that she was the toughest person I’d ever met. And that I never wanted to see her go through that again. Apparently it’s not a super common thing, so maybe we would’ve lucked out with another baby, but we didn’t want to risk it.” – Al, 43, Pennsylvania

6. After Our First Child

“‘One and done’ was the way we wanted to do it from the beginning. We both wanted one child. She wanted a boy, and I wanted a girl. When she had our son, we both fell in love and that was it. It’s almost spooky how well our ‘plan’ worked out. The pregnancy was tough, but not unusual. So was the actual childbirth. The weird thing is that most of our plans tend to fall apart. Vacations, job stuff, and even daily errands never go as we expect. But our son was pretty perfect, all things considered. So, we chalked that up as a win and went out on top.” – Thomas, 32, Michigan

7. When I Realized I Hated Pregnancy

“You know how some women blabber on about the ‘glow’ of pregnancy? Like, because they’ve got a baby inside, they’re bathed in this “sacred aura”? Or they’re the happiest they’ve ever been? Not me. I hated every single thing about pregnancy. I gained so much weight. I was sweaty all the time. I farted without warning. I always had to pee. My hormones went crazy. I got mean. Those nine months were like an out-of-body experience that I never wanted to repeat. Was it worth it? Of course. Our daughter is our reason for living. But she’ll be fine without a little sister or brother.” – Lyn, 31, California

We saw this dad literally sprinting down one of the aisles after a kid with a baby strapped to his chest, and another kid crying behind him. It was just pure chaos.

8. When We Traveled Overseas

“My wife and I didn’t get to take a honeymoon right after our wedding. Instead, we waited for a while — and until after we’d had two kids — to go on a trip to Italy. The kids were old enough to stay with Grandma and Grandpa, so we went for ten days, and had a blast. We’d talked about having another kid for a while, but I think we both realized that things would get exponentially more difficult if we were outnumbered. We couldn’t imagine taking three kids on a similar trip — or even just a vacation to Disney or whatever — in the future. And, we haven’t regretted it. Traveling as a family of four has been wonderful, and completely manageable, too.” – Isaac, 39, Indiana

9. When Our Second Son Wouldn’t Sleep

“Our plan was to have three kids. But our second son had some health problems that meant he didn’t sleep through the night for almost exactly two years. It was a very, very stressful time, and a struggle for both my wife and I. We were both working. And we had our older son, as well. The combination of worrying about our second son’s health, and the two years’ worth of complete sleep deprivation made us rethink our original plan. We decided we’d be more effective devoting our lives to our two boys instead.” – David, 36, Kentucky

10. When We Endured A Miscarriage

“Our second pregnancy ended in a miscarriage, and that was enough for us. I’m not sure the trauma of a miscarriage can be adequately put into words. Especially when you have two other children to explain everything to. It was just such a tragic, sobering situation that I think we both became terrified to try again. Never say never, I guess? But my wife and I both agree that our family is complete.” – Johnathan, 38, Rhode Island

11. When I Lost My Job

“We were on track to have three kids, and then I lost my job. I couldn’t find work for close to a year, and by that time things had changed. Financially, we were crippled. Raising two kids was an absolute struggle. And, even though I was working again, it would be a long time before we were back on level ground. We’re very happy, though, and very blessed that we were able to recover. But, with the debt, and the cost of keeping our family safe and afloat, we had to reassess everything.” – Kevin, 37, Illinois

12. When I Saw A Dad Wrangling Three Kids In A Target

“My wife, my son and I were at Target one year during Christmas. My son was probably about five, I think. It was a normal day out, and then we saw this dad literally sprinting down one of the aisles after a kid with a baby strapped to his chest, and another kid crying behind him. It was just pure chaos. To his credit, he was handling it. But, it made us stop and think. It was like the Ghost of Christmas Future, showing us the possibilities. More kids weren’t a super high priority at the time, but I’m not exaggerating when I say I think that whole scene put the nail in the coffin.” – Chris, 33, Virginia

13. When I Got Into Grad School

“I was in a slump after our second daughter was born. Or, rather, a holding pattern where my husband and I couldn’t decide whether or not to try for another. I had been toying with the idea of going back to school to get my Master’s Degree for a while, and actually applied to several programs. When acceptance letters started showing up, I think we both took that as a sign that grad school was the direction I should be headed, and that trying to navigate it while pregnant would be risky and difficult. I’m close to finishing my program now, and I think we both agree that choosing school over a bigger family was the right move.” – Marcie, 36, Georgia

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