By Lynette Summerill
Some women have always known how many children they will have. For others, the answer isn’t as clear. Some couples debate whether to add to their family for years, while others know with unfettered certainty when their family is complete.
Is there a magic number when it comes to family size?
That’s a question Gallup has been asking couples since 1936. It may come as no surprise that the ideal family size has changed over the years. Until 1967, more Americans preferred a larger family, with three or more children. As social and economic pressures changed, so did the average couple’s desire to limit the number of children.
Starting in 1970, a clear majority of Americans (58 percent) have been saying that having two children is best, according to the most recent Gallup polling.
However, experts say that whatever the size of your family, the decision is a highly personal one. For Coral Edwards of American Fork, Utah having a large family just made sense. Edwards has six kids ranging in age from 18 to 6. Lori Swanson of Carlsbad, California, has said that she initially wanted six, but two kids, a boy and a girl, have turned out to be plenty.
In a 2011 HealthyWomen survey that looked at contraception and family size, 55 percent of women said that they experienced the emotional feeling of satisfaction once they made the decision they were done having children. And 58 percent said that permanent birth control offered them peace of mind about being protected from a unplanned pregnancy and a greater sense of freedom about when and where they can have sex.
Emotional feelings aside, practical concerns such as space, finances, health, career goals, emotional stability and age can be strong motivators for couples when deciding on their family size.
“Those factors helped my husband and I make the decision rather than some mystical feeling of 'doneness'," Swanson said. "For us, limiting the size of our family was clearly the right choice."