Boy Or Girl & How Many Kids Should You Have?

Mr. FAF and I have been going back and forth on the question of how many kids we should have so many times recently.

The reason is that we are trying to decide the optimal number of children we should have to maximize our happiness and life quality.

After we got married, Mr. FAF has always been dreaming about us having three children.

Mr. FAF is the only child as a result of the one-child policy in China more than 30 years ago.

He grew up without any siblings and has always thought of his cousins as his brothers and sisters.

Mr. FAF likes to have a big family probably to make up for the time when he was all alone as a child.

Three is somehow his magic number: two boys and one girl.

I, on the other hand, have a younger sister.

My parents have two kids because of the two-child policy in Vietnam which was still in effect more than twenty years ago.

I get along well with my sister and have always felt lucky that I have a sibling.

I think Mr. FAF and I should have two children, ideally one boy and one girl, but two boys or two girls would also be great as well.

More than one child

Although we think that one child would take a lot of financial pressure off of our shoulders, we want to have more than one kid for two reasons.

First, our son will have a best friend right in his family, someone he can learn how to share things with and lean on in tough times if/when we are not around.

Second, although we hope that our son will grow up to be a strong man, life is full of surprises. We don’t want to wait until we (mainly me) are past our fertility window opportunity and regret not having more children in the future.

One child

However, Mr. FAF and I have also been discussing having only one child for three reasons. First, taking care of a toddler already tires us out despite the help from my mother-in-law (MIL).

I have a lot of respect for working parents who can take good care of their children. Handing two full-time jobs and young children is definitely no joke.

I also admire parents who decide to stay at home to take care of their children while their spouse continues to work. It is a rewarding yet exhausting experience and is one of the biggest sacrifices a parent can make for their children.

Second, daycare in the DC metro area is expensive. Daycare for an infant in Washington DC can cost roughly $2,000/month or $24,000/year. If you have two children, the daycare tuition can be around $40,000-$50,000 which could easily be someone’s full-time income after tax. That means that you need to make roughly $60,000-$75,000 pretax just to cover the costs of daycare.

You can deduct $5,000 from your pretax income to cover daycare, but it’s only a small dent in the pretax $60,000-$75,000 you need to set aside for daycare.

We live in the suburbs of DC and pay around $15,000 for an in-home daycare. If we have another kid, we will be looking at $30,000 a year. Our son is going to pre-K in about 1.5 years, and we won’t have to pay for his daycare. But until then, daycare costs are a big expense we need to take into consideration.

Our parents’ preferences

1. My parents

My parents have two children: my younger sister and me. I think they wanted to have only one child (me). But somehow they ended up with two and wanted to keep it that way.

My mom has been encouraging me to have one more baby, ideally a girl since I already have a boy. I think her way of thinking is influenced by the Chinese culture that it is good luck to have a gender balance in a family.

The character 好 (good) in Mandarin Chinese consists of two components: 女 for a girl and 子 for a girl, which indicates harmony.

2. Mr. FAF’s parents

After Mr. FAF and I got married, I still don’t know how many kids my in-laws want us to have. But there’s one thing I know for sure: They want to have a grandson to carry on Mr. FAF’s family tree.

Mr. FAF is the only child, so right after we got married, Mr. FAF’s parents started to express their wish for a grandson.

Before I got pregnant with Baby FAF, I didn’t think much about the gender issue. I would be happy with a healthy baby whether it was a boy or a girl.

However, after I got pregnant, I could feel the pressure channeling through our conversations with our parents. Mr. FAF’s parents secretly hoped that it would be a boy.

My parents kept saying that it didn’t matter. But I could tell from their tone that they would also prefer a boy since it would take the pressure of having a boy off of me in the future.

I was living in America, the land of opportunity where gender equality is championed. Our parents live in the 21st century in big cities in China and Vietnam where traditions and prejudices are not as strongly ingrained as in rural areas.

Yet, there I was feeling an insurmountable level of stress, frustration, and even anger.

Did my family feel the same way when my mom was pregnant with me? Did they also hope for a boy and get disappointed when their baby turned out to be a girl (me) instead?

My baby is precious. If it’s a girl, I will teach her the importance of being independent and tell her that no one except for her parents should tell her what to do. She’s in control of her life. If she decides not to do something, it should be because she has little or no interest in it, not because someone tells her that she’s incapable.

What do the numbers say?

According to the 2015 Expenditures on Children by Families report issued by USDA, a middle-income family ($59,200-$107,400) spend an average 12,980 annually per child. The cost of raising a child born in 2015 until they reach the age of 18 is $233,610.

$233,610 looks like a huge amount for any young couple and can cause them to delay having children until their finances are sound. The good news is that when a couple has more than one kid, the cost of a second child is likely less than $233,610 due to economies of scale.

Economies of scale arise when the cost of producing a unit of output decreases due to an increase in production volume. In other words, the added cost of having a second, third, or forth child is likely to be much lower than the initial cost of having the first baby.

Before Mr. FAF and I decided to have Baby FAF, we didn’t think much about the total cost of raising a child. We just knew we would want to have children at one point. Our parents were also getting impatient and wanted to have a grandchild as soon as possible.

When I had Baby FAF, we didn’t have much knowledge of raising a child and owning no baby gear. I spent hours learning from free resources about parenthood on the internet.

We also started getting a lot of hand-me-down baby items from our friends and colleagues. The startup costs of our preparation for the first child were stiff.

However, now that we have the basic knowledge of how to take care of an infant and a toddler (which is still fresh in our minds), we won’t have to spend time learning as much about parenthood.

We have at least 5 boxes full of baby clothes from Baby FAF, so we won’t need to buy new clothes or spend time looking for hand-me-down items. I will still use Baby FAF’s boy clothes for our second baby even if it’s a girl.

If our babies are close in age (i.e. toddler), we can use almost the same clothes for both, cook the same batch of food, have them play the same toys, and teach them similar lessons.

If our children are a few years apart, the older one can act as a babysitter to help with the younger sibling. When my mom had my little sister, I helped out with the baby and housework.

My performance in school wasn’t particularly good that year. But I gave my parents a hand in raising my sister.

Boy or girl

Some people say they wish for a girl because boys are more resilient and more likely to succeed in life. If it’s a girl, they will have more worries as parents.

I don’t love my children just because I believe that they will be successful in the future.

If people want to have an easier life with a son, then they should already be prepared when things don’t turn out the way they hoped for. And I’ve seen how that’s played out in real life. Hope doesn’t equate reality.

I’ve seen many families where the boy is given an easier time and has less supervision from the parents. They don’t have to do housework, don’t need to care what their parents think, and can get off the hook easily when something goes wrong.

Their sister, however, needs to learn how to cook, clean, pay attention when the parents are not happy, learn etiquette, and work harder to prove themselves.

The result is that the boy feels entitled, doesn’t work as hard, and relies on their sister to take care of them and the parents. The parents then get disappointed in the boy and start complaining about how the boy can’t do big things in life.

I just want them to realize that the boy’s sense of entitlement doesn’t come out of nowhere. It’s been nurtured all those years by the parents and has reached the point where some don’t see taking care of themselves and the family as their responsibility. It’s someone else’s. In other words, the parents knowingly or unknowingly brought the disappointment on themselves.

When Baby FAF is old enough, he will need to pick up the housework with his future sister or brother. He will need to know that the fact that he’s a boy doesn’t make him better than any girls his age.

In the future, he and his wife can decide between themselves how they want to divide up the housework. But he needs to be able to take care of himself before he can build his own family.

I am his only mom, and no other woman out there needs to act as his second mom and take care of him like their baby. My son will need to learn how to be independent, and so will my daughter.

Related: Housework – The Financial Decision In A Family

Conclusion

I think Mr. FAF and I will end up having one more baby. It’s just a matter of time.

When we have the second baby, we hope that my mom will come to the US to help out. But if she can’t, we’re in a good enough financial position to have a second baby without our family’s help.

I can’t imagine going through the financial stress we once did when I had Baby FAF. It wasn’t healthy for mommy, baby, and everyone else in the family.

Mr. FAF said if his salary doubles by the end of 2018 (which I highly doubt), we will have three kids. If not, we will have only two kids.

I would be happy with two children. Mr. FAF and I can take turns taking care of them. However, if for some reason (intentional or unintentional), we end up with three, I’d be happy to take that fortune as well whether our future children will be boys or girls.

What about you? What do you think is the optimal number of children that will maximize your family’s happiness?

Related:

Our Family Reunion & 4 Financial Implications

The Pros & Cons Of Our Dual-Income Family

Housework – The Financial Decision In A Marriage

Why We Sent Our Baby To China

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18 thoughts on “Boy Or Girl & How Many Kids Should You Have?”

  • This is an emotionally charged issue. I don’t think you need to factor finance into it that much if you’re doing well financially. You guys are doing well financially so you shouldn’t tie the number of kid with income. It’s not all about money.
    I wanted to have two kids, but Mrs. RB40 didn’t want any. We compromised at one. That was the last huge fight we had. If she didn’t change her mind, it would have been catastrophic for our marriage. Money didn’t factor into it. It’s just personal preference.

    • I think you made a great point about not worrying about money too much when we consider how many kids to have. I guess I’m just a bit paranoid we would run out of money or that both Mr. FAF and I would lose our jobs or something.

      I’m glad you and Mrs. RB40 worked it out. The topic of having kids can definitely put a huge strain on a relationship. Thanks for sharing your story as always! 🙂

  • Two kids for us, a girl and a boy in that order too. Originally planning on four kids as that’s what I always wanted but our first child was born prematurely. Wife had pregnancy complications and had to quit her job. The second child was born without any issues but we somehow decided to stop at two. But I’d say if money is not an issue, go for four.

    • Hi Bernz, it’s nice to hear from you. I’m sorry to hear about the complications. It’s great to hear that your second child was born with any issues 🙂 One boy and one girl sound perfect! ^.^

  • It’s a tough decision and a very emotional one.
    My husband wanted 2 kids and I wanted 4 (I came from a family of four and loved it); we ended up with three! why? Not really because of money, one more at that point is not as expensive, but because after having #3, I realized four would probably be too much for us to handle!
    We never considered just having one.

    • I’m glad it worked out great for you with 3 kids. I think Mr. FAF might also want to have only 2 kids after we have the second one 😉

  • I come from a family with just two siblings–myself and a younger brother. And I hated it:( I always thought it was so quiet in our house growing up, and for whatever reason, felt that another sibling would have “evened” every thing out. My husband has 3 brothers and loved it. Because of his experience, he’d like to have 3 children (currently we are expecting our second). I’ve always wanted at LEAST 3 kids. But I also know that that’s up to God, biology and how we’ll feel after this second one comes along. I’m already 35 so I have no idea what my body will be able to handle (and even if I was younger I wouldn’t assume pregnancy would be a breeze anyway). My husband and I waited a very long time to have kids because we both wanted me to stay home and raise them; it was the more financially savvy decision, in our opinion, as I worked as a teacher and couldn’t justify paying for childcare on such a paltry salary. I’d essentially be working to pay for daycare. Fortunately, through hard work and frugal habits, we saved and my husband also was fortunate to get several promotions in a short amount of time which enabled us to fulfill our dream of my staying home and having a family. I absolutely love it.
    I think the most important thing is that you and Mr FAF be on the same page on this. I personally would not want just one child but that is an individual choice, and I don’t believe it’s a choice that should be made purely on statistical data or without some emotion. What works best for you guys will be the best choice!

    • Thank you for sharing your story, Gaby! It’s great your husband got promoted several times before you made the transition to being a SAHM. I totally agree no matter how many kids we decide to have, Mr. FAF and I should reach an agreement. It’s for the good of our family! 🙂

  • Initially my husband wanted three but now he wants two. I want two as well. I came from a family of 4 and that’s too much hah. I always wished we were just 2-3 because then we could drive around in a sedan, the perfect family car instead of a mini van.

  • Zero for us 🙂 I always say though, if you want kids, start with 1 and see how it goes. No sense in committing yourself to 3 if you guys get to 2 and decide that’s what you’re happy with and can provide for, then having a third because you feel obligated to. 🙂

  • I was born under 1 child policy too! I’m glad I have no siblings though. We were poor enough, my parents shouldn’t have created more miserable beings of existence. I knew that and my first discussions with my significant others were about how we had to be wealthy before I would be willing to sire life. How that’s not common sense is beyond me.

    I hope Mr FAF salary doubles and you guys have another baby (a girl please!) you two are so responsible and smart that the kid would be lucky to be born to you.

  • I think that if your goal with children is to maximize happiness, zero is your safest bet! I’m close with my siblings, but I have closer friends who are not related to me. As to helping out my parents, I’m the only one who has any ability to do that. In fact, I fully expect to help out my sister as she gets older. My brother sadly died at age 34, but I would have had to most likely help him as well. So I don’t expect my kids to be best friends and I don’t expect them to take care of us. I want to set things up so that they never have to worry about us.

    That said, we have two boys. They are four years apart, which has been amazing spacing. They share a room quite happily and play very well together. My younger brother was four years younger than me and we were always close growing up. My sister was two years older and we fought like wildcats until we were grown. The WHO actually recommends 3-5 years between births for the optimal maternal and baby health. It seems this is easier in terms of paying for childcare as well.

    We are not trying for a girl. We aren’t trying at all, but if we were, we would not have a preference. We didn’t have for the first two either. We have plenty of nephews and nieces so there is no family pressure either way.

  • Some great insights!

    Apparently my friends from China have said that the perceptions are changing. The preference is slowly changing to girls, one told me that having a boy is like being the state bank, but having a girl is a merchant bank.

    The pressure that sons have, especially in the tier 1 cities, is becoming crippling, and as you know many Asian parents help with down payments etc. So it is becoming increasingly difficult for parents to fund their son’s future and be eligible to meet the criteria to even find a wife.

    Honestly, I think that husband and wife should be a team, a united front when it comes to the good of the family. I see some of my family take everything as a tit for tat scoreboard when it comes to doing family/parenting duties, everything would be much smoother if they just got in with it.

    For me, I would say two is a good number. It’s always good to have a play buddy around, it was great that your husband had cousins close by! Having a close sibling is great, you can help each other out, making everything even better. For example, I manage my brother’s investment account when he’s at work, so I can capitalise on those unexpected sector drops. He was up 100% average during 2017, just by me managing his accounts after setting some rules. ?

  • We may have another kid but if Baby with Cents is our only one then that will be fine too. We have been lucky that my MIL and FIL(father-in-law) has been taking care of him and didn’t have to bring him to daycare and plus he’s likes going to there place. If we do indeed have another kid then maybe they can take care of the newborn as well since Baby with Cents will be close to starting preschool at that time. We’ll figure it out if we cross that bridge.

  • Interesting! I come from a family of 3 girls. Pretty certain dad was hoping for a boy that last time, but alas it wasn’t meant to be. Are we close? Absolutely not. Husband and his brother got along ok, but not close.

    What did we do? After some struggles, we opted to adopt and so we were able to choose gender for the 2nd – so have a boy and a girl and that is enough. I’ve heard from several parents that going from 1 to 2 children is fine, but scaling from 2 to 3 is tough.

  • Terrific article!

    My fiancee and I are 24 & 25, and also live in the suburbs outside of Washington D.C.. We constantly go over how many children we wish to have. She wants 3 and I want 2. You raised an excellent and relevant financial point about the costs of daycare. Unfortunately these days, finance actually plays a big role in determining how many kids couples have, especially if you live in a high cost of living area of the country. It literally can be to expensive to have kids, depending on daycare costs for your area.

    You also raise a great point in that you never know if you can actually keep up with extra kids! It definitely takes alot of energy, and I commend ALL parents out there.

    Mr. & Mrs. Frugal Money Man definitely wish to join this club in the near future!

  • This is an emotionally-charged issue for me as well. I spend about half my paycheck on child care. I’ve always thought I wanted to have two children but the financial situation has made it scary to want to have two.

    As it currently stands if we get pregnant right now we would only have to pay for childcare for two children for one year.

  • Interesting topic. My wife and I discuss this a lot too. We both agreed that we should have at least two and at most three kids to maximize our happiness and the happiness of our children.

    We are both high income earners and our financial situation allows us to have as many kids as we want. We could probably afford to have 5 kids or more if we wanted. Our frugality and agreed unwillingness to spoil our children help too.

    Logistically we just thought that having more than three kids involves a degree of inconvenience that could negatively affect our happiness. For example, we would for sure have to buy a minivan to go anywhere as a family. And the more kids we have, the less attention we would be able to give to each one. Kids need a lot of attention for them to feel happy and loved.

    And we thought we should have at least two because I could imagine it being lonely as an only child. Plus having at least one other sibling gives your kids important life lessons such as sharing and collaborating (sometimes against the parents!) at an early age. I think this is important.

    Both my wife and I grew up with two other siblings, so at least there is a successful model that we can work with 🙂

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