Essay,  Faith

Many Kids Club


It seems I am the chosen jurist for everyone deliberating another child. Friendly moms I do not know sidle up to me. They’ve noted the two children, and now, the belly. They make small talk, then get to it: “yeah, so, how did you decide to go for that?” “What?” I ask innocently, “three?”

“I mean, we’re debating. We’ve been talking about it, over and over again. But you know—more kids means bigger car, bigger house, right? And the plane tickets! And what about hotel rooms? Do they let you bring three kids into a hotel room?”

I am truly the worst consultant they could resource this pro bono work to. I genuinely haven’t given thought to half the concerns they’re studiously mulling over. It wasn’t until I was 4 months into this pregnancy that my friend pointed out, to my surprise, that we wouldn’t all fit into a taxi anymore. “You think you can, and then you can’t,” she firmly said of families of five.

But instead of bringing their debate to a reasonable well-researched person of able body and mind, they’ve unwittingly stumbled on an aging Irish Catholic grandmother in the body of a petite Midwestern thirty-year-old. “Well, it’s so much better for later in life.” I state with authority. “You know—more in-laws. More phone calls. More grandchildren.” Their eyes mist a bit and they’re tracking along with the pretty picture of a quiet cozy living room inundated with telephone calls.

Then I pull out one of my darker rationals: “Just think of the burden you’ll be on them if there’s only two.” They frown, with an absent look in their eyes. Perhaps my maniacal glint of hormone-fueled-procreation goes too far on that one. Though, I’ve found I am not the only one who leans towards the darker side of these discussions. “The way they’re dying these days, you should just keep going. I mean–those motorcycles!” remarked a retired nurse to me the other day (somewhat surreally, as the girls and I licked our ice cream cones in the sun).

Clearly these are two sides of the same trippy mental coin: to me, they seem overwrought with controlling their current circumstances in a way that won’t pay off: is life with two kids actually going to be magically easier? Didn’t they already exchange so much of “normal life” just by having those two? If their lives are better with two personalities, why wouldn’t they be exponentially better with three? I guess at root I doubt the accuracy of meticulously measuring out elements of their life.

And on the other side of the coin, I have built my daily outlook on a prediction for thirty years from now. I would be wise to remember that I might not even be around then, and zen to recall that it is THIS moment, the chaotic, daily, non-stop child-rearing one, is the one that matters most anyway.

The trouble for these folks is that they walked up to me in a state of uncertainty. I have many friends firmly in the only one camp or only two camp. I’ve listened carefully to their reasoning and admire their vision. I would never attempt to argue them out of their position, nor would I think my position offered them anything. Often I think of the Bible stories involving women begging God for just one child–take sweet, elderly Elizabeth and Zachariah for example. The gift of one life-changing child is not to be lightly brushed over. As kids, my sister and I relished joining in the relative peace of our neighbor’s home–a family of four. Things seemed calm and full of possibility over there, with lots of extra craft supplies and snacks to boot.

Where’s this all going? A medley makes the world go round. Just don’t ask the old Irish lady at the playground for advice.


  • Katrina Harrington

    I think I can’t adore your writing any more than I already do, and then you go ahead and type this post. You had me at “an aging Irish Catholic grandmother in the body of a petite Midwestern thirty-year-old.” and had me nodding all the way to the end with “A medley makes the world go round.”

    And the photo of Joan includes a 4-H club banner – makes the heart of this 4-H fair girl sing.

  • Kathleen

    Having our third girl in February…I sometimes think I’m crazy, because I work full-time outside the home and my husband is in the military. But I love big families, and more kids means more joy to me. My two girls know how loved and cherished they are, and a third and maybe fourth someday will only add to the goodness.

  • Caitlin Burch

    Also having a third girl in February and am getting lots of these comments from my non-Catholic friends. Expecting a third of the same sex puts you in an interesting position because all of those with two girls/boys seem to want another only if it could be the other gender. If life was The Sims…

  • Liz

    This is such a timely and well written post . . . gahhhhh . .. my husband and I just welcomed our baby girl 5 months ago. She is our second. Our first was stillborn at 24 weeks early last year. We have always agreed on one (we have to travel internationally for family, we have a small apartment, love our urban location, have a 60lb rescue dog etc .. but even at five months I am now wondering if she will resent being an only. My husband has an older brother (5 years difference) and I have a younger brother (2 years difference). I’m pretty close to my brother, my husband isn’t really to his. I loved having my brother growing up, but we live in separate countries and he’s not great at keeping in touch (but are men ever? 🙂 ). I’m going to be 40 next year. My husband is very definite about our choice (especially after he’s seen some of our friends struggling with managing a second child), but he talks about it so often that I wonder if he’s sort of thinking about it too. I don’t know. It’s such life changing decision (as we are finding out now – and loving it). When people ask my husband if he’s missing his former life, he smiles and says, “What was I clinging to anyway? ” 🙂

    • Rachael Ringenberg

      Amazing you’re already speaking positively about it at five months! I always say I can’t even think about until 13 months. Keep your eyes out for pairs of siblings once you’re out with her at the playground–it’s crazy how much easier it is to handle two (play together, talk together, walk together…). That doesn’t happen until the youngest is two though. That said–my city friends who’ve managed to sneak one child into their urban lives (and bedroom!) are amazingly more actively participating in city life, instead of managing family life, as I am clearly doing.

  • beaktweets

    Thanks for this. And thanks for ending with a mention about the medley. I always thought we would have three, but then I’ve found two so overwhelming (until very recently) that I don’t think we will have more. Your reasoning for more later in life rings very true to me, though. It is the biggest reason I still consider more- not so much for now, but for later. Whenever I see pictures of your big family together I feel a pause about the decision we’ve made because it all just seems so chaotically fun. Again, thanks for this.

  • Deanna

    Love it Rachael! Reading this made me so happy. We’re joining the club with you this spring. The boys are getting a baby sister!! Everyone is thrilled and we can’t wait for the chaos. Let’s get together soon and talk many kids! xoxo

  • Shawn B

    We have two boys. My last one sort of dropped the mic on his way out, so we can’t have any more, but if we could, I would have gone for a third. Actually, if we had started younger, I probably would have had four. It’s exhausting, expensive, and exhilarating. Nothing like it. Keep them coming as long as you can!

  • Tracy

    When I was expecting our third I mostly remember getting inquiries about whether or not I was hoping for a girl (my first two are boys) and all sorts of wacky statistics about the chances of having a girl after having had two boys. But when my third was a newborn (girl!), that’s when the “How is it with three?” questions came. Having two busy boys (4 and 2 when my daughter was born) always made the baby, with her simple needs and uncomplicated ways, seem like the least of my problems! It was the preschooler and toddler who were keeping me on my toes. So I used to tell people, half-jokingly, they’d have to check back in a few years, once she was her own little force in the family! One thing that is sort of fun: to see now, four years later, which of the mothers who asked for advice has gone ahead and had a third!

  • Caroline McCoy Pestka

    Ha ha. I totally understand. I have 5 kiddos and people think I am the mothering guru. Sooooo not. I think we are done – at 41 I am tuckered out.

  • Erin

    Just a few weeks in with a newborn, while struggling with breastfeeding, trying to keep everyone fed and generally not go crazy, my mom looked at me and said, “biggest regret—that I didn’t have more children. It all seems too much when you’re in it, but just do what you have to do to make it through those early days.” She’s speaking from that 30-years-from-now place, and I get it. Just wish we had started earlier, because I was the kid relishing the crazy, half-naked, little-brother world of our neighbors’s home 🙂

    • Rachael Ringenberg

      Ha–wow. I thought about this comment for a long time after you left it. Just that timing–amazing that it’s on her mind at that point, and probably couldn’t be further from your mind at the same time. I guess that sums up how wildly circumstantial these decisions can feel. Thanks for sharing.
      And it was SO half-naked!

  • Kate Collins

    This post hit home. I came from a Catholic family of six (four kids) and it was the absolute best. I’ve always wanted four. We are blessed with two girls. The first was IVF (after a Dr told me I should just give up). The second was a natural surprise (18 months apart). We’ve been trying for a third since the second was two months old which is crazy. She’s now 14 months. We are in the absolute thick of it and last night I woke in a bit of a fright – what if I actually do get pregnant? This essay reconfirmed my desire. Because in a few short years, they’ll be past the stage of total dependency and the house will be alive and chaotic and hilarious and loud – just the way I love it. at 35, I know four is out of the question but I’ll keep that glimmer of hope for number three.

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