Did You Decide on Number of Children Before Getting Married/engaged?

Updated on February 27, 2011
J.S. asks from Boston, MA
47 answers

A couple of recent questions regarding disagreements on the number of children to have got me thinking...isn't this something that couples decide BEFORE they settle on a future together? I don't mean to beat up on the moms who asked the questions, because obviously not everyone has this all settled, but if you didn't get explicit agreement on this before deciding to commit to your husband/SO, why not? If you could have a do over, is this something that you would make sure was set in stone before deciding to get married?

I know that everyone can have a change of heart, or things don't go as planned (fertility issues, surprise pregnancies, etc.) and in those cases you just have to deal with your reality and not belabor what you had originally planned on, so original plans aren't always set in stone but they at least give a starting point of agreement. So did most of us go into marriage/commitment with this matter settled or is it really common to assume that you both agree and then hope for the best?

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So What Happened?

These responses are fascinating, thank you for sharing! I'm shocked at the number who agreed on none and happily are parents. I knew two couples who agreed on none and when one spouse from each couple changed his or her mind, the marriages broke up. I don't know any couple who agreed on none and then had kids and are happy. I'm also surprised at the number who didn't discuss it at all...guess it was meant to be for you! To the few who found out later that they were being "yessed" by their future husbands, I can relate. My husband was sincere in our discussions about some things (kids, religion, working, where to live) but there are a couple of major areas in which he totally underestimated how much I meant what I said. He just figured that he would tell me what I wanted to hear and that eventually, I would see the wisdom of his ways and come around to agree with him. Much to his disappointment, that hasn't and won't happen. Keep the responses coming, this is very interesting to read!

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answers from New York on

We didn't necessarily agree on a number. But we did discuss the fact that we both did want to have children. I can't imagine that people would get married w/o having the "do you want kids" conversation. And if you are really adamant on a certain number, I would think that you would bring that up before marriage too. To us, the number was not a big deal, more just the fact that we both did want to have kids.

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answers from St. Louis on

No, my husband and I never put a number on how many kids we wanted. How do you even know beforehand anyways? I would probably have 4 kids if it werent for my miserable pregnancies, so we decided two would be fine. But ooops, im pregnant with my 3rd. Even if you "said" you wanted x many kids, doesnt mean its going to happen anyways.

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answers from Philadelphia on

We knew we wanted two kids but I really wanted to have a girl (I am being very honest here) so my husband agreed if we had two boys we would try a third time for a girl. I had a girl first so it was a non issue but I don't think either one of us thought we would want to raise 4 children. So if I had three boys I would have been happy and just thought that was meant to be. My husband did not care either way if we had boys or girls.

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answers from Columbus on

We both said none....... but just welcomed our 3rd. We didnt know how much love we had till we had our children.

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answers from Kansas City on

I think most people do (and should in my opinion) talk about this, but yes, it can change. I don't think it changes b/c people agree and hope for the best as you said, but more like reality sets in. When you deal with th reality of children it changes things in your life and marriage. Personally I think it's more imporant to be on the same page as to whether or not you want children at all than to exactly how many you're going to have, alltough a ballpark figure is good.

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answers from Reno on

During our first summer of dating, I asked my husband how many kids he wanted. He said 2.5. I asked how one has "half" a kid. He flashed me a rakish grin and said, "Have two and keep trying for a third...but never quite get it!"

I figured I could live with that! :p

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answers from Cleveland on

We definitely discussed it and it was also discussed (Pastor indicated this was very important) during pre-marriage counseling, which our church did with all engaged couples. He would have been good with one (he's an only) and I was definite on two, which he agreed on. We just had our third, a little big surprise considering my oldest are 16 and 13! But that is because he was a chicken liver for too many years :-P I have a friend though who when she became pregnant for the 3rd time (2nd had a miscarriage), her husband didn't want the baby (didn't want 2nd either) and they aborted. Apparently it was a deal breaker for him, but for me, I would have walked out of the marriage and had the baby.

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answers from Seattle on

We decided on a generality. As in we both wanted kids and our numbers were flexible so we could play it by ear.

I've dated men who were absolutely adamant that they wanted zero children, so they were fun to date, but I didn't string them along or think I could change them (they might change their mind in 10 or 20 years, but where they were at when I was dating them... so I respected that and we kept it "light"). I've also dated men who want *very* large families (6-10) and I was *tentatively* okay with that, but not completely on board because that involves a lot of logistics and luck. The ones that I truely fell in love with, however were not SET on the exact number of children. Small family, large family, they had their preference... but they also were very "roll with it" kinds of men. As in they'd LOVE to have "x" but would be okay with "y" instead.

Up until my husband. My husband, come to find, has out and out lied to me from the beginning. About EVERYTHING from how many children he would like (he said 2 or more but would be okay with just one, but meant 0) to where he wanted to live (house in a vibrant area -artsy or college town- or in the country, but meant condo in the city)... he ONLY ever told me what he "thought I wanted to hear" in order to "keep" me. So now, of course, I'm probably a little suspect of EVERY conversation regarding future plans with people.

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answers from Colorado Springs on

My husband and I did discuss children before marriage or engagement. We also agreed that we both wanted 3 kids. We have 3 kids and have been married 10 years.

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answers from Williamsport on

We did not agree on anything in advance. It's not our way. We also don't plan vacations way in advance. That was part of what we had in common. My husband never wanted kids but loves having 3 now. Most couples I know went with the flow if they were in love and didn't map it all out first. They met, they fell in love, they stayed together or not, or got married or not, or had kids or not.

It's sort of weird, especially when you're young, to start dating and ask the other person how many kids they want. Most men would say none. I think the couples who meet and fall in love and also JUST SO HAPPEN to have the exact same family planning ideas and can reach an agreement in advance are very lucky.

Some people I know (who got married later when they finally did know their plan) tried like heck to follow their little blueprints but fertility issues scoffed at them.

One of my friends dumped Mr. Right because he didn't match up to her future equations for kids (he didn't refuse her plan, just wouldn't pretend to be able to predict the future at age 25 with an entry level job which she took as wishy washy and lacking potential). She ended up with Mr. Jerk who wanted the same amount of kids. He's a horrible dad. Mr Right ended up having the same amount of kids as her. Both the planners and the non planners had major surprises. Sure, if your soul mate agrees with your plan, great, but the primary relationship is just two people, and often the rest ends up sort of ...variable.

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answers from Boston on

I think the type of relationships people have can be a lot based on what personalities we have. Before I met my husband, I was on a serious relationship where somewhat I felt like everything is being planned not only by him but also by me. Im not sure if I acted that way because I knew he didnt want any children, so I kind of pushed the idea that I wanted this many number of children (it was actually 4 children I wanted). Then I met my husband, we knew we wanted children but not once we talked about how many. But we knew when would be the right time to have children and that's what we talked about, we wanted to wait 5 years after the wedding. But even that plan didn't work out because I found out it was hard for me to have a child, so we pushed early. We have one child. And we are very happy. The thing now is, I don't think I am a mother capable of more than one, so who knew? And my husband feels the same way. And I thought before that 4 children was good. Sometimes I think we have to enjoy life as it comes. Be happy with what we have. Someday if I change my mind, then I'll have another but I want to make sure my husband is happy too. Expectations and sometimes a lot of planning can lead into frustration and sadness.

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answers from Springfield on

My husband and I have been together since we were teenagers (15 and 18) and had an early pregnancy so the question became will we have more. We decided to start trying when our son was 7 and if it did not happen by the time he was 10 then we would not. Life had other plans for us. I had 2 miscarriages and was told if our first son had not been born when I was so young we would have none. I became pregnant on his 10th birthday and expected to miscarry. That pregnancy stuck much to my husbands dismay. He felt it was too long and the timing was wrong. When our son was born he adored him. Three years later we had a totally unexpected pregnancy we were both satisfied with our 2 and did not want anymore. Well my husband was very upset with my decision to continue the pregnancy after how hard the previous one was (bed rest, HBP ect.) but accepted after some heated discussions. We are now the bewildered but thrilled parents of 3. He has since had a vasectomy so we will have no more "surprises".

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answers from Boston on

We did not have it settled. Loosely we talked about kids - with neither of us feeling strongly that we had to have kids - I never even thought I would get married - too career focused etc.

Anyway, we were married about 3 years when I found out *surprise* I was pregnant - we were both fine with it and love our little daughter more than anything. Have talked about a second but not sure either of us are up for it.

I am amazed at the number of people who want so many kids! Do people not think about the impact on the planet from a resource perspective? I cannot even imagine - seriously!!

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answers from San Antonio on

We knew we wanted kids and that we wanted more than one, if possible. We were up in the air about adoption...if we would or wouldn't if we couldn't have our own.

I was the driving force to have our first...HE was the driving force to have our second. Together we have decided we don't really want a third...but aren't ready yet to make that permanent. If we got pregnant again we would both be excited, but we aren't going to try for one. It could be a happy accident.

It was discussed it but not set it in stone...oh we both knew we didn't want a large family...like more than four.

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answers from Honolulu on

We didn't decide on how many children before getting married.
But yes, we wanted children.

For me, I did not want children right away, after getting married.
My Husband did, but it was not a sore issue.
About 5 years later after getting married, we had our 1st child.
Then we both wanted another child, and my Husband & I, were ready, so then we did.
My kids are 4 years apart and perfect.
Did not have issues getting pregnant, even though I was over 35 when I had my 1st child.

I could have another child. If it happened it would be fine, even if unplanned.
But, we actually are fine, with our 2 kids, and they are too. They are super close and 2 peas in a pod.
It is nice, having 2 kids.
We feel fortunate.

all the best,

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answers from Dallas on

Yep! We were in perfect agreement that we didn't want to have any kids. 10 years later. . . .we have two kids and have loved every minute of it!

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answers from Washington DC on

Oh yes...we definately agreed...we were having NONE! We were career people and into our careers and our 2 rescue dogs. 2 years or so into the marriage after many things happened in our lives...my little ember of desire started to burn a bit (never imagined my clock would start its first tick at 31!) and so did his...and we decided to go ahead and stop preventing and see what happened. 9 months later DD was born! 2 1/2 years after that DS was born. I've been a SAHM since DD was 9 months old. Who would have ever imagined it? I have no desire to go back to my career anytime soon. We agreed after DD was born we'd have just one more. Now we both can't decide on trying for a # 3 (I think he's more for it, but I have my reservations for several reasons). You never know what life will bring you...

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answers from Alexandria on

When my husband and I married we had an agreed on number. We had reason to be concerned that it may not happen for us. We had serious discussions about how far we were willing to go to have a baby together. We agreed before marriage that neither of us was willing to go through the stress and potential heartache that can come with a great deal of fertility help. So we agreed if it didn't happen naturally then we would look at adopting.
Fortunately, we were blessed with 2 beautiful babies without any real complications.

But people change, we evolve and grow, it's just not always together! My husband has had moments of thinking maybe one more, in the times that I have been thinking no way. I have had moments of craving another, when he is thinking no way. But we are a couple, we are a team, we talk about things and work through things. We are very content with the two we have and the plans we made. As long as you can evolve and grow together, then it really doesn't matter what the initial "plan" was!

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answers from Dayton on

We knew we wanted kids. We knew we wanted more than one. But we STILL don't know how many we want-and we've been married for almost 9 years.
I think we are just open to whatever God has planned for us.

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answers from Albany on

Well, I guess we were a little like Riley. Sure he wanted a few kids, nice little house, etc....turns out he was just AGREEING with me to get through an uncomfortable conversation.

No matter, I've got three fantastic kids (would've liked more), makes me sad he doesn't feel the same way.

(And yes, he's an ex)


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answers from San Francisco on

I never really thought too much about having kids so when I found out that getting pregnant may be impossible due to endometriosis, it was not a big issue. My husband and I had just started dating mere months before learning about the endo. He offered to support me if I decided to get pregnant in the optimum year after the surgery. It was not that important to me to make such a quick decision on starting a family, so we never worried about it.

2 years later we were married, he kept telling me he did NOT want kids. I was fine with that until I had to tell him I was pregnant 1 month before our 1 year anniversary. We decided that one was good but 2 would be better and were lucky that I was able to get pregnant without any intervention both times.

For a guy who did not want kids, he is the best dad!!



answers from Toledo on

We did...we had all four kids first, I got my tubes tied and then we got married :P


answers from Chicago on

We discussed that we both wanted 4 or 5 but said we would accept whatever God blessed us with (whether that be the 4 or 5, 1 or none). We are currently prego with #3. We do PLAN to be done by the time I am 38 though -- that was the deal. Haven't decided how we will accomplish that one yet ;) but we will figure it out in the next 5 years I guess (hubby is set against the big V - ha!).



answers from Baton Rouge on

Yep - neither of us wanted any. I already had one that was almost grown, and had no desire to start over with washing diapers and walking colicky babies all night, and he has never had any desire to be a parent.
I didn't discuss number of kids with my daughter's dad - he and I dated for about a year, and I found out I was pregnat with her after we broke up.


answers from San Diego on

We knew we wanted kids and that was about it. We kinda figured at least 2 would be nice. 3 kids later.. :)



answers from Seattle on

Yes! My husband and I were required to complete pre-marriage classes through our church. We discussed many issues before marrying, but the child issue is actually written done in the workbook we were given. He wanted two and I wanted 2 or 3. Ten years later we have three! Number three was an 'oops' but very welcome. I would have been content either way, but so glad agreed before tying the knot.



answers from Burlington on

My ex-boyfriend and I both agreed to not have kids (didn't want to be "tied down"), but when we broke up and I met my now-husband, I knew he was put on Earth to have kids. He's just so good with them. I did some soul searching and decided kids weren't so bad and he was worth it. I knew I didn't want an only child, so I knew there'd be at least two, but although at times the idea of a full and busy house with six kids sounded kinda fun, I knew realistically that I probably couldn't handle more than three. So we had one, knowing we'd try for another and then agreed to play it by ear from there. In the end, we stopped after two and we couldn't be happier. My husband never got the boy he wanted, but he adores his girls, and they him!



answers from San Francisco on

You can have conversations about it, but reality changes how people feel about things.

My husband and I had to go through a marriage class in our church before they would perform the ceremony. One of the questions had us think about the quantity of our future children. My husband said 12 and I said 2 or 3. At the time, (age 24) I said to myself, "He's crazy; I am not having 12 children!" But I also thought 'good' . I can work him down from that number, at least he wants more than one."

Well, we had our first two kids. The second delivery was an emergency c-section where the baby and I almost did not make it. I had trouble with healing the cut from the c-section and additional organ trouble too. My husband said, "Enough, I am good with two." But, I still wanted more. Time continued to tick and because of the damage my body went through and the difficulties of getting pregnant with number two, I honestly thought it would be almost impossible to get pregnant again.

So, I went back to work parttime when both boys were in elementary school, we rented our first house, and moved to our second home. Low and behold, in all that chaos, I found out that I was pregnant with number three at 16 1/2 weeks.

As I drove home, I was concerned about telling my husband about our baby girl. We had started on a different path and were in a different place. But, bless him, he took it well and she is now 17 months.

So yes, this is a 'thing' that should be talked about, but that doesn't mean things don't change, especially when you look at couples that have been married for almost eighteen years. We are certainly not the young and naive 24 year olds we were, feel more blessed when we are able to conceive (even when its not planned) and know that we are certainly not in control of everything the way we thought we were.


answers from Portland on

not realy...we just knew we would have kids and that we wouldn't use BC so are assuming 5-7



answers from Dallas on

We didn't quite agree before the wedding, or even before the first baby. He came from a 2 kiddo household and there are 8 in my family. He wanted 2, I wanted 3.

We got pregnant with our first baby right after our one year anniversary and pregnant with our second when the first was 8 months old. Between the unplanned c-section, the breastfeeding problems, and the very small difference in age between the kids we're solidly agreed on stopping at our two beautiful babies.

He's looking to get a vasectomy once the baby is a couple months old (she's 3 weeks now) and we are very, very excited to have baby-making (hopefully) behind us. I love being a mommy and I don't mind being pregnant but that labor and delivery thing just doesn't work for us! Maybe the best part? We get to have a one parent to one baby ratio which makes for a happy family!



answers from Phoenix on

I didn't even think about kids when I got married at age 20. =D I have 5 kids after 19+ years of marriage. =D



answers from New York on

When we went for our pre-marriage counseling, the priest, who was a family friend, asked us if we would accept any and all "little strangers" that God decided to send us. We had not discussed numbers until that point, but when he asked us that we just looked at each other and said "yes!" From that day on, we just had faith that we would be given the family we were meant to have.



answers from Daytona Beach on

my husband and i got married after dating for 11mos. we had discussed having kids. we both actually wanted 4 but were realistic in that in todays society it wasn't feasible for us. his sisters had 1 child each and my sister and cousins all had 1 kid. i had a little girl and when she was about 1 i started to want another one. my husband said that he wasn't sure. i told him the reasons why i wanted another child and he told me why he didn't. he said he would think about it and he we had a little boy 9 mos after he made his decision ;). but really we had never decided on a set number other than we weren't having 4 unless God gave us 4.



answers from Johnson City on

We decided we wanted 2. A year or so after the 1st we wanted to try again. however our son just turned 4 and we are still debating weather to have another or not. so I guess things always can change :) Good question, I love reading the answers to these random ones......



answers from Atlanta on

I think a general "do you want kids" needs to be discussed before marriage, since it's pretty hard to compromise on differing opinions there. We talked kids (yes/no) and timeline before marriage. Timeline got thrown off when we had our surprise during engagement. We didn't talk numbers until after the 1st was born.

I don't see how it could be "set in stone" before hand. The reality of children changes things. What happens when one partner has a change of heart?


answers from Los Angeles on

No, we didn't agree...or even really talk about it seriously, other than the general conversation...do you want kids? Yes, someday...kinda thing!

~I was 19 years old....he was 27 and already had 2 kids....we waited 8 years until I was 'ready' to have kids :) 13+ years and 3 kids together + the 2 originals and we are lucky, I guess? that we didn't have any issues?!?!


answers from Houston on

We both said we wanted three and we now have two and are planning for another. Although some days we think two might be enough!! At the end of the day, we still want our third. We also talked over names and came to some agreements there. Like he wanted Biblical names which was good with me and I did not want all the kids names to start with the same first letter, unless it just happened that way. I guess we wanted to clear that out before it came time to have the babies!!


answers from Houston on

Both our kids were surprises, we decided we wanted kids but never had a set number.



answers from Boston on

We talked about it before we got married - it was a deal breaker for me. Before I got married, I just knew that I wanted lots of children. I didn't even really know, myself, how many I wanted. But I did know that I wanted everybody to have a brother and everybody to have a sister ( I don't have a sister and I feel very deprived! LOL) My husband agreed that we would have at least two children. We had two boys and then a girl. I would have had at least one more, but my husband was ready to stop. Not because he didn't love the children and being a father; for him, it was all about supporting them. He saw college education times three. At the time, I felt that he would end up resenting me if I pressed for more. In hindsight, I see that wouldn't have been the case and I now realize that having another one was way more important to me than not having another one was to him. We have been able to give our children a lot. None of them HAD to work through college and none of them have any student loans hanging over their heads. My daughter is getting married next year and we are able to give her a very nice wedding. If we had more children, we wouldn't have been able to help them as much. So it's all worked out.

Having said all that, my youngest is 23 and I still kind of wish I had had at least one more. In part, because my daughter doesn't have a sister. But, to be honest, I would probably feel that way no matter how many children I had - I would always wish I had just one more. There's no doubt in my mind, if I were very wealthy, I would probably have 10 children.

Now if only my children would start providing me with some grandchildren! :D

One last thought: I'm also amazed at how many people don't talk about whether or not they will have children before they get married. You can compromise on how many - but there's no compromising about the first one!
I've known several people who got divorced because one wanted children and the other didn't. I also think it's relatively easy to tell yourself you can be okay without kids when you're 23 (when your SO says they don't want any, ever.) Not so much when you're 35-40.



answers from Burlington on

yes. always subject to debate, but we also talked about who would pay the bills, distribution of household chores, and where we would live etc. Have to make sure there is some commonality there. Why start out fighting? Always time for that later!



answers from Dallas on

Yes, we talked about it. What we agreed on was the most we would have. We decided we would not have more then 2. Accidents happen, so if we had an "oops" pregnancy and had more, then we would deal with it and count it a blessing. We have one son and we've decided one child feels perfect for us!! We're getting my husband fixed so we don't have any more! It helps that I never felt like I HAD to have a certain amount and neither of us cared if we had a boy or a girl. I did tell him before marriage I DON"T want to have children after 30. I'm a few years away from that, but we're still done with one!!


answers from Jacksonville on

No. We did not decide on a number. We both generally knew that we wanted more than one (didn't want an only child) and that we DID want kids. We also discussed our ideal about me working or being a SAHM. Turns out that he would have been happy to have had a house full... but he is equally happy with the 2 we have, as I had HORRIBLE pregnancies. Even he has said that he doesn't know if he could endure another one, lol. He also has seen how having chaos of young kids around me stresses me out sometimes and knows that it would be difficult for me to deal with more than what we have been blessed with.

But no, we didn't decide in advance "how many". We just knew when we were done.


answers from Iowa City on

I hope most people do but I don't know how many actually sit down and say ok, we will have 3 children as opposed to sitting down and saying we would like to have children someday. Personally, my husband and I discussed it prior to marriage...two biological children and if we wanted more we would adopt.


answers from Los Angeles on

Sort of.
When we first started dating I was told I was unable to have children...yeah 3 months later I was pregnant. DOH! LOL.
Before we found out I was pregnant we talked about adoption, surrogates, etc.
So we knew we were having 1 child..the question was; how many total...
More then one if possible, but if it's not possible we are very blessed having our daughter. If we could afford more, were in a place (mentally, emotionally, etc) to have more then 2, then we would.
For me, it was important to discuss this completely. I had issues with my ex-husband over it, and I definately didn't want to repeat that again. It's worked for us.


answers from Bloomington on

We definitely talked about it! It's hard for me to imagine that people don't. That said, we agreed on 3 before marriage. Now, after 2 we are both pretty positive we are done with 2.



answers from Kansas City on

No, we didn't. But after complications with #1, a miscarriage then post partum complications with #2, we didn't want to push our luck.
Even after all we went through, kids are happy-healthy 20 and 16 year olds!



answers from Spartanburg on

We agreed on a number before we got married/started having kids but always with the caveat of being able to change our minds...

So far things are going like we agreed on them...we'll see how it all turns out :)

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