Opinion: How to Tell When You’re “Done” Having Children

Editor, Brandy Joy Smith compiled a shortlist to help.

By Brandy Joy Smith
Alex Taylor with her kids and dogs - mothers day gift ideas

So much is involved in deciding to have a child, and after you’ve gotten past the basic question of if you want to be a parent, the next question is when do you want to stop. On top of that, there are external questions from others such as “are you having another baby?” or “how many do you want?” that can have a significant impact on this delicate decision-making process. But how do really you know? What are the signs you’re done having kids?

Sure, there are some meticulous planners out there who have known these answers for years, and others who just intuitively know when they’re “done” having children, but for so many families it’s not such an easy question to answer. So if, like me, you’re struggling to decide whether you’re done having children or not—I hear you! In fact, I think about this once a year. In full transparency, my husband and I did IVF to get pregnant with our son, and from that harvest, we have three embryos left. We pay to have these embryos stored, so every year when the payment comes up, so does the “are we done?” discussion.

I’ll be honest; since I feel like I’m currently in survival mode with two young babies, I don’t think it’s fair to ask myself that question right now. It’s just too hard to see past this phase and I’d much rather revisit it more honestly when my children are four and five. On the flip side, waiting that long would also mean I’d be having our third child in my mid to late ’40s, so while I’m not opposed to it, I’m just not sure if I’ll even have the energy for another baby.

Whatever your personal situation may be, one thing is for sure, it’s a tough question and an even harder decision to make! To help you out, I’ve put together a shortlist of factors to consider when looking for answers based on my personal experience and the experience of other mothers in my community. 

Feature image by Teal Thomsen.

So, you might be done having children if…

You’re ready to redecorate and clear the clutter 

Every mom understands how baby gear, toys, and furniture tends to invade every room in the house—have you ever stepped on a block of Lego in the middle of the night? It’s happened to me one too many times. Strollers—even if they fold—take up a third of the foyer, your little one is about to graduate from their crib to a big-kid bed, and your closet full of onesies could be a practical linen closet. 

Maybe you’re starting to plan what your child’s room will look like beyond the nursery décor, and while you’re grateful for the days spent cradling your newborn, you’re not so wistful about it as you once were. It’s completely normal to want to hang onto a few mementos of your child’s babyhood, but if you can’t bring yourself to let go of much, that might be because you want them to become hand-me-downs. 

nicole trunfio at home
Photo credit: Michelle Nash

Your finances can’t take it 

On average, it costs nearly $250,000 to raise a child—that’s not pocket change. Let’s face it, kids require a lot of things. Having another child might mean you have to upgrade your home or vehicle, and speaking of vehicles, childcare for each child could cost as much as a car every year

Considering finances before considering another child is a completely practical thing to do. At the end of the day, parents can relate to the feeling of wanting their children to feel secure and set up for success. Nothing snaps you out of a baby-fever-induced daydream like remembering you’d be overextending your finances if you were to have another. 

You’re feeling calm and content

If you’re feeling happy and whole with your family as it is, that’s worth taking note of. I felt so happy and blessed after I had Liam, but I couldn’t ignore the excitement I felt when I thought about having one more. As soon as Norah arrived, a new sense of calm washed over me and I eventually realized that it was actually my intuition telling me that my sweet little family was finally whole and complete. 

My husband and I have regular check-ins where we can talk about how we can support one another better, and what’s going well in our relationship. When we were considering whether or not to expand our family further, we used this time to dive into our feelings, which meant we reached the decision as a team on the same page. 

I spoke with some other moms in my community to get some insight from them. A lot of times, the decisions stem from what the universe has in store. I’ve heard it over and over again—“the universe had other plans for me”—whether it’s a promotion that comes up or a relocation opportunity that lands in your lap, there are many instances when you will know if opportunities were meant for you, and that having another baby just isn’t an option.

Alex Taylor motherhood
Photo credit: Teal Thomsen

Other moms recall the feeling of not having any more in their heart to give, and sometimes it can be as simple as that. So, how do you really know when you’re done having children? There truly is no concrete way to get the right answer, but there are ways to get closer to it by considering some of the points listed above. All in all, it’s integral that you give yourself time to come to the right choice, and like so many women told me, you’ll know when you know.

If you’re struggling to decide whether or not you’re done having children, I hope these points have helped to inspire deeper contemplation to help you find the answer you’re looking for. I’ve found that doing some free-flow journaling helps to get your thoughts down on paper, revealing how you truly feel. And if you’re having a particularly difficult time, it might be time to connect with a counselor in your area who can help support you through this decision.

For any moms out there who decided that they were done having children, let me know in the comments what made you realize it.