The famed demographers at The Pew Research Center just released their latest look at the “New Demographics of American Motherhood.” Mothers in 2008 were more likely to be older, educated past high school, and unmarried than their 1990 peers, and more people approved of, or were neutral about, both older and unmarried moms. Mothers also told researchers why they had kids, and whether and why they thought they’d have more. But it was the research on what Americans consider to be the “ideal number” of children to have that made me (a mother of four) laugh out loud.
Guess how many children a third of parents with three or more kids think would be ideal:
Two. Fully 33% of parents of three or more children answered that question with a resounding “Well, less than I’ve got, that’s for sure.” (And an additional 1% said one kid would be–well, would have been–their ideal family.) And the rest may well have been thinking it–it takes some cajones to admit to that kind of regret.
At least parents generally seemed to have wanted to kids they’d already had–most ranked “the joy of having children” as one of their primary reasons for reproducing. Others said “it just happened” or blamed their spouse (those might also be the people with one or more kids too many). And of the 82% of responding parents (mothers under 50 and fathers under 60) who said they didn’t intend to have more children, most said “more time for the children they already have,” was a very important factor in their decision, although the second most highly ranked choice in that category was “the cost of having children.” (“Because research shows that two is the ideal number of kids to have” wasn’t an option.)
For the record, I’m in that 82%–no more kids for me. Why? Because the ideal number of children in our family is four–although the ideal number of children to take out to dinner ranges from three down to none, depending on the occasion. But that’s a subject for another study.