What’s the magic (sibling) number?


I’m back! And I’m catching up as quickly as possible, which is to say, not very quickly at all, despite my many multicoloured to-do lists.

In some ways it’s been a rough landing. Toddler-plus-newborn felt pretty damn hair-raising, but toddler-plus-determined-climbing-biter is black belt martial arts. ‘I’d forgotten how much of my day is fending off chaos with karate-chopping hands’, I meant to text to Tim, but didn’t, because I didn’t get a minute to sit down. (I said it to him while wrestling pyjamas onto Teddy during the three minutes he was home, instead.)

And yet, and yet. The way these two interact at the moment is a joyous thing. They communicate somewhere outside speech, in a dialect of face-patting, cheerio-stealing, laughing and crawling up and down stairs, shoulders bumping together. Every day they get more like brothers. ‘Two boyths in the bath!’ Henry crows in the mornings. ‘Two boyths doin’ crawling! Two boyths in the washing machine!’

I ran in quick for that one. No harm done.

I had a really good week away. Today I sorted out my photos from my brother’s wedding, and it was the photo at the top that made me realise why: sibling time is easy time. Your jokes are always funny, your dance moves are always appreciated; your oldest self comes back out to play and you remember why you liked her.

It was this photo too that convinced me I’m not yet done with babies. We would be lost without our boys, Sarah and I. They have spent a lifetime infuriating us, teasing us, accepting us – we’d be infinitely poorer without all that. Four was a great number: we could divide into pairs if we wanted, but altogether we were like the kids putting our rings together to call up Captain Planet: varied and multi-faceted and unstoppable. No one gets you like your siblings, and the more you have, the sweeter it is.

And my own boys – who knows who might be waiting to join their conspiratorial gang of two? I’m game to find out.*

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*not yet, though.

What’s your ideal number of siblings? What made you decide to stop or carry on? Has your experience with your own family made you want the same, or sent you screaming in the opposite direction? It’s different for everyone, so spill the beans below.

17 thoughts on “What’s the magic (sibling) number?

  1. You have, my dear, given me reassurance that we did the right thing moving from three to four. Because I was worried they’d be starved for attention. But you just find they have other ways of giving all their attention to each other.

    • Ah, you put your finger on the point exactly. I realised quite recently that all my worries about my kids not getting enough of my attention comes from being a *parent*. As a *child* to my parents, I never worried about anything of the sort. With six people in the house, not only is it impossible to be ignored for long, but you grow up with a sense that other people’s needs are no less important than yours. I really think that’s very valuable.

  2. I grew up as the oldest of four (2 girls followed by 2 boys) and I think it was perfect! I had to stop after my two boys (Type 1 diabetes made continuing unwise) and I feel truly lucky to have them but I wish I could have had two more!

    • I used to think six was my number, having grown up as 5 of 6. Then I lived with my sister for a while and she had three and they were very energetic! At the moment it’s three, but I’m definitely not done yet. We’re at the not yet stage too, confirmed by the brief scare a couple of weeks ago that filled me with a cold fear!

      • Haha, I always think you don’t really know how you feel about another pregnancy until you have a scare 🙂 I find the dynamics in larger families so fascinating – great to hear yours was a really positive experience. There are definite advantages to three, though – not least fitting into one normal-sized car!

    • Snap! We are two girls followed by two boys too. I know exactly what you mean – I feel so lucky to have the two I’ve already got. Anything else is a bonus. Sorry you had complications with your two. Hope you’re completely well now. x

  3. I’m the second-to-last of seven, and always thought I’d have as many as we really could. But after a terribly rough start with our first, we actually considered having just the one–doubting that we could ever handle that again, especially plus a toddler! But we know now that we’ll have at least one more, and kind of see from there. But I’m hoping for at least 3!

    • Ooh, seven! Large families are brilliant. I can definitely relate to that: there’s no birth control as good as a newborn! And sometimes just one is the right thing to do – it really depends on the people and circumstances. So glad your rough start has smoothed out a little – if it helps, moving from one to two is utter madness but there are so many compensations, and it gets easier as you go along 🙂

  4. I am in the middle of 5, it is not a good place to be. 3 is not good either. So if you go 3 you probably need to go 4 too :). As you know my 4 survived!

  5. The possibility of new babies is one of the glories of womanhood. such beautiful potential.
    I am the middle of 3. it put me off having 3 but it probably has nothing to do with the number of kids just poor parenting.
    4 sounds really fun though, like the famous five or something!
    I have stopped at two, but still get broody now and then. for a long time we thought it would be one but I am so glad we had Jake and the age gap works beautifully to soften the blows of dealing with a teen and double bonus! she can babysit.
    I feel so full on with these two, plus trying to have a bit of a life and a marriage, I can’t really imagine a third now plus I want to travel and flights are expensive enough already not to mention the ghastly fact I am 41 this year.

    • I think you do get to a point when you realise your life is complete with how many you have. I love the fact that you have a larger age gap between your two, and that it works so well. Built-in babysitters are DEFINITELY a big plus! x

  6. Four would be my personal perfect number, (with one girl minimum, and yes I could do/would love twins, non-identical) but I’d estimate between three and five. A friend of mine grew up as one of seven and she says it was always a competition to be the most ‘amazing’ to impress – and therefore get the attention of their mum – she’s a fantastic person and all well-rounded, loves all hers brothers and sisters but I think it was hard for her, esp as the middle child/girl/boy ad infinitum…After five its hard, from what I’ve heard, and we all want the best for our littlies…Rachel, I know I’ve said it before but those boys are a testament to your (and Timothy’s) parenting, its impressive, and they are delightful. I hope to be able to do something like as you do.

    • Oh, you lovely thing! Thank you so much for that – you just made my day (you made my day when you first sent it, too, but I read it in the middle of the night and didn’t get chance to reply)!

      I always wanted twins, but having done two newborns separately, I can’t imagine how you manage with two together. I wouldn’t mind finishing off with twins, though, even so – two babies for the price of one pregnancy! x

  7. We had 3 and really thought we were done. (Tough pregnancies.Tough Conceiving. One Miscarriage )We got rid of all our baby stuff and (someone upstairs in heaven) I guess decided 3 was not enough. We had our surprise 4th baby 5 months ago. Girl,boy,girl,boy. I was on bed rest for most of the last pregnancy & yet he was still a month early.After 8 days in the Nicu he came home. I look at my children now and we feel complete. It feels right. (4 is enough for us, plus my dad lives with us. ) Children is one of those things, you can pray, you can decide together, but you will know. Love your Blog.

    • Thanks so much for your comment. Having babies really puts us through the wringer, sometimes, doesn’t it? You sound like you’ve had a crazy time of it. I’m so glad your early baby is home and hope he’s thriving well. Four is a great number! x

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