FARGO – Shellee Coulter of Fargo always knew she wanted a big family.

She grew up an only child and always wished for a sibling. Even now as an adult with her own children, she still wishes she had a sibling she could be close to, Coulter said.

“I was excited to marry into a family with brothers- and sisters-in-law,” she said, adding that her husband comes from a family of four boys.

Coulter and her husband, Shawn, have four kids, ages 16, 10, 6, and 5, and they are struggling with the decision of whether to have one more, she said.

“I want one more but will be 40 this year so we are going back and forth on it,” she said.

Coulter never debated whether to have more than one child, but for many moms it’s a tough decision to become a mother for a second time after settling in with a first child.

Even though the number of children parents’ decide to have is a personal decision, outsiders seem more the willing to give advice.

“When I meet someone who has only one child and made the decision to not have another I always want to say, ‘Are you really sure about that?’ But I don’t,” Coulter said.

When she tells people she wants a fifth child, they ask her if she’s crazy, Coulter said.

“People sure make a big deal about it so that I have almost felt guilty, like it is wrong to want a big family,” she said. “People have even asked how we would afford it.”

For five or six years Kari and Wade Hazer of Fargo were a happy one-child family. Their daughter was the center of their lives, and while Kari had always wanted two kids, Wade was more than satisfied with just one child, Kari Hazer said.

Kari and Wade Hazer pose for a picture with their kids Ty, 3, and Kelsi, 10, in front of their South Fargo home. Jesse Trelstad / The Forum

But then Kari and their daughter started pushing for an addition to their family.

“My daughter and I used all our energy to convince him otherwise,” Kari Hazer said.

She’d gotten comments from people wondering when they were going to have another child or telling her their daughter needed a sibling.

Ty Hazer, 3, and his sister Kelsi, 10, take their toy dune buggy out for a spin. Jesse Trelstad / The Forum

“But mostly, I just finally got the feeling in my gut that I was ready to have a second child,” she said.

Then, it took almost a year for her to become pregnant again.

“I had resigned myself to the fact that it wasn’t meant to be and we were just going to be a family of three and had just come to terms with that when I found out I was pregnant,” Hazer said.

They had a son in July 2009, when their daughter was seven years old.

“Our family is complete as a foursome,” Hazer said.

But the decision to have multiple children isn’t always easy – or possible for some families.

Kristi Krueger of Fargo and her husband, Josh, have a 2-year-old daughter who is and will be their only child, Kristi said.

Kristi Krueger of Fargo and her husband, Josh, have a 2-year-old daughter, Emily, who is and will be their only child, due to medical complications. Submitted photo.

They spent eight years trying to have a baby. Five of those years were spent going through fertility medications including artificial insemination and two rounds of in-vitro fertilization before they were told they would never conceive due to Kristi’s polycystic ovary syndrome and endometriosis, she said.

In June of 2010 they adopted a baby girl only to have the birth mother take her back after four days, Krueger said.

“About three weeks later we were shocked to find out we were pregnant on our own a year after stopping all treatment,” she said. “We always wanted two kids but with the struggles we went through conceiving – the heartache of the failed adoption, struggles I had with pregnancy and delivery and my PCOS and endometriosis – we decided it was better to go on with life and our little family. It was a hard decision but the right one for us.”

Krueger said people used to question her daily about having another child, but she had a hysterectomy in February so she could be rid of her pain and be healthier for her family.

“I feel bad that Emily will be an only child, especially when we see her play with her cousins and how good she is with her little baby cousins,” she said. “The comments make me feel worse but it was the best thing for us.”

Rhea Goffe of Fargo and her husband have also struggled with the decision of whether or not to have more children.

Rhea Goffe of Fargo and her husband, Scott, have struggled with the decision of whether or not to have more children after their son was born by emergency caesarean-section. Submitted photo.

Her son was born by emergency caesarean-section five weeks early. Because of the nature of the emergency c-section and the type of c-section that had to be performed, if Goffe wants to have any more children, she has to have them by c-section as well, she said.

“While I am ever grateful that my son is healthy, I never want to experience a cesarean-section again,” Goffe said. “After my son was born, my body felt almost cheated that I wasn’t able to experience labor. I know there are women who will think I’m crazy and ungrateful but those opinions are short-sighted. No one can tell me that their labor hurt worse than my feelings of loss and sadness for not experiencing it because they weren’t in my shoes and I wasn’t in theirs.”

Goffe always thought she’d have a big family, she said. She and her husband both come from families with four children.

“We are both close to our siblings and I am having trouble imagining that I won’t give that to my son,” she said. “My brother was adopted, and while I think adoption is a phenomenal choice for many families, it’s just not the right one for us.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Tracy Frank at (701) 241-5526

Although it’s been common for women to continue working after becoming mothers for quite some time now, they still have to occasionally fend off judgmental comments.

Yet, it’s not only the working moms who have to defend their decision. Stay-at-home moms are often asked what they do all day, as if they’re sitting around eating bonbons and watching soaps.

Jane Waldfogel, an economist and professor of social work and public affairs at Columbia University said public policies need to help parents balance work and family.

Waldfogel has written extensively on the impact of public policies on child and family well-being.

“Parents in the U.S. are struggling hard to meet their children’s needs in spite of having only very minimal access to public policies that other nations take for granted – policies such as paid parental leave, the right to request part-time and flexible work hours, and subsidized high-quality child care,” Waldfogel said in a news release. “The evidence is strong that children would be better off if their parents had more of such supports in the U.S.”

Human Rights Watch, an independent organization dedicated to defending and protecting human rights, released a report in February that documented the health and financial impact on American workers of having little or no paid family leave after childbirth or adoption, employer reticence to offer breastfeeding support or flexible schedules, and workplace discrimination against new parents, especially mothers.

Having little or no paid leave contributed to delaying babies’ immunizations and postpartum depression and forced some to seek public assistance after going into debt on unpaid leave, according to the organization.

“We can’t afford not to guarantee paid family leave under law – especially in these tough economic times,” said Janet Walsh, Human Rights Watch deputy women’s rights director and report author. “The U.S. is actually missing out by failing to ensure that all workers have access to paid family leave. Countries that have these programs show productivity gains, reduced turnover costs, and health care savings.”

What do you think?

Should public policy do more to help working parents?

What social pressures have you had to deal with as either a working or stay-at-home parent?

Have you ever felt you had to defend your decision to either work or stay home with your children?

 

Many women struggle trying to balance what’s best for their children, their families, and themselves. 

Whether to work or stay home after having children is a decision that can be wrought with guilt, anxiety and second-guessing. Women debate the issue with each other and most often, within themselves.

And studies and opinions abound showing an array of conflicting “best-case” scenarios.

Columbia University researchers published a study in 2010 that found it did not harm a child’s cognitive and social development for a mother to work during her baby’s first year of life.

Fran Walfish, Child and Family Psychotherapist and author of “The Self-Aware Parent” said it’s healthier for children under age five if their moms stay home to facilitate bonding and “consistently respond warmly and accurately to the baby’s needs,” in an interview on FlexJobs.com, a website that lists flexible, telecommuting and part-time positions.

Two studies published in 2003 showed that kids who spent all day in daycare had more stress and aggression than kids cared for at home, but a 1999 study showed kids in daycare do better academically and socially, according to parenting website babycenter.com.

So, what do you think?

How did you decide whether to work or stay home with your children and how much of a struggle was that decision?

Did it end up being the right decision for your family?

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