Large vs. Small Families


Hello Everyone!

I am hoping to gain some insight from fellow Catholics on a conversation that my mom and I had earlier this evening. We were speaking about God’s plan for the family, and whether Catholic teaching frowns upon couples who, through use of natural family planning, choose to have only 2 or 3 children.

I am a 24 year old single woman, so this is not a predicament for me at the moment. In my “ideal world” however, I hope to marry and have a small family or 2 or 3 kids. I have artistic ambitions, and a career that I am passionate about, but I also feel called to marry and have children. And while I greatly admire the couples who have 4, 5, 6 or more children, I do not feel that I have that same vocation.

My mom feels that God’s plan for a couple includes bringing many children into the world. She worries that my “ideal family” is not a model of what a good and selfless couple would pursue, and that it is not reflective of the Catholic family, which should, in her opinion, be a large one (assuming the couple is not challenged with infertility and is able to afford and care for a large family).

I am wondering if anyone can find any definite Catholic teaching on this? I welcome all insights. I wish to abide by what the Church teaches, but I do strongly feel that God wants me to contribute to the world in other ways than by having a large family. I work with children in my job, and I also have a great passion for writing, and artistic endeavors that I feel called to pursue. Personally, I can’t understand why God’s plan for every couple would be to have a large family. If a person is called in different directions, and can be open to life through planning their family through NFP, I do not see how this is going against God’s will. But I am open to being corrected on this…

Please help! :confused:

Many thanks,



The Theology of the Body covers this. While somewhat vague, it does instruct you on the things you and your (future) husband should be prayerfully considering when deciding to postpone having children. Prayerful consideration is encouraged. Selfishness is, of course, discouraged… “Just cause” is the term used. Christopher West’s “The Good News about Sex and Marriage” is a popular book that I know covers it… Others like Pope JP II “Love and Responsibility” will likely cover it, too. I haven’t read that one yet.

Key is “your plan.” If you are predisposed to how many children you (as a couple) will have, it’s likely not currently based on your personal situation or through prayerful consideration. Not that 2 or 3 is a bad number ( I have 3), it’s something you and your husband should address on an ongoing basis with God as your guide.

Good luck and happy reading!

Oh, and welcome to the forums!


I’d suggest reading the Catechism
about God’s plan for marriage and sexuality

Also, Humanae Vitae

Casti Connubii


This might help in your discernment about the Church’s teaching on the Family. NFP should only be used for just/serious/grave reasons (ie something important) and is the alternative to complete abstinence. We are not called to have as many children as physically possible, but we are called to generosity and selflessness. We are also called to responsible parenthood. If we have a serious reason to space/avoid, we still must prayerfully discern this reason on a regular basis.

I’m as surprised as anyone that we have 6 children :stuck_out_tongue: . We only “wanted” 2 when we married. God’s plans are funny that way. And, I wouldn’t change a thing!


Sometimes God decides that 0, or 1, or 2 is ‘enough’…who am I to question His Will? Does it make me ‘less of a Catholic’? I think not;)

Irish83, if and when you are called to marriage, you will see that how many children you ‘want’ and how many you ‘get’ are not necessarily the same, and that if you trust God, ANY NUMBER is the right number:D

Anna x
(Mom to 2 beautiful girls:thumbsup: )


[quote=irish83;3222062 And while I greatly admire the couples who have 4, 5, 6 or more children, I do not feel that I have that same vocation. Irish83

Just because you don’t feel it now, doesn’t mean you’re not called to it. Things change.

Use your time being single to form yourself and become the person God wants you to be. Use today well, but remember you can’t control tomorrow. —KCT


My husband and I hope God will bless us with many children, but we also want to space them out a couple years. Is simply spacing your children out so you are not having too many babies at once a good reason to use NFP? Right now, we are expecting our first baby (a honeymoon baby). To be honest, I do not think either of us can say when we will be ready for the next baby until we welcome this first one into the world. We are thinking we would space them out every two years or so in order to not “wear ourselves out.” I mean, I do not yet know how trying on me mentally or physcially having a baby will be for us, and that is the reason I know we will space as we prayerfully go along just as long as spacing is okay for those reasons. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.


I think what we must all be careful of is falling into the “contraceptive mentality.” Contraception has become a mindset, well beyond the physical representation of artificial birth control. We now live in a society that promotes the idea that a couple not only the has the means to separate intercourse from procreation, but the right or responsibility as well. We can pat ourselves on the back and say we are using NFP and not artificial BC, but we must be extremelly wary of our reasoning behind our actions.

Couples are asked the question “how many kids do you want” as if they are picking out dinner ware…how many place settings would you like?? Never are they asked, "are you excited about the possibility of being a parent?? Are you ready for the wonder of being a part of God’s creation of a new little soul?? Are you ready for your role in attaining salvation for another human being? Instead we ask if they are finanacially stable, do they feel “fullfilled” in their careers, etc, etc.

NFP does have its place in life. I have had to put the conception of a child off for a time. I had a child who was very ill as a baby, that needed quite a lot of care. Once I felt the I could properly care for him AND another child (along with my other 5) I no longer avoided conception. The funny quirk in fate was that I lost the next child I conceived in a m/c. My guilt was horrible, but it reminded me that I was NOT in control of who should live, but only a little worker in God’s ultimate plan.

Being open to life is very different than just using NFP. Careers come and go, money is easily obtained and lossed, children are a gift that remains forever and will leave a lasting imprint on earth and in Heaven (if we do our job well!). No, not everyone is called to have a large family. There are many that are lucky to have a child let alone 2 or 3. Many have to adopt or live life without children. We must simply be open to God’s will for our lives and use His Church as our guide to the correct path.

I never dreamed I’d have 8 children. My dream was to be a university professor or perhaps a research professor. I had my first child, and all that changed. I only realized I might be a mom to a large family of 8 when I became pregnant the 9th time!:stuck_out_tongue:

My advice is to be open to God in your life. You never know what He has in store for you!!


I’ve wondered this myself…I love the idea of having a huge family. I joke about beating my parents by hitting a straight dozen kids. :smiley:

But, then whenever hubby and I do our nightly prayers, I have the oddest feeling of a very small family being in the future for us. :confused:


I have plan “B” for you! :wink: Wait and see what happens. Not every family is blessed to have children, or them easily. Some may have many children, but they are called to heaven before they are born. You just never know. :slight_smile: Why don’t you not worry about this now, and wait to see what happens when the time comes? God might just give you exactly three children and no more, without you even using NFP. All you and your spouse are called to do is be open to more children, should God wish to bless you. If you are at least open to that possibility, realizing that your strength to handle such a situation will be provided by the One who is giving it to you, then you will be fine. :slight_smile: Trust in Him, He won’t give you more than you can handle. If you wind up with five or six or more, maybe that is God’s way of saying that you are much stronger than you once thought. :wink:


Myth #8: The Catholic Church wants people to have as many babies as possible.

REALITY: In fact the Church encourages people to be “responsible” stewards over their fertility. In this view of “responsible parenthood” married couples carefully weigh their responsibilities to God, each other, the children they already have, and the world in which they live when making decisions about the number and spacing of children.

Responsible parenthood is lived out within the structures which God has established in human nature. The nature of sexual intercourse, which is both life-giving (pro-creative) and love-giving (unitive), reflects a Divine plan. That is why the Church teaches that couples must not actively intervene to separate their fertility from their bodily union. To do so is to show disrespect for an important gift of the Creator.

Every resource I have read says that spacing out kids is moral, as long as the reasons are good. If you’re spacing out the kids to 10 years between each kid so you “hopefully” only have two and can spend all the money and time you saved on yourself, then its wrong. If you’re waiting 2-3 years between each child so you can manage your time, attention and finances to responsibly care for your family as a whole, there is nothing wrong with using NFP to space out your kids.


Feminist lie #1 you can’t have it all…kids and career.

I hope you really don’t believe this lie… I am the proud mom of 3 living, 1 step and at least 2 in heaven… and I am the Director of Information Technology for an international company (companies… actually about 20 companies run from our headquarters office). I would give anything to have more children. Take it from someone who has been there… I never thought I would remarry and have more kids, but I did remarry and we have a little saint in heaven too… I am still hoping for a miracle baby. My most important job is my job as mother and wife. My own kids are almost 21, 18 and 16 now… and they are still the most precious gifts I have ever been blessed with. If God blesses us with a baby, we will welcome this baby into our lives, because at the end of our earthly life do you think God is going to say, “Well done… you worked hard to be the best computer geek you could be?” or do you think maybe he would say, “Well done, you have taught your children well about my kingdom?” I kind of think the latter… at least that is my prayer…


I like LovingHim’s response to wait and see. You may simply not get pregnant at all. Or you may have one and just never get pregnant again.

I also wanted to address your reasons for not wanting a large family: your artistic ambitions.

I majored in music in college, and hoped to play for a major symphony orchestra and write books. But I also made the choice very early on to step out in faith that the Church truly knows God’s will, and not use ABC.

Today, I can look back on 18-1/2 years since marriage in which I have completed both my bachelor’s and master’s degrees, been active as a performing musician and teacher, and written several novels, two of which are complete and just awaiting synopses to be submitted to publishers. And I have 9 children.

Having a large family does not necessarily mean sacrificing your dreams. And in retrospect, I am much more grateful for my children than for anything I have or will accomplish in writing or music. I am incredibly grateful for having taken the Church’s teaching to heart.


I don’t think either or is bad. A lot of it has to do with what age you start out having kids. At my age I don’t plan on having a as many as I once did but in my twenties I would have tried for 6 or 7 then in my 30s I would have been happy with 4 but now that I’m edging close to my 40s I would be happy with two. I’m also open to adoption so if I could only have one biological child I would want to adopt another one so my child could have a sibling. I think having brothers and sisters is important. I wouldn’t want to bring up an only child. Children need the experience of siblings if at all possible. I experienced both and I can say my years as an only child weren’t that great and I was overjoyed when my brothers and sisters showed up. :thumbsup:


Great advice here. You really just have to take it as it comes. One at a time. It’s all up to God anyway. We “wanted” three kdis. We are now expecting our eighth baby. It’s an awesome gift!

About spacing - if you read Breastfeeding and Natural Child Spacing (Kippley) you’ll see that God’s plan is to space children a couple of years apart, generally, anyway. I’ve been able to just nurse and not use NFP and most of our kids are around 24 months apart. This next one is much closer (16 months apart). That was quite a surprise as I nursed a TON but it must be God’s plan. :wink:


That was a beautiful post. It reminds me of these words from a song by Twila Paris:
Could it be that He is only waiting there to see
If I would learn to love the dreams that He has dreamed for me.”


CCC 2373 “Sacred scripture and the Church’s tradtional practice see in large familes a sign of God’s blessing and the parents’ generosity.”

You can find more good information regarding “the gift of a child” in the Catechism 2373-2379. The Bible and the Church regard children as blessings from the Lord. The Church permits use of NFP to regulate birth for just reasons, and it is up to couples to discern together in prayer if they have just reasons to use it.

That is not God’s plan for every couple–we see this in Biblical examples such as Abraham and Sarah, St. Elizabeth and Zechariah, and Mary and St. Joseph. Not every couple is even capable of having *any *children, what less many children. Our culture seems to fear that God will bless us abundantly with children, but that is obviously not His plan for every couple.


Please don’t limit yourself now. Dh and I chose to have two children, one boy and one girl. Guess what we got? One lovely dd. Even with NFP it is all in God’s hands.


Thank you, and what a beautiful quote from Twila Paris. I know exactly what she means. I have often said I am so grateful things went according to His plans, and not mine. It is staggering to think all I would have missed had I done things my way.


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