To have a second child or not to have a second child…That is the question. Or at least it has been my question lately. That, and what ever happened to Jello Pudding Pops?
Ever since I had Oliver – no scratch that – ever since I was pregnant with Oliver, people have been asking me when we were planing to have our second child. Not “if” but “when”. Because getting pregnant confirms that you are a baby slot machine. Pull the lever and pop another one out. Like suddenly my ovaries are a box of Pringles – you can’t have just one!!
But why do we have more than one child? Is it for us (the parents) or is it for them (the kid)?
It has been a long road for me, navigating my new identity as a mother. I’ve made a ton of sacrifices and some were harder than others (see: my old facebook profile pic). The first 1.5 years of being a stay-at-home mom were R.O.U.G.H… But! Life has been so great since Oliver has gained more independence and is weaned and can speak more than 5 audible words. Seriously, I feel good. I’m happy. And now I’m supposed to just wave goodbye to this sweet little life and jump into a boat going to Mystery Baby #2 Land? I…just…I don’t know if I’m ready. Or if I’ll ever be.
I always thought I’d have at least two kids. I was an only child and I grew up really wanting a sibling. I felt ripped off that I didn’t get one. But as I grew up I made very close friends, bonding with some as tight as a sibling connection (from what I’m told), and I don’t really care about being an only child anymore. I have seen sibling rivalries so intense it made home life miserable for everyone…for years. I’ve also seen beautiful sibling relationships where the sisters or brothers were truly kind to each other and basically best friends. So, is giving your child a sibling a good enough reason to have a second child? I’m not convinced.
(And let’s not forget the other fears about having only children: they will be spoiled, selfish, and socially inept!)
I talk about this topic often with fellow new-ish moms who are considering having a second child. Most of them are definitely doing it, no questions asked. But I’m not a very decisive person in general so bringing a whole brand new human being into the world gives me even more pause than usual. When in doubt, I ask the internet…
I found this great op-ed in the New York Times written by Lauren Sandler, a mother of one who is asking the same questions. She has been researching and writing about the topic of only children for several years and uncovered some very interesting data:
“…in hundreds of studies during the past decades exploring 16 character traits — including leadership, maturity, extroversion, social participation, popularity, generosity, cooperativeness, flexibility, emotional stability, contentment — only children scored just as well as children with siblings. And endless research shows that only children are, in fact, no more self-involved than anyone else.”
Well how about that! I’ve got science on my side! I can also relate to what Sandler says about the assumptions that are typically made about parents who choose to have only one child:
“we don’t like being parents (because we are selfish), we care more about our status — work, money, materialism — than our child (because we are selfish), or we waited too long (because we are selfish). When have you heard someone say an only child is better off?”
I have been so afraid of being called selfish for (potentially) not having more children. But can’t the same argument be made for having more children, or any at all, really? Over-population is like kind of a big deal, guys.
And I really like her suggestion of how to make this huge life decision:
“Most people say they have their first child for themselves and the second to benefit their first. But if children aren’t inherently worse off without siblings, who is best served by this kind of thinking? Instead of making family choices to fulfill breeding assignments we imagine we’ve been given, we might ensure that our most profound choice is a purely independent, personal one. To do so might even feel like something people rarely associate with parenting: it might feel like freedom.”
The jury is still out on whether we’ll have another kid, but I’m glad to know I’m not the only one questioning it, although sometimes it feels that way. Just because a person jumps into the parenting game, doesn’t mean they have to go whole hog! Whether you have one kid or sixteen, bringing another person into the world should always be a decision made from the heart, not out of obligation.