Should we have another baby? (sibling edition)
August 21, 2014 10:59 PM Subscribe
We're trying to decide whether to have another kid, and stuck a bit when we try to evaluate potential effects on the first one. I'm looking for your experiences with sibling relationships (good and bad), including what things we as parents could do (if any) to make it a good one.
posted by forza to Human Relations (76 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
My husband and I have one son, 22 months old, and are currently trying to decide if we should try for another kid. We've considered lots of factors and at least feel like we know how to go about thinking about them, but one of them is one that I think we'd considerably benefit from the wisdom of the hive mind: the effect of having a sibling on our son.
The main reason this is an issue is that my husband and I had dramatically different sibling experiences growing up, and this is colouring our views to the extent that we don't know what is normal, what kinds of things we could realistically expect, and what power parents have to affect the sibling relationship. I had four siblings, all of us separated by about two years, and they were among my best friends growing up. They've been a hugely positive influence in my life and are relationships I treasure into adulthood. Conversely, my husband had one sibling (a slightly older brother) who has really had a negative impact on his life. The brother had massive amounts of sibling jealousy, and hated, resented, and bullied my husband for a lot of their childhood. Even now their relationship is a real sore point for him.
My husband is very worried about similar effects if we had another kid -- especially because our son is pretty mommy-focused and we give him a lot of one-on-one attention, so a new kid might be a rude shock. (I have no idea what the norm is for either of these things, and he does go to daycare three days a week, but still). Husband is worried both on behalf of the new baby (being on the receiving end of all of that resentment was not a fun thing for him) but also on behalf of our son, who he is afraid would be greatly and negatively affected by the change in routine and attention in ways that he wouldn't easily recover from.
When I think about the issue, conversely, I think about how I want my son to have someone else in his family to grow up with (we have no other extended family in the same country). I think of what a support and source of fun my own siblings were. I also think I learned a lot about how to deal with other kids, how to be less selfish, and how to get along with others -- which, if our kid is as much of a loner/outsider in school as both of us were, might be really instrumental in making his childhood a better one.
Importantly, my husband's parents were good: they didn't cause the situation as far as we can tell. In fact, neither of us can really identify anything consistent our parents did differently from each other, so we can't just assume that we'll do the right things and avoid bad outcomes. (Of course we were both very young when the closest siblings were born, so we might have missed things).
In any case, we're at an impasse: for both of us our personal experience is colouring things so much. As such just hearing other people's personal experience, and getting some sense about how much control we as parents could have over this outcome, would be really valuable.
We have two specific questions:
1. In your experience, either as someone with reasonably-close-in-age siblings or as a parent with multiple reasonably-close-in-age children, were your sibling relationships on balance a good or a bad thing in your/their lives? How or why?
2. In your experience, can you pinpoint any factors that a parent could influence that might affect this outcome? We're particularly interested in this one because the more we can do to influence things, the better we can be reassured we can avoid the horrible childhood my husband had.
Other possibly useful details: If we started to try to get pregnant soon the age difference between them would probably be around 2.5-3.5 years. I don't have that much more time to wait so we can't realistically plan for a much larger age range than 4 or 5 years at the outside (and 3 would be better for many reasons). There will almost certainly not be a third sibling. I have asked son if he wants mommy to have another baby and he said yes, but then he said he was a giraffe in the same conversation so it's unclear whether that is meaningful or how much he understands at all.