How did you decide you wanted another kid? Or that you were done?
February 21, 2014 12:44 PM   Subscribe

What did you factor into your decision to have more kids? Or not (as the case may be)? I'm currently struggling with the decision as to whether or not to have a second child and I could use some different perspectives.

My son turns two in April and I turned 36 this year so it feels like if I want to have another kid that now is the time. But I am caught on a couple of things.

First, the logistics of two kids seems impossible to me as it seems like the adding of a baby into the mix with a toddler is just asking for headaches. But I know that having one kid seemed impossible to me before I was in it.

Secondly, I am feeling caught by my ambition. I like my work, I'm good at it and there is a part of me that feels like taking another chunk of time off for mat leave would put me further behind career-wise. This is true, I guess, but is it really that terrible...

What helped you figure out whether you were ready and able to have more than one kid?
posted by machine to Human Relations (53 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
I was feeling the same way as you, albeit a few years later than you. What weighed in for me on the no side were similar things to what you're talking about. On the yes side, I grew up with siblings and really wanted that for my older child. And there I got stuck for a couple of years until my sister announced she was pregnant with her second and I immediately felt an ache that we would really be missing out if we didn't do this. If she hadn't? I don't know where we would be.

So now I'm a happy mom to a 4-month-old and a 5-year-old and it's really, really hard and it's really, really wonderful. I don't know that there was ever one thing that made the decision for us, it just felt, more and more, like the right fit for our family. At the same time, though, it was a bit terrifying. On the positive, seeing my kids playing and laughing together and loving each other to pieces is one of the most fulfilling things I can imagine. I feel way more confident about being a parent this time around and it doesn't feel like a bomb went off and totally upended my life the way it did with our first. I've been back at work almost 2 months, and I feel like I'm more focused, partially because I don't have the luxury of time I did before. The things that are hard about a new baby are still hard, but I can deal with the extra work of diapers and pumping and dishes and extra laundry and what have you because I know that it will eventually get easier and this time it's a bit sweet because I know that this will absolutely be the last time.

On the minus side, the logistics do kind of stink. We've got two kids in two different preschool/daycare settings in different parts of town and the logistics of getting everyone to and from where they need to go can be maddening. There's more mess, more noise, more expense and way less time to do things for fun that I was just getting back into my life (reading for fun? Ha!). But it's not going to be this way forever. If you can live with that idea, you may be ready. If not, it's ok to have a single child too. They're great!

Good luck to you in making the decision.
posted by goggie at 12:57 PM on February 21, 2014

How easy going is your kid? How active is your kid? How financially strapped are you? Do you have any pets? Do you have babycare handy? How is your relationship with your spouse? How big is your car? Do you have a spare room?

Looking back at these questions, um... what were we thinking? Because I can't honestly say that I have a good answer for one of them.

With that said, at five and two and a half, I think having two kids was the best decision my wife and I ever made. Our kids are tough and active. Financially we're better off than we were when we started together. Our pet finally gets regular care. Babycare? Well... we don't go out without the kids much. Our relationship is pretty awesome. We upgraded to a minivan - which is the greatest vehicle in the world. At least at this age, our kids prefer sharing a room - they aren't alone - and Mommy and Daddy are just down the hall as well.

Career wise - things get better.
posted by Nanukthedog at 1:03 PM on February 21, 2014

It was an easy decision for me (well, my husband and I)... I was an only child and always wished I had a sibling. I still do. I wanted that for my son, and now he's got a little sister coming in May.
posted by amro at 1:03 PM on February 21, 2014 [4 favorites]

I just had my first and for my husband and I, having more is a question of "when," not "if." Even though both of us have imperfect relationships with our siblings, those relationships were vital to us both, especially as we both navigated fairly crazy home situations. A sibling is someone who is witness to your own family's particular brand of wacky. I also watched my mother deal with eldercare for her parents with her siblings and have begun to have discussions about this with my own sister; I can imagine how terrifying it would be to deal with these questions as an only child, and what a heavy burden it would be to bear.

That's not to say that being an only child might not have its own joys, but these factors have tipped us both toward more than one kiddo.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:10 PM on February 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

Like amro, I am an only child who always wanted siblings, so there was no question for me. Mr Joh grew up with a brother and wanted to have two or more, so we just didn't question it too much. I took the attitude that everyone else with 2 or more kids makes it work, so I can too. I am so happy I have two, and I love that they have each other. The second baby is not as hard as the first because you know what to expect. It is still a huge change, but you adapt, just like you did the first time around. Career wise it didn't make a huge difference for me, it was just the same thing again. Having one kid made a huge difference to my career because it re-oriented my priorities, the second kid is just more of the same.
posted by Joh at 1:13 PM on February 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Mrs. Silvertree and I have a toddler who turns three in two weeks and a 10 month old. After discussing it for a while, we were on the fence. Ultimately we decided we wanted the first to experience a sibling relationship. I am about the same age as you, and I felt if it wasn't then, it wasn't feasible for us, so off we went.

Positives: We love him, duh. He and his sister really love each other (yes, I know they are still young and that will change, but for now it is adorable). Honestly, if you have a child you know the positives so I am not going to continue. I didn't want to appear completely negative.

Negatives: Number 2 has been a very difficult baby, in comparison. He didn't sleep as well. He has had more trouble with teething. He has been more clingy. In the end, all of that really doesn't matter, as it is part of having a baby, but when you are in the trenches I have a hard time remembering it is temporary. The biggest thing I have noticed is how much busier the house has become. Before, if my wife or I was having an off day, the other could jump in and easily cover. We had the luxury of one-on-one coverage or to double team if you will. With two young children, that option is completely gone. So there is a significant difference in the amount of time required.

Knowing what I know now, I would still choose to have number two. So would Mrs. Silvertree. Seriously, you should see this kid's smile and laugh. But I can't understate the amount of work required for a second child. It has been an exponential—not linear—increase.
posted by Silvertree at 1:14 PM on February 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

I do not have children, so I will keep my answer brief.

These sorts of threads are always biased by the fact that very few people (essentially no one) want to admit they made a mistake by having children. These people do exist, but they aren't going to post here. So, you should consider that you are only reading half the story here.
posted by saeculorum at 1:17 PM on February 21, 2014 [34 favorites]

I read an article (don't remember the source, but perhaps someone else does) that suggested posing a simple question: "If you had an additional child, what do you think the odds are that you would regret it?"

My answer: very low. It turned out to be an accurate guess. (Though not universal, as saeculorum points out.)

I don't mean to dismiss very real concerns and possible problems, but I think this does help put the practicalities in perspective.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 1:17 PM on February 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have three. I don't think there was ever a point where there were clear black/white answers to any questions or to criteria for a decision. We went with our gut. I love my three kids and loved their growing up years, but I certainly appreciate those who chose not to have kids or have multiple. I would say in hindsight and speculation that the biggest difference between having kids (multiple kids) and not or stopping at one is the "me time" for the parents. I think we would have had more time for ourselves and our own goals yet we focused on our kids and their development and their goals. I cannot tell you what I was thinking while I drove my son to hockey practice 3 days a week at 5:30 am in the dark, cold and snow but I can assure you it was not, "This is so excellent. I am so glad we had a kid interested in hockey." I do know that my life would have been easier without multiple. Not sure or not if it would have been as fulfilling.

I think besides the financial considerations, you are dead on in considering your own goals, wants and needs. It is a tough call. Whatever you decide, I am sure it will be right for you.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 1:19 PM on February 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Grandmother Bendy's take: One child takes 100% of your time, so a second one isn't going to take any more.
posted by bendybendy at 1:35 PM on February 21, 2014 [11 favorites]

I do not have children, so I will keep my answer brief.

These sorts of threads are always biased by the fact that very few people (essentially no one) want to admit they made a mistake by having children. These people do exist, but they aren't going to post here. So, you should consider that you are only reading half the story here.

While I agree with this, I'll also say this. My son is 8, and nearly every day I regret NOT having another child while he was young. It really weighs on me. I wanted two kids and I waited too long. A child now would barely be a sibling to my son because of the age difference, and I don't want a baby now. I want to be a mom to two children close in age and that ship has sailed.
posted by peep at 1:42 PM on February 21, 2014 [3 favorites]

Do you want to have a second kid? I know that's the question you're asking, but practicalities aside, do you want to? After one baby you already know the logistics will work themselves out one way or the other - my sister somehow manages four children under 7 and seems like a relatively sane and normal person who manages to hold down a job and still have hobbies and a social life. But she wanted all four of them, badly enough to make it happen.

I think sometimes we just overcomplicate this issue. Biology plays a huge role here in what we want our families to look like, and surely your gut is telling you something one way or the other? I don't have kids, and people ask me why not, and I could give them a laundry list of practical reasons - but the real reason is just because I don't want to, and I believe very very strongly that having children is something people shouldn't try to talk themselves into or out of in any way. If you want to have another baby, everything else will work itself out, because it will be the right decision to you. So listen to your gut here.
posted by something something at 1:44 PM on February 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

Having more than one kid can make things easier as they get older because they can go off and play together and leave you alone.
posted by amaire at 1:46 PM on February 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

Seconding peep. Wee Thumbscrew is nearly nine. For a while, I desperately wanted another kid, but the circumstances just weren't right. Having another kid NOW just ain't feasible - they'd be ten years apart in age, and there are a multitude of reasons I don't wanna do that. If you want another, don't contemplate for too long... bite the bullet, jump overboard, throw caution to the wind, DO IT. I wish I'd been more certain one way or the other way-back-when, because I have quite a bit of bittersweet "what if?" sentiment now.
posted by julthumbscrew at 1:50 PM on February 21, 2014 [4 favorites]

We always wanted multiple children from the start. My wife and I both grew up in homes with four children. When we had our first child, I REALLY REALLY REALLY wanted a little girl. Just did. BOOM! Girl. Then, we REALLY REALLY REALLY wanted her to have a sister. BOOM! Girl. And that was good for a while.

And then one day, we were lying in bed on a Sunday morning and I turned to her and said, "How about one more kid?" "Do you want to try for a boy?" She asked. "Nope. Nothing like that. I just think that having two kids teaches diplomacy, but three teaches strategy and triangulation."

BOOM. Boy.

Having three kids is somewhat of a challenge, but easier for us since the oldest is very maternal, takes direction well, and is a pleaser. Our middle child is a bit of a wanderer. Very sweet, somewhat of a dreamer and drifter, but when she's focused, she's as easy to manage as the oldest.

Our boy (who--granted--is only four) is a bit of a handful. Always exploring and hiding and disassembling the furniture to make forts. He draws on the walls, he won't try new foods.

We have no regrets. But three's enough for us. YMMV.
posted by ColdChef at 1:52 PM on February 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

I never had any doubt about having two kids. The plan was t have them 3 years apart. Howvevr, when it came time to get pregnant with the seconde one I was nowhere near ready. I was still enjoying th first child and not ready to give up my time with him. A year later he was a year older and becoming more independent and that was it. My two eneded up being 4 1/2 years apart and it was perfect because they had differnet needs and it was easier to share the parenting duties. Plus, they weren't in competition with each other and they were friends. Mostly. They still seem to be really good friends today.

But I was younger than you and not facing the bio-clock or career issues. So there's that.
posted by SLC Mom at 1:56 PM on February 21, 2014

I don't have any kids, but my siblings are two of my favorite people in the world and I'm so glad to have those relationships every day. I have great friends and cousins, but there are only two people in the world who share the experience I had growing up, and those are my brother and sister.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:57 PM on February 21, 2014

It's also good to keep in mind that not all siblings have wonderful, life-long friendships. Some siblings have difficult and toxic relationships. There's also no guarantee that they'll be healthy. Does your desire for a possible second change if you allow for the fact that the kids may not end up being good companions or that the second child may have major challenges physically or mentally?

There are also financial considerations as well as an honest evaluation of how much you and your spouse do respectively when it comes to childcare and domestic duties. How will your quality of life change with a second? How is your health and energy level - can you add a second child to the mix and keep your head above water?

It's a highly personal decision and the responses and feed-back you get will likely be skewed toward having another because very few parents are willing to confess to themselves or others that having another child (or a child) was not a good decision for them and that they're much more unhappy for it.
posted by quince at 2:04 PM on February 21, 2014 [7 favorites]

"Nope. Nothing like that. I just think that having two kids teaches diplomacy, but three teaches strategy and triangulation."

It is sort of a digression, but I have three kids and agree with Mrs. Coldchef. I think having an even number of kids, be that 2 or 4 (or more) makes the most sense. That way there are always pairs and not one left out.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 2:09 PM on February 21, 2014 [3 favorites]

I'm your age, and we're stopping at one. Mrs. Bennett and I love being parents, but our one-and-only kid (now 2.5) was a particularly colicky and high needs infant--that first 18 months was so so so hard (with many wonderful moments too, of course). Now we've just got a high-intensity, smart, awesome toddler who keeps us on our toes, and we're happy stopping at one. We know our limits. I don't ever want to be that sleep deprived again. It's totally fine to stop at one. It doesn't mean you don't like your kid or don't like parenting.

A few additional reasons:

1. I have a chronic health condition, which is annoying at best, but sometimes debilitating. Basically, I realize it would be stupid of me to have another kid, because let's face it, raising even the easiest of kids is physically taxing / exhausting.

2. As parents, we've really struggled with balancing duties/roles at home and in our professional lives (actually, my wife's professional life is just completely on hold at the moment). We don't like that, and want to move towards a place of greater balance. Basically, we both "want it all"-- which includes working part-time and parenting part-time and having time to pursue personal interests. Stopping at one is our best chance at doing that [other people are able to achieve this balance with multiple kids, go figure]. It's funny that just writing that makes me feel self-conscious, like I'll be viewed as a super selfish person, but I don't actually feel all that guilty...

3. I had a sibling growing up, and we have never been particularly close, mainly because our personalities are so different. We like each other, and have a good enough relationship, but it's nothing like the close relationships I've developed with friends... So I guess I don't see having a sibling as being a requirement for everyone.

4. The environment and whatnot. [Actually, this is somewhat of a bullshit reason that I intend to use when my kid asks why she doesn't have any siblings].

Sure, we may regret not having another kid one day. In fact, we probably will, at least in passing. But there are a lot of great things about having one (for example, our tiny house with tiny mortgage). There's no right answer--you should do whatever it is you want to do. Being the parent of an only child has been the best thing that's ever happened to me...but I don't have the resources to add another.
posted by bennett being thrown at 2:10 PM on February 21, 2014 [7 favorites]

Before you're too swayed by all these "I can't imagine life without siblings" anecdotes, you might want to check out the book "One and Only: The Freedom of Having an Only Child, and the Joy of Being One". (Here's a review.)

I have a 2-year-old and will probably have another, but not this year, and if my fertility runs out or some other circumstance prevents it, it'll be okay. I figure as long as my heart is currently telling me to wait and see I should wait.
posted by purpleclover at 2:13 PM on February 21, 2014 [4 favorites]

I haaaaaate my sister. I also hated being pregnant and value financial security for my existing child. Your ambition doesn't just benefit you.

Anyway, that's where I'm leaning.
posted by the young rope-rider at 2:13 PM on February 21, 2014 [12 favorites]

I don't have kids, so I consider myself more of a neutral observer of this question. (Except that, y'know, objectivity is a myth and all that).

Everyone seems to be telling their own stories, which gives you a lot of interesting perspectives. But I think to really come to the right answer, you should look back at your own question.

You don't say anything about wanting a second kid, why you might want one, what it would give your family. You do say multiple things about why you don't want a second kid, or why you feel like it would be difficult. Is that revealing? Are you trying to create justifications for what you really want, which is not to have a second kid? Or, do you actually really want a second kid? Is this question a way for you to try to ally your own fears?

I think on some level you do know what you want. I think you need to step away from the pros and cons, others opinions and practicalities and just go on a long walk in nature. And then ask yourself, quite simply, do you want another kid? If you do, anything is surmountable. If you don't, justifications are unnecessary.
posted by leitmotif at 2:14 PM on February 21, 2014 [7 favorites]

I have three kids. From one to two was hard, from two to three was as bug a change has going from none to one - outnumbered! While babyhood and toddlerhood were tough in may ways the years after that were more challenging with music lessons, practices, school stuff and two careers being juggled. Now we're dealing with the younger two both being in college and the issues are mainly financial. That said, I would definitely have three if I had it to do over. We had thought about having four but the last kid didn't sleep through the night until he was 2 and had bad colic and that was enough!

So think about your needs vs your emotions - what does your gut say? So much of it is an emotional question. If one wants more kids one makes the logistics and the money work and if it feels like that's too hard maybe that's your answer.
posted by leslies at 2:22 PM on February 21, 2014

I'm not a parent, but I am an only child who is happy to be an only child. My observations:

- Siblings do not always get along, let alone love one another deeply. Siblings can hate each other and be estranged.

- Siblings do not always, or even usually, pitch in as a team to care for elderly parents. IME it's always been one sibling, almost always a daughter, who does the lioness's share of the caregiving, errand-running, and financial overseeing. I actually found being an only made it easier to care for my dad. I had no-one to fight with, no-one to resent for not helping out, and no-one to raise a stink about the will, the estate, or Mom's angelskin-coral necklace.

It's a crapshoot as to whether the new sibling will get along with your firstborn as they get older. It's also a crapshoot as to whether your second-born will have serious health problems that will preclude him or her from being a companion to your older child.

I'll let the parents talk about juggling acts, sleeping, and so forth, but I want to put in another good word for only children. It's not a curse or a horrible fate to be an only child. The older I get, the more I love being an only.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 2:27 PM on February 21, 2014 [13 favorites]

Mom of a 3-year-old and a 3-month-old here. I just went back to work a couple of weeks ago after maternity leave #2.

Our reasons for having a second child boiled down to "We like #1 so much we want another one." There were a number of logistical and financial reasons why having just one might have been cheaper or more convenient, but we decided none of them were likely to be real issues for more than a few years, whereas the 2nd kid will (hopefully) be around for the rest of our lives. We will only have the (gigantic) expense of a nanny plus preschool for a few years. I expect to have 25+ additional years of work ahead of me--if one 3-month maternity leave is going to derail my career, well, maybe that wasn't the right job.

Even though I was older than you when #1 was born, I wasn't ready to try for #2 until my kid was a few months past the 2 mark. Even though I was 39, I figured it was better to take a chance on not being able to have a second than to have one and realize it wasn't what I wanted. My husband and I had a conversation about it at about 18 months and it was basically a mutual "Oh HELL no." Eight months later we were both feeling much better about a second. For me, once #1 was talking consistently and able to follow (some) directions and tell me (some) stuff things got remarkably easier. You may find that giving yourself a little bit of additional time and not pressuring yourself to have a child just because of your age may help you feel good about the decision either way.

As someone who had kids a little later than most of my peers, I see my college friends with their 6-12 year olds doing fun, adventuresome trips, working on fairly sophisticated projects, and developing their personal interests (like marathon running). So I know that at some point in the not too distant future I will get that back.

Finally, though, I am sure that I could have been happy as a mom of one, or zero--I just would have been happy in a different way.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 2:35 PM on February 21, 2014 [4 favorites]

We have one child, and my husband just got a vasectomy to make sure we don't have another. We are very happy. I like my career, and I like that we are mobile and we can focus on our kid. We do make a point of maintaining friendships with other families with only children.

I was an only child who was happy to be one, for the record.
posted by gaspode at 2:35 PM on February 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

If you don't really really want another kid, why have one?
posted by metasarah at 2:54 PM on February 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


I didn't have a choice. Well, sort of didn't have a choice. Because when I decided I wasn't going to have any more children, I was not counting on birth control failure being a real possibility.


That said---goodness me oh my oh what the hell? The transition to TWO children was so much easier, having two children SO much better, being the mother of two children so much more AMAZING.......I don't know, had I not gotten pregnant, what I would have decided. We may have gone for permanent sterilization of some kind, but that's just not how it worked out.

We don't own a home -- likely never will at this point. We have a crap ton of debt. I'm kinda stuck in a job because of insurance needs, but I like the people I work with. But in terms of my family life? I really couldn't be any happier --- to the point that I'm almost thinking, "Third bebe?" (I will probably not have a third baby, but the urge is there.)

My two kids are a little less than three years apart -- 2 years, 9 months, actually. It's an excellent age difference. Especially now that my youngest is 2 and a half --- it's excellent. I'm probably an anomaly, but two? So much easier than one. Now that they are of an age where they PLAY TOGETHER AND DO NOT NEED ME!

And logistics? That's just details. Details work out, one or way another.
posted by zizzle at 2:57 PM on February 21, 2014 [5 favorites]

We have an 11 month old and I am 4 months pregnant with #2. It was planned, if a little sooner than expected, I am really excited about it and like you, I totally don't understand how on earth it will work logistically!

But I always wanted more than one, I am getting up there for babies (38) so now, I didn't want to take birth control pills, I love love love being a mom (even though I'm tired and life is a little crazy sometimes), my hubby and I work well as a team, I like the idea of them playing together and not needing to play with us as much! Oh, and grandma was moving to town! yay! And as far as logistics, other people do it all the time, I feel sure we'll be able to figure it out. Heck, my grandmother had 10 kids on a farm without an indoor bathroom. We could do this!

On the gut side, I always wanted more than one. I was an only child till I was 12, then two wonderful half brothers. I was happy and fine as an only, but I always wanted siblings, and my brothers were two of the best things that ever happened to me. I am still the only child to my never remarried father. And my husband is an only child, with a fairly isolated nuclear family (not very close with extended family).

This is all totally anecdotal and based on the personalities of everyone involved of course, but what I've observed is that the smaller the family unit the easier it is to a) get on each others nerves and b) let that normal living/hanging together aggravation flare up rather than simmer down. With more people, you have someone else to roll your eyes and commiserate with when dear old dad starts telling that damn story he always tells whenever you mention your cat (or whatever). This, for me at least, makes it easier to let it go and mark it up as one of dear old dad's quirks, rather than getting increasingly resentful as I have to pretend to pay attention for the millionth time to his thoughts on how filthy cats are. It also means that when brother is getting on your damned nerves, you can go hang out with mom (or whoever). And when they are ALL getting on your damned nerves you realize it's probably you, not them! Now everyone involved has to be mostly not an asshole for this to work of course, but everyone has to be mostly not an asshole for ANY family arrangement to work.

And also what Joh and something something said!
posted by pennypiper at 3:04 PM on February 21, 2014

I am an only child and mother to an only child. My husband is the oldest of 6; I find it interesting that of all his siblings, only one has more than 2 children.

My dad had a terrible relationship with his brother growing up and they are on better terms now, but not really close at all. They even joined different branches of the armed forces to get away from each other.
posted by mogget at 3:24 PM on February 21, 2014

Wife and I both came from big families of four kids so always wanted our kid to have a sibling. We didn't want it too far apart cause we wanted to get it over with in practically one go when we still have the experience and a house full of baby stuff, and they can play together when they're a little older. Didn't want them too close because one was bad enough. Wanted to have second while we're relatively young. sleeping regularly through night was when we started to think about number two, which was around eighteen months. Our first was a challenging baby, second has been a better sleeper thank God.
posted by smoke at 3:44 PM on February 21, 2014

I am an only child and there is no way I'm going to subject my kid to that, it was that simple for my husband and I.

Granted, I'm due in April with our first so I might change my mind once the poopstorm hits, but as it stands I really want my kids to have siblings.
posted by lydhre at 3:53 PM on February 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have one child, a 2.33-year-old son. Neither I nor my husband want a second child at this time, and I suspect our feelings about it will stay the same on down the road.

It's tricky because I do miss having a little cuddly baby (instead of a wiry squirmy toddler), and I have periodic urges to just HAVE a BABY already. But I know that having a second child in the next few years is almost guaranteed to sink my career in academia like a rock.

Plus I am sincerely scared about the kind of world my son will inhabit as a young adult. Will there be jobs? Or massive political unrest? Or will the carbon bloom happen and the world's population suddenly start dying off? I am not eager to have a second person to spend the rest of my life worrying about.

I have thought frequently about the possibility of being a foster parent or adopting further on down the road. I don't know if I'm cut out for it or not.
posted by daisystomper at 4:31 PM on February 21, 2014

I once read a blog post from someone who said, in essence, "the right time to have a child is when you can't bear the idea of not having one; it's too hard otherwise." (She had several children which seems an important detail.)

I can bear not having another. We feel like a family. We'd survive if there was a surprise but I kind of want a better life than surviving, and it took a long time to get there with one.

Also, I was an only child at my mom's house and one of 6 at my dad's. I vastly prefer my only child life. In my dad's family I put in a lot more than I get out, much as I love them. The "they'll miss out on a sibling" argument never resonated with me.

I do still look at that other path sometimes and wonder. But I'm pretty sure we're done.
posted by tchemgrrl at 4:37 PM on February 21, 2014 [3 favorites]

posted by John Cohen at 5:10 PM on February 21, 2014

posted by John Cohen at 5:14 PM on February 21, 2014

And, previousliest.
posted by John Cohen at 5:15 PM on February 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

I sort of always figured we'd have more than one child, but I didn't really have a set number in mind. Once we had our first, it took a solid three years for the idea of a second to not sound like the worst idea ever. The thought of us having children 14-18mos apart terrified me. And he was an easy baby! I did have (what I consider) kind of a traumatic late pregnancy/birth, so that factored in a bit, but I just really, really was not ready for another kid anytime soon.

Once three years went by, the idea of not having another started to feel worse than deciding to try, so we went ahead with the IUD removal. I'm due in May with our second and the kids will be a little over four years apart. My firstborn can get himself yogurt for breakfast, and can basically make a jam sandwich for himself, and knows how to help with household tasks and this makes me feel SO MUCH MORE comfortable with the idea of adding a newborn to the mix. If he were still little enough for diapers and couldn't handle getting his own snacks... ack.

Some people like to condense the baby/diapers/etc. stage for their kids and have them close together. I wasn't one of those people - maybe you aren't either?

(FWIW: I have two younger siblings (we're all about 3yrs apart) with whom I am not particularly close. My husband has three older siblings (all 2yrs apart) and I'd consider them pretty close. I think the sibling relationship thing is a total crapshoot, so I have no expectations on them being BFFs-for-life or anything, regardless of the age gap. That didn't factor into our decision at all.)
posted by meggan at 6:47 PM on February 21, 2014

I struggled with this too and ended up deciding to stop at one (my hubby left it up to me). To me it was a matter of resources--physical, emotional, financial. I adore my little guy, but he also exhausts all of my reserves daily. I started realizing that I wanted another child so my little guy would have a sibling. At that point, I knew another kid would be a net negative for him. He would have less attention from me, fewer opportunities (a/k/a limited financial resources) to experience different things, and a parent who would (I hate to admit) not be happy. I was 40 when I had my little guy, 42 when I decided against another, and 44 now.

I recently spent an afternoon with a family with 5 kids. I vacillated between being jealous and being overwhelmed and relieved with my decision. Maybe if I was younger, maybe if I had more money, maybe if I was a better mom, maybe if I was a different person...maybe I would have another little guy or gal to love and adore. I grieve for that child who will not be mine, to be honest.

But in the end, I looked at and assessed what was truly best for my son. I am an older mom. I struggle to have the energy he deserves. I fear not having the resources to provide for him. I am selfish and want my own life too. But mostly, I want for him to have the best, most present mother he can possibly have and a second child would give him a sibling but take from him a mother who is there (if that makes any sense).
posted by murrey at 7:15 PM on February 21, 2014 [4 favorites]

Another happy only child here. I think my parents decided to go back to grad school instead of having another (growing up, we called the dog my "brother"), and while mother has mentioned once or twice curiosity at what another combination of their genes might express like, I think they're still pretty happy with the way I turned out. The one thing they always taught me was that, as an only, it was my job to "make a family", to seek out and cultivate people who weren't all my same age and background, so I'd always have a lot of people in my life who cared for me, whether we shared genes or not. My friendships tend to be very close. I don't know if there's a connection.

Ànyhoo, if you decide you really want to parent more than one, that's great! But don't just do it because you think your kid will be missing something without siblings. We turn out excellent too!
posted by theweasel at 7:20 PM on February 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

I have a particular rarely voiced emotional response to this from my own life where because I have come very close to losing some of my five children to various terrible things, months of wondering if a child would survive, I am amazed at the risk people take in having one child. It feels unbearably fragile and terrifying to have just one child, because if that child dies before you, or that child is terribly hurt, then that's it. You have no other child to go on for. I know people do, but life after that seems especially broken. (The Ted Chiang story left me gasping for breath)

If you do have one child, you need to make an effort to connect to a wider family group. Siblings aren't always reliable either, but cousins and family members count too.

I have a 12 year age gap with the youngest surprise baby, and the relationships she has with her siblings are different from the closer-aged children, but there is a lot of mutual joy and affection too. And much rarer fights over possessions and scheduling etc. I wouldn't recommend planning such an age gap, but it has as many benefits as disadvantages.
posted by viggorlijah at 7:47 PM on February 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

Only child with an only child. Well, my only child. She has a half-sister. We toyed with the idea of having another, but circumstances didn't work out and now we are too old, so that's that way it is and we are fine with it.

As far as the above comment about having more than one child just in case of death - good Lord - I would be devastated regardless if I had a "back up". A family friend with 2 kids lost her teen daughter, could barely go on regardless and told my mother she would not fight for life when her time came (and she did not, she died before her son and husband). The point of sharing the story is that I can't imaging imagine making life plans in that way. Only God knows when we will leave this earth, and no amount of planning can anticipate all possible scenarios.
posted by hockeyfan at 8:03 PM on February 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Would it help to alleviate some of the time pressure for you? Because you may not have to worry for several years. Anecdotally, I am forty (it ain't no thang) and have quite an astonishing number of Facebook friends who have been having babies at age 38, 40, 42, etc.

I also wouldn't worry overly much about any specific age gap. I am 8 years younger than my sister and 6 years younger than my brother (this was not intentional, as I understand it). I got many benefits of siblinghood, and my parents got some level of built-in babysitting. However, I felt like a "second first child" at times once the elder kids went off to college. That was fun too!

To me, it seems like there are so many risks and unknowables when it comes to these big life decisions. No matter how much analysis you do, it may turn out in a surprising way, for good or ill. I feel like you can't live in a bunker and try to calculate the questions out of existence. I don't mean to suggest that you absolutely should go for it, just to bear in mind that there is no way to arrive at certainty or perfection.

Now, as to how I decided -- I have two boys from my first marriage, and a stepdaughter. The boys are just shy of three years apart. I really don't remember ticking off a lot of boxes on some checklist in deciding whether or when to try for the second kid. I had just always figured on having more than one, and I did want the first to be done or close to done with diapers by the time the second showed up.

As for the career, man. I realize more and more just how much time I still have for that to develop. Many factors, including but not limited to the kids, have made me realize that ambition beyond a certain point may or may not be what I want in life. (Parenting itself has considerably quelled my desire to be more of a supervisor outside my home, y'know?) I've gotten to a good point in my life where ambitions get prioritized somewhat by their specificity. If there's a specific goal I have in mind that I want to achieve and it has firm time or resource parameters around it, then it should factor into decisions like this. If it's a more nebulous desire to Make Something Of Myself, then the timeline can be more open-ended.

I guess, as others have noted, the main question is what do you want for yourself right now?
posted by Smells of Detroit at 9:33 PM on February 21, 2014

One's a hobby.

Two's a job.

I like only having one, because it leaves room for the other things I also want to do in my life.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 10:37 PM on February 21, 2014 [4 favorites]

I like being an only child, which other folks have argued here well enough that I don't really need to cover it again. Rosie M. Banks really does it for me :)

But...the thing I hear out of people with multiples is that they felt like "someone was missing" and that is why they had another. If you don't feel like someone is missing from your life, then don't.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:09 PM on February 21, 2014

We have two, a three-year-old and a seven-month-old. We probably won't have any more, for a variety of reasons, but we wanted at least two, and we wanted them close together - I'm close to my brother who's 2.5 years younger, and my partner didn't like being so much younger than his brother. Right now, having two is hard. My older son is sensitive and needy - the baby just started crawling, so the order's life is falling apart again as his brother gets into his stuff. But I think my older would be having phases like this regardless; it's who he is. And the baby is a really happy one. I don't currently regret this decision.

I'm not comfortable going into the reasons why we're done, but I will say that I expect the ache for "another baby" will always exist for me, even when my rational brain knows that's not what I really want.

My older son's best friend is an only, and what rabbitrabbit says rings true. Her parents have a different level of flexibility and availability than we do. I know, because my own parents are recent empty nesters, that there's time. But I've definitely felt envious of how they have so much time to spend on themselves and I won't, not for years.
posted by linettasky at 11:46 PM on February 21, 2014

Just wanted to expand a little on the only child thing. I think the reason I never liked it is because I had essentially NO other family. No nearby grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins... And not even too many long distance relatives. And today, I pretty much just have my dad, who is in his 70s and not in great health (and I of course now have my husband, kid, and husband's family, but those things were no guarantee for me growing up).

Add that to a somewhat difficult relationship with my parents and no one I could talk to who would really understand it, and it was very lonely.

It seems like the people who were/are happy being only children had more of either relatives or people they chose to be their "family." Maybe that's what makes the difference. Something to consider.
posted by amro at 4:31 AM on February 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have a different take on the "with one kid they'll get all the focus and love." I agree with that, and that's part of why I had more than one.

I want my kidd to know they're special parts of the world but not its center.
posted by jpe at 7:27 AM on February 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

As a mother to just one kid, it's hard to read threads like this and not feel defensive. For everyone reason given for having more than one kid, there's a counterpoint. But, I will spare you the rebuttal argument here :)

I mostly wanted to pop in to sympathize with you. Deciding not to have any more kids was even harder than deciding whether or not to have any. I never wanted more than one kid, and I still don't, but it's hard to not wonder. You love the one so much, and you think to yourself "hey we're actually doing this!" it seems silly not to expand the potential for more love like that.

But quite frankly, during the few times I seriously considered it, I knew I just didn't want to go through all that again. Sometimes I barely have the patience - not to mention the money or the time - for the kid I've got, and I don't think it would have been fair to him or to me to bring another kid into the mix. If I felt differently, then I would have tried for another one and made it work. But I don't, so I didn't.

I love my kid, and I love being his mother, and I've never regretted not having another.
posted by lyssabee at 2:34 PM on February 22, 2014 [4 favorites]

It's a hard decision to make because you have to keep making it - each day maybe, or six months, or three years. Each time a person says "when are you having another?" or "you should give the baby a sibling" or "she's such a great kid, why won't you have more?". My partner would love more, but now he's in the boat of 'would have preferred them to be closer'.

And the thing is, it's a bit like being childfree that the only argument is "I don't want to" - if you start getting into reasons (money, health, sibling advantage) you can, and do, start hurting people who make different decisions. It isn't, ever, a black and white situation*.

I can make every argument under the sun about having an only child over siblings - but what it comes down to is that I don't want to.

For all that I've found myself (almost five years after my daughter was born) contemplating another and I know it is almost entirely because she loves babies and would like a little sister** and I've finally found some friends whose children seem to actually like each other. After spending a night at the fete surrounded by siblings fighting, and our own experiences in family where "aw they're so sweet" makes facebook but the numerous bruises and bites and fights don't, and my own ambivalent sibling relationships, I can never ever take seriously the argument that 'siblings are good for only children'. Because most of my family and friends have siblings who actively harm and hurt each other on what seems a continual basis. 'They entertain each other' involves an awful lot of ignoring and refereeing and refusal to refereeing, in my observations.

Which just makes the decision harder - I know it's not always like that, but even my partner who is close enough to his brother that they wish they were twins in order to explain it? Even he has stories of excessive violence and what would be abuse in any other context.

(My partner points out that this unfairly disadvantages and prejudges our daughter - it's unlikely she would be so cruel but I'd resent the whole situation if she did).

The only way I deal with it is periodically checking in with myself, some mindfulness and meditation and also taking time through my day to ask 'how would this change if I had another baby?' and, almost always, the response is negative. So I listen to myself on that.

*That's a lie I guess - "mum is almost guaranteed to die if she gets pregnant again" is pretty solid, but I know people who take that risk, and I know people who adopt/foster instead, and I know people who still make arguments against it.

**I know if I were guaranteed to have a little girl I'd probably consider it more, which makes me feel awful and certain that I shouldn't.
posted by geek anachronism at 3:58 PM on February 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

Bah, I'll say it. I have two, and in a lot of ways I very frequently wish I only had one.

Then of course I look at my second child (who is my angel baby, my little human prozac, the happiest little guy on the planet - it was the first one who was the terror child) and think "no way, I wouldn't trade YOU for anything!!!" ... but I feel pretty sure that most intelligent people know, those two thoughts are not really mutually exclusive. He's here, I've bonded with him, he's weasled his little way into my world and I will have a wonderful and beautiful life as the mother of two children.

BUT. If any of my friends ask if they should have another, I tell them HELL NO.

The fact that I'm a single mom might be warping my opinion, true. Having two kids in a stable two-parent household, with the "normal" things like a house and a good job (for at least one parent) and the ability to hire a babysitter once in a while or the ability to, I dunno, do the stupid things that the mom's magazines always say to do when you're stressed out ("have a spa day! buy some new clothes to feel sexy again!") might be a totally different experience. I have friends with that life and they seem a lot happier, to be honest. But for me, two kids equals using EVERY. SINGLE. DROP. of my daily energy just to not be a horrible parent. Having a second kid after a super-high-maintenance-spitfire of a first one means always feeling a nagging guilt that I'm not giving enough time and attention and love to her more easygoing mellow little sibling.

I do love watching them play together, and my kids do love each other (so far). I even love listening to them bicker.

But then there's finances. And lack of sleep. Oh god the lack of sleep.

And my pregnancies were horrible, my body still hasn't recovered from two pregnancies in three years plus lack of sleep... I get sick far more often than I did before, I mean seriously I get every cold that goes around and I was someone who hadn't been legitimately sick since ever since childhood.

And on a totally shallow note... my second child was the one who wreaked havok on my body... after the first one I still looked (per your usual western-ideal-social-standards) "hot;" now, noooot so much. So, there's that.
posted by celtalitha at 7:56 PM on February 22, 2014 [5 favorites]

Oldest of six in 9 years. My mother once said birth control would have made me an only child. I believe her. I have hated some of my siblings at times; loved them at others but we run in a pack when we need to. So that worked for me. I had one child after I was told for years I would never have a bio child; lo and behold a miracle. Then another 3 1/2 years later another miracle. When they were little they loved each other. This was the case until they were in their early twenties and one did not like the other's significant other, so now the youngest claims she hates her sister. (As an aside, that guy was dumped but the argument is still on.)

The point: damned if I knew how all this would work out. But I would not take back having the youngest...and I am not my mother's favorite child.
posted by OhSusannah at 10:26 PM on February 25, 2014

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