Pros/Cons of having a second child?
October 1, 2015 12:46 PM   Subscribe

Recently considering having a second child. My son is now 4 years old. There are so many pros and cons to having a second child, and I am so torn. Details inside.

7 years ago, I was told I would likely never have a child. Multiple hormone issues and PCOS involved, and being obese. I lost almost 100lbs and got pregnant with my son, who just turned 4 and started pre-school a month ago.

My husband grew up with multiple siblings, and has always said he wanted several children. I have one sibling who is 8 years older and I am, and we aren't close at all, so I always wanted just one child. We never thought we would have any, and then when I got pregnant he was over the moon.

My pregnancy was horribly difficult. I gained a ton of weight and had severe sciatica where I basically didn't sleep the entire last half of my pregnancy. I had to have a planned c-section where I had to be totally put to sleep and my son was nearly 10lbs. I then developed horrible post partum depression and gained +120lbs by the time he was 3.

He is the best thing that has ever happened to me.

Now that he is 4 years old, I've been thinking more about his future. On the pro side, what happens to him when we pass away? He will not have any siblings to share stories with. How important IS that, now that hes older? I love him SO much, and I really truly feel like I have grown to be a great mother... I want to have another one that I could love and share that with. I feel like the time has passed for him to have a sibling close enough to play with all the time. Am I wrong?

On the con side, when my son starts kindergarten next year, we will be in a much better place financially. We currently pay almost $700 in child care expenses. When he started kindergarten, that will drastically reduce and we will have $600 extra a month. We currently live paycheck to paycheck. We pay our bills just fine but barely have anything left over. We haven't been able to afford a vacation since he was born. If we had another child, we would barely make it. Newborn childcare here in Florida runs average $225 a week. (we do not have family to help with this)

Is it selfish to thing of the things we could have and do if we don't have another child as pros?

Also, there is no guarantee that I could even have another child. I would have to progressively lose another 80lbs or so, and even then may require help from a fertility specialist considering my PCOS.

Anyone have any insight of being in this same position and making this decision, either way? Will I grow to regret this decision?
posted by Sara_NOT_Sarah to Human Relations (48 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
In situations like this, very few people seem to regret having had another child. Maybe it's the social pressure not to admit it. Maybe it's confirmation bias.

Or maybe it's because when you are trying to make the decision, the concrete cons - money, time, sleep - outweigh the concrete pros, and it's impossible to bring into the decision-making process the love you will have for a theoretical child.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 1:03 PM on October 1, 2015 [1 favorite]

I was an only child and it's not the worst thing in the world. It sounds like you do want another, so I think you might want to at least try, but don't worry too much about the only child thing.
posted by decathexis at 1:05 PM on October 1, 2015 [1 favorite]

This is a such a personal decision, and you have some valid points on the con side. But it does seem that most of the cons can be considered shorter term (when viewed from the perspective of your lifetime.) The weight loss and fertility struggles might take several years and be tough. You might live paycheck-to-paycheck again until #2 reaches kindergarten. You might never get that family Hawaiian vacation. But after the tough years, after the rough 3 or 5 or 7 or 10 years, you'll have 2 children you love immensely. And you'll have a lifetime to enjoy them, and look back on the struggles of their early years from a different vantage point.
posted by Bella Sebastian at 1:07 PM on October 1, 2015 [4 favorites]

Is it selfish to thing of the things we could have and do if we don't have another child as pros?

That "self" you're worried about focusing on is your entire family. You want the family you have now to have a good, fun, free, flexible, minimally stressed life.

You sound very happy but worried that you "should" have another child. Don't have another child for your existing child. Have another child because you want *that* child.
posted by headnsouth at 1:10 PM on October 1, 2015 [23 favorites]

You could try to separate the question of would you be willing to put your body through another pregnancy from would you be happy to raise another child if someone left a basket on your doorstep. I saw my husband go through severe sciatica a few times, and I wouldn't wish that on anyone.

I have one son who is 21. I didn't think I could handle the extra labor of a second one, especially when my only was toddler and a poor sleeper. Sure I'd love to have a whole bunch of devoted grown children, but although I had the money (then), I never had the energy.

The answer to this is really personal, you might want to meditate or pray or do some guided imagery scenarios.

I am friends with one woman who has foster adopted. It isn't easy, but fostering is one way to increase the number of kids in your home.
posted by puddledork at 1:11 PM on October 1, 2015 [2 favorites]

Is it selfish to thing of the things we could have and do if we don't have another child as pros?

No, it's realistic and practical. You realize full well how expensive children can be, and the second one is only cheaper than the first if you can clothe them in hand-me-downs. Plus, with two kids, you have (roughly) double the potential for having a sick kid, which eats into whatever sick leave you and your husband get, which can also add stress to your financial situation.

You'll go back to square one with all the things that come with babies - tailoring your life to their demanding schedule for sleeping and eating, plus managing your older child's reaction to not being the only one. With us, that comes in some spats of bad behavior and acting out for attention, to potentially (though unintentionally) hurting his younger brother.

And there's no certainty your kids will get along, or be friends in the long term, so you can't think of a second child as an automatic confidant and best friend for your first.

In situations like this, very few people seem to regret having had another child. Maybe it's the social pressure not to admit it. Maybe it's confirmation bias.

And there's the fact you're saying you regret having a little person in your life. It's hard to think of one of your children and think "you were a terrible decision," even if they strain your relationship and your finances, because it wasn't the child's choice to be born, it was yours to have them. I short, it's a very heavy topic to think about, let alone discuss.

Do you have any relatives with kids in a similar age-range to yours? Close relatives can "replace" siblings, if they grow up together. They can have the same "always family" bond that is missing from friendships.

Don't get me wrong, we love our second ball of goo (he's still a baby, so we're close to that 4 year gap you're looking at now), but there are times we ask ourselves "did we really want to do this again?" It's usually when we're waking up a second or third time in the night, or trying to give medicine to an irate baby while you're exhausted. I also like the idea of fostering and adopting kids, but we can't handle that at this point, financially if nothing else.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:13 PM on October 1, 2015 [4 favorites]

Don't have another child for your existing child. Have another child because you want *that* child.

Being an only child was perfectly fine. Great, even. I'm sure having siblings is also frequently fine and even great. One really isn't any better than the other. Have another child if you want another child. Your son will be fine either way. Great, even.
posted by soren_lorensen at 1:14 PM on October 1, 2015 [21 favorites]

Having two really fills the family. I found a completeness with our family of 4 that I didn't expect (even though at this moment my 2 yo and 4 yo are fighting over a toy car). Having 2 seemed such an easy choice but maybe I always knew I wanted more than one. I think all your cons are short term but your pros last a life time, that's something to consider...
posted by saradarlin at 1:14 PM on October 1, 2015

This is a tough call. I would say, listen to what your intuition says. As far as siblings are concerned, they become friends when they are young adults, and no, 5 or 6 years apart is not that great of a difference in age. The older one will resent providing child care for the younger one, and there may be a fair amount of arguing and horseplay between the two. I am the youngest of four with an 8-year gap between myself and my older sister, who remains one of my closest friends. That said, I'm waaaaaaaaay more involved with my life partner and our son than I ever would be with her. Yet, I know she would be there in a heartbeat if I ever needed her -- that's what families are all about.

On the other hand, I know people who have siblings who went off the deep end, and this is a distressing hardship to live through -- an experience that they probably could have lived without.

Regarding finances, college proves to be the big financial hardship that throws most parents for a loop. If you don't have a nest egg, and can't afford the occasional financial setback that you may encounter, I would hesitate about having a second child. I lived very tightly with our son, and had just enough to pay bills and meet basic needs (including things like xboxes and smart phones), yet always had a fall back nest egg in case unforeseen circumstances arose.

Our son, now 20, became a near-pro skateboarder and has tons of "homies." He is happy alone, because he was raised without siblings, but keeps in touch via social media with thousands, and is only a phone call away from a "sesh" with fellow skate buddies and filmers. It is extremely important if you have an only child to encourage them to become involved with any activity that can be social.

Another point worth considering is end of life. My partner just lost his mother, and there is so much in-fighting amongst the siblings over the estate, it's just heart breaking. My son, witnessing it, said, "Man, I'm glad I don't have a brother or sister."

As the parent of a single child, I always marvel at and admire the ways that parents juggle larger families -- everything from food preparation to story time at night. It seems to me that they're stretched thin. But then that's just my vantage point from being the parent of an only child. Hear what parents with multiple children have to say on this.
posted by zagyzebra at 1:17 PM on October 1, 2015 [2 favorites]

On the pro side, what happens to him when we pass away? He will not have any siblings to share stories with.

Just wanted to chime in. I'm an only child and WILL have people to keep the memory of my father when he eventually passes (he's only in his 50s so hopefully that's a long way down the road.) My father has siblings, I have my spouse, and my step-mom is younger than my father. I'll have a support system in place. Plus, my memories of my father are my own. I don't need to share them with another person to have them.

I think you should start a hard-core pro and con list, plus figure out exactly how much money another child may cost. It sounds like if you're living paycheck to paycheck, then using that "extra" $600 by saving it or paying down debts may be useful. That "extra" money being saved can make your whole family's life better with one child.
posted by Crystalinne at 1:19 PM on October 1, 2015 [11 favorites]

I think, quite honestly, if your main motivation for having another child is "to be a companion to the first" that's not a great reason (or at least, insufficient by itself) because the result is never guaranteed. Despite many happy anecdotes and exceptions to the contrary (I'm sure by saying this I will cue someone with a story of a wonderful close sibling bond) I still pretty firmly believe there's a direct correlation between number of years apart in age and how distant the children are emotionally.

At 4 years, one child will enter high school while the other goes to college. At 7, one child will enter middle school while the other goes to college. I'm never going to be convinced that alone is not a significant obstacle to sibling bonding. And, even if they are one year apart, they may hate each other for personality reasons. So you never know.
posted by quincunx at 1:26 PM on October 1, 2015 [2 favorites]

I don't think you'd regret it (oxytocin is a heck of a thing), but a second child -- especially a homemade one -- really does not seem like it would be the greatest thing for you at this time, and it seems like you know that already.

Anecdatum: I have siblings. I vastly prefer friends.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:30 PM on October 1, 2015 [9 favorites]

On the pro side, what happens to him when we pass away?

This isn't really important. He'll likely have a family of his own at that point, and he will be just fine. I'm an only child, and I'll be devastated when my parents pass away, but I will move on and be okay. I have a husband and a son and my daughter will be born in a couple of weeks. I can tell my children stories about growing up and all the stuff we did. I don't have an empty sibling-shaped hole in my life.

To put it another way, you know how people in the 1950s didn't sit around thinking, "Wow it sucks we don't have smartphones!" because they couldn't conceive of having such a thing to begin with, so they didn't miss its absence? It's kind of like that as an only child. I have no idea what it's like to have a sibling, so it doesn't occur to me to miss it. If anything, it's more convenient to be an only child when your parents die, because there is no one to fight over the estate with. /cynical lawyer.

I love him SO much, and I really truly feel like I have grown to be a great mother... I want to have another one that I could love and share that with.

This is more or less why I am looking forward to having a second child, even though for us it is also completely impractical (albeit far from devastating) financially. Children are not a smart financial decision to begin with, unless you plan on them making you money by becoming a child actor or something (in which case, don't have children for other reasons...). But if you really, really want to create another child simply because you want to love another baby and raise it into an interesting little toddler/child/adolescent/adult, I think that is really the best and most important reason to do it.

I feel like the time has passed for him to have a sibling close enough to play with all the time. Am I wrong?

There is no magical formula for ensuring a close relationship based upon age. Some siblings close in age will be close, and others will despise each other. Some siblings farther apart in age will never really bond (or will only bond in adulthood), and others will be surprisingly close growing up (and maybe drift apart in adulthood). You can't decide to have a child based on this, it is just way too speculative.
posted by gatorae at 1:35 PM on October 1, 2015 [3 favorites]

It's an intensely personal decision, and a difficult one, and neither choice might feel a hundred percent right.

And I think that's especially true when people have to choose between making a major life change and keeping things the way they are. Choosing to change means you're definitively closing the door on the other option; if you choose to stay where you are, the door theoretically stays open indefinitely, and it's harder to feel like that decision is final. I think people are more likely to get wistful about "what might have been" if they choose the status quo, even if they're happy and it's the best decision for them, and as a result there's often a bias in favor of taking action. Just something to think about as you weigh your feelings.

I agree with everyone who says it's not terribly important to give your child a sibling. Especially now, as "one and done" families are on the rise; your son's not going to be the only only in his kindergarten class.

You would adore a second child, I have no doubt. But if you decide to stay a one-child family, your life - and your son's - will still be full.
posted by Metroid Baby at 1:49 PM on October 1, 2015

I have a younger brother who was supposed to "keep me company." He has seemed to resent my existence since we were very young. He used to beat at me on a regular basis. I started threatening to call the police to get him to back off after he turned 18. He still takes every verbal shot he can get and treats me, by and large, with utter contempt. You can imagine how I feel about this deal when I could have been in your shoes, "alone" but with much older siblings.

You could probably do a better job than my parents did, but you can't predict the future. The only reason to have a child to really want a child. There are many reasons not to have children, and none of them are selfish.
posted by zennie at 1:55 PM on October 1, 2015 [3 favorites]

On the pro side, what happens to him when we pass away?

Are you helping your child develop the skills he needs to have healthy emotional relationships with other people? Yes? Then you don't need to worry about what will happen to him when you die. Or, at least, his having or not having a sibling isn't the thing to focus on.

Is it selfish to thing of the things we could have and do if we don't have another child as pros?

No! It's an incredibly important piece of this puzzle. Are there things/goals/experiences you want that would be hindered or made impossible by having a second child? Likewise, are there things/goals/experiences you want that require two children? That's worth giving a lot of consideration. Which would bring you closer to the type of life you want and feel fulfilled in--things you could achieve with only one child, or things you could achieve with two? You have a family right now that will change significantly if you add another child, and it's important to think about what those changes would look like, both in terms of costs and opportunities.

I have no idea whether you should have a second child, but it sounds like you might be feeling pulled into the "con" side of the argument. And that's fine.
posted by Meg_Murry at 1:56 PM on October 1, 2015

Is it selfish to thing of the things we could have and do if we don't have another child as pros?

I don't think it's at all selfish to think of material reasons in the "con" category. I think some people think we're somehow beholden to unborn children, as though they're waiting around on some ethereal plane to be born, and we're being selfish for not giving them the lives they deserve because we want a career or a better house, etc. Your nonexistent second child isn't shortchanged by you never having them in the first place. Other posters have pointed out that a sibling is no guaranteed benefit to your son, either, and I think they're right; who's to say that a sibling will somehow benefit them more than vacations or better college savings?

Will I grow to regret this decision?

We are in a similar situation with one 4-year-old child and have pretty much decided against having a second. There are lots of good, sensible reasons for us not to do so, but mostly it's that I'm generally not excited about actually having and raising a second child. But still! there are days when I miss my son's baby days or just have a hormonal urge for babies and I feel like I DO want that second baby. I've come to accept that my day-to-day feelings are probably never going to be 100% always with our one-and-done decision, nor would they necessarily be if we decided the other way; I'm sure I'd have many exhausted days where I would regret a second baby. The difference for me is that this way, no actual child is getting shortchanged by my ambivalence.

I'm not saying this is the answer for you. I'm saying I've learned to accept some regrets along with this decision. I think with a decision of this magnitude, it's inevitable to feel regrets either way.
posted by daisystomper at 2:17 PM on October 1, 2015 [5 favorites]

On the pro side, what happens to him when we pass away? He will not have any siblings to share stories with.

Hi, I'm rtha - nice to meet you!

I'm an only child; my parents divorced when I was young, and they died within a year of each other, just before I turned 30. That was a bunch of years ago. That year and the year that followed were really hard, and I definitely did go through a crisis of "oh god so alone." But I had (have) good friends, and had a good therapist, and I have lived to tell the tale and I am happy in my life.

It might have been easier in some ways if I had a sibling. But I've also read questions here on askme from people who have deep, painful conflicts with siblings, hard feelings around how to take care of parents as they get older or how to divvy up the estate once they die. Having a sibling is no guarantee that a child will no be alone anyway.
posted by rtha at 2:21 PM on October 1, 2015 [4 favorites]

A close friend's mother lost a baby before he was born and had a horrendous pregnancy with him. She chose to foster and then permanent foster the sibling he now adores. Something to consider.
posted by greenish at 2:22 PM on October 1, 2015 [2 favorites]

I wanted more than 1 child, didn't work out that way. I think my child would have benefited from a sibling, but it's hard to say. My only advice is to think about how you will feel when you are a lot older - will you wish you had another child? There's no reason to feel bad if you choose to stop where you are. It's an intensely personal decision, and I wish you the best whichever way you choose.
posted by theora55 at 2:24 PM on October 1, 2015

I've got 2 kids, and that was always the plan (both my wife and I grew up in families with 2 kids). Our kids are still small - 3.5 and 1 but at present I think having the second has been great. Here are some cons:

1. Everything takes three times as long. Eating a meal, getting ready to go somewhere, going to sleep, buying groceries, bath time, etc. With 1 kid you can have one parent keep them occupied while the other gets stuff done. With 2 it doesn't always work out like that and so you have 2 parents keeping 2 kids occupied while trying to get stuff done.

2. If they sleep in the same room they will wake eachother up at night.

3. If you have a car that isn't particularly large then you will have a tough time taking additional passengers in your car. It may not happen often, but when it does it is quite annoying.

4. You will have to deal with diapers again.

5. If your home is just big enough for your family now, you may need a bigger one in the future.

6. If you're in an area where you have to drive your kids to school then at some point you'll be taking them to 2 different schools. Same for after-school activities.

7. On an environmental perspective having kids is a really selfish thing to do. Especially North American ones. The planet already has too many people.

8. You will be depriving yourselves and your son of the additional money the second child will use. This could go towards greater financial security for you, improving your living situation, saving up for college, etc.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 2:37 PM on October 1, 2015 [7 favorites]

If you're concerned about your child growing up lonely, don't worry! Plenty of only children end up perfectly fine, are able to make friends as close as kin, and learn how to build strong social networks. Likewise, having a sibling is not a guarantee that they'll cling to each other when things get hard or scary.

I personally would jump, almost savagely so, at the chance for greater financial stability. I've watched the lack thereof unravel even strong families. The money you're saving now could, if you invest it properly or aggressively tuck it away, be used to significantly improve your child's lot in life - through supplementary educational programs, enabling them to pursue costly but beneficial extracurricular interests, funding trips to museums or parks, etc. Or, the money you save now could be an absolute life-saver later if someone gets very sick. No matter what, having that money gives your family a world of options.

Either way. This is hard. I wish you and your family the best.
posted by Ashen at 2:45 PM on October 1, 2015 [4 favorites]

I wanted to chime in as the mother of a two- and four year old.
I don't regret it, because my dream was always to have two children (I was a single child of two reclusive people, and kinda lonely.)
However, reading your con list I want to advise against it in your case.
Because yes, having a second child puts a significant damper on money, experiences and time you can share with your first child. There are tons of things I'd love to do with Big Kid that I just can't with Little Kid in tow. Or if I do (like water colors, climbing trees, theatre and the like) I don't get to relax at all because I'm stressing out about Little Kid not mucking everything up, hurting herself, bothering everyone or whatnot. I also often can't afford to do something for the first time in my life. And Big Kid has to share me. Which is kind of good, too. I mean, being the apple of my eye, the princess upon whom all attention is lavished, is probably not the best thing for my kid to prepare her for the real world. But still. I kind of miss being able to concentrate on just her.
Secondly, you don't have family nearby. Honestly, the stress level with two is way higher than with one, particularly one four year old. I don't know how I'd survive this without three loving and available grandparents.
Thirdly, you haven't got the money for things like vacations. I don't think I could do this without vacations. I mean, tons of people have raised families on low income and it seems they were happy. But my picture of happy family life includes vacations, even if it sounds dumb. What does your picture include?

So I guess what I'm saying is have a second child only because you really want it (both of you! Not just him. If you're in a typical heteronormative relationship you'll be shouldering way more of the burden. I think your wishes should count more!). All your cons are real and valid and will happen.
posted by Omnomnom at 3:05 PM on October 1, 2015 [4 favorites]

On the pro side, what happens to him when we pass away? He will not have any siblings to share stories with.

First off, you are making a ton of assumptions about the relationship your first child will have with this putative second child, and what kind of people each would grow up to be. I love both of my sister but we're all very far apart from one another in terms of geography and life circumstances and I don't think any of us would say we are close.

Second of all, having a second child to benefit your first is a bit... creepy.

Finally, we are no longer living in the 1950s when a family could raise many children on one income, or the 1970s and 80s when a family could raise two on two incomes. It is now very common for all of the resources of two working parents to go towards the rearing of a single child. If part of this equation is doing what's best for your first child, look ahead to all of the lessons, sports, camps and college you are going to be able to provide for one child but not, truthfully, for two.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:20 PM on October 1, 2015

I think the fact that you are tight financially is a big consideration. I dont like discussions about being able to "afford" kids because so many people spend a tonne of money on crap but you aren't like that, you know the realities of your budget and the expense. Money problems are a huge stress on a marriage and affect kids too. If number 2 has health issues or you have an even worse pregnancy, living on a knife's edge financially can easily become total doom. These things could happen anyway but that extra money you can put away will be an awesome buffer.

Have another baby if the idea makes your heart sing with joy but take out the "for your kid" reasons from the decision. Siblings relationships are luck of the draw. Even if they are really close eventually, they could live really far away from each other and thus not be any support at all. Better to work on your own social networks than to hope that biological ones pan out.
posted by kitten magic at 3:34 PM on October 1, 2015

I'm an only child, and I was sad that I didn't have a sibling when I was a kid. Now that I'm grown up, with a wonderful chosen "family" of friends, some of whom have fraught sibling relationships, it is not a big deal to me.

I'm also the parent of an only. I went through the "should I have another?" phase but finally decided it really didn't make sense -- we are not living paycheck to paycheck, and are able to save, but that would no longer be true if we had a second kid. Financial stability is really important. And the cost of a second kid is not just short term -- think about the impact that will have on your ability to retire. There was a time when the expectation was that kids would take care of you in your old age, but that isn't really necessarily the case anymore. It's just as likely that you'll have to keep supporting your kids far past their 18th birthday.

Beyond the financial impact -- which is huge, and cannot be overstated -- I also felt that our marriage would be strained by two, and I also believe in the saying "One's a hobby, two's a job" -- I like my hobby parenting lifestyle, I can still do most of the things I could do before I had a kid -- with a second, it becomes much harder to pursue your own interests.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 3:45 PM on October 1, 2015 [1 favorite]

In many ways, having two children isn't THAT much more work than having one. My kids are 5 and 2, and the youngest has just reached the age where they can play together rather than the eldest playing with the baby. That means occasional beautiful moments where they are occupying each other, and my wife and I can sit quietly in the kitchen with a bottle of wine. They never last more than about 15 minutes, to be honest, but it's a nice fifteen minute break from the constant attention demands of either a 5yo or a 2yo.

You and your partner can't go out on a date night without a babysitter with one child, and having two doesn't change that. You get roughly the same amount of sleep (once the first year is over) with two as with one.

These are the big strains of parenting in my opinion, and for the most part they don't change with a second child.

Actually doing things with the kids becomes much more physically and emotionally draining though, especially in a situation where one parent is watching both children. Leaving the house, corralling them down the sidewalk, and, god-save-us-all, trying to do shopping with two kids and one adult takes about three times as long as it would with one and can make you want to scream sometimes.

It's also more expensive, though nowhere near twice as expensive. Our timing was convenient in that, by the time my wife's maternity leave was over, the eldest was just about ready to enter kindergarten, so we had only a very span of paying for double daycare. A lot of the incidentals are way cheaper with the second, assuming you still have your crib, infant car seat, etc.

Overall, I'm really glad we had two, and I'm pretty sure that's not just because I have to say that. Twice as many of them to love, and seeing them play together is so wonderful. Of course, I have three siblings and, though I don't get along with them perfectly all the time, I have difficulty imagining a life without those connections.
posted by 256 at 4:45 PM on October 1, 2015 [2 favorites]

Don't have number two until you can easily afford it and you have a plan for your mental and physical health in which you have confidence.

Money -- economies of scale for children are not like they used to be, and I don't know anyone who with school costs and after-school care saves much money when kids start school.

Health: sleeplessness, another c-section, another bout of post-parrtum depression and massive weight gain are not risks you want to take for your current family to say the least of your self.
posted by MattD at 5:04 PM on October 1, 2015 [2 favorites]

But that said, I vote do those things and then have the kid -- two is very nice!
posted by MattD at 5:05 PM on October 1, 2015

I think if you're very scared of the pregnancy part (and it sounds like that's a very reasonable fear) you should definitely look to adoption. Much safer for you!
posted by The Noble Goofy Elk at 5:13 PM on October 1, 2015 [1 favorite]

I have a sibling and I'm so happy I do. It's an incredible gift that I can have someone who I can grow old with. It's not the same as a cousin. My $2c.
posted by pando11 at 5:58 PM on October 1, 2015

I have two children. I'm not always sure I should have. I do not regret him, my baby, the only thing that could possibly have torn me away from the delight I feel for his sister. But I see on a daily basis the sacrifices that both of them have to make for having a sibling. Things they don't even realize, and probably never will - the daily compromises I have to make with my time and attention, the fewer resources we can pass on to each one, the effects on our family of gaining a member. I hope that the benefits of having a sibling will outweigh the disadvantages, but it's not guaranteed. All I can do at this point is not add more kids to the mix.

The book One and Only addresses this topic very effectively. We both wanted to try for more than one, so it didn't do enough to sway me, but it addressed a lot of the points you mention.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 6:37 PM on October 1, 2015

Having a sibling is not a guarantee of having someone to look after you. The child may one day get married or be in a partnership or have a solid support network. Many people do find that "the blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb."

Being able to develop strong and healthy non-family relationships is an important skill. Model these skills for your son.
posted by discopolo at 6:46 PM on October 1, 2015

It's unlikely you would regret having the second child, but you may regret your financial situation (you mentioned your family is living paycheck to paycheck) and not being able to provide your kids with a safety net should something happen.
posted by discopolo at 6:50 PM on October 1, 2015

My husband and I are both only children. I never regretted not having a sibling, and am grateful for all the opportunities I had as a kid, which I would not have had if my dad had been saving for 2 college tuitions: I took ballet, piano, and cello lessons for years, traveled with my parents over spring breaks, and attended a top private university, where I met my husband. We are both happy and well adjusted. I would avoid a terrible second pregnancy and enjoy your little boy.
posted by coppermoss at 7:53 PM on October 1, 2015

I love our two kids. But the second one was exceptionally hard on our marriage. It's like we are constantly split into two families almost. It's getting better - the younger is 2.5. I think in another two we will be ok again. But that's a long time of stress.
posted by dpx.mfx at 9:10 PM on October 1, 2015 [1 favorite]

A sibling is no more a guarantee of a close relationship than any other random person is. I am not close to mine. I know people whose lives are significantly worse thanks to the existence of siblings. And, of course, other people do have wonderful close relationships with their siblings. But there's no way you can predict that, so I would take that off the table entirely as a factor in your consideration. A sibling can mean a lifetime of friendship, a lifetime of stress and misery, or just utter indifference.

(Also, as far as "keeping the memory"--siblings may sometimes have radically different and conflicting memories of people and versions of their childhood.)

Have a kid if you want to for other reasons, but not for that one.
posted by tiger tiger at 12:48 AM on October 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

Wait till next year when it's more financially feasible and foster a three year old then the kids are only two years apart despite the wait.
posted by Iteki at 1:12 AM on October 2, 2015

I can offer the perspective of someone who has seen both sides of the coin - I'm a sole surviving child. I had an older brother until I was twelve, then was an only child after he passed.

Setting aside any regrets that come purely from being bereaved, my opinion is that there is no right or wrong choice. The drawbacks and benefits of having a sibling vs not are about even. I do sometimes feel sad about never having nieces or nephews except by marriage, and that all decisions about my father's end of life care may rest with me, but at the same time having a sibling is no guarantee of having a relationship with them as an adult. My husband has no contact with his sisters.

You should set aside what's best for your son as a factor, because it's six of one half a dozen of the other. Decide based on what's best for your family as a whole. And no, it's not selfish to consider those factors. Self interest is only selfish if someone is getting hurt.
posted by PercyByssheShelley at 2:08 AM on October 2, 2015

Try reading Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids, which makes the case that certain people (first world, middle class and up, already wanting at least one child, etc.) should have one more child. You'll have to think about how well his premises match your situation, but I think he makes a good case within those restrictions.
posted by d. z. wang at 5:45 AM on October 2, 2015

Advice I've always loved on this subject:

When in doubt. Don't.
posted by French Fry at 6:05 AM on October 2, 2015 [5 favorites]

I think others have weighed in with pros and cons of having a second child pretty well already. I was an only child till 10, when my parents adopted my sister (who was then 4). I was perfectly happy as an only child, and fine with having a sibling. We support each other, but are not super close (though some of that is probably due to the age difference.)

I just want to note that in my husband's family there are a number of only children. There has been a pretty conscious decision by the parents of the onlies to cultivate family relationships amongst cousins, including inviting them to stay (with or without parents) during the summer, and other means. As a result, though my husband has a sibling, he is just as close (if not closer, since his brother lives on the opposite coast) to a number of second cousins, who function well as extended family/surrogate siblings.
posted by gudrun at 6:23 AM on October 2, 2015

It sounds as if pregnancy is incredibly physically challenging and even dangerous for you. It endangered your mental health severely as well. It would be great if you two had a conversation about more children that involved means of procuring them that didn't actually hurt you. Plus, the joys of adopting and fostering include that you can get more than one kiddo at the same time, something your husband will enjoy!
posted by RJ Reynolds at 7:04 AM on October 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

I think if you're very scared of the pregnancy part (and it sounds like that's a very reasonable fear) you should definitely look to adoption. Much safer for you!

Unfortunately, the time and money investment is huge, especially if you're looking at adopting an infant. (And if you're not, then there's all sorts of behavioral issues and concerns to take into account.) I absolutely think adoptions is a wonderful thing; it's just that the money thing alone seems like it would be a deal breaker.

However, I also think you should listen to your concerns about your previous pregnancy. Can you imagine going through that again on top of having your current little one to take care of? Of course, maybe things will be much easier this time around, but it's worth thinking about.

Also, I'm an only child, fwiw. I went through a phase (late teens/early twenties) where I really wished I had a sibling, but that was because my parents are pretty messed up and toxic in a lot of ways, and I wanted to have someone to share the crazy with. However, I eventually realized that there's a decent chance my sibling would have been messed up too (lord knows I was), and then maybe I'd just be forced to take care of them.

Part of my desire for a sibling probably also came from the fact that I have pretty much no relationship with any of my extended family except for my maternal grandparents (and now just my grandmother, since my grandfather passed away), and even that is a kind of fraught, complicated relationship. But I've learned to cultivate other relationships, and how to be happy on my own, and learning how to rely on myself as opposed to other people.

On the pro side, what happens to him when we pass away? He will not have any siblings to share stories with.

The issue isn't really what happens when you pass away. He can share stories with friends, significant others, cousins, etc. The bigger potential burden is him having to take care of you and your husband (logistically and financially) when you're older/retired/failing health. That can be tough to deal with, and it could be useful to have a sibling to share it with assuming the sibling is functional and willing to help, which is nowhere close to guaranteed.

The good news is you have a lot of options that don't involve having another child, and in fact, are more reliable. Use the money that would go to a second child to work on building up a retirement fund. Make sure you plan out advanced directives, think about what you would do when you can't live at home anymore, etc.

Obviously most of that can wait for awhile, assuming you guys are in your thirties and decent heath, although the earlier you start on the retirement the better. And you can always start making plans for the other stuff early, and then change those plans as other factors shift.

My main point is that this is probably the biggest potential problem for an only child, but you totally can help mitigate any potential issues, and it's a much better way to approach this issue, which is something that everyone has to face eventually, whether they have one child, two children, no children, etc.

I mention this because, as an only child, this is something I've thought a lot about. My parents both suffer from chronic health conditions, no longer live together, and are in pretty terrible financial state. Also, I'm in my late twenties, about to embark on graduate school, and although my field should be pretty lucrative once I get my working life underway, the schooling will take awhile, I'll probably have a lot of debt, and my parents had me when they were older. (At least my mother did; my father is younger, but also no longer working because of physical health and mental health reasons).

There's no one right answer, and it's a hugely personal decision, but I think being an only child can be great. I did learn to be very independent, but I'm also good at interacting with other people. I feel like there's a stereotype where people assume only children will be selfish/spoiled/antisocial/whatever, but that's not automatically true. (I actually had multiple adults tell me when I was growing up that I didn't "seem" like an only child, which I assume is tied into one of those assumptions.

You should have a second child if it's something you and your husband really, truly, absolutely want AND if it's something that is doable logistically, financially, mental health wise, etc. Don't do it because you feel obligated to give your son a sibling. Also, it's okay to decide to stick with one child because you want that financial stability. In fact, that's a great reason! Being able to provide for your son, giving him the love and stability that he needs, will be so much more important then giving him a sibling, if you decide that having a second child isn't the route you want to take.

On preview: Wow, this got really long, but I hope some part of this is helpful.
posted by litera scripta manet at 9:16 AM on October 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

If it turns out that you can be a better parent to the child you have by avoiding the serious health risks that it sounds like a second pregnancy might put you in, then avoiding a second pregnancy does not sound selfish to me at all.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 4:56 PM on October 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

In other words, a healthy mother and no sibling is better for your existing child than a sick mother and a sibling.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 4:58 PM on October 2, 2015

I am coming at this from two perspectives: I am an only child, and I am a middle-aged woman with PCOS who was unable to stay pregnant. Regarding the former, I loved being an only child. My parents were very poor and young, and could barely afford to support just the three of us. I was a quiet child, introverted, and I had a ton of cousins to play with but who scared me with their aggressiveness. I never wanted siblings. I am still very close to my parents, especially my mom; because we were close in age and I was a very mature kid, she often treated me more like a peer. My husband is the eldest of four, and I get enough "big family" feels from our get-togethers with his family. The con here is that my parents are aging, ill, and still financially unsound; I am the only one to help them, but I do have the means and the desire to do so.

As for having kids... my husband and I decided to adopt domestically after four failed IUIs. After waiting for 1.5 years, we were chosen by a couple to parent their twins. This was an amazing bit of luck and we feel very blessed. However, our kids have "invisible" disabilities which affect how they interact with each other. Things have gotten better as they've gotten older (they are 7), but the years from age 3-6 were exhausting and expensive, financially and emotionally. If there had only been one child, we may have figured things out and gotten the right help sooner. I hope that as their health improves, their relationships with us and each other will continue to improve. We seem to be on the right track now. I love them both so much and cannot imagine my life without both of them, and I want to give them what their birthparents wanted for them, which was a good life together. However, if we had adopted only one baby, I don't know if I would have adopted another. There is no way I would want to go back to the physical toll and financial drain of raising a baby after having a school-aged kid.
posted by candyland at 5:22 PM on October 2, 2015

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