Parenting Stunt 2007

To have a second baby?

*This is a companion piece to a similarly-themed article on Karen’s site which, all things being equal, should be published at roughly the same time. We have not read each others entries before publishing, and have taken care not to discuss them.*

I haven’t done the sums, but I don’t think it would be inaccurate to say that the majority of our parenting peers ((by which I mean the people that we met at ante-natal classes etc)) are now expecting their second babies.

There’s clearly a pattern here – people who are planning to have n+1 babies (∀ n ≥ 1) will tend to aim for an age difference of no more than two years between their babies. I can see many good reasons to do this – it means that your children are of a similar age, so they can play together comfortably, and support each other through growing up. It means that you can dress the second child with the first one’s hand-me-downs, without having to store unused clothes for a prolonged period. It means that you won’t still be battling with teenagers in thirty years time.

Maybe it’s not even any of these excellent reasons. Maybe it’s much more emotionally driven – the desire to have another one of those cute little cuddly fluffy wuffly bufflewunnies perhaps. Or maybe mum enjoyed that six months off of work, and she wants to do that again.

Either way, it seems that answering the question “should I have a second child?” should be treated with a matter of some urgency – it’s not one of those questions like “should I defrost the freezer” which can safely be left unanswered for years and years.

There are lots of good reasons for having more than one child (for example, you need at least three people to start an awesome band, and also with two kids we’d be able to play 4-player Bomberman) and lots of oft-quoted but actually rather stupid reasons (for example, this mistaken belief that the only child is anti-social and crap at sharing, and the “what if something happens to one of them?” question). But the list of reasons for sticking with one is magnificent. Here it comes, bitches.

**It’s cheaper.** Having one child is cheaper (than two) right now, and will continue to be cheaper for the rest of my life. We can give Bernard a comfortable standard of living, and hopefully with all the money that we save, he won’t have to stump for my care when I’m old and decrepit.

**It’s less stressful.** Karen and I are coping pretty well with one child – if anything, our relationship is even stronger as a result of it. Maybe having a second child would make us even closer, but I don’t want to disturb this perfect equilibrium that we’ve found. Also, kids have a tendency to gang up on you. So, say one of them is whining because they want a sweet, or a cigarette, or a turn behind the wheel of your Vauxhall Astra. And you’re telling them no, but they keep nagging and whining. Well, what will happen then is that the kid in question will give their sibling a secret signal, upon which the sibling will create a distraction (for example, setting fire to the footstool). In the furore, you will crumble, and you will give the first kid what they wanted, just to shut them up, so you can deal with the new crisis. This is all real factual stuff, direct from my imagination.

**The social aspect.** The argument that children without siblings are socially disadvantaged has been shown to be false, providing that the child still gets plenty of contact with other children of his own age (as Bernard does). However, some studies have concluded that they relate better to adults, have higher self-esteem, are more self-reliant, have a wider vocabulary, and are more motivated. Maybe this is true, maybe it isn’t, but I can see the logic behind it, so my gut feeling is that there will be some truth in this. Of course, it’s going to be crucial to find the right balance, because I don’t want his self-esteem to be at the expense of enjoying his childhood, but I’m fairly confident that we can nail this one.

**The world.** The environmental impact of having an extra child is very significant. This planet is struggling to contain the people that are already on it, let alone loads more. Having a child has always been important to me, but having more than one strikes me as a bit greedy.

**Actual statistical analysis.** I performed an actual statistical analysis, with rigorous methods and all that shit. I concluded that there is an inverse correlation between the number of kids that a couple have, and their average IQ. In a separate study, I discovered that every single person in the world with more than two kids is a moody fucker (sample set: my co-workers).

**The house.** We have a lovely house. It’s perfect for three. If we were going to enlarge the family, we’d have to move house again, which I’m not going to do.

**Video games.** If we had a second child, and it was another boy, then when they get a bit older then they will always be playing 2-player games together, and there will be no room for me. This is an unacceptable risk.

**The plan.** Having one child has been the plan for a long time, and I see no compelling evidence to change it, so we shall proceed with the original plan, subject to periodic review, naturally.

9 replies on “To have a second baby?”

Pieces like the one you (and Karen) have both written give me confidence that I am not the only person in the world who thinks having just one child is ok. In fact, that it may be more than ok. Thank you for writing this! I agree with so much of what you’ve written here and I get so tired of people assuming that we must be planning child 2, when in fact one is fine for us. It is only everyone else telling me that I should be that makes me doubt; I guess I wish I was stronger. And didn’t worry so much!

We don’t feel much pressure to have a second child (yet), but maybe we are just too pig-headedly certain we are right to notice it. As if all that erroneous and unwanted parenting advice isn’t enough, now they come at you demanding you have another one! That’s a bit poor, really. Don’t worry, you know the right answer, and this really is a personal decision that shouldn’t (imho) be influenced by anyone else except the other parent.

As a father of three (!) I can see where you are coming from 🙂

We decided to have two close together; which was hard work initially but worked well later and got it all “out of the way”. Until we accidentally had a third.

There will not be a forth.

I am a single child and can personally testify to the advantages of having no brothers or sisters. Less fighting is a key point.

I am also a single child and I’ve turned out brilliantly, is something I always tell people who argue with me that I’ll inevitably want more than one.

Except, my friend Conrad pointed out, I’m NOT really a single child because I have these two (much) older brothers so in a way, I have the best of both. I got all that wonderful love and attention without sibling issues from my parents, all that great vocabulary and self-esteem stuff you mentioned, but also, now that I am older, I have these other two adults who understand my parents and my background in a shorthand impossible for anyone else to grasp.

So I’ve been a bit up-ended, really, in thinking about this because I only want one for the reason that hey, I turned out pretty well and my parents did a great job and two kids seems like, for all the reasons you listed, not for me.

However, I also have this deep appreciation for my brothers and the fact that, inevitably, when my parents are gone, there are still these people that connect me to my childhood. I didn’t grow up around extended family at ALL, and neither did Stuart, and we don’t predict there will be much extended family around us in the future since we’re so scattered across the globe. By only having one child, then, am I depriving them of the benefits I get from my ONLY family aside from my parents – my brothers?

I still couldn’t have them less than 5 or 6 years apart, though, I think I’d go nuts with two under-3s in the house. I see siblings separated by more than 5 years and they get along really well because they’ve rarely competed for anything in childhood, but Stuart keeps reminding me that all sibling relationships are different and I can’t engineer the ideal one.

Which takes me RIGHT back to wanting just one! Dah. Good thing I don’t have to decide for another few years.

Excellent read.
Just in the process of making a baby with partner and really do believe we will only have the one. My cousin has only one and she is sticking to it. She can continue with her career and give little Luke a lovely life with lots of holidays and attention. She was an only child herself and she grew up happier than me and my younger brother who did nothing but fight and argue. We get along now we are in our thirties and have settled down but in our teens and twenties we hardly saw each other much. He was a moody bugger!
I too have a lovely house with two bedrooms and a small loft conversion that partner and I painstakingly restored. I couldn’t manage the stress of moving and starting again.
It is perfect for three people the border collie and the cat. We have a small mortgage because we bought at the right time yet my mum keeps saying we should move to somewere bigger for the kid”S” we will have….take on a bigger mortgage and be poorer!!!!! No way!!!!
At least our one child will live a happy comfortable life surrounded by its cousins and friends (plenty of little ones on partners side) money isn’t everything but my mum and dad struggled with having 2 children as my dad had to retire from work due to ill health. We had some dark days and were quite poor when I was young. I never want my child to suffer so one would be easier to financially cope with and do the things my parents just couldn’t pay for like horse riding and dance lessons…

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