I’ve always admired people who were certain they were “one and done”, meaning one child and no more. Smart, I would think. It’s like buying a house you can actually afford. Not many people do it, but those who do are probably significantly happier than the rest of us.
The Case for One
I was never 100 per cent sure I wanted kids at all. (To be fair, I’m rarely 100 per cent sure about anything.) I knew, though, that if I were to have a child, I’d love my kid to pieces. I happened to find a guy who would be a great dad and since I knew I’d never regret it, we did it.
I immediately loved my daughter with an intensity that would have been frightening if it hadn’t felt so completely natural. For the first time, I was sure about something: I would do anything for my daughter.
But it was hard, too. Forget the pain of natural childbirth and the cracked nipples. The real anguish was the emotional and mental strain of a colicky baby crying for hours on end, usually after midnight. Losing my autonomy and independence. Arguing with my husband.
And the exhaustion. That was the worst. I understand now why sleep deprivation is a form of torture. I could have handled the other stuff if it weren’t for the lack of sleep.
My child was not a good sleeper. One time in her first eight months, she slept for four hours straight. I woke in a panic, sure she was dead. The next day, I felt like I had just spent a weekend at a spa—it was the most rest I’d had in months.
Looking back, I was clearly depressed, but at the time I was in too much of a fog to realize how much I needed help until one day I broke down sobbing at a meeting of new moms. It was an extremely difficult first year.
Now, my daughter is a happy toddler and so fun. The tantrums are a sight to behold, but on a full night’s sleep I can deal with that and I am enjoying this stage so much.
So why ruin it? We’ve got two parents for one child. Good odds. And having just one is easier in so many ways: it terms of commuting, travel, babysitting, activities, buying clothing and food. Plus, why tempt fate? We got a great kid on the first try. Why be greedy?
There Are No Guarantees
The back and forth on this issue is mind-boggling. One child is the smartest financial choice. But wait: parents with two kids are happier! Um…actually, one or two kids is great, but three kids is a disaster!
Talk to friends and acquaintances or read the blog comments (never read the comments!) and you’ll find that some people are in the adamantly “pro” camp: “It’s cruel not to give your child a sibling!” Others are in the “anti” camp: “I loved being an only child.” “I never got along with my sibling and she or he is a financial and emotional strain on me now.”
The only sane advice is to ignore all advice. You can’t guarantee you or your kid(s) will be happier either way. You can’t guarantee your children will develop that special sibling bond. A second child may be a financial burden on the first someday. One or both children may develop a mental or behavioural issue that makes life that much more difficult. They may never be close as adults.
Kids with siblings may envy only children who’ve never had to share their room, toys, or time. Only children may feel burdened when their parents are older. Only children may be lonely, or they may develop superior social skills through close friendships.
The Case for Flipping a Coin
My conclusion? It’s all a crapshoot. The only thing you can do is decide for yourself. Are you content with one or do you feel some need for more? Do you want to try your luck that it’ll all work out great? Will you feel financially and emotionally secure with your choice? If your partner isn’t on board, do you really want to put your marriage on the line by digging your heels in?
Just know that your own choice is fine. Don’t do it because of the random lady on the bus who played on your (my) insecurities, saying, “Don’t leave your daughter alone. Have another.” Don’t do it because your mom would be thrilled. These people are not the ones who will spend the next 18-plus years worrying and not sleeping enough and shuttling kids around every day and putting their own wants and needs on hold.
Your life is yours. That would be my advice to a friend, and it’s what I tell myself.
But I still don’t know what to do. To be corny about it, I’m battling the “smart” choice versus the heart choice. Okay, now please excuse me while I find a coin to flip.
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