See that light at the end of the tunnel? Let’s consider turning around and heading back into the dark…

Generally, over the past two years, parenting Lily has gradually become more fun and more manageable. Yes, there are still bad, bang-your-head-against-a-wall times occasionally; but she’s more self-sufficient than ever, sometimes amusing herself with sidewalk chalk, her kitchen set, or something completely random like a broom, thus leaving me and Joe with tiny stretches of time to take a breather and steal a glance at a newspaper or magazine.

Which is nothing short of bliss. I’ve missed these small pleasures desperately and have been anxious to have them back – if nothing else, so I can go back to being conversant in something other than the ways in which giving a moose a muffin is probably a bad idea.

But in addition to these tantalizing stolen moments of freedom, we usually all sleep through our nights peacefully. Plus, taking Lily to the zoo or the park these days is a joy, and we now have a routine that works pretty well, despite the fact that our schedules are often packed. Joe and I trade off time to exercise; we get a babysitter for an occasional night out; and Joe takes over Lily-duties on the evenings when I have to work, while I cover for him when there’s an evening event he’d like to, or has to, attend.

So a kind of equilibrium has been established within our cozy little family, and the promise of greater liberties for both Joe and me shines like a beacon. Why on earth would we do something to disrupt this delicate balance and have another child?

A good question – one I’ve neurotically obsessed over, and wrestled with, for months now, and yet I’m no closer to an answer than when I started.

The problem is, of course, that life gets harder in every conceivable way when you add another child into the mix. The cost of having two kids in full-time daycare, while not permanent, would eat every cent of my take-home pay each week; everything from a trip to the store, to meals, to vacations become chaotic production numbers; and for me, staring down the possibility of starting at square one all over again is a truly terrifying prospect. Constant feedings (and consequent soreness and exhaustion); sleepless nights; lugging a pump to and from work; middle-of-the-night runs to the ER when the croup strikes; and the inability to do basic things like take a shower or eat a meal (other than a sandwich wolfed down while standing over a garbage can) on any given day all make me wonder how Joe and I got through it all to begin with.

The answer to that probably lies in the fact that the two of us could focus all our efforts and attention on Lily, and give each other breaks when needed – not so easy to do when a second child comes on the scene. Plus, the inevitable jealousy and hurt that Lily would feel at losing a considerable chunk of her parents’ attention breaks my heart so profoundly that I can barely stand to imagine it. (Even the tiny little things, like lingering and playing with Lily at daycare each day, and allowing her to sit and have a snack before we leave, will become nearly impossible, I know.)

Yes, I realize that Lily might be crazy in love with the baby from the get-go – that’s a possibility. And Joe points out that having a sibling who’s shared, and been witness to, your early life experiences is something that sustains you over the course of your lifetime. Not to mention the scientific research that touts the myriad benefits of having a sibling.

But there could also be years of constant sibling bickering that I don’t wish to referee; and it’s possible that Lily and her hypothetical sibling would never learn to get along with, and respect, each other. There’s just no way of knowing any of this – which is why the choice feels so ludicrous and impossible.

Yet the same was true of deciding to have a child at all, of course. For years, I’d voiced hundreds of reasons why I’d never, ever had an interest in having a child, most of them perfectly valid. The only thing working in its favor, really, was the idea of creating a person who combined (hopefully the best) elements of myself and Joe – my best friend, and the most big-hearted human being I’ve ever known – and the excitement of seeing who that person, a living manifestation of our partnership, would become.

Ultimately, after months of privately talking the subject to death with Joe, these romantic notions beat out my well-reasoned objections – to everyone’s surprise, including myself.

So although we may indeed choose to just ride into the future with the happy little family we have now – which would be enough – we still might also decide to try and have a second child, and we’d likely have to arrive at this choice in a similar way.

That is: while flying in the face of a billion things that could go wrong, we’d just have to close our eyes and jump.

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7 thoughts on “See that light at the end of the tunnel? Let’s consider turning around and heading back into the dark…

  1. Carla says:

    Siblings are over rated.

  2. Faulkner says:

    Josh and I came to the conclusion we can’t do it–have another child. I thought it was selfish for one day, but there is also lots of research that shows only children are well adjusted and benefit from not having to share attention.

  3. Carol says:

    Sounds like you and Joe are struggling with the decision to have a second as much as we struggled with our decision to have a third.
    Having a third child has been hard in all the ways we knew it would be hard, but the joys have already shown themselves in ways we never imagined. And, even though may days are exhausting, I have never once had a what-was-I-thinking day or even moment.
    Don’t misinterpret my list of sibling benefits as me trying to “talk you into it”. Every one has the right to decide the size of their family without risk of criticism or judgment. It is a deeply personal decision, Having more children does not mean a person is braver or a better parent. Children are not trophies even though our culture sometimes seems to view them as such. I have felt this myself even from other moms.
    As far as sibling rivalry, we are knee-deep in it right now. It is constant between L and N. Who got more of what, who got what first, so-and-so’s not sharing, the baby smiled at him/her and not me. etc. etc. etc. I still prefer this to the constant “I’m lonely, why don’t I have a sister/brother, you need to play with me NOW” comments my friend hears from her only child. The fights and unpleasantness that naturally come with having a sibling, in my experience with my own kids, is greatly outweighed by the companionship they find in one another. As for the time you, the parent, get to sit and read or do other things–after N was about 2, we discovered a new and beautiful reality-they ENTERTAIN each other. K and I used to say to each other in wonderment, “I love it when a plan comes together.”
    Yes, Yes,Yes, babies are a time-suck (to quote Juno). But what’s 2-3 years in the course of a lifetime? The way I look at it, I am giving up 2-3 years of comforts so my kids can have at the very least, familial cohorts, for the rest of their lives. One of the docs I work with, 54 years old and a single child, now wishes he had a sibling to help make difficult decisions regarding his ailing parents. If nothing else, my kids will have siblings to hopefully help shoulder the responsibility of dealing with me when I’m old. Of course, it is our hope that our kids will be friends, finding love and consolation in one another, spanning well after we are six feet under.

  4. Carol says:

    One more thought…
    it would be interesting to know why LB and his wife, both only children themselves, decided to have 2 children.

  5. Sophie says:

    It’s something you can never know. My mother and her sister hated each other until my mother was in her 20s and Aunt Susan was in her 30s; now they are best friends. Yet my grandmother is practically ostracized from her sister, as is my dad from his brother. My sister and I have our ups and downs, but I definitely can’t imagine life without her. It’s impossible to weigh the hypotheticals. In the end, you just have to trust your feelings and know that there are no right/wrong choices; there are simply two different, equally fulfilling paths.

  6. […] for those who have read the blog for a while now, we are, indeed, closing our eyes and jumping – which is to say, in the face of all that could go wrong, and after somehow surviving […]

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