My husband and I have one daughter, who just turned five a few weeks ago. (I’m still in partial denial, but she reminds me frequently, so it’s hard to forget.) For a long while since she was born we both thought that we’d just have her and that’s it. But lately — say, in the past year — we’ve been talking a lot about whether or not we’ll have another kiddo. Maybe it’s the fact that our daughter is a delight and things are relatively easy at this age. Maybe it’s because most of our friends have now gone on to have more than one child and it’s giving us food for thought. Or perhaps it’s just that while we’re still fairly young (early 30s), life does seem to be flying by and we’re starting to think of those BIG fundamental life questions, like, say, how big of a family we’d really like to have.
This decision about how many kids to have is ranking fairly high on the-really-tough-parenting-decisions scale, at least in my book. So naturally, I’ve been talking about it a lot. And here’s what’s struck me:
By a huge margin, the most popular reason people give me for having more kids is so that our daughter has a sibling. (It’s also one of the most popular reasons listed in the comments on my Why is it such a crime to have an only child post.)
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m an only child, so the topic of siblings is one I can only approach as an outsider, not someone who can relate to my own personal experience of having one. I’ve seen some great sibling relationships, some OK ones, and some terrible ones — in our family alone we have the full menu of them. and I can completely appreciate the value of having siblings, from having someone with whom to bitch about your parents to someone to help you take care of your parents when they get older. Believe me, I get it and I’ll even go as far as to say that at times, in my adult life, I’ve thought about how nice it would be to have a sibling.
But is giving your child a sibling a good reason to have another child?
I’m having a tough time with this one. Part of me says yes, it seems like a very good reason. After all, we want the best for our daughter and if we believe that she would benefit from having a sibling — either now or later in life — it’s a good reason to consider having another child. They would benefit from having each other.
On the flip side, I kind of think this is a strange reason to have more kids and if we decide to have another child it should be for us, as parents and as a family, and not some martyr act just for our daughter’s supposed benefit. It seems like an odd way to treat our possible next child.I also have trouble using as a reason something that is by no means guaranteed — a good relationship between siblings. Enough of my friends have shared horror sibling stories with me to give me pause when considering this. What if our kids end up hating each other?
One of the reasons my husband is hesitant about having another child is his worry about my ability to maintain sanity. It sounds more dramatic, perhaps, than it is, but with two full-time working parents (with relatively intense jobs), our life is hectic and stressful, and I stress more probably because 1. I’m the mom and 2. I just stress more. In his view, the benefit of a happy and more sane mom is of greater value to our kiddo than a sibling and I have a hard time disagreeing with that. If we decide to have another child I think the benefit of our daughter having a sibling can be part of the decision, but the deciding factor for it.
Like all major parenting decisions, this is a sensitive, tough, and extremely personal topic and this blog post was more difficult to write than I thought, mainly because I can’t find the right words to express most of what I am feeling and thinking. (Or rather, to express accurately.) I hope you’ll share your perspectives in the comment, which I look forward to reading.
(Blog note: This post is slightly altered from it’s original draft. By me. For reasons of my reading through it and wanting to be more accurate in how I describe my feelings on this. Blog note over.)