This post by Rohini inspired me to write this. Her words “Zero or two” kids made me smile because those are the exact words I used in the context of having children. Nice feeling when you see others having a similar perspective. That said, I have to say I would have chickened out of the whole process of going for a second child had my husband not been absolutely sure that we should have two children and not just one. Any doubt on his part and I might have convinced myself to cop out of this even though I felt it was the right thing to do – have two children so they will have each other. In my opinion fear of the unknown can be strong unless you feel confident and absolutely convinced that you can do it and do it well. I did not feel that and I still feel anxious as to how I will get through the first year with two little ones (my second one is due end of June). My mother is here to help me out, but she is going through her own silent grief right now after the loss of my father. Also, she is much older now than she was when she helped all my other siblings with this whole process – I am her youngest child born much after the first five were born, clearly an accident as they say! Unless I hire a nanny full time (good part time nannies are almost impossible to find here because they are dedicated and want to do it full time) which is very expensive and not worth it if I plan to be stay home for the first two years of raising the child considering I am doing that for my first child. So I did find it daunting to think of being a stay at home mom for another couple of years and do child rearing full time with very little help at least during week days. It is not even the work, but the mental drain one feels on some days that prove to be very trying...I can believe people find it daunting enough to just not want “to do it all over again”.
Two of my brothers and one sister have only one child each respectively. And two of my sisters have two children each. Having seen those children grow up, I don’t see any difference in how fit they are, how mature or intelligent they are. The single children are all very smart, mature and well adjusted socially as much as the ones with siblings. Although I cannot deny that the single children would have been great as siblings and would have doted on their younger brother or sister had their parents decided to go for one more child. Interestingly of my two brothers, one tried to convince me not to go for a second while the other was trying to convince me “not the make the same mistake” they made in having just one child. A friend with a single child who is about to enter college, recently told me “You know, when I was your age people used to try to convince me that I should go for second child. I felt annoyed that they were advising me…now I find myself doing the same thing. It would have been nice if I had had two children”. Some people come to regret their decision to stop with one whereas some others (like my brother) are so sure of it that they even try to convince others as to why it is a good idea to stop with one.
I think if one is not mentally ready to have two children it is almost impossible to be bold enough to go for it. It is not easy to bring a life into this world unless you feel you can do it. Speaking for myself I went into this with much trepidation despite strongly feeling that it would be good for my children to have each other. When I see bickering siblings (as adults) who are not close or don’t care much for each other I wonder why they turned out that way – if it has to do with the parenting or really sometimes people just don’t get along with each other. I dread such an outcome for my children and I sincerely keep praying that they will always be friends. I feel like I am going through this “all over again” just for that one reason – they should have each other. Another friend who’s father recently died of Alzheimer’s disease told me – “ I was so sure that we would only have one child. But after what I went through with my father I realized that if I had been the only child it would have been impossible and devastating to bear it all on my own. That’s when I felt I had to do it for my daughter’s sake – she needs a sibling”. Similar thoughts were echoed by someone who lost her father recently and said that she had no one to share her grief with – what her mother was going through was different from what she was going through. She really missed having a sibling at that moment of loss.
On the other hand another friend told me a while back that she just could not imagine going through it all over again because she really did have an extremely difficult pregnancy. She also felt it was not in her to jeopardize her career by going for yet another child. My friend who’s father had Alzheimer’s also had a very difficult pregnancy but she still went ahead with the second and having somehow got through pregnancy and the first year after, she feels it has been absolutely worth it. It is a matter of finding the activation energy it takes to just bite the bullet and go for it – once it sets in motion, there is no going back and one somehow gets through the difficult years for a life time of joy – at least one hopes! Having a sibling is not just about having someone to share the burden of grief in life situations, but also having someone to celebrate with, someone who knows you through childhood and through all that your family has gone through, both the good and the bad. It’s about that bonding that comes with growing up together and having the liberty to call and laugh or cry about something that you know a sibling and only someone that close will understand. I feel strongly that it is a great gift that a parent can give to a child. You can have a fall out more easily with even the closest of friends and suddenly be left alone but it is very hard for siblings to not be there for each other no matter how many arguments or difference of opinion they may have with each other. As far as the single child, knowing my nieces and nephews who are single children, I don’t see any difference in how accomplished or happy they are compared to those with siblings. I only feel bad sometimes that they missed out on the joys of having a sibling, of growing up together and knowing there will be someone with a shared history and a sense of family for a long time to come. As I said in my previous post (about what my mother tells us), I imagine it is every parent’s wish that their children be united as siblings and always be there for each other. I too pray for that for my two children.