Parenting A Second Child Is Forcing Me To Chill Out

shutterstock_132178493__1381780084_142.196.156.251In the NYT Motherlode Blog yesterday, a mother wrote about the judgement she felt when she announced she was having her second child. I’ve never felt that type of judgment, but I have noticed that people have definite ideas about the benefits or drawbacks of having more than one child. At the risk of sounding strange, I have to admit that having a second child really took the pressure off and helped me become a more relaxed parent.

The pros of one child? It’s cheaper. With all your resources devoted to an only child, he or she will be spoiled with every opportunity you can afford. You can travel lightly and frequently, and devote all your energies and dreams to this child.

The cons? He or she will get lonely. And become selfish and not learn how to share. What happens when you die? You are going to leave your poor child all alone in this world without a sibling?

I never thought about any of these things. We didn’t plan on having a second, so I fully expected my experience with my first child to be my one and only experience with parenting. Then we found out we were pregnant again.

I have to say, after the initial freak-out, this knowledge took a lot of the pressure off. I always sort of worried that I was paying too much attention to my child. The necessity to give some attention to another child would allow my first to have a little more independence. Also, since it was the first time I had done it, I placed a lot of stress on monitoring my child’s milestones. Was he crawling in time? Walking in time? Talking in time? Having a child who took his time conquering these milestones will allow me to relax about it the second time around.

I never thought my then only child would be selfish or lonely. I just worried that I wouldn’t be able to let go as much as I needed to. Having another kid in the house allows me to ease up on my older child and learn to give him the independence he needs to grow. And once I accomplish this with him, giving the second one the space she needs should be a cinch, right?

We’ll see.

(photo: Max Topchil/ Shutterstock)

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  • CW

    I cannot speak to anyone else, but I absolutely believe that I am WAY better mom of 3 than I was mom to a single child. I look back on videos of me with my oldest as a baby and just cringe at what an overbearing, Type A, “helicopter” mom I was back then. With 3, I cannot obsess over every single little thing- and that’s a much better way to raise a child.

  • anon

    I actually believe that if you are going to have one child you should have two – for just the reasons you list – less attention focused on that poor only child.

    • NicknamesAreDull

      Will you please support my future second child financially and emotionally? Also, while you’re at it, deal with any (and all) pregnancy issues, wake up in the middle of the night and breast feed? It’s for the best! I can’t just have one, even though my spouse and I only want one. We’d be so selfish!

    • Simone

      The moment you use the word ‘should’, your intended audience stops listening and starts resenting you. This is a universal truth.

    • JLH1986

      My husband is an only child and he loved (and still loves) every minute of it. It forced him to seek out friends and not rely on a sibling, he has said he’s more outgoing and actually more go with the flow because of it (he learned once he didn’t get to make decisions in a group of kids and now is willing to go with it, giving him new experiences, he wouldn’t have had). He wouldn’t want to be labeled a “poor only child”. He’d say he was very privileged and while he had moments of loneliness and boredom, ALL kids have those feelings and on the whole, he enjoyed being an only child. Save your pity for kids who are starving or abused, not for people who can’t or don’t want to have more than one child.

  • Kiti

    As an only child I swore I’d have 2 because like them or love them you still love your siblings and you don’t get that with an only child. You don’t get the bond or the companionship or the fallback friend. My mom has 2 sisters she barely speaks too because they don’t get along very well but she can call them anytime she has problems and they are there for her, I don’t get that, my daughters will.

  • NicknamesAreDull

    My husband and I were on the fence for the first 4 years of marriage. When we realized we wanted a child, we decided that we could only manage one. I am not the most patient person in the world, and my husband’s job is one that makes him leave for extended periods of time. When I was the guardian to my nieces for a long period of time (six months), I was stressed the entire time and never felt like it was something I should do. After that event, I was afraid to have children because I was worried I’d smother too much. After I had my daughter, I was very mellow when it came to just about everything. I didn’t hover, we don’t spoil and she can (and does) play alone. I still get stressed out when I have to deal with more than one child for any length of time. I lose my patience more, I get stressed and I feel like I turn into a helicopter parent. My daughter loves to give back to the community, and seems to be very well rounded.

    Anyway, I feel like some people make great parents to more than one, and some should stick to one. I’m really glad that you enjoy being the mother of two, and I love that your attitude is one that is understanding of people who only want one.

  • jendra_berri

    I am having one. I get more pressure to have a second than I had to have children in the first place.
    I have zero desire to gestate, deliver or raise another baby. I also can’t afford it. I could have a second baby to serve the hypothetical needs or wants of my son, but I am of the opinion one ought not purposefully bear children one doesn’t really want.

    Anyway, my son will be in daycare in five months. He’ll socialize and learn to share there. I have a brother, and we fought terribly all through our childhood. I love him and everything now, but we rarely talk and he’s never been there for me. I’ve been his rock, and sometimes it’s stressful. Siblings are not a catch-all awesome relationship. They come in many varieties and not all of them are fulfilling, positive or meaningful.

    Like any other life-changing venture, a second child is a risk. If you’re prepared for the expense and potential volatility and rivalry between your children and have deemed the risk worth it, then go nuts.

    • Guest

      Thank you! It seems like everyone talks about how great siblings are, and how sad it is to be an only child, but I think that may be because it is socially unacceptable to say “yeah, I wish I hadn’t had siblings.”

    • Anika

      I say “My brother and sister are lovely people but I would have been fine without them.” It sounds a lot nicer than “I wish they had never been born.”

    • jendra_berri

      Very diplomatic.

  • Mel

    I would have been perfectly fine with one kid, but I also find myself a lot more relaxed the second time around.

  • GuillerminaBarthel

    Good thought of Mother about caring for the second child .

  • Jill Smith

    I knew I shouldn’t have read this article. I infuriates me when people rely on stereotypes about only children to justify having another child. I was not and am not lonely. I like not having siblings. I have seen very few positive sibling relationships and I usually walk away from siblings thinking ‘Yep! Not missing anything’. And let me tell you- I know plenty of onlies who feel the same way.

    I also was not spoiled or selfish and I resent it when people make that assumption. I was raised working class and started working at 14. There have been many times that people were surprised to hear that I’m an only.

    Also, I have a very close relationship with my parents that is simply not possible in multi- child homes. Sure, you can be close to your parents if you have siblings but the bond with single child families is just different. I was looking at pics of the Clintons last week and recognized my own family. I could see the same dynamics between Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea that I have with my parents. They are a unit and delight in each other’s company.

    But people with siblings will probably get up in arms over that statementthey don’t want to admit that there are positive aspects to single child families that goes beyond saving money.

  • pixie

    I find it annoying when people generalize that only children are spoiled, have all attention on them, grow up selfish, and don’t know how to share (not that you’re doing this, Maria, but the lady in the NYT Blog). Sure I was able to travel to Australia (from Canada) with my parents when I was 8 and then travel to the UK with my mom when I was 16, and I’m thankful for that opportunity that I would not have gotten if I had siblings. However, I didn’t have all attention focused on me growing up, and I wasn’t spoiled. My parents would buy me things that I *needed* or were useful and only a few toys I wanted. I had a bike and rollerblades to help keep me active, but my parents wouldn’t buy me a skateboard. I decided I wanted to go to university for music so they bought me a flute I needed, but I never had a game system growing up. Even the trips were paid mostly by aeroplan points that my mom saved up through travelling with her work so much.
    My parents socialized me and taught me how to share. I’m a fairly independent person and can handle being alone for extended periods of time, but I’m also able to make friends fairly easily. Most of my friends with siblings when I was growing up often had more “things” than I did, even if they had to share them with one or two siblings. Most of them had game consoles, all the latest toys, etc, often because there were more children to pressure the parents into buying whatever it is they wanted. I’ve never been to Disneyland or world, but many of my friends with siblings have, and same with trips to various amusement parks. If I wanted a new toy and it wasn’t Christmas or my birthday, I had to save my allowance for it. I’m pretty sure I put “gameboy colour and pokemon game” on my Christmas wishlist for close to five years and I never got one.
    Do I know spoiled only children? Yes, I do, but I don’t think they’re really as common as a lot of people think. I’m glad my parents raised me the way they did, even if I was jealous of all the toys my friends had when I was eight. And as I’ve seen within my own family and friends’ families, having a sibling doesn’t always mean having someone there for you. And if both the parents of an only child pass away, not having a sibling won’t mean they’ll be left alone; they’ll probably have other family members, or, if not, they’ll have friends, acquaintances, and coworkers/teachers.

  • LiteBrite

    “The cons? He or she will get lonely. And become selfish and not learn
    how to share. What happens when you die? You are going to leave your
    poor child all alone in this world without a sibling?”

    Sigh. This has been rehashed over and over. It’s just tiring to keep reading the same drivel about only children and have to respond with the same thing every time.

    So, I won’t. Instead I will say that my sister definitely chilled out more when she had her second. Between two kids, a dog, a husband, a full-time demanding career, and everything else in between, she found she didn’t have time to obsess. My SIL, on the other hand, has always been an anxious, controlling sort, and having a second has only made that more prominent. Her children are still very young, so maybe that will change as they get older.

    • Bethany Ramos

      I think having #2 helped to chill me out so I’m not laser-focused on son #1. But I still freak out about the toddler hurting the baby when my back is turned. He’s not sadistic, just too little to get it. Yesterday, I snatched up some scissors from the toddler that my husband left out while working around the house. Then I just shuddered to think of him poking himself or the baby in the minute before I caught him!

  • My

    An only child can be really happy, but a sibling can’t really imagine being an only – that’s one difference. We can’t think about being happier as only, as we HAVE siblings! True, my younger brother has been a nuisance many times, but I wouldn’t want to suddenly be an only kid. And my older brother was quite helpful in the past when we went to school!

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