I’m a ‘let’s-cross-that-bridge-when-we-come-to-it’ kind of person. When I look to my future, I don’t see 3 kids and a house with a white picket fence, and two dogs, a cat, and a Wrangler parked in the garage. When I look to my future, it’s more like a blur really. There’s definitely a family. But of an undisclosed number. And a house with some kind of fence. And everyone is happy. Beyond that though, I can’t see shit. But I like it that way.
There are a lot of reasons why I approach life in this way. I thrive on feeling like I’m constantly achieving something, so I set short-term goals for myself. I’m a lover of change, so I leave a fair amount of room for spontaneity. I believe disappointment is easily avoided if you’re flexible. And I’m realistic. I understand you aren’t always going to end up where you wanted to, and I’m ok with that.
You can see how all of this might add up to a bit of a blurred vision of ones future. But the thing is, if you don’t know exactly where you’re going, there’s more chance you’ll be pleasantly surprised by where you end up, instead of bitterly disappointed about not getting to where you had planned to go.
My approach to having a family is no different. For a long time I didn’t really think I wanted to have children. Then I met my ‘McDreamy’ and imagining our two becoming a three just seemed right. So we had little E. And it’s been a year and a half of awesome. But I didn’t actually think beyond that. Until now.
I guess we’re at that stage (if not a little past it) where society assumes that because you have one child of a certain age, the next one should be on its way ‘tout suite’. It’s expected of you. We’re asked constantly by friends, family even purple-rinses in the Pick ‘n Pay queue, when we’re going to toss the ‘protection’ and start banging like rabbits. What? Why you looking at me like that? Effectively that’s what they want to know.
The societal pressure is immense. So much so that it’s often harder for women to conceive the second time round because of the stress they’re put under to do so. And being asked constantly for those who are actually ‘trying’ with little success is like having a painful thorn in the foot that’s driven deeper with every single-pink-line reveal.
My question is: why do ‘they’ care so much? They won’t be raising that second child. They won’t be changing its dirty nappies. Doing 3-am feeds. Putting their careers on hold. Paying for its education. Or worrying about its every move. They won’t be doing any of these things. So really, why do they care so much? Or actually, do they even care at all. Why does society want me to have another child so badly, when I’m not even sure I want one myself?
This is when I’m glad I never painted that pretty little ‘future family’ picture in my head, because I’m sure I’d be blinded by it now. It would make me want what I want because I want it, because it’s what I’ve always imagined, not because it’s right for me and my family. Instead I’ve really been forced to dissect the burning questions, “Do we want to have another child? Can we actually have another child? And why do we want another child.”
Can we afford it?
We’re a two-income family. We both need to be bringing in the bacon to survive. That’s just the way it is. Having another child will only exacerbate the situation. And that’s just now. How will we handle it when we have to fork out for two sets of school fees? Are we able to increase our salaries enough over the next few years to be confident that we can pay off a bond and be able to afford the kind of schooling and lifestyle we’d like our child(ren) to have, never mind ourselves.
What will it mean for our marriage and our relationship with each other?
It’s no secret that having a child dramatically impacts your relationship. Suddenly all that affection you used to shower on each other is focused on this tiny human being. You have very little time for yourself anymore and you have to make an effort to make time for each other. Now add another child into that equation. How will you manage that?
How will a second child impact my career?
When you have a baby, your priorities change. It doesn’t make you any less committed or focused at work, (if anything it makes you more efficient). It just means that if you’re put in a situation where you have to choose between attending a really important meeting, or attending to the wellbeing of you child, you’re going to choose your child.
Fortunately I haven’t had to do this often, but there have been occasions when I have, and on those occasions I’ve gotten the subtle but distinct impression that a couple of steps have been added on to my ladder that leads to the ‘corner’ office.
The struggle of being a mom in the working world is another whole article all together, but the point is, adding another kid into the mix is going to mean more of those situations that don’t make the powers-that-be all too happy, which will ultimate make my climb to the top a rather hard slog.
Do I need another child as an insurance policy?
The best and worst part about having a child is the all-consuming love you feel for them. Once you have a little ‘mini-me,’ the thought of living without them is just too much to bear. The ‘what-ifs’ are not something that are often spoken about, but they plague every parent’s mind, and are sometime the reason for having a second child. Just in case.
Am I being selfish if I don’t have another child?
Am I depriving E of that sibling bond that both my husband and I grew up with. Am I depriving him of sibling rivalry, big family Christmases and a reliable table tennis opponent. What happens if something happens to us? We’ll be leaving E all on his own. How do I feel about that?
The biggest question I have though is this:
How is it possible to love another tiny human in the same way?
As far as I’m concerned, E is the coolest kid in the world and beyond. My heart is full. The love I feel for him physically pains me.
I’ve put this question to some multiple-child moms, and the common answer I’m given is, “your heart just gets bigger.” One of those ‘mom things’ I’m assuming you can only fully understand when you’ve experienced it.
These are all big, heavy questions. The kind that churn in the pit of your stomach and no one can really advise you on. But they’re also important questions that have brought me to this realisation: If we decide to have a second child, it won’t be because the rest of the world wants us to. It won’t be because our friends are pregnant or we’re going for the obligatory 2-year age gap (mainly because we’ve missed that landmark).
It’ll be because we decided it was right for us and our family. So butt the hell out people.
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Kate Royce is an advertising copywriter, co-founder of Mammas’ Meeting Place and adoring mother to little Ethan whom, she is convinced, is set to be the greatest adventurer and explorer the world has ever known. Her dad once described her as “having the ability to find beauty in the strangest places,” which she thinks is one of the nicest things anyone’s ever said about her.