Part 1 of the Only Child Condundrum dealt with the impact that having just one kid might have on that kid.
For Part 2, let’s forget about my son and his infinite potential for disappointing me for a minute. Instead, let’s talk about how having more than one kid might affect me and my wife.
Having a kid can be a burden, both financially and socially. Having a second not only doubles the financial strain, it greatly increases the other downsides to having kids. You think you’re tired with just one kid? You think you have no free time now? The prospect of entertaining a toddler while raising a baby does not excite us. Should it?
The primary thing that makes dealing with all the frustrating, exhausting, stressful horseshit that comes with raising a baby doable – besides all the love, of course! – is the inherent unpredictability. The totally unanticipatable (COINED!) novelty of living with a child goes a long way towards camouflaging the myriad negatives – the need to just react on the fly, without being able to consider what’s happening, actually serves to reduce the stress of the daily grind and lets you focus on big picture benefits. With baby number two, since you already know the drill, you are aware of all the checkpoints. I can only assume it becomes a countdown until you’re done with crying it out and done with diapers and done with breast feeding and done with math homework and done with underage drinking and done with college and DONE.
When you have a second child, or a third, does the ratio of joy to frustration stay the same? Or does the exhilaration and excitement dwindle as the novelty fades, while the exhaustion and frustration increase? Because it seems like maybe the latter holds true, at least in the early stages. That family-of-19-kids-with-names-that-all-start-with-J notwithstanding.
And then – horror of horrors – what if you don’t love the second one as much? I mean, I’m not a love machine – don’t get me wrong, I am amazing in bed – but I don’t have an unlimited capacity for emotional love. I’m already showering my wife and son in my benevolence, so what if, come kid #2, the well runs dry? What if he’s a major hump and I just can’t summon the same feelings the second time around? Besides, maybe focusing on loving and caring for and providing a single child with everything he needs is the best way to ensure he gets our best, and in turn, turns out his best?
Finally, is it selfish to deprive my son of a sibling just because it will be a pain in the ass for me? Maybe, but there’s a flip-side to that coin: is it silly to have a second kid for no reason other than to ensure the first one doesn’t grow up to be spoiled, or – worse – an asshole like Marty McFly’s kids?
Obviously, just five months in on kid #1, no decisions have been made. And, so fresh off the physical trauma of pregnancy and the emotional trauma of one’s life being completely annihilated, it’s probably too soon to make any firm plans. But back when things were hypothetical, having just one kid seemed impossible.
It doesn’t seem that way anymore.
I will say this much: there ain’t no way I’m getting a vasectomy.