It was 8 p.m. My husband was standing just outside the bathroom, supervising our 4-year-old’s tooth brushing routine. I was nearby in our just-turned-1-year-old’s room, stuffing small squirming arms and legs into a fleece sleeper. We take a man-to-man approach to bedtime in our house. In the midst of it all, my husband and I found ourselves once again discussing a question that has floated in our minds for the past year.
Are we going to have another baby?
One year ago, at the time I wrote my maiden post for Mumbling Mommy, we were in a much different place. I talked about adjusting to life with a newborn and a preschooler. I observed how I couldn’t sit down to nurse the baby without my 3-year-old hollering from the potty for me to come wipe her bottom. Housework was on hold, which meant no one was sweeping under our dining room table, and I learned how painful it can be to step on a chunk of fossilized play dough left out too long. But we had a sweet new baby.
We have come a long way in the past year. My youngest is a bright, active toddler. My oldest will be 5 in a few months. We’re focused on more than simply surviving each day. Boxes of outgrown baby clothes sit in a corner of the basement next to the bouncy seat and bassinet, all obsolete. Do I start selling and giving these items away, or do I hold onto them for one more baby?
The question has always been simple for my husband. He’s fine with two children. His reasons for two make sense. We live on his teacher’s income alone. We can fit two children into our budget.
More importantly, my husband points out that he and I are introverts. This does not mean we don’t talk to people or ever go out, and we are not socially inept. It does mean that we draw our strength from solitude. We’ll do just fine for a while in a noisy room full of people, and we will even have fun, but after a while we’re ready to go home. With our daughters, as much as we love them, we still need some quiet moments in order to be good parents.
My husband is the oldest of four children in his own family. He recalls how stressed his mother could at times be back in the day, and he feels no compulsion to try to have four children of his own. I was rarely stressed in the days when we had one child, but it happens more often with two.
Yet the question is not an easy one for me to answer. I am the oldest in a family of three children. I sometimes feel pressure to be a parent of three like my own parents are, especially because my husband and I have two daughters. Relatives swoon over the idea of having another little one – maybe a boy! – to dote over. Subconsciously, a little voice tells me I might be less of a parent if I only have two children.
On a personal level, I am somewhat saddened by the idea that I may never be pregnant again. Despite some of the aches and annoyances of pregnancy, and the worries over whether my babies would be healthy, I loved being pregnant with both of my girls and feeling life growing and moving inside me. There also is something exhausting but enchanting about those early weeks and months after the birth of a baby. Yet, with the birth of every additional child, parents have less time to enjoy the baby stage because they’re busy caring for older children. It’s an indulgent desire that can’t truly be satisfied. Time gets divided among all the children.
This fall, my oldest daughter woke up one morning and waited patiently while I nursed and changed the baby before I made her own breakfast.
“Are you going to have another baby?” She asked.
“I don’t know,” I said. “Do you want us to have another one?”
“No,” she said. “Because then you couldn’t take care of us.”
I suddenly felt bad about every time I’ve ever spoken irritably toward her because my introverted self was worn down and needed recharging time. Probably, though, she was just noting how long she had to wait for her peanut butter toast. There are other days when she does ask for another baby.
My husband is right. Given our personalities, we are best suited to smaller families rather than larger. I’ll hang onto the baby stuff for a while, though. Just in case.
Right now, two is a good number for us, and it means we aren’t outnumbered at bedtime!
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