Are you having another one?
You know what that means when someone asks you that soon after you’ve had your first child. When is the second one coming? It’s as though it’s a given. Make one, and you are on auto-pilot to make the second. The funny thing is, anyone can ask you that. Anyone. Known. Unknown. Family. Friends. Strangers. If people were politically correct in not asking you the first time, now it’s free for all. You’ve got the meter ticking. You did it once. You may as well do it again.
The first time it hit me is when the ob-gyn asked me that on my customary 40 day visit. What? He couldn’t be serious, I thought. I have barely recovered. But then I figured, he has to get on with the program; the more babies made, the more he stays in business.
We were in Goa last month, lounging on hammocks, enjoying the sea, sun and sand when the owner of the resort got chatty. All it takes to chat with people with kids is people with kids. So he goes, “Don’t take this the wrong way, but try and have the second one as soon as possible. It’s better to finish it all off in one go.
“My son is two years and my daughter is two months,” he said proudly. “Now we are set.” He was thrilled he had managed his family logistics so well.
My yoga buddy Shraddha said, “Don’t waste time. Just have the second one quickly. Within a few years, you will be done with both, and they will look after each other.”
Is one ever done?
It is as though the second baby is going to grant you an exemption from certain duties. Almost like a ‘buy one get one free.’
Never say never, said one.
Best to finish with diapers in one go, said another.
When they grow old, they will have each other, said a third.
Yes, but friends are the new family, right? I said.
It’s never the same, they said.
Two seems like a picture perfect household. Two of you, two kids, two bedrooms, two cars…it sort of balances it out. Creates symmetry. Makes good pictures.
I have had many friends who bore the ‘only child’ tag, but are perfectly warm, affectionate and caring people. I have also known enough people with siblings who are mean and spiteful. So that theory doesn’t work for me. Merely having multiple kids does not ensure you make good human beings.
I laud women who have two and three and four babies. It’s just that I know I won’t be one of them. I don’t think I’ll be ready for another child for at least four years, and by then it will be too late, so I am willing to let that go.
I get it. It’s logistics. Things can be handed down. Baby cots, car seats, baby clothes, prams, baby monitors, Baby Bjorns are expensive. If you’ve invested in stuff, it might as well live its money’s worth. My friend Sheetal said (I hope in jest), “Well if I have three, may be it will be worth it.”
Then people say, “Oh, they will just play with each other and leave you alone. You can do more holidays, outings, they will look out for each other in school…they can share books, toys, everything.”
Most of the mommies I know who are just about grappling with the first one are planning No. 2. They think they are in the zone, so they might as well, and besides, time will run out.
Another friend who had a baby when her first one was just 18 months old explained how she managed. “I just look after the older one. The younger one manages somehow. All they need is to be fed and changed anyway.”
I just didn’t think it worked that way.
Then there is the sibling=sharing angle. The husband’s best friend (who incidentally doesn’t have kids), said, “What do you mean you won’t have another one? You must, for his sake. Siblings are really important. You learn the value of sharing, caring, compassion, so many things. My sister was my best friend.”
It was the first time I learnt he had a sister.
He also made the ‘only child’ sound like a convoluted human being, devoid of social skills, compassion, kindness.
I am the eldest of three and the husband is the third-born of four. We both dig our siblings (for the most part) and can’t imagine our lives without them. But that doesn’t mean I believe that the only way a child can learn compassion or sharing is through siblings. I have just one cousin, K, who is an only child (the rest are in twos and threes), and he is one of the most balanced, loving and centred people I know. Every time I think of Re turning into a loner, I think of him.
I get that look. The look that says, “How can she be so self-centred? What about the child?”
When I had Re, we already had two cats. Technically, Nadia was the first born and Bravo, the second born. Which makes Re at 18 months, the youngest of three siblings. So every advantage that one can have from siblings, he has it. They play together. They chase and trip each other. They look after each other. They play pranks. They kiss, cuddle. They share toys, space, us. They communicate. They compete. The only thing they don’t do is go on holidays together. Or wear hand-me-downs.
It works for me. It works for the husband. It works for Re. It works for the cats.
Yes, I have one child, but we are a family of five, as the husband says. We have a full-house and are currently fighting to share our quilt.
To each, her own.