Saturday, April 3, 2010

Two is better than one

No, I haven't turned into a Taylor Swift fan overnight. Though I have been caught singing along to this rather catchy little country ballad, my music taste having deteriorated horribly as I have grown older.

I'm talking about kids, and the advantages of having more than one. I was talking this week with one of the women in my group at work, the mother of a four year old girl. We were pregnant at the same time, and while I have subsequently added Geekyboy to our family, she and her husband are still debating whether or not to have another. My friend is an only child herself, and worries that it will damage the close relationship she cherishes with her daughter to add another baby, and then on the other hand she also worries that she yells too much and is generally not a good enough mum as it is, so why have another. I think many of us have these same qualms.

We also talked about the impact of kids on our careers. Feminist author Linda Hirshman, in her thought provoking book "Get to work", exhorts women to have just one child if they wish not to derail their career ascent, but though I consider myself quite devoted to my own career I still wanted very badly to have two children. Of course many people would love to have more than one and can't, and I'm so grateful that we were in a position even to choose. What I'm getting at in this post is that if there is a decision to be made, I come down firmly on the side of having a second child (or more; if you have the energy, more power to you!)

I think that the weight of becoming a mum bears down on us so much with the first child, and that a second lightens the emotional load.  With Geekygirl I analyzed everything, second guessed myself all the time, read so many books containing so many different opinions that I was always convinced I was doing something wrong.

For example, Geekygirl would often run away from me when I came to pick her up from her daycare, engaging me in a game of chase, making me work to get back into her affections. She was reluctant to be left with her grandparents when they visited, and was generally rather clingy, so having read all the attachment parenting books but not having put much of the philosophy into practice, I worried that my daughter was suffering from some kind of 'attachment disorder' because I sent her to daycare.

On the other had she was a wonderful sleeper, one of those mythical babies who slept through the night from about 8 weeks old (I wonder how many potential mum friends I lost by innocently sharing this information). I secretly thought that this quality was something I had instilled in her by following the strategies in my books of swaddling, nursing and rocking but always putting her down drowsy but awake.

Then I had Geekybaby. Since he first learned to self propel,  using a commando like crawl, he has only ever moved towards me. At the moment when I pick him up, he runs to me, breaking into an excited gallop, calling "muh meee, muh mee" with a joy and enthusiasm that fills my heart. He loves to meet new people, happily crawls onto laps and brings stories to strangers to read. Not a clinger at all.

Sleeping, however was a different story. He didn't sleep though until he was a year old, no matter how many sleep books I imbibed. I"m pretty much the same mum, but he is a completely different kid.

Having two is both humbling; everything you thought you were doing 'right' with the first child is revealed to be perhaps just a chance of their nature, but also reassuring for the same reason; the traits you feared were a result of some defect in your parenting are shown instead to be part of that child's intrinsic personality.

You also get to hear such gems as "Mummy, I wish I had a brother who would listen to me".