There’s never a good time to broach the delicate subject of trying for a second bub, according to Paul Merrill. But he discovered there are a lot of unexpected factors to weigh up before you decide…
When I casually suggested to my wife that we should think about when to have baby number two while she was convulsed in petrified agony, biting chunks out of a blanket her mum had knitted as we entered the 46th hour of epidural-less labour, she had a suggestion of her own about an alternate use for the scissors laying within her reach to cut the umbilical cord.
OK, so it had been a spectacularly ill-judged attempt at humour, but it turned out there really wasn’t ever a good time to discuss the subject.
Certainly not during the first few sleep-deprived months of colic-induced hysteria where 85 per cent of daylight hours involved sterilising bottles and removing vomit from household fabrics.
And then, when our baby boy reached his first birthday and life was beginning to return to a semblance of normality, it was a big ask to plunge back to square one for another year of hard labour.
And, anyway, did we actually want another ungrateful mouth to feed our disposable income into?
I drew up some pros and cons.
Advantages of only children
- No violent squabbling between siblings.
- Less chance of your kid being a serial killer/QAnon member/Anti-vaxxer.
- No need for bigger house in a far-off, semi-rural suburb where we can afford to buy it.
- Any personality disorders can be blamed on ‘only child syndrome’ instead of woeful parenting.
- Tidy saving on Christmas/birthday presents.
- Their inevitable imaginary friend will cut down on phone bills to actual
- Reduction in budget allocated to Tooth Fairy.
Disadvantages of only children
- Fewer offspring to change your colostomy bag in your dotage.
- If this one malfunctions, there’s no back up.
- More money spent on psychologists.
- He’ll have no one to play with, so you’ll need to bus-in friends.
- Kick abouts in the backyard less fun with only two of you (particularly if it’s a girl).
- All your friends will assume you have a low sperm count and/or impotence.
- Only a 50 per cent chance your family name will be passed down.
Hmm. At best, inconclusive.
According to a Chinese study, only children are, in fact, more creative and intelligent… but less likeable. And Texan researchers found they’re no more lonely than those in a house full of brothers and sisters, so there’s no need to feel guilty.
In the end, we decided that we would risk a second, so the next question was how long we’d wait.
I’d learnt the hard way that applying pressure to procreate before her stitches had healed was dangerous, but I also didn’t want to wait until our firstborn was half way through his PhD.
Children who are close in age
GOOD: Socks and undies interchangeable so saves money.
BAD: Two screaming ADHD kids under two is more than twice as bad as one screaming ADHD kid under two.
GOOD: They become good mates and entertain each other.
BAD: They become mortal enemies and you’re the ref.
GOOD: You get the full-on, stressful years out of the way quicker.
BAD: You may not survive the full-on, stressful years intact.
GOOD: They both become old enough to watch violent movies with you earlier, thereby cutting out the need to see Cinderella III: The Fairy Prince at Hoyts.
BAD: They conspire to work out your laptop’s password and discover those photos that much earlier.
And what about a big age gap?
GOOD: You save money as one is forced to babysit the other.
BAD: The school run lasts 25 years.
GOOD: The teachers forget how hideous your first child was by the time the second is in their class
BAD: If the three of you are seen out together, you’re mistaken for the Pops.
GOOD: The first-born can have the birds and bees talk with his younger sibling, thereby relieving you of the embarrassment.
BAD: He might be a little too graphic and leave you to answer awkward questions like ‘Why would condoms need to be flavoured?’
GOOD: You’re more likely to have fewer kids so cutting the risk of unexpected quintuplets.
BAD: If the gap’s too big, you’ll be bouncing a baby on your replacement knee.
As it was, nature took its course and No 2 kid dropped two-and-a-bit years after the first. Perhaps I’d been overthinking it.