Two’s Company

There are times that I write because I have to, whether anyone is reading or not. My last post is included in this category.

And then there are times that I write because I have to and then, God bless the blogworld, get so more so much more in return than merely the weight of the imperfect parenting lifestyle off my chest. Like wisdom from women generous and brave enough to share their own thoughts and deepest fears with someone they’ve never even met. And advice from real live therapists. Free! Also, the happy, happy delurking comments (Ashley! Happy_Housewife!) which to a blogger is surely the emotional equivalent of a woman believing she turned a hot gay man straight.

I read every comment four hundred times over and appreciated every one of them.

Well, except one. Which referred to the idea of being glad at stopping at one kid.

I’m sure it was intended to be cheekier or more introspective than it came across, but had the unfortunate effect of making me curl my lips inward in the way that I’ve been told I do when I don’t like something I hear. Not because she questioned my choice, but because my superhero power of empathy kicked in. I imagined good friends, offline and online who are currently in the freakout stage of holy shit I’m breeding again, reading that comment and wincing.

And because that concern was in my head, even as I wrote the post, I want to take it on directly.

It’s amazing how guilt works. Someone once said it was the most useless of all the emotions. Okay, it was New Order. But I some researchy types have said it too. Guilt achieves nothing, it’s an evolutionary flaw. It doesn’t really indicate a higher morality or stronger sense of virtue or more self-awareness; truly I think I could have all those things without the accompanying nausea and weepiness and Haagen Dazs binges.

So then I feel guilty for feeling guilty. Which doesn’t in fact cancel out the emotion in a double negative sort of way
But – and this is essential – guilt is not the same as regret.

I don’t for a minute regret having Sage, even if I’m still reconciling how to be the best mother I can to her. Even if I feel bad that my attention starved toddler doesn’t get me at her beck and call any longer. To anyone in second child freak out mode, hear this now.

(Or forget me – hear those out there with three kids, or a third on the way. Hell, ask my friend with seven kids, who does it so masterfully, she makes my concerns look absolutely absurd.)

I don’t want to evangelize my own choices; I could have just as easily been the the mom who stopped at one. Or as I’ve mentioned, the single career woman who would never have employed her uterus at all, had Nate not come along and swept me off his feet, what with his no money and his squatter apartment on Avenue C with the fruit flies in the sink and the the putrid couch salvaged from a street corner in the rain.

I can put myself in nearly anyone else’s shoes and come up with a perfectly excellent rationale for whatever choices they’ve made. It’s a blessing and a curse. (And sometimes keeps me from ordering quickly at restaurants.)

But for those of you wondering whether you take the plunge into the world of multiple kids, I can only tell you this:

There are things about it that are hard. Of course. Guilt is just the beginning.

But if you think you love your first child now, then seeing her sweetly kiss her baby sibling on the head, or proudly introduce her at the playground, or scurry into your bedroom practically upending a chair on the way simply to exclaim SHE’S CLAPPING, MOMMY! SHE’S CLAPPING! Well, those things will make you fall in love that first child even deeper than you ever thought possible.

I think I’ve given them both an amazing gift: Each other.

You all reminded me of that this week. Thank you.

This is why we do it.


52 thoughts on “Two’s Company”

  1. It’s a gift I wish that we had been able to give PunditGirl, but couldn’t for a variety of reasons. Sure, she has stepsisters, but they’re all grown up. Not, at age 8, she wonders — where is her little sister (she never contemplates a little brother!). And I’m sad that as Mr. PunditMom & I eventually sit on the rockers at the nursing home and gum our oatmeal, she won’t have a sibling closer to her age to lean on. 🙁

  2. Thank you for this. We will soon be embarking on trying to conceive #2, and I’ve been nervous. This is what I needed to hear. I think I will be rereading this post often.

  3. Delurking hot gay man here. No, actually I’m a mom with three kids (8, 6 and 3) delurking to say that I think you hit it on the head at the end of this post. I feel that siblings are a gift we give to our children. They learn sharing, empathy, love and how to handle another point of view. Sage will be richer for her time with Thalia, and she’ll learn things from her you would have never been able to teach her even with hours of alone time.Sage’s experience of the world isn’t less than Thalia’s was. It’s just different. And although I do understand why people can decide to stop at one child (I too have a hard time ordering at restaurants), watching my kids be kind to each other (sometimes), negotiate with each other (frequently) and even scream at each other (constantly, it seems) reminds me that the madness and chaos is all worth while. Krista

  4. At approx 6 weeks away from having #2 , I did need to hear this. It’s the thing I’ve been telling myself all along, of course, but you can’t always keep the lingering doubts from creeping in. Thanks for the sentimental moment.

  5. SPOT on. My boys (now 10 & 12) love watching old home movies of the younger one’s first weeks. The older was so gentle and tender with him it makes my ovaries ache.

  6. My wife teases me because when we think about having a second (or adopting 12 of them) and we wonder how we can make room when our daughter is everything to us, I always say “But I have so much love in my heart!” to which she replies “You’re such a girl. Man up dude.” After I put my panties away I consider the conflicting feelings I have. I have premonitions of guilt, but I think if your love balances out your guilt you are doing just fine.And I really do have so much love in my heart.

  7. Of course!I have 2 daughters and 2 stepsons and the most amazing things happen when they are all 4 together. There’s no doubt in my mind that we all are richer for it.And guilt? I was raised by an ex-Catholic nun. It doesn’t get anymore guilt ridden than that, sister 😉

  8. Part of the reason I have four and not three is that I have amazing memories of my big happy crazy family, of which I am the oldest of 7 cousins, but we’re all pretty close in age, all being together and our relationships. We wanted that for our kids, and lack enough siblings willing to have children to make it happen. So we had more. Their relationships with one another are incredible, and every time I get a glimpse into their world, when my oldest son makes is having “girl trouble” (well, as much as you can at 6) and says to me, “too bad you can’t get married to your sister” or when I see the oldest one reading books to her siblings, or see them open up and share their most prized possessions instead of fighting over them, I am overwhelmed with the feeling of how incredibly blessed, or lucky, or whathaveyou, we are. All six of us.Well said, Liz.

  9. It’s amazing how there’s always guilt no matter what we end up doing, isn’t it? I’m 39 and circumstances dictate that my 3-year-old is probably going to be my only. I have a ton of guilt about this for my daughter’s sake, because we don’t have a large extended family. I fear she will be lonely. I think I will continue to struggle with this as she grows up, always trying to arrange enough play dates, etc. No matter what the situation there will always be something that could be made better, I suppose. The important thing is what we do with the opportunities we’re given to help our kids make the most out of their lives.

  10. I’m 11 1/2 weeks pregnant with baby #2, and just barely caught the elevator door today before my nearly two year old was whisked away to who-knows-what floor. “My God,” I thought,”how the hell am I going to keep tabs on two of them?”But you’re right. As the oldest of four, I have to remember how my friendships with my siblings (particularly my closest brother) continue to enrich my life. This second child will definitely get less attention, but even more love.

  11. Absolutely. I can’t imagine how my kids would be without each other. They look for each other first thing in the morning. They hug each other goodbye at preschool. It’s amazing to watch them love each other.

  12. I used to not really do guilt. Then I became a mom. Now I feel guilty most of the time. I think it just goes with the territory. For moms, I think, it’s natural to worry whether we’re doing the right things, and if we’re doing enough or too much, or not doing something we should be doing. It’s important, after all – this raising people. And it’s true what you said in your last post… that every child is different and so, naturally our relationship with each child will be different – not better, or worse – just different.

  13. As a woman pregnant with her second, I loved this post. I do sometimes worry about how I will pay attention to two kids equally (and I know I won’t always be able to to) or love two kids as much as I love my first but I know, deep down inside, that I will find a way and we will ALL find a way as a family to rejig the puzzle pieces of our hearts to fit each other in.

  14. I concur with Reluctant Housewife — Guilt wasn’t even born in my life until my kids were. It was birthed at the same time as Worry (like twins! or even triplets, because there was, like, a baby there as well).

  15. I went through this when I found out I was pregnant (CAN YOU SAY SURPRISE BABY??) two years ago. My daughter at the time was 7 and SHE was the baby in the family, having two older brothers. I was so worried that she’d resent a new arrival, and that HER place in the family would be upturned. Nine months of guilt and barfing later, we found that all three kids couldn’t have been happier to have their new sister in the house. I’ve never seen the boys be more nurturing with their littlest sister and my older daughter LOVES this baby more then anything else in the world. It really makes every day that much more special to see how are big, busy, crazy family works.Beautiful pic!

  16. I also thought I was glad when we made the decision to stop at one child…. until we had another that is. I’m sorry that the one comment in the sea of others was what made you stop in your tracks and spell this all out for yourself. I really hope that this has all cleared your head of the matter. They’re BOTH here- you love BOTH of them and they love BOTH of each other and BOTH of you…enough said- you have a happy little family and that is just lovely.

  17. “I think I’ve given them both an amazing gift: Each other.”This made my big ol’ pregnant self cry. And be happy that we decided to have another baby.

  18. My very first thought, when they pulled child #1 from me and I saw her on the table getting all cleaned up was, “Holy cow, someday I’m going to make that little baby have to be a big sister. How can I do that to her?”It was a bizarre, out-of-nowhere thought based in pure I-must-give-this-child-everything love. And then I did make her a big sister. And I realized that I hadn’t taken a single thing from her. She loves her role. She loves her baby brother. She loves her family. (She has also noted that three kids would be too many for two parents. If there are three kids, there should be three parents. I have come to agree.)This is not to cause any guilt for any families with one kid. But it doesn’t have to be zero-sum.

  19. Dammit! Now I’m crying again.We could have easily stopped at one, and almost did. But the guilt got to me and for once in my selfish life I am very glad it did.Unnecessary or not, that guilt stuff comes in handy sometimes.

  20. yup, this made me cry too. You are so right. There is nothing more heartwarming than seeing my boys play together. I know that they will always have each other and hope/pray that they grow up to be best of friends. having more than one is definitely hard, but well worth it!

  21. I have five kids. I have beautiful memories of the day each of them were born (3) or adopted (2). Despite those powerful memories, none of them actually top the joy and excitement I felt when my baby brother was born when I was 11-years-old. I still remember with crystal clear accuracy the moment my dad walked into the waiting room, clapped his hands and announced “It’s a great big boy!” I thought my heart would explode. So there you go, more support for the importance of siblings.

  22. I am the mother of one and may always be the mother of just one because I don’t know if we can afford another which is the saddest, stupidest reason of them all.I love my daughter to distraction and cannot imagine this again, but I want another one because my brother still gets excited for me when I clap my hands. And I’m 35, he’s 38. Who else would clap when I clap except him???

  23. It’s posts like this one that make me look forward to the day when I can be a mother. Soon! We’ll try soon.< HREF="" REL="nofollow">Assertagirl<>

  24. I’m a mom of four. It’s odd, the reactions I sometimes get from other people. One co-worker, (while I was pregnant with my fourth) went as far as to say “Four kids? Geez! Glad I’m not you!” I looked her dead in the eye and said “Me too!” Sure it’s hard. But since when was anything worth doing ever easy?Beautiful post. You need to stop making me cry!

  25. A-freaking-men! Having our 2nd 7 short months ago, our 8 year old loves her so much. He is so selfless when it comes to his baby sister. It took us almost 7 years to conceive her, she was waiting to join us at the right time. I can’t tell you the joy it brings to see her face light up when big brother enters the room. Amazing. Thanks for the great post!

  26. The first few months of my 2nd sons life I felt so guilty I had to constantly repeat to myself “I am not the one who created siblings, most of the world has them.” Now at 2 and 4 my boys are closer to each other than any friend and have a relationship my husband and I couldn’t possibly duplicate. They are always together, and when separated they immediately ask for the other. Our favorite thing to do is eavesdrop from the next room as they have each other in hysterics over jokes that only siblings could understand.

  27. I’m glad you did a follow up on this one. All the “phew thank god i stopped at one” comments were baffling. Not because I don’t know where they are coming from, but really, they missed the entire point of the post.The guilt is sooooo heavily outweighed by the joy of seeing your two kids together. Be they hugging or biting. Each other. And you.

  28. This makes my heart melt. And it’s just what Scott Hamilton said in last week’s People magazine (I know, legit source): You have the first kid for you and the second for the first. I thought that was an amazing way to look at it. Now I just gotta get on having #2!

  29. Looking forward to experiencing those moments myself. Our #2 just arrived Friday and so far, it’s been wonderful. I was pleasantly surprised that our 20 month old was trying to share, a bit roughly mind you, but it’s the thought that counts. He’s still learning the meaning of gentle. BTW, thanks for the great posting so I have something to read at 3 am nursing times!!

  30. That comment about Nate is killing me. Let me hope you spent most of your dating nights together at your place?I think it is normal to wonder ‘what if’ when it comes to your final number of kids. But, there are pros and cons for those with 1 or 10, and everyone in between. Far more important is for kids to have parents (or a parent) who shows them that very presence has changed their world for the better.

  31. I am 46 and my mom just recently apologized to me because my baby book was practically empty. I was the 6th kid!! I understood, but she still feels guilty. Some things never change, I guess.

  32. Well, now I feel pretty awful, since my comment used the “stopped at one” language. I only intended it to reflect that I can’t understand your feelings from the mom’s perspective because I only have the one. For a number of personal reasons, none of which have anything to do with thinking having more kids is a bad choice. My apologies if anyone was offended.

  33. I was an only child and grew up feeling deprived because of it. When I was little, every year on my birthday I blew out the candle after wishing for a sister or brother. My mother had to have a hysterectomy at an early age, so it was unavoidable. And I totally understand if people choose to only have one. I had two because I wanted my daughter to have what I never did. A sibling. Someone to share her childhood with. To this day, I still long to have that experience. In my opinion, the pros of having two outweigh the cons by far.

  34. Mir, HAHAHA! I linked you for something else and then when my stupid blogger went all wonky and I had to link through html…I messed up.I mean, um, congrats! You have a child you never knew about from the war. Exciting.

  35. The guilt was so heavy for me the first couple of months, because I could see Cordy acting out as a result of this new being who had invaded her space. But all of it washed away the first time she hugged Mira and I saw how happy they both were together. I was an only child, so I didn’t get to know that kind of love. Sure, I don’t have as much time for each of them individually, but they also have each other now. And that makes it worth it.

  36. …be fruitful and multiply…That’s my code. I have a 16 year old (nearly 17) a two year old and a one year old. My last two are only 14 months apart. It is hard, in some ways (like going to the grocery store-and not having room for actual groceries) but in most ways, it is amazingly wonderful. They adore each other, play together, seem lost withouth eachother and it warms my heart to know they will be in school together, and grow up together and will always have each other to depend on.(what a run-on) I think it is a great blessing to give a child a sibling, if that is what you choose. Besides, bathtime is MUCH more fun with two toddlers splashing you in the face instead of just one!Sadly, I made the choice to have my tubes tied, when I was miserably pregnant. Sometimes I regret it, sometimes I SO don’t. GOD BLESS your friend who has 7, holy moly!

  37. I know how you feel……. my son loves his little brother, too, and it’s amazing sight to watch them growing together! They click so well together. And everyone thought he would be jealous….. haha.

  38. Oh. My. Goodness. I sorely hope that I’m not the offending commenter, but I really think that I am. I’m so very sorry.When I wrote my original comment, I meant to be funny and sarcastic. To have or not to have a second child is something that’s heavily on my mind right now, as a lot of my girlfriends are becoming pregnant with baby #2. My husband and I have (for the moment) agreed that #1 is going to be an only, but I am very conflicted about it. I really do think that Sage will thank you for the wonderful job you’ve done. My 25 years comment was referring to the fact that teenagers are so stereotypically difficult and not thankful for anything. Sometimes, we are in adulthood before we realize the wonderful things that our parents do for us.The second part of my comment, being thankful for sticking with our decision to have an only was entirely introspective (and probably should have remained so). I, like most moms, have an incredible amount of guilt. I only meant by that that I’m glad this is one thing I don’t have to worry about, especially since I already worry that she’s going to be lonely or spoiled or cheated in some other way because of her lack of siblings.Again, I am so sorry. I did not intend to hurt your feelings or make you feel attacked.

  39. Tara, as a great knight once said, “It’s just a flesh wound.”We’re all in this guilt thing, this second-guessing ourselves thing, this touchy over-sensitive thing together, no matter how many kids we have.No harm no foul. And thanks.

  40. Two bits of motherly advice I’ve given and gotten:1) All mothers have The Scarlet Letter emblazoned on their foreheads. A “G” for GUILT. We’re guilty when we stay home with our kids and not working or <>using our degrees!<> or we’re guilty for working long hours away from our children.and this one is expressly from me to you and all my pigment-challenged friends:2) You white girls crack me up <>planning your children and shit<>.Cuz you know ALL mine were “surprises”.xoxo

  41. You’ve nailed it all. Laid it all out there, just as it is. It’s almost nearly impossible for the mother of two or three or four or etc… to not have that guilt, that “are they getting as much as the first” guilt. And in my opinion, that guilt only shows just how much love you have for the second. Becuase really, it shows that you care so much. You mean well. And you know, so what if the second spends just a wee more time in the high chair, I guarantee that if you think about it the second gets benefits of you that the first never got. From reading your blog, there is no way I would ever question your love for either of your children and that’s all they need. Just you, a hug here, a kiss there. Cause there are children out there, ONLY CHILDREN (like myself) that NEVER got that. Anyway, I felt particularly touched by this post and the previous because I too have two children, close in age to yours and I often think about whether or not I’m giving my attention to one more than the other. But you are so right about a giving them each other as a special gift. And when Sage is a little older and your girls are actually playing TOGETHER (which mine have started doing) it will make your heart just melt and you will see even more why you’ve had more than one child!!!

  42. Since both you and I brought our mothers to BlogHer ’07, I think you know how I feel about mine. She hung the moon, the stars and I still call her when I have a hangnail. Which is, you know, daily.At the same time, it’s my sisters who have saved my life a couple of times when I hit rock bottom. Literally. The bail-me-out-of-jail-free cards are all held by them. And in return I follow them around like a puppydog whenever they are in town. By the way…I’m the oldest. But there’s a point at which the oldest is no longer covered with divine right. She stops being bossy numero uno and realizes that she is the luckiest woman alive to have built-in best friends, a posse of her own, with DNA benefits and jewelry-borrowing privileges.And you know what? That makes me love my own mother even more. Here’s a book that I recommend for your girls’ bookshelf: < HREF="" REL="nofollow">Big sister, little sister<>.Now go get ’em, mama.

  43. My second son is nine days old today. Thank you for this pair of posts – the amount of extra love generated by our children is truly a gift.

  44. I am so glad that your comments on this post are still open. I can't tell you how many times I have thought about this post over the last three years. (Many, many more than you have, I am certain.) There were so many reasons for which I am grateful, but I want to say thank you for calling me out.

    Even though my husband and I made the decision to stop at one, we had a little surprise last spring that turned out to be a 6 pound surprise in late December.

    And now I get it.

    I understand the point of your original post. I know well the heartache and the guilt and the struggle to keep your head above water while mothering two small children and still finding time to bathe and feed yourself. Fortunately, I also understand the enormous admiration of a big sister. I don't understand how I have more than twice the love I had before, but I'm okay with not knowing.

    I get it. I just wanted to tell you.

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