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Reality Check: Twice the Family, Twice the Work?

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Q. We never intended to have just one child, but our 15-month-old son is so exhausting that we don't think we have the stamina for a second. Are two twice as hard as one?

A.
Advocates of one-child families and bigger ones would agree that it's foolhardy to take on more than you can handle. Is it twice as hard to have two kids? On certain practical levels, no. You're already making dinner, doing laundry, cleaning up toys, not going to R-rated movies. But in terms of relationships, two children are much more than the sum of their parts, more like triple the work emotionally. Instead of just the parent-child dynamic, now there's also the child-child relationship -- and siblings have their ups and downs.

Of course, the trials and tribulations of siblinghood are partly why people have more than one child -- not only to give your kids the gift of sibling love but also to build character by adversity, to learn to share, to wait their turn. But this isn't the only way to learn these lessons. "Only children are no more maladjusted, selfish, or lonely than anybody else," says Toni Falbo, Ph.D., professor of educational psychology at the University of Texas. "Kids grow up with daycare buddies, neighborhood playmates, school friends, cousins -- not in isolation."

The decision to have a second child or not is never about love; there's always more than enough to go around. But you're right to consider your time and energy. You're tired now; you're not going to get less tired with a second child.

Don't do anything rash. Table the discussion and see how you feel about it when your son is a bit older. And remember, you're in a finite, albeit draining, phase right now -- your child (or children) will be less exhausting at age 5 or 7 or 9. When it's time, you'll know in your gut what the right choice is and, when you do, be at peace with it. This is the only reality your child will ever know -- she'll accept it if you do.

 

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