Couples who might well be able to cope with more kids often seem to get the heebie-jeebies from factors that have nothing to do with actually raising children. They start fretting over how many bathrooms they have or the cost of computers, orthodontia, second cars, dance lessons, and college in the year 2018.
Yet is all this assumed complication really fact? No. Nothing simplifies your life like having a baby. A new child makes it permissible to bypass the endless demands of committees, fund-raisers, sports organizations, and even the obligation to host elaborate dinner parties. What about the other siblings, cheated of precious parental attention? Well, nothing results in more attention for all the children than parents sticking close to home for a baby.
A friend once told me sorrowfully that her husband's opinion was that there was no practical reason to have a second child. When I hear such things, I bristle: There's no practical reason to have a first child. Few of us are going to pass along the family farm or count on offspring to pay our way in our dotage. But when people start talking about which family size makes the most "sense," as if a child were a sort of credential, I wonder why such types take the leap at all.
Children disorganize your life, just as they redistribute your sleep and your leisure. Having a child means experiencing selflessness in the classic sense, because your sense of self is placed behind the needs of someone else. It's relentless, and the giving, most of the time, goes one way. So why do it at all? People who have to ask, shouldn't.
The reason, as best I can make out, is a kind of madness, like falling in love. It can't be summed up in benefits and drawbacks.
Perhaps -- in the most responsible of ways, of course -- we could all stand to be just a little bit more out of control. As my husband said the night after he met me, some of the most bewitching things in his life were things he didn't plan.
And as for that baby girl, the one no one had planned for?
We named her Mia.
Contributing editor Jacquelyn Mitchard's most recent novel, A Theory of Relativity, will be published in July.