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Should we have a second baby?

We have the help we need. Money is not a problem But will a second child upset our exquisite balance?


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Cary Tennis
August 9, 2013 4:00AM (UTC)

Dear Reader,

Over the past year or so, Salon has increased the speed and volume of stories published on the cover; as a result this column can sometimes be hard to find there. So if you want to easily find the column, I suggest you please bookmark this URL: http://www.salon.com/topic/since_you_asked/. Then you can easily find the column every day, and also catch up on prior columns when you have the time. Hope this helps. -- ct

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Hi Cary,

I was attempting to pillage your prior advice to those in a similar situation to me, but without luck. I did get a lot of "Cary-time" anyway, so that was a pleasure -- thanks for all you do to help people see many perspectives, and come out of their challenge enlightened.

My question is pretty basic: I don't know if my husband and I should have another child.

Some background: I'm a 37-year-old human resources director for a high-tech firm. For the last five years, I've been married to a VP from the same firm and we have one daughter, 20 months old.

My husband is 51 and looking forward to retirement. His job brought us to Hong Kong, where we've been expats for the last three years. After being told in the U.S. that I'd "never carry my own child" I found a doctor who specializes in fertility in Hong Kong, and a year after we arrived, I had our daughter via in vitro fertilization. Parenthood has been tough; adjusting to the schedule of a working expat means many early and late calls with U.S.-based counterparts.

But any professional has scheduling challenges, right? I feel the toughest part is behind us -- we're improving as the days and weeks progress. Our baby is getting older, she's talking, exploring and sleeping regularly. She's a "good baby" from what I gather. She's been on eight international trips so far, and she's been a rock star on planes. She's just a sweetheart, I don't know how else to sum it up. I look at her and think: She needs a sibling! Rationally, I know no two kids are the same, but she's been such a dream I want to kick myself for not trying immediately. Also, I have sibling envy. One of four children, I am third in line. My brother and sister are six and seven years older, and my brother five years younger. My older brother and sister have a bond none of the rest of us share. We didn't really play all that much together. (Conversely, my husband has a brother one year older and can't stand him, so there goes my theory ...)

Childcare and money are of zero concern. We have two live-in helpers, one housekeeper and one baby sitter, to assist us with everything we could need. If we stopped working tomorrow, we'd already be fine. I also feel I've achieved what I wanted in my own career. I've made it further than I ever thought I would, and I started a family later in life so I could do so. My mother, who died a few days before my daughter was born, was incredibly bright, but also seemed unfulfilled in her life as a full-time mom. I know I went for the career route because I didn't want to be like her. But also I sense that motherhood means more to me than the big office and stress and long hours. And shouldn't it?

Overall, we've found balance since our daughter was born. As I noted, it was tricky at first, but we've organized, prioritized and changed into a toddler family. I also have a sneaking feeling I'm being selfish in that this second kid would ruin what we've got already worked out, even though it's totally short term. My husband wants to decide soon -- "Let's get on with it," he says, and he doesn't want to drag it out much longer (see: 51 years old). I get it. We have all the resources we would need. We have the medical assistance to do it. So why am I struggling with having another child?

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Please advise -

Torn, Selfish Mummy

Dear Torn, Selfish Mummy,

I think you are struggling with having another child because you realize a second pregnancy and second child will change the balance you have achieved. It won't be just more of the same great stuff. The second child won't be a clone of the first. Getting pregnant a second time might not be as easy. You're dealing with uncertainty.

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So to my mind, the central, deepest question is, are you driven by a deep enough desire to have another child that you are willing to give up more control? You've already given up some control, and you've found balance. Are you willing to give up more control, and possibly not find this exquisite balance again? It's natural, if you have a great experience, to want to repeat it. So it's important to realize that this won't be a repeat experience. Each child is unique.

So that's the central question: Are you ready for more change?

Also: Do you want to leave your job? Is that what's going on here, at some level? Could you be looking for a way out of the job? Ask yourself that question. Because if you do want to leave your job, it may be best to plan your exit while you still have your current situation under control. Unconsciously, we sometimes orchestrate events to make a change seem "advisable" or "inevitable." But it's best to know what your true motivations are.

Those are the questions I suggest you focus on. That's my two cents. Good luck, and congratulations on having a baby who loves to fly.


Cary Tennis

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