Debate: Is having more kids easier than having just one?

Is having more kids easier than an only child? Two parents face off on the topic.

Illustration: Jessica Rae Gordon
Illustration: Jessica Rae Gordon

“No, having more kids is not easier”
Aparita Bhandari, mom of two

I’m going to be honest here: Life does not get any easier by having more kids. My husband, Rajesh, and I have two children, and we are knackered.

Originally Rajesh wanted enough children to field a cricket team. Then, for a while, he was arguing for three. (Both of us have two siblings each and have fond memories of our childhood shenanigans.)

After our daughter, Mallika, was born, I was even considering the merits of having just one — I wasn’t sure how many breaks I could take from my career. But then I decided I know one too many bratty only children. And I thought often of the family-planning slogan I used to see painted on New Delhi bus stops: Hum do, humare do, which means “us two, our two.” We decided to have just one more.

Read more: 10 signs you’re probably done having kids>

At first, it was simple. Our son, Dax, was much easier than Mallika, and I wasn’t as neurotic as I was the first time around. I knew not to panic at every single wail.

But we should have known this period of relative calm wouldn’t last long. We now have two mobile toddlers on our hands — double-trouble. If Mallika is upturning her bag of blocks at one end of the room, Dax is pulling books off the shelves at the other end. If Mallika is using crayons on all surfaces other than paper, Dax is making a mad dash toward the forbidden garbage can. As a result, Rajesh and I are usually running in opposite directions to divide and conquer. I’ve become a yeller, and Rajesh, normally the most patient human being I know, has resorted to raising his voice on the odd occasion. It feels like we’re barely managing.

I have no idea how other couples handle three, four or more kids. How do you fit everyone in a car? (There’s no way we’re joining the minivan army.) And now that both kids are growing into their separate personalities and interests, we often have to split them between us. We rarely have any time for each other.

Of course, we love both of our children dearly and don’t regret having them. But there are times we seriously question our judgment. It has become our joking refrain: Too bad we can’t return to sender. Oh, wait — that would be us.

“Yes, having more kids is easier”
Michael Ward, dad of three

Every time I’m tempted to romanticize the days when my wife and I had only one child, I remind myself of the “three Bs” — the criteria that must be met before any of our three kids canget us out of bed early on a Saturday morning. It has to be an emergency (and not of the “I can’t find the TV remote” variety). Specifically, someone should be Bleeding, Barfing or not Breathing. As long as one of them is healthy enough to climb the stairs and sound the alarm, we can sleep in, knowing that they’re looking out for each other.

Our eldest son is remarkably good at this. He’s full of 12-year-old authority and has no problem laying down the law when his eight-year-old brother and three-year-old sister get out of hand. On many mornings, we hear our little gunnery sergeant barking things like, “Do not put that in your nose!” or, “What are you doing to the dog? She doesn’t like that.”

Read more: 10 signs you’re probably not done having kids>

Not only do we get more sleep with three kids, we do a lot less manual labour. Our grandparents’ generation understood the wisdom of having a large family. While they may have had hopes and dreams for their children, they also understood that the cows were not going to milk themselves, and many hands — even little ones — make light work. I’m not saying our kids must construct a stone-by-stone backyard replica of the pyramids in my honour, but it is nice to be able to delegate tasks like washing the dishes or feeding the dog.

Back when we were contemplating having a third child, we received warnings and encouragement in equal measure. One of our friends said, simply, “You’ll be outnumbered.” We are, and it isn’t always easy. The screaming-and-physically-assaultive stage (commonly referred to as the “toddler years”) was tough. But it got better as the kids learned how to get along, and my wife and I became more efficient referees.

Of course, it’s not all work. After the last dish is cleaned and put away, these long, summer evenings are perfect for a game of pickup baseball in the backyard. With a family of five (plus the dog), we even have enough for a decent outfield. We might not always agree on which lawn chair represents first base, but we will always be a team.

A version of this article appeared in our August 2013 issue with the headline “Is having more kids easier than having just one?” p. 98.

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