When you are a newly-married couple, everybody always asks, “When are you going to have kids?”
After you’ve had your first child, the next logical question becomes, “When are you going to have your second?”
But after you’ve had a second child, the line of questioning usually takes a dramatic turn. The fun and light-heartedness is removed when people ask, “Are you guys done?”
The query is usually delivered with a much sharper tone, as if to say, “Are you guys so mentally and physically exhausted that you’ve reached the end of your rope?”
That’s the stage where my wife and I are at right now, with two daughters aged seven and four. Everything seems perfect; like we’ve got a handle on things. We went out for dinner at Swiss Chalet this week and were able to leave the restaurant with our dignity intact. It’s a far cry from our previous excursions eating out, when one of us would inevitably be covered in chalet sauce. It feels like our youngest daughter Lily has finally turned a corner and with it, so has our family.
When we go over to friends’ houses for dinner, we are no longer on the clock with a pre-determined departure time of 7p.m., so we can put the baby to sleep on time. The strollers and playpens have been ditched, along with 25 Dora and Diego DVDs. Our family is growing up – so why would we blow this whole thing up and return to a life of bottle-feedings, dirty diapers and that pesky Tico the Squirrel?
The problem is a majority of our friends have decided to have a third child in recent years. And every time they talk to us, they make it seem like it’s no big deal. They try to sell us on the idea of having another child, with a semi-creepy “Join-us-won’t-you?” plea, that makes it seem like they are part of a flesh-eating zombie cult.
The couples with three children always make it seem like the older ones are going to pitch in and help out with the new baby. Yet I find it very hard to imagine our seven-year-old daughter waking up at 3 a.m. to help with a bottle feeding. And when the baby is inexplicably screaming from 5:30 p.m. – 7 p.m. on a nightly basis, will Lily assist us in administering some Vitamin D drops? I don’t think so.
In a lot of ways, having a third child is like bombing yourself back to the stone ages. Just when you’ve settled into life with an HD-TV and PVR, you’re back to rubbing two sticks together to make fire. Terms like teething, nipple confusion and meconium – which were relegated to the nether regions of your brain, along with your eighth-grade algebra lessons – suddenly return with a vengeance. And swaddling a newborn baby in a blanket? Forget about it. I can hardly wrap a chicken tortilla these days, so there is no way I can remember how to correctly swaddle an infant child.
There are also a myriad of logistical problems that present itself with a third child as well. How do you fit three car seats – in any combination of boosters and bucket seats – across the back row of a regular vehicle? The people with three kids always claim it’s easy, but I’ve never actually witnessed them strapping their kids into the car. You can also pretty much forget about flying anywhere for a vacation, because buying five airline tickets is almost out of the question with today’s prices. And if you happen to win a trip on a game show, it’s always for a family of four. You never hear, “Tell them what they’ve won Roger. Well…the Mendes clan has won an all-inclusive trip for five to Disneyland!”
Given all of these factors, I am 99% convinced I’m done with the idea of having another child. So what’s the one percent that’s holding me back? It’s really hard to express, but I think the idea of no longer having any children makes me feel old – like a significant era in our lives has closed. It seems like only yesterday that we got married and were excited about the prospect of buying a house and startigng a family. If we’re done with that, it pretty much means those Cialis ads on television are directed at me.
We’re both in our mid-30s, so the window to have children is definitely open for a few more years. I don’t want to definitively say no to another child now – only to change my mind in 24 months. As Michael Scott once said on The Office, it’s very hard to have a vasectomy – and then have the procedure reversed.
So for now, we’re in an awkward limbo, until we make a definitive decision one way or the other. We certainly have moments where we miss having a little baby around, so we often have Lily fill that void for us.
We won’t allow her to say the word hamburger correctly, because we think it’s much more adorable when she says “hang-gerber.” We still pinch her cheeks and let her sleep in our bed at night sometimes, probably because we both really enjoy the idea of having a baby around the house.
It’s just that we don’t want to have to do all the work that goes along with it.