An Open Letter to Everyone Telling Me to Have a Second Child

Dear Mom, husband’s Mom, my sister’s husband’s Mom, friend of Mom from Jazzercise I barely know, other Mom at drop-off, neighbor across the street, Priest at neighbor’s baptism, friend from college, friend from work, lady at the fifth-floor reception desk at work, guy at the pizza place, security guard at the library, and whomever else this may concern:

Despite your constant questioning on the matter, I’m not having another child. I didn’t have a crazy scary birth situation. It wouldn’t be medically dangerous to do so. I didn’t just injure myself and can no longer work outside the home. We aren’t declaring bankruptcy or getting divorced. I just want one kid.

I’ve seen parts of that movie that Cameron Diaz made during her ill-advised “serious-actress” phase where she had a second kid to give the first kid an organ. Is that what you’re thinking here?

Oh, you just probably think I’m selfish. Perhaps. If being selfish involves me working hard all week to support my family. Selfish by spending hours commuting to said work, and then actually having a little bit of time to play with my son. Selfish to eat a dinner that’s not cold or consists of cut-up bits of food from his highchair tray and selfish to want to speak to my husband before my brain has 100% liquefied for the day. Then maybe so. Oh, wait, I also want to go to the gym a whole 2 days a week, see a friend or two a month and get my hair cut very rarely. Gosh darn it, us ladies can have it all – with one kid. Maybe I think I’m selfish now too.

You think he might not have anyone to play with? If he had a sibling, they might not even want to play together or be totally different kids. One could be a car kid, and the other, one of those adorably annoying creative kids who always wants to put on a play in the yard. Yeah, I’m slightly uncomfortable with Thomas the Tank Engine’s face, but still, shouldn’t I be playing with my son? I’ve heard I only have a few years of him even wanting to be around family so I feel like I need to take full advantage of all this playing and not defer the responsibility to some second imaginary sibling. I’ll even let him pick on me a little to get the feeling of being a big brother. Also, last time I checked, playing with my son was one of the great joys in life and could infuse mine with a little more meaning.

“But what about when I die?” you’re probably wondering. Yes, it is pretty selfish to not have a second child so my son has someone to help with my funeral arrangements. On the other hand, I do have his whole lifetime to instill in him, and only him, the values of friendship, the value of family and how to foster a loving, supportive relationship with a partner. I sincerely hope in the next 50 or so years he’ll pick up a little of that. Heck, if it’ll make you feel better, I’ll even get one of those life insurance policies I’ve seen advertised on daytime tv when I’m selfishly home from work taking care of my sick son. It’s probably cheaper than having a second kid, anyhow.

“Wouldn’t I love more cuteness?” you ask.   Yes, my boy is cute. He’s precious and lovely and sweet. He’s a cherub from a painting in an Italian cathedral. Only better because he’s wearing normal clothing that looks like a mini-version of a man’s clothes. I’ve heard people talk of this mold-breaking, and I think that’s probably what happened after I birthed him. I’m not really a gambling gal and I’d rather not roll the dice on that one.

“But wouldn’t you want to try for a little girl?” I know what it’s like to have a girl in the family. She’s me, and I’m sick of her. I don’t need another version. Oh, wait, I have another version – my sister – and she’s already slightly better than me. I knew her as a little kid and there are a few photos still lying around, so that satisfies that.

“Don’t you think he’ll be spoiled?” you ask? I mean, I kind of hope he is. If I have two kids, no one has a chance of getting spoiled. I’ll be too busy saving all our pennies for two college educations and breaking up knife fights in the yard. I’m still going to parent my son. That’s my job – to set limits, reward good behavior, teach him how to be a functioning adult, and how not to completely lose his mind every time he walks into the Disney store.

At the end of the day, one child is manageable for my family. And that’s what we choose. End of story. I really, really appreciate your concern but I’m going to keep on loving my one and only precious little boy and raise him exactly as I see fit.

Love and snuggles,

Danielle

P.S. Don’t say “one and done” now. It’s embarrassing.

He Wasn’t Supposed to Be A Boy

When I found out I was having a boy, I burst into tears. I opened the envelope that was in my purse all day, and read the words, “I’m a boy”.  I had an instantaneous, uncontrollable response.  I sobbed as though someone had died. It was deep and visceral, and I know it was ugly.  And in retrospect, it was horrible.  And totally wrong.

Before that day, I just knew I was having a girl.  At least I thought.  A few weeks in, the ultrasound tech actually asked if I wanted her educated guess on what I was having.  She told me that all signs point to a girl, and if she was a gambling lady, she’d put it all on female.  There was some vague scientific evidence to back that up, but I honestly didn’t hear a word after that.  I was already day-dreaming of her frilly pink nursery, her little tights and dresses, baking cookies, making scrapbooks, and all the fun pearl-wearing tea parties we’d have.

Fast forward to my 20th week appointment.  My husband wasn’t able to make it to the ultrasound that day, and this was the THE DAY – the one where we were told the gender. And no, I’m not one of those maniacs who “wanted to be surprised” because there are actually way too many surprises in life, and I’d like to get some sense of how I would be spending a huge portion of the next 18 plus years.  And that was being a mommy to a little girl; it was the only thing that made sense.

I read the word BOY and in an instant, all my mother daughter spa-day dreams were slashed before they even began.  I was doomed to a decade or two of baseball games, stinky socks, zero gossip, and one-word answers.

Moms are not supposed to cry about the gender of their children.  They’re supposed to say, “Oh, I don’t care as long as they’re healthy.”  I don’t believe anyone doesn’t care. That’s just the first thing we say to look like selfless mothers. It’s the first transition into traditional motherhood – pretending like we have zero desires of our own and are put on the Earth to raise babies.

But I wasn’t a mom quite yet.  I was carrying him around and growing him in my womb so I was still allowed to be selfish at that moment.  My husband told me to feel my feelings, get it out, and then move on.  Quickly.

In a last ditch effort, at my next appointment, I told the tech I didn’t believe her and needed to see for myself.  And yes, I saw his little baby penis floating around right up there on the screen with my own two eyes.  But by that point, it didn’t matter.  There was my baby boy, floating around in there. I was a boy mom.  There was literally nothing I could do to change this – nature makes the choice for us, we get what we get.  And now, two years later, I wouldn’t change him if I could.  It seems completely absurd that I cried over not having a daughter.

I realized that day that this was among the first of many, many, many things I would have no control over.  Life is not perfect, and now that I have a child, I know things certainly don’t always go the way that I planned.  I planned on having a girl. “Screw you, Danielle”, said the universe, “you have no control”.   However, the universe did give me something perfect – my amazing son – and I didn’t even realize at the time because I was too busy crying over the daughter I was never going to have.

A boy seemed so alien to me.  I wondered what do mothers and sons even do together.  Where do they go?  What do they talk about?  My husband pulled me out of this.  He said, “He’ll do whatever you do, he’ll just want to be with you. I went to craft fairs with my mother.”   He just wants to be with me.  Simple enough.

He’s my boy.  He loves me.  He runs to the door when I come home and when he says “mommy” it melts my heart – every single day.  I get excited to buy him dinosaurs, pirate ships, and remote controlled cars.   Because I know they’ll make him happy.  And guess what?  He makes muffins with me and we color and I know he’ll love crafts.  I helped him to hit a softball off a tee and shed a tear with pride when he made contact by himself.

I can focus on my own clothes, and “she” would have hated shopping just as much as he does.  I bet those little tights are a bitch to put on and I never liked tea parties much anyway.

Musings of a working mom

I am the wife to a stay-at-home Dad. That means not only do I have mom guilt, I have wife guilt. That’s double guilt, and it’s a lot and it results in me just thinking about them both all day long. The whole situation leaves me with a lot of questions that will never get answered.

I wonder what the living room is going to look like when I get home.

Why is this sticky?

Damn this meeting’s running late. Do you think they’ll notice if I just leave?

Why are there 12 plastic golf balls under the radiator?

How many “doctor’s appointments” have we had this past month? I’m tired and need to sleep in.

How many times has my “train been late” this past month? I’m tired and need to sleep in.

Tamara’s in from Philly for the day! I wonder if she can meet me at 7:45am, lunch from 12:15 to 12:28 (I have a 12:30), or a drink at 5:20 to 5:45. Really want to see her, but can’t miss bath time.

When did this rubber ducky get in my purse?

What are they eating for lunch? What am I eating for lunch? Wait, it’s 4:00, should I just skip lunch?

Did I actually tell my husband to turn the slow cooker on? Do I need to tell him to turn things on?

There’s a lot of playing cards around – I see one under the bed, sticking out of a desk drawer… is my two year old learning to play poker?

Are they thinking about me? Are they talking about me?

Does my husband think of me as me when I’m not there? Or just thinking about mommy not being there?

I wonder if anyone can see the Mickey Mouse racecar tattoo through my tights.

A few bits of advice to my pre baby self

No, you don’t look fat in that.  At all.  In fact, why not try a crop top?

Go buy something.  $25 bucks is not at all too much for lipstick and why not get the pricey shoes you really love? Get it all in both colors.

Never complain about being bored.  You will never not have something that needs to be done again.

Go sit at the beach. Maybe don’t even read.  Sit there, stare and do nothing – those kids on the edge of the shore are someone else’s problem.

Nah, don’t set the alarm. (unless you think there’s something charming about hearing alarms, because you’ll never need to set one again.)

Walk out of the house with nothing in your arms.

Who cares that your friend is kind of boring, and invited you out at the last minute to a place you really don’t like?  Last minute plans will vanish from your life.  There’s a chance friends might as well, at least for a while.

Just go to the Pilates class.

10 days is absolutely NOT too much time to take off of work.  And that trip to Amsterdam may seem a little steep right now, but you’d pay triple to have the opportunity to travel without a baby once you have a little baby.  Plus, you have much less luggage now.

Do not tell people how exhausted you are, especially mothers to little kids.  There will come a day when you will not sleep for a full 25 hours. And when you do go to sleep, you can only really nap because you need to feed your child.

Don’t ignore that 3 year old who is smiling and trying to get your attention from a few booths away at Panera.  It doesn’t matter that you’re trying to read the paper and pretending that the coffee is good here.  It goes a long way when you smile back.

Don’t get mad at your mommy friend who cancels at the last minute.  Her baby really is sick.  No matter what’s happening – cough, cold, fever, diarrhea – it’s awful and is disrupting her entire household.  In fact, send that friend a gift.

The only gift new parents want is food.  Send them a decent meal.

You are stronger than you know.  Every time you doubt yourself, know that you will bring something amazing into the world that you will grow, birth, love, nurture and protect.  You are a mother, and you don’t even know it yet.