Thursday 18 January 2018

Can I convince my wife to have another baby?

My wife and I have one child and I would really like to have another. She has just turned 40.

Our son is four years old and before he was born we always said we would have at least one other child. Since then time has passed by very quickly and I guess it took us longer than we expected to get accustomed to life as parents. His birth was a difficult one. I suspect I found the change of lifestyle a little easier than my wife because I was never a great one for going out and just love spending time with him.

Now I can see that he sometimes gets lonely. He spends so much time around adults that everyone agrees he is quite advanced for his age. We had him in a creche from a young age so he is very open and friendly but I think a brother or sister would be good for him. He is also very spoilt.

I was an only child and was always very conscious of it growing up. I think it takes much longer just to muck in with friends and not feel self-conscious. I have mentioned it casually to my wife a few times but she hasn't really engaged in the subject.

We used to dream about having a big family but now nothing is said. Recently she went for a promotion in her job, which I was very supportive of and now that she got it, I realise it will mean more time at work for not much extra pay.

She has always loved her job but I think if we are to have another child, we need to do so now. If I could have the child I would, but I think we need a little more scientific advancement for that to happen. I don't want to resent my wife for not having another child but when I look at my son playing on his own, I think I already might.

I know my sister pressured her husband into agreeing to have a third child. Is it fair for a man to pressurise his wife into doing the same?

Interesting question. The natural answer is that it's not right for either gender to pressurise the other to have kids. You're asking for trouble if you end up having a child that half the partnership never wanted.

However, what you do need to do is figure out why your wife has gone cold on the idea of becoming a parent again. Sorry to say that despite our desire for parental equality, pressurising a woman to have a baby is still very different from persuading a man to do so. Long-term though it's a full-time commitment that needs both parties completely on board.

There's lots of psychology out there about the impact of being an only child and plenty of stereotyping too. Growing up in a large family, we tended to feel sorry for the only child who supposedly had nobody to play with. The reality most likely was that the child was having a great time of it.

After all, in a large family you fight to attract parents' attention. As the youngest of a big brood, I got plenty of hand-me-down clothes, from four boys, and was always envious of the only-girls who had wardrobes of new clothes all to themselves. Did it make me more empathetic? Perhaps. Did it make me less demanding? Not if you ask my family. When you grow up among siblings, half the time you are playing, the other half you are fighting. Most of us spent a lot more time fighting with our siblings than we ever did with our young friends. The important characteristic that an only child needs to develop is their ability to build friendships and maintain them. According to you, your son has already managed successfully to do this. There have been a series of studies conducted into the impact of life as an only child but many seem to indicate that as the child reaches their teenage years, there is little to differentiate them from a child of a large family. A US study of 13,500 children in 100 different American schools a couple of years ago found that only children who may have shown a slight social deficit in kindergarten were well socialised by the time they reached adolescence.

There are plenty of positive characteristics too associated with the only child. Similar to the eldest in a family, many are thought to be high achievers. It's us younger ones who tend to rebel and be brats.

It's easy to dream about what your family will look like when you are a childless couple contemplating the future. The arrival of a baby as you know well can change your life completely. There is no doubt some people are more naturally inclined to the life of parenting. The reduction or disappearance of a social life has little impact on some parents. For others it can feel exhausting and isolating. Neither defines who is a better child-rearer. As an extroverted personality, she may find it lonely not to have lots of friends around or an active nightlife if that's what she's used to. Adapting to motherhood takes time too. With a difficult birth, it may be that your wife did not want to revisit the prospect of labour for a while. Although there's little doubt she must be aware of the disadvantages of her age. If she is not broaching the subject with you now, I would hazard that she is hoping it will go away until she is too old to have another child.

Have you talked to your wife about what she sees for your future together? If she has worked hard for this promotion she may be loath to walk away from it. When you love your job, as a woman you do have to make a choice between work and children, if only for a relatively short period of time. As you are such a supportive father I would suggest sitting down with your partner and telling her what you are prepared to take on board. Could you become a full-time parent for a while? Financially has she any fears that may be stopping her too?

You worry about the impact all of this is having on your son but I suspect the problem lies with you. So, you had it difficult when you were younger and found it hard to naturally strike up friendships. So do lots of people.

Your emotional problems are not necessarily as a result of your only child status, nor are they likely to reappear in your son. Don't blame your wife for this. As you already indicate there is resentment growing on your part so you need to tackle this as soon as possible. Leave another year or two go by, and the conversation may be redundant thanks to biology.

Orla Barry presents 'The Green Room' on Newstalk 106-108FM on Mondays between 10pm and 12am.

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