The plan was simple. Wait until Baby #1 got out of daycare and into public school, and then consider it time for Baby #2! Funds would be freed up and we would be at different points in our career. Life would be different.
Well, that was certainly true.
The thing is, the plan is always simple. It was simple when Ismael and I got married and declared our intentions to have a baby in two years. We didn’t end up actually being in a financially and emotionally responsible place to have a baby until eight years after that self-imposed deadline.
About a year ago, as we began to poke around and ask questions about school registration, we had a quick discussion about the prospect for baby #2. Ismael was on the fence. Money was tight. Money was always tight. And that was just with the three of us. Would a fourth be pushing us over into negative income territory? I tried to maintain hope. You see, I had always had it in my head that I would have two to three kids, minimum. And when I have something in my head, I go for it. Relentlessly. So, I was sure we could find a way to make sense of things. I nodded and smiled through Ismael’s worries, sure that I would find the key to make this thing happen. The planner in me had already decided how this would go. I just had to figure out the particulars.
When Logan started school, Ismael and I started to reevaluate our finances. We started to reevaluate our schedules. We started to reevaluate our priorities. And we made a pretty heavy discovery.
There wasn’t anything more to go around. No money, no time, no attention. We had a full plate. Ismael and I both work full-time jobs and are full-time writers. We also have Logan, who is a regular powder keg of energy and our third musketeer. We do not have readily available babysitters in our family members and friends because they all work hard at full-time jobs themselves or live so far away, it isn’t feasible. Siblings live in another borough or another state. Parents have health issues. One of our best friends has three jobs. The other works double-shifts at times. But that isn’t even really an issue. It isn’t that we can’t get people to watch Logan while we take care of our other stuff. It’s that we don’t WANT to.
Logan is fun. Logan is our buddy. Logan is the light that makes our bad busy days happier. So we want to sit down and read with him, or watch a movie, or play a video game, or act out imaginary scenarios in which rolling across the bed is rolling down a hill to get away from the bad guys or Luke Skywalker comes to help Ariel with Ursula (we’ll make a writer out of him, yet – and probably a writer of fanfic).
As we journeyed through the first year of school, we realized that his school is a very good school and it is VERY parent inclusive. They have marches against bullying. They have fundraisers for Breast Cancer Research. They have bake sales and Mommy, Daddy, and Me reading nights, and movie nights, and school trips and art shows and a bunch of things that we wanted to be involved in. But we are already spread so thin. And managing three busy event calendars is a very different thing from managing two. So as we balanced this time off with that time off, as Ismael switched this work day and I took this half day, Ismael and I encountered a blinding moment of clarity.
We could have another child right now in these circumstances. But Logan would suffer for it. We wouldn’t have the money to take him places. We wouldn’t have the money to adhere to our “One Cool Adventure a Month” policy (we’re talking things like bowling or a movie, but we always try to do one cool thing). We wouldn’t have the time to go to his art shows or have dedicated time for silliness. I can barely make it to Logan’s events now, and I usually have to do some pretty efficient time gambling to make it pan out. But to do that for another kid? I’d cut my appearances in half.
Losing one of those things might be okay, but losing all of them? I could either make sure I was the kind of parent I wanted to be for Logan, or I could be a middling parent to two kids. And I’d much rather have the first.
As I said earlier, Ismael had probably already come to this conclusion, but didn’t know how to say it to me in such hard and fast terms. He’s always more of a realist than my dreamer self. So I know he was surprised when I told him I didn’t think we should have a second baby. “But that’s how things are right now,” he said, for me more than himself. “You never know where we’ll be in a few years.”
But the planner in me couldn’t take that. The planner in me would have kept trying to find a ‘how’. “I need to decide no. If a path to a yes shows up along the way, we’ll go ahead. But I need to decide no so I can get over it.” Because it was something I needed to get over. Because the idea of two children was so real in my head that it felt like something was missing and I needed to rethink my view of what my family should look like.
So that’s it. It looks like I’m a “One and Done” kind of parent. Because life happens. Because we are in constant states of flux. Because I once wrote a blog about writing dreams vs. reality and I know that applies to real life as well.
I think I have finally reached a point where I am okay with this decision. I may not be able to have all of the things I want. But sacrificing that to see the absolute perfection of all that I already HAVE may be the most important lesson I’ll ever learn.