The Diary of a Working Mum {Part Five}

Do you have an only child?  Have you thought about whether to have another one?  I’m sure that you’ll have been asked.  The final instalment in this series from our beautiful guest blogger Heather.  I bet you all wish Heather would start a blog now right?  I’ve so enjoyed reading, typing out, and seeing all your reactions to Heather’s writing.  In this last instalment Heather looks at the question that follows everyone who’s ever had a baby ‘Are you having another?’.  I don’t asked that as much having four children in tow, if you want to know our answer to that question though you can read about it by clicking here.  Read on to discover Heather’s response and thouroughly thought out answer to whether to have an only child or siblings.  I’m sure that it won’t be the last that we hear from Heather over here at ‘I’m Every Mum’.  Thank you Heather.  You are loved, appreciated and so very talented. xxx

Are you having another?

If I had a pound for everytime I’d been asked that question…

The short answer is a resounding “No.”

For those crying out “WHY?” Here’s the long answer:

As I have said in an earlier post, I am one of 3 (with acute middle child syndrome) and Nick is an only child, so between us, we have experience from both sides of the argument.

My sister Louise is 2 years older than me.  I was the baby of the family until I was 7 when my Mum and Dad held a ‘family  meeting’ in our childhood home to ask me and Louise if we’d like a little brother or sister.  Unbeknown to me Mum was already pregnant with my brother Mark at the time.  If I had known this, my answer would have probably been a bit more tactful.  In my defence, since I wasn’t equipped with this knowledge, my reaction was not a positive one.

I was the baby of the family.  I adored my Dad, he was and still is one of my favourite people in the world.  It’s fair to say I was a bit besotted with him as a girl.  I used to sit in my roller boots at the top of the slip road of Junction 8 of the M61, waiting to see his car coming home from work then hold onto the spoiler of his Sierra, Marty McFly style, as he went at a snail’s pace back home.  If I had had ‘words’ with my Mum that day, I’d be eager to get to my Dad first, to give him my version of events before Mum told him the truth.  My dad used to work in a very high pressured job all day in Advertising and PR, then come home to 3 hormonal females all vying for his attention.  The poor man couldn’t win, but he was so awesome in my eyes.

I remember the morning we found out Mark had been born.  I had convinced myself that Mum would remain pregnant forever, and that this new sibling would never actually materialise, anything to deny the fact that a change was a-coming.  As per usual I ran into Mum and Dad’s room that particular morning to inform them that I was awake, only to find my Granny Ruby and Grandpa Bill sit bolt upright in Mum and Dad’s bed.  Mum had gone into labour during the night and my Grandparents had driven over to relieve them of their duties at home, so they could get to the hospital.  As I made my way downstairs that morning for Grandpa to take us to school, just prior to leaving, my beloved Dad burst through the door and sobbed ‘I’ve got a son…at last!’ – ERRRR WHAT?  AT LAST?  AT LAST?  I did NOT like his turn of phrase, and I certainly did not like this new addition to the family.  Mark’s already questionable popularity was waning by the second.

At school that day, I managed to put on a brave face, even when the teacher invited me to tell everyone about ‘my new little brother’.  I managed, through gritted teeth to fane how ecstatic I was and how I simply couldn’t wait to visit the little darling in hospital after school, all the time fighting back the tears that had been stinging my eyes since Dad’s excited morning outburst.  So off me and Lou went to see my weary mum and my increasingly proud Dad in Chorley hospital to come face to face with this grenade that had gone off in my life.  As we opened the curtains to the ward bed, there was my Dad sat holding Mark with a face that was beaming so bright on that dark and dreary February afternoon, I thought the clocks had been brought forward early.  Louise stepped up first asking to hold him, so with careful tuition from Dad on ‘how to support the head’, she had her first cuddle with her new brother.  Next it was my turn.  I’m ashamed to say that I purposely ignored all the tips my sister had so dutifully followed and let the head loll about on my nonchalant knee to the point where Dad gasped ‘Support the head Heather!’ then eventually took golden boy off me as I clearly couldn’t be trusted.

I was not number one in my Dad’s eyes anymore.  I’d had my crown as the Sprakes baby rudely stolen off me when I wasn’t anywhere near ready to relinquish my reign.  A week later (they kept Mum’s and Baby’s in longer back then) Mark Cameron Sprakes arrived home to the box room of 12 Linden Grove and to 2 sisters, one of which didn’t want much to do with him.  Mum and Dad must have noticed that I had a face like thunder most days and called me into the kitchen for a ‘little chat’ a few days later.  What they had to say went some way to making my sad little self feel a teeny tiny bit better.  It went along the line of ‘We appreciate that you may have had your nose pushed out of joint a bit by the arrival of Mark, and we want you to make sure you tell us if you are ever feeling out or jealous because we still love you the same as before and nothing will ever change that’.  It took me all of about 5 minutes after I left the room to burst back through the door declaring that I felt left out and jealous and they needed to do something about it.

Of course I eventually came round to the idea of being a big sister and as it turned out I ended up being pretty crazy about my brother, and I still am to this day.  I was lucky in a sense because I had a childhood with just me and my sister, a stretch of us as a three, then a good few years where it was just me and Mark because my sister married at 22 and I stayed at home as long as I possibly could (age 29 was when I finally left having been at home periodically throughout my 20’s).

So I come from a relatively busy family and Nick’s family is the polar opposite.  I liken the time when we first met each other’s family to that scene out of My Big Fat Greek Wedding.  The Sprakes’ are all about the food, noise, chattering and laugher, whereas the Wolstenholme’s are quiet, calm and still.  Nick is an only child and he loves the chaos of our family and I love the peace of his.  I guess we all crave a bit of the opposite don’t we?

One of the main things that Nick and I share in common is our need to have time on our own, apart from each other.  Nick was used to this growing up without any siblings, and I craved it in the madness of our house.  Yes we are married, but we have friends and interests independent of each other, and we enable each other to spend that time being something other than wife, husband, mum and dad.  Nick loves to read, run, go to the football and have an ale or 2 with his mates.  I love the gym, doing the food shop on my own (bliss), cleaning in peace and quiet and catching up with my friends.  I think that is so important.  We are not 2 halves of one whole, we are 2 whole people who have a partnership.  Nick doesn’t complete me (I wasn’t incomplete  before I met him), he enhances me, and I hope I do him.

I digress.

Even a week after the birth of Martha, I received the first ‘Are you having another’ question.  My newly born daughter wasn’t even out of hospital and I felt under pressure to go through the trauma again.  I must admit that the thought has crossed my mind since Martha’s birth.  But only fleetingly.  I think the first time I thought it was on maternity leave when the whole job issue was up in the air and I didn’t know what I was going to do.  Then I realised that I would be using having another baby as an excuse for not going back when I was questioned by others, because I’d be embarassed to say ‘I’m a stay at home mum’.  Again, can I reiterate that there is nothing wrong with that, it’s just not me.

There are many reasons why we won’t be having another.  Firstly my age.  If I was considered a geriatric mum before, you can add 5 years onto that, I would be considered extremely high risk due to Martha’s prematurity combined with my age if I were to become pregnant again.  I don’t want to be knocking on 50 at the school gates either, but that’s more vanity than anything else.  I honestly don’t believe it’s fair to put Nick, Martha and myself through that anxiety again.  I am a Mum and a wife and I am incredibly lucky to have what I have and to have come through the other side of Martha’s birth relatively unscathed.  I want to enjoy what I have and to be the best Mum I can be, and I know that another pregnancy would jeopardise that.  It’s a gamble that I’m just not willing to take.  I choose the safety of what we have not the unsafety of what could be.

The other big decisive factor is cost.  I never knew how much a child would cost financially.  When Martha was in nursery and before we got the 15 hours free per week that all parents do when their child is aged 3, we effectively had 2 mortgages.  It was hard but manageable, though I wouldn’t have liked to think about paying for 2 children.  My grandpa always told me never to do anything unless I could comfortably afford to do it (House and car excluded).  I couldn’t live with myself if I bulldozed ahead and had X amount of child, then expected the state to help me pay for them.  Nick and I rightly or wrongly also have a standard of living we would like to maintain.  Selfish?  Maybe, but being able to do the things we do like going on holiday and for meals out as a family, is extremely important to us, and to Martha.  She loves nothing more thatn ‘getting dressed up fancy’ for a meal out, or packing her own suitcase for holidays.

Nick and I are acutely aware that Martha is an only child, and we encourage her as much as possible to recognise that she is incredibly lucky to have what she does.  We can afford treat days, holidays, nice clothes, exciting experiences, and we want to make sure that Martha appreciates the value of these things and not take them for granted.  I actively encourage Martha to invite friends along with us when we go out so that she learns it is ‘not all about her’ – something she regularly repeats to me when I tell her I need something ‘It’s not all about you either Mum!’  I must admit that I often wish she had a sibling and friend like I have in my sister and brother, but then I remember that it doesn’t automatically create a harmonious relationship between the two (Louise and I barely looked at each other let alone registered each others existence during our teenage years).  There are many positive reasons to have more than one child, and I wouldn’t change my upbringing for the world.  As we grow older, people have even suggested that ‘it would be better to have more than one so Martha isn’t burdened with you both in old age?’ – what a marvellous rationale for having a baby?!

I think that as long as we remain aware of Martha being an only one or ‘The One and Only’ as I call her, I honestly think she will be okay.

So no, there are no more babies for us.  And as for our twilight years, instead of burdening Martha, we will actively do the exact opposite whilst residing in a lovely retirement village, wreaking havoc with our friends, crown green bowling, shoplifting, dangerous driving, farting in public and all the other wonderfully un-burdoning thing OAP’s get up to regardless of how many children they had.

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