When we decided to have a baby, we really thought of it as deciding to have children: plural. Hubby essentially grew up as an only child, and I grew up in a family with two siblings. We both think it is good for a child to have at least one sibling when circumstances permit.
According to this book, wanting to give your child a sibling is NOT a good reason to have a baby. The first chapter goes through this and all sorts of reasons to have babies and explains why they are not good reasons. I think the author (a family therapist who specializes in family planning) is spot on with this book. Every chapter has a quiz at the end that you can do with your partner. The quizzes are a great tool for having a conversation about motivations and expectations about family dynamics.
Alan Singer, the author, is a proponent of the marriage-centred family: prioritizing the spousal relationship over the relationship with your children. He acknowledges that statistically, marital satisfaction decreases with each additional child. So he focuses an entire chapter on exploring the question: “How many children can your marriage hold?”.
One question I am particularly interested in at this point is: what is the optimum spacing for siblings? He says that research indicates that for reasons of maternal health and sibling rivalry, the ideal spacing is 3-5 years.
This book has a lot of case studies from real couples, ranging from childless couples to one that had 11 children! These case studies talk about the advantages and disadvantages of living in different family sizes both from the perspective of the parents and the children.
Overall, this book was a great tool for reflection and inspiring thoughtful conversation between me and my spouse. In some ways, family planning in real life can be a very emotional and impulsive decision, and perhaps that is a good approach too. There seem to be more reasons not to have children than reasons to have them. And yet for many people there is something ineffably appealing about having children. This book is helpful in confronting head-on all the emotional baggage that influences your attitude about family. If you can read it and discuss it with your spouse and still say “why not increase our family size?” then it’s probably as good an indication as you can get that it wouldn’t be totally crazy to try for a baby. And on the other hand, the author says, if you feel like your family is already complete, it probably is.