Dear Care and Feeding,
I am a 34-year-old woman in a same-sex marriage. Four years ago, we went through several rounds of fertility treatment. After the third try, we were terrified and delighted to learn that I was pregnant with twins. Unfortunately, I had a lot of complications during my pregnancy and we lost one of the twins. I gave birth to a happy, healthy baby girl. Now she is a toddler, and we have spent the last eight months going through the process to adopt. We have just learned that we are no longer eligible to adopt (our city government now wants only families who will foster).
This leaves my wife and I in a strange and confusing situation. We both feel deeply ambivalent about whether to continue trying to have another child. We would love for our daughter to be a big sister. On the other hand, it’s a lot of money to try to get me pregnant again, and then there’s paying for day care, diapers, etc. We are currently financially stable, even considering international travel and remodeling our house. But I know another child in our lives would have us living paycheck to paycheck. It feels like my mind changes every other minute from We have to have another kid to Things are great the way they are, and my wife has said she is having the same thoughts. How do we possibly make such a huge decision when we both feel so torn! It feels like either choice will leave me having regrets.
—Are Only Kids So Bad?
Let me start with your last question: Only kids are awesome. Some of my best friends are only kids. Only kids make the rockin’ world go ’round. You socialize them appropriately, like you would any kid, you make sure you drag them to extra playgroups and library story times, you push play dates whenever possible, and they turn out great. Sure, there are only children who grow into crappy, selfish adults. There are also kids with five siblings who become crappy, selfish adults.
I can’t tell you whether to have another kid. What I can tell you is that nowhere in this letter did you say that you or your wife really want another one. You feel ambivalent. You like your current life. You remember how hard it was to get pregnant. You would love for your daughter to be a big sister, but probably Mrs. Clegane wanted the Mountain to be a big brother too (I am confident your daughter would be significantly better than the Mountain). Siblings are a crapshoot, we’ve seen it in this column dozens of times. There’s no guarantee that as adults they’ll want to see each other more frequently than at mandatory family weddings.
Take a night off (a weekend, if you can swing the babysitting) and just be with your wife. Ask each other if you really want another kid. You are the only two who know for sure.
If you do decide you might, I recommend Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids, which is a) funny and b) an interesting way to approach the entire idea of parenthood.
You’ll do what’s best.
Dear Care and Feeding,
My husband and I have a 4-year-old and a 7-month-old. The 4-year-old has been in a lovely day care facility since she was 6 weeks old and it’s great. About 5 months in, we realized that we need day care for the baby as well. The day care that my 4-year old goes to wasn’t willing to take a part-time baby, so I found a home day care who was willing to take in the baby with only a week’s notice.
Now, the day care that my 4-year-old goes to says they do have an opening for a part-time infant. I’m planning on switching. I’ve never broken up with a day care provider before. I have terrible guilt because she was a savior when we needed immediate assistance and now I feel like I’m hanging her out to dry. My questions are: Is it just that simple that I provide notice that we’re no longer going to use her services? Do I need to get over myself? Do I have to explain my reasoning? How do I properly thank her?
—Is This a Betrayal?
This is as normal as dirt. Give her as much notice as possible, say you’ll miss her, but you’re excited for your two children to attend the same day care, mush your kid’s painted handprint onto a thank-you note, and move on to the rest of your life.
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Dear Care and Feeding,
I have a 2-year-old son who hits, kicks, and worst of all bites other kids. He is extremely social and loves being with other kids and people, while his father is antisocial and I am very shy. I take him to play groups, since he loves it so much, but his aggression is absolutely humiliating. It’s difficult enough for me to make friends, but no one sympathizes with the mother of a child like this—not that I’m not saying they should. This has been going on for about six months, which doesn’t sound like a long time but really feels like it. I am now at the point where I full-blown resent my own child for causing me to feel socially isolated and publicly humiliated constantly. When we play with other kids, I have to be within arm’s length constantly, because I’m scared for the other children. Not only is it not fun, since I don’t get to meet other moms, but it is so stressful.
Additionally, I’m expecting another baby due in four months. It’s bad enough to deal with this for an hour a week, but this will become a 24/7 problem, and I don’t know how I’ll cope. I feel like I must be the worst mom ever and maybe I shouldn’t have had kids. Everything I’ve read online is completely unhelpful. I always say that we don’t hit and take him off to the side for a few minutes. I’ve also read that parents should model gentle behavior, which implies that we hit and bite him, which of course we have never done and never would. Did I do something to cause this? How can I make it stop? What do I say to the other kids and parents when my child hurts someone?
It’s time to run this up the chain: You are pregnant, and your son is very possibly in need of some professional help. Before we get to having those conversations about how to handle other parents, please immediately make an appointment to talk to your pediatrician. (I recommend having a phone call where you can honestly and clearly describe his behaviors without him overhearing.) Your goal in this conversation is a referral to a behavior specialist. Two-year-olds can be annoying and tantrumy, but this degree of violence has me concerned, and I would like him evaluated.
I am not particularly worried about your baby. This sounds like very peer-oriented aggression, but you (and your “antisocial” husband, who needs to start pulling his weight) are unlikely to magically parent him out of this behavior. Please keep me posted.
Finally, please tell your OB-GYN about the stress you are feeling, because the last thing you need is to be exhausted, scared, overexerted, and at prime risk of postpartum depression. Please do this now, right away; I am very concerned about you. This is not your fault, and you are not a person who should never have kids. You need some help.
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Dear Care and Feeding,
My kids are 10 and 16, and my mother is dying of a long-term progressive illness. We don’t have a specific prognosis for her, but it’s clear we’ve moved to end stages—whether that should be measured in months or weeks, we’re not sure, but it’s less than a year.
We live very, very far from my mother, but my kids do have a relationship with her and think of her fondly, even though they only really see her about once a year.
Do I tell them now? Right before the next time we visit, so as to explain why she’s so tired? If we don’t make it to the next visit, do I just wait until she dies?
My kids are very sweet and sensitive, so I don’t want to overwhelm them, but I also don’t want to make the same mistakes my mother made in hiding death from me.
—The Big Talk
I would tell them now. There are no “good” ages to have your first encounter with the death of a loved one, but your children are actually in pretty good shape to have this conversation with you. Talk about her prognosis, talk about what you know (and don’t know) about the amount of time she has left, and talk about how sad you are and how it’s easier to be sad together. Let them take a day off school to talk about it, or not talk about it and just sit with it.
Once the initial shock has passed, it might be nice to have someone in your mother’s part of the world get her going with Skype or FaceTime, so your children can build some more memories of her before she’s gone. (So many of us would have loved the gift of that extra time.) Talk to your mother beforehand about whether she would like those conversations to involve her prognosis, or if she would prefer to just enjoy the extra time with her grandchildren.
Please, take time for your own grief as well. I don’t know what your relationship with your mother is like, but sometimes we can get so concerned with protecting our children from sorrow that we push our own onto the back burner.
I’m sorry for your family and this loss.
More advice from Slate
My 9-year-old daughter claims she is mostly friendless and describes a rough, heartless situation at school. When I’ve asked the teacher for her perspective, she sees a well-liked girl with friends, full stop. She’s a kind, creative, dramatic kid with good grades, but she is a first-class complainer. How can I help her?