Why I’m choosing to write a book instead of having a second child

Guest post by Jennifer

By: Julie Jordan ScottCC BY 2.0
Last week I made two decisions. The first of which is that I will start writing my novel now. Not next year, not when my daughter is potty-trained or when I’m done getting my teaching credential. Right now. The second decision I made is that I will not be having any more children. One will be enough.

Most people might not see these decisions as linked, but to me the second is the inevitable result of the first. Since my daughter was born 14 months ago, I feel as if I have been in a constant state of battle to find the time to write. I try to find this time not because I simply enjoy writing or it is a peaceful way to fill my free time. I do not consider it a hobby or pastime. Writing is my lifeline; as soon as I let go of my already tenuous grip on it, I am lost, rapidly free-falling away from my sense of self.

That brings me back to my first decision. I am going to take the plunge and finally write the story that has been brewing in my brain for years. I am going to get up early, stay up late, forgo folded laundry and vacuumed floors, and accept long-standing babysitting offers because this is what it is going to take to chase my dream of writing and publishing a novel and being a loving, present and thoughtful parent at the same time. It is going to take every bit of dedication, drive and stamina to pull this off — and it isn’t going to be quick either.

I’m in this for the long haul. And that’s with just one kid! And honestly, I couldn’t do it with two. Moreover, I wouldn’t want to do this with two kids. When my husband and I casually talk about the possibility of another child I feel none of the yearning I felt for my first pregnancy. I feel only the yearning for the writing success I still haven’t received; success that would be further delayed if not sacrificed completely with the birth of a second child.

All of this is not to say that women can’t have multiple children and successful careers. I’ve seen it happen enough in my own family to know that children and professional success aren’t mutually exclusive. But when I take a hard look at my life I have to admit that I have a finite amount of time and energy and everything is a tradeoff. I am acutely aware that I traded a large chunk of my personal time to have a child. And I’ve never regretted that decision for a second. But I would regret a second child. Even if I did publish a novel with two children I would forever wonder what higher levels of success I could have reached had I decided to stop at one and focus on writing instead.

While there have been no permanent surgeries or public decrees (save for this one, I suppose) to cement my decision, I feel at peace with its finality. I think of my daughter and imagine her young life filled with international travel and uninterrupted time with her doting parents and grandparents. I think of my husband and how he was right all along, that we were meant to be the parents of just one incredible kid.

Then I think of myself and all of the big dreams I’ve been trying like mad to fit into a simple life. I know that this is it. This is how I’ll move mountains.

Comments on Why I’m choosing to write a book instead of having a second child

  1. The best of luck with your book! It has always been my greatest dream to write a novel but I haven’t really tried yet because I’m too afraid to fail. I hope that everyone in your life will be supportive of your decision.

    • That fear of failure is a powerful thing! I feel it breathing down my neck nearly every time I sit down to write. I’ve gotten to the point when I hear that voice I just tell it to shut the hell up and remind myself that simply writing is a success. Putting words down on paper is my sole aim and any public success I achieve is just icing on the cake. I hope you keep writing and get past that fear someday too 🙂

      • You started! YAY! That’s the biggest hurdle. My daughter is 11 and an only child. I think she’s doing JUUUUUUUUUUUST fine being that way. Though, she is NOT happy about being an only child, I know that I’m not the one God called to be the mom of multiple kids. I’m such a perfectionist it drives me batty the things I’m doing wrong with her. So, I encourage her creativity as I push mine out. She likes writing and drawing so when I write, she takes that as her time to do something too. Keep us updated on the book!

  2. Best of luck to you. I just want to also caution you to give yourself some time on the second decision. If one ends up being perfect for you that is absolutely wonderful. That yearning feeling sometimes never comes back, and that is fine. But if 3 years from now it might return, and you might reconsider how much another child will impact your career.

    I _really_ don’t want this to come across as a “you’ll see…” kind of comment, because I do believe you. But sometimes minds change, and it’s hard to give ourselves that space after public declarations. No judgement whatever you decide to do, and I hope you find success in every venue.

    • Thank you. I am giving myself space to change my mind but I think the choice to have another child, or *a* child, has to be about more than satisfying a yearning. If I had a second child simply because I felt that baby fever again I would be doing it for the wrong reason. At this point, there are too many cons to having another that could not be outweighed by a change of heart.

  3. My husband feels the same way about writing as you do I think. I am currently pregnant with our second and he is a stay at home dad, but he really has difficulty finding time to write. He is dealing with some minor health issues that impact his sleep and productivity as well, so he is always tired. I’m actually really worried about how having a second child will affect his overall happiness. I know that he loves our children and would never regret them, but he needs to be creative to feel content.

    • I read this great book/memoir called A Field Guide to Now that talks a lot about the juggling of parenthood and creativity. I found it really grounding as a writer. Maybe your husband would enjoy it. It starts just before she gives birth to her second son so it might be right on the money for him 🙂

  4. Jennifer – best of luck to you! I’m pregnant with my family’s second child and struggle with finding time to nourish the creative side of my persona (I’m a writer too.). One of the best things that I did (before number one came along) was join a writer’s group. We do not critique our work, but get together once a month to talk about our projects and to give each other support as we chase our dreams of publication (and two of my fellow writers have books coming out this year! What a GREAT community to be in!). And while I wouldn’t trade my child and my future kiddo for anything, I do love that feeling when I walk out my door – thermos in hand – that I’m going to spend a couple hours talking to my “community” and nurturing an important part of my existence.

  5. I am so with you here! My daughter is about to turn three in a few months, and I am so excited! The older she gets the more curious for the world she is, and the more time I get to write and remember the other things that I love. I love being a stay at home mama, but I also love that the older she gets the more individual time we both get to do the things that interest us. Even if it means her playing with play-dough while I get to crochet! I’m really looking forward to where we can both sit outside and read our own books, or read the same book thats interesting to both of us!
    So, having another child feels like taking a step backward for me. I wouldn’t lost a lot of the me time I have gained this year, and my daughter would lose all of the one on one time I am able to give her.
    One of the writing styles I have discovered since having my daughter is writing children’s stories! I make up a new one almost every night for her, and a few are pretty good. And I’m in the process of trying to remember them and write them down with some doodles! As well, just having to be creative on the fly every night is perfect writing practice! And there’s really no excuse to write the second after she falls asleep.
    Good luck with your writing!

  6. This is actually exactly what we’ve been going through at my home. I thought I would only want one child, but then people started getting on about how it wasn’t fair, she wouldn’t like it. But I feel like I would regret it if I did for the same reasons.

    Writing has been something I’ve always done, and now that I don’t have time, I miss it more than I thought possible. I also have that same desire to work hard at it, to get published. I also know I don’t have the energy for my dreams AND a second child. And while I do believe that some sacrifice inherently comes with raising a child, I’m not prepared to sacrifice *everything*, and I feel I shouldn’t have to.

    So, basically, thanks for writing this! It gives me some confidence to see the same thing I’m feeling echoed by someone else.

  7. Hi Jennifer,

    Hey, I live in Berkeley, have one daughter (10 months old) and am also trying to figure out how to get back into writing! I have a completed novel and need to get the energy to do the next part and try and get it out there. Not to mention all of the other stories I’d love to tell. Oh and I don’t want more kids. And I daydream about traveling and have wily cats. Maybe we should connect and talk writing? Let me know if you’d be interested. Best of luck with your writing and mommyhood.

  8. Even though I don’t have any kids yet, I completely relate. I dearly want a child but I also fear that even one will keep me from writing, (especially if I also have to keep doing my day job). I have often thought that one child will be enough. Thank you for writing with honesty and reminding me that motherhood and writing can still exist together!

  9. I can completely relate. My passions are writing and photography -they are a part of who I am- and I’m trying to figure out how to work them into my life like I did years ago. Yet my six month old is the focus of my life.
    It’s a difficult thing to juggle realizing one’s dreams with family responsibilities, but it is possible. Good luck in everything!

  10. I have been wanting to respond to this since I read it. I just wanted to say, I do a different kind of writing, academic writing, and it is part of my job, but not all of my job (and not my favorite part of my job), and I realized before we decided to have our second child that – for me at least — adding a second child would much more profoundly limit my professional achievement in the writing sense than did just one child. Now that the second child is here, this is even more clear to me. The children are two totally separate individuals and they both need me in so many ways, and I want to be connected with them and also spend a lot of time with them, and I am unlikely to be able to attain the kind of writing output I might have achieved had I had just one child. Fortunately, for me, the other parts of my job are more important to me anyway (whereas for you, writing IS the thing), and so, in not getting much writing done, I will have to deal with ego issues, but not real existential happiness issues. I also knew that it would likely be this way before we had the second child and went into it with that understanding. For me, I wanted the second child. Very much. This was the life I wanted for myself. But there is no denying that it makes a huge huge difference. So, kudos to you for knowing in your gut what is right for you and being the best kind of parent and person you can be.

  11. Hi Jennifer! I am a writer, too, and have put off having a baby for years for this reason. I just thought you might find the author Julianna Baggott of interest–not only is she the mother of four children, but she has published over twenty books. She has some really interesting things to say about how in the world she accomplishes this (lots of coffee??):
    Here’s a link to an interview with her:

    Best of luck to you! 🙂

  12. Lovely post.
    The juggle is a constant. I love kids and babies and just want to cuddle and nurture them but the reality of being a mother to more than one is much too much for me. So when I feel that urge I dote on my only daughter or give my incredible friends beautiful kidlets a cuddle!
    I suspect nothing will ever ‘cure’ cluckiness anyway!

    My daughter is almost three and I had her overseas away from all support – but I managed to make work, to exhibit and have a solo exhibition and to write and be published ( not a book though, but that will come! ) and sometimes I really have to take a step back and take a breather and realize that I am getting a lot done – even if it feels like I’m not. Little goals.
    But I have really hard to learn to prioritise what and who is important to me and sometimes I have just to be down right selfish with my time. I’m still learning but I feel like I am getting there.

    Best to you
    Lily Mae

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