One child is the ideal number, says writer Lauren Sandler. In her book The One and Only (and in quotes all over the media) she reckons having more than one child gets in the way of success, especially for women writers.
Why? Kids don’t necessarily stifle creativity. But I agree that they eat time. My three children, all born within two and half years, needed constant attention. To carve out time for writing, I’d put the twins in the car and drive around till they dozed off. It was a lesson in churning out copy quickly.
Today, interruptions still come thick and fast. My elderly mother just asked me for the third time whether she took her painkillers. And she’s uncertain of the dose: ‘It says one twice daily on the box. How many should I take?’ She dithers about what to wear and what to eat, and she’s increasingly impatient, but most of all she forgets. She can’t even remember that I’m getting married.
I loved it when I read to my kids, when they built tepees from fallen branches, or when they just laughed. They kept me on my toes, like the day one of them trapped his twin’s head in a bucket. One morning, another son made off with his big brother’s school tie. How was I to guess he’d shoved it out through the cat flap?
Now it’s my mother’s things I search for, her lunch I prepare, her hair I cut, her bandages I change. She checks with me whether she had a shower this morning, but she doesn’t hear my answer. When I repeat it louder, she accuses me of shouting. It’s tough looking after elderly parents, and I’m not as young as I was either. But there’s nobody to share it with.
My eldest son wanted siblings, and here was one clue: as a toddler he’d hide his friends’ shoes when they came to play so they couldn’t go home.
I too longed for brothers and sisters, but I never got them. It was no fun playing board games against myself, though at least I always won. I look back on my childhood as a lonely time, but it’s a lot worse now. You never grow out of being an only child.
Back to the ideal number of children. What do you think it is?