Last week the Duchess of Cambridge, a.k.a. Kate Middleton, gave birth to her second child, Princess Charlotte, the “spare to the heir,” as the royals call it. As her first, Prince George, is only a month older than LM, the timing of it all renewed my longing for a second. If it was time for a second for Kate, isn’t it time for me, too?
In a strange way, it was fun to be pregnant at the same time as Kate – we had some sort of connection, which is cool for me because I’m obsessed with all things English. But when the prince turned one, it seemed that the clock was ticking for the royal couple to announce number two. This is the same thing that, I fear, will be happening soon among my mom friends. And I will be left behind, again.
I know I should be grateful to have just one. There was a time when I would have wished for that and nothing more. And as I have said, the longing for a second is not nearly as painful or debilitating as the wish for a first. If LM does end up an only, I think I’ll be able to become OK with it, in time. Side note: I hate the term “only child,” as if “only” is not enough. Why not “one and only?” That sounds special and unique.
But, you see, like the royals, I need a spare, although I’m trying to understand my own reasoning for why. This saying, “an heir and a spare,” confounds me. In some ways it’s insulting, to think that one child can replace another. Or to think that royal women exist simply to pop out children to continue the line, which may have been how it was in the past, but haven’t we moved beyond that? Maybe the monarchy is just hopelessly (I almost wrote “hopefully” – Freudian mistype?) stuck in the past.
In terms of succession, though, in years gone by it made sense. Many children didn’t make it to adulthood. Even a king who took the throne could die an untimely death and need to be replaced. Wars have been fought over this stuff. In our current world, though, why wouldn’t it have been OK for Prince George to be an only? Why did they need a spare? Well, for starters, maybe Kate and Will just wanted to have more kids.
As do I. But my reasoning for needing a spare, although morbid, also falls along the old rules of succession. What if something should happen to LM? If he was all I had, I don’t think I could handle it if I lost him. If he had siblings, it would be horrible, but I would still have something to live for and someone to be strong for. I would still have graduations and weddings and grandchildren to look forward to. If my one and only perished, I would have nothing but empty years stretching before me until I died alone with no one to take care of me. See, I told you it was morbid!
I suppose I should be worried about the effects of being an only on LM himself. Will he miss not having a sibling? Will my care in old age be a burden to him with no one to share it with? Somehow, though, I think he could handle it. He has lots of cousins and baby friends. Every only child that I’ve known as an adult has been perfectly well-adjusted. And I’d do everything I could to prepare for my elder care ahead of time.
No, it’s me I’m more worried about.
On one of my FB groups, one for women who have families post-infertility, a mom of an only lamented that she was feeling left out because of all the other moms she knows who are pregnant with their second and thirds. Other women who also have just one, agreed, saying that they frequently wondered, “Where are all the other moms of onlys?” It seems that we, and our children, are the odd ones out. Maybe I should start a club.
I’m happy for Kate and Will. But I’m also jealous. I want my heir and my spare (and maybe another spare after that). And damn, I want to look that good after giving birth, too.
Are you a parent of an only child? Did you ever feel the need for a “spare”?
There are few things us moms enjoy more (well, outside the joy of being a mom) than that moment when our child has finally gone to sleep and we can sit down with a glass of wine, turn on the DVR and watch a show we love. It’s often something soapy or mindless, like Real Housewives. But I was never one for reality TV. My relaxing show of choice is Downton Abbey – or, in its absence, anything English. Luckily for me, the new season premiered this week.
Lots of people like Downton, but I feel like it was made for me, like some TV god answered my prayer for a show in my favorite time period, favorite locale and favorite accent. OK, so the past season or so hasn’t been quite as good, but I still can’t get enough.
You see, I’m a total Anglophile. It started when, as a teenager, I happened upon the Merchant-Ivory film A Room With a View, based on the E.M. Forster novel and starring Downton‘s own Maggie Smith and a young Helena Bonham-Carter. Not exactly teenage fare, but as I’ve said, I was kind of an old soul. True, half of the movie takes place in Italy, but then it comes home to the glorious English countryside.
From then on, I haven’t come across anything English that I haven’t liked. I love Jane Austen. Big Harry Potter fan (I even got to do a set visit for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince for my job as a magazine editor). Inspector Lewis on Masterpiece Mystery. Bridget Jones. Classic children’s literature: Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, The Chronicles of Narnia, Peter Rabbit. One of my favorite movies is Gosford Park, written by Downton creator Julian Fellowes. Old Britcoms (I still watch Keeping Up Appearances and As Time Goes By, which starred Judi Dench, Saturday nights on PBS). Love Actually. Colin Firth. Hugh Grant. Prince William. Red telephone booths. Anything having to do with England makes me just feel warm and fuzzy.
Is it the accent? The manners? The quaint villages? The dry British wit? The beautiful country estates?
All of those things, but most of all I love the mannered way the British express themselves. How they are so articulately able to communicate, both in writing and speaking. Although I write well, I am horrible at speaking and wish I could possess that kind of command over the English language. Too often I’m tongue-tied and unsure of how to express what I want to say without sounding stupid or offending anyone. This is probably just a projection, but I imagine that if I were English, I would have such a better grasp of language that words wouldn’t fail me.
The other fascination England holds for me is, especially in the world of Downton Abbey, its strict code of behavior. And while that kind of lifestyle would have been extremely restrictive, there is a part of me that thinks things would be easier if there were more prescribed rules to follow. This will sound passive-aggressive and horribly anti-feminist, which I’m not, but there is a weight lifted off your shoulders when you don’t have choices to make.
And although the whole “stiff upper lip” thing seems old-fashioned – isn’t it better to express emotion? – there is something about that state of self-possession that makes me a bit envious. I wish I could have that much control in my emotional life.
Plus, there is always the fantasy of being a “Lady” with a maid and a butler and a cook – wouldn’t it be nice to have servants to do things for you? (I swear I’m not an elitist either, but come on, who doesn’t want a maid?)
Although I have actually been to England a bunch of times and have a few English friends (who, if they’re reading this, probably think I’m nuts), I have to admit that my view of Britain largely comes from works of fiction. So my obsession is probably just based on an illusion, or at least an idealization.
Nevertheless, I’ll be watching Downton Abbey next Sunday night on PBS.
Moms, what is your guilty pleasure? Are you obsessed with Downton Abbey and England too?