I have such a vivid memory of the first time the suggestion of having a second child came up in conversation with my husband. My daughter was probably around a month old. I only remember this because it was a cold, grey fall day in New York City and little our family was strolling through Madison Square Park. This memory was clouded by that haze that covers everything during this time due to extreme sleep deprivation. The conversation went something like this:
onsMy husband (in a very excited voice): Let’s have another one!
Me: ARE YOU INSANE?!!!!
My husband: Guess you aren’t quite ready yet…
No, I was far from ready. At that point, I was just hoping that someday I wouldn’t spend my days covered in spit-up, that I may again know what it is like to sleep for 8 solid hours, and maybe have some inkling of a desire to ever have sex again. It took me nearly 2 1/2 years to feel like I could even wrap my brain around the idea of adding another child to our family, and there were many days throughout my second pregnancy that I had doubts that we had made a good choice with regard to the impact that our decision would have on our daughter. To be honest, I still had my doubts until probably about 6 months ago when my kids really started playing together and showing signs of enjoying each other’s company.
There are many factors to take into account when thinking about adding to your family. I will try to break them down into some simple pros and cons but it is not always so black and white. However, before taking into consideration the factors involving actual children, there are the questions related to you as a parent. Are you ready to start the cycle of going through those early childhood developmental stages, the newborn months, the time that you somehow put all else on hold to focus all your attention on raising a new tiny human? If the answer is no, then you should wait until you are at the “maybe” or “yes” stage to move on. There is also the issue of your own age and how much that plays a role in the timing. If your first child is born after you are 35 and you aren’t interested in continuing your childbearing into your 40s (or your partner doesn’t want to be attending high school graduation when he/she is in his/her 70s), then you may not having the luxury of spacing your children so far apart. Like I said, the issue isn’t necessarily so cut and dry, but hopefully this will help you sort out some of the details.
You may also decide that you are going to stick with just one. That is fine too. Many highly successful and incredibly social people are/were only children. Robin Williams, Natalie Portman, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Frank Sinatra, Cole Porter. Just to name a few. Don’t just take my word for it, there is actual research out there on Only Children.
On to the list…For the sake of simplicity and clarification, we will call children less than 2 years apart “Close in age” and those greater than 2 years apart, “Far apart in age.”
Close in age
- Your kids will be at closer developmental stages, making it easier to do similar activities all together.
- They may share some of the same friends.
- Possibly similar interests due to closer ages.
- When they are young, you may be lucky enough to have two kids who still nap. If you can get them to do this simultaneously, you may have a few minutes to yourself during the day.
- You can get all those early childhood stages out of the way more quickly.
- Your toddler will have less memory of what it was like to be the only child, possibly (although not certainly) easing the transition a bit.
- Taking care of a newborn and a young toddler is HARD work.
- Your older child has less ability to reason and understand when Mommy is busy with the baby and can’t give him/her attention.
- Your older child has not had very long to be the “one and only,” to be the baby, to have all the attention.
- Your older child may not be in any sort of school program yet (or maybe never but that is a different topic all together depending on your schooling decisions) so you are likely to be outnumbered by your children most of the time if you are home with both of them all day (you may never have realized how easy it was to just have one baby until you have another!).
Far apart in age
- Your older child will hopefully be a solid “through the night” sleeper before you start your cycle of sleeplessness all over again.
- Your older child could potentially be helpful with the baby or at least maybe be willing to be a your “gofer” for things. like burp cloths or diapers (sometimes they love being given a “job” other times they can really set their minds to not helping with this attention sucker, aka “baby”).
- If you are a SAHM and you don’t have regular childcare, but your older child is in school for half days or even more, giving you time with just the baby. Sometimes this one on one time is hard to come by with a second child.
- You are now older and wiser since. You may have even had a few moments of downtime in the last few years to process all that has changed in your life.
- Your children may have less in common due to their age difference and different developmental stage (although I think that the relationship they build together can have a lot to do with how your raise them)
- It may take longer for your older child to adjust to the arrival of a sibling due to a better understanding of their removal from “only child” status
- Your older child may be actually angry at you for bringing another child into your family. He/she will get over this, it may just take a while. This can actually happen no matter how far apart in age your children are. An older child will just have a better ability to verbalize his/her feelings.
- It is less likely that you will have time to yourself (if you are a SAHM or on the weekends) in the middle of the day when both kids are napping
- Your younger child often is schlepped around to all your older child’s activities
No matter if or when you decide to add to your family, know that having another child is more work that you think it will be. We all naively think going into it thinking that since we have done it before, we can do it again. And you can, its just a lot of work. A friend of mine once said “One plus one equals 1000.” Somedays, that is how it feels. In the early days after my second child was born, I often thought that having two kids was exponentially harder than having one. Now, however, I think it is the best thing we ever did for our family and for my daughter (my older child). After more than 2 years, I do believe she would tell you upfront that she loves her brother and loves playing with him. I’d like to believe that someday she will even say he is her best friend. Here’s hoping…