Can You Handle a Second Child?
So your perfect first born is now nearing two years of age, and you’re starting to feel those yearnings again for a newborn. But are you ready for a second child? There is a reason why moms of multiple children laugh at moms with just one, joking that having one is just like having a cute purse to carry around, but having two is when you become a real parent.
For me, I felt those second child urges pretty much as soon as I left the delivery room with my firstborn. I found that I loved being a mom, and the more, the merrier. Plus, at already 36 years old for my first birth, my biological clock was ticking, loudly.
Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately because it turned out well, I wasn’t able to conceive right away, and didn’t deliver my second child until a month before my fortieth birthday.
And I hadn’t even pushed out the second before my husband was encouraging a third child. Whoa, Buddy, pump the brakes! Due to my age and issues with infertility, I understood sooner than my (younger) husband that having a third was probably not the wisest decision or even a likely one. I had the IUD inserted without really having much of a discussion with him. And I laughed at him (politely and in private . . . okay no, it was blatantly in his face as I nursed the baby) when my second child turned three months old, and he tiredly admitted that maybe two kids was enough.
You see, while your life changes much more when you have your first offspring, adding the second little human to the mix is when the real stress begins. I was lucky enough to have already had what some like to call a “trick baby” or a “unicorn baby,” meaning that my firstborn was unnaturally well behaved through no discipline of my own.
Of course, no two children are alike, and when the first one is so good, he tricks you into having another. My second child, she’s a firecracker! Despite that she’s still under a year old, she thinks she’s ten years old, and she bosses the entire family around.
Give It Some Thought
If you’re considering whether you should start trying for that second kid, here are some considerations you should ponder.
1. Are you financially secure enough? Can you afford to have another child? It costs about $233,610 to raise one child from birth through age 17 for a middle-income family, and about $372,210 for a family in the highest income bracket. That doesn’t include college. Can you double that expense to have a second child? Do you have a college plan in place? Or are you already living paycheck-to-paycheck? Consider talking with a financial professional about how she can help ensure that your paycheck stretches as far as it must to pay for that second child.
2. Do you have time for a second child? Raising one child is a full-time job. Do you have it in you to raise another? If both parents are working, or a single parent is primarily raising the children, you may not have adequate time to devote to raising your children as you juggle both a career and your home life.
3. Does your firstborn have special needs? If so, you may, understandably, already be spread too thin. Depending on the type and severity of the special needs, all your time may be devoted to your first child already. And unfortunately, some special needs, disabilities, or illnesses are biological, so can you handle the possibility that you may have a second child with special needs? Consider speaking with an attorney about assistance to which those with special needs may be entitled.
4. How old is your firstborn? There are certainly challenges to having two children close in age. My friends with a couple kids under three years old look quite frazzled. But their kids will be so close as they get older. In contrast, because my kids are four years apart, my son is old enough to have a better understanding of how you treat a baby. While he is more protective over her, their age difference might mean that they aren’t able to be as close as I might like them to be. If you’re having children close in age, expect that the first few years will be really tough on you. But it gets better as they both mature.
5. Do you have the gender you want already? I know I’m not supposed to say that. All children are amazing gifts, regardless of their genders. But someone who tells you that she doesn’t care what gender she has as long as the baby is healthy is lying at least a little bit. If you wanted a boy and you got one on your first try, then you might be all set. But if you yearn for pink bows in your future, maybe the second attempt will be different from the first. Of course, I have many friends with two boys or two girls, but maybe third time’s the charm?
6. How old are you? The closer you get to forty, the more the fertility door starts to shut, or the higher your risks are of delivering a baby with problems. If your biological clock is clicking like this (picture Lisa from My Cousin Vinny stomping her foot), then your decision is more pressing.
7. Have you lost your first baby weight? I know it sounds vain, but it’s normal to not want to try again until you’re back down to where you started before your first baby, or close to it.
8. How does your spouse feel about having another child? Not everyone is on the same page in this department, and you and your spouse may disagree about having a second child. You don’t want to bring an unwanted child into the world or feel a heavier burden because you forced the issue, knowing that your spouse did not feel the same way you did. Couples who have children despite that one of them doesn’t really want to are more likely to have marital issues as they raise the children and are more likely to end up divorced.
9. How does your spouse feel about you? Do you guys have a strong, healthy relationship? Do you know that s/he will always be there for you and your family? Or are you concerned that you’ll soon end up in divorce court? Do you have very different views about major parenting issues? Or are their power issues and/or issues of domestic violence in your marriage? As you probably realize from having your first child, having children adds stress to any relationship. And relationships that are already rocky will suffer. Babies are adorable, but they won’t fix your marriage. If you’re having marital problems already, consider seeing a mental health counselor to help you before you make the life-altering commitment of bringing another child into the world.
10. Are you content to give up your newfound freedom? Of course, until your child is an adult, you won’t have total freedom. But as your child ages and becomes more independent, you’ll find that you once again have more time to focus on your wants and needs. However, if you have another child, that clock begins all over again.
11. Are you ready to be pregnant again or to watch your wife be pregnant again? Being pregnant is challenging for many women. From morning sickness, to exhaustion, to gaining weight, to losing coordination, to fat feet, pregnancy isn’t always fun. And you can’t even drink! And for some women, symptoms are even worse as they battle through things like hyperemesis gravidarum (think of it as normal symptoms times ten), gestational diabetes, and postpartum depression. If pregnancy is especially hard on you, you may not be excited about the prospect of experiencing it again.
12. What is the real reason that you want a second child? Deep down, you probably have a pretty strong feeling one way or another. For me, I just knew that our little family wouldn’t be complete until we were a family of four. It wasn’t even a question. If you and your spouse feel the same way, what are you waiting for?
As for whether you parents of two can handle a third, I have no clue; y’all must be crazy!
Learn more about collaborative divorce. Follow Open Palm Law.
Need advice now? Contact Joryn!
About this week’s author, Lori Skipper.
Lori received her Juris Doctor with honors from the University of Florida Levin College of Law in December 2004, from which she graduated with honors. Proud to be a Florida Gator, Lori had also attended the UF as an undergraduate, graduating with honors with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology, as well as a Minor in Education. Choosing her law school focus early, as a student member of the Virgil B. Hawkins Civil Clinic, Lori assisted indigent clients with family law issues.