The luxury of deciding when to have a second child is not one that every couple has. Truth be known, it is quite common for married folks to be caught off guard by an unexpected pregnancy, which steals away all opportunity to responsibly sit down and weigh the pros and cons of enlarging a family. And for a lot of reasons, this can be a good thing - relieving you and your spouse of a tremendous amount of decision-making pressure.
When it comes to deciding how many children you want, and when you should have them – too much time to think it over and plan, makes the idea of having more children seem somehow irresponsible. There is always the state of the economy, the price of college, the size of your home, the availability of car seat space in your vehicle, and the cost of daycare – not to mention the further dividing of your time to make room for another child in your life. For many couples the decision of when to have another child often causes them to feel guilty that by doing so, they are taking ‘something’ from the child they do have. In the end however, adding a sibling to your family is definitely worth the cost, emotionally and financially.
Statistics from the latest US Census Bureau seem to indicate that in the United States, population rates are beginning to level off. The average family has between 1.8 and 2.3 children per household – which essentially means two. In Canada, this number is similar, but there are more one-child households than in the United States. Abroad - the numbers range from 3 or more children per household in South America, to a stable one child per household in states of the former Soviet Union. And still, even though there are plenty of reasons to NOT bring more children into this world, human nature is to procreate. As parents, it is difficult to imagine your child being alone in this world without siblings and extended family later in life. Perhaps this feeling above all, is the driving force behind deciding to add at least a second child to your family.
But when pray tell is the best time to do so?
Everyone has a differing opinion on when is the best time to have a second child. Most people seem to agree however, that having your children close together is more ideal. In a perfect world, close together would mean at least 3 years apart. This way you are able to spend all your time and attention with your firstborn, indulging in every milestone moment with little else to think or worry about besides the baby at hand. Plus, it’s easier to have just one baby at a time, and will cause you (and your marriage) less stress, as well as enable you to thoroughly enjoy becoming a parent. Then, when your child is about ready to voyage off to the big world of school, no longer requires to be carried everywhere he or she goes, and is able to do many things for him or herself – you can be certain that you have just as much alone time with the second baby as you did with the first. There are other benefits to having your children around 3-4 years apart as well:
- You will be able to reuse most of the baby equipment. (If you are planning on having two children – avoid buying baby items that are strictly boy or girl themed) This saves a ton of money.
- You are still accustomed to the constraints of ‘having a baby.’ If you wait until your child is 10 or older, it is harder to go back and reacquaint with just how time consuming it is to have an infant and baby in the house.
- Your children will be closer in age, thus making them closer to one another.
- Your children can more easily share rooms if housing restrictions are a factor in how many children you have. Asking a 12 year old and a baby to share a room, is not always practical.
- Waiting until your firstborn starts school to have another child, gives you special one on one time with your new baby, that won’t leave you feeling guilty.
- If you are planning to stay home with your children, having them closer together ensures you can start back at work more quickly, enabling you to earn more money, save for college etc.
- You won’t have to take two trips to Disney World.
- You will be younger by the time both of your children graduate from high school. (This has tons of benefits)
- Your children will always have someone they feel connected to and close to. Siblings born close together are often like built in best friends. (Especially when they are adults) Waiting too long to have children can make your children more like distant cousins rather than siblings.
Of course, there are plenty of people who have their children extremely close together intentionally as well. This too can have benefits. Not only do you get all of the babyhood stages out of the way all at once, but also - your children will likely share a lot of the same interests and milestones in life. At first, having two babies in the house can be more difficult, but as they grow up – it actually can make life a little easier. On the flip side, having two children very close together does rob you of being able to sit back and enjoy those precious moments when your child is a baby. It can be stressful to have two very young children at once. (Just ask any mother of twins).
Waiting a decade or so between children is very much like starting over. Although you may find yourself more patient, more settled, perhaps more appreciative of the precious first years and more responsible, it can be a difficult adjustment. Dragging the crib out from the attic and losing the independence that comes with raising older children, can feel like a huge tradeoff. Not that you will regret it, but you will realize just how far you have come, only to take 10 steps backwards.
The right time to have a second child is different for everyone. Sometimes it happens precisely when you plan. Other times, the second child will bless your life at the most in-opportune time ever imagined. Either way, you adjust - and eventually you realize that you couldn’t imagine your life any other way.