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5 FACTORS TO CONSIDER WHEN DECIDING TO HAVE ANOTHER CHILD

Should I stick with just one? Navigating the second child dilemma.

5 THINGS TO THINK ABOUT WHEN DECIDING TO HAVE ANOTHER BABY
FACTORS TO CONSIDER WHEN DECIDING TO HAVE ANOTHER CHILD

At times, I envision how different my life would be today if I only had one child instead of five. I even imagine what it would be like with 'just' two. Honestly, in my case, my children arrived without much consultation. None were planned; I believe that's how most of us with many children embark on this adventure.


As a mother of five, my advice to women with one child is to think carefully before deciding to have more children. Information is the best tool to determine what is right for us and our families. Thinking about our well-being before deciding to have another child is not selfish; it's responsible, as we will bear the brunt of the work. The well-being of our family depends on this decision, so here are 5 factors to consider when deciding if you want another child,


1- Consider your mental health.


In my research for this blog, I found that science does not support the mental health of mothers with many children.


Researchers from the University of Melbourne analyzed 16 years of data from the Household, Income, and Labor Dynamics in Australia Survey. They found that both parents showed improvements in mental health after having their first child, but a second child doubles the time pressure on parents, adding more stress to their lives and negatively affecting their mental health.


According to this study published in 2018, with a second child, the mental health of the mother is more affected than that of the father. The researchers state that mothers experience higher levels of stress when it comes to raising their children because, traditionally, women bear more responsibilities for childcare at home. "Fathers also see their mental health worsen with the second child, but unlike mothers, their mental health stabilizes shortly after the birth of the second child. Fathers do not face the same long-term chronic time pressure as mothers".


Among their suggestions, researchers highlighted the need for institutions to share childcare through more flexible workplace policies for new parents, as well as support programs for childcare, especially for preschool-aged children. This reinforces the importance of the phrase: it takes a village to raise a child.


2- How will another baby impact your family dynamics?


Depending on when you decide to have another baby, has a lot to do with the immediate impact on family dynamics. In my case, I had five, but I can share my experience in stages to help you understand the dynamics of each situation.


My second baby arrived when my first child was 16 months old, so I had to deal with the needs of two babies at once. This not only brought stress to my daily life but also added stress to my relationship with my husband since the fatigue of caring for two children who depended entirely on us did not help the situation. We were irritable, and as I had a strong 'Wonder Woman' or 'super mom' complex back then, I didn't have the necessary help around me to make this process less stressful.


My third daughter arrived four years after the second, and I can say that it was the easiest of all. I already knew what I was doing. I didn't complicate things, and neither the sleepless nights nor everything that comes with a new baby affected me greatly. My two older children were already 5 and 6 years old and played a part in helping take care of their little sister. My mom helped me with the baby, allowing me to continue with my work and take care of my other two school-age children.


When the twins arrived, the biggest surprise of my life and a topic for another time, my third daughter was only 2 and a half years old. The biggest challenge was the regression my daughter experienced due to the arrival of not just one, but two babies. The potty-trained girl went back to diapers, tantrums intensified, and the once calm child became irritable, constantly seeking attention at any cost. Over time and with the help of my family, everything stabilized little by little, and things returned to normal.


These three stages in my life illustrate how the timing and circumstances of increasing the number of members in your family affect the dynamics of your life. Each baby and each family are different, but if you ask me, the best way to have another baby is to wait a reasonable amount of time for your first child to be part of the process of adding a new member to the family. If you can plan it, try to have your first child past the age of 3 before starting to look for the second one. The new baby will arrive when your first one starts school, giving you more breathing room, and the new arrival won't be so overwhelming.


3- What if my second child is not as good as the first one?


This is one of the questions many mothers of only children ask when considering having another baby. It's a valid question because each baby comes with its own temperament and personality. I would say this is like the lottery; no one can tell you whether the second child will be worse or better than the first, but what I can tell you for sure is that it will be different.


Nevertheless, there are things you can prepare before you have another child. Let's start with the difficult part. It's more work, another child means another set of responsibilities and tasks. Like any change in your life, another child involves modifying your routine, and that always causes a bit of anxiety. The good news is that humans are creatures of habit, and over time, you'll form a new routine that will include your new baby. This will make your day-to-day much easier than you imagined it could be. Like with your first child, you'll have moments of complete despair, but little by little, you'll realize that if you take things calmly and one step at a time, you can handle whatever comes your way.


Let's move on to what becomes easier in this process. When I had my first child, everything was a shock, from childbirth to learning to feed him properly and getting him to sleep through the night. These were things I didn't know how to do, and my son taught me little by little. By the time the second one arrived, the process was much simpler; I already knew what to do in terms of care, and more importantly, I learned to eliminate many things that complicated my life for no valid reason. Experience will help you handle the second child's care with less stress than the first. However, in this second round, you'll have to deal with two children simultaneously, so the adventure continues.


I conclude this section by telling you what was different for me. I realized that there is no template you can use to raise your children; each baby comes with its own temperament and personality. Although it was a bit more complicated, it was more fun, with the obvious moments of chaos. Getting to know each of my children and comprehending that they are not the same taught me to be flexible and helped me understand that humans come into the world with a unique set of virtues and flaws that make us authentic.


4- The stigma of the only child


"When are you having another child?" This is the question that follows "When are you getting married?" and "When are you having a baby?" For generations, society has put pressure on women with a sequence of events that must happen in the "right order" for a woman to feel "fulfilled."


Fortunately, new generations of mothers realized that nothing is set in stone, and they are the ones who determine their destiny. In fact, families with only one child are experiencing tremendous growth, from 10 million in 1972 to approximately 14.4 million in 2020, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.


Despite this growth, there is still a stigma around having only one child. Much of this goes back to a book written by a psychologist named G. Stanley Hall in 1896, who argued that only children are "peculiar, prone to having more imaginary friends, being lonely, and selfish." However, the concept of the only child syndrome falls short when more recent research on this group of children is examined, just like the stigmas about middle or older children. Only children are no more destined than any other child to become "difficult" or spoiled.


Experts also claim that the number of children in a family or the order in which they are born does not affect their development or personality. Research shows that parenting style greatly influences the lives of children more than anything else. Positive attention and support from parents are key to healthy development regardless of whether there is only one child or several.


5- How a second child will impact the family's finances


“Donde come uno, comen dos”. This is a very popular saying among Hispanic families, and partly it is true, but what they don't tell you is that two eat less per serving than when there is only one eating the food. In other words, another child will affect your finances, and the needs of your home will change. Whether it involves buying more formula, more diapers, or paying another daycare fee, your pocket will notice a change for which you must plan and be prepared. This involves doing a bit of research.


In 2017, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released a report projecting that parents would spend $233,610 to raise a child born in 2015 from birth to age 17. In 2022, the Brookings Institution published an analysis estimating that the cost of raising a child born in 2021 increased to about $310,605, thanks to inflation. Why so much? Here is a list of four common costs associated with having a child:

5 THINGS TO THINK ABOUT WHEN DECIDING TO HAVE ANOTHER BABY
FACTORS TO CONSIDER WHEN DECIDING TO HAVE ANOTHER CHILD


1- Healthcare

2- Food, diapers, and clothing.

3- Childcare services

4- Savings for education and college


When we multiply this by two, it's easy to be frightened by the idea of having another child. However, as someone who has five children, I can tell you that if you plan and manage what you have, your finances can stretch in ways you never imagined. The thing it takes to achieve this is a simple concept to understand but difficult to do: discipline.


Another important aspect to consider, especially for mothers, is your professional ambitions because inevitably, most of the workload will fall on your shoulders. Someone once told me that a woman cannot have it all, a career, and a family. Respectfully, I disagree; you can't have it all at the same time, but you can have a career and a family. How? By creating a village around your children, meaning with help; doing it alone is very tough.


The pros of another baby, in my opinion


I've already told you what you should consider when deciding if a second baby is the right choice for you. You need to think objectively about what is practical and what is not. I'll tell you upfront, having another child is not practical, but it can be an adventure that can bring you more satisfaction than headaches.


If you loved being a mom to your first child, you'll experience it again with the second one. It won't be the same; each baby comes with its own challenges. I can't guarantee it’l be better or worse than the first one, but I can tell you the following: it will be different, extremely entertaining, and very educational as you will appreciate up close the individuality of each of your children.


Another benefit in my experience is the gift of a brother or sister for your children. They may not be very happy at first sharing your attention, but eventually, they'll have a companion and, God willing, a friend who not only shares the same genetics but knows them better than anyone. If this argument doesn't convince you, think about this, you'll give them someone to play with or fight with; either way, they'll be distracted so you can have a little space for yourself. Mothers need to take advantage of whatever they can.


Also, consider that several studies suggest that having a strong connection with siblings helps mental health, reduces stress, makes you more optimistic, and helps lead a healthier life when children become adults. So, you can see it as a way to extend that support for your children beyond you being there with them.


Return on investment!


If you analyze it, having children is the biggest investment of your life. You not only invest money but also your time, mental and physical health, energy—everything you have in order to make sure these human beings you brought into the world are happy and productive. So, it's logical to ask yourself before making this investment, what is my ROI (return on investment)?


In my case, and I'll sound cheesy upfront, but it's the truth. Having more than one child has been a great adventure in which I feel I have grown and continue to grow as a human being. Each of my children has taught me something new, and the lessons don't end because they still live with me. I can tell you that I feel like a better person for being their mom. I have had to evolve to be the human being, I want them to be when they become adults, again HARD!. Despite them demanding a lot from me in all areas of my life, what they have given me in love and satisfaction is invaluable. For every tear, there are a lot more smiles. So, for me, the return on my investment is trillions of trillions of times more than I could ever have imagined.


Finally, the good thing is that the decision is yours


When you think about having another baby, it's good to consider all the points I've given you based on my experience. The only thing I ask you is not to decide based on fear. Remember that knowledge gives you power; if you know what can happen, you have a better chance of preparing physically and mentally for it. Something I recommend before having another child is to seek the help you will need to be okay. Whether it's family, neighbors, in-laws, friends, find your village so that when you feel overwhelmed, you have someone to ask for help.


Whether you stick with one child or have two or more, let it be your decision. Don't let anyone pressure you. Only you and your partner can determine what's best for your family. No matter what you decide, I wish you good luck and hope you enjoy the journey, always thinking that if you are well, your family will be well too.

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