Congratulations! You are the proud parent of a beautiful baby. You are in that blissful stage where you have gotten over the shock of how your body and life have been changed so dramatically by such a tiny entity and are finally starting to enjoy parenthood. Don’t look now. But, all your well-meaning family and friends are starting to congregate around you, wondering when Baby No. 2 will make its appearance. And each and every one of those well-meaning people has equally varied advice to give, leaving you feeling confused, guilty and overwhelmed about your next steps.
Should you have a second child or not? Will you be depriving your child of a sibling and family for when you are no longer around? Or will you be forcing a sibling on him and depriving him of your undivided attention? If you were to have a second child, what should be the ideal age gap? The truth is there is no right answer. But, there are a few things to think about and discuss before you reach your decision.
If you plan on having a second child, do it for yourself and nobody else. As wonderfully supportive as your husband, parents and in-laws might be, it is your body and life and you have the right to say no.
Consider your stress levels
Discuss with your spouse extensively on whether you both are prepared for another child. It means less couple time and more shared responsibility. It’s double the love, joy and laughter but it’s also double the work. Assess your current stress levels. If you are struggling to deal with one child, you should hold off bringing another child into the equation.
Do you really want another child?
Do not have a second child because you feel your firstborn needs a sibling. You should have a second child because you want another child. Your firstborn will manage fine with or without a sibling. That should not be a factor in your decision-making process.
Consider your health carefully
Consult your gynaecologist and do a full-body checkup before you decide on a second pregnancy. Look back at your first pregnancy and evaluate the toll it took on your body. Remember that this time around, you also have to meet the needs of your firstborn while balancing your own needs during the pregnancy.
Evaluate your financial situation
Children are expensive. For some couples, a second baby can overstretch their finances. If you are extending your family size, you may need to reconsider your living arrangements. You may need a larger home for your larger family. Does your financial situation allow for that? School fees for two children can be prohibitively expensive especially in the case of international schools. A second child may influence your choice of schools. In case balancing both work and home becomes too stressful, will you be able to manage on a single income? Carefully consider all possibilities before adding on the financial stress to your family.
Consider the age gap
If you are sure about having a second child, think about the age gap. Ensure that you give yourself a minimum of 18 months after your first pregnancy for your body to recover. A shorter age gap of 2-4 years allows the children to grow up together as playmates. It’s also more work for you. It will feel like an endless cycle of breastfeeding, sleepless nights and diapers. Raising two children under the age of 5 can be physically exhausting. Think about your support system and if you have enough help, familial or otherwise to take some of the pressure off you. But, there is light at the end of the tunnel. When they are older, they can attend similar activities, logistics coordination is easier and they will always have each other to entertain and be entertained. On the other hand, having two children four or more years apart also has its advantages. You can devote yourself completely to the early years of each child. You can spread out the diapers and sleepless nights and not feel overwhelmed by it. You will be a far more relaxed parent the second time around as you know what to prioritise and what to let go of. You will always have a little babysitter/helper in your firstborn. But, your body will be older. The longer you wait, the harder it gets to conceive. Your energy levels will reduce and it can be physically demanding to meet the needs of a toddler. Balancing both worlds of your children, logistically and mentally switching between their individual needs can be difficult to navigate. Both scenarios have their pros and cons. Choose what works for you keeping your family in mind.
Every pregnancy is different
Do not expect your second pregnancy or child to be similar to the first. Each pregnancy and child will bring its own share of challenges and celebrations. Be prepared for both.
Whatever you decide, the key thing to remember is that a happy mother raises a happy, well-adjusted child. There is no right or wrong choice. Make sure that your decision is right for you and your family.