If caring for your firstborn was a heady and rewarding experience, you’re probably raring to go for a second child. However, you must remember that your second child may be nothing like the first. Your pregnancy and early child rearing experience may be completely different from the first, despite you being a veteran.
Here are 10 things that you must remember when planning for a second child:
1. Age gap between the two children
It is important to space out your two children correctly so that sibling rivalry and jealousy can be minimized. You don’t want your toddler trying to suffocate your baby, do you? Elder children typically feel ignored and unloved because everybody’s attention is on the new baby. Research has shown that the best age gap between two children is 3-5 years. With this gap, the older child is able to understand the needs of the baby and even help the mother.
2. Age of the mother
If the age of the mother is above 35 years, the couple may pause to consider their decision to have a second child. Conception is harder as the mother gets older. The subsequent rigors of childbirth and raising a new baby are also tough, especially when there is already a firstborn to take care of.
3. Age of the first baby
This factor ties in with the first one–if your first baby is too young, it will be challenging for you to care for both of them. Your first baby could also be traumatized as she will interpret the divided attention as lack of love.
4. Your financial status
No matter what the age gap between the two children, the expense will be high. If your children are spaced such that the second child can use the first one’s gear and clothing, you may be able to save some money. However, you need to think long-term as well. There will be school and college fees for both children apart from food, clothing, and shelter. If your current house is not big enough to comfortably house them, you may need to move to a bigger one.
5. Timing in mother’s career
The mother’s career almost always takes a back seat after the arrival of a new baby. With a second child, the mother will have to take a maternity break again. If she chooses to get back to work sooner, there will be daycare costs to think of. Is she willing to scale back to part-time or freelance work while the children are still young? Will she feel more adjusted if she quits work for a few years? These are important questions that the couple should consider.
6. Mother’s willingness to give up things
With the first pregnancy, the mother has had to give up several things–certain foods, late nights, alcohol, frequent outings with friends, and so on. Her body is at the beck and call of her newborn. After two grueling years, she may finally be able to call her body her own again. Is she ready to give up all these things again?
7. Any special needs of the first baby
If the first baby was born a special needs child, you will have to think about whether you can take the stress of caring for a demanding new born. Special needs children will always need extra care and attention and you must be sure you are up for the challenge of administering to two demanding children.
8. Both partners agreement
Do both partners want a second child? This is very important because a child is the responsibility of both parents and not just the mother. You should both want a second child wholeheartedly and not just because the first child “wants” a sibling.
9. Family dynamics
You must examine the dynamics of your family before you plan for a second child. How is your relationship with your husband and your in-laws? Do you have the support you need to raise a second child, while already caring for the first? Are you ready to bring in a new “person” in the family and shake the existing routines? Once you and the rest of the family members have settled into a predictable pattern, it may be discomfiting to be jostled out of it.
10. Health condition of the mother
Pregnancy and childbearing both have a profound effect on the mother’s health. It takes up to 2 years for the mother to feel like herself again after the birth of a baby. She must also come to terms with the changes in her body like sagging skin, stretch marks, and protruding belly. The emotional effect of this life-changing event should not be marginalized, either. Is the mother mentally and physically fit to have another baby and care for it?
A second baby should be a welcome event in the family and not some sort of “duty” to get a “complete family.” A couple should consider all of the above factors before planning their next child.