In those first sleep-deprived weeks after your first baby is born, you probably wonder what you were thinking. You likely decide that this child will be your last. There is no way you would put yourself through this again. Then your baby gets a little older. You start to look back on those first few weeks lovingly and think about trying the whole process again. Then your baby has a bad day, and you are back to believing he or she will be an only child. How do you reconcile these positions so that you know when you are ready to have another baby?
The first key is to think about your life with two children. Do you have a partner who is raising your child along with you? If you do, are you getting alone time now when your partner is with the baby? Would you still be able to do that? How important would it be? Take some time over a few weeks imagining yourself with another baby. Think about it as you head to the grocery store, the park, or when you want to lie down. Decide whether or not you would have enough room in your life for another child. A good clue that you are not prepared to have another baby is if you imagine the new one always sleeping.
Then you should consider how much age difference you want between the two babies. There are benefits and drawbacks to having babies close together and then farther apart. Think about the differences. For example, if you have them within two years of each other, you will find that they can play together more often. They will enjoy the same activities at roughly the same time, making it easy on you. On the other hand, they may lose some individuality because they are always grouped together.
Spacing your children between three and five years apart is the most common age difference, and for good reason. There are some ways that this age difference is wonderful. The children will be their own little people because they will have enough age difference between them. You will be able to give each of the kids some individual attention, and you will eliminate having two children with bottles, sippy cups, and diapers. You may find, however, that they are asked to cooperate and play together (or watch the same movies or read the same books, or...) more than they would if there were slightly more age difference.
You also can wait to have the next baby until this one is much older. Having a huge age difference between babies has some serious advantages, mainly that you will not have two college tuition bills at the same time. Each child will experience your love individually. You will be able to be happy about both children's milestones, and you will not be overcome by these celebrations. Many children from these families report feeling as if they had different childhoods. To consider this issue, look at your financial situation now and where you project it to be in five or ten years. How much better will it be? Your children will feel these differences as much as you may try to downplay them. These children often do not feel that they had close childhoods because they were at such different points in their lives. They also will not share the same home for long.
In the end, you need to be sure of your decision. Do not make the choice to have another baby quickly or without deep consideration. You cannot take back the decision, so it is one that you should not make lightly. While there may still be moments when having an only child feels appropriate, you should not felt that way often if you are considering having another baby. If you do, then the time is not right for you.
A second baby can mean a lot of adjustment, even more so than the first baby. Just when you think that you have everything figured out, you will discover that you have to change again for the new child. And if you find yourself expecting a second baby when you were not planning on it, try to relax and enjoy this one just as you did the first one.
By Julia Mercer