‘Now that our son is a year-and-a-half-year-old, we’re starting to think about getting pregnant again. But we’re wondering if this is the right time.‘
There’s no ‘right’ time to have another baby. But there’s a probably no ‘wrong’ time, either. Having children closely spaced can present a host of challenges in the short run (including: nappies, nappies everywhere), but an efficient use of time in the long run (getting those nappies over with). Having children further apart may give you more rest between stretches of sleepless nights, but reintroduce those sleepless nights at a time when you may feel less able to handle them. As for having children close together so that they’ll be better friends, or further apart so they won’t fight so much, remember sibling friendships are more a matter of fate than family planning. More often they have to do with similarities in temperament and interests than closeness in age – and there’s no age difference that’s been proven to guarantee that siblings won’t be rivals.
The experts aren’t unanimous, but most suggest that less than eighteen months between pregnancies is stressful to the mother’s body and may rob the older child of the chances to be the baby of the family for a sufficient period. Others believe that a two-and-a-half-year to three-year gap between the children is ideal because it is long enough to allow adequate time for number one but not so long that the parents feel out of the baby ‘loop’ when number two arrives. Still, this span may not be right for you.
Rather than looking for the answer from an outside source, such as this book or an expert, it’s probably better to look for it closer to home. Consider your ages, your health, and how quickly you recovered from your previous pregnancy and delivery; examine your energy level, any special needs your toddler may have, and what life-cycle, family, or professional events (your sister’s wedding, moving, a new job) you can predict in the next nine to fifteen months (remember that it takes most couples three to six months to conceive). Then try to determine how these events night affect another pregnancy and another infant – and vice versa. Examine your feelings, too. If both of you feel like the time has come, then perhaps it has – and if both of you feel a need for a little more time, maybe you do. Contemplate, discuss, make lists of pluses and minuses, if you like, but don’t over-analyze. Just about any configuration of ages can work and has worked for someone, somewhere, sometime.
‘A lot of people have been asking us when we’re going to have another baby. Well, we’re not sure we want one. We’re extremely happy and fulfilled as a threesome, and couldn’t ask for a better child than our daughter. Is it wrong to want just one?’
Children aren’t like potato crisp; you can stop at just one, if you want to. And nobody else is entitled to make that decision for you. Though there may be many valid reasons to have another baby, pressure from friends, family and society shouldn’t be among them.
It used to be that having more than one child was something parents just did automatically, if only because it was expected. Today, more and more parents elect to have only one child. The reasons are many, and include age (older parents may not feel up to rearing another child or up to the idea of having a teenager at home when they are well into their fifties); hectic lifestyle (some parents, finding themselves with precious little spare time, opt to devote all of it to one child); precarious finances; and concern about overpopulation.
Recent research suggests that one-child families are as happy and fulfilled as families with two or more children, shooting down the old adage that only children always turn out to be lonely or maladjusted. One study found that only children are as likely to be as happy and emotionally healthy as children from larger families. On the average, the study showed, they performed better academically than children with siblings, and were strongly represented among the population of highly successful people – possibly because being the one and only in their parents’ hearts brought them more autonomy, greater self-confidence and less fear of competition.