Are You Ready For Baby No. 2?

Here are four questions to ask yourself—and your spouse—before trying for a second child.

January 25, 2018
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Ah, the question of Baby No. 2. For some couples, it’s a no-brainer—they know from the get-go that they will have at least two kids. For others, it’s less clear, and often becomes even more difficult after you are faced with the reality of one child.

This is a topic my husband and I have struggled with endlessly, and one that is rarely easy for any couple. The answers often come down to gut feelings and raw desires (as well as the luck of the draw), but there are some important questions that can help you home in on whether you are really ready to expand your family.

Here are four vital questions to ask yourselves:

1. Do you both want another child? Like, really want one?

This may seem incredibly obvious, but married couples often make assumptions about each other that are eventually proven wrong. Before you had your first, you and your spouse might have envisioned a big family, but once you have a child (and all that comes with parenthood!), one of you may no longer want another. This is the biggest question to consider: Are you on the same page?

Tips for Having This Conversation:

This can be a really tough one since emotions run high, but hear each other out. Ask each other about your desires and fears without jumping down each others’ throats. What do you imagine life with one or more kids looking like? What are you afraid or excited about? How do you think it would change things for your current child? What sorts of joys and sadnesses will it bring? Openness here is absolutely essential.

2. Can you afford it?

This is totally unromantic, but is a necessary part of the ongoing conversation. Kids are expensive. Can your budget stretch to accommodate two? How are you handling one financially? Do you feel strapped, or is there enough to go around? Will you be able to afford not just diapers and food, but daycare, preschool, and health insurance? What about vacations and college? Do you have relatives who will be happy to help out, or are you supporting this family completely on your own? How steady are your jobs?

Tips for Having This Conversation:

Be super practical and try to keep this one out of the emotional realm. Sit down with your spreadsheets. What does your monthly budget look like? What are your savings like? Can you easily afford it, or can you cut back on certain indulgences to accommodate another child?

3. What will our life with two look like?

This question is all about your family’s division of labor. The biggest mistake couples often make before having a baby is not being explicit about division of labor. I don’t just mean who will be the primary caretaker and who will be the primary breadwinner. I mean getting down to the nitty gritty: What time will the parent who is out at work get home every night? What will his or her role be upon return? Will they take over for the primary caretaker—doing the bathing and book-reading and bedtime? Or will they need to sit down with a drink, Mad Men style?

What will your weekends look like? Who will cook? Who will clean? Who will get up in the middle of the night for the eighth time, and who will get up (again) at 5 a.m. with the kids? Who will take the kids to daycare and school? Who will stay home when they’re sick? Etc., etc., etc.

The logistics are endless. Obviously not every question can be answered, but it’s very important that both your assumptions be brought to light. If, for instance, you are the primary caretaker and it’s clear to you that what you’ve been able to handle largely on your own with one will be impossible with two, how do you expect your partner to participate?

Tips for Having This Conversation:

It’s best to have this conversation with your defenses down. Every member of a family contributes and it’s important that those roles be respected. So rather than saying, “I do everything now but that will be impossible with two, so you’d better buck up!” or “I make all the money and it’s too much pressure on me!” try discussing where there is room for some flexibility. What might need to change? Is that change possible?

4. Is one enough?

After all these discussions, you may decide that one is, in fact, miraculous enough, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with this. A family of two (one parent, one kid) or three is beautiful—intimate, focused. Your kid gets a lot of your attention. You have more time for other things. It’s easier to fall into a predictable rhythm.

The problem often comes in engaging with other people—the grandmothers who are begging for more.

Tips for Having a Conversation With Your Kid Who Wants a Sibling:

Emphasize what the child has rather than what she doesn’t: more time with Mommy and Daddy, her cousins, her friends, a room to herself, no one poaching her toys. And remember that as much as a child may want a sibling, it is you, not the child, who will be caring for said baby, and you who is the adult. You have to do what’s best for you.

Tips for Having a Conversation with Nosey People who Want You to Have More Kids:

At the end of the day, it’s your family. Your choice. Your life. There is no need to justify your plans to anyone else, as much as people may want you to. So a simple: We are happy as we are should be enough. And if it’s it not? Not your problem.

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