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I am in my early thirties I have a 3-year-old girl. Growing up I always thought I would have two kids but now raising one, I realize how hard it is!

I have been recently diagnosed with some hormonal issues, and I was advised to start trying for the second baby (if we want another one) sooner rather than later. My husband I both are full time working parents and we can not seem to decide if we really want another child.

Our firstborn is getting a little bit independent now and we finally have more time for ourselves. I am afraid that adding one more would throw everything back into chaos.

We won't have much support from our family except for the first few months of the newborn stage since we live in a different country. We can manage the first five years, but after they start regular school there are at least two extracurricular activities we would want them to be part of. I feel like as parents we would be stretched beyond our means by managing two children. It would be nice to focus all that time on the one child we have.

Despite all of this, when I think about my daughter I feel like it would be nice for her to have a sibling; they would support each other after I and my husband are no more. I am seeking experiences from parents out there who have been in a similar situation, and what was, if anything, the thing that helped them decide whether or not to have more children.

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    Adoption? (May cause a medical diagnosis of the mother's ability to bear a child to be irrelevant. Also enables the children to not have a 4+ year age gap... presuming she is 3 now and pregnancy takes up most of a year.) – TOOGAM Jan 22 at 8:07
  • Thank you all for your answers and comments. I am still conflicted but hope I will get clarity in a few months. Sad that this question is closed being opinion based parenting itself is opinion-based. – somename Jan 23 at 17:38
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    Comments are for clarifying the question, not leaving opinions or answers; please use the answer box for that (if the question is reopened). Thanks! – Joe Jan 24 at 18:23
  • FYI, this was discussed on meta, here. Please reference that question before using this question as an example for future meta posts on a similar topic. Thanks! – Joe Feb 10 at 19:18

10 Answers 10

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Having a second child is very much an individual decision, and it seems like you have thought about some of the things related to it. Here's my take on some of the possible concerns. My opinion comes from someone in a middle class US household with two parents and two elementary-age children.

Financial concerns

Having a second child is, unsurprisingly, nearly twice as expensive as having a single child. Numbers below are from The Cost of Raising a Child, put out by the US Department of Agriculture based on the Consumer Expenditures Survey, which is sponsored by the US Buruea of Labor and Statistics. Numbers will obviously vary significantly by location, parental circumstances, etc., and are meant to be illustrative of one reasonable value.

Each child in a two-parent two-child household costs an average of $233,610 from 0-17, plus the cost of college, or nearly $13,000 per year. In a single child household, that number is 27% higher (or around $16,500). So the second child will cost you almost $10,000 per year in addition to the cost of the child you already have.

Are you prepared to pay that additional $10,000? Are you in particular prepared for the years where it's actually higher (the later years, if you're curious - around $900 per child on average for 15-17)?

When we decided to have a second child, we did so in the realization that the children would dominate our finances for years to come. We both have good jobs with solid incomes and skill sets that are always in demand, so we were able to make that choice comfortably - but it was a major factor.

Parental time

Having a second child means you have more demands on your time. The sum of (time for yourself) + (time for your partner) + (time for each kid) is still 24 hours minus sleep, after all.

With a second child, you have less time for yourself/your partner AND less time for your children individually. Are you the sort of person who is energized and rewarded by spending time with your children? Do you currently spend a lot of time doing things other than child-rearing, and do you anticipate it being a problem that you reduce that time?

Assuming you sleep around 8 hours a day, you have 16*7 = 112 hours in the week available. How do you plan to split those hours up? That's about 70 hours after factoring in work, of course.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that Americans spend over 2 hours per day where their primary activity is childcare when the youngest is under 6, dropping to 1 hours for children 6-12. They don't break it down (on that page, anyway) for number of children in the household, but you can be confident it's higher for 2 child households than one. They spend another 5 hours per day in secondary childcare, meaning they're doing something else while being responsible for children.

That means 7 hours a day involve a child - plus 8 hours of sleep, plus work. Given the average number of children is 2, this estimate is probably representative of a 2 child household; your 1 child household will either have more time to devote to the 1 child, or will have more time for the parents to do other things.

In my case, I am someone who greatly enjoys childcare-related activities. As such, it wasn't a big concern to me that I lost some of my personal time. It's not ideal for my wife I think, more so than myself, as she'd rather have more "us" time than we have now, though, and isn't as "recharged" from caring for children as I am. Not to say she wishes we had only one child - very much not the case - but it was definitely a "cost" to her (and thus, to us). Make sure you and your partner both are on the same page there.

Attention available per child

This is really an offshoot of Parental Time, but: with one child, you have far more attention to devote to that one child, whereas for two children you can't. Noting the numbers above - 2 hours spent in primary childcare, 5 hours spent in secondary childcare, per day - that 2 hours is where you're really focused on your child(ren), and doesn't have a ton of room to move up for more children. With two children, you'll divide a perhaps somewhat larger number (again, that 2 hours is probably for 2 children) in half, while for one child you'll have a perhaps somewhat smaller number all to one child.

Having a second child means activities (gymnastics, music, dance, soccer, etc.) will be either done together, or less hours in activities per child, until they're old enough to go on their own. If they're close enough in age, you can read to them both at the same time - but if not, you'll have to divide the reading between two parents (and even my two children, 19 months apart, go through phases where they prefer separate readers) - which again means less time available per parent for other things (while Mom reads, Dad can be doing the dishes, or the reverse).

That second child does mean that the children can entertain each other to some extent, getting valuable socialization time while at home with Mom and/or Dad doing other things (those 5 hours a day in secondary childcare), on the other hand, as long as they're close enough in age that they can do that effectively.

In our case, we've managed to coordinate activities for the most part; but it's probably meant the younger child has been led to participate in the older child's activities more than they would've otherwise. It's only now that the younger child (6) has really developed a strong preference for other activities, which is making it even more complicated for us - not something I mind necessarily, but it does mean we have said no to some activities for both children that are more time-sucks (soccer, in particular, which around here means 2 practices in the week and a game day on the weekend, even at 8 years old) that we'd otherwise have allowed with a single child household. It's certainly possible - we have 3 extracurricular activities each basically right now per week - but it's definitely a stretch.

Other concerns

You specifically mention "having each other after you're gone". I don't find that very relevant myself, but likely because my family is not very close - they're all in different states, and we see each other rarely; if my parents were gone, the presence of my siblings wouldn't really change things one way or another. But it's definitely something some people do care about; I won't discuss it, though, as I don't know anything about it.

Other than time and money, there's also the concern of space - will you have enough room in your house comfortably for a second child? Not just bedroom space, but you'll need more space for playing. How do you feel about cleaning up, organizing, etc.? That's probably our weakest area - and having two children makes it much harder.

All in all - I think it's a very individual question, but hopefully you get plenty of input as to the potential inputs on the matter. It's definitely not a "by the numbers" decision, despite my numbers in this post - I think it's important to know what the numbers are, but they're certainly not the reason to make the decision by itself.

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    Very honest, detailed, and thoughtful. +1 from me. Only quibble is 8 hours of sleep. I'm not sure that ever happened after becoming a parent! :) – anongoodnurse Jan 21 at 23:45
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    Generally I agree. One thing I'd like to point out though is that many childcare activities don't take significantly longer for two kids as opposed to one. One example would be dinner; it doesn't take twice as long to make dinner for two kids. The relationship between number of kids and time spent on childcare is not linear. – Ryan_L Jan 22 at 6:29
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    @anongoodnurse: My daughter has been sleeping ~12h/night since she was 2 months old. So yes, it can happen for parents to regularly get 8 hours of sleep. That's also one of the many reasons why we decided not to have a second child. – Eric Duminil Jan 22 at 8:17
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    @EricDuminil I find this fascinating. As the mom of an almost-3-year-old who has never once slept through the night, the extreme sleep deprivation has been the primary barrier to having a second child! if he started reliably sleeping 12 hours tonight, I'd probably be trying for #2 in a month. :D – Meg Jan 22 at 15:31
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    I'm not a parent, but I have heard from parents that one of the benefits of having more than 1 child is that the siblings can play with one another and take care of one another to a limited extent. For example, one can alert you when the other is hurt or is otherwise in trouble. Thus, that would free some of the parents' time and attention. – JoL Jan 22 at 18:04
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You have probably heard already that no one can decide for you, and that the decision to have a child is the most life changing decision you will probably ever make. I believe this is true. I don't, however, believe that this is true to the same degree for a second child that it is for the first. In other words, your life is already changed forever.

Why I had another child:

I never knew I could love someone as much as I loved my firstborn; what an eye-opener! And because I started late as well, I was kind of rushed into the decision on whether or not to have a second child (neither my husband or I ever dreamed of a large family.) In the end, it was precisely because I wanted the little love of my life to have a sibling (and all that siblings entail), because due to my family history, I didn't expect to have a long time on this earth. (I did believe I would live into their adulthood, though, and I even have grandchildren!)

I felt incredibly guilty about bringing a child into the world just to be a sibling to my first. A child should be conceived in hope and love for themselves, not as a companion for another one. Little did I know that I would love the second every bit as much as the first, and that they would bring as much light (though different) into our lives as the first. From then on, it was easy. Love grows. If one child brings light into the world, a second child will probably do the same.

I know someone who had/has eleven children, and I completely understand why. I even envy them a little bit.

Similar to you: I was older, and my husband and I were both employed in a demanding profession (medicine.) I had next to no help from family post-partum. Friends were my support system, and some occasional hired help.

Different: the spacing of our children is very close. I started trying to conceive 8 weeks after having my first. Etc.

When to stop? My health deteriorated with and after each pregnancy (unrelated to spacing.) I had terrible arthritis with each pregnancy and my baseline afterwards remained worse than before.

I didn't stop at one, so I hope you will hear from someone who did.

I know of only one couple who are sorry that they had a second and third child. In that particular case, the second child was born with a never-before-seen genetic abnormality that meant the child would never walk, talk, etc. They tried again, and the third child has the same genetic abnormality as the second. I'm not saying that these children are loved any less; they are greatly loved. However, their care is very difficult and expensive.

I hope others answer this question. It will be very interesting to read their thought processes.

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  • Thank you for your answer the paragraph for not bringing another child just to be a companion for someone is very compelling. Never thought about it that way. – somename Jan 22 at 0:07
  • @somename - Please don't take that as a criticism; people ave all kinds of reasons for having children, and I had the same reason you mention. It's just that, as so many things about children, what it turned out to be was not at all what I expected, but so very much more. :) – anongoodnurse Jan 22 at 0:49
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    I'll say that "companionship" can be a fine reason to have a second. They will be companions for the rest of their lives. My wife loved having sisters growing up and wanted the same for our kids. It shouldn't be the only reason, of course, but it can be a good, compelling reason. – JPhi1618 Jan 22 at 15:57
  • @JPhi1618 - It can be a fine reason, but as I said, with children, the outcome is unpredictable. Some siblings drift so far apart that they do not even make much difference in someone's life; sad but true. – anongoodnurse Jan 22 at 16:01
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As a parent of two, I think you are overthinking this.

Listen into yourself. Do you really really have a burning desire to get a second child? If yes, then by all means get another child. I this case, other concerns can be secondary - you will make time; money will just be enough; etc.. Many happy families scrape by like this.

On the other hand, if you laboriously have to convince yourself to get a second child, then I think you know the answer, which is clearly "no".

Parents tend to make children with expectations attached ("having a child will make the parents grow closer together", "it will give the firstborn a partner for live" etc.). That is a fallacy. You can expect absolutely nothing from a child. You are responsible for it, and you have to love it, support it, etc., but your child has no such obligation towards you. Certainly not during childhood and puberty, which means two decades at the least, exceptions notwithstanding.

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I chose to have kids closely aged together because I cherished my two older brothers (and lamented them) but they made who I am today, for better or worse. My brothers were 4 and 8 years older than me. I got along well with my 4 year older brother but he was always at such an advantage over me until we reached our twenties and the 4 years didn't matter. My 8 year older brother and I were too different in ages to be really close though is influence on me was still very strong.

Go with your gut and ignore the all math. Having kids now isn't so much a logical reason but rather an emotional one (you don't need kids to work on the farm, you have kids because you want to).

I have two kids - 5 and 3. It's true once you hit the more independent phase it's hard to think of all the sleepless nights and sacrifices that come with having another kid. For me, the 2nd kid was much easier than our first and the time flew by much quicker. We overcame the financial burden as everyone else does and we struggled through the nights, diapers, tantrums, and potty training just like everyone else.

And you can too; or don't. It's your decision just promise yourself to be happy with whatever decision you make.

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When my daughter was two, her mother found to her surprise that she was pregnant. We did not plan on having any more children, and reflecting I think it is unlikely that we would have changed our minds. We found the first two years very challenging and neither felt like doing it again, despite loving our daughter very much.

Our son came along, and he is also fabulous. It is wonderful to have both a son and a daughter (obviously not something you can guarantee) and I love that each have someone of a similar age to share life with almost all of the time.

I am extremely happy we have two, even though I do not think I would have chosen it. It is harder work than one, but I feel that it's 32% more work as opposed to twice as much. Each child gets much less parental alone time, but never lacks for someone to play with, even if mummy and daddy are busy.

Having said all of that, I am a strong advocate of only trying for a child if you really really want them. Happy parents are more important than having a new sibling any day of the week.

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We are in very similar situation as you describe, but we already have two kids. Our kids are almost 7 and 2. We live in a different country than our families, we get basically no help from them. We both work full-time, and we want our children to have extracurricular activities and a good social circle, but also spend quality time with them while having our own life too. And I can say that we are doing quite good since our younger one became one year old. Yes it is quite a lot of work to have two children in this situation, but we are extremely happy with the decisions we made of having them. And anyway I would say the first period is harder so if you think you got that covered you are good.

How and what do we do:

You probably had the same experience, when you became a parent that you became much more efficient. Mostly because you had to. Well with a second one you gonna do the same. Became even more efficient. I know that sounds impossible, but it's doable. There are a lot of techniques how to do that, but one thing that we do is that we have multiple babysitter and we rely heavily on them on tasks that we cannot do.

Our older one has two extracurricular activities at the moment during the week. The babysitter(s) takes him to these as we have to work at that time, and let's be honest, being there every week is not the best use of your time anyway. A 45 minutes class can take up your whole afternoon if scheduling is unlucky. Whenever there is an open lesson when they show to parents / care givers what they learned so far we try to be there, but on a normal day one of the babysitters will be present, not us. What worked for us is to have an army of babysitters, all in all around 4-5 of them so someone is always available, but that might be specific to us.

How much time do we have?

Obviously it is important to see how much time do we actually have when I say we are doing good. During the day when the kids are awake we are either working, doing chores or spending time with them. After they go to bed, once per week a babysitter comes and we go to dance class, once per week we have movie / date night (which might involve a babysitter being at home if we go out) and try to do sports two times a week (at home as leaving the house always needs prior planning). The rest of the nights are spent with organizing our life, e.g. making sure we have babysitters when we need them ;) and just being together.

I cannot over stress the importance of planning in becoming even more effective, for us that's the backbone of everything.

All in all, yes it is a lot of work, but doable. The first 6 / 12 / 18 months is hard but after that with smart planning you can manage it.

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I'm not sure I agree with the financial perspective most people are providing here.

Mine are 2 years apart and when my wife got pregnant with the second she thought I would panic because having one was an act of insanity (and she was easy). To her surprise I was quite happy to see they would be close in age. Having siblings myself, I know what value a brother or sister can bring. I knew they would play together and having two would free up quite a bit of the expectations any child can have on their parents.

As for the money, consider a conventional scenario. I am commonly employed. My insurance covers the kids. It's the same cost if I have 1 or 3, as an example. So having 2 did not raise premiums any more than having 1. Since mine are both girls, the clothes tend to be handed down, and the younger one has shown no concern for this at the moment. As far as food and things go, we're not really a restaurant kind of family so all of our general meal prep has been fairly inexpensive relative to some people who regularly eat fast foods and sit down restaurants. Sure, when we do go it's a little more but not by a whole lot and not enough to be a factor in whether or not we have 2 kids or 1.

Long term is another story. We know they will both eventually want things like cell phones and cars, and maybe college if they want. One has always maintained she wants to be a veterinarian so I get to pay for a PhD at some point in my life. But those things we save a little for here and there and are pretty sure we'll be able to handle it when the time comes.

The biggest benefit for us is that they play along with each other very well. Ours are close in age so they still go to the same school and have the same general social circle. That may not be the case for you. 5 years difference is a lot and may work against you initially since your older one may not see the new one as a friend at first, or even after a while. By the time the younger one can talk the older one might be onto more big kid things and baby play could feel more like a chore than the kind of fun that gets them to play together and allow you to ... breathe... a little. However you want to define that. Then again, it may not be that way.

In the end, as adults, they will have each other. And that alone is worth the investment. I won't live forever. I can imagine they will handle that much better together than if there were only one of them.

I can't speak for you and neither can anyone else. But I would say fear shouldn't have a place in this decision. Just what you think your current child can handle and what they deserve to have further down the road.

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I have 3 kids, two close together and one 5 years younger than the oldest.

Now the youngest is in her teens, she has sorted her relationships with her brothers! Limiting the physical contact when arguing to shouting matches was a good idea...

While they still argue / discuss occasionally, they find a compromise quickly and are now really good at supporting each other. Both brothers help each other with their studies and both will help their sister with her homework. Does help that both brothers are doing engineering so the maths their sister is doing is easy for them!

They will be supporting each other long after I am gone which is something a single child can never have.

I can't say you should or should not, but seeing mine together is always good.

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  • Must be nice. I hated my older brother whole childhood, haven't spoken to him for 7 years now... Must be nice to have a family though... – Divisadero Jan 22 at 9:31
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    I have 3 sisters, and we have good relationships - down to our Mum I think - she has a set of values that were passed on. – Solar Mike Jan 22 at 9:36
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It seems to me you don't necessarily want another child but would just do it for your first child. I'm sure this is not a popular opinion on a parenting forum but as it has become clear that climate change has become a big issue I would think twice about putting another child on the world. If you really want to provide them with a sibling you could adopt, but I think there are other ways to make sure they have playmates and support later in life. Friends can be just as good a support.

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The first factor when considering having another child is financial. Whether you and your spouse can handle the financial burden of another child. If it's bearable then the next factor is your time. This part will vary from household to household mainly due in part to how you and your spouse will divide your time between the kids. All additional kids will be born into a shared environment while the first born will have to go through a major adjustment having had a monopoly of two parents to now having to share your time and attention. This is something you will need to constantly address for many years until they get used to sharing you. There will be a rather dramatic drop-off on what you did (pictures and food prep, etc) between your first-born and the second. This is due mainly from having had experience being parents with your first. The third factor is emotional. Will you and your spouse be ready for the change in family dynamics from three to four family members? Sharing between siblings is something you can tell yourself while you're expecting your second but in reality it's much different. Many families resort to buying 2 or 3 of the same item because their children do not want to share. Do not forget personality differences between children. Our first was an easy-going baby. Not so with the second. So much more to do between the second. Due to this difference, you have to treat each one differently and then you have to address the concept of fairness because the older doesn't understand why they are being treated differently.

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  • Why should financial concerns be first? Lots of "poor" families are happy and successful. – curiousdannii Jan 22 at 22:56
  • First of all I never said you'd be unhappy or unsuccessful as a parent. But if you have lots of kids and are "poor" as you put it, it was obviously worth the financial burden then. If a family is "poor" and have 5 kids then why did they stop at 5? Why not go for 6 or even 7? That's because it was no longer financially viable. – Queue Mann Jan 23 at 13:52

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