How We Decided to Stop Trying to Have Another Baby

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What is best for the children I already had

I think a lot of times the question “should I have another baby?” results in an answer centered around what mom (or parents) want. Instead, you should make sure you are doing right by the kids you already have.

I recently had a mom tell me that they decided not to have a fourth because they needed to start giving the kids they already have the time and attention they deserve.

Consider the parenting level your kids need

Do you have a kid who will need a lot of parenting? Maybe you have a kid who will need a lot of medical support? Do you have a kid who has a disability? What about a kid who is wild, free-spirited or strong-willed or any other word used today to mean they will be your most challenging child?

If you think you already have a kid who will need a lot more time and energy than your other kids, then you might want to factor that into your decision. Is it fair to the kids you already have to have another baby? Remember, each extra child will divide your time more. 

According to Forbes Magazine, already “couples with a child who has been diagnosed with ADHD (attention deficit disorder) are 22.7% more likely to divorce before their child turns eight than parents of a child without ADHD.” Therefore if you have a child who is high needs, then you would want to dedicate more time to strengthening your marriage. 

Personally, I never wanted to have a middle child

There is such a thing as a forgotten middle child. My second is the happiest kid on the block. If I had another, I could 100% see her becoming the last priority because of her personality and I don’t want to do that to her. However, I am sure there are some kids with personalities that would do well being in the middle.

So, take a moment and think about who your kids are and if adding another would work.

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In the event of the unthinkable

Not a fun topic at all but a very important exercise to do. Hopefully you, your other half and your kids are all healthy but what if something tragic happens? How will having one more baby change the result? Here are three possible situations that could happen.

A parent dies

Let’s say you die, or you lose your significant other. Can you handle the number of kids you want by yourself? Personally, I would be able to handle my two kids but three would be pushing it on my own. I know for sure my husband would not be okay with three kids on his own.

Both parents die

If our children lose both of us, then I really want them to be able to stay together. This means I need to have a family member who would take in all of them. I know I have a couple of options right now, but I am not sure if any could handle taking in all of my kids if I decided to have more. Let’s say I did have a family member who could take in more. Do I believe they can still parent well?

A child gets sick

Having a sick child can take a big toll on a family. It means that child needs a lot more time and energy than if they weren’t sick. Your other kids will be affected by this. Your other half will have to pick up the slack. Another reason why it’s important that the number of kids you have fits both you and your other half.

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2. Mental

Mental wellness and motherhood is now, thankfully, a conversation that we as women are having more and more.  And it’s definitely one that deserves a spot in your holistic decision making. Motherhood is known to do a number on our mental state, whether that be postpartum depression, anxiety, or even just general overwhelm that gets, frankly, overwhelming.  It’s normal to experience moments of frustration, anger, discouragement, and confusion in motherhood (I’ll say it louder for the mamas in the back!).

There’s also a reality to depression and anxiety concerns that can heavily impact a mama and which deserve to be heard. The ability to get a diagnosis, medication, and/or therapy can make a world of difference when it comes to mental health concerns, so it’s key here to know what kind of support you have in this area. While no mother is happy all, or even most of the time, it is important to feel like you have the resources to help you cope and the willingness to engage with those tools, for whatever mental wellness challenges motherhood brings up for you.

2 to 4 Years Apart

The Playground Wisdom: This close-but-not-too-close gap is meant to preserve everyone’s sanity. You and your husband may have even found time for regular date nights again.

The Highs: With your older child heading off for preschool, you’ll get the freedom to bond with your new bambino. “I didn’t realize how nicely the spacing would work in terms of individual time with each of my children,” says Jennifer Page, a Tulsa mother of three kids spaced three to four years apart. “It’s funny how different the kids are one-on-one as opposed to when we’re all together.”

Meanwhile, siblings are still close enough in age to share common interests, and many moms say the older child is a built-in mentor. “I’m always surprised at how much further ahead A.J. is than Kobe was at the same age,” says Kelley Thompson, of Flower Mound, Texas, about her 4- and 7-year-old sons. “A.J. has a big brother to keep up with. He walked earlier, plus he’s showing much more finesse at soccer, thanks to Kobe’s teaching him what to do. Now they actually play together.”

Careerwise, a 2- to 4-year age gap between kids may be ideal, assuming that you’re doing classic maternity leaves and then returning full-time to your job. “This spacing let me concentrate on learning to be a mother for a few years while at the same time continuing to work hard at my career,” says Mary Plaza, a Basking Ridge, New Jersey, insurance consultant and mother of three kids born three years apart. If you want to stay home until the kids are school-age, a tighter spacing is best for consolidating your career time-out.

The Lows: This revolving door—from baby to toddler mode, and then back again—can make you feel like you’re in a very smelly remake of Groundhog Day. “Except for a few months along the way,” says mom-of-three Page, “I have been changing diapers now for almost 10 years!” It can be especially vicious during naptime—your older child will be outgrowing his siesta just when you really need that afternoon break again.

It’s also tough to ask for babysitting help when you have a rambunctious toddler and a new baby. “When my older child was little, finding someone to watch her for an hour or two was a snap. Family would line up to offer,” says Jeri Ann Hall, a Memphis mom of two kids two years apart. “But a toddler and a baby—and when they get older, a 5-year-old and a 3-year-old—well, no one flat-out refuses, but they definitely make it clear they should be our last resort.”

Expert Wisdom: Your firstborn was used to having you all to herself and now, whenever you’re not free to play with her, she may become frustrated and pull some mean-kid moves on the new baby. Your reactions to her behavior can nip sibling rivalry in the bud. “Constantly telling your toddler ‘No’ may foster jealousy, because you’ll be seen as taking the baby’s ‘side,'” says Linda Sonna, Ph.D., a child psychologist and author of The Everything Parent’s Guide to Raising Siblings. Immediately discipline any aggressive acts, but quickly shift the emphasis to showing big sib how to handle—and enjoy—her new brother or sister.

Harmony-at-Home Tip: Getting your preschooler to help with the baby makes her feel like an important member of the family. “Megan liked getting bottles, diapers, and wipes,” says Page. “We’d also sing songs to calm Macy when she cried, and I even assigned Megan ‘babysitting’ duties, like dancing while Macy was in her bouncy chair.”

4. Spiritual

Some view creating and nurturing new life as a sacred experience, and our religion, spirituality, or worldview may play a part in the meaning and purpose we find in having children. Intuition or prayer has a place for some in how a decision is made. This is another area to contemplate and see where it leads you.

There are many dimensions to life, and my hope in this article is to honor that reality and to encourage us to give voice to each of these areas and then integrate our findings as a helpful way to make our decisions. 

In my view, this is a grounded, confident path to “just knowing” as it relates to having more children.  All of these areas can make for a great discussion with your partner, a listening friend, a therapist, or your journal!

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