When is the right time to start thinking about baby number two? Your baby has now graduated to toddlerhood and you’ve settled into a routine of predictable chaos (some of the time). The pain of childbirth is a distant memory and it’s now you may begin to wonder whether little Jimmy or Jenny would like a baby brother or sister. Besides, your little angel seems to have grown up so quickly; it would be nice to have a newborn again in the house.
Once that thought has entered your mind, you begin to ask the questions. What is the ideal gap between siblings? And will you ever be able to love another baby as much as you loved the first? Will there be enough of you to go around? And will you ever have time for yourself again in your lifetime?
The answers to those questions are the following: 1) Depends; 2) Yes; 3) Somehow; 4) The truth might be too painful to bear.
The ideal age gap between children
This is entirely dependent on your point of view. From the point of view of your current child, it’s nice for them to have a playmate that is not too much younger. A gap of up to three years will generally mean they are close enough in age to enjoy each other’s company and play similar games together.
A friend whose second was born last year, when her little boy was already six, lamented to me recently: “Daniel has caught onto the fact that he is always going to be six years older than Mary. He said to me when she’s six, I’ll be 12, she’ll never be able to play with me.” This of course does not mean that Daniel and Mary will never be close – they may well develop a very close bond, and an age difference of six years pales into insignificance as an adult.
My daughter, who was nearly two when I had my second child, decided to regress when her brother was born. She wanted to be a baby too and rebelled by refusing to be toilet trained so both baby and toddler were in nappies for 16 months and it became nigh on impossible to get out of the house before 10.30am. She was also jealous whenever I breastfed. However, she was very good with her baby brother and took the resentment at being ousted from her princess perch out on me instead.
In short, there is no “ideal” gap between siblings. Even if you would like to have the common two-and-a-half year age difference, there is no guarantee that you will fall pregnant when you want to. Just relax and remember that whenever you have your second baby, there will be advantages and disadvantages – there is never a “right” time.
Will you ever be able to love a second child as much?
This is a common worry. You have so lavished your first with love and attention; you fear that you may not have the energy or emotional capability for a second baby. But somehow, after the birth, the hormones will kick in and you will surprise yourself at how much you adore this new baby.
While it is true that second or subsequent children never inspire quite the same feeling of awe and fastidiousness, you are likely to deal with them with more confidence and less anxiety than you did the firstborn.
Will there be enough of your time to share around?
When you’re expecting your second child no one warns you that the leap from one child to two is gargantuan. It’s just about manageable when there are two adults around, but often enough there’s only one parent dealing with them both – and then it’s hard. Somehow you muddle through and stretch yourself so that there is just about enough of you to go around.
With three or four children it just gets tougher – unless the older children are old enough to lend a big helping hand with the tots.
And will there ever be time for yourself again in your lifetime?
Be prepared to wait – initially at least. Also, accept any help friends and relatives may offer gratefully.
As long as you are realistic about this phase in your life and do not put huge pressure on yourself to do everything perfectly, you will find that day by day in tiny ways life will get easier, and you will be able to claw back a few golden nuggets of time.