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Should I have another child if I already hate the one that I have?

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The Discussion

We knew our eldest son had autism from around 18 months of age. He was diagnosed on his third birthday. He is now 13 years old, in a specialist provision, has significant challenges still – some which we expected, and others which we didn’t or are new. Realistically, we are looking at him needing a lot of daily support throughout his life. He is happy, loves listening to music, swimming, playing train simulator games and has the best memory for birthdays. I kid you not, he knows everyone’s from mine, Nanna’s, our neighbours’ to Cardi B, Ed Sheeran and Deontay Wilder’s.

Our second son was born in 2012, four days before our eldest turned six. He was very much a planned child. He is ‘neurotypical’ and attends a mainstream school. He’s loving, compassionate, caring, concerned and helpful. He is supportive of children who need support in school. He has challenges of his own which may, or may not, be linked to the fact he has two brothers on the spectrum.

Our youngest child was born in the spring of 2015. He was a unexpected blessing, conceived at a time when I myself had no qualms about admitting I wanted a third child but the children’s father was deeply concerned about our ability to cope. He was seemingly the most typically developing child of the three. Eye contact, good sleeper, feeder, sociable and curious. For the first time since becoming pregnant with my second son, I relaxed a little.

By 2.5 it was apparent his speech wasn’t developing quite as it should, by 3 it was clear he was a little too active at times, I remained unconvinced about ASD right up to the Christmas before his fourth birthday although I was pursuing assessment to get an answer and had already taken him to his first paediatrician appointment. A pre-school Christmas play, alongside a number of behaviours becoming apparent in that setting, was the beginning of three very convincing months. By the assessment appointment in March I knew what was coming.

He now attends a specialist provision, has lots of friends, is exceptionally joyful, chatty, plays with toys in elaborate and inventive ways, has an amazing imagination and is a huge Daddy’s boy. It didn’t take long for Dad to settle into having a third child.

They are all loved. They are all supported. They are all wonderful. They are all different.

The bonds between each of them are fascinating and bring a happy tear to my eye practically every day – like all families there are days siblings drive each other, and you, to distraction.

We have no issues with love for the children. We manage, time wise, though I can’t deny it is not difficult. We cope financially. We still manage a date here – even though it usually falls in the two hours before a IEP meeting or annual review. We, as a couple and a family, are stronger than we have ever been.

Admittedly, we are tired. There are days and weeks, months even, when we are emotionally exhausted. There are far too many conversations about the children and not nearly enough about… anything else!

Would I change anything, at all? No.

Are we having any more? No.

From the minute I held my third child, I knew our family was complete.

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A second baby does have some benefits

Parents enjoy more meaning in their lives than non-parents. Researchers compared both life-satisfaction and meaning in adults. They found that having children living at home reduced a person’s well-being. But at the same time, it increased their sense of meaning. After children grew up and moved out, parents enjoyed higher levels of both well-being and meaning compared to people who never had children.

This study didn’t compare one versus two children, but it is possible that having another kid could further increase the meaning in one’s life.

Such may be the case in a study from Russia that goes against what all the previous research has found. Here, researchers tracked people over 20 years and found that parents were actually happier after the birth of their second baby. With their first child, life satisfaction dipped for several years, then increased to levels higher than before. But a second child steadily increased happiness. Life satisfaction never dipped after the second birth, and happiness continued to increase as they grew up.

Perhaps, life satisfaction is more closely related to feelings of meaning in Russia. Or, perhaps family life is supported more in Russia than in other groups studied.

But this wasn’t the only study that found having more than only child benefited well-being.

Do You and Your Spouse Agree?

Hopefully, you and your partner have already discussed how many kids you want. It’s tough when one partner wants more than the other, but one of you has to compromise if he wants one, and you want five. Maybe it’s not the number of kids, but the timing that you don’t agree on. You’re ready for another baby now, but your partner feels you should wait a few years. Whatever the discrepancy, you may want to hold off on trying for another baby if you aren’t on the same page as your partner.

The Stats

Let’s just get this out of the way. Most parents considering whether or not have more children want to know what the chances are of having another child with autism.

That does not mean they would not go onto have more children, even with a one hundred per cent chance. It means that they are arming themselves with as much information as they can in preparation for future possibilities.

In the UK, the NHS published a news report which cites recent research stating:

“The researchers found that 18.7% of the children (132 children) with an older biological sibling with ASD had ASD at the age of three.

Among these younger siblings, boys were almost three times as likely to develop ASD as girls, with 26.2% of boys affected compared to just 9.1% of girls. Children with more than one sibling with ASD were twice as likely to develop ASD (32.2% affected) than those with only one affected sibling (13.5% affected).”

For comparison, the percentage of school aged children with a diagnosis of autism in the UK is 11% according to Ambitious About Autism.

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.

Are You Financially Able to Support Another Child?

It’s true that you may never really feel financially ready for kids, but adding another child stretches your resources even more. Review your budget to see if you have the wiggle room for another family member.

A new baby means taking on lots of extra expenses, including:

  • Medical bills for prenatal care and delivery
  • Daycare expenses
  • Baby gear if you don’t still have items from your first child
  • A second crib if your first child is still in his crib
  • Diapers
  • Formula if you choose to bottle feed
  • Clothing, toys, furniture
  • Dental and pediatrician expenses
  • College savings for another child

Could I still be the parent (and partner) I want to be?

Parenthood is a marathon. It gets easier in some ways and harder in other ways as your kids age. One thing to consider is can you be the parent you want to be if you add another. Can your other half still be a good parent? Is it a good decision for both of you?

How are you doing?

Take a second and think about your stress level, your health? Are you able to do any self-care with the current number of kids you have? Staying healthy both physically, emotionally and mentally are all very important. They will not only affect you but also your kids and your other half.

Personally, I wanted to get my body back

Since entering “baby phase”, I feel I have given up my body. And it was definitely worth it to have kids but I am really ready to be done. The idea of being pregnant and giving birth again just doesn’t interest me. I love breastfeeding my babies, but I haven’t worn my clothing (pre-babies) since before I was pregnant with my first. My body is constantly changing size. I am just ready to have a wardrobe again, be able to get ready in the morning and feel like myself.

My pregnancies weren’t easy either. I was very sick and was not able to be an effective parent during them. I also had to do PT after each pregnancy. I don’t even want to think of the shape my body would be in after another. I also gain a lot of weight during pregnancy and while I have lost it both times, I don’t want to chance it again. I had a much harder time losing it after my second than my first.

I am also someone who needs alone time

It is pretty easy to get alone time with only two. I can easily send both kids with dad. Or they are more likely to be able to entertain themselves. The higher the number, the more times someone always needs something. The more commitments you have, etc.

Moms of three or four usually always have at least one kid in tow. My mom friend of 4 said they have a rule at the house which is if you leave you bring at least one kid because it is just too much to have them all at home.

By having two, I get to have time to myself. I love to run and go to the gym. I love having time to do hobbies.

Should you have a second child?

Obviously, the choice affects more than just you or your partner. Deciding to have a second child will dramatically change the life of your first. I’m so curious to learn the effects of being an only child, and my next article will cover that.

See also The Only Child: Everything You Need to Know, Answered by Research

And of course, there are still other things to consider. Having another baby diverts time from other life goals. Each child adds to the increasing burden humans place on our environment. Personally, I worry about the regret I may feel once I am too old to change my decision.

All things considered, I have yet to hear one parent say they regret having a second child.

How would a second child affect your life? Does the research change your opinion on having an only child by choice? I’d love to hear about your feelings in the comments.

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