How Can I Decide to Have A Second Child?
Having a Second Child is a Risk
In another article, I wrote about some of the fears my wife and I had concerning having a second child. I'm happy to report, it's not as bad as we feared. In fact, it's not nearly as bad.
To be sure, we're relieved. When I asked one of my friends who has two kids if he had any advice about having a second one, he responded: "Don't get divorced." Indeed, stress levels can rise one another kid enters the picture. Suddenly, if somebody had been coasting during the first child, that time quickly comes to an end. Both parents have to work hard to manage two children.
Other couples I know had the second child thinking it would be as easy as the first. Then they got a rude awakening. One couple had a calm first baby. The second baby was a screamer. One couple had a kid who slept through the night at nine weeks (don't count on that, by the way). The second kid still isn't comfortable sleeping through the night at five years.
So let me tell you when I say, we are so incredibly relieved that our second child seems easier than our first.
The Second Child Adds Expense and Stress
For sure, some of the same concerns still exist, particularly when it comes to affording the little bugger and sending two kids to daycare at the same time (approximate cost: 30k/year), but a lot of the stress we had getting through the first year with the first child is gone. Furthermore, while the two boys are similar in certain respects, they're also different. And as parents, while we're similar in certain respects, we're also different.
We feel now like we made some mistakes with our first son, particularly where sleep is concerned. With this new child, we're much more relaxed. As a result, we're not so likely to run into his room after we put him to sleep and he makes a noise (we also bought a video monitor, as I mentioned in another column). With the first, we ended up rocking him to sleep. I'd stand for thirty minutes to an hour, holding him, until he fell asleep because when we put him in his crib, he got upset.
Our Change in Sleep Training
We were determined with the second child to make a better effort to let him learn how to fall asleep. And don't you know? It worked! Mason gets put into the crib (we converted him after about 10 weeks) wide awake. And while he makes some noises - noises that likely would have sent us into the room to see what was wrong - he almost always fall asleep, on his own, within minutes. If you're a parent who has ever dealt with sleep issues, you'll believe me when I say this: it's like a miracle. It is a frickin' miracle.
It's hard to say whether the differences in the boys is a result of our parenting or their personalities, but it's probably a little bit of both. One wonders though, whether parental actions get ingrained in kids early on. After all, they don't have that much to learn right away, so the few impressions you make on your kids are likely to be big ones. If you're too attentive, how quickly does the baby learn that crying will result in you bursting into their room to pick them up?
If You Only Have One Child...
Do You Regret Not Having a Second Child?
Differences Between Siblings
A difference between the two boys does seem to be how much sleep each needs. Tyler, our first, never seemed to need the same amount of sleep as other babies. He was always far under the amount of sleep prescribed in most baby sleep books. Generally, he'd sleep an hour or more less than the average. Mason, at three months old, is sleeping 18 hours a day - more than the average.
I recently hypothesized to my wife that perhaps Tyler was an extrovert (no secret) and Mason was an introvert. Thus, Tyler doesn't like to be alone and Mason does, leading to the differences in their sleep patterns. This may be right. It may also be completely wrong.
I guess the message for parents having a second child or contemplating one is to relax. You know more. Generally, your experience will help you deal with things that were new and scary the first time around. Nobody can guarantee that the second child will be better than the first in terms of sleep and temperament. However, the parents are almost sure to be better parents.
Parenting is like anything the second time around. You know more. You're more experienced. Odds are pretty good you're going to do many things better and have an easier time. Have confidence.
If You Have Two Children...
Do You Wish You Had Stopped at One?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2011 Allen Donald