When Is It Right To Add To The Family?
Before you had children, you probably knew exactly how many you wanted and when you would have them. But when you’re faced with the reality of an actual child, nothing is clear anymore. And you may find yourself wondering how you’ll know when you’re ready to add to your family.
Respected medical journals have published numerous studies pointing to an "ideal child-spacing window" of about two years between children. But that study focuses solely on physical health of the mother and baby -- an important consideration, to be sure, but not the only consideration. Here are a few more to help you make your decision.
Consider your physical stamina. Has your body fully recovered from pregnancy and childbirth? Do you get enough to sleep to enjoy your child and life in general? Yes, you're tired, but there's a difference between tired (a state that will persist for the next 8 years or so) and exhaustion so extreme it puts your family at risk. If your days are so blurry that you truly can't distinguish one from the next, you may want to wait before summoning the stork.
Some parents find it easier to get each stage over with once -- all the kids in diapers for 3 or 4 years, then start schooling, then go through the terrible teens. Other parents aren't bothered by the idea of having one child in middle school and another in diapers. What's your feeling?
Are you and your partner on the same page with your plans? Are you finding time to communicate these days? If your marriage is shaky, adding sleeplessness and anxiety into the mix is generally not a good idea. That said, it's normal to have some anxiety about adding a child to the family. The key is to ensure that the two of you continue to talk to each other.
Do you want your children to be close in age (instant play date!), or would you prefer larger gaps (helpers!)? Children who are close in age can wind up being the best of friends -- or they can spend the next 16 years fighting. Likewise, a child who is five or more years older than his sibling may immediately assume the role of protector -- or he might never get to know his younger sib.
Remember that you're not adding a baby to your family, but rather a child. As difficult as it is to look past sleepless nights and endless diaper changes, try to think about what you want your family to look like five, ten, or even fifteen years from now.
Ultimately, only you can decide when you're ready for another baby. Take your time to carefully consider what you want. Most importantly, when and if you do welcome another child into your home, do it with love.
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