Having a Second Child

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  • Second baby adjustment advice

    (5 replies)

    Hi parents, 

    I’m due with my second baby in mid February. My toddler will be 2years 5months by then. He stays home with me (no daycare/preschool-no budget for help) and we don’t have any family in the area or many reliable friends. My husband also works 12hr days/6 days a week and will only be taking off 2 weeks. 

    I’d love to hear some things parents would suggest I have prepared during this transition in life. Tips, products, words of wisdom- anything will be greatly appreciated! 


    You don’t mention what kind of advice you are looking for so here is a smattering of some of the things we are doing to prepare our soon to be 3yo for the second child coming this December:

    • A postpartum doula (worth asking for sliding scale - we also don’t have much means for this either but knowing how hard the first time was we knew it was crucial if we could get any support)
    • Dr Becky, Good Inside - support with helping a toddler transition to being a sibling. Her Instagram and podcast are good free resources and she has an online course (under $100 I believe?)
    • The Fourth Trimester, Kimberly Ann Johnson. I took lots of this book with a grain of salt (it’s a little woo woo and extremely heterosexual which may be perfectly fine for some) but also had loads of discussion of taking care of yourself and your relationship during this time (so important!) and how to gather what resources you do have.

    Feel free to reach out if you need someone to talk to while you’re “in the trenches.” 

    Hey I just read your post and have a 2 year old boy (bday was 10/24). Im replying cause I too have been stay at home with him and with little support. 
    so I’m just lending my support for especially when you have your second one. If you need some help with your toddler (play dates) depending where you’re at , I wouldn’t mind. My belief is it takes a village. And support is so important. 

    I had my second right when my first turned two. Doing it completely on your own sounds hard. If at all possible, I would suggest looking for some additional help for those first few months -- can your husband take a little more time off or cut back his schedule temporarily? Can a family member come stay with you for a few weeks when your husband goes back to work? Can you hire a teenager or college student for cheap to come over a few days a week and help you out? 

    I also strongly recommend talking to your kiddo as much as possible now about the impending change. Remember that toddlers have no concept of the world outside their own experience, and they don't understand what a sibling is or what a new baby is. The biggest factor in our smooth transition, I think, was that I spent time every single day in the months leading up to the birth of the baby talking to my toddler about what was coming. This is where the baby will sleep. This is how the baby will eat. When we go to the park, you will play while I sit on the bench holding the baby. When we got on walks, I will wear the baby on my chest while I push you in the stroller. Etc. Explain every detail to ease his confusion and worry. Get books about new babies, watch the Daniel Tiger episode where Daniel gets a baby sister. 

    Once the baby is here, you're going to have to relax your standards. Your two-year-old will probably watch more TV than you're comfortable with and may eat more processed foods than you like. The first few months are survival mode, and you will get through them, and everyone will be fine. Try to spend 10 minutes a day when the baby is sleeping focused solely on your toddler -- play with him, read with him, do whatever he wants to do. I promise this is more important than doing dishes or whatever else it is you think you might need to do during that time -- if your toddler starts acting out because he is jealous or worried or whatever, your life will be much harder. Taking time to reassure him that you still love him and still have time for him will do wonders. 

     I also would suggest stocking up on a few exciting toys or activities or art projects that you think he will like, and waiting to give them to him until after the baby is born. Some people suggest having some special toys that he only gets to play with while you're feeding or taking care of baby -- we didn't do that, but having a few new exciting toys help. 

    Lastly, start scouting out places you can take your kiddos that are kid-friendly and contained when you're ready/able to get out of the house. (My babies were born pre-COVID so this may be different now, but still worth considering). There are a lot of indoor playspaces, fenced in parks, etc. You're going to want to find a place where you don't have to keep your eyes on your toddler 100% of the time -- so somewhere contained and safe is essential. 

    Good luck! It's going to be hard, so prepare your expectations. But also, you'll be fine. You'll get through it. It gets much easier. And it's a really beautiful time. Enjoy your babies. 

    Our daughter was 3 when our son was born and we also had zero outside support. I will be honest--it was pretty chaotic! On our first day home from the hospital our daughter basically ran yelling from one end of our small house to the other for most of the day as we sat exhausted on the couch. You will get through it one way or another. :)  I did want to share one tip that worked well for us from a fellow BPN member--we bought and wrapped a gift "from the baby" to give to our daughter when she first met him in the hospital; we put it in the birth bag in advance. I couldn't believe that she accepted the story that he brought it with him from inside my belly to give to his big sister--the thrill of a surprise gift outweighed any logic! It was a small but important moment and made the meeting that much sweeter.

    First thing that comes to mind is being kind to yourself and knowing that if your toddler has some screen time and it buys you time for a cup of coffee or tea, all is great. If the baby goes in a swing or bouncer for a bit and you can shower, same.

    I'm also thinking of how important it was to always have quick meals on hand for myself and the toddler and baby. Frozen soups, fruit, cheese, yogurt, bread. Good basics that you always have on hand if you just can't get out with both of them. I was mostly solo as well with my toddler and baby and found this helped a lot. Too often we feed the kids and do not take care of our basic needs.

    Also investing in any gear that facilitates getting out--the right stroller (lots of deals second hand), wraps, carriers, even having a good lunch box for snacks on the go helps so much. Getting outside sometimes helps to just shift everyones mood.

    Our days were long and not always easy but we got through. :)

  • I'm a 38-year-old mom of a 1-year-old.  She's a wonderful, curious, and fun baby but no one would ever describe her as easy going...  We'd like to have a second baby but my family has cautioned us that based on our daughter's temperament, it might be particularly hard on her to have a younger sibling when she's under 3 (even though in general 2.5 years is common sibling spacing).  They recommended waiting until she's three to have another baby. 

    I think they're right that our daughter benefits from a lot of parental love and attention right now and if I were ten years younger, I'd definitely wait.  However, waiting would mean I'd be 39 or 40, and I'm worried about my ability to conceive again.  So, I'd be curious about how others in similar situations have navigated the tradeoff between sub-optimal birth spacing and potentially waning fertility.

    Also, if anyone could weigh in on how their more high strung 2.5 year old reacted to a younger sibling, that would be very helpful too.  Thank you!

    My older child is very challenging and we also weighed the challenges of two kids close together against the ticking biological clock. Our kids ended up 3 years apart, and it has pros and cons. Having a newborn and a 3yo was actually not so hard, but we struggled when our younger kid started to hit the challenging toddler stuff around 1.5 and our older kid was 4.5 and still really acting like a toddler in a lot of ways, and kind of wished they were further apart so that our older kid were older and more rational. Now our older kid is 6 and still having a hard time with some behavioral stuff and I wish our younger kid were older and more rational! I think, ceteris paribus, it would be a little easier if they were further apart, but the risks of waiting are real (we lost one pregnancy in between our two kids) so I wouldn't make a different choice about spacing. Having a challenging older kid is really really hard (I compare our situation to friends with a challenging younger kid, and it is definitely different because the older kid really sets the tone in a lot of ways) but that's the case no matter the age difference. 

    Our daughter sounds like yours. we had a second child when she was 3y 1 mo. She was mad at us at first but has always loved her sister to bits. We’re 5 months in and it feels like the new normal. Her verbal skills and maturity really accelerated at around 2.5 years. We did have a miscarriage before and I am also over 35. With having babies you never really can plan with precision…in your shoes I might wait a bit but not til 3. 

    I think I might be able to answer this question for you. My older daughter had a similar temperament, she was by no means easy going. We had our second child when she was 3 yrs 8 months right when the lockdown started and both the kids were home. It was incredibly hard. There were lot of tantrums, lot of aggression.It took my daughter 12 plus months to accept her new sibling but now at 17 months in she loves her sister and 80% of interactions are positive. . At around age 3-4 they go through some big hormonal changes that some kids don’t handle as well so I wondered if it would have been easier if we introduced the sibling earlier! In the end I think a sibling is a big transition so I would work towards preparing for that, lining up more support for yourself for the first year. Have the older child go to daycare or some sort of activity out of the house for part of the day. Ensuring a good bedtime routine for the older child.
    I highly recommend reading Siblings without rivalry and How to talk so kids listen.. to prepare to handle and acknowledge  the big emotions which will inevitably occur. I would not delay the pregnancy in the hopes of an easier transition for the older child. Besides being close in age they will be perfect playmates!

    I waited until 39 to try for my second and I regret it. I didn’t realize I’d have the fertility issues I do now. If you are open to IVF or other fertility interventions, it might not be as big of a deal to wait. We couldn’t afford the expense of IVF so we’re likely going to one-and-done. Remember you’ll be pregnant for 9 months before baby comes and your toddler will grow and develop a lot in that time. My daughter is very high maintenance but every month that passes it gets easier. Only you can decide what will be best for your family, but thought I’d share my experience. 

    Some things you just can't really plan - precise child timing is one of them. At 38 if you start trying now, who knows how long it would take. You might get pregnant right away, or it might take a year or more. Early miscarriages are super common too, and rob you of a few months. I got pregnant the month I removed my IUD at 37, but had a much harder time 3 years later. Having two kids under 3 is super hard (or so I've heard) but if I were you and I really wanted the second kid, I'd go for it. Maybe think about how you'd feel if you waited and then couldn't have another. 

    I had a new baby when my very high-strung, curious, and energetic son was 2 1/2 years old.  I can say now, it worked out fine.  The 2 1/2 year old was initially disappointed with his little brother, but the baby grew, and before we knew it they were playing.  They also fought, of course.  And there were a few incidents along the way.  They both survived, and almost four years later we added twin girls to the mix.  They are now 28, 26, and 22 x 2.  They all get along well.  Oldest boy is a Googler, second works at UCSC on their telescopes, and the two youngest have just graduated Cal and have their first jobs.  It was tons of work.  It was worth it.


    Your daughter sounds a lot like mine (now almost 6)! She was 2.5 when my son was born and it was not easy. She was a pretty aggressive/physical toddler pre-baby and had a lot of big emotions, and then when he came along, all of that was directed at him. She’d be cuddling him one minute and then whack him on the head in the blink of an eye. Not in anger- just like she couldn’t handle all of the emotions and that’s how they came out. I couldn’t leave them alone at all. She also had a lot of tantrums around then, but that may have happened with or without the new baby, who knows. So, yes, it was very difficult due to her temperament and age, but we worked hard to encourage their bond and teach her proper ways of interacting with him (when we had enough patience to do so). And we tried to have a lot of one-on-one time with her. Between that and her maturing with age, they are now truly best friends and love each other SO much. They still fight, of course, but their bond is incredible, I think partly because they have had a lot of time together and like to play similar things since they’re closer in age. We just had our third baby 2 months ago and our son (almost 3.5), who has the opposite temperament of our older daughter (he’s always been super relaxed and content), has responded really well to her arrival, as has my older daughter this time around, and I do think part of that is due to him being slightly older when #3 was born (but I think it’s mostly his temperament). All this to say- this is just my experience. I don’t think there’s a perfect timing on this, and it sounds like your daughter will likely struggle a bit whether you wait the extra 6 months or not. Or maybe she won’t struggle very much, she could surprise you! But it’s a massive change for everyone, so even if it’s tough for awhile, you’ll get through it and you’ll all adjust in time. Good luck with whatever you decide- I wouldn’t overthink it too much because you just never know how it’ll be until it happens! 

    I have an almost 2.5-year-old son and a 5-month-old daughter (their birthdays are 1 week short of 2 years apart) and I will turn 41 in December. Our son definitely needs a lot of parental attention and is quite anxious. Our daughter was a bit of a surprise and I was so nervous about how our son would react to her. While it is definitely a challenge, he is absolutely in love with his sister and is pretty quickly getting used to sharing the spotlight. Does he have some tough moments? Of course. He's a high strung, anxious toddler. But I almost think having a sibling is helping him realize he isn't the center of the universe and mellowing him out a little. I think kids are more adaptable than we realize before we give them something to adapt to. I'm not saying it won't be challenging, but I also understand feeling like your body may not wait for timing to be ideal. But also, your body may be just fine to conceive when you're 39 or 40. There are some good books to help prepare for new siblings that you could start reading now to see how she reacts to the idea of being an older sibling. ("You're the Biggest" comes to mind off the top of my head--our son still likes reading it).

    Hi, My daughter and my son will be 3 years apart. But I think 2 or 2.5 years apart would have been fine too. I think one key factor is to include your daughter in a lot of decision making and preparations for the new family addition. She started preschool and she started sleeping in her own bed/ room before her brother's arrival (step by step transitions without feeling replaced). We looked together at her baby brother's clothes and she gave him some of her own. I also explained to her that some clothes were hers, but now she has new clothing and she has outgrown the others. Same with toys, etc. We have also started activities that we do with her alone. Such swimming. Special mama and papa days just with her. We also told her how she can help with her little brother, if she wants to, and what he is and is not able to do because he is still so small. I encourage her to talk to him,  sing,  etc. You have 9 months to prepare her. Don't emphasize or let others emphasize that she will be jealous or that she might have difficulties.  She is going to meet her new best friend and fan. 

    I’m now 70 and a grandmother of 6, but how well I remember our 3 year old perfectionist when I was pregnant with #2.  I think first children are always a bit more of a challenge, but we forget no two siblings are alike.  Our second daughter was an angel, all laughter and delight.  Actually the difference a shock.  Keep that in mind with you equation!  I think your instincts are right and kids do need to learn life happens.  They can be best friends.  Always my goal.  

    Don't wait!

    Sorry to jump right in with that but as soon as I read your post I felt that hindsight moment. Our kiddos are 3.5 years apart and I wish I had thought about my second sooner. My husband and I joke that we were so burnt out exhausted from our first we can't even believe we had a second but then he was born and I truly saw how temperament is unique to each child. My bright, intense 3.5 year old had a terrible time with his arrival, therapy, outbursts, regression, the works. I think it would have still been a tough adjustment if she was younger but it felt even more so being that age--I distinctly remember her being so mad her sibling was there one day she said in tears, "wasn't I enough"...so many big feelings at our home. In our experience, having that space between them certainly did not help. It is better now that they are in school and have their separate times and groups but she continues to dominate our energy. I wish I could give you advice about how to make the transition easier for her when a second does arrive, we tried it all, and it was still tough and just took a long, long time.

    Even now, at 11.5 and 8, she likes to look through early photo albums reminding us how great life was when it was only her before his arrival, LOL. They are a passionate little duo of love and hate but that jealously lingers so I say don't wait, do what is best for you, your family, your fertility! 

    We just made it through our first year with two littles spaced exactly two years apart. Our first falls into the “highly sensitive” temperament range and while I would say it wasn’t an easy year and I could definitely see that we would have had a different experience if she was just now transitioning into being a sibling, we all made it out alive. And overall I don’t think any of us are any worse for the wear and in the long run I’m excited for the relationship they will have growing up so close in age. 
    We did a lot of preparation work with our older one by reading books about siblings and watching videos of meeting new baby siblings for the first time and talked a lot about her as a sister. 
    Littles are resilient and I think even for a highly sensitive toddler, as long as you have enough resources to be able to catch your own breath so you can stay calmly responsive to her- my biggest struggle at some moments this year- you’ll all be fine regardless of spacing. It will certainly be harder on you than on them so you get to choose your own adventure! 

    My kids are 21 months apart, i.e., my daughter was not yet 2 when her brother was born. The first year with both kids was really rough, but mostly because baby #2 was very high maintenance. My daughter loves a lot of attention and it was hard for her to share (and hard on us to handle everyone's needs). Now that they are 3.5 and almost 2 we are really reaping the benefits as they start playing together and enjoying each other more. If I waited too long and couldn't have another baby I would have regretted it. Kids adjust. It's more about how hard it will be on you rather than how hard it will be on your daughter. 

    Hello, I just want to comment on my experience with waning fertility in case that helps you make your decision. I had 3 children in my 30s with a single miscarriage in between numbers 2 and 3. Hoping for a 4th, we started trying when I was 39, assuming we'd have no problems since we hadn't before and so many women conceive at that age. It took 4 years and 5 miscarriages before I was able to get and stay pregnant again. My advise based on my experience would be to try to get pregnant as soon as possible and let go of the illusion of control over temperament, timing, spacing, etc. There is very little that can be predicted when it comes to kids, so let go and hope for the best (your daughter may in fact love being a big sister and helper - energetic/busy kids often do!) Wishing you the best of luck!!!!!

  • Longing to have another child

    (1 reply)

    I'm a man in my late-forties, creative, artistic, intellectual. I lead a research team at the University. I have a teenager at Berkeley High. I also have a strong longing to have another child. Being a parent has been my most rewarding experience. Although I have had the desire for another child for some years now, circumstances have always gotten in the way, the option to wait always was the easiest. Now I realize I cannot delay much longer. And yet finding a relationship with a person desiring a child is quite difficult in my experience, especially in my Berkeley milieu. The advice I get is always the same -- post something on Craig's list. I have looked over the postings there and every time I get a queasy feeling and go no further.

    Time has led me to be very flexible about my goal of having a child. The priority is the child's welfare, whether that leads to a close family relationship, a supporting friendship role, or (least preferred but something I could accept) minimal contact with the mother and child. I could see embarking on this awesome parenting experience  with a single woman or a woman in a relationship who needs help conceiving.

    I would be most grateful for advice as to how to proceed.

    Surely if you posted a profile on match or eharmony, indicating your interest in getting serious and starting a family quickly with a woman 30+, you'd have a bajillion responses. Craigslist seems for hookups, not serious stuff like you are proposing. I would just suggest that you might want to consider if you actually want the relationship with a woman piece, or just the co-parenting role, and how important biology is .... in which case think about either connecting with a lesbian couple looking for a donor, or perhaps a woman with children already. Or perhaps you and your teen might discuss together being a foster family for older kids moving through the system. Maybe a short round of talk therapy to make sure you understand your goals for the next phase of your "parenting" life.

Archived Q&A and Reviews

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Older parents want a second child

June 2002

We are older parents and are considering having a second child. The first child has been such a delight and so much easier than all the reports we heard. (The hard part was for us conceiving; and we would probably have this same difficulty the second time around). If we get lucky, the second child will be about three years younger than the first.

My husband and I know that if we were younger, we would definitely have many. Being a very high energy person, I'm having trouble letting our age be the main thing that stops us from having a second, especially since the first has given me so much joy....but, I'd hate to ruin the good thing we have going now over fear of missing out on even more fun.

Have older parents found that the second (well spaced child) tipped the boat or made life so much better. Have parents that opted for only one child regretted that decision later. Any words of wisdom will be appreciated Anon

I am in my early 40s with one child, and although I thought for sure that I would talk my husband into having more than one child, we have been so happy with our child (also finding it much easier than expected) that I decided to go along with my husband on this. I know many parents with 2 toddlers and I come home saying ''how do they do it?!'' For me - not a person with endless energy - the one child was the right thing for us. anonymous

Second children have the benefit of their parents' increased knowledge and calmness and the interaction with an older sibling.

We would have never known what we were missing without a second child... but, knowing what we gained by having him, we were thrilled to have our third child this past winter -- 10 years after the second, thirteen after the first. We were ''older'' in 1988 (31)...now officially ancient! (45) Good luck! Heather

I understand your concerns completely. I was 40 when I had my first and 44 with my second. I am now 47. Not only do I work full time, but my husband had a stroke, luckily with little residual damage, between the two boys and a heart attack 2 months ago. We so wanted to have a second that we continued with all the fertility treatments. I am absolutely blessed to have both boys and I am absolutely exhausted. I enjoy both of them thoroughly. Would I have the second again? Most likely, but with a different thought process. The children have put an incredible strain on our marriage and both of our health. When people said the second more than doubles your work, they couldn't explain it but it's absolutely true. Each child wants and needs you individually and you are also needed when they are together. You are always being tugged. After the fact, I was sure glad they were 4 years apart. I didn't have to keep as keen an eye on the older one while with the baby. Oh yeah, the mess is way more than double as well and I don't know how they do it. All this being said, I think my age and career have allowed me the financial ability to hire a LOT of help and counseling. I have a complete and insatiable pleasure and aprreciation in watching the children interact and individually grow. (I don't know if that is age related or me.) Without these, I'm not sure how I would have made it. I didn't realize how hard it would be, but for me it is worth it. It is hard to describe, so I am happy to talk further if you would like. Linda

We're early-40s parents of an 11 year old and a 2 year old. Number one was an extremely active and demanding baby, still likes a lot of attention and interaction. We weren't ready for another for a long long time. We thought about having another for lots of complicated reasons, including the fact that the first one turned out so sweet and fun, that my mom has time to help, and that that our siblings had not had kids for various depressing reasons. We talked about having another for a couple of years before we decided to give it a try. We let Nature have her way -- if we weren't easily fertile, we were not going to push it. I was pregnant in 2 months (kind of scary -- we're even more careful about birth control now).

The second pregnancy was more tiring than the first one, but labor was easier. She's always been a sweet, smart and self-assured baby. The older one bonded with the baby right away, though he's easily bored playing with her. It's been a mixed bag for the adults as well. We often wish we had fewer demands, though we love our kids very much. Being older (and low-energy to begin with) does affect us, we're less likely to play actively, go to the park, to get wild. We try to be good-enough parents and have done OK so far. Avi

You don't mention your ages, but we were slightly older parents than most of our friends (1st one at 33, second one at 38) and we are now 47. Many of my friends were in their 40s for their second child (one friend had twins at 44!) I really don't think age is all that relevant if you are in decent shape, and enjoy family life. A second child DOES change the dynamic in a family - but I do not know anyone who looks back and says I wish I had only had one. You should also not expect any particular similarities in your children. My first was a great sleeper, and very independent. My second kept me up for 18 months, but is the world's best ''cuddler.'' Three years is good spacing. You need to make a committment to the preservation of intimacy with your first child so that he/she will not feel displaced. Do not underestimate this - even if your first seems to be adjusting well.

As a more mature parent, you also have to make a comittment to using childcare so that you feel you have a life with you husband - and for yourself. Don't guilt trip yourself that you need to be home with them for everything.

Perhaps the biggest dilemma for older parents is getting through the early years so you can do more adventurous things together as a family, and not always be oriented to the toddler mentality. (just when you are done with diapers for the first, you have to start with the next) We have travelled with our kids alot in the past, but last year, when the youngest was 9, was the first time we could really take long hikes, speak in other languages, and do more spontaneos things.

The happier you are with yourself, the happier your family will function. One friend of mine had her second son at 48, and he is a great joy in her life. Good luck. rl

Whew - this is a hard question since I really think it's very personal, eg. your energy level, your partner's involvement, etc. However, I can you give you my experience so far. I'm 47 and have 5 & 2 yr old boys. Our boys are fairly energetic, noisy, and messy (vs the quiet bookish types!). Our 2 yr old has not yet slept through the night, and we are exhausted most of the time. Having a second has been tough on me since I like to have some of my own time and the testosterone level can push me over the edge pretty easily at times. I love #2 madly, and love seeing how different he is than #1, but these years are really tough and I sometimes think how golden life would be with a single 5 yr old. I am told - and this is why we went for it! - that soon it will be great as they will play more together and entertain each other and have a pal. I actually already see that - they love each other alot and we don't have to make a zillion play dates and organize life like our pals with one kid. So - if you can make it through the first 3-4 years, I think the payoff is great for you and for them, esp later in life they will have a support system (one hopes). Plus, as my husband says, each of us will have a kid to push us in our wheelchairs! Lisa

I also loved being a parent with my first, and despite being an ''older'' parent decided to go for the second. It has been a joy, and a lot of work. I would say that my husband was more ambivalent about the second child and he still feels that our life would be a lot easier with only one child. I feel that as the second child gets older, it gets easier. The first 2 1/2 years is a lot of work with one child, and with 2 it is harder as there are many needs that need to be met. Good luck in your decision. jk

We were in our 40's when we had our 2 kids (They are both adopted since conceiving was an insurmountable problem for us) Our 7 1/2 year old son is 18 months older than our daughter-- which is not optimal spacing. It has been REALLY hard but I wouldn't change it--although my husband might. Until this year, I was mostly able to work less tahn full time --which helped. We are always tired and often cranky--probably more so than younger parents would be. I have found that two kids are way more than twice as much work--they each have separate needs and there is so much balancing of time with each and still looking for time for yourself. Be prepared for it to be more challenging than you can imagine! Denise N.

One fact that would not necessarily have changed our decision to try for a second child, but that I wish I had known, is that the three ''risk'' factors for having twins are - if you have twins in your family - if you are over 35 - and if you already have had at least one child. (check, check, check.) We considered stopping at one and at 38 ended up with three. And if you go to a twins club meeting, you hear that a lot. It has been an unbelivable blessing, with huge ramifications. Including the fact that we no longer fit in our 900 square foot house, and had to move away from the Bay Area. Our old lives are pretty much gone -- (I used to garden, read books and wash my hair) and we do actually weep about that every now and then. And I have friends with 2 kids who feel the same way. I think a good question to ask is what your tolerance is for potential upheaval at this stage in your life. I know occasionally a baby comes along who tucks smoothly into the family's rhythm and loves to go to the park in a snuggly and lie in a basket while mom gardens and nap so Mom can spend time with firstborn -- but chances are not great you'll get one of those. But a good thing about kid-induced upheaval is it shows you tolerances and reserves you didn't know you had. Good Luck. anon

Unfortunately, no amount of advice from others can add up to the right decision for you on this life-altering choice. In defense of a second child, I will offer our own experience. I vividly remember a night, my first kid was about 1 1/2 at the time, and I was probably six months pregnant with number two, calling a girlfriend (who happens to be a gifted Montessori educator) to moan about how I was about to ruin our lives, about how I'd be losing precious one on one time with my daughter, and so on. And she said, so wisely, that I'd be giving my daughter the best possible gift, that I would be adding so much meaning to our lives with the advent of our son, that our home would be my daughter's personal laboratory for life, to learn about sharing, turns, all of those incredibly valuable life lessons one learns at home. And of course, my son arrived, took his place in the family, and I just can't imagine being on the planet without him. He and my daughter are just under two years apart, are best friends, station themselves on their campus when they know the other one is passing through so they can say hi to one another and give each other a little hug (I kid you not - even teachers have commented on how close they are). And of course they piss each other off and swipe things from one another but it is indeed the best workshop on earth here at home. So, if you have the energy, the financial where-with-all, the stability required, yes, I think a sibling is the way to go. And yes, it is very intense in the beginning when they are both little, but I'm glad that my kids are close in age - big dividends now that they are 8 and 6 (and just to complete the thought, I had my daughter at age 36 and son at age 38). Best of luck with this life changing decision. Signed, Mom of two who wouldn't do things differently for all the tea in China

After reading the previous postings on this issue I think I am probably the oldest parent, so far, who is responding about her decision to have a second child. I am a lesbian who has the benefit of being with a partner who is 11 years younger than me. She birthed our first son when I was 47 and our second son when I was 50. We have been together 16 years, and although it wasn't our original plan to have kids when I was older (it took us a long time to have our first child-I'll spare you all of the fertility details, etc.) I think there are definite benefits to being ''older and wiser.'' In the Navive American tradition you aren't considered an ''adult'' until you are 51 years old. I know, for myself, the emotional maturity I bring to my children was not available to me when I was younger. I came from a dysfunctional family and it has taken me this long to come into my own. Although I might have had more energy (whatever that really means) when I was in my early 30's, I was a mess emotionally. My sons have the benefit of being raised my someone who has had the time, and opportunity, to work out some of the emotional kinks before having them, instead of doing it with/on them. When you are older you also have the benefit of having a career (if you are lucky) and don't feel the need to go back to school (since you may have already done this), or other things that necessitate long periods of time away from a young family. I also feel that having two kids is a real blessing...after seeing our two boys together I believe the second child really came for the first. My partner and I are just his caretakers, his real love is his older brother. It is fascinating to see how different they are, how they experience the world in such different ways. I also feel that our first son is learning things that he wouldn't have the opportunity to learn at such an early age, because he has a younger sibling. I am impressed with his capacity for compassion and the gentleness he shows his baby brother, things I would not have expected for a 4 year old. He also gets his patience tested over and over again. If I was 40 years old we would consider having a third child. One of my personal challenges, at this age, is keeping in good enough physical shape to remain active with my family, bike riding, hiking, etc. in my mid-sixties--illness and injury free. (It's hard to find the time to workout.) Having younger kids provides a great incentive to remain active for as long as possible. I had a great role model, who I keep in mind as I grow older. She was a girl scout leader, who was not a jock (in fact, she was an ex-smoker), who hiked the entire John Muir trail at age 65. If she could do that at 65, I can raise two children - showing them the wonders of the world at age 65, as she did for me, when we slowly hiked the John Muir Trail together (I only lasted 65 miles). From a happy, and somewhat tired, 51 year-old Mom. Elaine

I think there's a tremendous amount of pressure in our culture to have a second child, whether or not it makes sense for your family. Most of the research I've seen suggests that ''only'' children are similar in most ways to children that grow up in households with more children. The adults also have more time and energy to work and pursue interests outside of parenting. Health also becomes more of a concern after 40. My husband had a first heart attack when our child was four and had a second one a year later. He's in his early 40s. Although I love being a mother, and in other circumstances probably would have had another child, I'm glad we only have one. When he's been ill, it's been tremendously difficult to manage the logistics of his needs, our child's, and my work. I don't think I could handle it if we had two. Although most of us will be healthy into our 60s and 70s, there are no guarantees, and I think older parents need to consider how able they are to handle the responsibilities of parenting on their own. anon

Should we have a second child?

Here's a slightly different question about having a second. (Boy am I glad this is anonymous!!) I *don't* feel particularly glad that we had a first, but my husband wants another. Our first is a great kid, by the way, but I feel totally worn out! I'm thinking, will a second be as much extra stress as I fear, or not? I've heard, having two is more than twice the stress of having one. The other thing is I've heard that unless you want to spend your life dragging two kids around to two *different* sets of activities, it's better to have them close together so at least they can be entertained with the same activities and keep each other busy, so that I don't have to. The reason I wouldn't totally mind having another is just that I would really like to see how different one kid is than another kid -- basic curiosity.

So to be brief about it, I'm not worried about whether I'll love my second as much as my first, but about whether I can manage to love my second more than have my first. There must be other parents out there who still aren't sure they did the right thing, no? or am I off the map here?

If you aren't completely sure you want a second child, don't do it! It isn't fair to you or the child. The potential for stress from family conflict -- between the two children, between you and your husband over how you are sharing the responsibilities particularly given the fact that he was more anxious than you to have a second child, etc. -- will be much greater. There's no guaranteeing they'll share interests and entertain each other; they could very well fight or want to head off in completely different directions. If you find you love the second one more than the first, I don't see how that could possibly make life simple, as children are very sensitive to that sort of thing and it would probably only make the first one harder to deal with. Having a second child will also extend the number of years until your nest will be empty again.

I have only one child and a lot of people tried to tell me I needed a second to keep her company, to keep her from being a spoiled only child, even to possibly have a male to carry on the family name. I didn't think any of these was a good enough reason, for the child's sake or mine. I finally convinced my husband (not that I was about to have a child when I wasn't totally for it anyway) that a child should be wanted for him or herself. (I wonder if your husband has really analysed why he wants a second and if he doesn't feel as exhausted as you, I wonder why?)

As for parenting being exhausting, I was completely sure I wanted a child but was still surprised about how exhausting and emotionally trying it was. It wasn't the 50-50 deal with my husband that I had naively expected either. Given that, having a second child sure as heck didn't seem like a good idea!

I don't think you are off the map for admitting you're not sure you did the right thing. I think we've all had moments (not necessarily real brief ones either!) when we asked, My God, what have I gotten myself in to. (One of my favorite TV lines is from when Bill Cosby and his tv wife are considering having another child and he says in a stage whisper, Sometimes I don't want the ones we have. It's healthy that you admit it to yourself and want to talk about it. The good news, at least from my experience, is it gets easier. While bigger issues can come up when a child is older, an older child doesn't have to be watched every minute to make sure they don't stick their tongue in the power socket. Sometimes they even go visit smone for one or more days, sleep in all summer and when they do get up hardly leave their room, and you barely know you have a child for awhile.

But you have to work hard now so they are smart, responsible and pleasant to be around later so don't dodge any issues that come up. Also, the pressure you feel may be from trying to do too much. Can you back off anywhere like lighter work load/fewer hours, let the housework go or be done by someone else, help from relatives, friends, etc. on child care? A lot of the stuff we thing we really HAVE TO DO we really don't. (If you haven't read Simplify your Life, I recommend it.)

Finally, if you're curious about siblings you don't actually have to have a set of your own. Just observe those around you. (I come from a big family and I can tell you it's a real crap shoot.)

I find this post _very_ sad. Nevertheless, if you aren't terribly happy parenting one child -- DON'T HAVE A SECOND. Two is more than twice the work, and if your having a second child is a means to entertain the first so you don't have to or to appease your husband, that is NOT, in my opinion, an appropriate reason for having a child. Is your husband aware of your feelings? If so, I can not imagine why he would want to have a second child when you are questioning whether you did the right thing by having a child at all! Granted, having children changes one's life in a multitude of ways -- but if this is not a joyous change, with days filled with smiles, happiness, laughter and amazement at the little life you have already created, its unwise to create another.

Ask yourself first! What do I want to do with my life? What is important to me? Don't get another child just only to satisfy your partner (as it sounds like...) If you want a second child you can cope up with every difficulty, independend on the gap in age or anything.

I got two, with a gap of 5 years, and they are great pales. With increasing age the interests are getting more and more different, but their siblings behaivor is not much different than it was between me and my brother (gap 2 years). And I love my children both the same, I didn't feel any hestitation, I didn't even think, there would arise a difference... but I had a deep deep wish for the first and the second child, it was my sole choice, my very own decision and I think this is very important for the future dealing with upcoming problems.

It's very unrealistic to expect that you will love your second child if you're having trouble loving the first. My advice is to take care of yourself and take time for your love for the first child to relax and grow before even thinking about having a second child.

While it's true that there are advantages to having children close together, there are just as many advantages to spacing them apart. So space them to meet your own needs, not the advice of your friends.

I sympathize completely with your current state of exhaustion. In my case, the load on me decreased slowly as the child grew from newborn to infant, to toddler, to pre-schooler, to school age. It takes a while to notice, but after a while, the relief can be dramatic. In the meantime, it would be foolish to take on additional workload that you already know will overload you and make you resentful.

If you aren't that wild about having had one child, why would you ever consider a second? Basic curiosity doesn't seem like a good reason. As far as having them close together so they can be entertained with the same activities, age has little to do with it. I have 2 children 2.5 years apart. One is into sports, the other into music, so there are still separate sets of activities. I can understand your ambivalence about parenthood, it can be really challenging, and as much as I love having 2 children, it can be exhausting. Unless you truly want to be a parent to a second child don't do it. Why make a choice to do something you don't want to, especially one that requires a lifetime commitment?

By the way, I admire your honesty. I know people who really didn't want children but gave in to pressure from family, society, etc. I have the deepest respect for people who decide - and stand by their decision - that their lives are complete with only one or no children. You can't do this job because someone else thinks it's a good idea.

I don't know about you, but basic curiosity is not enough to sustain me through endless nights of innadequate sleep, vomiting, fighting, constant demands, biting, etc. (Just a few of the negatives any child can offer.) Parenting is such a big job, and the energy to do it seems to come mainly from joy. Without plenty of that, how to continue?

Your doubts sound real, and are based on real experience rather than vague expectation. Unless your husband chooses to be the primary caregiver to a very high degree, it is unreasonable for you to go further into a project that is so far pretty tough for you. Your next child could be as easy, or much harder than your first. The two of you might find counselling useful to sort this out. Good luck! And trust yourself.

I've been hearing alot of reassurance about the 2nd child on this network, and until now I haven't have the heart (or time) to inject my negativity, but I have to say I OFTEN regret having the second. She is sweet and easy and totally undeserving of an ambivalent mother, but I cannot help it. Two children are SO much more work. The 3 yr old wants to go outside when the 1 yr old needs a nap. When I nurse the 1 yr old, the 3 yr old leans out the window, or pours milk on the couch. They fight with each other constantly. The 1 yr old is always choking on the 3 yr old's small toys. But the real problem is that I get too depressed to even wake up in the morning. And this affects my relationship with my husband. If you are someone who needs solitude to replenish your energy, then at least wait until the first is 3 yrs before having the second. If your husband needs convincing, show him the very opinionated book by Burton White (The First 3 Years) which almost says it is a mortal sin to space children closer than 3 yrs apart.

I couldn't agree more with the previous post recommending spacing children more than 3 years apart if you are worried about being overwhelmed. Mine are 4 years apart exactly and I dont feel that having two is anywhere close to twice the work of having one, let alone more than twice the work. REason: My five year old can largely take care of himself and can even be quite helpful with the one year old (and has been so since the baby was born): getting me things I need, carrying his own bag, even entertaining the little one while I make dinner, garden, or take a rest. I think a lot of agony is created by the urgency many people feel to have their kids all at once. I don't think that much benefit is gained by it in terms of the children getting along better or doing the same activities. Kids' personalities will determine how they get along, and extra spacing may even help (so far, mine have never fought and the older one is very protective of the younger, even reminding me not to let him get too close to the edge of the bed, etc.), and also what they are interested in doing. having them close in age doesn't necessarily mean you'll be able to take them to ballet lessons simultaneously, or even that they will be interested in doing the same things at the playground. If your first is older, s/he may even have more patience to occury him/herself while you concentrate on the little one's needs and enjoyments for awhile, then shift to focus on the older one's interests later. Good luck!

I was concerned when I read the most recent response about having a second child. To the woman who is too depressed to get up in the morning, you might be suffering from depression and should consider seeking help. Maybe you are even suffering from post-partum depression, exacerbated by the stresses of a two toddler household. I wish you luck.

I was the third child in my family and never (to this day) got along with my middle brother. My oldest brother and I do get along, but we're not ''best friends'' by any means. However, here are a couple of thoughts to consider. First, my husband always said we should have 2 children ''so they have someone to conspire with.'' (He had an older sister and while they had a good relationship for a couple of high school years, they didn't have too strong a relationship at other times). This has proven true -- they can talk with each other about household stuff that they may not want to take to mom (like the time I overheard them talking about why they were so mad at me!) Second, my husband died when my children were young. Because of the intensity of my love and connection with my children, I think the best thing that happened to them was that I had 2 children. Without one child as a buffer between myself and the other, I probably would have driven them insane by now -- who could withstand such close and undistracted involvement with another person? Finally, my children have an incredibly good relationship, especially considering that there's a 4 year age difference and a gender difference. But I think so much of the sibling relationship is based on the parents -- my parents have always sabotaged my relationship with my one brother, though they certainly didn't intend to do so. So if you go the multiple child route, you may want to check out advice from parenting experts (e.g., Siblings Without Rivalry).

I'm 39 - it's now or never

Jan 2002

I am the 39-year-old mother of a 5-month-old baby, and my husband and I are torn about whether we should try to have a second child. (We are extremely happy with our delightful baby, and don't feel a compelling urge to have another one, but feel that in the long run it might be a good idea for all three of us -- and given my age, it's now or never.) There was a discussion here recently about what it was like to be an only child versus growing up with siblings -- but I'd be interested in hearing about the same issue from the *parents'* point of view (parents who had two children very close together, or parents who chose to have only a single child). Did promptly having a second baby convert your life from bliss to exhausted misery? How did you manage to take care of a newborn and a small toddler at the same time, and if you had the chance to do it again, would you? Did you hope you'd be giving your first child a lifelong companion, only to find they hated each other? Or did having the second child make everything even better? Or, if you had only a single child, do you feel life is better or worse for (a) yourself and (b) your child than if you'd had a second one? An odd topic on which to seek public advice, but . . . I'd love to hear about your experiences.

Responding to the 39 yo woman who was deciding about having another child. My answer is to say, you'll find out if it was the right thing to do years after the decision (whichever way you decide to go) is made. And whatever you decide, it will become the right decision.

Let me chime in as a person who both was an only child, and who has chosen to have only one child. I had a happy childhood and the only time I regretted not having brothers and sisters was the summer when I was nine years old. We moved to another state in June, lived in an apartment building with no other children living in it, and I was not in school to meet kids. My mom just let me watch TV all day. I desperately missed my friends and had no one to play with. For the first and only time, I was angry at my parents for not having more kids, but the real anger was generated by being torn away from the world I knew, and being dropped into a new one against my will. Once school started in the fall, I made new friends and forgot all about wanting a sibling.

I was a bit surprised to reach adulthood and discover that some people have fairly negative views of only children. One person thought he was paying me a great compliment by telling me that he would never have guessed I was an only child because I was so personable!

I am not at all sorry to have been an only child. All family situations have their ups and downs. I'm sure if you asked people how they felt about being the middle child, you might get a sampling of negative comments also. When I was growing up in the 60's and 70's, large families were much more common. Now, there are many more smaller families, and I think/hope the stigma of the selfish, lonely only child will wear off. Suzanne

I am 44, I have a 2 year old, she will be an only child, by choice. Both my husband and I come from 2 children families and we love our sibling to pieces but this is irrelevant as we must face reality. Our reality says that having a second child would completely destroy any semblance of sanity we have still managed to retain up to now; we cannot rationally afford to have a second child, and that decision is made for the good of all 3 of us. By having a second we would stretch ourselves way too thin mentally, emotionally, financially, physically and we know we would end up in pure misery. Annedoctal informations about how someone elses (?) childhood or adulthood turns out to be in absence of siblings, or the opposite, is not the base to make this decision or agonizing over it. Just be honest with yourself.

I don't know if you have cable TV, but there is a show on noggin called A Walk in Your Shoes, where two kids from different parts of life switch places for a week. One of the episodes dealt with an only child and a girl from a family of eight children. You got to hear both of their points of views on the matter. If you go to noggin.com you can probably find out when it will be on again. Both girls give positive and negative feedback on both sides from their perspective. Marianne

For the person who has a five month old. After having my first child, I could not fathom of having another baby. I was adamantly opposed. But then my son turned 1 and my feelings changed. I am now pregnant with my third child and have an almost 3.5 year old and an18 month old. All I can say is that it's not scientific, you cannot predict how your children will get along with one another, or how you will cope with more than one. You just do. Respect your and your partner's feelings, desires, and know your limits. If you want to be a stay at home parent, but that's not feasible with two kids, stick with one. I grew up essentially as an only child (I had a brother who was 12 years older than me who never lived with me-lived in a different state) and had a wonderful childhood. Sure, there were times I wished I had a sibling, but for the most part I didn't miss what I didn't have. Once I became involved with hom! ew! ork and after school activities, it never really crossed my mind anymore. And my motiviation for having more than one child was not motivated by providing siblings for my children, but by my and my husband's desire for more children. There is little that can satisfy your desire for more children except more children. Erica

Perhaps I should not be the one to respond to this message, because I am the fourth of four children, and have three myself. BUT, I must say, I often look at only children and their parents with a sense of envy. My sister has an only child, and does so much with her! They read together all the time, go places together, and have a sort of closeness that I think is difficult to achieve when you are bathing one, dealing with another who has a cold, and trying to nurse the third! The other day, due to playdates and such, my husband and I found ourselves home with one child only, and both of us kept saying, isn't this nice? Isn't this easy? There is something wonderful about siblings, but there is also something wonderful about the quality and quantity of care that an only child receives. My sister has tried hard to create a close bond with her child and my eldest, since her daughter will never have siblings. This has worked very well. Their cousin-relationship is almost like a sibling one, and they will remain close as they grow older, just as siblings would. Also, as the fourth child, I can say from experience that no one ever helped me with my homework, enrolled me in extra activities (like they did for at least the first two), or seemed that involved with what I was doing or wanted to do. I don't feel any resentment, but I do joke with my eldest sister that I raised myself.

I had two children 18 months apart. They are now 10 and 12. I am glad there are two of them. They have played wonderful games together when little, and because of that, I did not have to constantly amuse them. My general observation is the when people have two kids, they can't give the same sense of overwhelming self-importance that some only kids have. I think this is a good thing. On the other hand, I have read that single kids are on average slightly smarter, perhaps because of the extra adult time. I tried very hard to follow certain rules that would help reduce or prevent sibling rivalry (you can read about those). There was little of it when they were younger, and that was a real blessing. However, they fight more often now, and one of them seems to be doing her own version of East of Eden, accusing me of liking the other one better and always taking the other kid's side. You have to work to avoid this! We are going to rent and watch East of Eden next week as a tonic. Anyway, seeing how different the two of them are, despite being raised the same, makes a parent much more philosophical about parental influence. They have their own personalities right from the beginning and the best we can do is teach them how to be civilized and learn to live with themselves in ways that benefit them, their friends and relatives, and society. Self discipline would be a major parental gift that I am hoping it is possible to give to children. You are not going to change or shape their personality.

I am glad to have 2 kids, and I think it is beneficial to the child's personality and to the the parent's parenting. However, I can also see the wonderful effects of a large family--my neighbor had 6 siblings and still has the first gift she got from her parents that was for her alone--a hard back book! Kids with many siblings just can't expect the world to constantly provide for them and their egos. HOWEVER, having two kids or more is an incredibly HUGE amount of work. Having two kids in diapers was HORRIBLE. When they fight, it is HORRIBLE. There is NO WAY to predict whether or not they will get along, because you can't predict their personalities. I know people who have kids who fight constantly. YUCK. I personally also think having more than 2 kids is ethically wrong, considering this earth, unless you are adopting needy kids. And yes, I am a bit judgmental about that!

I was 39 when I had my first child and got pregnant when she was one year old, delivering a second daughter 21 months after the first. We loved our life with one child and in the final month or so of my second pregnancy I mourned a bit for the special private time with just me and my firstborn. BUT, once the second was born, both my husband and I had this sense of being a family with these two girls that we had not felt before. I can't really explain it in words, but we felt complete. I am sure the number is different for everyone - one, two, three... Now that they are older, four and two, they play together beautifully and are great friends. Their personalities are different but incredibly compatible. I'm sure some of that is just luck, but I also made an effort from day one to do things as a family and not carve out things for the older child to do on her own. We all went to Epworth and to Totland and gym classes at the Univ. Village together, and planned around the younger one's nap schedule. They have shared a bedroom from the time the younger was four months and have the same bedtime. I did not enroll my older daughter in nursery school 'til she was almost four. I believe this has really helped them to be close companions because they have to be! I'm sure it was a lot of work in the first 18 months or so, but I hardly remember it as such and the dividends are paying now that they play together - I feel my life with two is easier than it is for folks I know who have one. So, in the end I am happy with our decision to have two and would even be happy if they were closer in age. You get through that first year somehow - I have a very helpful and supportive husband who was a student for the first six months of the second one's life. In retrospect, I should have gotten more help (a mother's helper young teen or something similar for a few hours one or two days a week) after my husband went back to work, but I muddled through somehow. You will too if you decide to go for it and are successful! Good luck.

Please don't think that at 39 you have to have another child immediately. Many women have children into their 40's. I had my 2nd child at 42. My boys are 4.5 years apart. I can't say that it's a piece of cake having 2 boys....they play, they fight, they play, they fight, they gang up on each other, they team up against mom and dad.....I think generally they have very normal sibling behavior (they are now 11 and 6.5yrs....I'm 49 and tired). I have 2 older brothers. Personally, I think growing up in a family with siblings was a good thing for me. My brothers were quite a bit older than me, so we weren't really friends till I was older. Now my one brother and I are are very close, and the oldest is estranged from our family, unfortunately. Whether or not to have another child is such an individual and personal decision. No one, of course, can tell you yes or no. I know the feeling of looking at your wonderful sweet child and never wanting to interrupt that relationship you have with the intrusion of a sibling. It does change the relationship. There are advantages and disadvantages. Good luck in making this difficult decision.

Ours wonderful boy is an only child, by our choice. We were both 40 when he was born and only now, at age 45, do we have enough illusions of competence to think about a second child. It would mean running the 1 in 25 or worse risks of a serious birth defect, that would affect BOTH our children if it occured. It would mean my wife having to quit work completely for the next 5+ years. It would mean serious economic rebalancing.a If we were 5 years younger? We'd try. Sometimes time is not on your side. Be happy with what you have.

We've both seen enough inter-sibling conflict to feel that shared parents are no guarantee of shared happyness. Sibling relationships can be great, but they're not something parents can order or control! At least in the parent-child relationship you can imagine you have some control. Bill

If not to late I would lke to respond to the concern about having more than one child. I am the middle child of five children and my husband is the second child of six children. I want five children, my husband is satisfied with our son and our two younger daughters. In deciding to have children, one cannot concern themselves with simple things. Money comes and goes. I pray that we are never without it but it just seems to come and more of it with each child I have. However, the tough times that we perceive now do not last forever. I have a 5 y.o, a 27 month old and a 3 month old. Every move I make is carefully planned. My siblings all have children and when we need emergency childcare or I need to go out and take a breath time, I call my siblings. I hope that my children will also one day be able to rely on their siblings the way I can. Ultimately what matters when deciding to have more than one child you must evaluate your ability to give children what they need, love,shelter,clothing and food. Children do not need the most expensive schools, the most expensive clothes etc. 1.They need good parents who understand the blessings that children are. 2. Remember hand-me-down clothing works well. Dont many of the parents on this list shop at consignment stores anyway? 3.You are your childs first teacher, so if I was a student in Oaklands Public schools(and not Skyline) and am now an under 30 y.o. Phd student at UCB anyone can be!! It comes from the parents NOT the teacher!! So love the blessings you have, whether one or six and hopefully, one day you will get the love back. By the way, my parents are my best friends, advisors, etc. and they have five children !!!!!

I've delayed sending this post, because you asked for responses from parents who had their children close together. But I felt it important to give a little voice to the other side. My mother had four children in a little over four years, and I don't think it was a good thing for either her or for us kids. While she desperately wanted children, having so many so quickly was overwhelming. There was never enough to go around--and I don't mean financially, I mean emotionally. She had lots of household and nanny help, but she was still mom, and we kids needed *her*. She was constantly exhausted, constantly being asked for more. I think we all would have been better off if she had spaced her children further apart. She would have been better able to recover between pregnancies, better rested in general, and better able to meet the levels of attention and affection that we needed in the early stages of our lives. We kids, then, would have had our needs for mothering met.

I know you are only planning a second child, and I know that time is a factor. And of course there are many women for whom a full house is simply a blessing to be enjoyed. It's great that you are conscious of the potential difficulties in the situation, and are asking questions now, before a second child comes along. That says a lot about who you are and how you relate to your family. But I would suggest that you look inside and honestly try to imagine what it would mean in your day-to-day world to have two very young kids in your life--two kids in diapers, two toddlers; then two kids in preschool, two teenagers, two in college. If it seems like the full house would be an inspiration and the hard work just part of that, go for it. If it seems overwhelming from the get-go, wait.

Pregnant with second child and feeling apprehensive

March 2000

I have a one year old daughter and am almost 5 months pregnant with another baby. I've been in emotional turmoil ever since I found out I was pregnant with all sorts of guilt and reluctant feelings. Obviously we are thrilled to be pregnant again. We DID want to have our children close together in age but this close was, indeed, a surprise. My emotions range from anger that we could let this happen to extreme guilt with my daughter for not being there 100% for her now (as I'm pregnant) and in the future when we have a newborn. I feel like I, now, can't give her all I would I want to give her emotionally and physically. I'm somehow jealous of my time with her. I also just CANNOT imagine loving another child as much as I love and adore her and I have this horrifyingly, awful fear that the new baby would feel less loved and wanted. I know I've heard people say this sort of statement before...but truly I can't imagine it. Are people really being honest when they say they DO love their second children just as much? Aren't the first ones so special? Will I have just as strong feelings for our new baby? I would like to hear from other parents who have been through this same situation. I appreciate your help.

I am a mother of two, and I have a couple of thoughts on the second child issue. It is a fact that your relationship with your first child is unlike your relationship with any later children. The arrival of your first child transformed you into a parent. That is one of the most intense experiences of anyone's life. Your feelings toward your first child will always be affected by this unique experience you shared. Second, remember that although your first child will lose something when she has to share you, she will also gain something - a brother or sister! Now, she may not always appreciate the wonderfulness of this gift, especially when they are both little, but in the long run she will. My kids are four years apart, so the older one and I had an exclusive relationship (I am a single parent) for four years before the second one came along. So we have a history together that is not shared with the younger one. Also, the second does get the short end of the stick in many ways, she gets the hand-me-down clothes & toys, the older one is the leader in choosing most activities, what to watch on TV, etc. I frankly find the older one's life and thoughts more interesting just because she's older, and she always will be ... so does this mean I love the second one less? I don't know, it's just different. Second kids are resilient, they've never been an only kid so it seems natural to them to share a parent. I'll be interested in hearing what other people have to say!

What you describe is what every Mom who loves her first child feels. It seems so disloyal to have a second, and so self-evident that there is no way you could love another child as you do the one you already have. But believe me, when the second child comes you will love him or her as intensely as you love the first. You will never love them the same; they are different people. But you will love them both fiercely and without reservation. I felt exactly as you did when pregnant with my second. My first child was my wonderful and unique bundle of brilliance and intensity. My second child is my warm little ray of sunshine. They are so very different, and my relationships with them so completely different, but I cannot imagine life without either one of them. As to depriving the first, there is a reality to the concern: time is finite, and sharing Mom means less time. But a sibling is a net positive, not a negative. My parents' best gifts to me were my three siblings.

My sister is 16 months younger than me. When she was born, rather than being jealous, I treated her as a wonderful new doll, as my mom tells. It was wonderful to grow up with her.

How could you possibly connect with any other child as you do with this one? The reason you'll be able to do so is the same reason you're now able to connect with your daughter: You're unique. So is she. So is your second child. You'll create and grow a whole new relationship with this next one, just as you did with his or her sister.

Think about this: Back before you had any children, could you imagine ever loving someone the way you do your daughter? But you do now. Trust me--or, rather, trust yourself: you really do have it in you to adore your second child and be a good mother to both.

(This also sounds like support group time to me. If you can't find one listed in Parents' Press or something, place an ad there or in the Express--or right here in the UCB parents' network--and start your own group. It's truly worth the babysitter money.)

My second son was a complete surprise -- we had just decided to stop having kids! -- and I was happy to hear I was pregnent, yet... I spent a lot of my pregnancy ignoring the baby yet worrying about it; mourning the loss of my alone time with my older son; worrying I would never love this new baby like I love my older son; mad that I could not go back to work as I had planned; and angry that I would not get the me time I was craving now that a baby was coming. He was born - awful labor and delivery - and I loved him, but it was not the same as my first. I did everything I was supposed to do and cared, but... It took a good three months for me to fall in love with him. Now, I cannot imagine my life or family without him. I was (am) able to love both my children - differently since they are different people -- but equally. To top it off, I am an only child so I was nervous about the whole sibling thing. My older son was thrilled to have a brother and was rarely jealous (until now - 20 months later). I truly do love both my chidren and I realized when my second was born that the best thing I ever gave my older son was a sibling AND that this second child filled a hole in our family that I didn't realize was there until he arrived. Hope this helps.

To the mom who is experiencing intense emotions around pregnancy with the 2nd child: I think you are well within the range of what is called normal. Your description of feelings reminds me of how I used to get when my hormones were high, low and/ or running amok, especially as during pregnancy. I almost felt as if I had been taken over by another being, which, in a sense, is literally the case, but I experienced it in a much more Sci-Fi kind of way, as if I were on Heavy Drugs. I believe that hormones do affect some (not all) sensitive women that way, and I have been one. Since I am a feminist, I don't think I am being sexist, either, in reporting that some women do have lower thresholds for hormone reactions. I am a nurse as well, and it reminds me of some (not all) people's sensitivity to drugs. I was the owner of a whacked out menarche-adolescence (bad depression, suicidal ideation), horrific PMS (the chain saw murders, cars off cliffs kind), a pregnancy that produced a mental state like waking dreams, an unbelievable 3 day home labor (and birth) that felt like repeated shotgun blasts to the abdomen for the duration, and years later D and C for which I was given Pitocin (oxytocin, the hormone that causes uterine contractions and is connected to lactation) and had florid hallucinations--the real thing-- until the second it was discontinued, and a menopause that is like a train wreck connected to a fatal disease that I have described as PMS to the 400th power experienced while hallucinating on an LSD overdose. Other than these episodes, I have been fine and had a good life! I wish someone had early on given me an owner's manual for this body! It even fooled a nurse.

So for a pregnant mom to be obsessing about the pregnancy and her life with closely- spaced kids sounds normal to me. And the words you used sound like the sort of hyper emotionality I experienced. Here are the ones I noticed in your post: anger --extreme guilt --jealous --CANNOT imagine loving another child as much as I love and adore her --horrifyingly, awful fear-- strong feelings. Pregnancy for some women feels like that. Welcome to the club, sister. You will probably feel a lot better after the baby has arrived. Finally, many people try to have 2 kids close together so they can be playmates. Such a deal. Hope you feel better.

I recall one evening, now long ago, pregnant with my son, on the phone with a friend of mine who runs a Montessori pre-school. And I was sharing my concerns about the loss of my relationship with my daughter (who turned two just after her brother's arrival). I vividly recall her saying that in fact having a sibling was the greatest gift I could give to my daughter, that I wouldn't love them in the same way but that the heart is capable of vastness. Today, our kids are best buddies, they kiss each other goodmorning and goodnight every day, they totally look out for each other, they certainly piss each other off but they know that they each belong to this family and to each other. They share a room and use each other as a workshop to learn about being a social being in the world. I go to great lengths to restrain myself from interfering and let them work things out, intervening only when there is physical pain inflicted from one to the other. I would definitely recommend Faber and Maslich's Siblings Without Rivalry. And by the way, my kids are just shy of 6 1/2 and 4 1/2.

And yes, your relationship with your firstborn will change, and the change may involve some sadness and longing, but you are also adding immeasurably to each of your lives. And you will love your second differently, but I would venture no less. Each child brings so unique gifts to his or her family, regardless of birth order. Best wishes.

Being the older child in a family of two daughters born 18 months apart, I would offer this advice (which I wish someone could have given my own parents at the time.) BTW, I applaud your honesty, concern and willingness to seek advice on the issue.

* Give the older child as much of a role in the care and loving of the little one as possible. He-She'll be what, 14 months when her sibling is born? Before the baby is drinking out of cups she might be able to feed it from a bottle with a parent's supervision. I think this might be very important. If she has any inclination to, let her care for the baby as much as possible. When she's 3 or 4 maybe she can have the responsibility of baby-sitting while you're in another room or in the backyard. Most healthy baby's are way more resilient than we believe them to be. If the first child is a bit awkward in handling the baby (as long as it's not intentionally rough) the babe will survive and the children may bond. That's the most important thing.

* And pamper yourself so you don't feel martyred by the incredible demands on your time, sleep and sanity made by caring for two little ones. Maybe a weekly massage (my own chosen self-indulgence) or something like that.

* If things get bad, Get help! Good luck. I think your self-insight and openness to help will create a loving family.

Will I love my second child as much?

July 1999

I am expecting my second child soon. Has anyone experienced apprehensions over having a second child, such as whether or not they would be able to equally love, and admire the second as the first? I also feel slightly worried that my husband and I might have rushed into having a second vs. working on some problems we are experiencing. I just can't imagine taking away from the attention that I now give to my daughter. Has anyone else experienced similar feelings? Thank you in advance for any advice offered.

I think almost every mother alive has experienced apprehensions over having a second child. I had a hard time bonding with my second child, we had a difficult time establishing our nursing routine, etc. I cried in the pediatrician's office worried that I would never be able to love this child as much as my much beloved and admired first born. She gave me some very sage advice. She said, don't worry. As soon as you think you think you could never love one as much as the other they will flip-flop. And, now at ages 13 and 15 I can assure you that they have---and many times. We are currently in a stage where the 13 year old old is great fun to be with and the 15 year old not so. Relax, you will love them both. That said, you should know that the connection with that first born is a forever thing (which is why first borns can be so weird---sorry all you first borns, I'm a second born ;-) Re: problems with your husband---hang in there. After 20 years of marriage we have had dry spells and wonderful times, keep talking, keep loving, and don't expect perfection. July 1999

I, too, was apprehensive about having a second child. I was absolutely stunned to discover one day, while my first child was only 9 months old, that I was pregnant again. I immediately fell into a depression and felt like my whole world was falling apart. My daughter's pediatrician immediately noticed that I was unhappy about the pregnancy and questioned me closely about my feelings and our family life throughout my pregnancy. I even discussed having an abortion with my husband, which was a big step for me as I have a strong ethical opposition to abortion. I also felt that my marriage wasn't strong enough to justify a second child. In the end, I proceeded with the pregnancy, but all the way up until the day she was born, I had the same doubts about whether she was wanted and whether I would ever love her the way I did her older sister.

My second surprise came when she was born. All of my doubts vanished the moment I saw her, and I bonded to this child instantly in a way that took months with my first child. I didn't want to let anyone else feed her (and she felt the same way -- refused to have anything to do with a bottle), and I spent every moment of my maternity leave with her. The mother's group I had with my older daughter wanted to get together with me to see the new baby, and somehow I just couldn't find the time. I was too busy having those magical three months with just me and my infant. My husband just rolled his eyes over what he called the love fest between us, and I guess it was true. It was very difficult for him to get time with either one of us. Even now, at coming up on 4 years, my younger daughter and I have a stronger emotional bond with each other than with my older daughter or husband.

Oh, boy, I sure had these feelings and I'd bet so has every other mother (and father) of more than one child! There are lots of books and articles on the subject for you and your husband to look at.

Here's something simple I read that made me feel much better: A parent's love is like the flame of a candle. It will light one or many candles and never diminish. And the light grows with every newly lighted candle.

Another way to put it, the sum of a family's love is greater than its parts.

I had the same concerns when I was about to have my second child. My older son was barely two when my second son was born, and I was worried both that I wouldn't be able to love my second son as much as my first and that I wouldn't be able to give my first son the love and attention he needed after his brother was born. What I found instead was that I bonded deeply with my second son, but that my love for my older son stayed just as strong as it had been, and maybe even grew stronger when I saw him learning to be a big brother. And from the beginning, there was no question of having to take love away from one to give to the other. My experience is that it's not a question of whether I love them both equally--instead, I love them both totally, as if I'd grown a whole new heart for loving each of them. >From the beginning, each of them was such as individual that I responded to each one as an individual person. There's no doubt that you'll have less time for each of them than you did when you had only one--but I'm not sure that's necessarily a bad thing, as long as they both know that you love them. It's also possible to combine a lot of activities, like reading or singing to the older child while you nurse the younger child, or playing silly hide-and-seek games with both of them. (You'll have a lot less time for yourself, of course, but that's another story!) And there are real benefits for the children. My two little guys play a lot together and get a lot of enjoyment and companionship from each other, and they've each learned from each other, too--my four-year-old has had to learn to share (hard lesson!) and to take someone else's feelings into consideration, and my two-year-old has great physical skills because he's always trying to keep up with his older brother. They fight, too, of course, but on the whole I think that each of them has gotten a lot out of having a brother and they both know that my husband and I love them.

I felt exactly the same way. My son was only 16 months old when I had my second one. I remember holding my second son in the hospital, looking at him and wondering if I could love him as much as the first. My feelings must've changed within a day, for I don't remember asking myself that question any other time. I do remember feeling sorry for the older one for he was no longer the baby, and I felt that he was cheated out of fully enjoying that babyhood. but my boys have always been best friends and they feel very sorry for anyone else that does not have a sibling (they're now 18 and 19).

While I was pregnant with my second child I too felt extremely apprehensive about messing up a great family. After my second child was born, i don't think i boded with her as quickly as I did with number 1--none of the hours of adoring that I lavished on my first as a newborn. But after a few months (?) I did fall in love with her too. Now (4 yrs later) I am so happy that I had another child. The 2 kids love each other and mostly get along great (except when they're ready to strangle each other!).

So I want to say I've been there, and it will be hard, but I think you'll be glad you did it. A great book that you might enjoy (someone else also asked for a book about siblings sometime ago) is Siblings without Rivalry by Faber and Mazlish, the same people who wrote How to Talk so Kids will Listen and...

I think it's completely normal (& even expected) to feel apprehensive about the upcoming birth of one's second child. Most people I've talked to have had these feelings and I know I certainly did. So much of my life and attention was (& still is!) focused on my first son that I couldn't imagine how I could find room for my second child. I also felt like my life as a parent finally had a rythym to it (he finally slept at night, didn't need to lug around all the baby paraphanalia any more etc) and I wasn't sure how I'd do once a second child came along. At times I even felt guilty that I would somehow let my first son down by having a second one! Just as all the questions and doubts that swirl around in the head of a parent expecting their first child have a way of dissapating once they hold their child and fall in love with him/her, so do doubts about one's second child. Taking care of the needs of 2 little people who rely on you can definately can be more stressful but you get progressively more creative to get everything done that needs to be done...and the house gets messier... Still, I love to see the evolving relationship between my sons, I'm more tired but I have no regrets even though I DID have lots of ambivalence during my pregnancy. Good Luck!

It took us years to work up to having a second child. We wanted the first one so very much, I thought only fair to hold off on the second until we wanted it just as much. Didn't happen--biology ruled otherwise. It wasn't a problem, though. I think most parents regard their first child as the World's First Baby, while for the second they have a more realistic perspective--we have dozens of photographs of our first child, and comparatively few of our second, poor thing!

But all that being said, we do love them equally. That's never been a problem. True, we weren't as gaga about #2 as we were about #1; but that's sentimentality, not love. Maybe #2 is a little better off for that--he's had love, not gush.

Regarding couple/marital problems: it's a good sign that they survived the first kid, but the second will stress the marriage too. Maybe this is a good time to work on them.

To respond to the poster asking whether marital stress was normal with the growing of a family: My husband and I have found it to be extremely hard on the marriage. We love our child very much and he was a wanted and planned baby, but our relationship has certainly been through a lot of rough patches since he joined our life! We began couples counseling 8 months ago, and bit by bit we're getting things back together. (Our situation is more complicated than some, to be sure.) Almost all of my friends from my mother's group have or are experiencing similar difficulties. In fact we've just decided to postpone getting pregnant with a second indefinitely - until we're less stressed, and our finances in better order. (I think loss of income, reduced income or childcare expenses contribute significantly to the parental stress level.)

I'd also like to recommend a terrific book called, Becoming the Parent You Want To Be, by Laura Davis and Janice Keyser. Unlike the multitude of books that focus solely on children't development, this one helps encourage PARENT'S development. I have found it invaluable whenever I've felt really at a loss with my parenting.

I am expecting my second child as well, and initially had some anxiety over how I will respond to a second (and still have some apprehensions). However, after I told my son (who is 5 years old) about the baby and saw his reaction, which was pure excitement, many of my concerns have melted. I have included my son is helping us choose names, have showed him the sonogram pictures, and talk to him quite frequently about what it will be like to have a baby around the house. By doing this I have realized that this second child is simply an addition to what I now have vs. something that will take away from my current situation.

I also try to remind myself what it was like growing up as an only child for many years (until my parents seperated, remarried, and gave a LARGE family of step-siblings who I am very close with today). I can remember wanting to have a baby brother or sister to either play with or dote on. I also think of what it would be like for my son in twenty years if he didn't have any siblings. As adults we can sometimes find our closest friends in those we have grown up with.

Change is scary, yet inevitable - regardless of what the situation is. Hang in there, and visualize this child you are about to be blessed with. I'm sure that many fears will just fade away the minute that child arrives. Good luck!

This is in response to the mother who is worried she won't love her second child as much as her first. Don't worry! It's a totally natural reaction. I remember I was almost due to deliver my second daughter before I bought her anything -- and that was a nightlight for her room. It It was so different from the excitement I felt when expecting my first daughter. But those little babies have a way of growing on you. It's natural to mourn the loss of the special relationship you have with your first child, but you will be amazed how easily your heart opens up to love and adore another child. In addition, you get to enjoy the relationship between the children. You will see you that you will soon love both of them equally.

I am in a similar situation, but resigning myself to the apprehension in several ways (all focusing on the positive aspects of having two.) The first is that I think our son will actually benefit from less attention from us - not that he'll appreciate it, but he has just turned 5 & has all the signs of doted-upon only-childness, most of which are not particularly attractive at the moment. (He's not really spoiled, just very self-centered & demanding.) We spent the weekend with my grandparents & got the usual advice about how we overdo with him, but this time I really listened. My grandmother had 6 children & a philosophy that benign neglect was the best way to bring them up. I hope to veer more in that direction. Second, I was halfway an only child, & am the only child of my mother. I only wish that I had some sibling support in dealing with her now. And I adore my half-brothers. Though things weren't always perfect, I don't know what I'd do without them. Finally, I have paid careful attention to others I know who have been through this, and apparently it's all over pretty fast. As with a first child, I think parents get used to the situation almost right away (not always so with siblings... When I was 5, I told my stepmother to send my brother back, so I'm expecting no less from my son!) My sister-in-law said she had one long moment of misery right after coming home from the hospital - How could I have done this to him?! but then it passed! And, I've heard the love is entirely equal, and the admiration is equal, but different, bc everyone has different qualities to admire. I think parents' hearts just get bigger & bigger. A really good book is And Baby Makes Four by Hilory Wagner. Read it & you won't feel the least bit odd or alone. (As far as husbands, my experience has been that there is almost never a time without problems - some are mild, some are worse. But no matter what happens, I doubt that either of you will ever regret having this child.)

Worried about plans for second child

June 2000

This is only partially a request for advice; it's also a request for stories. My husband and I are planning to get pregnant (soon) with our second child. Our daughter is 16 months old. My husband stays at home most workdays, while I work full-time outside the home. Although we're both nervous about how to make things work with two young children, he's VERY scared about it (and since he's the one who has to do most of the day-to-day work, I don't blame him!). I'd love advice, stories, anecdotes, etc. on how to get through the day with two little ones, including logistics, suggested supplies, places to go, etc. to let him know he's not alone and also to give him ideas which will make it all seem less terrifying. Anything you can provide will be greatly appreciated! Thanks.

My older child was 4 years when my youngest was born, so a little different from what you are doing. However the work of a newborn is extremely demanding and the first few months, I was exhausted. A friend said: it will get easier. I held on to those words like a mantra. And after those first hard months, especially as the youngest got more social, I found it truly did get easier. In terms of activities. Initally I would try to get lots of playmates to come over to occupy my older child, as it was so much work to leave the house. But then there came the point where I felt housebound. It was easiest to go to a friends house, but we also go places where my oldest will be well occupied, like Lawrence Hall of Science.

You will find that two kids is more hectic than one, and often more fun. My daughter (3yrs 4 months older) adored her little brother for 2 1/2 years (now their relationship has more usual ups and downs). My second child is a more stable person because I stopped trying to do so much once he was born (unlike sister he had a normal bedtime and routine -- in fact he wouldn't sleep anywhere but his bed...if kept out. My daughter fell asleep at 9:30pm wherever she was, restaurants, movies, parties, conferences). I was also less scared of babies, so he benefits from that, too. I thought we were being pretty calm and casual the first time around, but no.

The most important thing I can tell you is that we couldn't picture inflicting a baby on my daughter -- and can't picture life without either of them, now.... we would have missed out on so much! [-- by the way, I never felt that way about having a third but some folks do.] Good luck, jump in and have fun. Heather

My kids are 20 mo. apart, so my oldest was really just a baby when my younger was born. I couldn't imagine what life would be like. I think it was harder than I would have thought at first from meeting the physical needs of 2 closely spaced kids. Now it is pretty easy because they are such good playmates.

As far as things we did-I found that the sleep deprivation was harder for me the second time around, and we sleep trained my older kid soon. A double stroller was important for us. We didn't do special activities because we just did normal stuff the older one would do, and brought along my younger one. There was a time, starting around 10 mo. and going to 3 yr., where the younger kid tended to wander off, so we had to restrict things but not much. Also enforced taking turns and sharing rules when my younger kid was 6 mo. old, which made me feel pretty silly but was fairer to my older kid. Good luck, Ronnie

I have two daughters, a 7-week-old(Clementine) and a 22-month-old (Evelyn). At the end of my pregnancy I was _terrified_ to think what it would be like to have two when my older daughter was such a handful all by her(wonderful)self: not sleeping through the night most nights, very demanding of attention, extremely strong-willed and a real mama's girl. I was worried about the jealousy and having to get up with two at night (because Evelyn always wanted mama at night) and just not being able to juggle two when I sometimes felt like tearing my hair out with one. None of these fears materialized. The new baby is a good sleeper (not miraculous or anything, but 4-5-hour stretches at night) and Evelyn quickly adapted to having dad help her get back to sleep at night. Jealousy hasn't been much of a problem either, so far. Evelyn is sometimes angry at me when I am nursing the baby, but no more angry than when I am answering email and she wants me to read her a book. Her anger isn't directed at the baby, in fact, she would wear a hole in the baby's head from kissing her if I would let her. She loves to hold the baby (with help) and exclaim: Look at her TIIIINY TIIIINY feet.

I have found that some things can be done with two almost as easily as with one: baths (I have a baby bath pillow for the baby to lie on in the bath. Evelyn helps wash her, which she LOVES. I orient the baby so her toes are by Evelyn and Evelyn ladles water over her legs and washes her feet with a washcloth. Then I can take the baby out and dry and dress her while Evelyn continues to play. All of us enjoy bath time); the park (I wear the baby and clamber all over the play structure with Evelyn and the baby sleeps through it all); reading (goes with nursing well); diaper changing (endlessly fascinating to the toddler set).

Some things that I really feared are in fact difficult, but not as bad as I thought: going to the store (I was really afraid of this, but Evelyn goes in the cart basket and the baby rides in her carseat, and despite having to say sit down a million times and eventually having to carry Evelyn, it's manageable) and making dinner (I wear the baby if she is not sleeping and Evelyn stands on a stepstool and helps me).

Some things I do when Evelyn is very cranky and the baby needs attention: I take out one of the new toys or books I keep on hand (library books, a real new toy, or an old one that I put away for awhile); I let Evelyn play with water --- she loves to wash dishes it makes an awful mess, but is worth it in certain situations; I go visit a friend who lives nearby and my dear friend and her 2-year-old daughter play with Evelyn while I take care of the baby and chat! But these difficult times are infrequent.

From the perspective of a mere 7 weeks of having two (everything may be different in a month!) it seems to me that the first baby requires such a HUGE adjustment that you think the second will be similarly difficult, but in fact, the second one just fits right in. The accomodations you have to make for a second baby are so small compared with the ones you made for the first that you can't figure out why you were worried at all. Good luck! Susan

Feeling resentful of Second Child

Feb 2002

How do you handle your own feelings regarding the second child? We have a 4,5 year old (daughter) whom I love to death. We also we have an 18 month old (son) whom I maybe don't love. He's terrible. He wines all the time, is sick a lot. Keeps us out of our sleep, won't play on his own. I almost resent him and am afraid of my feelings. Around me I usually see the opposite, moms loving their youngest to death. Have others have the same feelings I have or should I go and see someone. I'm scared that he'll grow up knowing/feeling that I don't like him. What will that do to him? I try to hide my feelings, but kids know.

The myth that mothers always automatically love their children is just that, a myth. Sounds like you might have a touch of the baby blues or just badly in need of some help or me-time. Your first child sounds like she was so easy that you feel like your not doing something right with the second one. For me it was the other way around. I was frantic with my first born, more laid back with the second one (who was a preemie and caused a lot of worry). You can go see someone, but try getting some help in, even if its only an hour or two a week. See if just getting some rest or me-time doesn't help you with your feelings of frustration. You're stressed and need a break. Sometimes mothers get so busy taking care of their children, they forget to take care of themselves. You need someone to take a little care of you. marianne

To the mother of the the 18 month old. Obviously you love your child or you would not be so concerned for him. Children can be so different and we may very well like one child more than another, it does not mean you don't love him. But, children do pick up our feelings and certainly your child could be reacting to your feelings of resentment. I know that the more mine stresses me out, the worse he behaves and it's a vicious cycle we can't seem to break. Then I feel like I am not a ''good mother'' because he never seems happy with me.

My daughter was so easy, it spoiled me for my son. He was work! I had to work at doing things with him where he would feel good. He hated the pool, hated swings, was shy around other kids. I'd take him to family fun night at the YMCA and he'd just cling to me while everyone else was running around having a blast. Eventually when he was a little older than yours we ventured into doing art together starting with finger painting (which at first was just an experiment in blending colors together and every single painting ended up being olive green, gray, brown - but he enjoyed the process). Now when he needs to spend time with me, he asks me to do an art project. I know he's asking for time with me doing something we both enjoy.

I would suggest you find some time to spend with him alone, doing something that he enjoys. He will react to your attention, and if he is enjoying himself you will feel happier and more successful as well. Good luck.

The strength of preference for one child over the other is what concerns me -- everyone has preferences (mine change from moment to moment!) but you really do seem to resent your son - a good counselor can help you deal with this BEFORE it destroys your relationship with him. Children are very saavy. He may already feel a difference in the way you feel about him. Heather

Please seek counselling. I'm sure other people have felt the same way, but that doesn't make it healthy - for either one of you. Perhaps try seeking help from a homeopath.

I don't want to be judgemental, but your message concerns me. You may have had one of those rare, quiet and ''perfect'', first babies. So maybe you are not used to what ''normal '' babies do. I have a one year old and I know it can get frustrating and it's hard when a baby is inconsolable. But, he's your baby. The fact that you write that you don't love him is very concerning to me. I can understand that sometimes you don't like his behavior or moods, etc. But, he's your baby. If there are no times when you look at your baby and feel love, then there might be a problem. A common hormonal inbalance can cause a mother to feel things she's not used to. I think that you should definately seek help. The fact that you wrote on this message board says that you want help. You need professional help though. For you and for your baby. Every baby should be loved. God forbid something happen to your little baby and you wish you would have loved him when you had the chance. Please get help.

To the Mom who feels resentful towards her youngest: I have to admit that while I do love my baby, I do get fed up a lot easier with her than I did with my first who is now six. Baby is 13 months. The oldest progressed rapidly, did everything ahead of schedule, loved to play by herself, etc. Our baby was a miracle baby to begin with, so she was a surprise. She has also been much slower to develop than the oldest, had colic for 6 months, has had all sorts of tummy problems and problems eating, low weight gain,has to go to physical therapy for delayed motor skills and over all has just been very tiring to take care of. On top of that there is the jealousy factor of the oldest who never used to demand attention but has now become very demanding and it is so much more difficult to explain to her why the baby needs so much extra attention.

One thing that could help is to get someone to help take care of your children so you can have some time for yourself to do something you would like to do so you don't feel so resentful. If you have time, you might consider finding a co-operative baby-sitting or playgroup to join so that once in a while the baby could have a friend over to ''play'' with and then once in a while, the baby can go to the friend's house to play. Also, try Bananas for support groups and references.

In my very limited experience - speaking as an adult who grew up with friends whose parents were very very obviously favoritive to one sibling, it does affect them eventually - I think the end outcome depends on many factors. Cindy

Yes, most parents feel resentful at some time, but it sounds as though you expect to continue feeling this way. Think about what makes you feel like yourself again. Do something away from your children. Join support group. Have some time alone with each child away from home. Look into preschool toddler programs, or rec center classes for your son. He's just getting to the age where he might focus away from you if there is something interesting going on. Give yourself a break so that you can feel like yourself, enjoy both your kids, and parent them well. As a therapist and parent of young children I would be happy to consult, or provide you with a compassionate moderate-fee referral should you be interested. Susan

My gut reaction is that you are having post-partum depression. Talk to your OB or regular doctor or a therapist about your feelings. Take care. Jennie

Please get some help. I don't think that you ''don't love your second child'' - but that you're dealing with 2 very challenging issues: 1) you have 2 children under the age of five and 2) after having an ''easy'' first child,, your second child is much more high maintenance (and what a surprise that can be!). ''Bad'' feelings are more common than most of us mothers admit. Feeling resentful of being tired, stressed out, and constantly being called upon for attention is NORMAL. Its healthy that you have enough perspective to admit that you're having a hard time putting those feelings in perspective and see that these feelings may be affecting your relationship with your child(ren). Your second child may always be more of a challenge (needs alot of attention, structure, etc.) but believe me he will eventually really ''capture your heart'' (after all, you will have had to reach down and pour alot more of yourself into that child... and through that experience you may forge a bond that in many ways is deeper than with your ''easy'' child). Don't feel guilty, you're doing a good thing by admitting these feelings and reaching out to get help to process through them. Karen

I have a 21 month old child and know from experience they are a LOT of work. Sometimes it is easier to feel more comfortable around a five year old because they are more self sufficient. My advice to you is to get a nanny immediately. It sounds like you need some physical help with the needs of the child.

Sounds like you need some help. I can highly recommend therapist Alissa Genovese in Kensington. She really helped me with my post-partum depression and my feelings of ambililance toward my daughter. We are now seeking help from Meg Zweiback in Oakland to help us parent our wonderful but very difficult now two year old. She is helping us with her ''mommy addiction'', her aggression, and the fact that she has never in her two years slept through the night. All I can say is, I would never make is as a parent without using all of the resources that our wonderful community has to offer!
a mom who needed help

To mom feeling resentful of 2nd child:

It sounds like it is less the birth order of your children than their different temperments that's getting you down. I think it's harder on parents if the more difficult child is number two because you have your expectations set by your first kid and you now have all these additional responsibilities.

I highly recommend ''The Difficult Child'' and ''Raising Your Spirited Child''. Read both. They have different, but valuable, takes on the challenging kid issue.

When I was struggling with my feelings of resentment regarding my difficult first child I found a brief return to therapy very useful for understanding my feelings and getting some perspective. Our expectations for mothers are so high and when we feel, well, probably normal reactions, we think we're freaks. Also, do not underestimate the devastating impact of sleep deprevation.

My sympathies -- I've been there. I'm still there! I don't think having a difficult child has made me a better mother but it's made me a better person. I realize how much each child is his or her own person (from the day they are born!). I have tremendous compassion for how challenging raising children is ...and I will never ever be self-righteous or smug about parenting. Final words: get support for your self. Books, friends, spouse, therapy, pedicures, whatever! You need and deserve it (all moms do!).

Mom of Difficult First Child

It sounds like you may be suffering from severe depression. It is common for mothers to feel incredibly overwhelmed with a second child, but if you are feeling unloving toward your young son, there is definitely something that needs to be paid attention to. Please seek some help - luckily, there is about a million therapists in the Bay Area, and you should be able to find one that can suit your needs. There are ways to help yourself out of depression - you and your son will get through this. Good luck, and blessings.

I have a 1 and a 3 year-old, so I know it is stressful. I think it is natural to feel differently towards your children. They have different personalities, temperments, etc. My eldest was a colicky, clingy infant. My younger was happy and peaceful. My elder doesn't break household rules; my younger trashes the house every hour. That said, I think you do need some professional help. Everyone deserves a mother's love, no matter how much of a pain in the ass he is. Some babies are harder to care for than others. If you are not up for the task, get some help. A good therapist and perhaps a spiritual counselor. A parent should not qualify their love with a maybe.

18 mos. is surely the most difficult age, and it probably won't get better for about another year, or more, in terms of whining, contrary behavior, sleep issues, etc. It is critical at this diffiicult stage (when life is as difficult or more so for him than it is for you: communication is tough, the world is very big and he is very small, his feelings may be strong, random, incomprehensible, and on and on) that he feel your unconditional love and support. Otherwise, yes, he might become marginalized and his anti-social behavior might become ingrained. I have/had a second child (boy) who was very challenging (and actually hit and physically harmed my older child, almost daily, to the point of major tears multiple times per day, for well over a year) and it was truly miraculous to see this child's compassionate, loving nature emerge as we just poured compassion and love and understanding on him, together with strict discipline regarding hitting and other anti-social behavior. YES, GET HELP NOW so that you can learn to love this child and enjoy, even marvel, as his own unique positive asects emerge from the chaos of the ''terrible twos'' (i.e. 1-3 years).

It is great that you are identifying your feelings and reaching out quickly. Other parents have experienced this as well, you are not alone. Just having a second child at all can be very taxing in and of itself. I would recommend you find a therapist to talk to and sort things out, because you are correct that little ones do pick things up. Feel free to contact me (I am a therapist myself) and I'd be happy to help hook you up with someone or set up a consultation. But do find someone to talk to, whatever you do. Pamela

My heart aches for you and your second child. He needs to know that his mother loves him, and you're right to face this issue now. It could be a good idea to see a counselor to help you figure out how to develop a closer and happier relationship with him. In the meantime, you might think about carving out more time to spend with your second child alone. The fact that he's whiny and needy suggests that he might need more one-on-one time with you, in which you aren't trying to do anything else, like take care of your older child, cook, pay bills, etc. It would also be a good idea to make sure that you hold him and cuddle him a lot and tell him that you love him. Those things might help to fill his emotional needs, so that he might eventually become less demanding. It could also help you to feel closer and more connected to him. For some other thoughts, you might also read Touchpoints by Barry Brazelton, and Your Baby and Child by Penelope Leach, which (if I remember correctly) both have very good discussions about dealing with temperamental differences in children. Good luck to both of you.

I only have one, but I imagine that your situation is not as uncommon as you might imagine - esp. since the younger sounds more trying than the first. Also, I agree that kids definitely pick up on our true feelings no matter how good we might be at hiding them. I strongly encourage you to seek therapy. Not only for his sake, but also for yours. It could really help you come to love him and develop the attachment you both need. There are tons of fabulous therapists in this area - many offer sliding scales. Good luck, Deena

You are not alone. I could have written most of your post in my recent past. I have 2 kids - 5 yrs. and 2 yrs. 3 months. Our first was a happy, easy baby and charming toddler (most of the time!)

Our second came into the world with a hair-raising cry that struck both my husband and me. She had colic, cried and required holding almost constantly. Around her first birthday she developed chronic ear infections that were painful and disruptive. She is now a pretty happy kid, but is still not a good sleeper.

After a year of major sleep deprivation and resentment, I began seeing a wonderful therapist named Joanna Levine in Oakland. She helped me come to terms with the resentment, the guilt associated with the resentment, and the feelings I had that things were ''supposed to be'' a certain way with kids.

It might sound corny, but I really believe that my second child has given me a gift of realizing that we can't control everything. Rigid expectations of how things ''should be'' in life - and especially with children - always lead to disappointment.

That said, having a sick child who does not sleep well is very debilitating. Even if the sleep disruption is due to ''normal'' problems like bad ears, it is still a huge strain. He's probably tired (and whiney too.)

You should absolutely find someone to talk to. I doubt you don't love your child, but some kids are just more challenging. To that point, your whiney, challenging 18 month old will likely become a wonderful 4- or 8- or 13-year old guy. Unfortunately, your daughter will likely hit some rough patches along the way too. Getting some help now will serve you in good stead as your kids evolve.

I think resentment of one or more of our children is much more common than most folks want to acknowledge, and doesn't mean the mom is depressed or even needs therapy. I think many of us assume that we must feel a certain way or be a certain way with our children all the time, which for most of us is unrealistic and sets us up to feel inadequate as parents. It is important to get support for ourselves as parents, and there is a great parenting resource called Parent's Leadership Institute (PLI) which offers support groups and classes. I would be happy to talk or email you about this, or about the challenges of parenting, if you're interested. Lucia