Ready for Another Child?
Just as the memory of sleep deprivation begins to fade, as life starts to regain a vague sense of order, it's inevitable that your mind will wander to the possibility of doing it all over again. Here's what to consider before bringing home another baby.
First off, don't stress too much about the psychological impact that age difference will have on your children. Big and small sibling gaps have their own benefits and challenges, says developmental psychologist Roni Cohen Leiderman, Ph.D., of Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. From double diaper duty to sibling rivalry, here are the pros and cons of the most common spacings.
1 to 2 years apart: The main advantage of having siblings with close birthdays is that they're ready-made playmates. "My boys play on the same soccer team, ride the same school bus, and share toys and friends," says Jen Singer of Kinnelon, New Jersey, whose sons are 19 months apart. Children younger than 2 years also have an easier time adjusting to a new sibling than older kids do, according to research from the University of Maryland, most likely because they're not as aware of being displaced as an older child would be.
Another advantage to raising two babies at once is that it can unify the family. "The early hardship of caring for two young children can help draw fathers into the action," says Sybil Hart, Ph.D., author of Preventing Sibling Rivalry. "The tasks are so demanding that even the most alienated and reluctant father would have to step in."
Even with the help of a Superdad, however, the early years are a boatload of work. "Those first years, I was just chronically sleep-deprived," Singer says. "My back ached from carrying both of them. And I'd get so confused, I'd change one kid's diaper twice and forget the other's."
Two closely aged kids can also fight—a lot —over toys, friends, affection, you name it. Trouble often intensifies when the younger child starts crawling. "Because the crawler is at risk of falling down stairs or gobbling up choking hazards, he requires constant monitoring," says developmental psychologist Burton White, Ph.D., author of Raising a Happy, Unspoiled Child. "That's when the older one starts to act out, grabbing the little one's toys and pushing or biting him." Parents can help by nipping bad behavior in the bud—and by giving the older child a daily dose of private time with Mom or Dad.