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Whether to have a Second Child at 36

QUESTION: My husband really wants a second child but I've been having second thoughts. Our first child, a fabulous, healthy daughter, is 21 months old and is everything I ever wanted -- and she is very demanding. Sometimes I worry that at 36, I may not be able to handle another bundle of energy.

On the other side of the coin, I love kids and do think that a sibling is always beneficial. Any insight would be appreciated.

ANSWER: You will not mother "two" the same way you mother "one". Shifts in responsibilities and relationships occur which make way for developing patterns for nurturing that succeed in families with greater than one child!

Remember too, that having "older" children is also on the "other side of the coin". Enjoying family activities like skiing, camping and card games are much more fun with more family members. The more family-oriented you are, the greater your enjoyment when the early period of labor intensive physical (and emotional) caretaking wanes.

The early years of caretaking are in many ways the hardest, in my opinion. Once children reach the age of 8 years, there are many activities they can be helpful with and much enjoyment to be had in family outings. Giving children chores which get things done and help raise their own self esteem is a good formula for success in the middle years of childhood.

You already feel that siblings are a "plus" to one another and you love children. No doubt you would miss not having another around in the next 5 years, more so in the next 10 years (adult relationships with children can be extremely rewarding!) and perhaps even more so when you are a grandmother. (you hope!)

In your case, your husband is clear that he wants another child and you seem to want another, but are having difficulty imagining exactly how you would fit another one in right now. What could he do to make another child easier for you? Are there ways he could share in caretaking that would be realistic and give you more confidence in being able to manage two children?

It is true that many people have subsequent children because their "vision" of family includes more than one child. This is a forward vision which parents are responsible to hold for the family! I do sympathize with your position of having to make a decision to add another child at a time when you are raising a two year old! Still, it is your job to try to see beyond the immediate to the future and weigh the pros and cons of your decision.

You do not have the luxury of being younger than you are, and time is growing short. Talk with other women your age who have had two children in their mid to late thirties. Evaluate what you would need to have another child. Do the resources you have to care for two young children balance against your future vision of having a 10 year old and a 7 year old? a 17 year old and a 14 year old? a 30 year old and a 27 year old? And when you grow old, and when you die, it is possible that two children who have a shared a life together are happy to have one another. But that reward also depends upon the bonding your children experience growing up together.

Evaluate resources, "pros" and "cons" and visualize having one child, and having two children at three different future points in time. Discuss with your husband what comes up for each of you, and evolve what your vision of family is, now and for the future.


Gayle Peterson, MSSW, LCSW, PhD is a family therapist specializing in prenatal and family development. She trains professionals in her prenatal counseling model and is the author of An Easier Childbirth, Birthing Normally and her latest book, Making Healthy Families. Her articles on family relationships appear in professional journals and she is an oft-quoted expert in popular magazines such as Woman's Day, Mothering and Parenting. . She also serves on the advisory board for Fit Pregnancy Magazine.

Dr. Gayle Peterson has written family columns for ParentsPlace.com, igrandparents.com, the Bay Area's Parents Press newspaper and the Sierra Foothill's Family Post. She has also hosted a live radio show, "Ask Dr. Gayle" on www.ivillage.com, answering questions on family relationships and parenting. Dr. Peterson has appeared on numerous radio and television interviews including Canadian broadcast as a family and communications expert in the twelve part documentary "Baby's Best Chance". She is former clinical director of the Holistic Health Program at John F. Kennedy University in Northern California and adjunct faculty at the California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco. A national public speaker on women's issues and family development, Gayle Peterson practices psychotherapy in Oakland, California and Nevada City, California. She also offers an online certification training program in Prenatal Counseling and Birth Hypnosis. Gayle and is a wife, mother of two adult children and a proud grandmother of three lively boys and one sparkling granddaughter..

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