Maybe you thought you were a “one and done” family, but now you’re not so sure. Or perhaps you had planned for more children but worry that a new baby will upset the balance you’ve worked hard to achieve in your life.
Deciding whether to have another child is a tricky calculation, and a choice that many parents spend time wrestling with. Ultimately, you — and your partner, if you have one — are the only ones qualified to make this decision. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t helpful to ask for advice and hear about others’ experiences.
We asked financial advisers and the HuffPost Parents Facebook community to weigh in on how to know if your family is ready to welcome another little one.
Assess your finances
“Financially, I’d like to see that you are spending less than you earn,” financial adviser Shang Saavedra told HuffPost.
Saavedra worries that “when I see parents or parents-to-be living paycheck to paycheck, you don’t have any savings, you don’t have any emergency savings, you have credit card debt — that stuff is going to be very difficult to overcome.”
In addition to paying bills related to a new baby’s birth or adoption, you will need to add costs like diapers and formula to your budget. Then there’s child care to consider. You’ll have to estimate how much costs will go up depending on when you have another child. For example, you might have two kids in day care, or one in day care and one in school and an after-school program.
In some cities, full-time child care can cost as much as one person’s entire earnings (or more). But deciding whether a parent should stay home to care for an infant involves more than simple arithmetic. In addition to fulfillment, a job might provide health care for the whole family. And taking time out of the workforce impacts lifetime earnings and retirement benefits — so a salary may be worth more in the long-term than your current take-home pay would indicate.
Saavedra noted that the cost of day care tends to correlate with the cost of real estate. In making this decision, you could examine the possibility of moving to a less expensive area to find child care that allows you to continue working. Another option is to enlist family members — and possibly move closer to them — for help with child care.
Your workplace might offer subsidized child care or flexible spending accounts that allow you to use pretax dollars to cover child care expenses.
If you don’t have these options available, remember that it’s not your fault. “Raising a child in a country that doesn’t provide paid maternity leave, affordable child care and affordable health care for all is very challenging,” Rita-Soledad Fernández Paulino, a financial coach, told HuffPost.
As you look at your finances, remember that different goals make sense for different families. Saavedra recommends asking “what you want out of life as a parent.”
“If you want to retire by 50 more than you want a second child, own it,” Olivia Christensen, who writes the column “For Love and Money” at Insider, told HuffPost.
“No one, least of all the baby, will be happy with a parent who is resentful over spoiled dreams,” she added.
Take stock of your psychological resources, too
“An individual should reflect on how well they are currently taking care of themselves physically, emotionally and financially,” said Fernández Paulino.
One way to know whether you’re ready for another child, said Christensen, is if your “primary emotional response to the idea of a new baby is excitement rather than stress.”
For couples, both partners have to be on the same page. This may take time and cause frustration, but “no one should feel like their child happened to them against their will,” Christensen said.
“People are more likely to take joy in a responsibility they enthusiastically chose,” she added.
Others may not understand your decision, but at the end of the day it’s you who lives with the choice — not them.
“A lot of our family was shocked that we were not going to have any more kids but we are perfectly happy with being one-and-done,” wrote Crystal Vick on Facebook, saying she had a “rough” pregnancy followed by postpartum depression.
“I couldn’t put myself through all of that mentally or physically again,” she said.
Try not to feel pressured by other families’ choices
It might seem urgent to start trying for a second or third when everyone you know seems to be pregnant again, but the only timeline you have to answer to is your own.
Your best friend may be eager to complete her family so that she can get the “diaper years” over with in one fell swoop, but if having two children simultaneously in diapers (or in day care) sound like more than you can bear, that’s OK!
There is no one “right” age gap between children, only what works for your family. Larger-than-average age gaps have their own advantages, too.
Laura Campos shared on Facebook that between having her first child at age 20 and the moment when “careers and finances aligned,” 12 years had passed. She and her husband — who quietly rooted for another baby throughout that period — now have a 20-year-old and an 8-year-old.
Campos called them “two ‘only children’” and said the age gap gives her and her husband “enough time to recover from the teenage years before we brace ourselves for that ride again!”
Reader Elizabeth Marie Acosta-Garcia said that after surviving the early years with two kids close in age, she balks at the idea of another.
“They are also so much older now and now we can see glimmer of normalcy and security. To throw all that on its head, to start over??? I wouldn’t want to endanger all the things we have in place for them now, stuff like extracurriculars, outings, the ability to get them not just what they need but sometimes what they want,” Acosta-Garcia wrote on Facebook.
Family and friends may also pass judgment about whether you “should” provide a child with siblings, but there are countless ways for families of every size to be healthy and loving.
Know that coming to a decision doesn’t mean you won’t have feelings about your choice
Anne Annis shared that she and her husband decided to stop at three kids due to financial reasons and because “it was a compromise between my wish for 5 and his 2.” But after a vasectomy and a few years, her husband revealed that he was hoping for one more. Whatever was left of that desire, though, has now been supplanted by a new joy.
“We became grandparents for the first time at the young ages of 48 and 47 and nothing compares to being a grandparent,” said Annis.
Be honest with yourself
“If you find yourself stuck on the readiness treadmill of waiting until you have X amount of dollars saved, and then for the next promotion, and then for your other children to hit certain milestones, and then for a bigger house ... it’s time to be brutally honest with yourself. Do you actually want another child? If the answer is no, honor that,” said Christensen.
It also helps to know your own decision-making tendencies.
“Some people waiting to be ready are looking at their lives and being realistic. They recognize that the money, time and energy required by another child isn’t there yet, but at some point in the future, it will be,” said Christensen. “But other people waiting to be ready are really waiting for a world where all worst-case scenarios have ceased to exist. These people will be waiting to feel prepared for the rest of their lives.”
Of course, sometimes unplanned events provide an unexpected solution.
Marla Gornetski Williams wrote on Facebook: “I wanted 1 pregnancy. He wanted 2 kids. We had identical twins on the first try. Everyone was happy.”