Trying to decide if you want to have another child can lead to an internal tug of war. So how do you know if you're ready for another baby? Start with these 10 questions to ask yourself before deciding you want to have another baby. Your answers will tell you if you should reassemble the crib or hold a yard sale for baby gear.
1. How does my spouse feel about having another child?
Your marriage can feel strained if your spouse's head and heart aren't in the same place as yours.
Instead of trying to please the other with a decision you don't feel good about or vice versa, step back from the situation and give it time.
Talk to each other about why you want or don't want another child. See if you can come up with a compromise, such as revisiting the conversation in a few months or setting a date in a year or two when you'll start trying to conceive. The more honest you both are and the more you communicate, the easier your decision will be.
2. How will my child handle having a little brother or sister?
A 7 year old only child may be terrifically excited about you having a second baby or she may feel incredibly betrayed. She may even feel both emotions. On the other hand, a toddler may not have grasped the notion that she was top dog before baby arrived. She may adjust to her new sibling beautifully or she may act out trying to get your attention that's now split between her and baby number two.
Your child doesn't have the final say in your decision to have another baby, of course. But you should talk to your child, if she's old enough to understand, and consider how her life is going to change when you walk through the door with a newborn. Regardless of her age, take some extra steps to help her adjust to a new sibling if you decide to have another baby.
3. Can we afford to have another baby?
A United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) recent report states that it will cost $245,340 to raise a child born in 2013, estimating $12,940 to be spent on that child per year in the first two years of life. And that doesn't include college. Every year the number rises too.
Not only should you look at the long-term expenses but think about the costs that will suck the money out of your pocketbook right away -- co-pays, insurance deductibles, hospital bills, prescriptions, diapers, child care, baby shampoos, wipes, diaper rash cream and baby gear or clothes you don't have left over from your other children. These costs can add up quickly, especially if you've already been squeezing every cent out of your household income.
Evaluating the family budget seems like an unfair exercise when you're considering having a child. However, knowing the numbers can help you decide whether you're financially ready for another baby now or whether you should wait a year or so to reevaluate your finances.
4. Can we accommodate another child?
Adding another member to your house could require some physical changes. Your 3-bedroom house may have to lose that home office or the kids could end up sharing a room as an alternative.
You may have to buy a double stroller so both of your children can ride at the same time. A small car's backseat needs to have room for little bodies that need to be secured in bulky car seats. Your tiny eat-in kitchen that was perfect for your trio now has to make room for a high chair and, eventually, you'll have to squeeze in a regular chair when this child is older. Think through the various changes you'll have to make so they're not a shock when you see the two pink lines on a pregnancy test.
5. How will having another child change our lifestyle?
As your firstborn grows, you gain a little more freedom. When a second baby comes along, you're back to square one. Getting up and going somewhere isn't as easy as it was. Add a third or fourth child, especially if they're close in age, and you may just have your hands too full.
As for your lifestyle changes, that one-week Alaskan cruise you wanted to take in a few months is probably out for now. Even trips around town are an ordeal again. The stroller will have to be put in the car. The diaper bag will need to be packed. Many of the changes are subtle ones but they're still something to consider.
6. How will having another child change our family?
Having a baby really does change everything. That doesn't just apply to your first child either. Your family dynamic will change with another child too.
If you're going from one child to two, that 100% focus on your firstborn will now be divided. At first, that shift in time will be in the baby's favor because you'll constantly be changing diapers and feeding the baby. And when you do have a free moment to play with your first child, all you'll want to do is sleep.
It's easy to feel overwhelmed because you're now trying to take care of the needs of two kids in the same 24 hours you've always had. Even with the most helpful spouse, other family members and friends, you'll need an adjustment period to being a parent of two.
Eventually, your time will swing back to a more even balance between your children. But your family dynamic will forever be changed.
7. What's my primary reason for wanting to have another baby?
Ask yourself why you want another baby. Do you want your first child to have a sibling? Do you love nurturing a young mind and body? Do you have a sense that the empty chair at your table should have someone else sitting there? Do you feel pressure to have another baby? Are you worried this might be your last chance before you get too old to have another baby?
You may be flooding yourself with questions about why you do or don't want another baby. When it comes down to it, what's your primary reason for wanting to have another baby or what's your number one reason for not wanting another child?
Once you pull this primary reason out from within, you'll often answer your should I/shouldn't I question about having a baby.
That number one reason will say a lot about where you are right now in life and how you want to raise your family.
8. From pregnancy to middle of the night feedings, am I ready to do it all over again?
Babies smell good and they're super cuddly. Just being around a sweet newborn can be intoxicating.
When the newness wears off, reality hits. You've got to be on duty at all hours, walk the floor with a screaming baby, stay elbow-deep in dirty diapers and revolve your schedule around your baby's. You're starting all over again. Every phase you loved, and some you weren't that crazy about, restarts. Now you have more than one child to take care of on top of it all and mommy burnout could be on the horizon.
Remember the good things about having a baby. Also remember the effects of postpartum recovery, exhaustion and the stress of taking care of a baby. Yes, babies are wonderful but you have to decide if you're up for the challenges they bring at least one more time.
9. How will I feel if I don't have another baby?
We often think of how our lives would be if we added something to them. This time, think about your life if you didn't add something, another person, to your family. You may feel like your family is complete with one child or you may feel like someone you haven't met yet is missing.
This simple question can reveal a range of emotions, from regret to relief. Explore these emotions because they can give you a candid look at how you really feel about having a baby.
10. Do I really want to have another child?
Bottom line: Do you want to have another baby? It's the most important question to ask and it requires a completely honest answer.
Pressure, trying to save a marriage, boredom and a ticking fertility clock may sway you into thinking you want to have a baby. Strip away any outside influences and give yourself a gut check. Do you want to have another child?
Just remember, there is no right or wrong answer. Every family is unique. Your decision to raise one child or a house full of kids is what's right for you and your family.