Your first child made you pretty happy, so will having another really top things off? I often wonder this myself. Should I have a second child?
Luckily, research shows how our lives change with another baby. Read the essential guide to how another baby affects your happiness, meaning in life, marriage, family life, old age, health, and spending.
See also The Only Child: Everything You Need to Know, Answered by Research
Women are happiest with one child
It appears that having one child makes women happiest. At a minimum, having one child makes women happier than no children at all. But “onlies” may be the sweet spot.
One study looked at identical twins aged 25-45. By comparing twins, researchers could ignore genetic causes for having fewer children or being depressed. They found that a woman’s first child increased her happiness. But each additional child negatively effected her well-being.
Could it be that having an only child gives us the wonder of parenthood that we really enjoy, while keeping the hard work and stress to a minimum?
Another study looked at how a woman’s personality affected her happiness with more children. Do “traditional” women gain more happiness from having two children than “modern” women? It seems they do not. One child produced the most happiness in these women, too, regardless of their personality type. A second baby reduced well-being scores for all women.
Balancing the needs of multiple kids is stressful no matter what your expectations are. That said, women often take on more parenting responsibilities. So, could having another baby make a man happier?
Men also benefit from one child versus two
Men, too, see an increase in happiness with their first child. Fathers of one child described higher life satisfaction than those without any children. However, the second child only increased the happiness of “traditional” men. Men labeled “modern” received no benefit.
Perhaps “modern” men take on more diapers and dishes with the birth of another child? Or, maybe traditional men simply get more pleasure out of parenting.
On the other hand, the scientists researching identical twins looked at fathers, too. They found that having children did not affect their happiness at all. Life satisfaction remained stable, regardless of how many kids they had. When it came to family life, only marriage truly increased men’s well-being.
It may be that children have a smaller effect on the happiness of men versus women. If so, women may have more to gain or lose emotionally from choosing to have another baby.
Likewise, another study looked at factors like age and marital status. They found that one or two children made no difference to happiness, for men or women. However, this study found that three or more children negatively affected well-being.
But there is more to life than just happiness. Often, the moments we truly savor are stressful. Think of solving a tough problem, competing in an event, or hey, raising that first child. Sometimes stress seems to add more meaning to one’s life. Could another child do the same?
A second baby does have some benefits
Parents enjoy more meaning in their lives than non-parents. Researchers compared both life-satisfaction and meaning in adults. They found that having children living at home reduced a person’s well-being. But at the same time, it increased their sense of meaning. After children grew up and moved out, parents enjoyed higher levels of both well-being and meaning compared to people who never had children.
This study didn’t compare one versus two children, but it is possible that having another kid could further increase the meaning in one’s life.
Such may be the case in a study from Russia that goes against what all the previous research has found. Here, researchers tracked people over 20 years and found that parents were actually happier after the birth of their second baby. With their first child, life satisfaction dipped for several years, then increased to levels higher than before. But a second child steadily increased happiness. Life satisfaction never dipped after the second birth, and happiness continued to increase as they grew up.
Perhaps, life satisfaction is more closely related to feelings of meaning in Russia. Or, perhaps family life is supported more in Russia than in other groups studied.
But this wasn’t the only study that found having more than only child benefited well-being.
Marriage makes it more fun to have a second child
Certainly, married people are more likely than singles to gain happiness from having another child. When a study in the UK divided people by marital status, the life satisfaction of married people increased with each additional kid. However, unmarried folks saw their happiness decline with each child.
Other studies contest this finding. In the twin and “traditional” parent studies, married people were less happy with two or more children, with the exception of traditional men. A third study found no effect of one or two kids in married parents but three or more children reduced happiness. But surely, a supportive spouse makes raising another kid much easier.
One surprising finding: in married women (but not in unmarried women), a second child reduces the risk of suicide. A third or fourth child reduces the risk even further. Perhaps, despite any increase in stress level, having a larger family strengthens your sense of purpose and resolve.
If being married is critical to being happy raising another kid, what does having second child do to one’s marriage?
Another baby takes a toll on your marriage
Sad news: parents report less satisfaction in their marriages than non-parents. And marital satisfaction decreases with every additional child. The effect is strongest for mothers of infants, but is found across all ages and in both men and women.
Multiple studies duplicate this negative effect. Parents of preschoolers report the lowest levels of satisfaction with their partners.
One study found that children reduce time spent on “companionate activities.” With each child, parents spent less quality time with one another. In that study, it was the low levels of couple time rather than the kids that truly hurt the marriage.
So, preserving couple time every day to connect and maintaining a date night may prevent the stress a second child puts on your marriage.
That said, having another kid puts stress on the entire family.
How a second child affects family life
Large families seem to bring more stress for everyone. Two studies looked at the dynamics of family life for different sized families. They found that with an increasing number of children came more fighting between family members and more feelings of negativity about each other. More children also brought more stress to each family member, even after controlling for economic status.
Despite the stress, these large families may celebrate more meaning in their lives. But certain people may be better equipped to handle the stress of a big family.
One study looked at married folks who were currently employed and working on masters degrees. This study represented people with full plates. In this group, having additional children led to lower satisfaction with family life. It could be that these parents had so much on their plate that they couldn’t handle the stress of another kid.
But it would be short sighted to only consider the immediate stress of more children in the house. Perhaps there is a long term happiness gain once children are grown up and living on their own.
Are we happier once our children are grown?
There are studies from Japan, Korea, and Ethiopia finding more children increases happiness in old age. In Korea, five kids raised life satisfaction more than two kids for elders, and two kids beat out none. In Ethiopia, older men benefitted the most from a large number of children. Only older women benefitted in Japan.
But what would happen if these studies controlled for socioeconomic status? Perhaps in countries with strong retirement programs, where people didn’t have to rely on their kids for support, the link between children and happiness might dissolve. One study did just that.
Researchers looked at surveys from 86 countries. When it came to children and happiness, the tables turned at age 40. Although each additional child decreased happiness in parents under 40, having more children actually increased happiness in older folks. Elderly people who lacked government retirement programs benefitted the most from having larger families. On the other hand, young parents benefitted from living in countries with government support for families.
Does financial security make a second child more fun?
Denmark has one of the strongest social safety nets in the world. So, looking at the life satisfaction of parents here may best represent how children effect happiness when money is not an issue.
The twin study from Denmark found that the number of children significantly affected women aged 25-45. In this age range, each child beyond the first decreased life satisfaction. But once the kids moved out? Children did not effect happiness at all in people aged 50-70. Then, only marital status became relevant.
Likewise, a study from America looked at people 45 and over, comparing life satisfaction according to 22 different factors, like marriage, age, and personal wealth. They found that children had no bearing on a person’s happiness. Instead, socioeconomic status, the quality of health, and how often a person got together with friends became critical. Further, researchers compared time with family to time with friends. Friends were the significant factor in happiness.
So, it may be that if you have a strong retirement plan, children will have the biggest influence on your life satisfaction while they are living at home. And even if you can afford to care for multiple children, you still may not be happier raising them.
But how much money does it take to afford having another child?
How much does having a second child cost?
In America, a second child costs about $10,230 per year. This is the average for married couples, and is in addition to the cost of the first child. This does not include college savings, and was taken from a 2013 analysis performed by the USDA.
According to research, married couples spend about 26% percent of their income on only children. The cost rises to 39% of income, on average, for two children. Parents spent most of this money on housing, food, childcare and education.
Consider that your current home may already accommodate having two children. One parent may already be at home and you don’t plan to pay for childcare or private school. In this case, you may not end up spending as much on another kid.
One surprising savings may come from health care. It turns out that your health actually benefits from having a second child.
Having two children is good for your health
Having two children reduces mortality risk. Three different studies looked at thousands of older adults and found the same thing: two kids was the sweet spot for health. The risk of an early death increases by 18% for parents of an only child. Also, the risk is higher for parents of three or more kids. Scientists believe the lifestyle of parents with two kids somehow helps them live longer.
However, there is one health benefit of less children: lower BMI. Even after accounting for multiple factors, each additional child increases a woman’s risk of obesity by 7%. A man’s risk of obesity increases 4% with every child.
Having another child may reduce the time one can devote to cooking healthy meals or exercise. But perhaps having a second child encourages us to get up and move more during the day, or to be more active in our older years.
Should you have a second child?
Obviously, the choice affects more than just you or your partner. Deciding to have a second child will dramatically change the life of your first. I’m so curious to learn the effects of being an only child, and my next article will cover that.
See also The Only Child: Everything You Need to Know, Answered by Research
And of course, there are still other things to consider. Having another baby diverts time from other life goals. Each child adds to the increasing burden humans place on our environment. Personally, I worry about the regret I may feel once I am too old to change my decision.
All things considered, I have yet to hear one parent say they regret having a second child.
How would a second child affect your life? Does the research change your opinion on having an only child by choice? I’d love to hear about your feelings in the comments.
Having a second child makes a woman less satisfied; only some types of men benefit
Having a second child decreases happiness in women, has no effect on men
Having more children increases family stress
Family size has no effect on life satisfaction after controlling for other factors
Parents have less well-being but more life-meaning
Each child reduces marital satisfaction
In Korea, older adults with more kids enjoy a higher quality of life
Having another child increases risk of obesity by 7% in women, 4% in men
Cardiovascular disease risk is lowest for those with two children
Mortality risk is lowest for mothers of 2 to 4 children
Having three or more children reduces well-being
In Russia, life satisfaction increases after second birth
More children reduces family satisfaction
Government retirement programs reduce the effect of children on happiness
Expenditures on Children by Families, 2013, USDA
I love this! So much to think about here. As a parent of 2, some of this supports my decision, and some of it doesn’t.
But here’s how I agree….
I agree about having NO REGRETS about having my second child. Even though my kids fight plenty and all the noise sometimes makes me feel crazy, I love that they have a sibling and that I have been challenged as a parent (and therefore strengthened) by having 2 very different kids. And of course I just love that second little person who is part of my family just like the first.
I also agree though that I felt more confident as a parent when I had just one. Things felt so much more manageable and calm and I felt like I handled discipline and “parenting” situations coolly most every time. That definitely changed with the second, so I guess in a way that could be interpreted as a lower level of “happiness”. It definitely shook my confidence as a parent and made me much more tolerant of parenting mistakes in myself and others.
I also agree that it affected my marriage in a negative way. Baby number one did tip things down a little, but number 2 magnified the problems and gave us a lot more to overcome.
Thanks for the fun and fascinating read!
Thanks for commenting! Yes, lately, I’ve been thinking about this research in relation to self-determination theory, which claims that humans’ three basic needs are autonomy, competence and relatedness. Perhaps having more children increases one’s sense of relatedness at the temporary expense of autonomy? As for competence, I feel one is just the right amount of challenge for me, but surely other people are ready for more!
I am pregnant of no.2 this was unplanned and before getting pregnant totally unwanted. I am 42 going 43 and have no relatives or help around. Dad is good but we all know how it falls mostly on mums. As I learned to be pregnant I was just about to go back into looking for work or do a PhD, thus second child changes and collapses all my plans as there won’t be money nor time for a PhD nor will make sense to work for the first year of baby life as financially is too costly. I also did not enjoy the pramming around of my no. 1 as I felt lonely most of the time. When my first child turned one, and even more when she turned two I started to enjoy motherhood much more and felt up to before this second pregnancy, very happy and complete. Now I feel extremely anxious and mostly depressed about what’s to come and to replay the last three years again, in term of hard work, sleepless nights and all, I just feel it will crush me. Please mums, understand that I am perfectly conscious that most people are totally delighted to have a second child, I that I am blessed to have even a second one when many don’t have this luck. Yet my personal well-being is a strain here, like I have never felt before. Maybe it’s the hormones of the first trimester? I do wonder if I am so negative due to my hormones or to a rational really check. I am super struggling really…
I can totally understand and share your feelings. Few things are outside our control. We realize the positive side only when the right time arrives. You never know your second child brings a miracle. You achieve even greater heights professionally. Many people crave to have one child. You are blessed to have the second one…so just enjoy whatever comes your way. For finances, i am sure you can plan better. Take care mommy. love and strength.
Hi, I felt exactly the same as this all through my second pregnancy everyday was a challenge I felt so low but I had my second baby on jan 6th this year and whilst the pregnancy was tough because I was dreading all of the feelings of that first year as your describe, actually when I had my son it wasn’t half as bad as the first. During pregnancy I kept thinking back to how much I did not enjoy the first year of my sons life but because I have my first, the baby year is not like my first year baby experience as juggling the two keeps you busier and you have already made that personal change that you have to with the first.
Yes putting my life on hold again is tough, but the days go so fast with two that it’s not like the long boring days of the first just waiting to get back to life xxx
This gave me hope as I’ve been feeling all these feelings during my second pregnancy. Thank you!
I feel the same way. Will you give us an update
Encourage yourself everyday. It happened to me when I got my current baby. Currently am pressured for the second but I will yake my time.
I have been job hunting for the last two and half yrs without luck. My career stopped but I will not allow it to happen again because emotionally, mentally and financially am not ready
Totally in the same boat!
Oh wow I am in the exact same situation as you, im so sick and anxious how this will turn out .. would love to know how it all turned out for you?
I know that you posted this nearly two years ago, but I’m sending my best wishes and wondering how you’re doing. I hope that your heart as full as you navigate all of the challenges of parenting.
I’m 44 and thought I was pregnant a few months ago and also remember feeling a lot of dread and anxiety, which was 180 degrees different from how I felt with my first pregnancy (very much wanted and long awaited). All of the factors you mentioned came up for me too – a fear of being physically and emotionally wiped out and also having to postpone other work dreams and goals for more years. I felt fairly certain that I would adjust to having a new baby and would love that baby, but I was relieved to not actually be pregnant. And now I’m grappling with the sadness and reality of my first child being an only child. The author’s article on that topic helped me feel better about that choice/reality as well. Thank you for sharing your honest experience and sending my best!
Me, myself and I
Thank you for the insightful research . I really enjoyed reading it . If I could add something, I grew up in a big family . I have 3 elder sisters and 1 younger brother . I am blessed that my parents are responsible. They send us to school and taught us values in life .
Personally, I want another child . I have a toddler now but as much as i wanted to get pregnant and have another child . I consider also my husband maturity . Though he is faithful and very responsible to me and my daughter . I often do household chores and taking care of my toddler . I cannot ask him to look after our child and most of the time he let me do the all myself [ I am working too , I do laundry and house chores ] . To be fair , he help too but I am not happy on how he manage the house .
To add, having another child also depends on the support system you have. [ by the way , I am an immigrant and my family are back to my hometown] I am not comfortable asking for my husband family help because I dont want to have any debt of gratitude to no one , besides his parents are sick and old too.
From my husband I feel a high pressure for the second child. However it seems impossible for me because our relationship is already down and I am pretty sure we end marriage if I have the second child. I made my mind and closed the case for myself. I believe that the best age range between children should be above 5. I am already 44 years old, so I cannot have the second child. Perhaps I am missing out many nice things as well but in Turkish we have a saying: worst decision is better than being hesitant.
I gave a link to this post in my blog, it is nicely written, thank you
This is a great outlook. I am struggling with thoughts of having a second child. Almost like I already regret it. I go back and forth between regretting if I don’t and regretting g if I do, its a strange place.
Jessica, me too! My son is 25 months old and I can tell that he’d love to have a sibling. I am 37 years old. My work situation is not so good right now stress wise. I still feel the pressure to make a decision about a second child soon..
What is your situation if you don’t mind sharing…?
Same here Justine! And Jessica! My 1st is 22 months old and I’m 40. I have been very against having a 2nd ever since the birth of the 1st…but lately, my brain and body keep wanting to consider it! Trying to decide if I’ll really regret not going for it and having a 2nd, especially since I seem to suddenly want on, against all rational thinking. Or if we do have a 2nd, if I’ll kick myself constantly and regret it! The toughest choice ever!!
Also, thanks for writing this article, Christa! Definitely highlights some interesting research and things to consider.
I’m in the same boat. It is comforting to know others feel stuck on this too. I’m 41 and have a 19 month old. I have this guilt trip thinking he needs and deserves a sublingual but I am so happy with our family of e and finally getting my life back a little (sleep at least & some workouts again).
Part me me wants one. I loved being pregnant. But the 1st year is so hard. With a 2nd its even harder. I’m old and tired & want my life back a little. I dont want it overruled by chasing babies/children. I would need 24/7 help – costs would double.
On the other hand what if it doesn’t work out and is harder than the first. Should I just be thankful and happy for the 1st and let it be and know he will be okay being an only child? I hate that phrase. It shouldn’t feel negative but it does – societal pressure.
I worry and stress about this every day.
Wow, just like me! I am 36 years old with a 26 month old boy, and full time job that is quite stressful lately. I have also been feeling so much pressure to make a decision on baby number 2! My husband is also on the fence about it because we are already so exhausted all the time! It is nice to remember that we aren’t the only ones in this situation!
36 years old with a 22m year old son and I feel the same way ! I started my own small business last year so I could stay home and raise my son and I love it. I don’t know if I will still have all the time to juggle everything with a second but I also don’t want to regret not having a second down the road or having to constantly entertain my only child . My husband also works aways half the year. But when he is home, he is 100% on dad mode. We are both on the fence but we plan to make up pur mind before the end of the year
I feel the exact same way! I am 37 so the 0ressure is on. My husband does not want a second but I feel guilt not giving my almost 5 y.o. daughter a sibling. I want a second one for her but realistically, it would put more stress on us and our marriage.
You really shouldn’t feel guilty for not giving your daughter a sibling. Not all siblings are close, so keep in mind that it’s not a guarantee that a sibling is something positive. Especially if the age gap is 5-6 years. I love my brother, but I don’t like him very much. Same for many of my friends. And we’re 30+. I’m glad he’s alive, but could have lived without him to be honest. That’s just the brutal truth.
Also, nowadays close friends become like family anyway. So being an only child doesn’t mean she’ll be lonely in life. Instead she can choose who she wants in her life!
I am at your age and have a 5-year-old daughter too. My husband doesn’t want a second child either because our relationship has not been all rosy – we are tired, we feel like we don’t have enough time for ourselves and work has been stressful. I have your thoughts and your exact same feelings too – I feel almost guilty for not giving my daughter an opportunity to know this relationship called siblings and also for putting on her shoulders the full pressure of caring for us when we become old and weak (even if just emotionally). I also miss the feeling of holding and taking care of a tiny baby in my arms while not able to forget how emotionally and physically negative I became when I lacked so much sleep with the first one. Have you both decided on a way in the end, if you don’t mind sharing?
Wow so many of us – I am 37 with a 18month old and full time job, and I feel EXACTLY the same way. Running out of time and so scared of regrets, but feel like keeping to 1 is the smart route. Ugh
Thanks for this article. I am 39 and I have 7.5 y/o daughter. I felt exactly the same. So much doubt until I realized 2 days a go that I am pregnant. I thought I’ll be happy but I am so confused now. Why happens to my job.. I’ll my daughter even care if
she is not the only child anymore? Such a hard situation…
This is exactly my situation and I’m really struggling with what to do for the best. I feel like we’ve only just got our s**t together and petrified it will all unravel! How do you manage with such an age gap especially when the first have gotten used to being on their own.
What did you decide? How did this play out, I’m changing my mind on a daily basis and it’s just torture.
Just wondering how it all turned out?? I am in the same boat. 38 daughter is 8.5 and I felt the same way when I got pregnant last month, unfortunately ended on miscarriage but now deciding if we should try again.
I am in a similar state of mind….my spouse is not keen on having a second but doesn’t mind if I insist…could you share what helped you make that choice if you don’t mind.
Jessica, how did things go?? I am in the same, husband is not keen on another, and kept going back and forth, but after the miscarriage I feel like I really do want another. And know if I insist my husband will so ok, but I don’t want to force him, and he doesn’t want to insist on a no and force me. So we sit on this fence going in neither direction, but time and age are forcing our hand, and I am at a lose of what to do.
I feel exactly the same, that’s what made me actually google this topic.. I’m turning 40 this year and I feel if I won’t have a second child now then only one it is. I feel things are just right with our 3yr old, my well-being, partnership , parenting, how I handle it all from all aspects. BUT at the same time I’m struggling with the opposite feeling that I want a sibling for my boy, and that I always wanted two kids… my husband is very happy with just one and I feel I would hate if the second one has a toll on our family well-being. I heard someone on internet saying recently that It’s better to regret not having a (second) child than regret even for a moment to have a second ..! it stuck in my head since and I struggle with a huge dilemma I ask Mr.Google what to do 😀
My boy is 3 years old now. I asked him many times if he wanted a brother or sister. He hates the idea, he starts crying out “noo, I dont want a sister, nooo I dont want a brother”.
For an update, my relationship with my husband is ok. Sometimes I seriousy think about divorce but our problems are not such big. We could have a child. We dont have financial problems. Even, we dont have time problems. I am a freelancer so I can handle it. But I still dont want any other child. I dont want to breastfeed any other child other than my 3 year old precious boy..
When I first posted this comment, I was still a tiny little bit confused. However, as an update, now I believe that I made the best decision.
Yesterday, I went to my doctor, who gave birth to my child. She is very well known here and a good doctor. Surprisingly, she never advices the second child. She asked me if I still consider the second child because I always said I wanted throughout my pregnancy. I said “no, never” and she said “I will never understand my patients wanting more children, even in this world, child raising is the hardest thing”
In short, I am still thinking the same even though my doctor confirmed that I am completely healthy for the second child.
Interesting!! May I ask if your doctor has children of her own?? This would add context to her perspective. Thank you !
Thats exactly what I am currently feeling.. would be great to know what decision you have made since 2 years have passed on you comment
Can’t agree more. Well said Kendinleilgilen. I am comfortable with one baby. I treasure” me ” time alot
This is a really interesting article, thanks for putting it together Christa. The research does seem to point towards greatest wellbeing for having 1 child, and some other benefits for a 2nd but it certainly indicates that there is not much benefit from having a 3rd! I think it is easy to see benefits with having an additional child but hard to see the costs – such as to your health, your leisure activities, your quality time with your older child(ren), relationship with spouse, and of course to financial status. And I found the research about impact on older years as well as factoring in retirement support really interesting, as often people talk about when they’re older as a reason for an additional child. Thanks for sharing!
Glad you found it interesting! Yes, it seems there are so many variables in how a second child will affect one’s life. And these variables will surely affect each family differently.
Did you write the article on the effects of being an only child? I’d love to read it, please!
Yes! Here you go:
Interesting summary! I wanted to know if you found anything related to post partum depression and the amount of children in the family (single child vs siblings)?
That’s a great topic! I just looked on PubMed and couldn’t find any studies publishing findings on number of children, specifically, in regards to postpartum depression. However, most studies listed child care stress as a factor, and presumably that would be increased with subsequent children. Here’s a link of one meta-analysis of factors predicting postpartum depression, if you’re interested:
I have a 2 year old daughter and can not rest thinking about whether to have another. I actually don’t want another but worry I am letting her down especially when our family I so small with very few friendship cycles. you would think with this the sibling would fix that problem but I think I am a better mom to just her and that the love and support will be better just her. My Husband would be happy either way but he didn’t and wouldn’t do the vast amount of work with falls to me to do. He is an excellent dad but has his limits and he is actually at lot better with her now she is getting older. I just want to know it is ok to just have one despite such a small family.
What did you end up deciding?
Debbie, I feel you on this!! My husband is a wonderful father and would love more children but its me who feels uncertain. I’m afraid it will take away from my child now, but I also feel sometimes it would benefit him to have a sibling.
Hi Debbie this is an older comment, but I wanted to let you know it is okay to have only one child. You have to do what’s right for you and your mental health because you will be the best version of yourself for your daughter. There are a lot of Facebook groups of “One and Done” families and there’s so much joy and positivity in them. There’s also a book called One and Only by Lauren Sandler. It debunks the myths of only children and outlines many benefits. Either way, you have to decide what you want and not what society is telling you.
I am 23 years old with a 4 yr old. I know I’m young and have plenty of time but at the same time I do not want to go through this little kid stage twice. At the same time I want to go back to school which will take 4 years to complete. I’m conflicted on just getting it out the way now or just start over again in 4 years? Someone please help and give your opinion thank you
To the lovely moms who are thinking of being one and done:
I’m a young adult who recently told my parents how much I appreciated my experience as an only. Never have I wanted siblings. Our family is close-knit and spent lots of quality time together. My parents met all my needs growing up and still had time for their marriage. We weren’t wealthy, but I was able to take private piano lessons, which we wouldn’t have afforded with two or more kids. I’ve socialized, shared, and empathized with ease all my life. In fact, my most sociable and successful peers at work (with great leadership skills to boot) are other only children like myself.
I do come from a culture where having one child is common and not ostracized. Please cease the outdated stereotypes and ridiculous push-back surrounding having one child. It’s now 2021 and having multiple is not for everyone. Some people think I’m missing out. As an HSP, I disagree and think that’s a narrow-minded approach. If anything, I was blessed with a peaceful, calm, and cozy family environment where I was able to thrive. Why purposely throw a good dynamic off balance?
I love this, thanks for the comment good to hear from first hand experience of what it’s like to be an only child and grow in that family dynamic.
We are 95% sure we will not have a second I’m 32 and it already exhausts me even contemplating sleepless nights again. Not to mention the financial burden and strain it would put on my relationship. My only worry is my daughter being on her own when she’s only but like a lot of people have said siblings don’t always get on. Plus your experience of a positive upbringing make me feel so much more at peace that one child is right for us.
Thank you for your encouraging comment!
A mom who feels tremendous guilt about having only one
Super interesting! Thanks for summing it up. As a mom, I don’t have as much time to read the journals on my own as I would like!
I am an only child but also I come from South Asia where it was an anomaly to be an only child so I hated it and always fancied having siblings. Fast forward when I had my own little girl at age 30 I developed pregnancy relating heart complications with which thankfully I got recovered but never got the courage again to go for another one. Today I am 37 and my little girl is 7. My girl does not want to have any siblings and my husband is very happy with one! I think we are pretty much done but I would be lying if I say that time and I again I don’t feel a tug in my heart wishing for one more (cannot muster courage though)!
Thanks for this article. My son is 13 months old and I’m extremely conflicted about having a second child. Everyone told me that once I become a mom, I will love being a mom… and that has not been the case.
1. I miss my life of freedom, meeting my own personal needs and pursuing various projects.
2. Now that I have a son, I love him so much that I want to do right by him almost to the point of perfection, which is exhausting.
3. I still don’t feel good about bringing life into this world because of my own desire to have a more “complete” or fulfilling life.
4. I already resent the fact that I do more for my son than my partner does, and my career is the one taking a back seat.
I think I’ll continue to reflect until my son is 2 or 3 years old or until I have some clarity.
“Everyone told me that once I become a mom, I will love being a mom” that hasn’t be the case for me either.
All the mentioned points in your answer are how I feel ( I would write the exact response)
My daughter is 9 years and I still struggle with the decision, but it is like one is all I can handle 🤷♀️
Same her, my daughter is turning 7 and up to this point all I have ever said is I can’t handle more than one. My personal health is too fragile, my mental health is too fragile.
Weirdly I have recently been thinking of another and I don’t know why, I think it’s because I’m 36 and feel the clock is ticking. Once the decision is made either way you can’t go back on it. I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place as what ever the decision I think I will regret it!
I’m completely on the same boat. Whatever decision, I’ll regret
I’m also on the boat of being unsure about having a second child. I’d love another however I’m also very worried about how it will effect my son, how do you know if they are ready for a sibling, ready to share their parents? The only parts that make me unsure is we are very happy as just the three of us and I worry will i still get the quality time I get with just my son time as Just us to bond me and my son have a very close relationship he’s two he’s never stayed away from me he’s very much a mummy’s boy
Our baby is 7 months, and I would like him to have a sibling, we both work, but my husband’s concerned about the financial burden, risk of any birth/medical defects with a 2nd, and afraid of what life our son would be deprived of. But I’m opposite I feel like we are in a good place financially and we would be depriving him of sibling experience and bonding if we don’t have a 2nd. I grew up with 3 siblings and he was pretty much an only child until his sister grew up, they are 9 yrs apart.
To your husband’s point, you can’t guarantee you’ll only have one, you may end up with multiples. Also, a sibling does not always mean they will be best friends. Of course there are so many wonderful benefits to having a sibling as well, but both only children and children with siblings can have amazing lives. Most of what we think about only children is deeply entrenched from a psychologist who had a vendetta against only children. There’s been plenty of research to say the opposite of what he taught, but still the stereotypes remain!
im 30 with a soon to be 5 yr old bby girl. im happier than ive ever been. and ive had my glory days between ages 15-25. So ive matured and i know i could handle 3 or more kids. Truth is as an Aquarius i love my freedom too much to bring on more responsibility. i work full time and currently studying to change my field of work. im single never been married. i dated someone for a year, he was nice to my child but the relationship didnt go any further. my daughter asks for pets more than she does for a sibling. she attends daycare which she loves the babies she encounters and im sure she plays big sister. my daughter was unexpected but soon became my lifes priority. i never met my father so i hoped my kids wouldnt have to go thru the same. but im the queen who searched for a better life for myself. and God has blessed me with one gift to continue my legacy. i look forward to the day my baby graduates high school and college. looking forward to the days where she needs me most. i dont know if ill ever get married. Practicing abstinence untill then. at this point i’d prefer he have his own kids by now and we intergrate to a big family. only time will tell.
peace & love – mj
Thats how I felt until recently! Im 36 with a 7yr old. I made a deal with myself that if I hadnt met the right person and settled by 35 then another kid isnt for me. I thought if I ever met someone with kids I would be happy with a blended family. I have now met someone with a son, although it is early days my body, my heart and soul are screaming at me to be pregnant and give my daughter a sibling. But my head is telling me not to be foolish. He doesn’t want anymore kids, so I would have to go it alone. Ive looked at adoption and trying to figure out my options for donor sperm. I cant get it out of my head, its so frustrating.
Having 2 children is definitely a wrong decision for us. I was perfectly happy with one child. My wife tortured me endlessly for 5 years till I relented and gave up and we had a second child. It’s been 15 years and I still think how much better my life would have been with one child. There are no advantages of having 2 children.
Hey there, can you please elaborate on why it was such a bad idea? my fiance and I aren’t sure about having another. He is veering more towards a ‘no’, but I think I definitely want to try for one more later on. we have a 2 year old boy. Are there any specific reasons besides stress that you regret having a second? Do you ever feel an indifference/ hatred towards your second child? I’m just trying to gather more information that could help us make a better informed decision. Thanks!
This was a great and informative read! I’m in the same boat as many of the people who have commented. I’m 41 with a 2 year old, and don’t *think* I want another child. However, I’m also feeling the pressure of having another child (and soon!) to give my toddler a sibling. It is also that everyone around me is having more kids. The decision is tough, and life changing for everyone. I am super content with my one lovely boy. I’m just hoping there won’t be any lingering guilty feelings for not giving him a sibling….
I’m with you, Nini! I’m 42 with a two year old and all my friends are now having their second. I’m so conflicted, but can’t really bare the idea of going through all that again! So worried about having regrets later on though…
So thankful for this info and post section – I am not alone. I feel like the bandwidth that I have to be both a present and loving mother is for one kid. And the reason why I go back and forth is truly only because it has been valuable for me to have a sibling because someone else understand what it was like to grow up in my household, with my parents. No cousins at all for my kid on my side of family and basically one on my husband’s side. I think I would feel less conflicted if there were more cousins that could stand in as siblings…I have been wracked with anxiety and sadness around the decision to have a second since my son was born 3.5 years ago (postpartum depression?)… we had a hard time getting pregnant the first time. I have times where I feel like someone is missing in the house – where is our 4th? We actually started “trying” when my son was 2 but then COVID hit and the world turned upside down. Recently have opened up convo with my husband and are “trying” but a nagging voice is telling me “STOPPPP.” I have been looking forward to “getting back to me” (hiking and running) which have been on the back burner since my son was born 3.5 years ago. I feel like running the clock until my kid is 4 and then I can tell myself the age gap is too big. But even thinking that makes me anxious because then door will be closed. I just want to feel at peace.
I’m the exact same as you – have you made a decision yet or? I think I will probably go back and forth until it’s no longer an option or I get pregnant by accident!
I am 39 with a 16 year old son from my first marriage, a 15 year old stepdaughter that lives with my spouse and I full-time, and an 11 year old niece whom I adopted. my husband and I don’t have a child together. I keep going back and forth about having a baby and feel so much pressure because I’m 39 and because my son is already 16 and starting all over sounds kind of insane. i keep asking myself if i will regret not having another child? and the thought of regretting it if I do has also crossed my mind, has anyone ever said or felt “gosh i wish i wouldn’t have had this child?” i love to travel but feel as though i won’t be able to travel much with a new baby. But i also know that the baby can also travel, that the baby will one day become a child and can be left with aunt/uncle or grandparents while i travel, or that i can travel for the rest of my life but i can’t birth a child at any age of life. I guess at the end of the day you just gotta pray and go with your gut. i do have a question though, is it advisable to ask siblings and/or parents for input/suggestions, or is this something to discuss solely with your spouse?
I have about a similar situation though I’ve never been married. I’m 35 now, my daughter is 15 and I have had such an urge to have another one for the past 10 years. The only thing holding me back was being single. I feel too old now to have that type of stress at this age by myself. I’ve been with my current boyfriend for a year. Friends for 2 years before that. He has no kids. Whenever we discuss marriage he’s all on board but he’s still on the fence about children plus he’s 5 years younger and not in a hurry. My daughter has told me over and over again for years that she would love to be a big sister. We are very close and talk about most things. When I asked her in all seriousness if she really wanted a sibling, she still hasn’t changed her mind. Just hoping I can give that to her before I run out of time. I think it’s fine to discuss those things with your children. They may not give you the answer you want but they will at least be prepared if you decide you want to go that route.
Happy I am not alone in my conflicting thoughts. I am 36 with 3 Y old daughter. My husband is hoping for a second child, but our relationship had suffered for the last 3 years. I think second child will definitely bring additional stress and will not help the relationship. I also have those selfish desire to continue lots of travel, which were interrupted or spoiled while our daughter was too small and did not want to support our travel rhythms. The second child will put travel plans on hold for another few years and will reduce travel opportunities in terms of cost going forward. Maybe I am too selfish in this as want to enjoy the life. I only regret that in some 7-10 years, when I can no longer get pregnant, I would regret not having second one.
Yes it feels so good to read others just as conflicted. 33 with a 5 year old and husband does not want any more however isn’t completely incapable of being persuaded and has alluded to having “baby fever” recently. But, I would die without the companionship of my only sister. I can’t imagine life without a sibling so I am mainly concerned about my daughters future! It was rough until age 4 and now I feel like I could definitely do it again once it’s all said and done since she’s very self sufficient now and has asked for a baby sibling. We have a very close cousin her age and a ton of neighbors so she is not alone however I am just thinking of her older years! But of course I consider everything that comes with a second … wish someone could just tell you the right answer !!
Good to know I’m not alone! I currently have a 5 year old boy. We had a really traumatic birth and decided to not have another one. 5 years on I would now love to give my son a sibling, my husband and I are only children and I think it’s really important for my son to have a family. My husband is on the fence and says that if we have another one we would be taking opportunities away from our first. Is this true? For example, education – we don’t live in a good catchment area for secondary school – at the moment in a few years perhaps we could afford sending our first kid to a private school but if we have another maybe we would not be able to or it would not be the best school… I’m really torn, of course I want the best for my son, I don’t want to take anything away from him but could giving him a sibling and family be more beneficial than a private school?
Ariel I have been reading the book One and Only by Lauren Sandler (read that suggestion before I posted a few weeks ago…) and it has been helpful for me as far as info (studies, personal stories) in my processing journey…
Thanks for sharing. My son turning 2 soon, my mum asking when will be my second one. As grown-up with big family, I do love siblings however I am afraid and affected by my past experience. When my son was 4m old, he filrted with another girl. I found out and quarrelled with him. He behaves well now but it brought me so much hurt. I don’t wish to get back to that situation imaging a post pratum belly with me and one kid and one baby..
Is it a selfish way? Still struggling.. Hope something enlighten me whether 2nd or not
I just want to say, choosing to be a parent isn’t just about our personal happiness. As on only child myself, and now a father of two (5, 7), I see our kids playing together all the time. Half fighting and half great times, but 100% strong family bond. Kids benefit from having other kids to be with. But yes, life is on a pause until they both exit the little kid stage, and it is hard on the marriage. But I’d have even more if I had started younger.
Love reading this! I guess in the end, the decision is each parent s choice depending on their own situation. But your post makes me happy, you are one of the few that is on the positive side of more kids, despite the stress
Usually dads’ happiness is less affected by the number of children because they simply are involved much less. They don’t give up their jobs, friends, hobbies, any ounce of freedom as women do
I’m 35 with a 3.5 year old. I dont want another but she tells me all the time she wants a sibling. My husband comes from a family of 9 and likes one of them only. I myself am from a family of 5 and as the eldest was constantly neglected by my parents over my rowdier needier siblings and I was expected to help all the time despite my age.
So that’s the first thing – a sibling may not enhance my daughters life.
Secondly I’ve developed pcos worse than before I had my first so having a second will definitely be harder on me. I had post natal after first took almost 2 years to overcome don’t want to go through that again
Thirdly since having my daughter my marriage has massively taken a turn for the worst as my husband was very hands on but very resentful about it and my depression. Even now after 3 years there are problems. Bringing another child into this will not be fair on anyone.
We both get broody when we see babies and we would love to be able to conform to peer pressure and all the comments about why there isn’t another baby yet but after 3.5 years we’ve started to get to a better place n dont want to ruin it.
Someone mentioned here a 5 year gap is best for kids and that’s something I agree with especially from my own experience where my siblings were all a year or two apart and as the eldest I was neglected: a 5 year gap would mean I could have devoted my time to my first and then second and the first will be older.
Both of us agree another child isn’t something that we want.
It may seem selfish to some but for all the reasons I stated above it is likely we won’t.
This was such an interesting article, thank you for it! I am 42 and have a 26 month old daughter who is the light of my life! I had a difficult journey with several miscarriages and for a long time did not even think I’d get to be a mom. I really would like another but my husband is on the fence, at least right now…due to work and other obligations. Plus, I can’t lie – I am exhausted all the time just taking care of one. But in theory, I really want another one so that she has a sibling. Feels like everywhere I look, mom’s everywhere have at least two children. It breaks my heart that she may never get the chance to have a sibling, but I also want to be happy and preserve our marriage and if having a second will cause more stress, then I don’t know if it’s worth it. This article made a lot of sense!
Dear Alison, I am in the exact situation as you! I just wanted to say that it helps to know I am not alone having these thoughts. I wish you to make the best decision for yourself and your family. On my side I still did not make up my mind. Giving myself another 6 to 8 months :). As we are not getting any younger I feel I need to make that decision pretty soon. Take care and all the best to you guys.
These are my exact sentiments. I’m torn.
Exactly the same age and situation… also wondering what shape I will be in physically afterwards. I want to enjoy my life and feel fit again! I’m concerned the stress of pregnancy and childbirth could take a permanent toll – this happened to a friend of mines Mum after child number 3. She never really recovered.
Compared to many of the parents that are wondering if they should have more, I don’t think I ever really read about parents wanting more kids for themselves (besides wanting more people to care for them in old age.) I just love being a parent and I want more of the love to share and spread. I would definitely stop at 2 babies, as I have a terrible-twos boy right now. But even through the stress I want one more. My fiancé has mentioned he thinks it would be nice to have another one day, but he usually says he’s One and Done.
Honestly? I hated this article. There are plenty of people (whether young or old) who are perfectly happy with no children at all: Rosa Parks, Jennifer Aniston, Oprah, Helen Mirren, Seth Rogen, Renee Zellweger, to name a few. This “health” argument for how many kids you should have for optimal health is complete nonsense. It’s also an extremely self centered and ego-focused approach to the decision of whether to have a child to begin with.
Women: ALL of your feelings on this topic are valid. Do not let anyone pressure you into believing you need to make more babies to be happy. Look inside yourself, if you (&partner) WANT more children – that is wonderful. If you have mixed feelings or do not want more children, trust that part of yourself. I’m SO sick of articles, blogs, social media and TV trying to tell us what is best for our bodies and giving us instructions on how to be happy. Life is NOT a one-size-fits-all garment! You know inherently, in your gut, what choices are best for your unique path. Trusting your inner voice? That’s what will make you happy in the long run.
That’s not exactly true. I think a lot of readers come to articles like this because they aren’t sure what their gut is telling them, and they want some advice. My gut, for example, tells me something different everyday about whether I want a second child or not :p
I do agree with your message, however, that women should ultimately do what makes them happy and not what others think will make them happy. But I don’t feel this article had an agenda either way; it simply presented information on what research shows about having a second child. That is helpful for people trying to make that decision.
Also, I know that Jennifer Aniston (and I think Renee Zellweger as well) tried to have children and couldn’t. It wasn’t an easy road at all for her.
This sounds a bit too adamant. We don’t know these Hollywood women personally so we won’t know for sure if what they said to the media is exactly what they feel inside. I have a friend who kept stressing that she and her husband had agreed before their marriage not to have kids because they knew they would not be good with kids and they wanted to enjoy their marriage fully. It turned out in the end that it wasn’t fully the truth – they made peace with it because they had known that they would not be able to conceive.
My husband and I have been looking into our hearts and gut for the past five years and yet every week each of us would have a different feeling. Funnily enough we have never felt the same way about this topic – when I was unsure, he was very sure, and when I was ready for all the parental sacrifices, he was unsure. That led me to reading this article, which simply presents a few research results. I am as lost after reading it but I’m glad to have learned what many study participants shared and what (mostly) moms in this comment sections think and feel. Sometimes it’s enough to know that you’re not alone when you feel lost.
I absolutely love this article and all the supporting evidence. I am a Mom of 2 and girls and a boy and I feel complete in life. I am an only child and I absolutely love having 2 , it brings me joy to see the bond between two little humans I created. It’s definitely the sweet spot!
I love reading this. My situation right now is debating on a third baby. My oldest will be 8, my youngest is 4 and I’m craving another baby so bad, but also have anxiety thinking if it’s a good idea or not. I had post partum with my second and things finally feel good and normal isn’t it silly to think of a third? Oh boy I am and it’s taking over my mind lately! I feel like the idea is nicer , and smarter to leave it as is. I just don’t want any regrets. I’m also 29 but I really don’t want a huge age gap bigger than it already would be. Help!
Thank you so much Christa this is a very insightful article! I very much enjoyed the one on the only child as well. It gives me a lot to think of as we are in the process of deciding if we will have a second or not. It is a tough decision as I am 40 already, my partner is 46 and although extremely happy with our son we are also totally exhausted. We also both have full time jobs which I feel makes it extra hard as we are afraid not to have the energy for a second one (we barely do for one). Curious about what you decided in the end after all this research? 🙂
Well, it’s hard to say “decided” until one hits menopause, but we still have only one child. She is eight. As long as she can socialize every day with neighbors or friends, it feels like a great balance… her social needs are met, but we still have the time and patience to meet her other needs (i.e. sports, homework, healthy meals, cuddle before bed). She doesn’t ask for a sibling. I feel like one has been ideal for me – I have the time to appreciate her, my marriage, and myself.
Same boat as everyone else! 36 years old with a 2.5 year old toddler! Life is good with one but considering having a second one to give my son a sibling. I don’t know what to do! Kids are so much work and we’re already tired! Lol
I just discovered I am pregnant a couple of days ago. 37 year old, first born turns 11 in a week. Although we have been trying for almost 3 years without any medication. Approach was if it happens we’ll go for it. Last month I turned 37 and decided this will be my last attempt and wont go for it. Now I am in a dilemma whether to continue as I was pretty much adjusted with the mindset that its One and Done. I lead a very active lifestyle with balancing good career and enjoy outdoor sports and travelling.
I am not very sure if I will be in a good emotional state to devote the next 5 years to motherhood and go all over to get back to same physical and mental state.
Husband was ok with one and he has left it on me to take a call. So bummed thinking what I really need to do.
wondering what your decision was.
I’m in a similar situation but my first is only 3. I finally just adjusted to the idea of only one and then got hit with this surprise. My husband is terrified that something will happen to me or that the baby could have severe health issues and for him it isn’t worth it (we got one healthy one. Why tempt fate?). I’m also heading towards a supervisor position in the next year or so. I had so much “mom guilt” after the first I almost quit a job I really love. Finally my marriage to my husband has definitely changed since our first but we are a great team and we support each other and have fun together. I really think a 2nd will negatively impact our ability to enjoy each other.
I’m leaning toward sticking with only one but I am feeling so conflicted because I love my baby SO MUCH the idea of 2xs the love is so amazing a thought.
This is almost exactly my situation apart from I’m 40 and my child is 7. I really thought I’d be happy that it happened but the reality is I’m full of doubt regret and shame. How did you work through it
Hi, I know you commented a while ago but I can relate to your comment. I’m 37, my daughter is 7. We decided a few years ago not to have any more children, we’re a very happy family of 3. I really enjoyed every moment of motherhood but I had a very hard pregnancy and birth.
I am not 5 weeks pregnant, a massive surprise. At first I was feeling terrified but at the same time almost at peace. Terminating pregnancy didn’t even cross my mind. The next day I woke up with anxiety attack, what I would imagine PTSD feels like. I physically felt the pain of split pelvis which I suffered with the first time I was pregnant. My daughter was very big, the pregnancy and giving birth definitely put me off having more children. At the time I was told that if I ever get pregnant again it’s likely to be worse. The doctors did not recommend I get pregnant again. I am terrified of being in constant pain, that I will loose my mobility, how will it impact my daughter (who BTW is very happy and sure she doesn’t want any siblings). What if something happens to me? Or the baby. My husband works away and I don’t have any family here to support me. My brain is telling me that terminating this pregnancy is the best and safest option for all of us but my heart is aching. The last few days have been a nightmare for me. There is no outcome that feels right.
I am totally confused regarding my planning for 2nd baby
Bcz my marriage is love marriage my parents dint accept us so I came out n got married it’s near to 5th year of my marriage I have(2yrs 5months girl) child and i don’t have support from my family till now all is under my hubby’s control and my in-law is also not so good towards me so am totally alone to manage everything so am confused regarding weather to have 2nd baby or not my hubby is not forcing me to have 2nd baby bcz he knows my situation.But y my mind is thinking of 2nd one bcz it will b helpful for my 1st baby even though am not their in life boath baby’s will b helpful for eachother just bcz of this thought my mind started thinking of 2nd one so please help me in deciding weather to have 2nd baby or not .
I always thought I would want 3-4 kids close in age, but I had my first one, he started sleeping through the night at 7 months, I started having more me time, etc. By time my child was 3 I knew I was happy with only one. I know people who love having multiple children close in age but I know it’s too much for me.
I enjoy having 1 because I still travel, it’s easy to find a sitter, & I have time for myself daily. It’s easy to take one kid places for me, to do school events & sports. So I can see why having 1 is starting to become more people’s choice. Whatever works for each couple, I might consider baby 2 when he’s closer to 10, but I want to enjoy having one for a while.
Hi all, I can relate to so much that’s been shared by previous commenters.
I am 41 and have a toddler with my husband, who is my age. Due to our medical history, if we wanted to have another biological child, we probably could.
However, I am increasingly sure that I don’t want to (and my husband definitely doesn’t want to). I share so many of the reasons cited above, including maternal health concerns, finances, feeling “done” with the newborn stage, lack of nearby family, appreciating what we already have, environmental impacts, and wanting time and energy for other things.
I am fairly confident that I have the capacity to raise a supported, loved, nurtured, and well-socialized only child, while also being present for myself, my partner, my loved ones, and my career. I don’t know if I have the capacity to do that while raising two kids with our current support structure. If fact, I strongly doubt that I do.
At the end of the day, while I think it could be very nice for my child to have a sibling, I *know* that she needs to have happy and healthy parents.
While it’s nice to think about holding another baby in my arms at the hospital, peering into their little eyes with wonder and love, I also remind myself that they don’t stay newborns forever. We’re talking about a lifelong commitment. I’ve already made that once. I don’t know that I feel a strong-enough urge to do it twice.
Deciding whether or not to have our existing child was a long journey for my husband and me. But in my heart of hearts, I knew that I wanted to do it. I knew I desperately wanted this baby.
I just don’t feel the same way about another baby.