Could having a second baby save my marriage?
Your marriage is not what it used to be. You fight more than you make love these days. You seem to disagree on the most trivial things. After your first child was born, you act mostly as ‘parents’, not ‘lovers’. You love your child and although it’s a busy job, you enjoy being a mother. When looking at a newborn baby, your heart melts.
You feel sad thinking your child will grow up as an only child of likely-to-be-divorced parents….and your biological clock is ticking. From deep within your core you feel a desire for another child… You wonder if having another baby will shift the attention from your marital problems and bring out that lovable man you once fell in love with…
As a therapist, I have heard several women voice this dilemma. They all had something in common. They were trying to save their marriage by introducing a new edition to the family ‘to distract attention from the marital discord’ and ‘to give their first child a sibling’. I encourage these women to carefully weigh the pros and cons because it doesn’t always work out that way. The decision to have another baby needs to be well thought out because the possible consequences to every family member involved are substantial.
If you are not getting the love and attention you want from your husband and you don’t get along with one child, will family life with a second baby be better? Will your husband be home more? Will he help out more? Will he stay because of the love for his children?
The answer is not an easy yes or no. Every situation and every marriage is unique. Here are some considerations.
1. Think about your true reasons to have another child. Do you love your husband still? Are you doing it for yourself or for your first child?
2. Can you affort a second child? To pay for the extra expenses there is a need for more money (which may mean more work and less time with the family). Would you be able to affort the extra costs even as a single mom?
3. With a new baby you will have less time for each other. Your time and attention now needs to be divided by three. Each baby comes with responsibilities. It means sleepless nights and night-feedings, at least for the first year or longer. Let’s face it. Babies are demanding.
4. Men have confessed that they feel ‘left out’ when baby number two arrived, especially if the children were close in age. ‘Mom of two’ now has more eyes for the needs of the children and may be too tired to take care of dad’s needs.
5. Babies are cute and cuddly but they add more stress to any relationship due to the increased responsibility and lack of sleep. Especially if both children are under two years of age the stress increases exponentially.
6. It is not the baby’s job to fill any void a mother feels in her life or to make up for any wrongdoing by other people in the past. Neglect from childhood can trigger feeling rejected in a relationship, even if this is unintended. It is your job to work on any problems you may have with self-esteem and your own unresolved childhood issues. An experienced licensed mental health counselor, psychologist or hypnotherapist can offer help if needed.
A stable and loving relationship, where partners have effective problem solving skills, is more likely to survive the additional stress of the early years. On the other hand, a relationship with a shaky foundation may not survive. It is important to take an honest look at your relationship and evaluate its strengths and weaknesses. Self-help-workbook ‘To Stay or Not to Stay?’ provides practical exercises to assess the foundation and strength of your relationship.
If you decide to have another baby, be prepared for a bumpy road, at least the first year. Think thoroughly about the consequences of bringing a second child into this world and your family. It may create a tipping point in an already unstable relationship. In that case, be prepared to be a single mom. Being a single parent is hard and the more children you have, the harder it will be. Look for a healthy support network, shield your children from parental conflict and take care of yourself. If you do end up in divorce, children’s book ‘Nina Has Two Houses’ is an invaluable resource to help young children cope with the divorce. It contains useful suggestions for parents as well.
As a therapist, I suggest working on your relationship first, before you try for a second baby. Self-help (work)books, couples retreats, individual- and couples counseling can all be helpful to save your marriage. After extensive relationship repair it needs to be a mutual decision, to welcome another human being into your lives and into your hearts. And think about it, with the learned communication-, coping- and problem solving skills your relationship will strengthen. You both will be better equipped to adjust to life changes together.