If you're a woman thinking of starting a family or adding to your existing one, a common question is how far apart you want to space your children. There are advantages and disadvantages to different family plans, and you can see that from the minute you decide to move beyond leaving the issue up to fate, God, or any other higher power. Here are five things you want to consider.
Number of Kids You Want in Total
The first thing you want to think about is how many children you would like to have in total. Be aware, though, that this number often changes. You may like being a parent so much that you decide to have more than you originally planned. Conversely, you may decide after having just one baby that a single child is enough (or more than enough!) for you. A key consideration here is to think about what you and your partner want, not what other family members or society in general thinks is "right."
Your Reproductive Health
Your reproductive health will come into play here, so it's good to have a checkup and consultation with a reproductive health specialist, like your OB/GYN, before either starting or adding to your family. Important topics to discuss include
- advanced maternal age
- history of or potential for difficulty conceiving
- history of or potential for a troublesome pregnancy and/or delivery
- congenital conditions in your family (things passed on genetically)
- health conditions that could be exacerbated by pregnancy, such as diabetes or epilepsy
For more more information about reproductive health services and issues, consult a professional such as an OB/GYN.
The Family Budget
Of course, your budget must also be considered when planning a family, and for most folks, having a family ends up being more expensive than they anticipated. Will you need to upgrade the size of your home? How do you feel about kids sharing rooms? If you have two kids quite close together, for example, you'll need either a double stroller or two strollers, but if your children are spaced further apart, you can likely use the same one for both.
You will also need to look far down the road, past basic food, supplies, and childhood healthcare. Could you handle having two or more kids in private high school or college at the same time?
Needs of Existing Children
If you have children already, their needs should be considered as well. While most people only think of things like disabilities or special needs in this regard, every child has individual concerns. Some kids thrive with more personal parental attention, whereas some would probably enjoy having a sibling near their age.
Your Time and Energy
Your time and energy for the next 20 or so years should also be taken into account, as well as that of your partner. The younger you are when you start your family and the closer the children are in age, the more you're likely to have the ability to travel or enjoy an early retirement in middle age. However, waiting or spacing your kids further apart can allow you to create more financial stability, to develop good parenting skills, and to satisfy career urges that may not dovetail well with parenthood.
There are advantages to having children close together
- You get all the "messy" stuff done at one stage of your life.
- It's easier to do the school runs or homeschool kids together.
- Family nights and vacation activities are easier to plan.
Spacing your kids also has its pros:
- There is generally less rivalry or fighting between kids who are separated by age.
- Older siblings can help with younger ones.
- You can appreciate each child more when their spacing gives you time to spend with them.
Whichever path you choose, it's a good idea to plan as best you can in advance but be flexible should you change your mind later. Giving child-spacing due consideration can give you peace of mind in what is often a challenging but rewarding part of life.