Monday, July 18, 2011

Dealing with Second Child Guilt - Revisited

Sibling relationships - and 80 percent of Americans have at least one - outlast marriages, survive the death of parents, resurface after quarrels that would sink any friendship.  They flourish in a thousand incarnations of closeness and distance, warmth, loyalty and distrust.  ~Erica E. Goode, "The Secret World of Siblings," U.S. News & World Report, 10 January 1994
It is incredibly common for parents to feel guilt over having a second child. I have heard it from friends and I have seen it in online mommy groups. I imagine it can be the case for additional children beyond the second too. While the guilt doesn't stop most people from actually having a second, it certainly can weigh on a your mind and even create anxiety. I wrote about this mommy guilt a couple of months ago and it has been my most popular blog post by far. I think this is because it is a subject that so many parents relate to. . . and search for on google. I certainly am not immune to it as you can see from that post, but I'm here to share my perspective today as a been-there-done-that momma. I'm no expert by any means, but I think a positive spin on the subject might prove helpful.

First of all, if you are considering having a second child or are pregnant already, try to let go of the notion that everything has to be equal amongst your children. This can never be the case, nor should it be. Circumstances will be different, and your children will be different from each other. There is no one-size-fits-all model for parenting a child.

Secondly, yes I am sure you can come up with all sorts of reasons to be sad that your current one-and-only will no longer be your baby. Trust me, they will always be your baby no matter how many siblings come along. Both of my kids will be my babies until the day I die. Having another child doesn't make them grow up faster. Yes, you might notice it more because you have a new baby to compare them too, but younger siblings don't make older siblings grow up faster - time does that. Birth order psychology is a rather contested subject. Some people believe that birth order plays a large influence on the personality of a person while others don't think it matters at all. I don't think anyone knows the answer definitively. I do think that loving each of your children to the best of your ability results in well grounded and confident people regardless of birth order.

The most important thing to keep in mind while fighting back the guilty feelings, is that a sibling is a gift. Despite jealous tantrums and rivalries, I truly and thoroughly believe that having a sibling is a huge one up in the world. That doesn't mean that having a single child is bad, I don't think that at all. I just think that having a sibling is worth any negativity that may come with the territory in the vast majority of cases.

I have 4 brothers and sisters myself and I could not imagine my life without them. If my parents ever expressed guilt over having them, I would be tempted to slap them upside the head. My sisters and I had a rocky relationship growing up, but none of that matters in the long run. I know that I always have them in my life no matter what and I hope they all feel the same.
The first group shot of us back in 1989

We had fun everywhere we went

Cheesy studio shot - I know

Whenever I start feeling guilty that one of my kids is not getting the ideal treatment because of his/her sibling, I remind myself that they have each other. That is much more powerful than that extra trip to the park that mommy didn't have the energy for because they are both being a handful that day.

They will always have each other throughout life, even though they may not always appreciate each other:


  1. What a lovely post! I've felt some guilt about trying to share myself out between them and give them each quality time - but if I pop out of the room I always loiter in the doorway on my way back because watching them together, without Mummy or Daddy around, makes my heart ache it's so beautiful. The big one brings toys to the little one and the little one's face just lights up, they're very affectionate and just adore each other.
    Also, what a very handsome family you and your siblings are!

  2. I think we parents - in particular the hormonal mommas - find reasons to feel guilty about way too much. The sibling relationship is such a special thing though. I can just picture those moments with your boys, so sweet!


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