Tea for Two?

Lauren Young

Tea For Two

My post on having another child has clearly struck a nerve with readers of this blog. While I’m always interested in talking about this topic, an email from one reader named Donna sparked a week-long investigation into the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Donna works part-time three days a week, and she is mom to an 11-month-old daughter. Her parents help babysit. She writes: “I am 37 and am five days late with my period. My husband and I had just decided to wait until spring to starting working on #2. I've been stressed for that last few weeks regarding the decision whether to have 2 or 1, to wait or not, and so I don't know if the stress is contributing to my late period.” She’s trying to figure out if she could still work part time with two children.

She’s not the only one who is stressed out. Last weekend I went to a baby shower--a good friend from grad school is expecting No. 2 to arrive in early November. There were at least four pregnant women in attendance, and since most of them are working parents, the conversation over tea and scones ranged from deciding whether or not to have another child to the juggling act of parenthood and work. But most of the time we talked about having more kids.

One very pregnant mama named Ivanka told me off the bat that she's struggling with her decision to go back to work. She left a lucrative career in investment banking (and 90-hour weeks) to join a nonprofit before she had her first child, now 2 ½. She says her current work life balance is pretty good: “I have a nine-to-five job, and I can leave in the afternoon to go to doctor appointments.” But with No. 2’s arrival around the corner, she is seriously questioning if it is worth it to go back to work, even if the job she has offers some flexibility. “I know this child will be raised my nanny,” Ivanka says, pointing to her belly with a frown.

Lee, meanwhile, downshifted from her job as a lawyer to work as a legal recruiter when she had her first son, now four. Her second child is already 14 months, but she feels like she doesn’t know him as well. “I’ve resigned myself to the fact that my second son is being ignored,” Lee says

Because this is top of mind, I’ve been asking other working parents all week why—or why not—they’ve had more children.

Here’s a sampling:

My son’s doctor said he wanted a second child, but his wife, also a prominent physician, didn’t. “She won,” he says. They talked about adopting or taking in foster kids, but neither ever seemed passionate enough about it to do something. In hindsight, he wishes he pushed harder.

A colleague here has a five-year-old. While his wife left her career to stay at home when their child was born, she didn’t enjoy the stay-at-home-mom gig much in the beginning. But now that her son is heading for school, she’s considering another child (something he’s wanted all along). It helps that they’ve moved away from New York to a much smaller city where the quality of life is better. But a lot of their renewed interest in expanding the famila has to do with the hardship of being an only child as parents age. “We’ve realized, mainly because of stuff with our own dysfunctional families, that it’s hard to deal with this stuff as an only child,” he says.

So here’s a plea to the parents with two kids (or more) out there:

Please share your insights with us. How have you coped with work and your second (or third, fourth, etc.) child? Or did you stop working? If so, why?

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