Should we Add a Baby to our “Blended” Family?

Dear Sharon,

My husband has two children (4 & 6) and I have two children (5 & 7) from previous marriages. There have been hurdles in bringing our two families together. My children live with us full time and his children are with us on alternate weekends and some vacations. We have been in some counseling as a family and individually, and it has helped enormously but the kids are pretty young and I don’t see major issues at this time. Most of the issues seemed to have been with us, the adults. Now I want to have another child with my husband. He says we have enough issues and that it would cause more problems. Do you think he’s right? What would you advise?

Dear Mom,

I am glad to hear that you have gotten help and that your family is managing well as you all “blend together.” Adding a child to a family of any size is an important decision for all Moms and Dads. Even if parents already have a large family, as you do, it is still useful to review the fundamental practical aspects involved so that if there is a new addition he or she does not “get lost in the crowd.”

I’ll begin with basics. Before adding a child to a family parents should be fairly confident that they will enjoy living with and guiding this young person through all the stages of their development. To review, during the first few years there are often sleepless nights, disruptions in adults’ professional life, and complications coming from finding and paying for quality childcare if needed. As the child gets older it is usually helpful for parents to locate and interact with good schools and set up satisfying activities including play dates, sports and recreation time, birthday parties and other hobbies and social interactions. Extensive time and effort from Moms and Dads is also often essential during the demanding period of the tween and teen years. Unfortunately financial and emotional support does not usually significantly diminish at the beginning of college or adult employment.

It can also be important for parents to be aware of economic and space considerations before deciding to add a new little one. Families can do well in crowded quarters with little money but it helps to know of possible constraints when making plans for the future.

It is also a good idea for parents to sort through the specific circumstances and needs of their primary relationship. It is usually challenging to bring a child into a partnership that is already strained as a child often increases rather than lessens adult tensions. Children can soak up valuable time and energy that is often needed to sort through personal difficulties.

I generally caution against having a child to “cement” a marriage. Although it is wonderful to have the experience of raising a child together it does not necessarily strengthen a relationship.

It is important to remember that children added to a large family still need a great deal of parental attention. I usually advise against asking older siblings to assume parental responsibilities like babysitting or discipline, as it is important for all children to have time to develop their relationships and interests away from home. Large families also can have increased sibling tensions as different sets of “rivalries” can build and change over time.

Now that I have stated all of the realistic demands of deciding to bring a new baby into the world I will confidently share that as the parent of many adult children (two step, two birth and one adopted) that I am happy with my life as a mother of a large blended family. I am glad I have gotten to be an active parent for many years, enjoyed living with lots of people and was interested and involved in my family’s complicated interpersonal dynamics almost all of that time.

I have personally known and professionally worked with parents who have added children to a blended family and it has gone well. I have also know divorced and remarried parents who have decided not to increase the size of their existing families and have been very happy with their decision.

As I am sure you know a little one comes with a complex array of unknown rewards and inevitable challenges. Deciding to have a child is an important personal decision that is worth thinking through with your partner and others you trust. I believe that it is a decision that could go well either way.