It is assured by an Australian mega-study. But it would not be the fault of the little one in the family.
The arrival of the first child (well known by those who have experienced it) is the most exciting event a person will have throughout their existence. A fact that changes everything that was once. The world takes on another color, things find new meanings -some amazing ones-. Everything is attractively different. The closest to happiness, perhaps.
But, apparently, all that idyll collapses with the arrival of the second child who begins the little one in the family. Yes, according to a recently published Australian mega-study, the “second blessing” makes us, in simple terms, “crazy”.
The research, which has been based on a survey on households, income and work dynamics in Australia (HILDA), which was done to 20,000 people over 16 years, analyzes how birth and parenting affect the health of the parents, both short and long term. The conclusions suggest that the second generates much more stress than the first, especially mothers. But the fault would not be the child.
The second generates much more stress than the first, especially mothers. The parents, on the other hand, although they also see a deterioration of their mental health at first, do not suffer in the long term, according to the conclusions of the study.
Women bear most of the burden
In Australia, where the study was conducted, women spend more time with their children than men. For example: there, they have one year of maternity leave while they, on the other hand, continue working. This means that most of the children’s burden falls on them. The thing is not very different in our country, where women are granted a license of 90 days payments (extensible) while only two for men.
The arrival of a second child increases the demands and, far from facilitating things, makes them worse: it increases the differences between the roles and causes greater stress in the mothers, a biological state that can favor the development of serious health problems. The parents, on the other hand, although they also see a deterioration of their mental health at first, do not suffer it in the long term, according to the conclusions of the study.
“The effect on mental health is unquestionable, but what makes it worse is not the fact of having a second child, but the lack of domestic co-responsibility, as well as economic and social conditions,” explains Alberto Soler, the country of Spain. psychologist specialized in parenting and author of the book Hijos y padres Felices: How to enjoy parenting. It seems that the Australian study has a biased approach.
A problem of society
“The sample of the study is given in a traditional family context in which the woman is the caregiver and the man, the provider”, observes Soler.
Although negative for women, the results could have its positive side: “By providing evidence on the difficulty in raising children, research could contribute to the development and implementation of new social policies,” says Amaya Prado, educational psychologist and member of the Governing Board of the Official College of Psychologists of Madrid. However, there is another problem, in his opinion: “The study does not propose solutions for couples who wish to have a second child.”
Develop positive fatherhood
Beyond the response as a society, it is also necessary to act at home and develop positive fatherhood. Soler explains that many parents are not able to abandon the hedonistic vision of life when children arrive: “Those who have a problem are those who say they want to have children but do not want to change their lives.” And it is something inevitable, he says, because with his arrival he completely changes “the way of relating to the world, to work and to the couple”.
It is also true, experts say, that the second child adds more stress to the equation, but there are also ways to tackle it and develop positive parenthood. “A positive key is that the parental skills are already there when you have the second child, only that the center of attention is divided in two,” says Prado, who warns parents to assume that the initial moments will be critical to mitigate the future stress and anticipate a solution to the problems.
For the control of the difficulties, the psychologist Prado proposes to carry out planning of routines and habits like reserving individual times. This includes the moments of the children and also those of the parents both together and alone, even if they are very short periods. For example that one leaves to run in the morning and another one in the afternoon.
The conclusions suggest that the second generates much more stress than the first, especially mothers.
“The time where the couple can converge also matters, like watching a movie together while the offspring sleep,” he says. All those little breaths lead to more positive feelings. To achieve this, it is only necessary, says the expert, “good communication”, which must begin before the arrival of the children. “These are issues that can be agreed before birth and help prevent and solve difficulties in practice,” concludes Prado.