Report: Having Two Children Can Be Bad For Your Mental Health

A second child may just increase demands on your time and cause more stress.

It used to be that only children were seen as lonely children -- but after recent research, it could be that they are actually the best option for parents because more than one is, well,  just too much pressure.

You see, according to the study reported in the Journal of Marriage and Family, second children increase time pressure and deteriorate their parents' mental health -- particularly their mothers'.

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Many people think that having two kids won't be any harder than having one, but it turns out that they're oh-so-wrong -- and the time pressures put on second time mums means they're more stressed than ever.

Instead of parenthood becoming easier,  and being able to use the lessons we've learned from baby number one, juggling them with baby number two actually makes things even more high pressured than ever.

Which to first-time mums can seem impossible -- harder than baby number one? No way!

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Mum Emma Charles told 10 daily that even with one child, the time pressure is "extraordinary".

"You don't really get your life back until they turn at least three -- even then it's an intense whirlpool of never having enough time to DO ANYTHING. It's more mentally taxing than anything. Plus, sometimes you just feel so exhausted you want to have a moment alone ... and then you feel guilty for that."

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The study found that mothers’ mental health improves with first children immediately following the birth, and actually remains steady over the next few years.

"It gets so much better as they get older," agreed Emma Charles. "I have never been able to understand people who say they 'loved it when their children were babies'. The fact that I can see this little personality emerging is worth every moment of pain. Being able to talk to her, to have her start to understand me, to be able to play music that I love and to share the books I adore -- that is awesome."

But -- and here's the clincher -- with the second child, mothers’ mental health sharply declines and remains lower, because those pesky second children intensify mothers’ feelings of time pressure and mental load. And yes, that's difficult to hear when you think you really want baby number two, right?

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"There are times when I think that life would seem complete by having a second child -- one of each sex -- and giving my daughter a sibling would be so lovely,' said Emma. "I'm an only child and I always wanted a sister, so I almost feel as though it's my duty to give that to my little girl. Plus, it's so hard being an only child as your parents get older because you don't have anyone else to lean on and I want my daughter to have that other person to lean on."

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The study showed that if mothers did not have such intense time pressures following second children, their mental health would actually improve with motherhood. You see, fathers get a mental health boost with their first child, and while they also see their mental health decline with the second child, their mental health plateaus over time. Turns out, fathers aren’t facing the same time pressure as mothers are in the long-term.

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Said Emma Charles, "it's definitely harder for the mother. I had to stop my career, he didn't. Plus, I have overwhelming guilt when I'm not with her and I'm always worried if I'm being a 'good mother' -- men don't seem to worry or dwell, they just do."

The report says that a lot needs to be done to helps mothers deal with the mental and time pressure associated with the joy of motherhood.

"Mothers cannot shoulder the time demands of children alone. Even when they reduce their work time to accommodate children’s demands, their time pressures do not ease. This has important consequences for their mental health," the authors say in an essay on The Conversation,  adding that it's important that we all help with the time pressures so that mothers, children and families can thrive.

Amen to that.

Feature Image: Getty