A “Family Plan”

Children playingGood management is all about balancing the changing landscape in the business world, your stakeholder’s desires and needs, your available staff and their talents and resources.  You must have Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C in your action folder at all times and update them regularly in order to be truly successful. 

Guess what?  The same thing applies to family planning.

You have had baby number one and he or she is a marvel. The years pass (so quickly!) and soon you are facing a big decision…”When or even should we have another one?”

Well, no one but you can decide if you want another child and to be frank, God or fate may make that decision for you. I have many friends who simply could not have a second child, and explored other options.  Keep your heart and your eyes open, for the path is not always a straight and easy one.

When Daughter 1 was about two years old, I was in my early thirties and she was delightful. My husband and I thought that three years was good to put between our children.  It would give the first ample time to develop an understanding of what was going on, and the second a shot at some real mom and dad bonding time while the older was in a Mother’s Day Out. Reading “Siblings Without Rivalry” by Faber and Mazlish reinforced my view of this spacing and so I was confident that we were on the right track.

Imagine my surprise when my OB/GYN told me that I might have serious fertility issues due to fibroids that were discovered in the first pregnancy and my “advanced age.”  Say what?  32 is not AARP time, is it?

But she was right; I did have a higher percentage risk of infertility according to the research.  My husband and I began trying a bit ahead of my plan, just in case it took a year or so.  I was one of the very lucky ones. Six days later I was pregnant, but the scary part was yet to come.

In your fifteenth week or so, they do a blood test called an Amino-Fetal Protein (AFP) as an initial screening for genetic abnormalities.  Mine came back positive for Downs Syndrome with a 1 in 30 chance I would have a child with that condition.  Chance of spontaneous abortion with an amniotic DNA test was 1 in 200.  We did the math and I had the amnio.

God was kind and it turned out to be a false positive. Our baby was not only a girl but a perfectly normal one at that.

Genetic counseling was part of the procedure, so we got a peek into the incredibly hard decisions that parents must make when these things become a reality for them.  I came to grips with what birth defects I could and could not handle in my child. So did my husband.  It was sobering, soul searing and not something that anyone would enjoy, but it was necessary.   I would make the same decision again and choose to be informed, but I respect any parent’s right to choose a different path.

So, back to the spacing of Daughter 1 and Daughter 2.  Here are reasons that 3 years worked for us:

  • Daughter 1 understood the Siblings Without Rivalry (SWR) techniques, and that people would pay attention to the baby, but she accepted that she was the “big girl” of the family and that babies could be kind of boring.  This helped immensely!
  • Daughter 1 understood that Daughter 2 was not a doll or a toy to play with.
  • Daughter 1 was proud she was old enough to go to Mother’s Day Out and give Mom some time with the baby while she got to play with her friends.
  • Daughter 1 was fiercely protective of Daughter 2.  Daughter 2 eventually told her to “quit it.”  Good growth for both of them but always remind the older ones that they are not in charge of the younger ones – remember your SWR rules.
  • Daughter 1 and Daughter 2 were not so different in size as time went on.  They could play together, and that was fun for both of them.

Were there downsides?  Sure, here are the highlights:

  • Daughter 2 was likely to get hand me downs. We had to be careful to balance wise money management with fair treatment.
  • Daughter 2 could feel left out of “big girl activities” at times.  We needed to be sure she had her own play dates and groups of friends.
  • As they grew older, Daughter 2 could be passive aggressive and let Daughter 1 dominate her, getting very angry about it, but not saying anything. We had to encourage her to express her anger with words and to assert herself when she disagreed.  More kids equal more dynamics and fail to pay attention to these at your future peril.
  • School timing was interesting.  Daughter 1 was born at the end of June, which meant she was a very young Kindergartner, while Daughter 2 was born in February, and so was older when she went.  This age difference manifested in driving, dating and other rites of passage arriving at different times of life for them. Additionally, we had a Freshman and Senior simultaneously in both High School and College.  That wasn’t a problem for us but think about it up front for you, both from an economic issue at college and a social issue at high school.  More kids?  More issues.
  • Daughter 2 moves out after Daughter 1.  Plan ahead when you downsize or just move “after the kids are in college.”  It can be a very sensitive time.  We decided our girls could live with us until they graduated from college, and we were scrupulously fair about this for both of them.  When you give used furnishings or help to the first to move out – keep track of that value and be sure that each subsequent child gets the same value in either things or cash.
  • One last thing, from”Incarnate Leadership” by Bill Robinson.  By the time he raised his third child, he had the rules ingrained in his family but somehow had missed going over the “whys” of them with her.  She filled that vacuum of information by assuming he did not trust her and it caused a dark time in their relationship.  Don’t assume that because you told the older ones your reasoning, that the younger ones “got it.”  Osmosis rarely works in children and I was as guilty of this assumption as anyone else. Be sure you are giving the reasons why to all of your children, even though you might feel like a broken record.  They will tell you if they already know, but you show them that you care enough to communicate with them personally and are not taking them for granted.

Why did we stop at two? 

I was 33 by the time the second was born. My odds for birth defects had gone even higher, and one big scare was enough for me.  We were satisfied with two healthy, happy children. Finally, because no one could guarantee that even if we wanted to try for a son that I would not, in fact, have another little girl. Do I look at mischievous little blue-eyed boys sometimes and wonder?  Sure.  But I will wait for that grandson!

So what is your management plan? 

Think it over. You will have control over some things and none over others.

What is your contingency plan?

Would you consider fertility treatments…in vitro…adoption?  Think outside the box, be prepared for the unthinkable, and then hope you won’t even have to bring those plans out and look at them.  But if you must, the plans are created in advance, when the situation is not so emotionally charged and urgent, and that is what good managers do.

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