Carolyn Hax gives her estimate on when one tired parent may get some resemblance of a life back.

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DEAR CAROLYN: As someone who’s been there, done that, when do you think that being a parent gets a little easier? We have a wonderful 15-month-old and he is the light of our lives, but those lives are harried, missing sleep and grown-up time, and filled with attempts to balance parenting and life (including work travel and moving, along with some physical challenges — my husband is an amputee).

We would in theory like to have another baby, but sometimes it’s so hard to see how we could “handle it.” But I know we’ll regret not doing it. We’re trying to outsource things, and maximize flexibility for work, etc., but could just use some wisdom. Any advice?

— Tired

DEAR TIRED: I never do this, but I’m going to do this: 5. That’s the age when your ball of need stops being a toddler and starts being a kid — someone who can actually help out a little bit, listen more reliably, amuse you more regularly, and just fry your brain less.

It’s OK for your next baby to remain a theory till then, or till some earlier time if you feel ready, or indefinitely, or even permanently. There are advantages and disadvantages to onlies, where often you hear only of the dis-.

RE: TIRED: Five? Really? No way. I think kids peak in being a pain at about 18 months — they are fast, they don’t listen at all, they can’t do anything for themselves. My kids are 3, 5 and 7, and I think two years is about the right spacing. Your lives are already ruined, you can’t do anything (as Tired has noticed). If you wait longer, you start to get some semblance of a life back and then it is frustrating to lose it again — so I’ve heard from friends who’ve done this.

If Tired gets pregnant now, they’ll be coming out of the darkness when No. 2 comes along. My husband travels a lot, and I stopped crying every time he left when the youngest was about 21 months.

— Anonymous

Another view, thanks.

Many other readers concur that 2 is much better than 18 months, which it is. But it also depends on the kid in question. Some are ultra-willful, for example. Ours just became faster runners and higher climbers.

You also make an excellent point about adding the next kid while you’re already up to your neck in it with the first kid, in the interest of getting out of this stage in one extended blast — but that’s only when the parents feel they’re up to it, and/or when it’s more important to have another child than it is to restore harmony.

If harmony is a higher priority, then, yes, maybe they will get out of the woods and never want to go back in, but that’s often just fine.

In that spirit, I’m sticking to my original point: that it’s really, really OK for this couple to make their decision based solely on what they have (including both their own circumstances and the temperament of their child) and what they think they can handle.

— Carolyn

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