When my husband and I first started trying to have children, I remember thinking a lot about far apart in age our kids would be. There were many conversations among friends about what was the best strategy.
Option A: have your kids spaced two years apart so they’re friends, but not in direct competition with each other in school or sports.
Option B: have them even closer than that and get the early years over with all at once so you don’t spend an eternity in diapers.
Option C: space them more than three years apart and then each child gets your full attention until they start preschool and you minimize the stress of having a baby and a toddler at the same time.
Option D: Have only one child and then you never have to deal with age spacing.
And if you are a parent of multiples…well, best of luck to you, and we’ll see you in a few years when you come up for air. 🙂
We ended up having our first two (both girls) almost exactly two-and-a-half years apart and then waited nearly eight years until our third child was born. We didn’t really have a plan for our family’s age spacing, but I’m here to say that however your family turns out, it’s all going to be okay.
Pros and Cons
No matter what your family ends up looking like, it’s going to be okay. I needed to say that again, because as moms, we worry about everything. We worry about the age spacing of our kids, whether or not they’ll be friends, have friends, be smart, be good people, and so much more.
To a large degree, how far apart you space your kids is not up to you. You can think that you’re doing all the things right, and then something happens out of your control. You have a miscarriage. It takes several months (or years) to get pregnant. You get pregnant with multiples. Your adoption gets approved the same time you find out you’re pregnant. Life is never really in our control.
There are pros and cons to everything in life, and the family makeup is no different. I can’t speak for everyone here, so I’ll tell you my own experience.
The “Perfect” Spacing
When I was pregnant with our second child, I had many friends and family say my girls were the “ideal” distance apart from one another.
I honestly don’t think there is such a thing as a perfect age gap. Granted, it was nice that my girls were into most of the same things at the same time. They always had a buddy to play with when they were little. They could build legos together, color side-by-side, play with dolls and ride bikes with a partner. They were able to keep an eye on each other so I didn’t have to watch them like a hawk.
I don’t want to minimize how nice it was for them – and for me – that they always had a playmate when they were younger and did a lot of things together.
However, now that they’re older, they drive each other batty most of the time. They’re always in competition with each other and fight over anything that can be fought over. While they do have fun laughing about things both of them have experienced, there is resentment when they feel like they can’t do “their own thing.”
And watch out when the younger sibling is actually better at something than the older one – whew!
The Big Gap
After a miscarriage and then debating for a number of years whether or not to have another child, our youngest (a boy) was born almost exactly eight years after our second child.
When you have that big of a gap, most people automatically assume the pregnancy was an “accident.” This was definitely not the case with us and I felt like every time I told people how far apart they were in age that I needed to be ready to defend our choice to have another child a decade after we had started having kids.
If you find yourself where I was at that time in my life, let me assure you that the big gap was actually really nice. I had the maturity of a seasoned parent and was simultaneously able to appreciate how fast time goes by and to savor every moment.
I knew how to diaper like a pro, how to clean out a nose with saline spray, fix diaper rash, navigate nursing and the daily tasks of NewbornLand without the worries and stress I had when my other kids were born.
Even more than this, though, I had the benefit of having older children in the house. They could not only take care of themselves by this point – they could make their own meals, help with laundry, play on their own, etc. – but they could also understand why I couldn’t give them the same amount of attention they were used to having. This was invaluable compared to my previous experience of having a two-and-a-half year old who threw a fit every time I tried to nurse the baby.
They were also able to help take care of the baby, unlike kids who are born close together. I had someone around who could hold the baby while I took a shower or entertain him while I cooked dinner. There were many times when I was incredibly grateful for the big age gap because I had built in help!
Don’t get me wrong, there are times when I am sad that my little man doesn’t have a buddy to play with like his sisters did. But it also makes me get down and play with him and relive ToddlerLand and the fun parts of preschool.
My older girls have such a special relationship with their brother because of the big age gap. They love getting to play the preschool games again. They teach him how to play hide-and-seek, CandyLand, tag, and so much more. They get to be little kids all over again.
The Long Game
This fall, my oldest will be in high school and my youngest will be in preschool. That’s a long time to be in the school-age years as a parent, but it’s also a lot of fun, too. It’s given me more time to volunteer in classrooms, meet other parents, and spend quality time with each of my kids.
The makeup of your family undoubtedly looks different from mine, but there are special components of your kids’ relationship with each other, too. If you’re still trying to plan your family, remember that plans change, and trust that it will all work out okay, just as it was meant to.