Quite often when I meet a mom with one child who is around 3, she asks me “so, how do you like your kids age gap? Because it’s looking like that’s what ours will be.”
My kids are 3 years and 10 months apart.
I usually respond something like “I like it! I had intended for them to be a little closer, but I had a few miscarriages between them. It’s been great though.”
(In fact, that’s how I met one of my closest friends here. She responded “I’ve had 4 miscarriages after my daughter!” and we clicked.)
My kids’ age difference can sometimes be hard for me to discuss because I’ve had so little control over it. But I often get asked from people who are anticipating a larger gap than they intended how I like this age spacing. (A client recently emailed me about it, actually.) So I wanted to share some of my thoughts on what I love about their age spacing.
A few caveats, first:
- It’s a huge privilege to plan your children’s spacing.
- Pregnancy loss and infertility are real. I know this too well.
- Closely spaced and farther spaced siblings both have pros and cons. I don’t want to debate the merits of each because, again, choosing your kids spacing is a privilege.
- Kids’ personality LARGELY influence how they will get along with their siblings. I know people with siblings a year apart and 6 years apart who love and/or loathe their siblings. So, your experience may be different.
The downsides of having kids four years apart:
(according to my experience because kids are all different, etc etc):
- Worrying what people think. To be honest, this is likely the biggest drawback which is: 1) not a huge drawback and 2) ridiculous to care about. (That is, I’m being ridiculous. Not you.) It’s not how most people choose to space their kids. Between 2 and 3 years seems to be the preference, so I often get comments on it. (One mom in Gabe’s class did say, “I don’t know why I was so obsessed with having kids two years apart!” when she saw Gabe and Theo together. That made me feel a little better.)
- Worry that my kids won’t be close when they’re older. (Which is silly, because I have a sister 4 years younger who I adore, and we got along as kids and as adults.)
- The age spread means sometimes we want to do stuff Theo can’t do yet. We are finally at a point where we can all play some board games together, which is so fun! But there are movies a 6 year old can watch that’s not appropriate for a 2 year old. We will have to wait a few years to be able to all go for a bike ride. Or a canoe trip. Or whatever families with all older kids do.
- I’ll never have my kids tandem nap. (Theo’s nap time is Gabe’s alone time with me. Which is nice in its own way.)
The benefits of having kids four years apart:
- Being pregnant while taking care of a child who was older and more independent was easier than my pregnancies with a young toddler. 3-year-old Gabe could understand “Take my phone and watch PBS kids. Mama’s feeling sick/needs a nap.”
- Being an only child for a few years meant my older child was very secure in his space in our family and our love for him. So there was little difficulty adjusting to a new sibling. There were no regressions or tantrums. No resenting his little brother for so much getting attention. (This Aha Parenting article says similarly.)
- I got to savor each child’s baby and toddlerhood since there was only one at a time. Those phases are SO cute and I was grateful to be able to be wholly present for them. I also nursed them both for an extended period of time, so that was nice to not have to wean my older son due to pregnancy. It’s also kind of nice to be able to still have a cute little toddler in the house.
- Most importantly, they get along and love each other! They exist in their own little world and call themselves best friends. See this video. And all these photos.
- I had pretty bad sleepers, so I enjoyed getting some decent sleep before a newborn messed up my sleep again.
- Only one kid in diapers at a time. 🙌🏼
- Gabe was and is SO helpful in taking care of his brother. He’s old enough that he understands there are different rules for younger kids. He’s helped Theo use the potty chair and gets him out of his crib. He is patient with Theo’s ridiculous requests and tantrums.
- As a kid myself, I loved having a sister 4 years younger. (I also have sisters 13 months and 8 year younger.) I liked that she was old enough to play with, but young enough that we weren’t going through the same phases at the same time. We each had our own space.
In all, I wouldn’t change a thing about this. Except maybe not caring so much what other people think about my family size and spacing.
I am so incredibly grateful to HAVE Theo, however far apart he is from his older brother, because at one time, I thought there might never be a second child. I always thought Gabe would be an amazing big brother, and I’m so glad I was right. :)