26 Apr 2015

What's The Perfect Age Gap?

Becky in her usual "Fairy" get-up and Alex looking rather confused. So tricky getting 
good shots of both! 

What’s the perfect age gap between siblings? Is it good to have one child who’s passed “the worst” first, get your life back a bit, and then expand the family, or should you have kids in quick succession and “get it out of the way”? It’s a tricky one, and obviously both approaches have advantages and disadvantages.

After we had Becky and first started to discuss when would be a “good” or the “right” time to have another baby, I always knew that I wanted around three years between child number one and child number two. John wouldn’t have minded if we had started sooner, but I held my own in that respect. I just wasn’t ready, and seeing that, you know, I had to do the majority of the work, I think it was only fair that we waited until I was.

My main worry was that I or we wouldn’t be able to cope with two very young kids without family support around, but I was also conscious of the financial side of things (double childcare costs, maternity leave, general expense of raising kids), and – truth be told – I wanted to get back to work for a bit first, enjoy my “adult life” again, and be “me” again, before I went through pregnancy and everything once more.

As it happens, there’s three and a half years between Becky and Alex, and for us, that’s worked out great.

The advantages of a slightly bigger age gap for us have been:

-      Becky was pretty independent already and wasn’t so reliant on me in terms of the very basic tasks. She had been potty trained just after she was two years old, she can dress herself, entertain herself when necessary, and generally is a very easy child.

-      She understood that there was a baby on the way, and I would guess that she was a bit more patient and understanding when it came to me having to tend to Alex. She just got on with it (though our sibling journey hasn’t been without its hiccups, as you can read here).

-      Becky had three and a half years of our undivided attention, and I’m somewhat glad that we were able to give her that chunk of one-on-one time that just belonged to her.

-     The childcare costs: This is a biggie. I went back to work in March and Becky will be starting school in September, so that’s six months of double full time childcare costs, which are, frankly, horrendous. However, at least this is a limited time frame, and we have calculated for that, so we can see the light at the end of the financial tunnel. If we had a longer period of double childcare costs full time, that would have been really crippling. Despite Becky receiving the 15 free hours, our overall childcare bill still makes up a big chunk of our monthly salaries, and I don’t know what other childcare arrangements we could have made to save money.

So, these are the main advantages for us having a 3 ½ year age gap, and overall I’m pretty happy with how things are going.

There is, however, one thing that I do find tricky, and where a smaller age gap may have made things a bit more manageable: Playtime.

With Becky being a proper little girl and Alex still very much a baby, the truth is that their interest and needs when it comes to entertainment are incompatible. I can’t just get the play dough out and involve both kids in messy play, and I can’t sit down with both kids and just bash on our musical toys, because Becky would be bored out of her mind.

So I’m finding it hard to do both kids justice at the same time, and inevitably my focus tends to be on one child at a time while the other one sleeps or is distracted otherwise (read: watches the iPad).

We’ll sit and play together for a bit, but the usual scenario after a while is that either Becky wanders off to play with her toys or watch something, or Alex starts to grizzle because he gets bored and restless if I do the things Becky enjoys.

I guess this would have been easier with a smaller age gap. I don’t know whether and when their interests will eventually align a bit more, but for now I’m having to do a bit of a balancing act. But that’s fine. Overall, as I said, I think things are going really well, and Becky is growing more and more into her big sister role, so she might start to enjoy playing with Alex and “teaching” him a bit more.
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10 comments

  1. I always recommend a three year age gap to others - not that I took my own advice. 3 in 4 years is hard work and I hope in a few years it will pay off! I think there are pros and cons to any age gap. Just needs to work for you x

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    1. Gosh, three in four years - I take my hat off to you! But like you say, I'm sure you will reap the benefits eventually, and indeed, the only right way is that it's right for you! x

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  2. I have a big age gap between my oldest two ( 10 years ) and then a very small gap between my second and third ( 14 months) the bigger age gap was easier to manage. But i have to admit i love the smaller age gap the best as they play together and like the same things and it meant we hardly had to buy any baby stuff and they really are the best of friends. But at first coping with two such young children was really hard, i would not do it again .Double childcare costs are horrendous though that is why i have decided to stay at home for a couple of years then once the youngest is in nursery go back to work xx

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    1. I can imagine that having two very little ones at once must be really intense. I was scared of that, as we don't have any family support or anything, but at the same time, you can sometimes overthink things and we would have just to have coped, you just do. It sounds like your two youngest ones have a lovely bond - I hope mine are going to get there, too, despite a difference in interests. :-) x

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  3. We are also planning around a 3 to 3 and a half year age gap (Lizzy is 20 months) but this is for various reasons, and I'm happy to just be enjoying this time we have with her as an only child and giving her all the attention. Also I feel it will be easier by the time she's around 3 to have a newborn because as you say she will be much more independent by then. #sharewithme

    Carolyn
    http://stylishmemories.com

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    1. You're doing the right thing, just enjoy your time now and give your daughter that precious one on one time, and when you're ready, things will fall into place. x

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  4. I am 3 years older than my sister and I think we jive well. We fight true but most of the time we are the bestest friend. I only have a child and my son is now 5 years old. I am looking into having another child but we are not financially ready sadly so we might not have another child. #sharewithme

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  5. The financial side of raising kids is a huge consideration indeed, they are expensive little monkeys! I'm very glad to hear that a three year age gap has worked out for you. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that this will also be the case for my two. Becky is enjoying being an older sister more and more, so hopefully she'll always have that little role and help Alex in the future. x

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  6. I definitely think there is pluses and minuses on the age gap theories. Mine are super close in age and it was tough not having family as we are expats in the same country to help us out. Baby and toddler wasn't as hard as when baby became another toddler and now roping two toddlers is a tough job. I won't lie. hahah But we are glad they are older now and out of the baby phase. Beginning to travel more again and get rid of baby things. I go back and forth of having an third and if I did I would definitely do a bigger age gap. Your two are so cute. I think we deal with what ever age gap there is. Thanks for linking up to Share With Me #sharewithme

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  7. I can imagine that having had two toddlers at the same time was extremely intense! I bet their are proper little buddies now though! I hope that mine will be eventually, and that the age gap won't become an issue in the future. :-) x

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