My EPIC journey to discover: is there an ideal sibling age gap? by Teresa Palmer
IS THERE AN IDEAL SIBLING AGE GAP?
I cannot begin to tell you how many times I googled “what is the best age gap between children?” of course I got a huge array of different answers and opinions and my mind constantly swung from one age gap choice to the next. For myself, and many other people, the age gap isn’t necessarily a choice. After 14 months of trying to fall pregnant unsuccessfully whilst breastfeeding (I didn’t realize until much later that it was inhibiting my fertility) and suffering a molar pregnancy, I finally came to a place of acceptance. All I wanted was another healthy child, I didn’t care what the age gap looked like. Ahhh inner peace.
Fast forward 18 months and I’m now 7.5 months postpartum. I’m already thinking about when we should start trying for another baby, and of course the age gap conundrum has weaseled it’s way back in to my mind. I’ll share some of the thoughts currently inhabiting my brain: “ooh it would be nice to have a closer age gap this time!”, “I’m going to stick to a just under 3 year age gap it was perfect!”, “I’ll have the age gap that Forest and the new baby decides they want to have” (a moment of thinking sensibly), “should we take a break and have the next 2-3 kids in 5 years time?!” and somehow, “twins run in the family, wouldn’t that be amazing!?!?” (Mark eye rolls right about here..)
It’s now funny to me to think that I thought I’d find some magical answer on Google (it was, mind you, in the throes of my trying to conceive adventure) but I really wanted to hear people’s experiences and I’m still very fascinated by it. So this week I took the conversation to twitter to gauge other people’s “ideal” age gap. Here are the results of my poll;
As you can see, the clear preference is 2-3 years apart. As someone who has a 2yr 10 month age gap between my boys I can definitely see how this might be a popular choice. I had always envisioned a “2 under 2” scenario but as life has it, the universe had other plans! Now I realize that I couldn’t have asked for anything better and that it all unfolded exactly as it should have.
My experiences with this age gap have been great thus far. Bodhi and Forest are close enough in age to be friends and participate in similar activities. They’re also developmentally on par to be interested in the same kinds of things and many toys. For instance, now that Forest is crawling, both boys really enjoy going to indoor play centers. It’s fun for a 3.5 year old running around, going in the ball crawl, playing with somebody else’s toys and it’s also fun for an adventurous crawling baby! Another perk to the age gap is that Bodhi is independent enough to do many things on his own without my help. He is also no longer in nappies day or night and I don’t need to watch him like a hawk to make sure he is staying safe. He can go off and play in the lounge room while I cook dinner and I know that he will call out if he needs me. He is also very verbally competent and can communicate his needs, wants, dislikes and observations. He also understands when I need to set boundaries and if I have to tend to Forest he knows that it’s not because I’m choosing Forest over him, it’s just that Forest is unable to do many things for himself.
The downside right now is that I can see Bodhi really remembers what it was like when Mummy was all his, he has wrapped his head around the concept that now he has to share me forever and sometimes that flares some behavior (like my all time favorite baby whiny ear screeching talk) I can only deem some this behavior to be stemming from jealousy. It’s only fleeting moments, but it’s there, and then it does quickly dissipate once I pay him one on one attention. All in all, I’m personally loving this age gap and I’m really looking forward to seeing how they interact when they’re older, it’ll be so interesting to see if they really will be the buddies I hope they’ll be.
I have often times stressed over whether an almost 3 year age gap might be a little too big but when I have those moments I remind myself of the other age gap in our family; 9 year old Isaac and 3.5 year old Bodhi (5.5 year age gap) play so beautifully together. It’s really remarkable to see how fantastically a larger age gap works too. Isaac certainly loves his space at times, but for the most part he wants to engage with Bodhi, help him, teach him new things, encourage his development and he is very very protective and inclusive of Bodhi. They have small daily fights but mostly they’re great buds. Isaac is also incredible with helping out, he will often buckle Bodhi in, look after him in crowds, hold his hand when he is nervous, lift him off things, and just generally look out for him. It warms my heart. The downside is that it’s hard to find activities that are riveting for both boys. Bodhi loves to go to the park, Isaac will get bored after awhile. Isaac loves a game of Mariokart, Bodhi doesn’t know how to play. Isaac loves talking about football, Bodhi gets bored by that. Bodhi loves playing in the sand at the beach, Isaac hates the feeling of sand on his body and doesn’t want to make sand castles! However, they both love being outdoors, playing sports together, riding bikes, wrestling and being goofballs which is very endearing.
So, as a Mother, I get to experience a larger age gap as well as a pretty standard 2-3 year age gap. I really wanted many age gaps to be represented so I reached out to 6 of my Mama friends to hear their experiences with having different age gaps and here is what they said;
Sarah Callahan; Mum to 10 year old Noah and 4 year old Jackson (6 year age gap)
“When Noah was born we loved him so much and honestly thought he was going to be an only child as life and running a business took over. It was when Noah started school we decided to have another one.
I actually think the pros for us was that Noah was old enough to understand, help out as I had a caesarean, and there hasn’t been any jealousy issues, in fact Noah probably spoils him more than Ian and I. They stick together even when one of them is getting told off and are very loyal to each other. The cons I have noticed lately is now Noah is starting to enter pre teen years and wants his space and Jackson just wants to follow him and do whatever he is doing. I think if I could do it again I’d be happy to have a little bit smaller maybe anywhere from a 3 year gap”
Sarah Brougham; Mum to 2.5 year old Indi and 6 month old Mila (23 month age gap)
“I’m still trying to figure the age gap out. These girls are my ying and yang. They couldn’t be more opposite yet still they’re the same! My sister Hayley and I are 4 years apart and we are the best of friends. Indi is only just now beginning to acknowledge Mila and interact with her. I’ll keep you posted!”
Jill Baker; Mum to 40 year old Isaac, 38 year old Matt and 31 year old Caitlin. (22 month age gaps and 7 year age gap)
“There are 22 months between Isaac and Matt. I was in my late twenties when I had them so it was a complete culture shock having them so close in age at a young age myself. This age gap was definitely the hardest for me. When Caitlin came along almost 7 years later, the boys were at school so it was almost like having your first all over again but this time round I was much more confident. This was definitely the best age gap, it was much easier. The boys could also be helpful as they were older when she arrived”
Claire Hoban: Mum to 20 month old Henry and 3.5 month old Charlotte (16 month age gap)
The things I love the most about our age gap are;
– That they’ll grow up together close in age and share similar experiences at similar times and hopefully forge the strongest bond
– For us, everything is still fresh in our mind from Henry, (how to hold a newborn, caring for belly button, breastfeeding, settling, what happens in different stages etc, etc) – plus all the baby gear already on hand.
– Not having to wonder whether we’ll get pregnant down the track if we waited (you know me, I’d be stressing!)
– From a health standpoint, having our reproductive cells as young as possible
– A constant flow of babies in the house
– We can tailor family trips to things that appeal to a narrow age rang
The only cons I could think of are;
– It’s all going by so fast.
– They both sleep through, but I could imagine it would be full on if they didn’t!
– This has been a good point in my career to do this, as I have a fair amount of flexibility, but it might be difficult to navigate with maternity leave and then being pregnant again in a different work situation. Also handy if you only want a short time away from the workforce.
All in all, I love having our babies so close together and watching them grow together. Henry is learning to be so caring at a young age, and Charlotte has a brother who isn’t jealous and wants to pat her and kiss her. I’ve been conscious not to ask Henry to help me do things for her, she’s not his responsibility and it wasn’t his decision, but he innately wants to give her a blanket or show her his toys. Charlotte is so chilled and loves her sleep, so Henry still gets so much of me. Nothing makes me melt more than when they smile at each other. They are my absolute pride and joy.”
Morgan Toeroek: Mum to 4 year old Evie and 19 month old Hattie. (2 year 3 month age gap)
My girls Evie and Hattie are 2 years and 3 months apart. We were not planning on having the girls that close together, but Hattie was a nice little surprise that we found out about when Evie was only 18 months old.
I found the first few months after Hattie being born tough, and a bit of a blur, but now the girls are nearly 4 and 19 months old, they are such great friends. Seeing them play, run around, giggle and laugh together brings me so much joy and I wouldn’t change a thing! Having said that, I have told other mums thinking about having a second bubba, that I think a three year age gap would be ideal. By three, toddlers are generally better at listening and are able to help more.
I am very blessed that my eldest, Evie, is very patient and kind and is a wonderful older sister to Hattie.
Pippa Wanganeen: Mum to 3 years 10 months old Kitty, 2 years 7 months old Lulu and 17 month old Posey. (15 month age gap and 14 months age gap)
“We had three babies in three years!!! The older two are 15 months apart and the younger two are only 14 months apart. Posey, the baby, is now 17 months old, and so it feels really weird not to have a newborn in the house (I want another one immediately)… I’ve never had a baby this old and not been tending to a new one! I wouldn’t have planned it this way, mainly, because I’m not insane! But, now that I do have three beautiful little girls who are so close in age, I can’t imagine life any other way and I feel soooooooooooo lucky to have them all! The benefits of having so many, so close in age, is that they play together, they look out for each other and they develop language and social skills from an early age. I notice that they are good at sharing, and they are very inclusive with other children. I also think that they learn to be more resilient, simply because I physically cannot be in three places at once. Right now they are in the bath, and I’m listening to peels of laughter coming from all three of them. It’s so gorgeous. The cons…. I mainly notice these when Gavin (my husband) is away and I have to go to the supermarket with all of them on my own. It’s quite a big thing getting three little people into the car and their car seats, then out of the car, making sure they don’t run on to the road while you get the other ones out, and then moving through the supermarket at lightning speed grabbing bits and pieces while entertaining them, getting back to the car with a trolly full of shopping and then home again. Especially if they are tired. Oh dear, you should see some of the looks of horror I get from people as they exclaim “are they ALL yours???” haha! I also think that you probably miss out on a bit of one on one time, which is important, but it is made up for in spades by them having so much sibling interaction. It’s exhausting having them all so close, but then, one baby is exhausting… Little people are demanding, in the most fulfilling, delightful way imaginable. Lucky us, I say.”
I loved hearing about the age gap experiences from these Mama’s perspectives. I wanted to take it even further so I posted an Instagram asking for Mamas of 4 or more children to answer my questions on their experiences with the age gaps. Here is what they said;
My kiddos are Miloe 10.5, Zephyr 6, Arrow 3, and Sybella 6 months. The age gaps are 4.5 years, 3 years and 2.5 years. The best age gap was the 3 years, it was far enough apart where Z was bigger and more independent but close enough where Z and A play so well together. My first and 3rd are 8 years apart, and that was great because my big guy is just so helpful with the babies! My 1st and 2nd are 4.5 years apart and this is the hardest age gap, they were spaced too far. It was fine for the first 2 years or so but now they are at such different stages and argue constantly! M tends to find Z annoying and can be mean or non inclusive and Z thinks his big brother is he coolest and wants to do and say whatever M does!” – @wolfcubtamer
My first two are 2 yrs 4 months apart, next two are 3.5 years apart and the last two are 2 year 8 months apart. I’d have to say at the time of having a newborn baby to toddler age I probably enjoyed the bigger age gap the best as I felt like it allowed me to truly enjoy the child a little longer. I have always felt the closer age gap, the quicker the child grew up because more was expected of them since you’re busy with the new addition. In saying that, now that they’re older, I prefer the closer gap. There’s a real bond because they’re going through similar things in life and can support each other and chat. Overall I’d say the closer age gap is my preferred gap – @mrsjstorey
Although my tribe are now adults I did enjoy them being relatively close together, perhaps even closer would have been perfect. My girls are 28 & 25 and the boys are 23 & 20. It was a wild and wonderful timwhen they were younger but what a fantastic journey we are having! – @kaflynny
My little darlings are 19, 17, 14 and 4 months! The age gap between my first and third (5 years) was the best in my opinion.y oldest was old enough to understand that a baby needs special attention and she was super helpful! Plus it’s not such a large gap that it impacted their bond. At 19 & 14 they’re very close –@sizzlene52
We have 4 bios and are adopting a fifth. The age gap for our bios is 20 months, 33 months and 27 months (ages 8, 6, 4 and 21 months) my favourite is the 20 month gap. Those are our eldest and both girls. I have to be honest, I wasn’t expecting to become pregnant so soon after having my first (I had one cycle in between) I experienced shock and at the time grief but now it’s so obvious that they were meant to be. Their relationship is strong, beautiful and genuine. I hope they will always he best friends – @emilyqfloyd
As you can see, these Mamas with their wide variety of age gaps have all experienced the many ebbs and flows with the way they’ve spaced out their children. From all that I’ve gathered, how close children will be growing up seemingly depends less on an age gap as it does the individual children and their personalities.Two children in the same family only 2 years apart can have very little interests in common and no desire to spend time together, and then two children in another family 10 years apart who are both passionate about the same things, might share a deep and connected bond.
All of these anecdotal stories really confirm what I’ve come to realize in the past few weeks: that really ANY age gap has its pluses and minuses and that if you’re blessed enough to have more than 1 child, whatever the spacing is between them, there will be things to celebrate and things that flow less smoothly. To me, that takes the pressure off, it’s completely liberating to grasp the notion that there ISN’T an ideal age gap. Rather than fixating on the sibling age gap, go inward. Ask yourself are YOU ready to give up more of your time to nourish and nurture another little being? Do you believe your first child is ready to share you? Is your body ready? Is your heart? And sometimes it doesn’t get to be a choice, sometimes things get thrown your way and you just strap on your boots and dance. Age is just a number, and none of our relationships in life equate to a number. Life experience makes up the fabric of who we are, and it will be these enriching experiences that will help guide us toward making the best of whatever comes our way. Ahhh back to inner peace.