more than one way to raise a child

Debate: What is the best age gap between children?

Debate: What is the best age gap between children?

“When do you want to have a second kid then?”

We were both shocked when our husbands wanted to discuss having a second child when we were barely out of the delivery rooms. And it wasn’t just our husbands – everyone seemed to want to know, when are you planning on your second and what age gap do you want?

So what is the best age gap to have between kids? There is a lot of research about different gaps, the pros and cons, and the emotional, financial and health consequences. We found this article by The Alpha Parent incredibly helpful.

Ultimately, Em and Kate have two different opinions and plans for baby #2.

Em writes: The case for a 2 year or less age gap

For both my husband and I, having a second baby was a non-negotiable. We both have siblings and we have always wanted to give our child (god willing) the opportunity to grow up with a brother or sister to share things with.

We have also always agreed that we wouldn’t want to have more than two children – for us practically it doesn’t make sense, but also ethically we would not want to bring more than two children into the world (the world is already overpopulated!).

When to have a second baby?

I must admit, like Kate I had always assumed that we would have two children, two years apart; mainly I suppose because this is the age gap between me and my sister, and between most of my friends and their siblings.

However, it turns out my husband had different ideas! He is a passionate advocate for the #2under2 club and after much research, including the amazing article linked above, I am 100% on board.

So why?

Firstly, I hope that by having a small age gap, The Boy will be close to his sibling as after the first few years they will be able to play together and be interested in similar things. We can plan family vacations and trips without having to balance two differing needs.

Secondly, I hope that having a new brother or sister won’t be too much of a shock for The Boy as he won’t know any different. He should be old enough to be able to play independently, but young enough that he won’t resent his sibling.

More selfishly, I think that a smaller age gap of around 18 months makes the most sense for me. I did not enjoy being pregnant and want to get that part of my life “over and done with”. Having two children close together also means that whilst the initial “hit” of childcare is difficult, we can relax later in life without having to go back to the nappies, breastfeeding and all the attention phase!

Having two children close together is not for everyone. The strain on your body and on your relationships is definitely a consideration and something I think is more extreme with two young children at the same time. I also think that it can have a detriment on your career – it was definitely part of the decision-making I made when I decided to only take four months of maternity leave.

Finally, I also want to point out that we are talking about “your aim” or “ideal” here and for many women that is a luxury that they don’t have. Personally, we were hoping for a 15 or 16 month age gap – but that ship has sailed! For any women who are struggling with secondary, or even primary infertility – my thoughts are with you.

Kate writes: The case for a 2+ year age gap

Pre-baby, it was my intention to have two kids with a two-year age gap. Now, having a second kid is in question (more on that in another post!) and if I do have a second kid, it will be with a 4 or 5 year age gap. My husband and I have realised that just because having a two-year age gap is the most common thing to do, it doesn’t mean it’s the best thing to do.

So, why 4 or 5 year age gap?

It’s better for us. Financially, it’s the only way that makes sense. Childcare is incredibly expensive in London, and although we could afford it, it would take the majority of our income. Because we are planning to wait until The Girl is at school, we will only ever have to pay nursery costs for one child at a time. Physically, my body gets a chance to FULLY recover from birth — it’s well researched that it takes a minimum of a year for our bodies to recover from pregnancy and birth. Emotionally, we only have to deal with one child going through the MAJOR developmental leaps that they go through 0-4 years old at a time. Yes, that’s better for them, but it’s also easier for us.

It’s better for The Girl. Mentally and emotionally, The Girl will be able to cognitively understand the new addition to the family, and that it doesn’t threaten her place in it. We won’t have to deal with jealousy! (In theory of course…) The Girl will be old enough to help out with the baby and play a role with basic things like cuddling and entertaining. She will also get 1-on-1 time with her Dad and I for nearly 5 years.

And it’s better for theoretical baby #2. Because The Girl will be at school, theoretical baby #2 and I will have 1-on-1 time during the day, just like I’ve had with The Girl. I won’t have to juggle entertaining a toddler and managing a newborn — and after watching so many of my friends do this, I have to say it doesn’t look appealing! I also think I will be a better Mum to baby #2 if I’ve had a bit of space and time to get used to The Girl and being a mum.

There are (annoying) downsides of course — storing all of The Girl’s baby things, her clothes, returning to the nappy and baby phase etc. But for us, the benefits outweigh the negatives.

I echo what Em said. We are acutely aware that some women don’t have the luxury of choosing what age gap suits them/their family. Who knows – maybe these age gaps also won’t pan out for us. Time will tell!

Do let us know what you think of our debate. And if you have children, what age gap they have and why?

1 thought on “Debate: What is the best age gap between children?”

  • Combination of things led to me trying for a baby quite late, I then had fertility issues, so the clock was ticking. I had a 4 year age gap with my sister and felt it was too big a gap,, I was thinking 2 years between mine would be good. But the medical people said do it now or it may be never, so along came no.2 after 18 months. They are both girls, so get on really well, almost like twins. It worked out that there is only a school year between them so that makes them even closer as friends. I would like to think that they will have this closeness forever, but who knows what is around the corner. Pros and cons for both sides of this one, I think we just make it work whatever happens. I would love another one but that ship sailed.

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