The Gap Between Siblings

Is there such a thing as ‘perfect gap’ between babies? Mummy blogger, Nina Redden, discusses the complicated issues that parents face when they begin to think about the gap between siblings.

Mind the gap

A concept and a phrase that has got my thought buds going since I first heard it in the movie 'parenthood'. I think most of us know that like many discussions around the subject of babies and children, there really is no right answer. It would be impossible; the chosen outcome depends upon all personalities and demands of the existing family unit, your personal circumstances, financial and support network and something a whole lot bigger than all of the above put together; Mother Nature. Still, that said, it's something most parents discuss and wish to influence, and so I have decided to give this topic some air time.

Firstly, some pros to having a close age gap between your children (which in itself may vary depending what you think is close. I would say two years and less is close): many people talk about completing the 'baby phase' as a positive. Getting all the nappy changing and sleepless nights all over with in one round maybe a good idea. I can understand that leaving a gap would give you back a whole 10/12 hours sleep on a regular basis and a freedom from nappies, which may then feel like a difficult step backwards. Some may welcome the break on the other hand, whilst others would want to keep the momentum going and invest in that demanding stage to get through it.

A friend for life?

Many parents talk about the closeness of their children's age bringing about a closeness in their friendship and I must admit, once past the baby stage it is lovely to see two siblings playing together, which can be achieved sooner than having a bigger age gap. Having said this, I know many brothers and sisters with an age gap greater than two years who have grown up extremely close and remained that way throughout adulthood. Maybe something which can be influenced but ultimately is down to individual personalities and interests?

Looking at it from the other perspective many parents talk about enjoying and making the most of their first born without having to split their attention to care for a newborn. Some would agree with this, others simply say they have no shortage of time, love or attention.

Thinking practically, pregnancy and birth takes its toll on a woman's body, as well as the inevitable weight gain.  Some may wish to fully recover and return to their pre-pregnancy body before entering into another. On the other hand, I have heard some women who talk about losing all their baby weight after they've had children rather than as they go.

Bigger age gaps

I think the flip side to tackling the ‘complete baby phase in one hit’ is the practical gain from having an age gap; simply not having two babies to care for could be easier. You would only have one baby in nappies, the elder child can communicate, both understand and talk to you, which is handy and helpful for your own sanity! A three- or four-year-old can walk alongside a newborn in a pushchair and will be gaining further independence at preschool, and again in turn this provides a break and a chance to have some time alone with your newborn. Logistically this allows you to take your new baby swimming or to other baby clubs that you probably experienced with your eldest child.

Pros to a bigger age gap also mean that items can be passed down and reused without having to buy duplicates, for example, car seats, bottles, high chairs, cot, nursing chair, etc.

As I said at the beginning, all of this depends on so many factors that are unique to your family and for every negative I have listed you could easily make it a positive and vice versa. I think people find their own reasoning behind their circumstances whether they were carefully planned or happy accidents – it's human nature. Also, sometimes external factors can determine what we do, or what we cannot do, for example, older parents may feel a time pressure, while those with a good support network may feel it easier to cope with a smaller age gap....and more babies!!!

Planned and unplanned

It's also worth mentioning that many couples don't conceive as easily the second time around. Having had one child, I think it's easy to assume things will happen again just when you'd like them to and all will be a simple repeat of baby one. So many couples take longer to conceive, may miscarry, or simply have a more difficult time with their second child and so this is where Mother Nature plays her part. I'm a great believer that she may know things that we don't and her plan over ours will always be better - even if we don't know the reasons behind it.

If you're anything like me then be prepared to change your mind. We had always planned to have two children quite close in age - to the point where we nearly bought the second child part to our travel system. If you've read any of my earlier blogs you may be aware that when our daughter turned one and officially left the 'baby phase,' things became a lot tougher. I had no idea how much more challenging I would find the toddler phase. I had no idea that I would entirely understand why sleep deprivation was used as a method of torture, or that the terrible twos would arrive a year early and coincide with the abandonment of naps (a delightful phase which sadly I only experienced for 6 weeks). So for me, I went from thinking about baby no. 2 to 'we're going for an age gap' virtually overnight. For our little family I'm so glad the age gap will be nearly three years, it suits us for so many reasons.

Find the good

To conclude, these are words I hear so often: "I'm so glad our girls are so close in age", or "Thank goodness I didn't fall pregnant sooner, how would I have coped?" Basically, whatever the outcome of this thought process, everyone I know seems happy with it. Between Mother Nature's ever-powerful hand and our own natural desire to find the good in whatever our circumstances may be, you will either find the right answer for you as a couple, as a family, or it will find you, and you will be glad it did. In short, just like your birthing plan: it's good to have the plan, but also be very prepared to change it.