11.09.2016

sibling spacing + age gaps

As adding baby girl #3 into our family nears, I have been thinking a lot lately about the spacing between my girls and the family dynamic it creates. I thought in addition to posting about my own experiences with the age gaps in our family, it would be fun to ask a handful of my favorite Mamas to share theirs as well, including what they've found to be the biggest advantages and toughest challenges when it comes to how their little ones are spaced. 

I think a lot of what we've chosen to do personally has been influenced by how we grew up. Obviously, when it comes to pregnancy and having a family, there are a lot of factors beyond a person's control. But overall when I look at how we've spaced our girls, I can definitely see we were influenced by our own childhood. I grew up as an only child and while part of me enjoyed it, I really just longed for siblings. I wanted a sister so badly, a built in best friend who was always around to play with. Dustin was the middle child of three boys. When we got married, our hope was to have at least 2 kids, but deep down desired 4-6. With #3 on the way, we go back and forth if we'll have more or not after she arrives, that's still undecided and for now, I like it that way ;)


Olivia turns 3.5 this month, Penelope is 14 months (tomorrow) and Baby Girl #3 is due in early February, making her 17 months apart from Poppy and roughly 4 years apart from Olivia. I knew I wanted to space my first two out quite a bit, just to experience motherhood with one, to soak up every "first" and give her a taste of being an only child like I was. Our hope was to have our third closer to our second than our first two were, for something different and new and it ended up working out that way. Ultimately, no matter how you space out your babies or how big or small your family is, it's perfect for you and finding the positive in it is what matters. There is no right or wrong way to space your kids and certainly nothing wrong with only having one (or maybe none!). That being said, this post is just for fun to give you a look at others' experiences and hopefully find a family (or a few) similar to your own that you can gain some insight from.

The biggest advantages in our own family with the spacing between Olivia and Penelope (27 months apart) is that Olivia is so helpful and very independent. She was 2.5 when Poppy was born and potty trained shortly after, which made life 100x easier once she was out of diapers. Having her more than two years older than Poppy has allowed her to be independent in many areas (able to dress herself, make her own lunch, brush her teeth, pack her backpack, get buckled into her carseat without help, etc), and help me with everything I'm doing (even folding her own laundry and helping Poppy eat with a spoon and fork). They are still close enough in age that they enjoy similar toys and activities, read the same books and play together really well, which gives me more free moments to just sit back while they have fun together and stay engaged.

The biggest disadvantage I've experienced with their gap of 27 months is that as of this Fall, Olivia is in school and I am toting Poppy with to drop her off and pick her up, often having to wake Penelope from her morning naps to pick O up, one of the hardest things for me to do (never wake a sleeping baby, right?!). Also, being she's not fully walking yet, having to lift her in and out of her carseat and carry her up and down flights of stairs to drop Olivia off while 6+ months pregnant is tiring. 

Below are a few ideas of advantages and challenges that come with both smaller and larger age gaps, as well as insight from a handful of other mamas with more than one.


ADVANTAGES to SMALLER Age Gaps 
(Less than 2 Years): 

+ If you want a larger family, having them closer together allows you to finish having kids at a younger age

+ With a smaller gap, your children are going through similar stages all at the same time, so while you may have 2-3 in diapers (which undoubtedly presents its own challenges), they will also be potty training around the same time and all out of diapers within a small span of each other. Oh happy day.

+ They enjoy the same activities, books and toys because of their ages, which allows them to (hopefully) play really well together and keep each other entertained

+ They grow close to one another in friendship because they are always together, in similar stages and enjoying the same things

+ You can often reuse clothing, bedding, swings, baby gear, etc. without having to store it for years and then you can also get rid of all of it at the same time!

+ Children spaced closer together often create a very unified family. You have a sense of we are all in it together as you are going through the day to day routines, meeting similar needs and doing similar activities as a whole family. No one is being left out, the outings you plan allow all children to participate and siblings bond as they are all navigating similar tasks and learning similar skills.

CHALLENGES with SMALLER Age Gaps 
(Less than 2 Years):

+ Lack of self sufficiency. This is probably the one I've thought most about when I think about the 17 month age gap between Poppy and her baby sister. I will still be helping Penelope dress herself, put shoes on, buckling her in a carseat, lifting her, etc. while also caring for a newborn.

+ During my first trimester this past summer, Penelope was only 8-10 months old, getting her first teeth and going through a developmental leap and sleep regression. It left me very exhausted, being nauseous and getting up at 3am to feed and comfort her. I never experienced that the first time around because Olivia was older when we got pregnant with Penelope, sleeping 12 hours a night without waking and already through 90% of her teething.

+ Exhaustion and lack of sleep -- especially for us Moms who are carrying, delivering, nursing and caring for multiple babies close in age one after another.

+ Being so close in age may mean you are less able to enjoy your babies as individuals or give them regular one on one time

+ You are more likely to need a second crib, second highchair, etc. if they are close enough in age that you haven't transitioned one out of something before the new baby arrives. Olivia was in a twin bed by the time Poppy was born, so we reused her crib but we will be getting a 2nd crib for our new baby because Poppy won't have transitioned out of hers until closer to 2 years.

+ You may just be entering the "terrible twos" and dealing with toddler tantrums, separation anxiety or misbehavior while taking care of a young baby who is still very dependent on you. 

ADVANTAGES to LARGER Age Gaps 
(More than 2 Years): 

+ If your children are 2-3 years apart, you'll still remember how to care for a newborn while also having the confidence that comes with 2+ years of motherhood under your belt, knowing much more about how to handle each situation that comes up than you did with your first.

+ Your body is able to better recover from pregnancy and childbirth before getting pregnant again, nursing and being up all hours of the night

+ You're most likely more rested when you enter into the newborn phase, because your older child(ren) is/are no longer waking up in the night

+ Your first born (or older children) are more capable of waiting and practicing patience before having their needs met, understanding their baby sister or brother can't wait as easily when they need something

+ You'll have one on one time with your baby (or youngest children) while your older child is at preschool or evening activities

+ Your first born (or older children) are mature enough to enjoy the new baby, participate and help while also being able to enjoy time away from you without seeing it as a threat

CHALLENGES with LARGER Age Gaps 
(More than 2 Years):

+ Having children further apart most likely means they are in different stages and seasons. You may be toting your older child around to sports practices and spend the evenings helping them with homework while your younger child is interested in completely different things or unable to participate in what their older sibling is doing

+ Possible regression of your preschooler's skills (potty training, sleeping, etc) when a new baby comes into the picture because they see the baby getting attention in those areas and they desire it

+ Your preschooler or school-aged child can bring home illnesses from school or their extracurricular activities that they pass on to their younger siblings (this happened when Poppy was only 2 weeks old...Olivia caught a cold from her ECFE class and gave it to Penelope immediately; obviously it's going to happen at some point but it made the first few weeks with a newborn that much harder for me)

+ Having a gap of 4-5 years may present challenges when you are faced with caring for a newborn again -- nursing, sleep training, etc. -- things you haven't done in many years and possibly forgot a lot about or find to be difficult because it's been so long since you were in that stage

+ Depending on the gap, your children may be less likely to play together because their abilities, interests and toys are so different

Below are a few thoughts from Mamas I adore.

Erin / @helloerinv / www.helloerin.com
Children: Lex (4.5) & K (1.5)
Age Gap: 3 years apart

What did you primarily base your spacing on?
We based our spacing off of me. pregnancy is not a happy fun time for me. i gain a LOT of weight, and toss my cookies each and every day of the 40 weeks of pregnancy. mike and i needed to be ready to hop on that train again. i always knew i wanted a larger age gap- and we just kinda looked at each other when lex was 2 something and realized we were ready to hop back on the train. 

Advantages? What do you love most?
Lex is currently in her helpful stage of life. She wants to help with EVERYTHING, including her little sister. She wants to do things for her- get her water, teach her to talk, potty train her (she takes her diaper off and puts her on the toilet!). It's so sweet to see her want to be helpful and it makes her feel SO special and big. On the flip side- K has an awesome role model to look up to. 

Also, having a big age gap makes it almost impossible to compare the two kids. After three years my memory about milestones is a little hazy. I never, ever, ever want to compare the two girls- and this makes it even harder! They are each unique and different and I want to celebrate that instead of figuring out who was doing what when. I also love that well only have to pay one year of overlapping college education ;) 

Disadvantages? What is the most challenging?
We had a ROUGH start to sisterhood over here. Three was a hard age for us in general and Lex didnt take to big sisterhood well. She refused to acknowledge her sister even existed. It took TEN months -- and now they have the cutest and best relationship. I think lex being older gave her a lot more awareness of the alone time and attention she was missing out on when her little sister came along. 

When it comes to a challenge, I’d say schedules! Lex dropped her nap a year ago and has all sorts of activities. But the trick is still to schedule her activities around k’s schedule. which is sometimes hard when activities start right in the middle of nap time. Even school pick up is tricky because of k’s nap schedule. 

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Paige / @thelovedesignedlife / www.lovedesignedlife.com
Children: Adriano (5.5), Alessandra, (almost 3), Diego, (14 months)
Age Gaps: 2.5 years between Adriano and Alessandra; 21 months between Alessandra and Diego


What did you primarily base your spacing on?
My husband and I always knew we wanted two or three kids and that we wanted to have them relatively close together. Our first two babes were very intentionally spaced. When we first had Adriano, we both thought maybe we'd start trying for #2 around when he turned one. However when that time came, we were still recovering from the new baby-ness stage and decided neither of us were quite ready yet. We started trying when he was around 16 months. We didn't get pregnant right away which actually was kind of stressful. (Although I know so many families who have a MUCH harder time, so I'm not complaining!) Still, it made me realize a bit of what those families go through and how hard it can be. 

After about five months of trying, we had a successful pregnancy and that made them 2.5 years apart. During the time that we were trying I think part of what made it stressful for me was that I had this idea in my head that then needed to be 2 years apart. But when baby Alessandra arrived, it was actually perfect. Adriano was potty trained, and could more easily be distracted with things like the iPad, and was just generally more self-sufficient. Of course there were still trying times just generally juggling two. But I felt the transition from 1-2 babes was easier in a lot of ways than from 0-1.

When Alessandra was 11 months old, she had basically weaned herself from breastfeeding. I was sad because I was so close to making it to a year! (You can read my breastfeeding story with her here) I had one period after that and on my next cycle we got pregnant. Ooops! Again, we both knew we were open to the idea of a third, but we hadn't really planned it all that well AT ALL. haha. This made our third little babe 21 months younger than his sister.

Advantages? What do you love most? Disadvantages? What is the most challenging?
For me the less than two year gap was a lot harder than the over two year gap. In so many ways, Alessandra was still my baby and I felt she was very much still needy of my time and affection. On top of that, I had a preschooler! To be perfectly honest, the first year of having three babes was probably the most challenging of my life and certainly of motherhood. However even though this moment of motherhood is quite challenging, I know in my heart this is how our family was meant to be. I also know it will get better because it already has! I am so happy our children are close in age and will get to experience a lot of the same things at around the same times in their lives. It is truly a blessing to have them spaced just the way they are!

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Ashley / @_ashley_noel_ / www.ashleynoel.life
Children: Karis (almost 2.5) & Bexley (3.5 months)
Age Gap: 26 months

What did you primarily base your spacing on?
 I wish I could say we thought long and hard about this one. We didn't, not at all really! We were just ready for some more babies in our life!! And honestly, I think you can't rack your brain too hard about it! You can sit there and think about how old everyone will be and what month would be perfect to be pregnant, but honestly a family is a family no matter what the size, age, genders! Heck, my sister is ten years older then me and I love her just the same as I would if she was 10 months older then me!!! 

Advantages? What do you love most?
I know when they are just a tag but older the advantages will be their ability to play and have so much fun together!! I can NOT wait until they are able to play house and dress up and I just pray every night that they will be the best of friends!!


Disadvantages? What is the most challenging?
Well, I have a TWO year old and a newborn. Need I say more?? And of course it's the two year old that tests mamas patience! 

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Kacey / @kaceyjane_

Children: Avery (5), Emmie (3) & Will (8 weeks)

Age Gap: 26 month gap between Avery and Emmie; 3 year gap between Emmie and Will; 5 year gap between Avery and Will


What did you primarily base your spacing on?

We had always envisioned having all of our children about 2 years apart. It was important to me that they were close enough in age that they are in school together at the same time and could easily have close relationships due to the fact that they were close in age and experiences. Will is by no means way younger than his sisters, but he will be four years behind Emmie in school, and to me that's a much bigger gap than I thought we would have.  

The reason our sibling spacing did not go according to our original plan is because shortly after Emmie (our second) was born, my husband and I came to a really hard time in our marriage. We were in a place in which we had no friendship, intimacy, and found no enjoyment together or in our family life. I struggled to find joy as a wife and a mother and I was carefully maintaining a facade that everything was a-okay when it was not. We were both not talking about how evident it was that we needed help. There were many factors for this, and even though it was HARD, we decided to fight for something better and focus on our marriage above all else. After seven years of marriage, with Jesus and professional therapy, a whole lot of hard work and prayer and guidance, our marriage is an entirely new, healed, healthy and joyful gift in our life. We spent a year piecing it back together. And at the end of that year we decided it was time for another baby. Now we've got this family and home life that brings us so much joy. We've got this marriage that is an unspeakable blessing we hadn't actually experienced fully in the seven years before. I never realized how much healthy communication and trust and friendship between spouses affected parenting until this third time around. I thought I understood Grace, but it turns out He had more to give me and more to teach me in that regard. I think that will make me a better, more humble mother. 

I believe without a doubt that a healthy marriage and home life is the most important thing we will ever do for our kids no matter their ages or number. I can't imagine what would have happened had we decided to stick to our original schedule and throw another kid into the mess that was us. We are not perfect now, but I know with certainty that I can trust Him to bring us through ANYTHING. I didn't really believe that before. God had better plans for our family and I'm so thankful for the dark, painful road that he used to bring us where we are today. I am happier than I've ever been. I am able to find joy and thankfulness even on the hard mama days (wine and Netflix help). I look forward to the minute my husband gets home. These four humans God has given me and are my greatest treasures and Will being the baby of the family with a larger gap will always be a reminder of God's Grace.

Advantages? What do you love most?
The current advantages of having a 5 and 3 year old with a newborn is that he has three mamas! They are pretty helpful with the baby when they can actually help, but I've found their independence as a result of their ages is a huge differentiating factor this time around that has made baby #3 a lot easier than when we had our second.  They can dress themselves, use the bathroom, play independently or together, etc. Also, Avery is in kindergarten five days a week and Emmie is in day school for three of those days, so I have large chunks of time during the week to work from home, run errands, or just spend one on one time with the baby!  

I also love that the girls are old enough to understand how special it is to have a baby and that they will remember him like this. They absolutely adore him. They tell him stories and hold him and brag about him. I suspect if he could communicate he would tell us they also drive him crazy... I think sometimes this kid gets way more mothering than he signed up for. There's also something so sweet about the combinations of ages and genders we have in our family. I think two older sisters and a baby brother is absolutely darling!

Disadvantages? What is the most challenging?
I think the biggest disadvantage is that the current newborn stage we are still in plus the fact that they are both in school, means the girls get A LOT less mom time. There are many hours spent nursing or tending to the baby while they are at home that used to be time spent outdoors with them or on the go. While we have by no means halted life and activities because of the baby, it naturally follows that a large portion of my attention is given to the baby and I find myself missing the girls. For example, night time is hard and while my husband does bedtime with the girls, I'm usually holding/nursing/comforting the baby because its his fussy period and I'm focused on getting him down for the night. I miss my night time cuddles with my girls!

So far the challenges have been few. The baby nurses and sleeps mostly now, but I anticipate difficulty when he gets older and his nap times are disrupted when we need to pick up sisters from school and things like that. I highly value nap time at home for my growing babies/ toddlers, but I know that I will have to be creative and flexible at times as he gets older since the age gap is much bigger with him than with the girls -- he's just simply in an entirely different stage than them and always will be! There are more seasoned mamas out there I look to for support on this! Aren't mom friends great?!

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Makelle / @makelleahlin.and.thelostboys / www.lostboysarewe.com
Children: Cooper (4) & Boone (20 months)
Age Gap: 29 months


What did you primarily base your spacing on?
So when I had Cooper (our first) he was totally unplanned. My husband and I were trying to finish up our schooling before the thought of kids ever crossed our mind, but someone had other plans for us. Cooper came into this world and it was quite the life changer! I took 6 months off school and then dove back into it. Jared and I had always discussed we wanted our children to be close in age; Jared wanted them to be less than two years or no more than two years apart. I was all for that gap pre-kids because I loved growing up with my siblings (we are all 1.5 years apart.) but as as time went one I still wasn't ready for a second child, Cooper just seemed so small and was my baby...a very hard baby at that!! And I had since began going back to school. Cooper had just turned three when we found out we were pregnant with our Boonie boy. The age Cooper was in during my pregnancy was awesome. He was old enough he could entertain himself but young enough he would still come take naps with me -- I was/am a huge pregnancy napper!

Advantages? What do you love most? Disadvantages? What is the most challenging?
Once Boone was born Cooper (3 1/2) really didn't know what was going on. He just really paid no attention to the new baby, but continued to entertain himself with toys, books, playing in our fenced in backyard, getting into his own car seat etc. For sibling spacing purposes this rocked for ME! But I didn't feel that it was good for THEM! The bonding I was hoping to witness just wasn't happening. They were so spaced out that Cooper just ignored Boone and even as Boone got older the ignoring continued. 

I feel like the gap of friendship and wanting to do things together has just barely started to begin right now, but Boone is almost 2 now and Cooper 4. Now Cooper will come grab Boone by the hand and ask him to play, and Boone is old enough that they can share toys now. 

That being said, I decided I would like to space my next babies closer in age, but to my surprise I am already almost hitting that spacing gap again, but Boone still seems like a baby to me! I do like having a larger gap to allow your body to heal, to become (somewhat) emotionally stable, and to get your routines down...yes it really has taken us almost two years to get the routines down with having two kids and we are still learning. I still really wish for a smaller gap in age for sibling bonding purposes. I mean I am already home with the kids so a smaller gap in age wouldn't have caused any conflict anyway. 

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Morgan / @laughinglatte / www.laughinglatte.com
Children: Annabelle (3) & Betty (1)
Age Gap: 2 years (almost to the day!) between them

What did you primarily base your spacing on?
I’m not sure why my husband and I decided that we wanted a two year gap, but we were definitely unified in that decision! It was probably because that is the gap that we both grew up with. 

Advantages? What do you love most?
What I love about this gap is that we were really able to get through some of the tough teething stages and set a solid routine for our first baby before the second arrived! We co-slept with Anabelle and she really loved it. But by the time Betty arrived, we were able to transition Anabelle into her own big girl room. We got through the nights of never knowing what that night’s sleep was going to be and had a solid routine in place. This helped ease the transition into two babies as well. 

I love the two year age gap because they are far enough apart to give us time to breathe and actually get some good rest, but close enough together that they can be best friends. I’d love to have them even closer together, but I do value my sanity and just can’t imagine being ready to give up a couple months to fatigue and nausea any sooner!

Disadvantages? What is the most challenging?
We plan on having more -- and now would be the time to get pregnant to have that 2 year age gap again -- but I am spending some time in between nursing Betty and getting pregnant with baby #3 to work on some health factors. Each baby takes so much out of a woman's body, and my gut has sacrificed a bit. I think it’s important and crucial as a mom to recognize when to prioritize yourself. Hopefully it won’t be too much longer though! 

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I hope this gave you a good look into the many factors that go into sibling spacing and a few tips for age gaps in your own family. I love stumbling upon blogs and reading about other moms' experiences and hope you enjoyed it as well!! XO

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for Or sharing this! So wonderful to read through all these beautiful mamas journeys!!

    ReplyDelete


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