Ah, that’s a big dilemma. You have one child with your girlfriend and are starting to think about having a second one, but how long do you want to keep the child?What is the optimal age difference between the children?The difference is too big. Will the two become friends and be able to play together? If the age difference is too small, life will be chaotic, work will be difficult, and you may not be able to enjoy time with your baby.
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It’s a difficult decision, and there’s no right or wrong answer. Often we have no choice and our individual circumstances dictate our decisions. Many people have to wait until their first child starts school to avoid double childcare costs, while others have fertility issues that force them to make a decision. The optimal age difference between children also depends on the child and his or her individual personality.
So while there is never a “right” age difference between children, I would like to share my experience with my three children. We have age differences with our kids (18 months, 3 years, and 4 1/2 years), and each has great strengths and weaknesses.
For those of you who don’t know our family, these are our children and the gap between them.
18 month gap
3 year gap
We didn’t use a spreadsheet to plan for these gaps, but we did think about it. Although the 18-month age difference between the boys seems small, George was a pretty easy baby, so we felt we were ready for a second baby while he was still young. Ta. I wanted his third baby as soon as possible, but Joseph was a difficult toddler at the time, so he couldn’t have had his third child sooner!
Here are the pros and cons of our age difference…
The 18 month gap – The ‘hard at the time but pays off after 2 years’ option
Now that Joseph and George are 4 and 5 years old, this gap is perfect. They are great together and will run and play together for a long time. Yes, his first two years were tough, but his next two years getting easier will definitely balance things out and get easier every day. They fight, but I think most siblings fight regardless of age difference.
- We couldn’t get out of the “baby stage
- they took a nap together
- We were just babies when Joseph was born
- we still had all the baby stuff
- they immediately started playing together
- We finished and finished the difficult stage of parenting very quickly
- All of our weekend activities and holidays revolve around a baby-friendly environment
- they are very close now
- There is no jealousy between siblings because the older child quickly forgets what life was like when he was an only child
- Now that they are older, they always want to do the same things, eat the same things, watch the same things on TV, play the same games
- Childcare costs double – often not worth going back to work
- It was a tough job
- It was tough with two young children, so there were a lot of things I couldn’t do for about two years (like going out to eat with my family)
- When Joseph was a baby, I didn’t have much one-on-one time with him
- Baby years go by so quickly because you are so busy
- Being pregnant while caring for a toddler can be tough
- When you get older, you fight more
- If I go on maternity leave again soon, will my work be affected?
Mom Hack Tip: If you and your child have a small age difference, I highly recommend being very strict about bedtimes. We were always very strict, so even on the really tough days we were both in bed by 6.30pm. That always makes life a little easier!
The 3 year gap – The sensible option
I think the 3 year age difference between Joseph and Alva is the wisest option. Joseph loves Alba and they have already started playing together very well. Also, children (in our area) receive 30 hours of childcare per week starting at age 3, so childcare costs don’t double.
- 3-year-old gets excited when he finds out his mom is pregnant
- Older children will be helpful
- My older child is still interested in baby toys and plays with them
- Your older child will likely be heading off to daycare or kindergarten soon, so take time off to spend some time alone with your baby
- Going back to the “baby stage” of diapers and sleepless nights can be tough
- There may also be jealousy from older children
- They will likely be interested in different toys and activities for several years
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The 4.5 year gap – The easiest option
There is no doubt that an age difference of 4-5 years is the easiest option. Things suddenly get easier when your child turns 4 years old. They understand everything, are generally patient and very independent, so they have much more time to take care of the baby.
But the difference between four and five years is a huge difference for a child, and I think Alba and George’s relationship will be very different. George is very protective of her, but he doesn’t really play with her. He can keep an eye on his girlfriend and make sure she isn’t doing anything dangerous, but I can’t properly see them being friends for long.
- 4.5-year-old child gets excited when he learns that his mother is pregnant
- Older children will be helpful
- My older child is in school, so I have a lot of time alone with the baby
- Your older child will also be attending school during your pregnancy, so you can put your feet up and get more rest
- Babies get used to the 9 to 3 school life very easily (naps around school are helpful)
- Older children can be really helpful – actually really helpful
- Older children fully understand the baby’s needs (and understand that they need more quiet during nap times, etc)
- You’re less likely to fight (but you’ll probably still fight!)
- possibility of jealousy
- Will you play with me properly?
- A large age difference means they may not become proper friends until they are much older
- It is difficult to plan family activities because children have different interests
As always, this is just my opinion based on my personal experience and I’d love to hear your thoughts on the optimal age difference.