to think larger age gaps between children are not a bad thing?

(138 Posts)
Flidais Tue 14-Jan-14 23:38:12

This is one of those things I had never heard of before having a baby, but is it widely thought of as a bit selfish to leave a big gap between children? I have posted on MN about how long to leave it before TTC again because I am still bfing my 20 month old and don't really want to risk having to stop before she's ready. I'm mostly happy with that decision.
 However, two friends have small gaps and we all have a DC1 of a similar age.
In the time since having their second child, I have heard accounts from both parties describing the strain that pregnancy and a new baby has placed upon their bodies and relationships, along with worries about their elder DC's behaviour since the new baby's arrival. In all, I have worried about both of them and tried to help in practical ways because they've had a really hard time. This is all relevant, I promise.
 Recently we all met up as a group for the first time since the birth of their DC2 and almost immediately received a few remarks about 'getting on with it' (having a second child) and 'poor DD loves babies- she would love a sibling' etc. All fairly light-hearted.
Later on, Dd asked for a bf as she was tired and fed up and friendA said (gently but with an edge) that if I had a new baby, I could stop babying DD and let her grow up a bit. I just laughed and said something along the lines of she IS still a baby in a lot of ways and I would just follow her (DD's) lead, but I did feel quite cross. 
Then listened to mutual congratulations about how close their children will be to each other, conversations about how potty-training is going, big beds and naughty steps. I feel as if I am in a parallel universe. My Dd is normal for 20 months and seems about the same in development to my friend's children, but isn't showing signs of readiness for potty training (nor are my friend's children if accounts of accidents all over the house are anything to go by) or similar.
 I am so proud of DD and how she is developing at her own pace, but I am tired of hearing how I should be getting her to grow up before IMO she is ready, or that I am somehow holding her back?!
So many people, (and I'm looking at family here as well) have age-inappropriate ideas of what to expect from children. It's not hard to read a book or look at mumsnet to see what's normal for a child's age.
From what I have remembered about child psychology, the bit of the brain that governs empathy isn't developed until about 4 years and this is reflected in the birth spacing of traditional hunter-gatherer societies, so the older child is self sufficient before another baby arrives. The contraceptive effect of regular toddler breastfeeding (plus other factors) accounts for this large spacing.
I am absolutely not claiming that this is a pattern we need to follow in western society, with myriad pressures that influence child-spacing. I don't even think I would necessarily want a 4 year gap. I am just trying to illustrate that a larger age gap is not actually unnatural (for our species) and from miserable personal experience a smaller age gap is not a guarantee of future closeness between siblings.
There is a bit of an air of martyrdom about this too, as though it's a bit shallow to think about your body recovering before having another-just do it, your kids will thank you. I actually felt really rundown after having Dd and still don't feel like my body has properly recovered enough to build another baby from scratch without being depleted further. This is my personal experience and of course many women feel absolutely fine and do really well with close-spacing, whether it's by choice or necessity because of time running out or childcare issues.
But this is how I feel.
So AIBU to think that if I spend months sympathising with the hellish time you're having, only to have you turn around and tell me I should have a go too, I'm not going to be terribly convinced?

treaclesoda Tue 14-Jan-14 23:42:09

I think the age gap is no one's business but yours.

FWIW I don't consider four years to be a large age gap. There are five years between my DC and they get along well together, it doesn't seem like a big age gap at all.

I know someone whose only sibling is 22 years older than her. That is what I think of when I hear the words 'large age gap'.

goshhhhhh Tue 14-Jan-14 23:43:22

Yanbu - people often want you to be as m miserable as them!
Seriously there is no perfect gap....it is just what it is (except that 4 years is obviously perfect as that is what I have).

lilyaldrin Tue 14-Jan-14 23:44:17

People often want to justify their choices through other people doing the same thing - making a different choice can seem like an attack (especially if they are struggling).

I know some people who have gone for an 18 month-2 year gap and other friends who have gone for a 3, 4, 5 even 7 year gap.

I don't think one age gap is better than another in terms of either how close siblings are during childhood or in adulthood. As many closely spaced siblings get on great as fight like cat and dog. Some of the adults I know who are closest to their siblings have 7+ year gaps.

Small age gaps seem like far too much work for me personally! I'm looking forward to a 3.5 year gap grin

DrCoconut Tue 14-Jan-14 23:45:14

12 year age gap between my DS's. no one else's business.

Mrswellyboot Tue 14-Jan-14 23:45:48

I think you are a nice relaxed mother and giving your daughter the best start in life. I wouldn't like the comments from others, even lighthearted, about babying her confused when she IS a baby. You dealt with it great.

I am going it try soon as lot if trouble ttc last time. No doubt I will have people commenting in it being soon. I don't think a gap is selfish at all. I would prefer a gap but cannot risk it.

I don't know why people have to remark on these things when it is the mother (and family) who will grow and raise the child not outsiders.

NomNomNom Tue 14-Jan-14 23:45:53

I couldn't agree more. It sounds like your friends have been quite unpleasant towards you.

Do your thing and don't worry about what others do. I also don't understand this pressure to make children grow up. It causes unnecessary problems that you can easily avoid by simply following your child's lead.

In my opinion, this kind of parenting approach seems to be based on an attempt to tick all the boxes as quickly as possible - they need to take part in the potty training conversations so start too early; complaining about night wakings are an essential part of parenting discourse - why not just cosleep and avoid all of that angst?

Also agree with letting your body recover.

Keep bf your DD if its right for you. It's so good for her, and once you've stopped, you can't really start again at this age. It's a real secret weapon as well.

sydlexic Tue 14-Jan-14 23:46:01

14 years for me, perfect.

Bootycall Tue 14-Jan-14 23:46:33

our older 2 were 16 months apart, had 9 years and had another 2 16 months apart.

well mental but our albeit drunken fault.

lot of crap spouted about age gaps, you have them when they come and you get on with it.

noones business but yours so tell friends and relations to mind their own and ignore.

snuffykins Tue 14-Jan-14 23:48:05

Well ds will be 12 in July and we're not looking at ttc anytime soon. I always said when he's old enough to babysit I'll go again.

So 4 years is no gap at all as far as I'm concerned!

AntiJamDidi Tue 14-Jan-14 23:49:46

I have 10 years between my 2 dds. It works great. Dd1 is old enough to babysit now for short periods, and was pretty independent even at 10 so she didn't need me to do a massive amount for her while I was dealing with dd2 as a baby.

My friend has 17 years between her dcs and that has worked out brilliantly for them.

Four years seems a normal gap to me and there are all sorts of reasons why a smaller gap may not be reasonable for a family.

coco44 Tue 14-Jan-14 23:52:55

One of my friends has a 27 yr gap between her DC2 and DC3!!
seriously though I think a gap of at least 3 years is better and statistically children do better at school

steff13 Tue 14-Jan-14 23:53:23

Our oldest two are 2.5 years apart. Our third/youngest is 10 years younger than our second. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. Do whatever you and your husband think is best for your family.

guccigirly Tue 14-Jan-14 23:58:11

I have 21 years between my youngest child and my eldest and 3 years between my two youngest. All my children get along and have a fantastic relationship with each other.

I have lots of friends who had two children within 18 months of each other and they are all exhausted.

IMO your child is still very young and still needs lots of nurturing.

Do things at your own pace, too many Mother's become competitive and spoil the enjoyment of your child's own natural development. In my baby group one child walked at 8 months, whilst mine didn't walk until 17 months.
PS by the time they all go to school, they can walk, talk and go to the toilet so don't stress about it, just enjoy your baby and have another one when you are ready.

hoppinghare Wed 15-Jan-14 00:02:59

I think your friends were perhaps commenting on you still breastfeeding at 20 months. How very rude. Good for you and your daughter. You should just ignore them and continue to enjoy your daughter. Have another when you feel you want one if you want one. I have small age gaps for various reasons and I am glad I do but if circumstances had been different I may have wanted to space them out a little so I could 'baby' my babies a little longer.

I have both longish and short age gaps (5 DCs, with 16 years between pfb and no5, they are 23, 19, 11, 9 and 7 now) and there are pros and cons on both sides.
The one thing I have learned over the years though is to bloody ignore all the well meaning interfering advice and wittering and drivel that everyone else somehow feels entitled to bombard parents of small children with all the time, and to do my own thing.
I know best for my children, that and a bland smile and nod will see my through until my youngest leaves home I reckon grin
You and your DH do what's best for your family, not anyone elses! Oh and ignore the competetive parenting twattery too, just because little Jocasta is peeing her Baby Gap thong on the hempen hand woven floor tatami at 13 months, it doesn't mean she is a) potty trained or b) somehow superior to your baby wink

WhenWhyWhere Wed 15-Jan-14 00:07:40

I am not sure if you are BU or not but I am pretty sure you are overthinking things. If your friends are rude about your choices then you should call them up on it but basically you should just do what suits you and your family and stop worrying about what others think or do.

Trying to find scientific reasons for the pros and cons of different age gaps is really pointless.

Ps. My 4 DCs are really, close in age... and I could write a book on why you should have bigger age gaps. The current chapter would be on the mahoosive cost of having three of your kids at Uni at the same time grin

Flumpyflumps Wed 15-Jan-14 00:09:32

I know someone with 51 weeks between her two.
She is knackered.
That is all.
:-)

Flumpyflumps Wed 15-Jan-14 00:12:07

Oh and ignore all the nonsense about a big gap being like having two only children too, I'm sure people just say stuff for the sake of it.
Do what you think is best, someone will always have a comment to make!

BeaWheesht Wed 15-Jan-14 00:25:17

Ah who cares? Your dd is a baby so to baby her is fine.

I have 3y9m between my kids and its a bigger gap than I would have liked tbh (terrible pregnancy first time round put me off for a while) but I wouldn't change it now.

People just like to comment on things - if you have a boy and a girl you're told it's nice to have one of each, if you have 2 of the same sex you're told it'll be nice for them to be friends etc etc. I just let all this go in one ear and out the other tbh, their opinions really have zero effect on me or my decisions.

I would say that there are 2y between my elder siblings them I wasn't born for another 8y, none of us are close.

BeeMom Wed 15-Jan-14 01:58:24

There is a 7y3m gap between my children, and I am forever fielding comments about the age gap. DS (15) is amazing with his little sister, and I don't think they could be closer.

People feel the need to comment about things for the sake of hearing their own voices, I think. Yes, there is a large gap between my children, but what most people don't know is that there is a third between them, my first daughter - however her life was too short and she is no longer with us (she passed as an infant).

Pay no attention to those who want to steer your life - do what is best for yourself and your family.

msvenus Wed 15-Jan-14 02:25:29

I have a 13 yr age gap between me & ny youngest db & a 16 yr gap between me and my youngest dsis. Now that is what I call large age gaps & your friebds are a bunch of interfering idiots.

BlackholesAndRevelations Wed 15-Jan-14 06:04:24

All of these replies seem to be in favour of big age gaps and ironically somewhat critical of small age gaps. I have small age gaps and I'm delighted with that; yes I'm tired but so what? I didn't expect not to be with such small children.

Yanbu to think that your family is your business (and your partner's) and nobody else's, though. Have an only child if it suits you; have four under five. Your decision.

annieorangutan Wed 15-Jan-14 06:28:16

4 years is hardly a large gap

MissPryde Wed 15-Jan-14 06:35:05

Don't worry about your friends, and don't feel pressured to have a small age gap.

My brother is 7 1/2 years older. It was wonderful growing up with him as my protector. Wouldn't trade it for anything.

My mother is of the opinion that with all the changes your body goes through during and after pregnancy and breastfeeding, small age gaps are too much stress on the body for her to have ever wanted it. That's a perfectly fine attitude.

Space your babies as you want them. And don't let them tell you your baby needs to be growing up too fast, that's ridiculous.

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