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Big age gaps: good for parents bad for kids?

27 replies

Popparoo · 09/01/2003 16:54

I am thinking of having a second child at some point in the future - my first is 3 and a half now. I have been told that large age gaps between children are easy on the parents but hard on the kids - does anyone have any thoughts this one?

OP posts:

gosh2 · 09/01/2003 16:56

My sister and I are 5 1/2 years apart. We were never friends when we grew up as the age gap was big. but now both in our 30's and very close.


RosieT · 09/01/2003 17:04

My sister and I are 81/2 years apart, so felt almost like different generations. I wasn't at all keen when she came along, although now we're grown up we're very close ? much closer than me and my bro, who's only 20 months older than me (and interestingly, we didn't get along at all as children). I think personality is more important than age. My friend has just had a third 6 years after her second, 8 after her first and they're both brilliant with their baby brother. And she's enjoying being able to spend time with the tiddler on his own while the others are at school. It seems to be swings and roundabouts.


threeangels · 09/01/2003 17:10

Hi popparoo,

I have 3 (ages13,10,26th mos). All 3 were planned with my 3rd deciding a little later in life. From my exp Ive enjoyed having one later because I enjoy watching my older ones being big brother and sister to him. They kinda are protective which is sweet. I think its good when you have older ones who can help out with younger ones. I dont force them to do much in helping me but they do like to chip in with the baby.

As faras being hard on the kids. Mine personally do like to really go at it with fighting. Their always fighting over attention with my youngest one. This can drive me batty. Examples are who sits by him in the car, who sits by him in restaurants (I always like to sit by him myself). Many more i just cant think at the moment. The biggest thing is that he gets into all their stuff and rearrange their rooms if their doors are left opened. Overall though I am very happy i chose to have another child later in life. It is a great experience in my opinion. Were even still planning to have another on starting in the spring. Ive decided I want to lose some weight before I do.


janh · 09/01/2003 19:56

Hi, Popparoo. My older 3 were spaced 3 years apart (2 girls then a boy) and the 4th is 5 years behind. (20,17,14 and 9 currently.)

The elder boy used to feel left out because his sisters wouldn't let him join in, or played games he didn't want to play.

DS2 was much too little for DS1 until he got to be 8/9 and interested in football. Now he is nearly 10 they are both obsessed with it and get on really well - most of the time.

They do all care about each other, and look out for each other, in between arguments!

I think it's as much about personality (and sex) as it is about age difference. It's impossible to generalise. I know a few families where they deliberately waited until the first child was at school before they even thought about another. (I know one family, with 7 kids, where there is a 6 or 7 year gap between the last 2 but it doesn't seem to matter - eldest is 25, youngest is nearly 6!)

Just do what feels right to you - you can't predict how it will turn out!


SueW · 09/01/2003 22:05

My mum and her sister are seven years apart (prob something to do with the war, since mum was born in 1945 - bet she'll thank me for telling you all that! They might not have been able to be friends when young but they are as close as can be now even though they live thousands of miles apart - they email at least once/day. And their brother who is 2-3 years younger than mum doesn't really have anything to do with them. Not nastily, just doesn't.

My niece and nephew are 6 years apart - 6 and 12 - and obviously there are things that are difficult. But I do think it depends on personalities as much as age difference. Whther children are close together in age or widely spaced, different problems, challenges and rewards will crop up for the parents.

If you feel now is a good time for you, then it porbably is.

Says she with one 6yo who isn't planning any more


anais · 09/01/2003 22:22

My sister and I were only 2 years apart, but we never got on as children either. It was just a personality clash, whcih can happen regardless of age gaps. We get on better now, but are still far from best friends - we can only tolerate so much of each other's company before we start getting to each other!

From my own point of view I don't want a big age gap in my family. I feel that the children may not be so close, and it's like having 2 seperate families. It's only my own personal view, and my own personal choices.


Enid · 10/01/2003 09:45

My sister and I are four and a half years apart and we have always been really really close. Mum thought the age gap was so good she had the same gap between my two brothers.


tigermoth · 10/01/2003 11:25

I agree with those who put personality before age.

My two sons are over five years apart in age, and have always got on very well. Even though both are active with strong personalities and the oldest loves attention, there is little jealousy.

They do fight but not seriously and rarely fall out. The oldest is very responsible towards his younger brother, so juxtaposed with the pillow fights and odd thumps and bumps, I get my oldest ds frequently cooking supper for his little brother, reading him stories and holding his hands across roads. He had even changed his nappy and dressed him. Now aged 8 and three they happily play together sharing toys like lego, star wars figures and toy guns (sorry!)

I don't expect this to last forever, when my oldest ds hits puberty, my youngest ds could be old enough to tease and annoy him big time. We shall see how it goes.

From my point of view, I don't know how I would have coped with, say, a 4 year old and a two year old. I remember what my oldest son was like at 4 years. Looking after two preschoolers would have been very hard work, especially giving them both enough attention when we went out. By 5 my oldest son was calming down and getting more independent, so when his brother came alone I had my hands free.


GeorginaA · 10/01/2003 13:15

I can't thank you enough for this thread! Before ds was born I always liked the idea of having three children each five years apart (I'd heard that the age gap for least sibling rivalry was either less than 18 months or over 5 years - plus the whole advantage of being able to give the youngest more attention with less guilt while eldest is at school).

Then when ds was about 15/16 months I started feeling really clucky and I grew to like the idea that a closer age gap would mean they could play together more. But, I haven't been able to conceive yet and now financial and life circumstances aren't really ideal and I'm beginning to wonder if I shouldn't just stick to our original idea of a four or five year gap.

Am relieved that this large a gap doesn't rule out them playing together. Thanks all.


suedonim · 11/01/2003 03:49

Popparoo, my children are aged 27, 23, 15 and six and I don't think it has been hard on any of them. Even if it is 'easier on the parents' I wouldn't knock that as surely it is better to have parents who feel they are coping rather than doing something because it is expected of them?

Overall, though, I'm in agreement with others in that it is personality that counts more than anything. I have a brother who is 2 yrs younger then me and we fought like cat-and-dog, while I got on fine with my Dsis and DB who are 9 and 6 yrs older. HTH.


EmmaTMG · 11/01/2003 06:27

My brother and sister are 8 and 10 years older then me and growing up in out house was fantasic for me. Basically as a child I had 2 adult and 2 2 'nearly' adults looking after me and in a word I was spolit rotten!
Having said that, my sister and I fought like cat and dog over anything, I can remember proper fist fights with her, but I can't even remember having one argument with my brother. I'm sure we did argue but I don't remember them.
Even now with me being 30 this year I love my brother to bits but I don't feel anywhere near the same for my sister which is awful as she would bend over backward to help me out.


tigermoth · 11/01/2003 19:17

popparoo and georgiana, I waxed lyrical about the the big age gap working with my sons, but I think it's only fair to post this also:

Both dh and I find the age gap can be hard on us. I've said this before on another thread, but it is, at times, a strain having a baby or under 4 yeasr old to look after for many years - in our case it will be 10 years or so before we have no preschoolers or under in the home.

We have no extended family nearby and rely on paid babysitters for evenings out. We cannot go away for a weekend alone ever. My yongest son is just too little to stay with any of our friends overnight and few would be keen on this, anyway. Sleepovers won't happen till he is five or so.

Lots of the more grown up things I want to do with my 8 year old - playing draughts, helping him with his homework, seeing a film, taking him out for meal - are near imposible to do with a toddler running around. I am not at present working, and am around lots, so if dh and I take one boy each and spend time alone with them, I still have much time to see them together. As and when I am back at work, it could be a strain for me to give each boy separate time for their separate needs.

That's not to say I regret having two for a minute - ds2 keeps me young and it is fascinating to see how alike yet unalike he and his brother are, and lovely to see how they care about each other, but it can be hard work.


janh · 11/01/2003 20:41

Hi, tigermoth. Must agree re the relationship/s between the children and seeing the similarities/differences - one of the reasons we ended up having 4, and it's a good job we didn't start any earlier or we might have had more!

I love the way they relate to each other (more when they were small, but even now it's nice to see them being nice) and the things they do together/for each other/with the others. Our 4 are very unlike each other in most ways, which is good because nobody ever seems to feel somebody else is the-same-but-better so they are not compared and don't think anybody is favourite. (Also I do share out the shouting quite fairly!) In the school/uni holidays all 4 (20, 17, 14 & 9, as previously mentioned here I think) will go out for an evening walk together which is lovely. They will also all go to the swimming pool.

When your DS2 is a couple of years older I think you'll find you have a completely different family - we certainly have since our DS2 got past the pre-school/reception stage.

BTW I never heard the end of your DS1's problems at the end of last term...???? (And I still haven't done anything about the choir teacher!)


WideWebWitch · 11/01/2003 20:49

I'd like to know how you got on too tigermoth, when you've got time. Janh, your family sounds lovely. Let us know if you tackle the miserable choir teacher won't you?


Popparoo · 11/01/2003 21:06

Thanks a lot to everyone who shared their experiences on this one! I'm getting the idea that you just can't tell if siblings will be friends or foes, whatever the age gap!

OP posts:

Bears · 11/01/2003 21:16

I am the youngest of 3 girls. When I was born my eldest sister was 7, other 5. This caused problems when we were young. Especially as they have a different father to me & everyone treated them like twins because they were only 22 months apart. They often got the same Xmas presents, wore the same clothes & I remember crying every bedtime because I had to go up much earlier than they did & I practically demanded to my mum that they should go to bed at different times aswell. I used to watch them play Sindys when I was (or they thought I was) too young to join in. By the time I was into Sindys, they were wearing makeup, going to discos & seeing boyfriends.

Although the 'age gap' has closed since we all became adults & I get on well with elder sister, I still feel as though they are much closer to each other than I am to them. For example, they sometimes talk about people they knew (at school say) or a song/advert/craze they remember when they were young & I don't. I still have occasional moments of feeling 'left out'. Incidentally, me & middle sister do have a personality clash.

Sorry if it sounds like I'm 'playing the violins' but I just had such a strong point of view on this thread. I realise my opinion is from personal experience & I'm sure there are other situations similar to this where no-one felt 'left out'. I suppose I could blame my parents to some extent! (Sorry Mum & Dad, I do love u both)

Because of my experience though, I'm not keen on ever having 3 kids, esp if there is an age gap. If we ended up having a 3rd, I'd like to have a 4th - just in case history was to repeat itself. I know that's unlikely though 'cos everyone's different but I still wouldn't like to chance it.


Eulalia · 12/01/2003 20:52

Seems to me that everyone has different circumstances and there are positive/negative aspects to whatever setup one has.

One thing I have noticed is that many people nowadays have 2 children and often have them fairly close together usually to prevent a disruption in the mum's career. Obviously if you have 2 children 18 months apart for example then you've got them both in school within 6/7 years.

I think if you are to have only 2 then better to leave a longer gap and enjoy them individually. Just my personal view. I have 2 with a 33 month gap. I'd probably have gone for a longer one but dd was an accident.

As for me I have a twin and two much older sisters. I think it would have been hard if I hadn't had my twin but then again it was fun having older sisters as we could be left with them and it gave my parents a break.


iota · 12/01/2003 21:05

Eulalia - I can't agree with your reason for parents having the kids close together - for most of the ones I know it was either a mistake or they thought it was best to get the broken nights and nappies over and done with. My kids are just over 2 years apart - pretty common spacing and in my case necessary as I left starting a family rather late


musica · 12/01/2003 21:22

Most people seem to have talked about the age gap between two sisters or two brothers. I'm 4 years older than my brother, and that was at times MUCH too big! Imagine a 16 year old girl, and a 12 year old boy. I guess if my db had been the older then it may not have mattered so much, as girls do mature earlier.

Although now, we get on fine, we didn't really get on as older children.


tigermoth · 13/01/2003 09:59

janh, how nice that your four do things together, depsite the age gap. I feel our family will indeed seem very different when our youngest is at school. There's already been much change in the last year, as my youngest ds talks increasingly fluently and shows more and more of his personality. Hearing the first proper spoken arguments between ds 1 and ds 2 was strangely entertaining.

I will update you about my ds and school when he's been back a few weeks. So far we've had a peaceful and well behaved start to the term. I hope he finds more children want to be good friends with him ( they all seem to be Ok towards him) he's got some friends in his class, but he badly wants more. He's a bit down because a boy in his class invited 10 boys to a birthday party, leaving 4 not invited. He was one of the four left out, and even though he's not close friends with the host I think he was a bit hurt. I find he's getting more self conscious - popularity matters much more, yet he's also more discriminating - he's dropped some of his friends in this street and won't play out with them when they come knocking on the door. He's just growing up, I suppose.


janh · 13/01/2003 19:04

It is nice - I think the older 2 being girls helps - suspect if it was the other way round it would be a bit different. I took DD1 back to uni today - she was quite sad and so were the others.

Sympathy for DS1 re friends/invitation. Some kids just seem to have to knack of being swamped with both, don't they - it's hard to be one who isn't. I've given up worrying about not getting many party invites and I think (think!) DS2 has too. As they get older parties get fewer and smaller - some consolation - except when the child comes home and says "so-and-so's mum said he could only have 3 friends to his party" and the group consists of 5 and he's the one who got the short straw - had that a time or two!

One very good friend would make up for the ones who are just OK (or not OK). Discrimination can be a very good thing! DS2 sits with one lovely boy, very quiet, who doesn't fall out with anyone or tell tales or anything - I keep saying we must have him round for tea but because I don't go to the school gate never have a chance to organise it...I will get DS2 to get his phone no and cultivate him! Good luck to your DS1 - hope he finds a good reliable friend this term!

(Sorry for changing subject, popparoo!)


Lindy · 13/01/2003 19:46

Like so many subjects there seems to be pros & cons on both sides; also like Musica I am four years older than one brother, and six years older than another brother - but we always got along reasonably well (and still do), I wouldn't put the usual fallings in & outs down to the age gap - although they both say I was (& am) incredibly bossy!!

I also tend to agree with Eulalia's comments about the reasons many (not all) people have two children so close together, I have heard the comment 'I want to get it all over & done with' more than once which I think is incredibly sad for the babies involved. Also, looking at mums with two little ones - it is just such hard work.

Anyway, my personal decision is to stick with one!


tallulah · 15/01/2003 22:24

The gap between my kids is 19 mths; exactly 2 yrs (DS2 born on DS1 birthday) & 2 years +1 wk.
DD (eldest, now 16), has always got on really well with DS1, adores DS3, but absolutely loathes DS2. There is 31/2 years between them & for us that seems to be the very worst gap.
The 2 younger boys fight constantly, and the eldest boy & middle boy fight. The dynamics between them all get very wearing, but it's invariably DS2 causing the trouble or being picked on. Position in the family causes as many problems as age gap, if not more.


zebra · 17/01/2003 11:50

Actually, I think the main reason most parents have small gaps between kids is due to insufficient mastery of birth control, or advanced age when starting a family (I have both excuses).

Maybe I'm smug, but I think there's a lot parents can do to foster civil, if not also loving relationships between their kids. Me & DH have our lousy parenting moments, but I feel like we can take a lot of credit for how well our children get along.


Eulalia · 17/01/2003 19:48

Different horses for different courses - I was only talking about my own feelings. I didn't really have a choice in the matter as I didn't get any periods (due to LOTS of b/feeding) till ds was 13 months and then still very irregular till he was about 20 months. Very close babies are more of a modern phenomenon due to less b/feeding or not doing it at all.

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