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'I had my two kids six years apart. Five years later, this is what I've learnt.'

This story deals with miscarriage and could be triggering for some readers. 

My sister and I are just over two years apart and as we have a great relationship, I thought this would also be the perfect age gap for my children. 

I wanted my kids close in age in the hope they would become good playmates, and so I would get the early years of parenting done before I was too old and tired. 

I had my first son Toby in September 2010 when I was 31 years old, and I was pregnant again in early 2013 with baby number two. 

Watch: The things people say before they have kids. Post continues below.


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My life plan was on track - until it wasn't - and I had a miscarriage. The same pattern happened when I suffered another loss in 2014 and again in 2015. I felt devastated, frustrated and uncertain. 

I also felt annoyed by random people asking when we were going to give our poor 'only child' a sibling. Especially because, pregnancy loss aside, we enjoyed life as a family of three.

Toby was at school, my freelance work was going well, and holidays were becoming less tiring and more fun. But the biological urge for one more child kept gnawing away at me, and so we decided we could both handle one more try at conception which happily resulted in my final pregnancy. 

While it was an incredibly stressful nine months, it was wonderful to welcome baby Leo to the family in February 2017, six and a half years after his older brother. 

Five years on from Leo's arrival and so much has changed. 

I last wrote about their age gap in 2018, and so it seems timely that I share some insights on what I have learnt as a mum of two boys over six years apart.

1. I still get age-gap comments, but it happens a lot less.

While I have received plenty of comments over the years enquiring about the age gap between my boys, it is happening less now they are older. 

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One particularly strange comment came from a neighbour who said she 'felt sad that Toby had to play alone' while looking directly at baby Leo who couldn't exactly join in at that stage. Thankfully, she moved away as she would likely say something different about the noise they make together now.

The most common age-gap questions are usually just 'ooh that's a big gap' which leaves it open for me to choose how I feel like answering. Sometimes I quickly say, 'Yes, we did not plan it that way', while other times I explain we experienced multiple miscarriages. On the whole, the people who ask or comment are just curious, or maybe haven't had fertility issues themselves.

Having to explain our rocky journey to having two kids has taught me to keep my curiosity about others people's experiences to a minimum. If someone I don't know well tells me in passing they have one child, no kids, kids born very close together or far apart, or five kids across 20 years, my response is usually just a simple 'okay' or 'how lovely'.

Also, I know there are many families with much greater age gaps than ours.

Listen: Leigh and Tegan chat to Alex Fevola about age gaps in kids. Post continues below. 


2. Sadly, we have NOT avoided sibling rivalry or fights.

When Leo was a tiny baby, I would never have guessed how much they would niggle, scrap and yell at each other in the future. And thank goodness for that. I remember almost bragging that their six-year age gap meant I wouldn't have to suffer through the fights and rivalry that other families face, but how wrong I was. 

Leo makes up for the gap and his smaller stature by being loud and remarkably strong for his age. Leo's wish to be as capable as Toby means there are frequent tears and fights when he can't keep up. 

I may have a longer than average age gap, but I would say my boys' fighting and insistence on annoying each other (and me) is very average indeed. I am often telling them to stop touching/kicking/yelling at or even looking at each other, while also reminding Toby to cut his little brother a break as Leo is still only five. 

Which brings me to the next point...

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3. Leo is probably better at catching/tennis/ping-pong than most kids his age thanks to Toby.

In Leo's perseverance to become just like big brother Toby, he has spent many hours out in the backyard playing cricket, handball and ping-pong under his big brother's tutelage. The result is that Leo's hand eye coordination is pretty decent for a small five-year-old, and he can do quite an intimidating overarm bowl. 

His wish to keep up and also physically match Toby can be so frustrating for Leo, but all credit to him, I believe his ambition to beat Toby may come sooner than they both think! 

4. Going back to the baby days was hard, but we got through it.

Before I had Leo, I was at that stage where Toby was at school and my work/life balance felt good. 

Then Leo came along and life was wonderful, but it was also messy. I felt out of step with a lot of other mums my age, as there weren't that many others with newborns at the school drop off. 

Sometimes the gap felt hard because it had slowed my career path right down at a point when I had hoped to be moving on and I missed out on various social functions and mum-bonding during the fog of sleep deprivation and breastfeeding. 

Equally, I was happy to have Toby at school while I hung with sweet baby Leo, binged Netflix, and had occasional naps. 

It was hard to juggle the more emotional demands of having a bigger kid with nappies and weaning, but that's not unique to having an age-gap.

Now both boys are at school and I'm back at work, life has regained a rhythm and routine again that I love. 

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I haven't forgotten those hard later-in-life baby years, but it was the only experience I had. 

I look at mums with a toddler and a baby and wonder how on earth they do it!

5. Leo brings out Toby's softer side. Well, sometimes.

Leo is a fan of his soft toys, cuddles, and is overall a much more emotionally driven kid than Toby. Since Leo's arrival, I have noticed Toby giving us more hugs and also occasionally showing Leo great affection. 

Toby has had to be incredibly patient with his little, little brother and I think this has helped to bring out his nurturing side.

Obviously sometimes the reverse is true when they fight and rivalrous tempers flare, but I hold on to the sweet shared moments to remind myself they do happen and they really do love each other.

6. I'm sad they don't get longer together at the same school.

We sent Leo to school this year, partly because he was ready and partly because he (and we) were desperate to get him in the same school for just one year with Toby. 

I know this might be controversial for some as Leo turned five in February, but we considered all the options, spoke to his daycare teachers, and ultimately chose what was right for our family. 

I doubt we will live to regret it, but had Leo been a few years older and the gap less, the decision may have been different. As it is, I am sad they just get this one year together at the same school, so I am treasuring it and taking way too many photos. 

By the time Leo catches up to high school, Toby will have graduated and I will probably be very, very tired.

7. The gap is what it is and we are lucky.

We did not choose a six and a half year age gap, but life plans are not always possible and so it is what it is and it's all we know.

I love my boys; they love each other and I know that we are very lucky indeed. 

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Laura Jackel is Mamamia's Parenting Writer. For her weekly articles and to see photos of her outfits and kids, follow her on Instagram and TikTok.

Feature Image: Supplied.

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