Our ‘only child’ Toby recently celebrated his sixth birthday and this year we were thrilled to tell him that mummy wasn’t just getting fat due to an over consumption of chocolate, but that I was 14-weeks pregnant and he would soon, all being well, become a big brother.
Prior to this pregnancy passing the first trimester milestone, I was a nauseous ball of nerves as we had experienced three precious pregnancies that ended in the pain and sorrow of miscarriage.
After many years of shattered hopes and my 40th birthday looming not that far in the distance, we decided we would give baby-making one more try. Our final attempt miraculously worked and even though it has been a stressful few months, we are now starting to come to terms with the fact that six years after our first, we are finally going to have another baby!
As we experienced so much heartache in our attempt to make baby number two, a big age gap was last on my list of things to worry about, but once this pregnancy began to look like it might succeed, I began googling and searching for articles about bigger age gaps between kids.
The more I read, the more affronted I felt by the amount of articles that focused on finding the ‘perfect’ age gap or the pros and cons of spacing your kids close together or far apart. As if deciding when to schedule in babies was similar to simply choosing a holiday destination or a pair of shoes.
And it wasn’t just the articles; one person’s first question after their statement of congratulations to me was the cheeky question “so, was it planned?” Something I don’t expect parents of kids spaced neatly at two or three years would be asked.
Recently a friend of mine who has two children, a six and a four-year-old, told me how happy she was that her family was complete and that she would not have to revisit any of those crazy, sleep deprived baby days.
While thinking ‘Oh God, that will be me,’ I totally understood what she meant and the huge appeal of having children close together. Whether it is about getting those baby years done and dusted, or to create a much-loved playmate for the eldest, it makes a lot of practical sense. I had a very happy childhood as part of a family of four with a sister just two and a half years younger, and I had hoped to be able to replicate this set-up for us but it was not meant to be. Certainly if we had not had our succession of miscarriages, we too would have completed our family long ago.
I spoke to Sarah, a mum from Newcastle who has two children, a 14-year-old girl and a one-year-old boy. She said that while people were mostly positive and understanding, it wasn’t until they were provided with an explanation of her fertility struggles with IVF that they turned the curiosity level down a notch.
“As the age gap is so big, people have asked me if it is because I have a new spouse or partner, which is not the case. Also as my oldest is now in her teens people stare and whisper when she is at the park with the baby as they assume she is his teenage mum and she feels very ‘judged’.”
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Having kids close in age doesn’t guarantee that they will get on well either or that your family will be "perfect". As Sarah points out, “I have a fantastic built in babysitter thanks to my teenage daughter and I have been able to enjoy quality one-on-one time with them both along the way. They love each other and there is no sibling rivalry so the gap, although unintentional, is actually pretty awesome.”
Big age gaps or small age gaps - ultimately it means very little when you love your kids and celebrate your own family, however it is made up.
I for one am so excited about welcoming a new little person into our lives and while there are positives and negatives to a six-year age gap, it will be all our little family will ever know, making it seem just perfect to us.