Thinking about baby number two or three? These true parenting stories about raising two kids of different ages may help you decide.
At a recent concert in Nashville,
Adele announced that she is starting to yearn for a second child
: a little sibling for her young son, Angelo, who will soon be turning four. The British singer, who took a few years off touring to enjoy parenting her child, confided to the crowd (and therefore the rest of the world) that with Angelo growing, “I’m starting to get very emotional about it because I feel like once they turn four, they’re not really your actual baby anymore.” She added, ”
So my womb is starting to ache a little bit. It’s like, ‘Baby, baby, baby. Need a baby, need a baby.'” But Adele is in the middle of a grueling tour schedule so she says she cannot contemplate baby number two “before the end of the tour.”
Adele’s “womb ache” might be familiar to many other moms, whether it comes two weeks after delivering a first child or five years … or more! I remember when my eldest son was about one month old. Even though I had a newborn baby, I was missing my bump and those familiar kicks; I’d look down at my shriveled stomach and feel something akin to a sense of loss. The unique closeness I had felt with my son when he was totally dependent on me had disappeared. Of course, he still
me in many respects, but now he was out and about sharing his powerful lungs with the rest of the world.
So when I fell pregnant seven months later I was filled with content … and a slightly larger tummy. Nine months after that, on my birthday, I gave birth to my daughter. (Best present ever! Even if it took some serious unwrapping.) But strangely that baby belly nostalgia didn’t return—possibly because I was too busy wondering which baby needed feeding!
But there’s no rule for how you’ll feel. Some moms might be quite fulfilled with just one perfect little bundle, while there are others who crave a half-dozen. Others still would love another baby but for some reason are not able to conceive again, who
, or would-be moms who can’t give birth at all. But if you are in the position of planning for a second baby you might have been
reading up on when is the best moment to have another child
. The truth is who
knows when the best time is exactly? We can only look around and see what other friends or family members experienced. Like Adele, it’s a personal family question we must reflect on.
But to help you think about your own family additions, we asked some moms and dads who went on to have a second children (or more than that, too!) to share their experiences with the second sibling gap. Here’s how it worked for them.
The very close sibling
I was at school with two sisters who were in the same year: one was born in September and her younger sister came along the following August. Although they weren’t twins they were incredibly close and looked almost identical despite the age gap. I remember how their mother always talked about how she’d been delighted to have these two close in age to get the diapers finally out of the way. (She had six older children, so looking back I can see how getting the last two through potty training must have felt like quite a feat!)
Yet diapers are a common theme among women who have their babies close in age, wanting to get that messy stage out of the way pronto, rather than having to start all over again a two-plus years later. But there are other advantages too. Fiona Campbell who has a 15 month gap between her son and daughter said that she thinks,
“being close in age means the things they want to do, see, and watch are all similar. We don’t have instances where an activity isn’t age appropriate for them both (or very rarely). It also meant the whole diaper, puking, not sleeping stage was not drawn out more than it needed to be!”
|Sometimes I do look back and think: Should I have stopped to enjoy my eldest more before rushing to have the next? And then I think,|
but then I wouldn’t have my daughter!
And yes, personally, my eldest two with their 18-month age gap are incredibly close—although now teens they spend more time irritating each other! But what was great about having them so close together is that I was never really out of the baby zone and I think that geared me up for the sleepless nights. I also felt that as I didn’t have an only child for long there wasn’t much opportunity for my eldest to become jealous of the new arrival when she made her appearance. However, sometimes I do look back and think: should I have stopped to enjoy my eldest more before rushing to have the next? And then I think
but then I wouldn’t have my daughter
! So that’s just silly, and I’ve loved watching them grow together.”
Still, having siblings who are close in age doesn’t just impact the mother and the future big brother or sister. Petrina da Costa, mom of two, has a 14-month age gap between her daughter and son. She recalls telling her husband that she thought she might be pregnant again and his immediate response was, “You’d better not be! How will we survive?” Of course, there was some humor in that, but the fear and financial responsibility is a legitimate thing to think about. There’s no denying that having one baby is a huge adjustment, and having a second close after can be challenging for parents. As da Costa says, ”
breastfeeding was difficult because Marley was learning to stand and walk, thus falling over and crying all the time and looking to me for comfort, but I had a baby glued to me and didn’t want to disturb the breastfeeding session. That part was tough.”
MORE TO READ: Am I being greedy for wanting a 5th baby?
And tough as just the day to day child care is, it may also be hard to carve out time with your hubby, which is important, too. So try leaning on each other and don’t be afraid to ask family members for help in those early stages. Don’t expect your home to be immaculate with two little ones so close together. Instead many moms say to embrace the chaos—because let’s face it, it
chaos—and enjoy these precious first years. Bonus: those maternity clothes and baby equipment will be put to good use pretty quickly so don’t bother packing them away! And, as da Costa notes, ”
a big plus was never having to hear people ask, “So … when’s the second one coming?”
The not-so-terrible twos
It’s quite common for parents to consider having baby number two once the first born is more settled, toddling along, beginning to say a few words, and for some lucky moms, is potty trained. And although you might suspect that a bit of sibling rivalry could sneak into the family dynamic when kids are about two years apart, a lot of moms actually say they’ve experienced the opposite: siblings bolstering one another instead.
Sinead Roberts, mom of two boys with a 24-month gap, actually found her eldest became a little mentor for her baby. “A m
ajor plus is that Huwie has just potty trained Ned for me.
e also taught his brother how to ride his scooter and balance a bike. The imaginative independent small world play came so much quicker with Ned, as he just copied Huwie.”
This same type of sibling companionship was reaffirmed by Laura Mulvey, mom of two with a 21-month age gap, believing “i
t’s an ideal age gap because they have never really been without each other (in their eyes) they get on really well and miss each other if one’s not around. They learn how to share and treat each other kindly from an early age, they have a special connection and bond which will always be there.”
|Having two kids who are are at different levels of energy at different times of day (say, the toddler keeps you running after him all day, and the new baby keeps you up all night) can be enough to start pulling your hair out.”|
And that childhood sibling dynamic seems to stick around into adulthood. Reva Cotter, a mom to two young adults who were born roughly 2 years apart, says, ”
although it is more work when they were both little, as they aged it was so much easier to do things as a family. Even now, as young adults, they are very supportive of one another. It’s so fun to be all together, even traveling as a family is easy
However, mom of three, Torie Chetwood, would remind mothers that there is a certain level of impracticality when it comes to the two year gap. With her own sons, she says it was hard
“because George [the older child] had given up naps, so I never had a break.” Having two kids who are are at different levels of energy at different times of day (say, the toddler keeps you running after him all day, and the new baby keeps you up all night) can be enough to start pulling your hair out. But she does say that “if I had left it until George was older than two to get pregnant again I wouldn’t have bothered.” By then, she says he had entered that often tricky toddler phase, but luckily she describes him as “the easiest child now!”
Thriving at three
By leaving three years to add an extra babe to the family, your eldest child will be a lot more independent. Laura Maddock has a three and a half year age gap between her children. She finds it
“brilliant. My older one is more independent and goes to pre-school so I have one-on-one time with baby. The older one also can understand things a lot better … for example why he needs to wait for things. My two children are also best buddies.”
Megan Sherman, mum of two, agrees, saying her daughter “was a bit more emotionally mature and understanding of having a baby around. She was also a lot more physically independent so, for example, she didn’t need lifting into the car, which helped with my bad back in pregnancy. They still play really nicely together and have that sibling connection already.”
Four and more
Some moms worry that by leaving a gap of more than four years between their first babies that the children might not foster a close relationship, or it might be hard on the parents because you just got far enough out of the baby groove. (And maybe even got rid of all those potential hand-me-downs!) Other moms, though, would argue that having an eldest by four years can bring a new level of maturity for their younger sibling to look up to. And with the eldest in some form of regular education there’s more chance of mommy and baby time. But it’s interesting to see how the sibling relationship grows over time.
|“I admire women who can have children really close in age and manage, but personally, it takes me a few years to have enough one-on-one time with my baby before having another.”|
Melanie Leonardi, mom to two young boys with four years apart believes, ”
the age difference is not really what defines bonding or competition, it’s more a personality thing. Four years is close enough to have the same interests (games, sports, movies … ) but I try to really let them build their own tastes and personality on their own as well. I try not to let them be compared to the other one, which, I think can be difficult when siblings are really close in age.” And in fact Leonardi believes that having those separate interests not only helps define her boys as individuals, but allows them each to bring something unique to share with the other, and makes them less competitive as siblings.
Leonardi also says that having kids close together in age wouldn’t have worked for her: ”
I admire women who can have children really close in age and manage … personally, it takes me a few years to have enough one-on-one time with my baby, to recover from the sleepless nights, to find a good balance in my married life, social life, work, and being a mommy.”
And top marks go to James Grant, loving husband to his Czech wife Tereza and dad to two young boys with five years difference between them.
He says there is “zero jealousy, and Ollie (the eldest) is old enough to be both caring and protective. Yes, they fight like cats in a bag, but that’s normal. He’s old enough to help out as well, albeit it little and seldom, but there is capacity there.” And thinking of his wife, he says that if they had had their kids closer together in age they might not be living where they are now, Australia. Instead, they might be living back with Tereza’s family for her to have more support.
There are pros and cons to having your second child at all the different stages—it all depends on what’s going on in your lives as parents right now, and what you feel in your gut. Having had three of my own “surprises,” with just my second planned … my motto is to just go with the flow!
As Peggy Robinson, mom of two young boys so expertly sums up, ”
I think whatever you get works best!” As we nurture our children we just have to hope that we raise them to love each other, and be loved. And as siblings they are stuck together for life. And what a blessing that truly is.
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