What’s the ideal age space between two babies?
This is a question I never really asked myself because I wanted to enjoy every single moment with my daughter. All my friends were planning their second baby by the time the first was going to pre-school.
I couldn’t settle myself to this common idea of a 3-year gap between babies. Having close pregnancies were not something I was very appealed to either.
When my daughter reached 4, I began having the desire of being pregnant again, to feel a baby grow inside me once again and one last time (I was reaching 35). My daughter seemed alone without another toddler playing around.
She had lots of friends to play with but, no brother or sister with whom she could develop specific relationships.
My husband was clearly fine with one kid, all the baby challenges like diapers, sleepless nights, teething, naps, etc. were history. We could (well in fact, we totally were) live a “normal” life like the one we had as a couple without kids.
Nights out, trips, museum, shopping, she was able to adapt anytime, anywhere.
So, why should we take the risk to trouble our very nice balanced life?
Because, I needed it and I didn’t want my daughter to the only child! I felt it deep inside of me that it was the right moment to welcome a new baby in our family. And yes, both would have a 5 years and 3months age gap. And, after a daughter, I had a boy.
So, what? It was going to be just (almost) perfect!
Here’s what worked for us.
1. Forget All You Know
I don’t know if it was the same for you but, before my first baby, I had strong principles I wouldn’t sway from like no pacifiers, never sleeping in my bed, etc. Of course, all these principles faded the minute she was born with her in my bed at the hospital (here in France, some maternity wards allow you to do co-sleeping right after giving birth) and a pacifier was in her mouth – she was less than a week old.
For the first child, you learn everything and develop your parent skills as the same pace and time as your baby.
Of course, for your second baby, you think you’re armed because you’ve already been through it all.
You know what?
Forget all you know!
You do it all over again, just like the first time.
Because, it’s not the same baby. You are 5 years older and your patience, practice, worries have transformed to something totally different.
You have a toddler who, even though she’s independent still needs her parents’ care, love and time. And of course, your second baby hasn’t got the same needs, doesn’t develop the same infant illnesses, etc.
With my baby boy, me and my husband had to rediscover it all, the hard way.
2. It’s Time for You to Be Flexible
Perfection isn’t on your schedule and will never be. Since your kids are 5 years apart, they don’t have the same needs, activities, priorities.
This is why if during the day, you’re alone at home and you need to drive your first child to school or a sport training, you certainly will disturb your baby’s nap or feeding rhythm.
Your second baby will never be an only child and he will consequently live a different early childhood. You need to adapt to both of them. You have to consider each separately and together at the same time.
This is art!
3. Your Older Kid Isn’t a Third Parent But He/She’s a Great Help
Though a wide age gap between siblings, they can develop a wonderful relationship. Yes, they can play long times together, laugh a lot, cuddle and be cheeky while they make fun of you. This helps a lot in the different stages of development for both of them. Motor functions and language for one and, patience and understanding for the other.
During these times, it gives you time to breathe and do the things you need to do. And, you can enjoy watching them build a strong bond.
Of course, your oldest can’t and doesn’t have to replace you even when you’re not in the same room.
However, older ones like ordering around their little siblings and do like Mommy. This is why you absolutely need to teach your oldest to play with his/her little brother/sister in a safe environment. All responsibility is still on you even if one of them gets hurt by falling from his bike.
4. Plan One-on-One Time With Them All
It is certainly one thing easy to say but not as easy to do. Days don’t extend and for your sanity, you need to rest.
Of course, you won’t be able to do it every day, but try once a week or twice a month to plan an activity alone with each kid. If you have a baby, you obviously have one-on-one moments with him. If like mine, they’re more grown up, plan separate activities with each one and according to the age of your kids.
This time must be quality time.
Your kid will remember specific moments – not that you took one afternoon off to be with him/her doing nothing. This doesn’t have to be expensive or extraordinary. Kids love simple things such as baking, going to the swimming pool or going for a walk in the forest and finding beautiful leaves or wood sticks to create something with that.
Remember the title of this tip?
When I say “with them all,” I also mean one-on-one time with your hubby. Sure, he’s not a kid (sometimes, hubbies are a little bit kids 😉 but for him, for you, for you as a couple, you have to plan these.
I remember when we only had our daughter, it was really hard for me to let her go. She didn’t sleep at night when left at the grand-parents so we had to drop her off before 3. So, our dates, as a couple, were planned during the day when she was with her nanny or with a granny. Nights were out of question.
I don’t know and don’t care. But, today with two, I let go more easily.
Our personal situation is a bit different now since we don’t have close family around us anymore.
So, they go on holiday during school breaks for one week (in France, we have 2 weeks school breaks every 6 or 8 weeks) at their grand-parents.’ During this week, we have a couple nights, enjoy our time together (and miss them, and talk about them). In the end, this is good for all of us.
5. No Matter How Wide the Age Gap is, Teach Them the Same Values
The age difference between children should not mean different values. Though, it is very hard to raise them equally, especially between two siblings with a big age gap for various reasons:
- different person
- different characters
- different development
- different place to grow
- different needs
- different environment
- as a parent, you got older in between
- society evolves and what was popular for your first isn’t anymore for your second
And so many more reasons you can’t raise them the same
However, some core values must remain the same no matter the differences:
And whatever your family holds as a core value.
Those values will help when they fight, when they disagree and when you have to take action concerning their behavior.
Teach them to say sorry to one another, teach them to understand and repair when they make a mistake, teach them to help the other one when he faces difficulty, etc.
They create a strong bond when they play together and share brother and sister moments but they also build something stronger through those values.
Finally, my kids developed a deep and strong relationship.
They need each other to live in harmony. As a mother, I had the chance to live and breathe by my daughter a little more than five years.
And today, I have a deep and unique relationship with my (still) baby boy, a typical mother-son relationship. So, a wide age gap has been the right solution for me and my family.
Over to you – what’s your advice to parents who will welcome a kid with a wide age gap from your first?