Five months, or five years apart – is one interval better than the other? Ask this question to Carousel Design’s technology team, and they feel the ideal spacing between children is two to three miles. 🙂 The answer of course, is, it depends. There are pros and cons to any situation, but if you do have the opportunity to influence the spacing of when your children are born, here are a few considerations to factor when making your decision:
Spacing them close together.
An obvious pro is that if people see you carting around 3 kids under four years old, you will immediately gain their respect, and possibly their pity. Also, without this type of back-to-back mentality, the world may never have seen such great musical groups such as the Jacksons, the Osmonds, and more recently the Jonas brothers.
But beyond these benefits, having children close together can consolidate “baby mode” – when you are set up for diapers, baby-proofing and are already adjusted to “baby time.” For you Economics majors out there, think economies of scale, or work force specialization. Furthermore, if children are close together, there’s less time required to adapt and adjust to the new family situation. My daughter doesn’t remember life as an only child without her slightly younger brother, and my son does remember being the baby of the family when our third arrived when he was 20 months old.
But best of all, in my opinion, is that children who are close in age may have similar interests and be natural playmates. Even though they could also fight over the same toys, the times when they play nicely together is both charming and a welcome break for mom and dad.
Having had three kids under four years old, I can tell you there is not much time for your body to recover. There are some health implications to this, and according to the Journal of the American Medical Association, it makes good sense for a woman to let her body recover (at least 6 months) and replenish lost nutrients after having a baby.
It’s also hard for your body to recover when you feel like you’re in a constant state of near exhaustion. Children in the first three years of life have relatively high needs for attention and care. Both baby and toddler stages require high levels of supervision and often entail round the clock responsibilities. If you have multiple children in these stages, there is likely to be a pretty constant, sometimes overwhelming need for adult care. Parents may feel they are missing the chance to really enjoy each child as an individual.
Spacing the children farther apart.
Even though you are probably still exhausted regardless of how old or how far apart your kids are, having them spaced farther apart may allow you more one on one time, and allow you to enjoy and get to know one child before the arrival of another. Also, you get a little more “me” time, to get to rediscover and know yourself before you become absorbed in the care of a newborn. And getting your body “back” before going through pregnancy again is a nice perk.
Also, don’t discount having a Little Helper in your older child who may be better able do some basic chores, grab the occasional diaper for you, or keep an eye on the baby while you take a shower (for much older siblings). Your older children can also be a good playmate to the younger one, teaching them how to play some of the games or use the toys they experienced years earlier. This can even help your older kids develop a sense of being a “nurturer” to someone younger.
With various ages, schedules can become harder to juggle, as your kids might attend different schools, have different activities, or different needs. A baby’s naptime can make it hard to get the older child to soccer practice. Your kids may also have differing interests, as the younger wants to watch Barney and play in the park while the older wants to watch Nickelodeon and play with their friends.
Older children may also have a hard time adjusting to the new family situation. A child who has been an only child for years may like the way things are and may not be ready for the major adjustment of a new sibling.
Making the choice about spacing siblings in a family is a very personal decision. The beauty and the challenge of it is that, even if you take all the necessary factors into consideration, there are many things about the decision that you don’t get to control. Maybe because we are so adaptive, we find that the joy and satisfaction we experience with the arrival of another child totally eclipses any “cons.” Despite any planning, or the weighing of one benefit over the other, the result – however it transpired – wound up being best for you.