I’ve always been an advocate for big age gaps but now that I have a toddler, a preschooler and an almost-tween, I’m finding the juggle a bit tricky.
The age gap conundrum is one that always sparks passionate conversation. You don’t give age gaps much thought when your firstborn comes along but then as soon as you turn up to mother’s group or get together with friends, the discussion is imminent. When will you have another one?
It’s a hot topic and everyone has an opinion.
My three children are spread our over seven-and-a-half years. Our first was a beautiful surprise (a mere five months after we met) and the second and third were carefully planned. To be honest with you, I really needed a period of independence after weaning till I fell pregnant again. I needed to regain some energy and spend some time nurturing my self – for everyone’s sake (funnily enough, Chinese Medicine believes that the ideal period between birth and the next conception is three years). By doing so, I’ve been able to grow my career alongside mothering children. Frankly, I’m not sure I would have been able to do this if I had smaller age gaps.
READ MORE: The Pros and Cons of Small Age Gaps
But it’s only in the past six or so months that I’ve come to realise the challenge of big age gaps. And as I look ahead to the tween and teen years I can see that juggle getting more complicated.
The challenge is changing nappies one minute, discussing playground rivalry the next and meeting the needs of the singing, dancing preschooler who is in the middle, pushing buttons and trying to find her place. The challenge is little to no day sleeps for the baby who is always roused from slumber when school pick-up calls. The challenge is keeping the baby entertained in the car when the big kids go to afternoon activities. The challenge is knowing that my firstborn will start high school the same year that my youngest will start school (where are all the tissues?!).
But amidst the challenge there is the good, too. And it’s so good that it stops me in my tracks – a blatant reminder to be grateful. Like when I look over and see my sweet baby curled in the lap of his big brother. Or when my daughter is carrying my baby from room to room, playing a game of make-believe. Or when I realise that the younger ones will always have someone to read them a story, regardless of how busy or distracted I am. And in the midst of it all, I recognise that my older children are stepping up, learning life-long skills, understanding what responsibility and care really is.
I don’t think there is ever a perfect age gap. While we may harbour plans and desires for what our ideal family may look like, we all know that babies come when they’re ready, and not necessarily when we want them to. Much is beyond our control! And regardless of the gaps, the challenges will ebb and flow as our children grow. It’s part and parcel of family life – the slow seasons, the busy ones, the mucky nappy years and the relentless taxi-driving demands that come with teens.
I’ve found much solace and comfort in seeking the advice of mothers with older children – those who are currently balancing the school kid and teenage demands, those with newborns and uni students who have just left the nest (really!). And when I write about these demands I am always amazed at the response from other mothers – words of support and solidarity that reinforce that we are all in this together. Motherhood, after all, is a collective experience.
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More on raising kids:
- Should We, or Shouldn’t We, Have Baby #3?
- 21 Secrets to Raising Children Who Dream Big
- 10 Things I Do at Night to Make the Mornings Hurt Less
Images: Jodi Wilson