If you knew me and my husband you would know that we didn’t exactly meticulously plan out when we were going to have our children. If we had, we may be considerably better off financially (because of visas we were on and working arrangements at the time). At the age of 33, I was diagnosed with PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) and given a rather gloomy prognosis from the specialist. He informed me that it could take as long as 10 years for someone with my condition to conceive and well…it might never happen.
I was devastated and left the clinic in tears. The one thing I’d always been absolute on was my desire to have a family.
I should point out that not only had my husband (who was my boyfriend at the time) and I been together for a relatively short time, we had also only recently relocated to Australia from the UK. Therefore, whilst financially and practically it may not have been the best time to try for a family, none of that mattered to us.
Within 2 weeks of the appointment I was pregnant. I didn’t believe it at first. Even though the DR confirmed it, I did my own test again just to be sure. I needed to see those two red lines myself. And there it was…I was indeed pregnant.
After my first child was born I knew immediately that if I was able to I would like to try for another. Despite how easily I conceived the first time I felt anxious that my PCOS would prevent it from happening. What if it was a fluke? What if my PCOS had deteriorated? Once again we decided to try a little sooner than we may have planned to, just in case it took longer. Within a couple of weeks…I was pregnant again.
Therefore the gap between our two girls is eighteen months. As you can see we didn’t exactly plan this age gap out. unlike many of my friends who planned exactly when they were having all of their children in accordance with maternity benefits and personal preferences regarding age gaps. We weren’t prepared to risk waiting and that was the only real planning we did – planning not to wait.
Now that one of our daughters is three and a half and the other nearly two, they are looking more alike and almost the same size, in fact they often get mistaken for twins. The questions I’m often asked are – ‘what’s the age gap like?’ and ‘would you recommend it?’
An eighteen month old and a new-born
In the beginning, having an eighteen month old and a new-born was essentially like having two babies. I remember speaking to a lady with twins at the time. She was convinced the eighteen month gap would be harder than twins. I had assumed having twins would be. She had two lots of breast feeds/bottle feeds to cope with, potentially two screaming babies, two lots of new-born regular waking episodes and I’m sure lots of other x two’s. However she explained to me that twins are at least at the same stage at the same time. She felt that having two children at entirely different developmental stages, would be harder to manage. I can confirm it has certainly had its challenges (as I’m sure having twins does).
With an eighteen month old and a new-born there are:
- 2 lots of nappy changes
- 2 that require lots of picking up
- 2 not talking
- 2 with very different sleep routines
- 2 that can’t be left together even for a second without supervision
As they got older I noticed a huge difference when the eldest was around two and a half onwards. She was talking fluently, walking independently most of the time, fully toilet trained, I could relax a little more leaving her for a second with the baby, she didn’t need so much sleep in the day so could fit around the babies needs but most importantly it was from around two and a half to three years old that she started to be able to assist me. Passing me nappies and wipes, helping me teach her younger sister and having less melt-downs about sharing my time and attention. (I don’t mean she stopped having tantrums by the way. She didn’t turn into some perfect toddler/threenager – far from it! But when it came to her sister she was better).
I remember saying to a friend a while ago who has a four-year gap between her children “that must be the perfect age gap”. The four year old is off day sleeps, generally excited and keen to help with a younger sibling and they require much less in terms of nappy changes, toilet training and attention. They actually will watch something on television now and again (whoops). However, my friend pointed out something to me that I hadn’t considered. She said that she was worried her eldest had been on her own so long she wouldn’t cope very well having a younger sibling. The change would be huge whereas my eldest had almost always only known having a younger sibling. She also said that the thought of sleepless nights seemed harder to accept after having managed to get sleep back in her life. Therefore there is an argument to say you might as well get the sleep deprivation covered off in one go rather than letting yourself get used to unbroken sleep and evenings out again.
As it turns out I think my friend’s four-year old actually did cope well with the arrival of her younger sibling. Perhaps her maturity at four years of age prevented too much jealousy. And I do think that managing day-to-day must have been easier with a child who was more independent.
A three and a half-year old and a nearly two-year old
- 2 x tantrums, demands, mummy I want that one
- 2 x I want what she has therefore we must to have 2 of everything
- 2 x shouts of I wanna do it, I wanna do it
Whilst they can fit into the same clothes they don’t want to share clothes. They are both very clear on that point.
One may be all dressed up ready to go out but if the other refuses to wear a coat or jumper the other will proceed to take theirs off. I’m not sure how big the age gap would need to be to prevent them from copying each other.
Despite those things, on the whole, I‘m really seeing the benefits of them being so close in age. They are generally best buddies, playing together well and showing each other lots of love and affection. As the youngest is becoming increasingly independent she is certainly exerting her authority over her older sister which is an interesting dynamic to their relationship so watch this space. I hope they remain best friends!
So what is the perfect age gap?
Unfortunately, in answer to the question ‘what is the perfect age gap?’ I don’t believe there is a definitive answer. Different age gaps appear to have pros and cons which vary depending on the ages of the children. More importantly, the fact that all children are so different, makes it impossible to compare.