If you’re thinking of having more than one child, a big decision to consider is how big of an age gap to leave between your children.
There are a number of reasons why families decided to leave longer gaps of time between having children including postpartum recovery, money issues, stress, or fear of not giving enough attention to your first born.
But, many others decide to have their babies close in age so their children can grow up to have a really close bond with their siblings and develop together over a similar timeframe.
If you’re unsure whether you want to leave a big gap between your children’s ages or not, we’ve shared some pros and cons to having smaller and larger age gaps to help you out.
Firstly, what is considered a small or large age gap? It really depends on cultural and personal beliefs, but most commonly, a small age gap would be less than two years between your children, a medium age gap would be two to four years between them and a longer age gap would be anything over four years.
Pros of small age gaps
Convenience: It can be more practical to have children of a similar age for some parents as they will be experiencing different aspects of life at the same time. For example, you can get the ‘terrible twos’ over and done with together, they will probably have the same pick-up times from school and they’ll have more common hobbies that you can take them to together.
Support: As your children grow up, they will have each other to go to for help, advice or a listening ear if they have any challenges in life as they will probably be going through similar things at similar times. Eg. exam stress, relationship advice, peer pressure.
Partner in crime: They will always have someone to play with and share similar interests with in terms of TV shows, characters and books. Growing up with only a short period of time between their ages means they will have a companion for life.
Cons of small age gaps
Sibling rivalry: Introducing a new baby when you have a toddler may mean the older sibling will have feelings of jealousy. As they get older they may feel more competitive and have a rivalry between each other as they may compare themselves to one another.
Stress: Having a toddler or younger baby is stressful and adding a newborn into the mix can add extra worry and exhaustion for parents. Each child will be reliant on the parents, meaning Mum and Dad are stretched not only physically but mentally between the young children.
Less independence: Growing up with a sibling of a similar age may mean they spend less time with other children when at playgroup or school as they are so used to each other's company. Socialising with others may be more difficult for them as they are used to relying on each other.
Pros of large age gaps
Independent: A larger age gaps between children may mean they become more independent as they have more of their parent’s attention and time to figure out what their own personality and interests are without the influence of another child.
Hand-me-downs: If you purposefully plan to have a large age gap, you can hold onto your older child’s baby items and keep them for your younger child. Some items will need to be checked to make sure they are up to date with baby safety regulations but clothes and certain toys can be stored away to save on money.
Helping hand: An older sibling can help with chores and babysitting when the younger sibling arrives. They will also be there as a role model figure when their younger sibling needs someone to look up to or to ask advice from.
Cons of large age gaps
Less in common: Age gap siblings can have less in common due to changing trends, TV shows and technology. This can possibly lead to a more distant relationship as they go through life at such different times. For example, a younger child begins secondary school while an older sibling moves out to start college.
Exhaustion: To keep equal and shared attention on both children you will be helping them both as they develop individually, which means you could be trying to wean a baby while helping your much older child with homework on top of other duties. Picking up a teenager from a disco at night can be tiring when you have a teething little one to care for too so you may feel overwhelmed by the very different needs of your children.
Refresh baby knowledge: Safety standards and regulations are constantly changing so what was considered okay for your first-born may have changed by the time you welcome a second child into the world. You will have to re-learn certain things and rejig your memory for others if there are multiple years between your children.