I’m often on mom forums on my smart phone while I rock my four-month-old back and forth. I notice one topic floating around almost daily in my various groups. It’s a question many parents ponder as they think about planning their family:
What is the ideal age gap between siblings?
I asked my mom friends about their experiences to help you as you think about your family’s future. Here’s what they said:
1 year to 18 months apart
Pros: Moms and dads are still are in the baby mindset as diapers, baby gear, and naps schedules are still on your radar.
Cons: It’s basically like having two babies! You’ll have two in diapers, two needing cribs– two small people who’re very dependent on you for their needs! I hear repeatedly that the first year is hard, but once they both are a little older it is rewarding, and their bond is a uniquely close one, similar to that of twins.
2 years apart
Pros: Having two years between children is similar to the one year age gap in that it is almost like having two babies at once, but a two-year-old quickly becomes more independent. The baby phase wasn’t too long ago, so it’s easier to get back into the groove. The kids will have similar interests in toys and activities, making day trips and playdates easy. The bond between these two will be tight, and makes it worth every frustrating moment!
Cons: You’ll be going the terrible two tantrums, plus having a baby in your arms. Enough said. Having two kids two years apart is a juggling act.
3-4 years apart
Pros: Potty trained! By this age, your older kids are usually sleeping through the night, old enough to go to a preschool program to give you time one-on-one time with the baby, are more independent in daily tasks like getting dressed, and can be a sweet helper.
Cons: The attitude! Jealousy tends to be more noticeable since they were the only child for longer.
Pros: Your older child is even more independent, and a happy helper when mama needs a minute. My six-year-old is the best at making faces at the baby to keep her happy in the car. As a bonus, your older child is in school part of the day so you’ll get more one-on-one time with your baby.
Cons: Many moms say the bond seems to be not as close between kids with five or more years between them, because their interests are so far apart due to age. Also, it could be more of an adjustment for parents as the baby days and sleepless nights feel like long ago.
Pros: Older children are more independent and make great helpers. You’ll have a built-in babysitter who is more mature and patient while you tend to the new baby’s needs. Younger children look up to their siblings and learn a lot from them.
Cons: Moms say it feels like starting over and parenting two different generations. The oldest may resent the extra responsibilities expected of them and the attention given to the cute little one. They tend not to be close playmates since they have drastically different interests and activities. Dragging a fifth grader to a museum made for toddlers is like pulling teeth! Moms also report feeling like they have to run all over the place with different schools and activities.
Personally? My first two children are spaced the furthest apart at three and a half years, while my subsequent four are all two years apart. Literally– they all have January and February birthdays! Though we didn’t plan for them to be this close in age, nor for them to have birthdays so near one another, it’s what we were given. The two year age gap has worked well for us, and I do prefer having them closer together, compared to the three year age gap. I am ten and thirteen years older than my siblings and I always wished we were closer– both in age and in emotional connection– so that drove me to want my own children to be much closer in age to one another.
However, I don’t think there is a magical age that makes for the best sibling spacing. Each age gap has pros and cons, and you will make the best of it for your own family. I’d suggest thinking about your family’s priorities, like the following:
- Do you really hope to nourish your littles ones to have close relationships with each other as they grow?
Is your biological clock ticking?
Are you wanting time between pregnancies to get back into shape and recover?
Do you not want to deal with two kids in diapers?
Would you prefer the oldest to be in kindergarten before having another child?
Do you have a goal you’d like to accomplish before getting pregnant again?
Whether it’s nature that decides the gap or you’re able to purposely plan your family out, you truthfully can’t go wrong. So don’t overthink it! Enjoy what’s given to you and roll with it. That’s pretty much what parenting is all about at any given moment anyway– planning the best we can, but making the most of our days when those plans go astray.