My husband and I have the exact same spacing in our families.
The first two are a 3 year age gap, the third child came 6 years later meaning a 9 year age gap from first to third. I was the first in my family and my husband was the third.
From our own childhood, we knew every age gap would give a different experience. We took a hard look at what we wanted to gain from parenthood and the sibling relationship we wanted to foster. We knew we wanted to have our kids 2 years apart.
And yes, I know (and you should too) that no matter what age gap you have, you will be happy and love your children. However, I am writing this to tell you why we went with a 2 year age gap to give you food for thought because this is a decision that you have “some” control over since you decide when you start trying.
So, if you are trying to decide if you want to try for your baby this year or next year or you want someone to the devil’s advocate for you, here are my reasons and I share them so you can contemplate and decide what is best for you and your family.
They have a chance of having recess together
Lunch and recess at most schools includes 2-3 grades. I know that by having kids 2 years apart, specifically 2 grades apart, then they are going to be able to have some years where they have recess together. I like this for two reasons. I think it gives them a chance to have a common friend circle and also be better friends.
The other reason is that I now have an extra pair of eyes on each child. I can’t be there all the time. If my child decides to not tell me they are being bullied at school, then their sibling might. At least, if I know something is up with one, then I can ask the other.
If you are lucky, you might even be able to space your kids 2 years apart but only be one grade apart.
Overlapping social circles
I know they could be as different as day and night and have not a single friend in common. However, there is a good chance they will have some friends in common. I think that this could help to protect one of them from bullying. Since having a friend group that will protect you is the number one way to protect your child. I hope that the siblings friend group would also protect the other sibling too.
But another big reason this is a plus for me is that it will help to strengthen both of their social skills. More specifically thought, the one who struggles more socially or is quiet and introverted, will really benefit from being able to tap into the other sibling’s social group.
There is very little chance if they are further than 2 grades apart to have overlapping friends. Or for it to be cool to hang out with their sibling.
They can be the Williams sisters
These tennis pros were born 15 months apart. I guarantee that made a big difference in their career simply because throughout all of childhood they had a great opponent. They were good competition to each other. They didn’t need a friend over to play tennis.
In addition to having great competition by being a similar age, kids can play more easily if they are close in age. They can play the same type of games like chase. Already with a 1 and 3 year old, they can play together. If it was one more year, then it would take longer to play in the same way.
Start looking at your favorite sports stars and you will see a trend of great competition during childhood.
Also, if you have more than two kids, consider that the oldest and youngest will have a very large gap. By spacing as close as possible, you give them all the best shot to play all together.
They will have two years in high school and college together
My brother and I were 3 years apart and that was enough distance to feel worlds apart in high school and college. I was getting ready to leave high school when he was just starting and the same for college.
I knew a lot of siblings who were 2 years apart and I didn’t see that same distance. Instead I saw that their sibling relationship had this unique opportunity during high school and college to turn into an adult relationship.
While this might not be the case for all sibling pairs, by putting them closer in age, it gives them more of a shot because they are in the same phase of life.
Higher chances of same phase of life for all milestones
I don’t think the benefits of having a close age gap stop after they graduate school. In fact, I think the benefits become even more pronounced. They will have a friend for life. Someone who is going through all the same milestones such as young adult, career, marriage and kids.
While I know, people get married and have kids at different times, the closer in age they are the more likely they will overlap. Having adult siblings who are going through the same phases means instant support system and friends especially if they live nearby.
My sister and I are 9 years apart and I thought once we were adults, we would have more in common. However, the age gap is still very much there. I’m having babies while she is in college. We just have nothing to talk about and are worlds apart. She was in my wedding, but it was challenging to include her in the prewedding events because of her age such as a bachelorette party.
I want to be 100% present in every single phases
I would rather overlap the baby phase as much as possible so I can enjoy them and participate more when they are older. Anyone who has had a new baby knows that they are a lot of work that first year. You just won’t be able to participate and be there for your older kids.
You will spend your time nursing, rocking, carrying, diapering the baby instead of being able to be present at the soccer game or the school function, etc. Your schedule will be dictated on baby’s.
We recently went to a lake beach with some friends who have a new baby and a 5 year old. The mom spent most of the time nursing baby and then wearing baby under the umbrella while dad played sandcastles with the 5 year old. If they had spaced their kids closer, the second kid would be old enough to partake in sand castle building. And the mom could have also been able to.
I am not getting any younger
Obviously, having your kids closer in age means you are younger when you have your second but that could really matter.
After I had my first, my body bounced back. After my second, it took me almost twice as long to reach my normal weight and just get back in shape. I can’t image how much worse off I would be if I waited longer. The older you get, the harder pregnancy and postpartum are.
Additionally, once you get to that well know age of 35, your risk factors start to increase. Every year could count on your chances of getting pregnancy, having miscarriages, or any health-related problem for you or baby.
And if you want to space them close, by starting to try after baby hits 1 years old you are leaving room for it to take a while. Let’s say it takes you a year to try. Your kids are now 3 years apart. If you have waited until then to start trying, your kids would be 4 years and so on.
Speaking of age, you will also be younger when they leave the nest
While the idea of my little ones graduating high school seem centuries away, I took in account what age I would be when they did leave the nest. I wanted to be around the same age when they graduated.
Both my husband and I grew up with a large sibling age gap. Therefore, one child get a set of parents who had much more energy and were considerably younger. If you plan on just having two, this might not be so important but if you have more than two, it is something to consider.
I hope to be around for my children’s adult lives and their kids childhoods so once I started having kids, I wanted them to be close in age. Since I am only going to get older.
Less years of the baby phase
Don’t get me wrong, babies are adorable and I love to hold and cuddle them but they are a lot of work. I would rather double up during the little years when I am already stuck at home with a toddler then try to juggle a baby and an older kid.
If you do a close age gap, you get out of the baby phase faster. If you have two kids who are 2 years apart, then you will spend 3 years in the baby phase until your littlest turns 1. If you spaced them 3 years apart, then it would be 4 years. Now let’s say you wanted more than 2 kids. Let’s say you wanted 4 kids. The difference is now 8 years (2-year gaps) vs 12 years (3-year gaps) until your littlest turns 1. That is a considerable amount of time.
If you only want two kids, you might not think a year is a big difference. It’s still a year and let’s put it in perspective. If you space your kids closer and you spend less time in the baby years you spend less years overall
- Storing baby clothing and gear
- Lugging baby stuff around town and on trips
- In the diaper phase
- In the temper tantrum phase
- In the sleep deprivations phase
- In not having your body back and staying the same size phase
Sure, you might end up doing the same number of diapers but my thought process told me I would rather do double diapers for 1-2 years depending on when the toddler potty trained then not overlapping and doing diapers for 1-2 years more overall.
Waiting for the older kid to get easier is a bad reason
First, your older kid probably won’t get easier. Instead, they will become easier in some ways and harder in other ways. However, the littler they are, the more “hard” parenting things they have in common with baby. Parenting a toddler who needs to eat all the time, nap, and wears diapers is hard but if you are already doing that for the toddler, then do it also for baby.
Preschool might not make it easier
There is this mindset that the older the child, the easier it is to care for the next baby. I think some of this thought process comes from the idea that by 3 years, they are in preschool. While that might give you more of a break, it could backfire.
For example, if your baby hates the car and you do drop off and pick up, then you are in for some stressful rides. Pickup and drop off might be during baby’s nap meaning you have to wake baby.
My experience with two at home before preschool
I had my 2 year old and new baby at home with me for the first year. And if we had to keep a schedule such as preschool, that would have been so much more difficult. If we had an off day, we just stayed home. If we got to the library two hours later than planned fine. When we potty trained, we were stuck at home for two weeks which was fine by baby.
If you are a stay at home mom, I think this one can really benefit a sibling relationship. My two were inseparable once the youngest reached 4 months. The oldest loved having her sister there. I really felt it gave her some confidence to have a little sidekick. I think that year of overlapping at home was a special opportunity to start a wonderful sibling relationship.
Overlapping allows you to participate in the toddler phase
It is very easy to go to toddler events with a baby. Most of these events are perfect for a baby actually. And once you baby is a little older, they can also get something from the event as well since it is for toddlers. We did a few paid events like gymnastics for my toddler and my baby can attend for free. By the time my baby was 9 months, she was enjoying the class as well. Most places allow you to bring a baby for free up to 18 months old.
After your toddler turns 3, the class is usually by themselves so you might have to entertain baby in a boring waiting room.
It’s harder to keep a “big” kid schedule
As kids get older, they also start to do more extracurriculars. Now in addition to school, trying to stick to an even tougher schedule and a baby is hard work. And if schedules align and it is a benefit to having one in school, I would say it is a short-lived benefit because they will always be in a different phase of life due to their age gap (more on this in future points).
The point is that instead of being at a soccer game while trying to entertain a toddler on the sidelines, you could be at story time with both kids enjoying the same activity. And so on in elementary school, middle and high school, etc.
They won’t have a memory of being an only child
The kid who is most affected by the baby is the “current” baby. If you have one kid, then that kid will go through an adjustment when baby is born. If you have two, the littler one will need to adjust. One thing I have realized is that the younger the child, the easier they adjust.
First, if you have kids 2 years apart, they won’t have any memory of being an only child. They also will not be able to verbalize how much they hate you or the new baby. My friend’s kids are a 3-year gap and wow, the things her oldest said when baby was born. She wanted them to return him. She told them she didn’t want him to live there. She also told her mom she didn’t like her or the baby.
That was not the case at all with mine. After an initial few months of extra fuss from my oldest, they became friends. She had zero memory of a time before baby was there. The baby became her friend. She always wanted baby to go to everything. She felt more confident with her sidekick around.
They have things in common by 6 months
It was also easier for them to play at a very young age. They started to play together once baby was 6 months. She would do tummy time and read books with baby. She would sing songs to baby. I have yet to see this same bond with kids who have a 3 year gap.
It will just take longer because the littler one needs to be bigger before they start to have stuff in common. Really a 3 year old is on their way out of toddlerhood.
At about 2.5 years old, toddlers want to be big kids. They don’t want to be babies and really don’t want anything to do with babies. When we hit that, our baby was just starting to be a toddler which meant that it was still cool to hang out with. This whole big kid thing was really helpful in potty training by the way.
You won’t have a bored 2-year-old at home
I know some who waited an extra year did so because they wanted to enjoy their two-year-old before they started school. One friend kept complaining that she couldn’t keep her 2-year-old entertained. She wanted to be social.
I can say that I didn’t have this problem at home. Baby was more than enough to keep my toddler entertained. She played doctor with baby. She would set up tea parties. She would dress up baby. Her favorite morning activity was to pick out baby’s outfit. And if she was a year older and in preschool, she wouldn’t have been able to play with baby. I also felt that having baby gave her ways to work on social skills and prep for preschool. We practiced using our words and sharing with baby.
You won’t forget it
You just finished the baby phase. You will never be more of a pro than you are right then. A lot of my friends did the 3-year gap and they are in la la land. One of them was saying that they were thinking of putting the nursery on a different floor than their bedroom. She then said, “I mean they don’t wake up that much right.” I was like oh yeah they do. She has completely forgotten what a newborn is like. They have completely blocked it out. When my second came along, it felt like yesterday that I had had my first.
Vacations and family activities
Just another thing that is easier if they are closer in age. It is easier to plan vacations and family activities if your kids are only 2 years apart and can do the same things. You are also able to find things that everyone can enjoy. Just think, even rides at parks have height requirements so you might not even be able to do the same rides.
Throughout childhood, they will continue to be in the same phase of life
The age gap that you have will never change. They will always be that many years apart. Therefore, if you space them farther apart, the phase of life each kid will be in is farther apart.
When you space them closer, they are more likely to be at the same level and skill. They are more likely to be into the same things, even if they are opposite gender. Here are the big advantages I see throughout childhood on a 2-year age gap.
Pursue your family Today
Families come in all shapes and sizes. No matter what you decide your family will be perfect in its own way. There are plenty of pros and cons for every age gap but for us, we felt that having kids 2 years apart was perfect for us.
Our biggest reason was that we wanted to them to have a friend for life. Someone that they could play with as soon as possible. Someone who could have their back in school and be their competition in extracurriculars.
We wanted them to be able to be friends as adults and go through milestones together. We wanted to give them the best chance of being strong friends once we are gone, they will have each other.