Monday, January 18, 2010

Child Spacing

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I have gotten several questions over the years about my thoughts on spacing between children. Several people have asked for a post on here it is! So the questions is, what is the best spacing for your children?

The answer is, you have to figure that out! I don't think there is one right spacing for every family out there. There are so many factors to consider, and a lot of those factors are depended on your individual personalities as parents. There are also individual circumstances to consider.

In the end, I think it is best to make this a matter of prayer. But I also think it is right to gain information on a topic so you are well-informed as you approach the Lord in prayer. So, here are my personal thoughts on child spacing.

My children have come a little less than two years apart. Brayden and Kaitlyn are 22 months apart. Kaitlyn and McKenna are 23 months apart. I really like this gap. Here are some reasons:
  • Stay in the Groove: I am the type of person who likes to stay in the groove of what I am doing. Having my kids in this age range helps me keep in that groove of taking care of babies.
  • Less of  a Shock: I think that having my children with this gap provides less of a shock to my system in regards to "freedom." When you have a baby, you have a lot less freedom. I think for me, going from a 3 or 4 year old then back to baby life would be more challenging mentally than a nearly 2 year old. But I think there are people out there who will do better with more of a break between baby life. It will recharge their batteries.
  • Best Friends: I think after viewing Brayden and Kailtyn's relationship with each other, this is my number one reason I like my children close in age. Brayden and Kaitlyn are best friends. When Kaitlyn was born, Brayden really had no interest in playing with her, which is good because she couldn't :) He liked to look at her, but he wasn't wondering when she was going to play with him. As she got older, he would naturally start to play with her. By the time she was one, he was ready for a friend and she was able to be one--in a baby way. Today, at 4.5 and 2.5, they have such a great time together. They are close enough in age to be interested in similar activities and they have so much fun.

    When McKenna was born, Kaitlyn had great interest in her and wanted to hold her all the time. Brayden was anxious for McKenna to play with them and would often ask, "Will she be ready next week?" As she has grown, they have both come to realize that it takes time. As she gets more interactive and able to crawl, they get more excited.
  • Similar Stages: With my children 2 years apart, they are in pretty similar stages. There is obviously a big difference between a 4 year old and 2 year old, but they can do similar activities. When we do learning activities, we can usually do them together with slight modifications as age appropriate. Brayden and Kaitlyn now enjoy similar shows, similar music, and similar activities.
  • Life Is Simple: A two year old doesn't have a lot going on outside the home, so it keeps things simple for the baby at home. There isn't a lot of running around necessary. A two year old doesn't have social needs outside the home; the family is enough. Not that having playdates and going to the park every so often is bad, but it isn't a necessity like with older children.
  • Nap for You: You can get naps in much easier with a two year old than with an older child. Older children take shorter naps, if they take them at all. I found opportunity for a nap for me much more consistently with the two year spacing than with a baby and a four year old.
As with all things, there are cons with this spacing. Here are the ones I see:
  • Can Be Hard: A two year old is still very much in need of your care. For me, this is good because I am staying in my groove, like I said above. For some, this might make baby life more overwhelming. You do have fewer breaks than you might if the older sibling were older.
  • Diapers: You might have two in diapers if you go two years apart. This could be undesirable for some. I actually don't mind changing diapers (strange, right?), so this really didn't bother me.
  • Leave All At Once: This is many years down the road, but I think it is worthy of consideration. The closer your children are in age, the faster you will suddenly become an empty nester. I do think that will be a challenge.
Brayden and McKenna are just about four years apart, so here are some pros and cons with this gap. I am taking the two year old in the middle of them out of the equation--pretending that there are just Brayden and McKenna. First, the good.
  • More Independent: A four year old can't do everything for himself, but he can do a lot. He goes to the bathroom by himself. He can get simple food for himself if needed. He puts his clothes on by himself. He can be trusted with things more than a two year old. This can make the overall load of newborn life a little lighter.
  • Helper: A four year old can really help with things. You can definitely have a two year old help where she can, but a four year old can help with things well enough that you don't need to feel the need to go over it when he is in bed. He can sweep, entertain the baby, help with dishes, vacuum...he is old enough to be contributing to helping with things around the house. He is moving out of the practice and learning stage and entering the "wow, that really helped" stage.
  • Different Worlds: There will be years when they will play fine together, but there will also be many they are in very different stages. Brayden will play with McKenna (now 9 months), but it is very different than his play with Kaitlyn. My little sister and I are just two months closer in age than Brayden and Kaitlyn. We had many years as younger children that we played together and had fun, but then something interesting happened. I entered the teenage, "too cool for baby toys" (and everything else) stage while she still wanted to play with them. Then as I was getting over myself, she was getting into the "too cool" teenage stage.
  • Long Time: If Brayden was just waiting for McKenna to be old enough to be a real playmate, he would be pretty old before he got it.
  • Busier Life: Life with a preschooler is a lot busier than life with a toddler. You need to get out more, and you might have activities like Preschool or sports activities you attend.
Those are some thoughts on spacing I have experience with. In the end, there are good points and bad points to any situation. You can learn to minimize the cons and maximize the pros of whatever spacing you end up with.

I have heard from and know moms with a wide variety of spacing, from 10 months to 10 years (and more). I have heard of moms who love 18 months, moms who love 3 years, moms who love 5 years...I also remember thinking once Brayden hit about 19/20 months old that a new baby would have been pretty easy at that point. 18 months would have been hard for us because 18 months old was Brayden's hardest time period behaviorally. It would have been difficult to deal with that and throw a newborn in the mix. But that was just him. Kaitlyn's hardest month was more like 20/21 months.

In your decision, you might also want to consider how many children you think you might want. I know lots of families who like to do their first two close in age, then take a little break and do the next two close in age. Of course, the number of children you end up having will likely be different than what you initially might think.

In the end, you can't see into the future so you don't know what life will be like. You can take your best guess, but that is all it is, a guess. That is why I think it is best to take this matter to the Lord. Get to know your child(ren), your family, and yourself and decide what you think is best for you all, then pray about it. Good luck with your decision!

Please feel free to share the spacing of your children, along with your favorite things and the hard things.



Ashley said...

Thanks for your post! I recently found your blog and am enjoying it. I am a mom of a 3 year old little girl and we are anxiously awaiting the arrival of our little boy. I used Babywise with my daughter and LOVED it! I am anxious to pull out the first book and start reading it again to prep for baby #2. Thanks for the blog.

Linds said...

I love this post! My DH and I are having to seriously consider timing, as our first is now 9 months and if we want them about 2 years apart we'll need to start trying soon. As the oldest of 4 (with gaps between me and my siblings of 4.5 years, 8 and 10 years), I really want MY kids closer in age because I covet my other siblings relationship with each other. While I am close to my siblings, I tend to take on a more parental role than sibling role, which has it's positives and negatives.

Amy and the Boys said...

Such a good post, thanks. I would love to see a post on what your thought are on number of children. I have 2 boys and my hub and I are prayerfully considering a 3rd but that would for sure be the last. We've been discussing pros and cons of an odd number of kids vs having only 2 (time spent w each child, number of hands to help etc.)

As for my thoughts on this post. I have 2 boys, 15 months apart. My oldest is almost 2 1/2 and my youngest is 14 months. Both planned. I LOVE it. I hope they will be good friends. My oldest was a very easy baby, sleeps well, was potty trained at 21 months and listens to pretty much all of my commands, so when #2 came, it wasn't a huge deal. The problem is that he is not old enough for me to reason with him to tell him that he is not able to do things his brother does (blabber, the occasional squealing, being held all the time ). They are constantly mimicking each other (ex: bad behavior while eating). The BIGGEST thing for me is taking them out. When the oldest has to pee, I have no where to put the younger. All I can say is be organized!

Kelle said...

I completely agree about prayer being one of the two most important things involved in this decision. The other, I would say, is being open to life. Every spacing has it's pros and cons as you mentioned and whatever God blesses you with, you should embrace.

I have been blessed so far with a 5 yr old, 3 1/2 year old, and 17 month old. There is 17 1/2 months between the first two and 26 months between the second and third. They are the best of friends and get along great!

Emily said...

i have always planned on spacing my children a little under 3 years apart. we have one now and plan to have three more. if our next one is boy #2 then I think I may do the third one sooner so I can "hopefully" get a girl haha! I agree with praying about it and I need to give more up to God! Your post was so good though and made such good points I'm considering having #2 sooner ;)

Tyler and Shea Moses said...

Yet again, another wonderful and very helpful post. Our sweet girl is 1 years old on Friday, and we are gearing up for a 2nd baby very soon. I even had my husband read this post and we found ourselves in a great discussion about the future of our family! We also talked about how we love that our first will at least have had 2 years to be our only baby and how we have enjoyed her 1st year dearly.

Thanks again!

Jenn said...

You are right; you just never know the future!!

We ended up pregnant with our second boy 'accidentally', and they ended up exactly 18 months apart. I couldn't have planned it better, but I sure wouldn't have chosen it for myself at the time! I think we're going the route of having two close together, taking a 2 year break, and then having two more. That is, if I can gear myself back up for being pregnant again!!

amyhunz said...

I'm just about to have #2 and the gap will be 20/21 months. I'm very grateful for your post as I've had a lot of 'wow, you're brave' comments! I'm not expecting the first year to be easy but I'm hoping after that things will settle down when #2 can start to interact with my eldest. Anyway, thanks for the encouragement! As you say, a lot of it comes down to personality, tolerance levels etc. We're all designed to cope with things differently :)

J9 said...

I'm so glad you posted this. I wanted to ask if you had any thoughts on child spacing a few months ago, but wasn't sure what could be said. This was really helpful information. Our #2 is due in April and will be 18 months younger than his older brother. We're very excited about another baby, Babywise has really helped us enjoy our son in these sometimes difficult months! :) But I have to admit I'm a little nervous about managing two little ones. I guess there are some things that you just have to figure out as they come along!

Redheads said...

Another important thing to consider is how you handle pregnancy. My pregnancy was a breeze - no morning sickness EVER, no food aversions, I had tons of energy, and didn't get big until the last two months. But, if pregnancy was rough, that would be a major factor in considering timing of the second child. You might want to plan it to occur when your first is done with potty training and transitioning to toddler bed.
Also, a big factor for me is the time it took to get pregnant. This is where prayer really comes in! I will be 33 YO this year, and my DH will be 41, so obviously, we don't have a whole lot of time to "wait". Also, it took us over a year to conceive for our first. When it comes down to it, we are really not in control. God is the one who allows the miracle of conception and birth to take place. But he also gives us wisdom to know when it is best to bring a child into our family.

Courtney said...

It's kind of funny to me to think about the whole planning thing. It took us 9 months and one round of feritility to get pregnant with my first. It never occurred to us to worry about prevention after he came along. Little did we know that God would surprise us (but of course it wasn't a surprise to Him) with our second son. They are 14 months apart. And though I wouldn't have "planned" it this way, God's plan has blessed me more than I ever could have imagined.
Oh, our current "plan" is just that we aren't having a baby in 2010 :)

LC said...

My children are 7 years apart, but not by choice. My son will be 8 later this week and my DD is 10 months old. I experienced a couple of miscarriages along with infertility issues. All that said, you are so correct about having them close together in order to stay in the groove of not having your total freedom. I had completely forgotten how much more confined you become when you have a baby. That has been my toughest challenge. It is like starting all over again. Conversely, my best advantage is that my son can generally fend for himself. He can watch his sister when I am busy...and he is soooo...helpful. Don't know how moms with multiple kids just a year or two do it. We are loosely and prayerfully considering a third, but considering my age (35) and how long and difficult it was to get pregnant and stay pregnant...who knows. Great post!

Rochelle said...

Thanks for the great post as usual. My children at 23 months apart (22 months and due in 2 weeks). Even though my new little one isn't here yet AND even though both my children were a "surprise" I love the spacing and the timing of both and have found that God's plans have been so much better than ours!! :)

Our "plan" was to get married, wait a couple years, have #1, wait a few more years, have #2, etc. Instead we got married and got sent us a precious little girl 10 months later! That really threw us into faith mode ~ how to adjust to marriage, move, start gradschool, etc. all with a new little person...

Then just as we were thinking about maybe trying for a second baby in 6 months or so we turned up pregnant was #2!! And yet that's been a great spacing for us ~ both my husband and I are closer to 2.5 years from our younger sibling and are glad that our son and daughter will be a little closer. I also found that having my daughter move to one long nap right at the time that I was dealing with pregnancy/morning sickness was such a blessing! And she's old enough to LOVE babies and be very excited about her new brother coming, yet young enough to not be asking too many questions or too impatient, etc. I also think it will be great to have them sharing a room for a while and sharing toys, etc.

As to more spacing, I'm 26 and feel like I'm on a roll here! I also feel like pregnancy is very kind to me. My husband and I would like about 6 kids and I want to keep going while the gettin's good, ya know? :) So I'm hoping for an 16-21 month spread between the 2nd and third and pretty much to have 4 more in 8 siblings are spaced out 9 children over 20 years so I'm really hoping for closer together, like 6 in 10 years. We'll see if that's God's plan though, won't we!?! I've learned that my best laid plans don't always match His...

Kyle, Amanda, and Tobias said...

I like this post, very interesting. And of course I think it's nice to see the pros and cons for every age gap. I was set on a 2 year age gap and that ship has now sailed due to trouble conceiving a second time. I'm still hoping for fairly close together. My sister is 18 months younger than me and we are very close, but my brother is 8 years younger than me and I tend to "mommy" him too much and now we're in such different places that we aren't close although we love each other of course.

My new concern is how to bring in an older adoptive child and how that will change things! I may need to brush up on Childwise instead of Babywise :)

ys said...

Amy/Redheads....too funny as both me and DH are exactly the same ages! We have 2 DDs but if we have another I too feel we can't "wait" too long. But we're leaving that up to God's will if we do or don't. In the end it really isn't in our control anyways, is it? If it was we'd have had kids before, but everything worked out and we wouldn't have changed it for anything:)

Jessica said...

What a great topic! My husband and I have been discussing this a lot lately. ;) I agree that there is no universal “correct” period of sibling spacing. There are pro’s and con’s to each spacing possibility. I think Valerie did a good job of summarizing them. First, and foremost, it needs to be realized that God is the giver of life and His timing is perfect! Knowing that, honestly, got me through the transition to motherhood. I do not believe that any child is a “mistake” or “unplanned” in God’s plan! He has a plan and purpose for us all...even us parents. Second, in large part, I believe a parent’s personality needs to be taken into account. Personally, I find this to be the largest factor in determining the spacing of siblings, going hand-in-hand with knowing God’s timing is perfect.

Here are my personal thoughts. My husband and I have a daughter who is 22 months old, she will be 2 at the end of March. We have been talking about another child for quite some time now (I am a bit of a planner). We are looking at a 3-5 year age difference between our daughter and another child. We also would like to plan a due date around the end of the school year so that my husband is home to help me during the night-waking stage. Lucky him. ;) This age difference appeals to me because the older child is more independent and can entertain themselves when Mommy needs to be tending to the baby. You are also able to breathe again, get your body back in shape and enjoy your first child. I also need to feel in control...a mere illusion, I know. The thought of having two children, with less than a two year spacing makes me feel chaotic. Thankfully, I know my limits. I believe that I will be able to be a better mother with children spaced farther apart then I would if they were “close.” The last thing I want is to parent in a way that lands my children in therapy. ;)

If my husband and I are able to conceive this summer/fall, our daughter will be around 3 years, 2 or 3 months, when a new baby would be born. We shall see.

Plowmanators said...

You are welcome--

and thanks to everyone for adding your own experiences!

Plowmanators said...

Amy and the Boys,

I will definitely do a post on that.

As for the older one mimicking, here is what I do with Brayden. I don't know if it will work, but you can try it. I explain all of the things he will lose out on if he wants to be treated like Kaitlyn (going to school, having only rest time instead of naptime, etc.). He decides immediately he will take his responsibilities AND privliges instead of hers :)

Plowmanators said...

Redheads, That is a good point about pregnancy. But pregnancy is really, really, really, etc hard on me. So hard, DH wants to be done because he doesn't want to watch me go through another pregnancy. And I like the kids closer :) I think it is because during your first trimester (my hardest), my younger child is taking two naps still, so I get more rest overall.

Plowmanators said...

lol Courtney. That is funny. Things like that happen a lot it seems :) Good plan, too.

Plowmanators said...

Rochelle, I have learned that too. And in the end, it always makes me glad I am not in charge :)

Plowmanators said...

lol Jessica. Good goal to avoid landing your children in therapy :)

Tyler and Shea Moses said...

Hi Val,

loved this post, as I do all of your posts! I just had a question for you. We have a sweet girl who is a little over 15 months old now. We did not expect to get pregnant with her (as we had only been married 6 months when we found out) but I have become so in love with her and in being a mother. I know that this kind of love only comes from our Lord, and even though we were not expecting it, we have loved having a little one. We are so excited about trying for #2, but the approach to this future pregnancy has been so different. Now we are aware each month when we are not pregnant. We have been off birth control now for 5 months. We hoped for our kiddos to be at least 20 months apart ( and anything after that would be fine) but now that it has not happened, I have been a little sad. I just wondered what your words of wisdom would be to someone who is trying for a second baby that has never "tried" to get pregnant before. How do you prepares and approach it? Any help would be such a blessing!!

scs said...

My daughters are almost exactly 3 years apart (35 months) and I love the spacing! We are hoping for a third, I think- we're still talking about it- with the same spacing. For me, my husband is in the military so he's gone quite a bit and I need to factor in what I can handle by myself! Also, I love having a year "off"- not preggo, not nursing, just for me physically. I can drink a whole pot of coffee a day if I want! My daughters are 4 and 14 months now and play great together and having my eldest old enough to go to be bathroom, get a small snack, etc while her sister was tiny was super helpful. Great post, love reading all the responses!

Plowmanators said...


I don't have experience in trying to get pregnant for multiple months, so I feel very unequipped to offer advice.

Since you have faith in the Lord, I would hold to that. Do what you can do and put your faith and trust in Him. He knows all and wants you to be happy even more than you want you to be happy. He knows what exactly will be best for your family.

In difficult situations like this, I hold fast to faith. I am one who believes the addage that the Lord is more likely to help the man get unstuck who gets out and pushes his cart than the man who sits in it waiting for divine intervention.

Be proactive in being sure health issues are all in proper order and such, and once you have done all you need to, there is nothing more to do but to have faith. Good luck!

Plowmanators said...

SCS, thanks for sharing! I can see how a year off between pregnancy and nursing would be nice. At this point, I would usually be trying for the next pregnancy, and I must say that I am enjoying having my body to myself for a while!


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