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.
TWO YEAR 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.
- 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.
CONTINUED MANY YEARS LATER IN CHILD AGE SPACING PART II