Oh it’s the big dilemma isn’t it. You’ve had one child and you’re starting to think about having a second but how long do you leave it? What is the best age gap between children? Too big a gap and will they ever be friends and play together? Too small an age gap and life is chaos, it’s hard work and you might not enjoy your time with your babies.
It’s a tough decision and there’s definitely no right or wrong answer. We often don’t have a choice and our individual circumstances make the decision for us. Many people need to wait until their first child is in school to avoid the double nursery fees while other people may have fertility issues that take the decision out of their hands. The best age gap between children can also depend on your children and their individual personalities.
So while there is definitely no ‘right’ age gap between children, I’d like to share my experiences with my three kids. We have a range of age gaps with our children (18 months, 3 years and 4.5 years) and there are massive pros and cons to them all.
If you aren’t familiar with our family, these are our kids and the gaps between them.
18 month gap
3 year gap
We didn’t exactly sit down with a spreadsheet and plan these gaps but we did think about it. The 18 month age gap between the boys seems small, but George was a fairly easy baby so we felt ready for a second baby when he was still young. I wanted a third baby as soon as possible but Joseph was then a difficult toddler so there was no way we would have had a third child any sooner!
Here are the pros and cons to the age gaps we have…
The 18 month gap – The ‘hard at the time but pays off after 2 years’ option
Now that Joseph and George are aged 4 and 5, this gap is perfect. They’re amazing together and will run off and play together for so long. Yes, the first two years were tough but that is definitely balanced out by the following two years being easier and it gets easier every day. They do fight but I think most siblings do, no matter what the age gap.
- We didn’t ever come out of ‘the baby stage’
- They napped together
- We were still very much in a baby routine when Joseph was born
- We still had all our baby stuff
- They began playing together very quickly
- We got the hard stage of parenting over and done with very quickly
- All of our weekend activities and holidays revolved around a baby friendly environment
- They’re now very close
- No jealousy between siblings because the older one very quickly forgets what life was like when they were the only child
- Now they’re older, they always want to do the same things, eat the same things, watch the same things on TV, play the same games
- Double the nursery fees – often makes it not worth going back to work
- It was hard work
- There was a lot we didn’t do for about 2 years because it was just hard work with two very young children (like going out for family meals)
- I didn’t have much one-on-one time with Joseph when he was a baby
- The baby years fly by so quickly because you’re so busy
- Being pregnant whilst looking after a toddler can be tough
- As they get older they fight
- Would work be annoyed if you went on maternity leave again so soon?
Mama Hack Tip: If you have a small age gap between your children, I highly recommend being super strict about bedtimes! We were always very strict, so even on the really tough days the boys were both in bed by 6.30pm and this always made life a little easier!
The 3 year gap – The sensible option
I’d say the three year age gap between Joseph and Alba is the most sensible option. Joseph adores Alba and they’re starting to play together really nicely already. We also haven’t had double nursery fees because (in our area) children get 30 hours of childcare a week from age 3.
- A 3 year old is aware of mum’s pregnancy and gets excited
- The older child can be helpful
- The older child is still interested in baby toys and they will play together
- The older child is likely to be in daycare or going into pre-school nursery soon so you do get a break and have time alone with the baby
- Going back to the ‘baby phase’ with nappies and sleepless nights can be tough
- There can be jealousy from the older child
- They’re probably interested in different toys and activities for a fair few years
The 4.5 year gap – The easiest option
The 4-5 year age gap is definitely the easiest option. Once a child gets to four they suddenly get much easier. They understand everything and they generally have more patience and are very independent, so you’ve got much more time to look after the baby.
But 4 to 5 years is a very big difference between children and I imagine Alba and George will have a very different relationship. George is very protective of her but doesn’t really play with her. He can keep an eye on her and make sure she isn’t doing anything dangerous, but I can’t see them properly being friends for a long time.
- A 4.5 year old is aware of mum’s pregnancy and gets excited
- The older child can be helpful
- The older child is in school so you have lots of time alone with baby
- The older child will also be in school during mum’s pregnancy so you can put your feet up and rest more
- Babies slot into the 9-3 school routine really easily (naps around the school run work well)
- The older child can be really helpful – actually genuinely helpful
- The older child fully understands the needs of the baby (understands they need to be quieter at nap time etc)
- Less likely to fight (although probably still will!)
- Possible jealousy
- Will they properly play together?
- The bigger age gap means they might not be proper friends until they’re quite a lot older
- Harder to plan family activities as the children are interested in different things
As always, that’s just my take on things based on my personal experiences and I’d be really interested to hear your thoughts on the best age gap.