Age Gaps and Gender of Kids: The Pros and Cons of Different Family Structures

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By: Megan Tuohey, Relationship Psychologist

My guess is that if you are reading this, you have one of two things happening:

The first is you have a child or two (or three!) and are wondering if you might have another. The second is you have had 2 or more children and are wondering if you have done it ‘right’.

That is, you are wondering if you should have kids closer together, or further apart and whether if they were a different gender, life would be easier. This is what I always used to look for when I was clicking around the internet.

We could cut this question into a few different ways, so I’ve gone ahead and done that, so dive right in.

How far should I space my kids? Assuming you aren’t someone like me who couldn’t get pregnant naturally and relied solely on IVF and the perils that come with that process, then take this with the grain of salt it deserves:

  1. Space your kids at least 18 months apart to give your body a break from being pregnant, most medical experts would suggest.
  2. The average Australian gap is 30 months between siblings
  3. My group of friends have about 2 years as their gap.
  4. I don’t feel comfortable comparing genders, because really, our kids are people. And they’re fab.
  5. There is no right ‘gender’ to have in your family, only to have strong relationships with your family members and enjoy them for who they are.

Space To Breathe

Now think about these ideas and add in some other ‘logistics’: Think about whether you want to have a recovery from having a baby, to having a child who is able to listen and take instructions well, if you want this, then you will want to space them out for a longer period, so that your older child is 3+.

If you’re someone who doesn’t do chaos so well, then you’ll probably break out in a cold sweat at the idea of trying to put a 4 month old and a 18 month old down for a nap at the same time, without help. If you’re doing the maths here, that’s a 14 month gap that two of my friends have. Let’s just say, it’s hard, but not impossible. Heck, you’ll even get pretty pro at it eventually.

If you’re worried about the impact on your marriage adding a child will have, then having them closer together could be too much. Think about two (or more) children who wake in the night, or rise early and consider the toll to your sleep, and we know what lack of sleep does to the people within a relationship (hint it adds extra stress). But, there are plenty of people that will tell you, and I am one of them, that it has in fact bought you closer to your partner, and you even blearily high five your significant other in the hallway as your ‘shifts’ changeover. Now that’s love.

Out And About

Ok, now let’s talk ‘family activities’ which is also code for time spent together as a family. The sooner you can have the youngest ready to participate, usually around age 2, the sooner you’re all ready to plan family those family bonding holidays (camping, theme parks, bike riding, snowboarding – you get the picture). Many of my friends are finding that when you get to these years, you’ve really found your feet and it’s all coming together the way you dreamt it would.

You might be thinking well what does science say about the ‘right’ blend and gap, and the answer is, predictably, that it depends. It depends on all kinds of factors - social, economic, family support, location. The list can go on. And on. As a summary, it’s pretty inconclusive unless you get really specific.

What really matters is you. Whether your body is ready to be pregnant again, and whether you have the support and love to give to one more person. Or where you’ll get your energy from in order to get yourself through another day filled with being pulled from pillar to post without yelling, snapping or irritability misdirected at the kids.

And What About You?

Now is a good time to remind you that when you are overloaded and not doing well, that you need to find a way to self soothe and refuel. Eat something, walk in the grass barefoot, find your way back to the beauty of the moment. Anything to reset yourself. Parenting is hard work. And we aren’t looking for perfection, just for ‘good enough’ 80% of the time. And a good repair in your loving connection for the other 20% when you’ve dropped your bundle.

One thing I know for sure, is that the endless love that comes from being part of a loving family, is the source of energy which can get you through to the next time you can have 6 hours straight sleep (the ultimate goal in our house when our babes were young). It’s truly astounding the energy love can give you to draw from, to keep you going.

And when that’s not enough…. well there’s always sugar, caffeine and some really amazing friends. And truly, these stretched thin times, they always pass, and life gets easier again. Promise.

 

About Megan: Megan Tuohey is a Relationship Psychologist who specialises in women. She focuses particularly on the relationship you have with yourself, your partner, your kids. When she’s not writing, you will find her working in her online coaching business for women, reading or playing with her kids and high-fiving her hubby for another excellent day. You can read more of her work at www.megantuohey.com

 

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