Media Mom asked a few years ago, "What is the perfect age difference between siblings?" I agree with her conclusion that there is no magic number. There are many factors that could tip the scales in either direction - children's personalities, family dynamics, lifestyle, parenting styles, economic factors, etc. And then there is the whole "getting pregnant" logistics, such as infertility and unexpected pregnancies, that make the decision for many of us. After blogger Kris-Ann recently announced she was pregnant and casually asked me for advice on raising kids 5 years apart, I started to think about the benefits of a larger age difference between siblings.
Now, don't read me wrong, there are good things about all sorts of age differences (small, really large, singles, etc.). And naturally, there are cons as well. But here are the benefits for our family (Owen - 2 and Olivia - 7).
Benefits of a Larger Age Difference between Siblings
First Year Benefits
During my second pregnancy, I often thought that I was crazy for starting all over again. Long gone were the bottles, diapers, crib, high chair, diaper bags, endless night wakings, and shower-less days. Was I really ready to do this again? As it turns out, the "resting" period between the two kids was exactly what the doctor ordered. I hadn't realized how overwhelming parenting would be for me. It was a lot harder than it looked on TV. Having Owen when my firstborn was more independent gave me some breathing space to enjoy his infancy, to more patiently deal with breastfeeding issues and sleepless nights, and to better juggle a household as a working mom. Above all, we got to enjoy Owen's first year as a family. Being a bit older, Olivia played an active role in helping him reach developmental milestones and celebrating each achievement alongside us. She cheered his first roll-over, took his hands as he toddled his first steps, translated his first words, and laughed with him as he tasted (and wore) his first foods.
Second Year Benefits
As Owen grew into an independent toddler, I wondered if I would survive the 5 year age difference between my darling children. I found myself constantly playing referee to Owen's biting and hitting and to Olivia's "those are my toys" cries and screams. What was I thinking having kids 5 years apart? Like any stage, this too passed and I found myself enjoying the age gap.
Now in 1st grade, Olivia is reading and loves practicing with her little brother. I often find them huddled together with her old and his new favorite books. It's darling to spy. Further, his imagination is blossoming which perfectly complements her enthusiasm to play pretend. They'll build Lego towns, zoos, and construction sites and role play with the people. And, most of the time, they'll play nicely for extended periods with little conflict. This gives mom and dad time to get chores done or relax on a Sunday morning - a luxury long forgotten. And we recently experienced a new benefit: playing outside. With Olivia, we always had to create the outdoor fun. Now, she takes him outside and they'll play on the slide or with yard toys for hours.
Is there a perfect age difference between siblings? Not at all. But if you're considering a larger gap between your kids age, I can personally attest that there are some wonderful benefits. As for the cons...I'll let you discover those for yourself!