Don’t Listen To The Parenting Advice, There Is No Optimum Age Gap Between Kids

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siblingsI hate to break it to those moms that just love giving advice to other women on how and when to procreate, but there is absolutely no optimum age gap between kids. I say this as one of three children that were all evenly spaced out, two years apart. My parents had kids like clockwork. And while it seemed to be the right choice for their family at the time, I don’t think that doing it differently would have drastically changed our lives any.

For over two years now, my husband and I have been trying to conceive a second child. When we started this process, our daughter was two and a half. If we had gotten pregnant right away, our kids would have been an acceptable and completely normal three years apart. The longer our journey to have a child goes, the more time that separates our first and second children. Suddenly, we’re talking about kids that will never go to the same school. They will always been in completely separate stages of life. It’s a point that well-meaning friends and family bring up frequently.

A friend of mine recently asked me about the time between my first and possible second child. She was honestly concerned for me. “Having kids too far apart is just so hard,” she explained. “You aren’t ready to get back into that baby phase. Your older child always wants to do things that the younger can’t. It’s just a complete mess.”

The situation was kind of hysterical, because just a day before, my sister-in-law was talking about why our large gap would be a good thing. “When kids are older, they’re so much more ready to be a good sibling. There isn’t nearly the fight for attention. The younger has a great role model. And you can really appreciate each stage separately, instead of throwing everything together for them.” She was all about her kids almost seven year gap.

Guess what guys? Both women were talking about their own experience and why it was the right way to go. They were both positive that I would want to do things like them, because in both cases, everything worked out.

I love both of these ladies. I think they’re both right. There were positives to each circumstance. And there are negatives as well, things that more pessimistic people might have pointed out about the opposite choices.

When people give parenting advice, be it about age gap between birth or any other host of issues, they’re most often telling you to do things like they did. They’re trying to reaffirm that they made the right choice, and that’s why you should follow it. The problem is that this approach ignores that each family is different. And each family might have their own path to take.

When it comes to age gap, there’s no perfect number. My grandmother had three kids, a set of twins and then another child, all in 13 months. My husband’s family has more than a decade spacing out their kids. Both families grew up just like they were meant to. Every set of siblings has problems, but that wouldn’t changed if you had waited another year before having kids.

Parents give lots of advice to each other. Normally it’s well-intentioned and harmless. But don’t let anyone make you feel like there’s a right way to space your children. Brush off those concerns about having kids too close or waiting too long. Each family is formed exactly as it’s meant to. When it comes to the age gap, there is no magic number.

(Photo: MaszaS/Shutterstock)


  1. Justme

    October 5, 2012 at 11:17 am

    I completely agree.

    I have a few friends whose children are 14 months apart (on purpose) and the mere thought of two babies that close together makes my brain hurt. But they also came from families where one has a twin sister and the other is 18 months younger than her brother. That’s all they know and they loved it so they want the same for their own families.

    My husband and I have a different family-creating strategy and are on the “we’ll discuss another child when our first is out of diapers and more or less following instructions.” Our approach isn’t better or worse….just different.
    I couldn’t do what my friends have done and they feel the same about my choice. But the bottom line is that we’ve all done what we feel is best for our own personal families while still respecting the choice of someone else….and that’s what matters most.

  2. SusanP

    October 5, 2012 at 11:23 am

    I totally agree – each family is different and there are pros and cons to each. I come from a very large blended family – a total of 8 kids! I’m the youngest and have a brother who is close to me (2.5 years older) and many siblings who are 5+ years older. Yes I was very close to that one brother, but I LOVED having those older siblings. I think that had a very positive influence on my life (seeing them in high school when i was in elementary, seeing them in college when I was in middle school, seeing them out in the real world when I was in college, seeing them as parents before I became a parent, etc.). When I was in 6th grade, I was able to go spend a weekend visiting my sister in college – what a neat experience. Don’t listen to the negative people out there.

  3. TheLily

    October 5, 2012 at 11:25 am

    My biological brother is 6 years older than me. It gave my mom time to adjust from having a healthy kid to a sickly monster! My stepbrothers are nine and twelve years older than me. I love that because it meant when I got to high school, they’d already done all the bad stuff and it made it so that my mom just wanted to make sure I graduated. I never got in trouble for anything…

    I’m hoping to have my kids a few years apart, but I know families with Irish twins who are just as happy. They’re still gunna be your kids!

  4. Rebecca

    October 5, 2012 at 11:34 am

    I had mine a little over 12 months apart and I’m always very honest about how hard it is at first. The first year I didn’t leave the house and the second year i took the double stroller everywhere I went. Once they hit about 2&1/2 and 3&1/2 it gets much easier, actually easier in ways then just having one because they really keep each other amused. That said my first child has always been one of those freakishly well behaved kids we all dream of, her brother can be more difficult, but is generally well behaved. If I had kids that were harder to parent I might want to rip my hair out more often;)

  5. Carinn Jade

    October 5, 2012 at 1:28 pm

    I say this all the time when people ask. There are great benefits to having them close together but there are serious drawbacks. Like just being tired for 4 years straight. My kids are 23 months apart and I often wished I waited until my first was 3 or 4.

  6. Courtney Lynn

    October 6, 2012 at 12:12 pm

    I agree. I think every age gap between siblings has it’s pros and cons.

  7. To Celebrate Women

    October 8, 2012 at 7:39 pm

    My mom was one of five kids in 5 years (and part of a set of twins who were part of 3 kids in 11 months – yikes!). She always had a friend around and has a great network of family support now, but never had any attention from her parents, never had any privacy, and never had anything to herself. On the other hand, I’m the youngest in my family by 26 years (basically an only child in practice), and it’s up and down. I have all the emotional and financial resources my parents can offer. I have my own space. My siblings and I don’t compete for everything. But we also don’t really have a sibling relationship – I’m like their extra kid. It’s tough to work those things out. But we love each other, and we do our best, and that’s what counts.

  8. Maree

    October 24, 2012 at 5:15 am

    My first son is 21yrs old, my second son is 21 MONTHS old…… we love our oddly spaced family! xxx

  9. Gangles

    February 16, 2013 at 7:53 pm

    I come from a family where my older brother and sister were born two years apart. Nine years later I was born, and 18 months after that my baby brother was born. So from someone who has been born into both senarios at once…. either is pretty awesome, really.

    I was probably a little closer to my younger sibling when we were very little, as we were ‘peers’ and saw things from the same angle, but as I got older, my older siblings became advice-givers and role-models. Now that we are all adults, my three siblings are my best and closest friends.

    I don’t think age difference makes a huge impact on what makes a good relationship between siblings. My experience with my older vs younger siblings is different, but both are equally important and special.

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