The age gap: Benefits and challenges of siblings close and far apart in age

I wouldn’t change a thing about my kids. I love them each for the quirky, complicated, beautiful people they are. I’ve been a mother for more years than I have not been a mother, because I had my first daughter very young. My second daughter was born five years later, and my son was born five years after that. My mother-in-law joked after my son was born that in five years, I better take a long trip unless I wanted a fourth child.

The funny thing is that I didn’t plan to have five years between each of my children — in fact, only my second daughter was strategically planned, and my other two kids were wonderful surprises. I know everything worked out exactly the way it should have. Yet, if I had to do it all over again, I would make one minor adjustment: I would have had my children closer in age.

Here’s why:

Sleepless nights

My first baby was a breeze. When she napped, I did. That all changed with my second. Once I finally got her down to sleep, I either had to take my firstborn to school, pick her up, help with homework, or get her to a practice.

This only increased exponentially with my last-born. I would get a baby down to sleep only to be woken up by a scared preschooler, then get back to sleep and be abruptly awakened by a screaming baby. Feed baby, get him to sleep, and a few minutes later, the sun would come up, my alarm would rattle my brain, and I’d have to get my older kids to school, bleary-eyed and utterly exhausted.

Had they all been very young or a little older, their sleep cycles would have likely synced, and they would either all be in the baby or toddler stage — or blissfully out of it.

Incompatible activities

Having to juggle big-kid birthday parties with a baby on your hip is no fun at all. And neither is attending Mommy and Me classes with a preteen. As they grow, an age discrepancy means trying to find activities for teens and school-age children, which is a very difficult thing to do.

Different schools stress

Having to drop your kids off at different schools each day and adhere to different (often opposing) schedules just ups the chaos of the week. I have repeatedly thought how much easier it would be to have all my kids in the same school.

Also, from kindergarten to high school, it helps siblings to know their big sister or brother is there, too. The upside is that there was not much sibling rivalry, as they all had their own set of friends and activities.

Potty training

I always thought that I couldn’t deal with two (or god forbid, three) kids in diapers at the same time, but if that had happened, I would have had them all potty trained around the same time, instead of rationing out unending potty training sessions every five years.

Different versions of me

My oldest daughter (who I had when I was practically a child myself) got the mom with most patience, for sure, but she also got the mom who was just learning to know herself and stand up for herself.

My youngest got the version with much more experience and confidence, but less time. My daughter in the middle got a mix of the two.

The age gap

There is a 10-year difference between my oldest (Millennial) and youngest (Gen Z).

Many times, my son will look to my oldest daughter as out of touch with his world and my daughter will forget how she felt at his age as she mentally shakes her finger and thinks this youngin’ is just too much. But other times, they are two peas in a pod, happily playing Pokémon with vigor and camaraderie.

My 20th straight school year

Yes, 20 years of homework, projects, parent-teacher meetings, school plays, bake sales, and uniforms!

My oldest has graduated college and my youngest is in high school. I still have three years to go until high school is done, and (gasp) seven more until college is over for all of my kids. If they were in the same age bracket, they would have all finished and I’d have three young working adults (and extreme college loans!).

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On a positive note, the big upside to having had a child even five years was that I always had a lot of special time with each new baby while the older kid(s) went to school. I also enjoyed a prolonged era of always having a baby in the house. Spacing out children — and even having children at all — is a deeply unique experience and one that I truly believe works out just the way it should be, in the end.

Danielle Sullivan also writes about pets and parenting for Disney’s Find Sullivan on her blogs, Just Write Mom and Some Puppy To Love.