I do not think there is such a thing as the “right age gap”. I believe that each family has its own “right gap”. There are two theories on this matter:
- Have kids close together so they can grow together and be as close as possible socially. There is also a bit of “and let’s get the kids thing over with as quickly as we can and get on with our life” in this approach.
- Have your children spaced out to allow them to be individuals and give yourself enough time to dedicate to each one of them.
In my family, we had a range of gaps that was not reflected in our relationships. Looking at my family and the families of my childhood friends, I believe there are other factors that affect the relationship between siblings, like:
- The age of the parents
- The kids’ genders
- The neighbourhood and social surroundings
- The parents’ professions and financial situation at different stages of the kids’ lives
- Sickness, medical or mental problems and other major events in life
- The kids’ relative order in the family
While the age gap is still a factor in sibling relationship, it does not stand by itself.
When I studied special education, I made a choice to have my kids 5 years apart. I have 3 children and, as it turned out, there are about 6 years between each 2 of them, which has worked perfectly for all of us. I have a list of reasons why I made that choice but I am convinced that this age gap is not suitable for every parent.
I realised there was no right age gap when I met one of the mothers in my early childhood centre. She had a 2 year-old daughter in my centre, a 6 month-old baby and she was planning the 3rd one in 18 months. She was younger than me and was very content with her decision to bring her kids 2 years apart. She had plans to dedicate her first years as a mother to staying at home and being with her kids and she was very happy with her choice. While she was very confident with her plans, I had a friend who had 2 kids who were 2 years apart and she was counting the days until they were old enough, because the change was too fast for her to handle. She was an unhappy mother, frustrated and angry and all she wanted was the chance to go back in time and go through it again, “this time, knowing what I was getting myself into”.
As parents, we tend to focus on our children’s years at home. However, if you look at the bigger picture, you can see there are only about 20 years of childhood, but possibly over 50 years of adulthood.
Sibling relationships change from childhood to adulthood. During childhood, there is typically more jealousy between closer kids, while kids who are further apart in age require different types of attention. In adulthood, the age gap will cease to matter. Social and marital status will have a stronger effect on sibling relationships and many of them establish new relationships based on location, interests, age of children or profession.
I believe there is no such a thing as the right gap. It needs to suit what you want and believe as a parent. Some siblings with a 1-year or 6-year gap are best friends, while others discuss their brotherly and sisterly problems on their therapist’s couch.
Children need to be part of your life. They are not an interference and they need to go together with your plans as a person and as a parent.
Design your life up until your 100th birthday and fit your children in this plan. Your design is always perfect. Whatever you choose is the right choice for you.
Sometimes, I wish that the age gap could be the only factor…