I had a plan. A family plan. Some people consider family planning birth control—mine was written on a napkin during one of my breaks at the coffee shop where I worked.
So here it is, The Plan:
Marry Mr. Right
2 years later: Have Baby #1
2 years later: Have Baby #2
3 years later: Oops baby #3?
Yes, i actually planned an "Oops" baby. I know.
Aside from getting married, the rest of The Plan quickly went down the pooper as we enjoyed our first years of marriage none too rushed to begin reproducing.
The years went by and we were perfectly happy holding off on the baby front. Even after nearly four years of marriage we were surprised and moderately panicked to discover we were expecting, but quickly became ecstatic about starting a family.
While we had deviated significantly from The Plan the one thing I hadn't changed my mind on was the space between my children. I always thought I'd have my kids the "perfect" two years apart, but life—and fertility issues—slowed us down.
We were finally were blessed with Baby #2 over five years later and it's difficult to imagine things happening in any other way or timeline. While I've spent plenty of time worrying about my plan being altered, I've also realized some pretty amazing silver linings of spacing my babies out.
1. Being the mom of just one.
This really is the biggest perk of the "big gap" as I like to call it. For over five years I got to be a mom of one. He had my undivided attention and I wasn't torn between two or more young children at the same time. I remember looking at my friends who had their back-to-back-to-back kiddos feeling envious that they had what I thought I wanted. But as I looked closer and saw how tired and torn they were, a feeling of relief set in as I cuddled my one sweet boy. My bond with my son is solid thanks to this time together.
2. Getting one-on-one time with each newborn.
On a related note, once my second did decide to come along, my first was in school every day. I'm currently getting that one-on-one time with my newborn that I had the first time around, which would be pretty hard to do if my kids were closer together in age.
3. The older kid is acutally helpful.
"Can you grab me a diaper from the changing table, buddy?" "Want to sit and hold your sister on the couch while I vacuum?" Those are just some of the things I can ask my almost 6-year-old who helps out like a champ.
4. The second time feels like the first time... but better.
It's awesome to get a another go at being a new mommy to an infant after a bit of a wait. Instead of being exhausted because I've been doing the baby thing for 50+ months and counting, I get to love each minute. None of the amazingness is lost on me. I get to experience first smiles, tummy time, nursing, and spit-up like its all new but with the added perk of having enough experience to know that, even when I'm stressed, it will all be okay.
Each child is passing very different milestones and we're all there to celebrate them together.
5. You're well rested (or better rested than you might have been.)
If you've had few years to mother a toddler/preschooler/kindergartener solo, chances are said child has been sleeping through the nights for some time now, so you may have several years of decent sleep under your belt. This is something small age gaps don't really allow for and rest is like money during the early days of newborn mothering. So it's pretty incredible going into this "no sleep" era with a bit of a stockpile.
6. The bond between siblings is true and strong.
The thing I worried about the most was if my kids would be close. Would this bigger age gap result in kids who were not bonded? Siblings who were each raised as an only child? But after watching my son hold "his" baby for the first time, that thought completely slipped out of my head. He loves her with a proud and protective love that only a few years could have provided. Her giggles prove that she's smitten with him as well.
7. There's less competition.
Now it's true that one is learning to read while the other learns to walk. One needs help practicing karate moves while the other needs tummy time. But the fact that they are at different stages is actually one of my favorite parts. There's no competition. Each child is passing very different milestones and we're all there to celebrate them together.
Here's the thing: I'm not a parenting expert. I'm not here to sing the praises of spacing kids out and badmouth families who have hoards of littles close together. After all, that's what my plan was too. But I know what it feels like to be waiting on a second baby while seemingly everyone you know and their sister have their second and third child. I've had those panicked thoughts of "I'm getting behind." I've had people constantly asking me, "Well, when are you guys going to have another one?" Or worse, "You better not wait too long or they won't even be friends."
I'm writing this because I spent far too much of the time between babies worrying about the age difference. But if I had read a story like this, if I had known about the loveliness of having a bit of an age gap and the perks that come along with it, I might have relaxed a bit. Who knows? I may have even adjusted my plan.