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5 Perks of Having Kids With Big Age Differences

Photograph by Twenty20

I had my kids just 21 months apart and once I got past the initial jolt (and exhaustion) of having a toddler and a newborn, I loved it. I still do. I like that they share most of the same toys, I can entertain them with the same TV shows, we can go to the park and they'll want to play together, plus they share the same interests and attend the same school. But I also know many women whose kids are spaced farther apart in age and they say they wouldn't have it any other way.

So what if you wake up one morning and find yourself wanting another baby years after you changed your last diaper? Is it a good idea? I asked a few experienced moms what they thought. Here's why they say you should embrace the urge and go for it:

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1. You're older and wiser and have more patience this time around.

Almost all of the mothers I spoke with pointed out that their second go 'round at motherhood was more laid back. "I was a nervous mom with my first baby. When I had my second child nine years later, I was more relaxed. I felt like I knew what I was doing," says Amanda, mom to daughters ages 12 and 3. "I'm much more likely to let things go now, not only with my toddler, but also with my older kid. I see how, even with the age difference, they're not so different. They both need love and understanding."

2. You have a helper in your older child(ren).

While free or cheap babysitting was often mentioned as a perk of having kids spaced out, Robin, mother of a 15-year-old boy and 2- and 4-year-old little girls says it best, "It wasn't so much having a built-in babysitter as it was having a child old enough to understand that babies need more care and are more demanding. Of course my son still needs me to be there for him, but he's focused on sports and his friends. And because he gets to be the big, grownup brother, I think it's matured him in ways being an only child wouldn't have."

3. Everyone has a place to call their own.

With a big age gap between kids, you don't have to worry about their lives overlapping in a negative way. There is no competition in school or extracurricular activities, no "stealing" of best friends. Raven's daughters are 21, 16 and 13 and for her: "I liked the fact that when my oldest left high school, my second was entering high school and my third will be starting high school as my second one is finishing. So they're in high school back-to-back, but I like it. I didn't want them to feel like the teachers have the same expectations of them as their older sister. And they don't date the same boys!"

4. If you always dreamed of a big family, you can still have one.

There's no way we could have afforded to have this many kids if we had them close together.

Most of the big families I know have kids fairly close in age. But there's something to be said for spacing kids farther apart in a big family. "It's chaos, absolutely, but I wouldn't change it," says Teri. Her big family includes kids 17, 15, 9, 3 and 2 years old. "Everyone thinks we're crazy, but I wanted a big family and there's no way we could have afforded to have this many kids if we had them close together. There is always something going on in our house, and it always feels like a holiday or party. I love it."

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5. You savor the moments a little more, and a little longer.

Being able to stop and smell the roses (or the sweet smell of a baby's head) is one of those things new moms want to do, but it often gets lost in all of the other things that need to be done. Having an age gap between your kids means you're more aware of time passing the second time—and more likely to slow down and enjoy it. "I had more patience and a great appreciation for the stages my youngest daughter went through," says Rose, whose kids are now 19, 17 and 6. "I had more time with her, too, because my older kids were in school, so it was like having a first-born again."

All of the mothers agree on one thing: If you really want another baby, you shouldn't let the ages of your other kids deter you. As Teri told me, "The more, the merrier!"

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