Life choices are hard.
October 15, 2012 8:14 AM   Subscribe

I have one daughter, she is 5.5. We always planned on having 3 children, but spacing turned into fertility issues turned into daughter will likely be 8 by the time we actually manage to have another offspring. Help me figure out the various pros/cons of having 2 more kids v. having 1 more kid/adopting a school age kid/ having 1 more kid/ leaving well enough alone.

We always planned on 3 kids, but we thought spacing them more like 3-4 years was the way to go. When we got to the 3 year mark and started trying...surprise! It didn't go as smoothly as the first go round. I'm 31 with no diagnosable fertility issues, so my docs think that some basic intervention would most likely be successful. Or, just as likely the weight that I'm going to lose over the next year thanks to my weight-loss surgery will just reset everything.

The current plan is to get serious about conception about a year from now, which would have us having baby #2 around the time our daughter is 8, and then try as soon as possible for baby #3. Part of the reason we wanted to have more children is that both of us have great relationships with our siblings. We would like our children to be close as well, the 8 year age difference has introduced a fair amount of maternal angst in me.

I've started pondering the feasibility of adopting an older child, someone between 3-6 is what I picture when I'm thinking about it. Is that a crazy idea? Mr.Dadici and I have always liked the idea of adoption, but it's not something that anyone in our families has any first hand experience with. Is the fact that I would be adopting at least in part to provide my child with a sibling/friend closer in age a sign that I'm not doing it for the right reasons?

What are the pros/cons of the various combinations I laid out above? How would you go about deciding what to do in my situation? Some days I wonder if we shouldn't just move forward as a family of 3, but I believe that's mostly frustration speaking, I like our life but I definitely picture a larger family whenever I think of the future, so I don't think we're done.
posted by dadici to Human Relations (33 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
My husband has siblings 3, 10 and 14 years younger than him. He is about equally close to them all and at least as close as--and likely closer--than my sister and I who are 3 years apart. I think closeness has more to do with how the family works and personalities than any particular age difference.

More anecdata: my father is, by far, closest to the sibling (he has 3) who is furthest away from him in age (about 10 years).
posted by chiefthe at 8:21 AM on October 15, 2012 [5 favorites]

Best answer: This is a super personal decision so I'm just going to raise some questions:

Part of the reason we wanted to have more children is that both of us have great relationships with our siblings. We would like our children to be close as well, the 8 year age difference has introduced a fair amount of maternal angst in me.

How big a part? because this is going to be a very very different experience than a 3-4 year gap. I have close and far siblings. My far (7-12 years) siblings are more like additional parents than playmates or buddies. Neither good or bad but very different.

Is the other Part just the Idea of having 3? Is it just that you've had that idea for a long time? I realize that it might be hard to give that up but that is not really a 'reason'

Adopting an older child, someone between 3-6 is what I picture when I'm thinking about it. Is that a crazy idea?

Do you have a lot of experience with developmental problems? Childhood trauma? Violent or Sexual acting out?

My wife is childhood trauma psychologist and she thinks that she may not be able to handle adopting in that age group. These kids are coming out of a foster system that fucks them up, and families that cause them a lot of harm. Also these adoptions are rarely truly closed because even if the family is out of the picture the kids often remember them and carry that around with them.

flip side: These kids need homes

but it is a whole different ball game
posted by French Fry at 8:25 AM on October 15, 2012 [4 favorites]

I heard it said once that adoption should be about providing a family for a child and not providing a child for a family. Children aren't like dogs, they hold on to their history; you don't just plop one in and everything is hunky-dory. There are attachment issues involved. That said, there are many children who need loving homes and parents dedicated to caring for them. You might look into foster/adoptive care resources in your local area. Many agencies provide (require, in fact) informative courses that can help better inform you of what adopting an older child might entail.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:25 AM on October 15, 2012 [11 favorites]

I can't speak to much of your question, except as a person with a much younger sibling. I wouldn't discount the possibility that your children might have a close relationship, regardless of the age difference. It's a different relationship, for sure--I was older than your daughter when my sibling came around, and I have more of a maternal-ish relationship with them than a buddy-buddy one (they're still very young, though). In many ways it could be of benefit to your younger child to have a closer 'role model' type of relationship. I've never fought with my sibling or felt competitive with them because we have consistently been at very different stages of development, and from looking at others in similar situations that seems pretty consistent. If you want another biological child, don't let the age difference between them stop you from doing so.
posted by Papagayo at 8:26 AM on October 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

My husband and I have only one child. We originally wanted two, but we ultimately decided to not have any more.

We are both super close to our siblings. However, this is no guarantee that our kids would be close. We have plenty of friends who don't speak to their siblings at all.

We thought a lot about our son having a sibling, but we never really thought about that second child independently. That is to say -- it was always "it would be nice if he had a brother or sister" and never "we want this child."
posted by hmo at 8:31 AM on October 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

Well, adoption is awesome, but is a whole separate project. If international, there are significant delays and expenses. Domestic or international, there are typically moderate to significant developmental and behavioral and disability needs.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 8:31 AM on October 15, 2012

Best answer: Julia at Here Be Hippogriffs had fertility issues that she has written about extensively. She ended up with 3 kids, one who is now about 11 and twins who are about 4. Their relationship, at least as depicted in the blog and pictures, is delightful. (Also, you should read it just because she's a great writer.)
posted by katemonster at 8:34 AM on October 15, 2012

This is such a personal thing with some many unknowable variables. I have 3 children a total of 30 months apart. The first two are 16.5 months apart and the 2nd and 3rd are 13 months apart. They get along well. My daughter and her two brothers get along very well. The two boys so close in age do, at times, compete and have periods where there is not going to be a love-in. I think the child's sex as well as age difference makes a significant difference. I also think that their age matters too. I was not that close with my 3 years older brother growing up, but as we moved into our 20s, we became closer and now around 50 we get on quite well.

My ex has a brother 10 years older and they barely communicated or knew each other before he went off to college when she was 7. Now, as they get older, they are more friendly and get on as relatives, but they don't have much in common and are not now, nor will they ever be close friends.

As for adopting, I have no experience. But, I have worked briefly at a school for foster kids and orphans and I know that bringing an older child, older than say 1, into a new family will not go as smooth as you wish. It is a huge undertaking that the ENTIRE family (your other child(ren)) have to be committed to making work.
posted by AugustWest at 8:35 AM on October 15, 2012

Best answer: Mrs. Alms is separated from her two siblings by 12 and 14 years. I would say she has the best of both worlds. It's sort of like she was their parent, because she remembers clearly holding them when they came back from the hospital, changing their diapers, their first steps, etc. But now that they are grown they are her siblings, plain and simple. She loves them dearly, and they her.
posted by alms at 8:37 AM on October 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I firmly believe that luck has as much to do with whether or not siblings are close as anything else-there is no magical age, it's all about personality. My sister and I are 3 years apart and aren't super close; my three kids range from 15-3 and all get along well right now. I wouldn't let the age gap stop you-in general, I think siblings are good things.

On the other hand, I would suggest thinking long and hard about the adoption idea. I've worked in child protection over 20 years, and adoption of older children can be an amazing thing for everyone involved. But you really have to have your shit together as parents-you need to not come into it with your own issues unresolved. You need to be both flexible and structured, able to calmly parent, able to roll with the punches and not expect a child to meet your needs. I couldn't do it-I need to much quiet time and I get too cranky. You could be very different-I suggest doing a lot of research and soul searching before you decide. A bad match in adoption can be devastating for you and your family-and there is almost nothing worse at my job (which is chock full of lots of bad things) than adoptions that fail, and kids that get one more trauma and loss added to their lives.
posted by purenitrous at 9:01 AM on October 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Just an idea too, if your husband and you are close to your siblings does your daughter have cousins around her age. That would give her relatives her own age to be close, in an age group kind of way and then you can work on her being close to her siblings too in different ways.

My brother and I are six years apart in age and had almost no connection growing up as we had very different interests (I am a computer person he loved sports) but we were bought up with a very strong you look after family mentality. We may not be best friends but we are both strong believers in family, and there is not other person I would want on my side if the shit hit the fan than my brother and I know he would be there for me in a heartbeat as I would be for him and his family. There are many different sorts of closeness.
posted by wwax at 9:05 AM on October 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Speaking only to the adoption part: if you are adopting a school-aged child, you are virtually by definition adopting a child whose first parents are alive, and whom she is separated from both unwillingly and for good reasons. I have a friend who adopted two children, full siblings; she got the first child at two and a half, and the second child straight from the NICU when he was born early. Even at the age of two and a half, her older child has a lot of painful and complicated issues stemming from the circumstances that separated her from her first parents. The children are 5 and 2.5 now, and the younger one is absolutely smooth sailing compared to the older one, since he's been in a stable loving home since birth.

Also, they have court-mandated ongoing contact with the first parents, every month, even though their adoption is complete. This will continue until the younger child is 18, unless the courts rule that the children are in imminent danger. They have mandatory visits with the first parents once a month, plus therapy for the older child twice a week, EI services for both children once a week, individual counseling for each parent every two weeks, and counseling / debrief sessions for the whole family once a week.

I don't want to put you off of domestic foster/adoption of a school aged child if that is truly what calls to your heart, at ALL, because it is noble work. But it is an incredible undertaking, not just for you, but for any other children that you have -- you'd be signing your daughter up to be doing a lot of the work, and probably taking a lot of the hits in the early times. That doesn't mean you shouldn't do it, but you should definitely go into it with open eyes.
posted by KathrynT at 9:07 AM on October 15, 2012 [5 favorites]

As an only child, I definitely think you should have another kid whether it's by natural means or adoption. While I have great relationships with my parents and with my first cousins, I always felt like I was missing the sibling bond I saw in other families -- no matter how far apart the kids were. My dad and his sister are 10 years apart and they get on well. My mom has 3 siblings and has varying relationships with them but that's more dependent on their personalities.
posted by DoubleLune at 9:16 AM on October 15, 2012

Best answer: I am closer to the sister 9 years younger than me than I am to the sister 10 months older than me. The experience of you and your husband has zero bearing on the experience you daughter will have regardless of if or how you expand your family.

You can adopt a child in the age group you mention but I think you need to do a lot of research and education via your state's foster to adopt programme to understand the parameters you'd be working within. It is basically nothing like private infant adoption.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:17 AM on October 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have a friend in his mid twenties with a toddler brother-we're talking about an age difference of twenty years, here. He adores his little brother, they're very close, his Facebook is full of Instagram photos of his chubby-faced tiny doppelganger. It's one of the sweetest things I've ever seen.
posted by Juliet Banana at 9:24 AM on October 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

Just wanted to chime in and give another perspective on the adoption side.

My SO's parents adopted (actually, permanent-fostered) his brother, who has a mental disability. They didn't want to have any more biological kids and were prepared for the extra work involved in bringing up a child with special needs.

The fact that my partner's brother has a mental disability adds a whole new level of challenge, as does the fact that his family are alive and known although not in contact. However, he's the most sparkling guy, my partner's parents continue to dote on him, and my partner loves him dearly, only ever refers to him as his brother, and certainly would say his life is richer for having had him in it.
posted by greenish at 9:29 AM on October 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

My brother, two years younger than me, bullied me relentlessly throughout my childhood and teenage years. We also had no interests in common. As adults, we are on speaking terms, but see each other on average once every five years.

My half-siblings, 12 and 15 years younger than me, are sweet, and closer, but it's a different sort of relationship - more like cousins. And I think that's as much because of the age difference as the fact they are only half-siblings.

Personally I don't think people should ever have kids primarily in order to give their other kids siblings. I think you should figure out how much you want more children for themselves.
posted by lollusc at 9:32 AM on October 15, 2012 [6 favorites]

The relationship between my husband and his 7-years-younger sister seems to me, about the same as the relationship betwen me and my 18-months-older brother. I think family structure, the genetic crapshoot that is personality, and gender have a lot more to do with this than strictly age.
posted by muddgirl at 9:41 AM on October 15, 2012

My husband is close to his brother who is six years younger than him. I am estranged from my brother who is six years older than me. There's really no way to know how these things will work out.
posted by vespabelle at 9:52 AM on October 15, 2012 [4 favorites]

I agree with lollusc and vespabelle.

You simply cannot predict what your children's relationships with each other will be. So many factors are involved in whether or not they will be friends. However, I think you DO have some vital information-- the child you have now. How is she with other children? Is she easy going? Will she resent another sibling coming along? Is she gentle? Does she have any difficulties in socializing, school, language, or other parts of her development? (I ask because having a second child will reduce your ability to give time and attention to help your child over those hurdles.)

I would also recommend speaking with a child development specialist and/or child therapist about your thoughts. They would be able to provide you some valuble insights about the specific dynamics of your household and the potential difficulties (and joys) of having more children.

Best of luck to you!
posted by emilynoa at 9:53 AM on October 15, 2012

My sister (and only sibling) is 9 years older than me and we are very close.
posted by greta simone at 10:19 AM on October 15, 2012

I don't think people should ever have kids primarily in order to give their other kids siblings

My cousin admitted to me that she did just that. I'm willing to bet that for many parents that's a huge reason that tips them over to the decision to have multiple children. I know it will be for me (I have just one for now, and am trying to decide whether to have another). It's silly to try to pretend that there are clear, 'good', 'moral', 'selfless' etc. reasons to have children. I've had childless friends ask me why I decided to have a child. I couldn't answer. There is no right answer. The reasons we have kids are extremely, extremely complex. They are probably always a mix of 'good' and 'bad'(for example, "My partner wanted to have kids, and I went ahead even though I wasn't sure" + "I want someone to carry on after me so that I don't feel my mortality so acutely" + "I want someone to love and take care of").

I understand your maternal angst at the idea of having kids that are so far apart in age. There is definitely a notion we have that we are 'supposed' to have them close together. But it's just a societal construct. And as so many have pointed out, it doesn't mean that they won't be close.
posted by kitcat at 11:04 AM on October 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

You cannot reliably predict how your children's relationships will form based on just their age. There's just too many other variables.

For example, I'm 4 and 6 years older than my siblings. I used to be significantly closer to the middle kid, because we had shared interests, we're both guys, he looked up to me, etc. However, now that we're grown and all in university, I talk way more with the youngest because she's more willing to call and chat. The two of them end up closer when I moved away from home because well, I wasn't around as much!

You simply cannot control this. Have as many kids at whatever age difference you like.

Also, please don't adopt a kid just to fill a hole in your ideal age spacing. Adoption is a lot more complicated than a lot of people make it out to be. These children have histories that you will need to deal with. They are not blank slates to be inserted in to your lives. (Not saying you had this opinion, but it needs to be said more often.)
posted by buteo at 11:08 AM on October 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

> Also, they have court-mandated ongoing contact with the first parents, every month, even though their adoption is complete.

That isn't always the case. I know two families who did adoptions of children who were two- and three-years old and had been removed from their original homes, and now that the adoptions are finished they don't have to have contact with the birth family.

> Is the fact that I would be adopting at least in part to provide my child with a sibling/friend closer in age a sign that I'm not doing it for the right reasons?

You have an idea of what you'd like your family to be like, and this is one possible way to get there. There are all kinds of ways to make a family and none of them -- OK, none of the realistic, legal ones -- are inherently wrong. Obviously you shouldn't take it lightly, but it's not like they're going to just hand you a kid when you first make contact with an agency. You can look into it, talk to counselors and people who have gone through the process, and not pursue it if you realize it isn't right for your family.
posted by The corpse in the library at 11:24 AM on October 15, 2012

Personally I don't think people should ever have kids primarily in order to give their other kids siblings.

For most of human history people had kids because they felt like having sex. We survived. I think the only "bad" reasons to have kids are ones that result in a poor living situation, like "This kid will totally help our marriage!" ... no, it won't. Have fun dealing with custody battles.

It's not the reason that matters, it's the result.

Anyway, my father has a wide range of siblings and the one he's closest to is his sister who is 15 years older. So I wouldn't worry too much about what you think is normal.
posted by dagnyscott at 12:24 PM on October 15, 2012

I think you need to separate out what you want for your kids now, and what you want for them when you're older.

Their relationship as adults will be determined a lot by their own personalities, and how much they have in common especially if they don't have a particularly shared childhood. As people have said, chances are reasonable that they'll get on well for most of their lives.

Which brings me on to what would happen when they were kids. With an 8 year gap, chances are they would not be companions for each other as kids at all. They may or may not get on well, but they won't be the same cohort. They may be more like having an only child twice. If that's not a problem, then have another kid.

I am the eldest of 4. The others are 2, 4 and 12 years younger than me. Now that we are all adults we all get on well, both as gang and also each individual pair of kids. By miles, the middle 2 are the closest.

I'm close to the youngest only because we have surprisingly similar interests, otherwise I we do not have childhood memories in common (I left home when he was 6 or 7). Similarly, the youngest 2, who are 8 years apart have always got on well, but they were not companions for each other when they were kids, in the same way that us eldest 3 were companions when we were younger.
posted by plonkee at 12:25 PM on October 15, 2012

Response by poster: I think you need to separate out what you want for your kids now, and what you want for them when you're older.

This is a very good point. The reason we were spacing further apart is because we are somewhat spaced from our siblings. My older brother is 6 years older and my younger brother is 5 years younger - as adults I get along well with both, but I don't feel like we were peers growing up at all, and that always bummed me out a little.

But as others have pointed out I can't control the relationship my kids have with each other for sure, so I guess I'll need to try and leave that out of the equation somewhat when making our decision.

Great feedback on the adoption front, you've given me a lot to think about there. And thank you to all the additional stories about close sibling relationships that are further apart. Ideally my daughter would have had a close sibling during childhood, but I feel better knowing that just because that won't be the case doesn't mean she can't have a close sibling as an adult.
posted by dadici at 12:52 PM on October 15, 2012

our children are 18 years, 2 years and 8 months.

when we had our first we were young, none of our friends had kids.

years later australia has had a mini baby boom and we got on the wave.

it does mean we will have been raising children from our twenties to our sixties, which is daunting.

But it is already clear that having siblings, even though they are so much younger has enriched our eldest son's life.
posted by compound eye at 1:26 PM on October 15, 2012

Just throwing this out there: I think adoption is great and that you should totally consider it as a viable option. However, it is a pretty prolonged and challenging procedure in a lot of cases from what I've seen online - I suggest hanging out at a good online forum where people are discussing their adoption processes for a while so you can see what it's like.

Also, I would note that adoption can be quite expensive, it really depends on a lot of variables what the cost is, but it can be $10K-$20K. Whereas the basic infertility treatments that you typically use for the first 3-6 cycles of treatment only cost anywhere from ~$20 for a month's worth of Clomid to maybe $1K at most for a monitored cycle with intrauterine insemination. So that's another consideration. However, adoption almost universally does result in you getting a child, whereas infertility treatment carries no such guarantee, and that can be crazy-making and can drive people to keep taking one more step towards more invasive treatments.

Yes, you have unexplained infertility and might not need major intervention to conceive, but plenty of people with unexplained infertility end up doing IVF, and I suspect the majority of them started out the process thinking "ok, I'll try doing this stuff, but I'll never do IVF." So there is a lot of emotional baggage and stress with that too. There are people who do counseling/therapy and specialize in fertility issues, and if you're grappling with this and think it would be useful, that could be an option to explore.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 1:36 PM on October 15, 2012

Keep in mind that having more children now is going to significantly extend the amount of time that you're going to be in active-kids-living-at-home-daily-parenting mode. That's not necessarily a bad thing. But it has been a recurring theme I've noticed among families with spread-aged children (my boyfriend is 8 years older than his sister; my father and his siblings span about 14 years; my stepmother's family spans over 20; a few other cases with friends): the outlook and approach that the parents had towards parenting would often change a lot from first kid to last, and in at least a few cases I think the parents were a bit sick of the whole thing by time they were launching the youngest child.

I hasten to add that pretty much all of the "last kids" I know are doing pretty well, and certainly are no less happy or successful or close to their parents on average than older siblings. I don't think any of your kids will really be better or worse off than if they'd been spaced as you planned. But you should consider what the impact is going to be on your own life, because that will probably be a good bit different from what you originally envisioned.
posted by kagredon at 6:04 PM on October 15, 2012

Sorry to be a pain, but this sounds more like planning a dinner party menu than raising children to me.

How many children do you want? When you have an image in your head of your "family" - say when you're 45 years old - how many kids are in the crowd?

You can't control the personalities of your children or how they interact amongst themselves no matter how you try. In some families, the kids never actually form a close relationship with each other; even in their 40s and 50s, they're still not close. But in other families, the siblings will fight to the death for each other, and there's no one they feel closer to than their brothers and sisters. More often than not, in a large group, some get along well and some don't fit as well. It makes no difference, really, how many years there are between them. They're individuals.

So how many individual children sounds like a good number to you?

Go for it. And enjoy every minute with every child. You can't plan the future. If you want to enjoy the ride, just be flexible and take it moment by moment.

One other important point: Children don't grow up and move on when they turn 18, leaving you to get back to your pre-children life. Not at all. There's college or babies or both and you'll find yourself involved with your kids for the rest of your life. It's a career, my dear.
posted by aryma at 8:39 PM on October 15, 2012

Response by poster:
Sorry to be a pain, but this sounds more like planning a dinner party menu than raising children to me.
It's really not - it's just the idea of boiling things down to measurable facts that makes it look that way.

I've always seen myself with 3, when I picture Christmas 30 years from now I picture a nice big family, 3 kids - hopefully starting to settle down with partners/kids of their own.

BUT I'm not sure that's the most "legit" way to look at things either. Raising kids now is hard, I enjoy my daughter a TON, but I also enjoy doing things/hobbies/freetime. We like to travel. So one of the things I've struggled with is the idea of holding on to the picture I've had of the future, vrs evaluating the reality. The reality is that I won't have a tight little pack of kids no matter what I do at this point.

That's not a tragedy but it is an adjustment. And while I'm adjusting to that change in perspective I thought it would be a good idea to seek others experience for the possible permutations. So it's less about planning a menu and more about exploring options off the linear path of least resistance.

I'm still not sure what we'll do (although this thread reconfirmed many of my own hesitations about adopting an older child, so that will likely not be the first path for us). But it is really helpful to see the feedback/advice/questions of all of you - thanks!
posted by dadici at 8:10 AM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

I can't comment much about spacing your children, but I want to put in a good word for being an only children. If I missed having an incredibly special sibling relationship, I will never know and don't feel the loss. What I do have are deep, lifelong friends, for more than 5 decades.

And when my mother was dying, I didn't have to fight with estranged siblings, as some families do, about how to care for her, and how to direct her doctors. While you might not think about this issue when you are contemplating having children, it is something I thought about when her life was ending.
posted by citygirl at 1:06 PM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

« Older I knew quitting would be hard, but...   |   How to find crew for a 48 Hour Film Contest Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.