Optimal Child Spacing ... From Parent Perspective
September 1, 2018 12:43 AM   Subscribe

You have one child who is turning 1 soon. You are doing well. You want another child. What is the best child spacing to maintain some semblance of adult life and for your own mental well being?

This is not a question about fertility. I have read countless (countless, I assure you) scientific papers about fertility and I'm pretty comfortable about fertility. Even if the next child is spaced 10 years apart, our chances of being fertile and having a baby will not decrease significantly in that time.

This is not a question about what the child would want. They will like each other or not, and child spacing will not affect this. I am sure that it is nice to have a sibling 1/2/3/4/[insert number] years apart; all these answers are anecdotal anyway and most research on this is mixed.

This is a question about what is the best child spacing for the parents' wellbeing and mental health.

We have a lovely almost-one year old. She is wonderful and awesome and absolute joy to be around. She sleeps through the night. We have found we are able to do most things as before, just a bit slower and with fewer "spoons". But as a team, we're coping well and are at 70 - 80% of our childfree capacity. We still go abroad for holidays, we eat out, we go on hikes, we exercise, we both have careers. It has been decent. Not perfect, but not bad.

We want to have another child, but we are worried about how two young children may affect our capacity. Do we just have another child and get the young, hard years over with, and would our capacity drop to 50% (for 5 years in the overlap) before quickly rising again as they get older?

Or do we have another child later on, when our first one is a bit more independent, say at 4 years old? We will be stretching out the hard years a little, say 70-80% capacity for 8 years with no overlap?

If you have children closely spaced, or not closely spaced, I like to hear your experiences with mental health and overall well being. Did you exercise? Did you eat well? Did you have to sacrifice friends, hobbies, adult life?

Please no judgey comments here -- the family unit consists of both children and parents, and while I hear a lot about the effect on child spacing on the children, there's not very much discussion on how it affects the parents.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (33 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
We have two, and went back and forth on a third many times. But I can tell you, once you get rid of nappies, it's... psychologically difficult to go back to them. So I'd say not too far apart. It's kinda like training for two big physical events, you don't want to lose all the strength you've built up from the first time round!
posted by smoke at 2:21 AM on September 1, 2018 [14 favorites]

I suspect everyone likes the spacing they have (and that the answers will reflect this.) It really just depends on your personality! If you have them close together (as I have), it really is draining but in some ways easier because you are in the muck anyway. But on the plus side, they play together more easily and that can give you a big break.) It can be expensive as well (not sure if you're factoring this in) if you are doing daycare; that can be a strain, or it can be cheaper if you treat your family like a nanny share. You're also younger, so you just might have more energy.

Spacing apart can be nice because only one in diapers, one can entertain herself, etc. But it's less likely the two will have shared interests (not much unites say, a 2 year old and a 8 year old), so from your perspective, outings might be harder. Also I suspect cheaper.

No matter the spacing, from the parents' perspective, two kids really is much harder than 1 in terms of things like holidays, weekend mornings, expenses, cleaning etc. I think it's totally worth it, but for me, it is a lot harder than 1.

I suspect this is the kind of thing you can overthink (I know I have!) but it will so much depend on your own personality, that of the children you get, and other things going on in your life (jobs, aging parents, etc.)
posted by heavenknows at 3:25 AM on September 1, 2018 [2 favorites]

Mine are 3.5 years apart. I love it. When babe was born, the older one was in nursery school part of the day five days a week. Kid was old enough to follow multistep instructions, express his needs clearly, dress and undress himself, go to the bathroom himself without prompting, his dentist said he could brush his own teeth in the morning, he was really good on his scooter, and he could handle short drop off play dates with our neighbors. That much physical independence has been really wonderful for us as parents and given us breathing room to handle babe’s first year.

I also don’t think diapers are that bad. At least you can change them when you’re ready, not when you are in the middle of a grocery store with your cart half full and your baby crying and your toddler suddenly HAS TO PEE NOW.
posted by sestaaak at 3:46 AM on September 1, 2018 [3 favorites]

My grandkids are 2 years apart and it is super hard on their parents. It will get better but yikes for now.
posted by Bella Donna at 4:30 AM on September 1, 2018

Ours are 20 months apart (so, like, you’d have to get pregnant this week to do that) and it works for us. Basically, twice the diapers for half the time. It’s totally a slog but the light at the end of the tunnel comes fast. Also, they definitely do play with and entertain each other.
posted by whitewall at 4:31 AM on September 1, 2018 [5 favorites]

I had a friend once who said: one is one and two is ten... it’s been that way for me having two young children. 2 and 3. Obviously you can’t have them this close in age at this point but I do have friends with a baby and a 3.5 year old and it’s still pretty full on. The more chilled out parents seem to have an older child of say, 5 and a baby. In a way I wish I had done that because two very small children had been extremely draining, whereas when I only have one of them (say daddy’s gone away with one for the weekend) just having one is a piece of cake.
posted by catspajammies at 4:42 AM on September 1, 2018 [1 favorite]

Mine are five years apart, and so are many of my friends' and one of my sibling's. I also have friends and siblings with children that are closer in age. My impression is that choosing to have them closer means that you are prioritizing your family for a period of your life. It's really intense for a while, but then it's over. Spacing it out means you have to deal with diapers for longer, but it remains relatively low-key, since the older kid understands directions and can even be really helpful. I am happy with my choice and my now adult kids love each other and are really sweet together.
posted by mumimor at 4:55 AM on September 1, 2018 [3 favorites]

We have two, almost seven years apart. The younger will turn 18 this year, so I can give these observations with the benefit of a couple decades under our belts:

- Our daughter (the older) was old enough that she could process the idea of having a sibling. We could talk about what we thought it would be like to have a new baby in the family, and she was able to express her feelings fairly well if she was frustrated or jealous. She turned out to be a wonderful helper ("Mom Junior") who was extremely patient and loving with our son, especially for the first ~18 months or so.
- We only had a few years where both of them were in day care/after school, which helped financially.
- We will only have one in college at a time, and have had time and resources to help #1 pay off some of her loans while we are saving for #2.
- Because they are fairly far apart in age, we have to approach each one's needs and current situation individually, as opposed to a blanket approach to "the kids." (Not sure if I'm articulating that well, but there are very few parenting solutions that can be applied equally well to an 11 year old and a 4 year old, for example.)

The cons:
- Lots more dividing-and-conquering during family activities - e.g. amusement parks, travel, movies, sports and clubs. We might go somewhere together, but generally it ended up that one of us would go do age-appropriate stuff with the older and the other parent would take the other kid. That gets old after a while.
- They were never at the same school at the same time, so we doubled the carpool and PTA meetings and such. We were fortunate that we both had relatively flexible jobs and could work out the logistics, but it required a lot of organization and coordination.
- Our kids love each other but are not particularly close or "best friends," as I see with friends who are close in age to their siblings or who have closely-spaced kids. If they played together as children, it was due to the older being generous with her time and that tapered off as she got older.
- You really do forget a lot of practical parenting/ child development info when they're spaced that far out, or at least we did, so I'm not sure we were necessarily wiser the second time. On the positive side, we didn't care as much. On the other-other side, we did a terrible job of recording the younger one's milestones, first words, etc.
- We have been school parents for a long, long, long time. This week marked our 20th first day of regular school. I'm tired of the PTA, tired of filling out forms, tired of carpool. I'm trying really hard not to make that impact how we parent our son through his last year and into college.

Of course, there's no right or wrong answer, and our choice of spacing was influenced by some stuff we were going through at the time - without those external factors, we probably would have had #2 when #1 was 4 or 5. My husband is 18 months older than his sister and not close to her at all, so there was no romanticizing on our part in having them close in age - and in retrospect I'm glad we had time to rest and regroup before starting over with a second child. Hope this helps a little!
posted by Sweetie Darling at 4:57 AM on September 1, 2018 [8 favorites]

Oh and with 3.5 years apart we never needed to struggle w a gargantuan double stroller, just a single with a gliding board, v happy about that, made day to day so much more bearable
posted by sestaaak at 5:51 AM on September 1, 2018

Ours are 23 months apart and, while I now feel like I had a baby when my oldest was STILL a baby, it’s been great. My kids are the best of friends (even too invested in each other since they’ve always had a buddy) and we’ll be able to travel easily much sooner. They’re 4.5 and 2.5 currently and it’s tiring but rewarding.

(All our friends did the 2-3 years apart and it’s worked out perfect for playing too).
posted by lydhre at 6:10 AM on September 1, 2018

This is difficult to answer unless you have more than two kids with different spacing between them because you're lacking an actual data set with which to work. Otherwise people are just guessing.

My kids are 26, 24 and 20. When the youngest was born, the 6 year age difference was rougher on me because of school schedules, naps, needing to breastfeed while getting the other kids to and from school and soccer and playdates.

It ended up mattering also as they got older. The school hours became nightmarish when there was a kid in high school, a kid in middle school, and a kid in elementary school--three different start times which sort of ended up being three different bedtimes, different extracurriculars, etc. It was really rough, schedule-wise.

IMHO it's easier on parents when we have kids all born within 4 years of each other.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 6:18 AM on September 1, 2018 [2 favorites]

We did 4.5 years, specifically so we wouldn’t need to pay for two kids in daycare at the same time, and hopefully not two colleges — but not longer so we have time after to salt more into retirement.

There are other benefits when one parent has to manage two kids, like: by the time the little one is out of a stroller, the older one is big enough to not immediately run off into traffic when you can’t hold their hand. In my experience kids get much easier and more capable of self maintenance (dressing, getting a snack, pottying alone) at around 4.
posted by Andrhia at 6:22 AM on September 1, 2018

Our rule was no double strollers; we wanted the elder walking when the younger was born.
posted by DanSachs at 7:51 AM on September 1, 2018 [1 favorite]

My mom always said: "Never have two kids in diapers at the same time."

I took her advice to the nth degree and didn't have any.
posted by BostonTerrier at 8:12 AM on September 1, 2018 [9 favorites]

There is no optimal spacing. You may reach a point where you start wondering who the next wonderful child will be and get to work on finding that out. Or you may decide that one is actually really enough, a decision which is sometimes helped by close connections to siblings with kids or close friends with kids.

I have three grown sons, born 36 and 33 months apart. They all have children. One has one child, the oldest of my grandchildren at 17. They've never wanted more. One has two ages 6 and 9, 33 months apart. And one is expecting a second next month when the older one will be 3 yrs and 4 mths old. They all live in the same town and the kids, even the big bad teenager, enjoy each other. The aunts, the moms of the older kids, are excited to be getting a new baby girl to love. One of them was the doula for her sister-in-law's first, the 3 yr old, and is honored that they've invited her to do it again.
posted by mareli at 8:32 AM on September 1, 2018 [2 favorites]

I do not have children, but a FB friend with twins recently posted "then" and "now" pictures showing how hard it used to be to take outings before the kids were old enough to not need a bunch of equipment. The "before" picture showed a giant double stroller hung all over with bags and the like. The "after" showed a pair of children's backpacks. She posted these with a statement to the effect that she is very happy to be done with diapers and strollers and the now-comparative-ease of outings is why she will not have any more. I mention it because as a childless person, it came across as pretty unequivocally in favor of having kids close together (or having twins) and then the joy (for her) of moving past the hard stages. Of course, twins being exactly the same age creates a unique bond like no other... but that is another topic.
posted by Armed Only With Hubris at 8:36 AM on September 1, 2018

Mine are 2.5 years apart and the trickiest part has been making sure to spend enough time on the older kid, as she got a little needy and stuff. But I ended up having twins the second time (surprise!) and that is what has caused most of the issues. My husband and I have said that it would really not be that bad, almost easy, if we’d only had one baby this time instead of two. But hey, we have two and we do our best.
posted by cabingirl at 8:48 AM on September 1, 2018

My OBGYN said 4 years, and I see the appeal- child can do a decent amount of self-care (dressing, entertaining themselves, potty) which frees you up for baby.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:12 AM on September 1, 2018

I always remembered from the movie Parenthood, Rick Moranis's character telling his wife that five years apart was the optimum time frame for sibs. Purely by accident, that's what happened with my own children and it worked out really well. They got along great as kids and still do as adults. Older kid was in kindergarten and didn't have to see the baby getting all that attention and he was a super helpful and excellent big brother to her.
posted by poppunkcat at 9:34 AM on September 1, 2018

My boys are one and four. There are pros and cons to the spacing but for us it was ideal. Having the oldest potty trained made things a LOT easier; I can’t imagine having two little ones in diapers. The one thing I would add to the other comments is that having a second is actually less work than you think. I thought it was going to double the amount of parenting/stress/exhaustion/grind. But the math didn’t work out like that. Our second is more labor-intensive than his older brother but because the older boy is able to pitch in with minor things, and because we’re already used to having a baby, it’s been less stressful and less work than I expected. There’s so much parenting stuff that just comes naturally the second time around.
posted by not_the_water at 10:43 AM on September 1, 2018 [2 favorites]

I'm in a social crew where it is very common to have closely spaced children. Everyone who had two (or three) within four years has had a hard time of it--moms talk very clearly about mom-rage and parents are stretched thin financially because of daycare and quite a few of the couples have come close to divorcing. They very, very frequently say stuff about how having multiple children isn't about today, but for the future. The present looks . . . really, really hard though.

Honestly, I feel like you don't really know how difficult childcare is until you have at least one toddler. We had a very easy baby but I almost lost my mind in her second year of life.

I have waited and waited to want another and it just hasn't happened. Each year of my life since that second has gotten progressively easier. I'm sitting here on a lovely Saturday morning watching Pose while my daughter plays quietly and happily in her room. Soon, we'll go to a birthday party and there will be two parents to one child and we will be able to have full adult conversations. In our social group, those who have stopped with one child have more economic resources available for both parents and children, less strained marriages, more time to devote to travel and hobbies.

This year my daughter will be in preschool five days a week and it's the kind of situation where I could see having another if I wanted one. Because I'll now have time to myself again, which I could see devoting to a baby. And ay daughter sometimes asks. But as time goes on, and I reflect more about my own need for a career, time to myself, hobbies, money . . . I know I am a better parent of just one child. It's clearly highly individual but I do think it's something worth seriously thinking about if you care about your own quality of life.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:05 AM on September 1, 2018 [13 favorites]

I have two kids, almost three years apart in age, who are now seven and ten. Reading PhoBWanKenobi's answer, I realized that even though I thought I had considered the concerns you raise when we were deciding on spacing our two kids, I wish that I had actually considered the benefits that come with stopping with one.

As my kids have gotten older, I've come to believe that I am a better parent when enough space to have my own life, which would definitely be easier to manage if we had stopped at one. Our family life is sweet now, my kids' love each other, and I would trade nothing, but I honestly think we'd be just as happy as a family, though obviously a different family, if we had decided our family was complete with one kid. This is true even though our younger kid turned out to be (mostly) an easier child than our first and our kids are practically each other's best friend. I still have pangs sometimes when I hang out with some of my friends who stopped with one kid.

I know you specified that you will definitely be trying for another kid, and I'll answer your actual question too, but I do think I would have benefitted from really thinking about whether to have more than one child and considered things like what kind of parent I wanted to be, how much/how soon I hoped to have some autonomy in my life, and what kind of childhood I wanted for my kid(s). It turns out that I really like having my own hobbies and non-parent friends, I value being able to offer my children enrichment opportunities responsive to their interests, and I find one-on-one time with my kids to be the most emotionally satisfying for me. I also underestimated how much more expensive (mostly money, but also time) it would be to have a second child even after we were done paying for daycare. Activities and camp can cost serious money and we regularly have to constrain ourselves with what we offer to one child because we know we couldn't afford to provide it for both.

That said, if two kids are right for you, three years has worked out pretty great for us. My older one finished weaning and potty-training and moved to his big-kid bed while I was pregnant, which made things easier when the new baby came. Our total time dealing with diapers turned out to be less than five years and we ten years in we are close to no longer having to worry about car/booster seats. They are also close enough in age (and happen to have the right temperments) that they genuinely play (which has the benefit of freeing my from entertaining them) and we are able to do lots of things all together as a family (which also means that it is not overwhelming for either parent to taken them both on an outing solo, so the other parent can have down time). They are still different kids with different interests and during the week my spouse and I do a lot of dividing to conquer the logistics of getting them each to their activities, but on occasion they can be in an activity together which is great.
posted by ElizaMain at 12:58 PM on September 1, 2018 [4 favorites]

I have 3, 30 months apart top to bottom. We loved it because while it was a lot of turmoil those first few years, soon enough they were all old enough to be somewhat self sufficient and we could go out and be adults again. To us, starting with the diapers and naps etc all over again after one had grown out would have been a mental setback.

3 were great. I would have had the fourth, but wife wanted her body back, rightfully so. However, I do not think a 3rd would have happened if we had spaced them out more than we did. (Top two, 16 months, bottom two, 13 months.)

Honestly, we had no life outside of work and the kids for until the youngest was about 3, but after 5 or so years from the first kiddo, we were able to settle into a routine that allowed us to have some adult life moments for ourselves.
posted by AugustWest at 1:59 PM on September 1, 2018

I feel like when they‘re close in age, it‘s hard until younger kid is about three. That‘s when they start actually playing with each other and suddenly you can sit and read a book while they‘re out in the sand box entertaining one another other.
It‘s the „ahhhhhh“ moment you‘ve been waiting for the last three years!

Before that, you‘ve got one kid just coming out of the neediness phase and you being relieved because you’re SO OVER being attached at the boob and then you‘ve got to do it all over again for number two! What‘s worse, number one often regresses and gets clingy when number two comes along.

It‘s harder, the closer they are on age.
I have friends who have kids one year apart and they said it was hell.

BUT when they start playing together without you, that‘s payoff time.
posted by Omnomnom at 2:08 PM on September 1, 2018

There is no way to tell — it’s all your individual needs and wants and your individual kids. Two exactly two years apart was easy for us, but they were easy kids and we were in a good neighborhood for it.

I will say — you’re talking about you, not how the kids will feel about each other. But if the kids are close enough to play with each other and share interests, it takes a load off your shoulders.
posted by LizardBreath at 3:40 PM on September 1, 2018 [2 favorites]

The career thing is an under-discussed factor here. I think there is a lot that depends on your careers, and the expectations there, and where you want to be in 5-10-15 years. Do either of you have careers that require travel now, or in the future? That require long hours? Will taking time off for parental leave cost you something in your career, or is it not that big a deal? Do you see a career turning point now, or have you already made one, or do you expect one won't be for many years to come, or do you both just have very stable steady-as-she-goes jobs that won't change much either way?

We spaced ours out by more than 5 years and career was a big part of it. As the one who had to get pregnant, while my job accommodated that pretty well for an American company, it was still a juggling exercise. I travel a lot for my career, and also needed to take a sabbatical when my first was about 3 that I explicitly did not want to be associated with "taking time off to raise kids" (as I was completely uninterested in doing that, and I felt that it would be harmful given my industry). That sabbatical and the hard work the years before it let my career continue to flourish, and I am glad that I waited until I got into a stable, senior position with a new company to go for the second.

It was nice, in the last couple of years before the second, to go back to having a slightly more "normal" work schedule where I could stay a bit later some nights or go out to work-related events without feeling guilty about not seeing my kid before bedtime. And I should note that all of this is with my husband taking the lion's share of the kid-related work flexibility like school visits or staying home when we don't have other childcare. I don't think he would've been able to do that easily for two very young kids. And of course, those extra 5 years of career growth mean more money to spend on contingencies and extra child care when needed.

All that being said, we were never sure that we wanted two. If we had gone in sure that we wanted two, I'm sure we could've made it work. But I do think that at one year, you still don't really have a sense of the obligations exactly? There are things that are much easier to do when your kid is still napping a lot and stroller-bound that become much much harder when they are walking and want to be entertained all the time. Years 2-4 are more fun and easier in a lot of ways, but definitely not a picnic. I'm impressed by people who can travel anywhere adventurous with young kids, the only way we do interesting travel is by having our parents watch them, and again, that's much easier with one than it is with two. I would not expect you to have anywhere near 80% normal capacity with 2 kids under 4, unless you can hire a lot of help (or have so much generous extended family offering that help). If that is important, I suspect the right call is to wait a while before jumping back in.
posted by ch1x0r at 3:49 PM on September 1, 2018 [3 favorites]

I spaced mine at just over 4 years apart. I was planning on 3 years, but when the time rolled around I just wasn’t ready. I loved spending time with my eldest and wasn’t ready to give it up for a new baby too soon.

It worked really well because I didn’t have two babies hanging on me at the same time for the same thing. By the tine #2 was born, #1 was spending some time at preschool. So I had individual time with both of them. That worked really well for me.

And they have turned out to be great friends as adults, which is the beat thing in he world.
posted by SLC Mom at 11:04 PM on September 1, 2018 [1 favorite]

I just wanted to say that everyone here has made great points but I don't think you can really know how it will turn out for you because children vary so much.

I have a 20 month old and I would say my luge is maybe back to 30% because he is just so, so high need. We won't be having any more. A couple of my friends have had a very high needs child as their second after an easy first baby and have said that the experience has been night and day. I think you probably need to plan for a very needy child and be happy if the path is easier.
posted by kadia_a at 11:28 PM on September 1, 2018 [3 favorites]

Two to three years between children. Voice of experience, here.

Mother's body is back in a healthy state.
Eldest is out of diapers or almost potty-trained.
Most of the advice from medical and social resources is still the same.
Most of the research on local resources for Eldest is still the same (schools, playgrounds, Mom & Me programs, etc.)

Hand-me-downs are still available.
Travel is focused on the same age-appropriate activities.
I highly recommend fanny packs instead of purses -- two hands, two children, crossing the street. Figure out how to safely guide the third child and you can have as many kids as you please (my mother said this quote was from Peggy Lennon.)

Your children's social groups are often with families that have several children in the same grades.
Teachers remember the older sibling, but are less likely to compare them.
You sometimes get the same teachers, especially in the elementary and middle school/junior high grades.
The children compete less in school activities (sports, music, drama, social clubs, etc.)

Shifting from elementary to middle school/junior high to high school is easier on children and parents.
Shifting to Eldest in college/military/leaving home is easier, both financially and mentally. We just pretended the Eldest was in her room reading. The hard part was when the Youngest switched from a local junior college to a four-year university several hours away. Empty nest syndrome.

While this is by no means reliable, there is a greater chance that the siblings will be friends compared with siblings with longer age spacing.
There is a greater chance that as the adult children have families, their kids will have more contact with each other. It may just be during Thanksgiving and Christmas, but they may show up at Grandma's and Grandpa's on the same weekend. They may plan activities together (Fish fries? Camping at the lake?)

It may be easier for adult children near the same age to make end-of-life decisions for aging parents. Ideally, they can rely on each other to fill in the gaps (distance from parents, finances, ability to juggle power of attorney duties, etc.)

Of course, this all falls by the wayside as the personalities develop. But the two-to-three-year spacing means the kids will have more in common, including parents at the same stage in their lives ("Remember when Dad bought that beat-up Mustang to fix up? And when Mom went through her Zoomba phase?"
posted by TrishaU at 5:09 AM on September 2, 2018

A close friend has two boys, age 5 and 3. She said it was really hard having a baby and a toddler together until both kids were verbal and toilet trained.

Now she finds caring for one of them more tiring than having both boys together, because when they're together, they they entertain each other, and thus are less demanding.

So closely spaced kids seem like they're probably worse for the parents at first during babyhood, but in the long run of childhood, having close-in-age kids can make the parents' lives easier in terms of being able to "ignore" the kids sometimes while they play.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 2:00 PM on September 2, 2018

When we had our first son, I could not imagine loving another child as much, to be honest. But I always wanted more than one child. And the marriage was not great, either. However, we did conceive our second son just after our first turned three. So they are about three and three quarter years apart. Here's the kicker: they have NEVER fought. Ever. I eventually had stepsons who would physically pound on one another; they were only a year apart in age. My sons are now in their 20s and still have a very good relationship and hang out together frequently.

Also, my brother and I are 5 years apart in age (I'm older). We are not very close. I love him, and when we do see each other throughout the year it's usually a good time. But he is not someone I'll text all day or call once a week.
posted by annieb at 5:59 PM on September 2, 2018

I forgot to mention that my marriage was not healthy, so most of the stress I had in their early years had nothing to do with them. Once I became an actual single mom (because their father was pretty much uninvolved) things smoothed out and we got into a routine.

Hobbies...I didn't give them up so much as put them aside a bit until the kids could occupy themselves.

Social outings...I had great sitters. Seriously. A happy mommy is one that isn't tied in to just being at home. Great sitters are key. One of their favorite sitters would watch them while I went to an exercise class twice a week.

I think that almost four years apart worked very well for me, in many ways.
posted by annieb at 6:09 PM on September 2, 2018

Very high needs baby, 4 year gap, very chill easy baby, 2.5 year gap, very high needs baby. (when I say high needs, both went on to be diagnosed with autism and the youngest is really only just beginning to be a bit verbal at 5.5 but still basically can't communicate verbally - none of this was known in babyhood, they were both just atypical and hard to care for).

4 years was wonderful in retrospect, but 2.5 also worked fine because the 2.5yo was so chill and good natured. 2.5 would have been a nightmare with the eldest because she was basically a cross between a drunk leprechaun and a tornado at that age.

I know you are asking for the parent perspective and not the kids wrt the "if they like each other" element, but it makes a significant difference to my happiness as a parent when nobody is trying to throttle anyone else so it's worth considering. The 4yo was INSANELY JEALOUS of her first sibling for about...5 years. She was never ever jealous of the youngest who came along when she was 7. It's hard to know how much difference ASD made in that. They are best buddies now, at 12 and 8. Sat right now on minecraft together.

I can't speak to the diapers and speech aspect except to say that variations can happen and you can't assume that a given kid will be speaking and done with diapers at...any age really. Personally I find diapers easy to deal with and potty trained kids easy to deal with and the bit in between a nightmare, but to be fair the nightmare bit only usually lasts about 7-14 days with typical kids. But my youngest stretched it to 18 months so that might colour my view re:nightmares.

Anyway best of luck with your planning. Hopefully nature won't give you triplets for a giggle.
posted by intergalacticvelvet at 11:52 AM on September 3, 2018 [1 favorite]

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