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OMG, your kids are how far apart in age? Oh, were they an “oops?” That must be terrible starting all over again. I could never do that. Here are just a few of the fun and chatty conversation starters people like to talk to me about when I tell them my children are 12 years apart. Honestly, the sibling age gap is like the best thing since crustless bread! Let me tell you why.

My Experience Raising Children with a Sibling Age Gap

I am almost 35 years old, and my son will be 17 this year. Our daughter is 5 years old. The first plus is that our son got all our attention for the first 12 years of his life. Now they have each other to grow up with.

Then he will turn 18 and move out and our daughter gets to have the attention. It is like having siblings and being an only child at the same time. We do not have to worry about making each child’s school events because they are only in school one year at the same time.

What else is absolutely amazing you ask? They get along!!! The age difference may seem like too much of a gap, but they love each other so very much. It is such an amazing bond between the two!

Our son will spend time playing with her and teaching her stuff and she gets to have a big brother to look up to. They do not argue like siblings do because well our son is mature enough to not let that stuff get to him. He can laugh it off and in turn make his sister laugh.

I also grew up with a sibling age gap. My only sibling Is almost 8 years older than I am. However, we did not always get along great. There are pros and cons to the age gap, but it fits our lifestyle amazing. It also gives the grandparents a fun variety of things to do with the grandchildren because they are of different ages.

The Plus Sides of the Age Gap

So, what are the major plus sides to the age gap? The learning you can give your children is amazing. You can spend that one-on-one time with them and really focus on their growth and development, because you aren’t running after another child, and you aren’t trying to keep your patience with kids not listening.

You get that fun one on one time that with multiple kids around the same age, you will not get as well. We have not lost out on the bonding because our children are amazing friends and our son is very protective and wants to teach his Lil sis how to do everything from riding a bike, to pumping her legs on the swing, to driving a remote-control car or of course the new fancy lingo the teenagers are using these days.

As a parent though, you get better rest because you are not chasing all the young children around. You even get to sleep in because your teenager is playing with and babysitting your daughter like a live-in babysitter, but it is free and they like each other.

For me, it is much less stressful too because I have more patience, more time to relax, and not only spend time with my kids and family but me time to have some peace of mind.

Did my husband and I plan this? Absolutely not at first! When we decided, we were going to have a second child, we just decided it was our time and we were ready. So many people were very happy for us when we got pregnant and so many people were dumbfounded that we were starting over when we could be empty nesters before 40 years old.

It was obviously a big decision, and we did not take it lightly, but I would NEVER take it back. I love the age difference. I love the bond. I love that we get so many kinds of time with the children.

The Downsides of the Age Gap

However, be prepared to have your older child have some difficulties adjusting to not being the only child after so many years. The other big issue that I have as a mother of age-gapped children is I only have two children and well if I am being honest your first child can be trial and error on learning how to be a parent and then you let loose a bit more on your second child.

AND your oldest child will NEVER let you forget that. You will get used to hearing stuff like, “I never got to have that at her age” or “I was not allowed to do that until I was such and such years old.” And the list goes on. On the flip side of that though, you have the older sibling telling the youngin’ how things were when they were growing up and how to make it better for themselves.

The ins and outs of the family per se. You know… like how to find the loopholes in rules and how to get more of what you want. Or what mom and dad are pushovers on.

Anyways, my oldest was born in 2004 and I thought I was the coolest mom on the planet because I had a car seat that had a base for it. You took that base, and you strapped that thing in with the seat belt, put all your weight on it, and tightened it down. If you were REALLY lucky…you had two bases.

I bought him baby Einstein stuff and oh how I wanted one of those jogging strollers, but they were hundreds and hundreds of dollars. He got his professional pictures done at places like Walmart, JC Penny’s, and such. It was what my grandmother called “the bee’s knee.”

Then came the youngest born in 2016. I had a small car, and a car seat would ABSOLUTELY NOT fit into the back seat no matter what I did. So, I went car shopping. I brought my fancy newborn car seat with me. And I found an SUV I liked. While my pregnant waddling self-attempted to put the car seat into the SUV while the salesman grabbed the keys, I was utterly lost.

I could not for the life of me figure out how to put the car seat in the car. There was no place for a seatbelt. The base had no holes. The salesman ever so kindly showed me anchor points and how to attach the seat. It was literally at that exact moment I realized that I was pretty much becoming a first-time parent for the second time. Everything was so different and new. 

I even caught myself (at 30 years old) saying, I remember when my oldest was just a baby and things were so different. I guess that is the equivalent of walking uphill with no shoes on in the winter to school like my grandparents used to tell me.

My Overall Opinion on Having an Age Gap

So, what is my overall opinion on the age gap for your children? I personally love most of it. There are times when I think man, I could be an empty nester at 36 years old. I could travel and be free to do whatever I pleased without having to care for a kid at home.

Then I truly think I would feel something was missing from my life because our daughter has completed our family. It kind of made us whole. I will not lie, neither I nor my husband probably have the patience for kids near the same age. We enjoy the peace and quiet. We enjoy having adult time along with family time.

Our oldest will turn 18 and graduate when our youngest graduates Kindergarten. We do not have to fuss over what school events we go to or feel bad when we miss a sporting event either.

So the average family prefers their children to be about 2 years apart in age. I have no judgment for anyone like that as most of my cousins have 4 plus children and they are all around that age spacing. One huge thing to remember when planning to expand your family is that a women’s body needs time to rest and heal from the previous pregnancy and labor.

It is recommended to wait around 18 months to start trying again. This not only allows your body to heal, but it will also lessen your chances of preterm labor or low birth weights. If you are wanting to expand your family, make sure you are using proper “etiquette” for not getting pregnant.

That can be abstinence, birth control, condoms, implanted devices, and other methods. Remember that planning for the next child can help your other children prepare, budgeting, stressors, and sometimes the overall health and dynamics of your family.

My Experience of having Siblings with an Age Gap

So, I would like to tell a little story from my upbringing. I have one brother who is almost 8 years older than me. We pretty much despised each other until I was about a teenager, ok? I was the baby of the family and he thought I got away with everything.

We could argue all day, but as soon as we got time-outs in our rooms, we would build Lego roads and such across the hallway to our rooms. We thought we were being so quiet and sneaky. We would do this for hours on end. We thought that we never got caught so it was pretty much a playtime for us.

Little did we know that our parents both knew what we were doing, but that helped us bond when we did not realize it and they got some peace. I had from the time I was 10 to 18 alone with my folks after my brother left.

As a teenager, he was protective, and I looked up to him for advice and we loved to hang out. As we grow older it seems that we have less of an age gap and like to just reminisce on the fun, crazy, and wild times growing up. When I was about 16 or 17 I was at a party that my brother showed up to even.

I was normally always the “little sister” when he was around, never known by name. He was then known as oh, him that is her “big brother.” So even if you do not get along growing up, things can always change.

This has also allowed us as a husband and wife to find time for ourselves as well. One kid is off doing their teenage thing with friends and the other loves to be with Papa and Nana or visiting cousins. We get to rekindle our marriage and spend some extra us time and have some added date nights. That also helps us cherish the family moments even more so. It makes us all a happier family.

I will never say it has been an easy road because we have hit bumps, potholes, and some ditches on the way, but we have always found our way back and become stronger. They say you cannot teach an old dog new tricks, but I think I did darn good relearning how to have a newborn again after 12 years.

And lastly, never be afraid to own up to your mistakes, cry a little when you need to, sneak away for some adult time, have that ice cream before dinner, and just be a big goofy mess. You do not need to be perfect to be the perfect parent to your children no matter what ages they are.

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Jillian Robinson - one of the Stuff4Tots editorial team
Jillian Robinson (RN)

Jillian is a registered nurse and mom of two.  Her eldest being a teenager and her youngest a toddler.  The wide spread of ages, coupled with her medical background, give Jillian a unique insight into the challenges and joys families and parents face at each stage of life's journey.