We have chosen to have our kids close together—21 months between Alex and Julianna, and 25 between Julianna and Nicholas. Our reasons are pretty simple:
- Get the chaos out of the way all at once.
- Kids grow up with built-in playmates, and all the associated social learning (sharing, doing without, etc.)
- Makes it possible to have a larger family, particularly if, like us, you got off to a late start.
Succinct, rational, well thought out. However, there are things I didn’t think about—or at least, things I chose to overlook.
1. Rest, and the lack thereof. Last night, I got up 4 times with Nicholas, and 3 with Julianna. (Christian tells me to get him up, but the trouble is that it takes two or three minutes of hard prodding to wake him up, and by then whichever child started the fuss will have woken the other one up, too. Not to mention by then I’m wide awake, so what’s the point?)
2. Lack of rest leads to getting worn down. Several years ago I heard that the Powers That Be now recommend that women wait 3-5 years between children, so their bodies can recover. (This is the only reference I could find quickly online today.) I found that incredibly irritating, and suspected that the research was slanted based on shifting cultural expectations. But I admit that in our household these days, we are all sick all the time. I am sick all the time. Low-grade sick, up and around and functional sick—but I never, ever feel like I’m functioning at full capacity.
Now, I’m sure that part of that is just the parenting experience, one kid or ten. And I’m equally sure that specific circumstances in our life aggravate the condition. Three C sections. The demands of a middle child who required three major and one minor hospitalization in her first two years. 5 hours of therapy every week. Choosing to juggle much more than parenting. (Explain to me why I’m not on the couch fast asleep right now, while the kids are napping?) Nonetheless, the fact is that I have spent 62 of the last 72 months either pregnant or nursing, both of which make demands on my body.
3. The things that get by you. Like Nicholas, 5 months old and entirely too lazy/comfortable/well taken care of to bother with a little thing like rolling over. I know how to help him learn, but my attention is so fractured that I don’t. I feel awful about it, and beginning this morning, we set out to rectify the situation, but still…do any of my kids get the attention that they neeed? Or am I feeling guilt/pressure from the prevailing culture again, and I just need to remind myself that just because they think they need X Y or Z doesn’t mean they really do?
However it may appear, I’m not looking for sympathy—or even affirmation. If I had it to do again, I don’t know that I would do anything different. Our m.o. is to look at the big picture. How much poorer would my mother’s family of 10 kids have been if they hadn’t kept coming 18 months to 2 years apart? How much joy would be missing from my husband’s family if they’d quit a kid or two earlier?
Family is much bigger than double diapering, than being tired for years on end. Family is forever, and the bigger the better. When I’m sixty and seventy and eighty, I’m not going to be thinking, Man, why did I go for that third (or fourth) child? What was I thinking? I’ll be thinking, I’m so glad I didn’t let being tired for five years deprive me of decades of joy and love.
Eyes on the future, Kate.