What’s the ideal age gap between kids?

While still nursing the physical and mental scars of the first, many dads want to go for number two. But this is a marathon you're going to want to prepare for...

Dad holding newborn and toddler

If you’ve ever asked a middle-aged bloke who’s just collapsed after his first marathon “When are you going to run your second?”, you’ll know the look. The panicked incredulity spread across his face that says ‘either kill me now, or saw off my legs so I can’t stupidly decide to do that again, ever’.

I’d imagine getting the same look from my wife if I’d had the balls to suggest, after hours of labour, that now might be a good time to talk about baby number two. Only it wouldn’t have been her legs she’d want cut off. It wouldn’t have been my legs either.

Friendly labour ward chats aside, when is a good time to start planning baby-number-two?

Well firstly, you need to think about your partner’s health. Research has found that women who give birth again within 18 months of having a baby, especially within a year, are much more likely to have a premmie.

Then there are more subjective things to consider, like ‘what’s the ideal age gap’ and what are the pros and cons? For example:

The small age gap

PROS:

  • Socks, undies, t-shirts interchangeable so saves money.
  • They could become good mates and entertain each other.
  • They both become old enough to watch violent movies with you earlier, thereby cutting out the need to see Cinderella III: The Fairy Prince.

CONS:

  • Two screaming kids under two. Far more than twice as bad as one screaming kid under two.
  • They might become mortal enemies and you’re the UN peacekeeper.
  • Teamwork – they easily work out your laptop’s password and discover those photos that much earlier.

The big age gap

PROS:

  • You’ve bred a free babysitter for the second.
  • The firstborn can have the birds and bees talk with their younger sibling, thereby relieving you of the embarrassment.
  • Seeing older siblings go off to uni and stand on their own feet sets a good example for the high-schooler to also leave the nest.

CONS:

  • The school run could last 20 years.
  • They might be a little too graphic and leave you to answer the awkward questions like ‘Why would condoms need to be flavoured?’.
  • If the older one stays at home too long, you’re stuck with both of them.

What’s the magic number?

Determining the preferred age gap often leads to the financially crippling question of ‘how many kids are we talking here’? Prompting a whole host of additional considerations:

Three children: You create the ‘middle child’. He or she isn’t the go-getting first-born who takes on the world to become a captain of industry, nor are they the cute baby of the family who gets all the cuddles. No, they fall between two stools.

Four: Now you have two middle children. How is that better?

Five: If you have five of the same sex, you have a ready-made netball or basketball team, or, better still, get them to form a harmonious singing group with the cute, youngest one put under enormous pressure as the lead singer. Just don’t be shocked when he befriends a monkey and writes you out of his will.

Six: We’re getting towards ‘old woman who lived in a shoe’ territory here. Six kids means that you may well be an excellent Catholic, but you’re also going to be poor.

More than six: Unless you accidentally had octuplets, this smacks of bad planning, or a religious affiliation that most normal people simply won’t understand. If you really do have your heart set on this many, you may want to convert to Mormonism and accrue more than one wife.

Planning is futile – just wing it

Whichever number you choose (or don’t choose), you probably won’t get what you want. Take it from someone who meticulously planned the number and age gaps in our family. In the end it was more of a lucky dip with three boys over eight years.

We’re at the point now where she’s forgotten how incensed she was when I first suggested another baby, and my own flesh wounds have long since healed. Despite this, I still won’t be attempting marathon no. 4 anytime soon.

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