Should you allow a few years between your children or have them back-to-back? If you're in family planning mode, consider the pros and cons of spacing near or far.
Spacing children apart gives moms and dads a break from the intense baby years. Financially and physically, parents can recover and gear up for the next round if they wait four or more years between babies.
Parents can get one child out of diapers before another little one comes along. If parents wait until the older child is in school, the new baby can have more attention.
Spacing also offers some disadvantages. It makes the era of diapers, sleepless nights and nursing seem to stretch on forever since there are a few years in between. Will you ever retire that diaper bag?
The nearest in age child may resent the new child in the house because they have become accustomed to being the "baby" of the family. (Interestingly, most children six or more years apart in age don't seem to feel threatened by a new baby).
Spreading out children too far may mean they don't really grow up together. For example, children eight or more years apart may not stay very close because by the time the second child is in first grade, the older child will be driving, getting a first job and looking forward to high school graduation. It doesn't mean they won't love each other, but their growing-up years won't coincide much. For that reason, parents often have to buy more toys, clothing and equipment because handing down is harder with more years between the children.
Stair-step children (born two or fewer years apart) makes sense for some parents who figure as long as they're in "baby mode" (carrying a diaper bag, using car seats, hauling snacks, curtailing outings for naps and bedtime, etc.), they might as well keep slogging away.
These families save some money because the older child(ren)'s clothing, toys and equipment easily hand down to the next child(ren). The items are still new enough and not lost, broken, or outdated. (Did you know car seats can expire? See the blog entry on car seats to learn more.)
They'll need to baby proof only once because they stay in baby mode until they're done having children.
Stair-step children can also share rooms more readily than children with more years between them. They form tight bonds and rarely experience rivalry because they never remember not having their siblings. They may fight, of course, but since their age is so close, they'll likely be good playmates.
But it's also really, really hard raising stair-step children. Parents feel "swarmed" by little people who constantly need help — with everything!
Growing and birthing babies is hard work. Having children back to back takes a toll. Moms have to be on top of their nutrition and, whenever possible, sleep. Dads also suffer from sleep loss during these years. It can feel brutal.
Parents may feel their little ones' baby years feel rushed. It's hard to savor special moments because parents feel stretched so thin.
Spaced or stair-step? Whichever you (or the universe) decides, enjoy your years of child rearing. It's quite a ride!