You’ll have probably noticed by now that I don’t know much about parenting. I don’t know much about anything, except, perhaps, Coronation St (area of expertise: Steve McDonald and his many wives).
So it kind of surprises me when people ask my advice on stuff. Parenting stuff, especially. One question I get asked a lot is about age gaps, and what works best. And I get why people ask me this: there are six years between Ben and Frankie, and 17 months between Frankie and Alice. I like telling strangers this. I enjoy the raised eyebrows and the “what’s YOUR story?” expression on the faces of ladies of a certain age. Because of course there’s a story – babies aren’t like buses; you don’t wait for years only for two more to come at once.
My point is: I actually am a pretty good person to ask about age gaps. I’ve experienced both ends of the spectrum: one massive gap, and one teeny-tiny-what-the-fuck-just-happened-THERE gap.
Which one’s best? Okay, here’s my take on it. Pregnancy is easy when one child is already at school. I struggled through the mornings, sent Ben on his way and – for the first few months, anyway – collapsed in a heap, only to stir when the school siren went (it’s okay, we live opposite the school, and I can run fast).
I’ll admit though, I was worried what effect Frankie’s arrival would have on Ben, who’d been an only child for six years (he has a different DAD, okay, you happy now?). I expected there to be jealousy and resentment issues (from Ben, not me, I was fine with the whole thing), but it was surprisingly smooth sailing.
My theory is that Ben was old enough to “get it”. Present a three- or a four-year-old with a new sibling after years of having mummy to themselves and I reckon it’d be on. Ben was cool. I mean, as cool as Ben can be. I still remember throwing a loaf of Tip Top at him when we came home from the hospital, but my milk had just come in, and I throw Tip Top at Ben on the best of days.
From a parenting point of view, having a big age gap makes life eaaaaaassssssy. I cannot overemphasise this. I reckon it’d be even easier if your older child was a girl, and able to help out, and pass you shit while you’re breastfeeding (ask Ben to pass a baby wipe and he’d end up wandering down the street, kicking a stray ball and looking for homeless children to bring back for dinner). I was only dealing with one baby, and one fairly (FAIRLY) independent little boy, who went to school every day (a point worth considering!) and didn’t need his nappy changed every few hours. So: big age gaps have their benefits.
Right then. Tiny gaps. Frankie was only nine months old when I fell pregnant (on purpose!) with Alice. This was tough. Morning sickness is hard to deal with when there’s a small, breastfed, crawly person nipping at your ankles. I kind of feel bad about this. Sorry about ignoring you for three months little dude. But, Frankie still had two sleeps a day (I think), which helped me (I think). Napping is good. I napped when he napped. He was also a crazy easy baby, and slept through the night and shit, which was also helpful.
Now, I would LOVE to tell you what it’s like to have a newborn and a 17-month-old, but I have no flipping clue. Those first six months are a total blur. I remember my dear Irish friend bringing me pumpkin soup and another dear friend bringing me zucchini slice (people! If you know someone who’s just had a baby, take them food! You will be remembered!), but that’s about it. I remember trying to take both children to my parent’s house one afternoon, and failing miserably, and crying. Such a simple task! Such a massive failure! And I remember Frankie being really, really weird with me, and loving Paul more, and me crying about it. I believe I may have cried a lot in those first few months.
Oh, I remember going to visit a friend – after I’d finally figured out how to get both kids in the car without crying – and when we arrived I couldn’t figure out how to get both kids to the front door. Do I take Frankie, hand him over, run back and get Alice, tag team style? Whatever I tried, it didn’t work, ‘cos Frankie ended up standing in the middle of the road, only to be rescued by a passing tradie. I cried that day, too.
Those first six months were really, really fucking tough. Then Frankie turned two, and became more human like, and Alice started sleeping through the night, and the fog cleared, and I stopped crying. And NOW, well I’ll tell you, now I wouldn’t have done it any other way. I LOVE having two little people at home with me. They’re never bored, and never lonely, and always SO MUCH FUN. I’m dreading Frankie going to school next year, because I’ll miss our little gang.
So yeah, I’ll put my cards on the table and say that close-in-age is best. You have to work for it though.