Just when you were starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel — leisurely sleep-ins and kid-free weekends away — you find out you are pregnant again… oops!
The age gap between children is not always an educated decision that we have control over. Whether you thought you were going through menopause, your partner had a vasectomy years ago, or you have started life again with a new partner, getting pregant later in life can come as a complete shock years after you have changed your last nappy or woken for a midnight feeding session. We talk to some families about their experiences and see what the experts say about how this affects family life.
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- You get to fully experience and enjoy the baby stage for each child. “In many ways I’m enjoying motherhood more now… I’m more confident and established in my career, so I have time to enjoy my baby.” — Suzie, 41
- The older child can help with babysitting, entertaining and helping around the house. Sarah , 17, says that from the time she can remember she always had someone’s attention. “My older sisters (15 and 17 years older than me) took me to the park and drove me around with them. I felt pretty special and grown up.”
- Tammy remembers her mum being much more relaxed the second time round. “She didn’t worry about the little things and was much more patient and relaxed as well. As a result of me being older I spent time with my little brother and looked after him all the time. Mum said she feels the baby definitely kept her young.”
- A study in the Developmental Psychology Journal found that boys, in particular, benefit intellectually from a large sibling gap, particularly if they are the eldest child.
- You may feel overwhelmed with the changes in expectations and medical technology. “I am 17 years older than my baby brother and I remember it was a whole new experience for my mum. She had scans which she never got with us and couldn’t believe the difference in antenatal care.” — Rachel, 31.
- Your children will be in completely different life stages and have different interests and needs. “I became pregnant at 40 with my daughter while my son was a 12-year-old in 7th grade. His initial reaction was humiliation because he understood by that age exactly how it had happened!”
- They may not be especially close because they spend less time together. “My oldest sister is 18 years older than me. When I was little we didn’t have much in common, but now I am 24 and she is 42 and I really enjoy having a sister that age. She’s been through a lot and I trust her opinion on different things going on in my life because she’s been there, done that.” — Noel, 24
Something to consider
- An extra child later in life extends your parenting years, delaying the rosy empty-nesting years. “I think you have to consider some of the difficulties from the kid’s point of view. I got much older parents who weren’t healthy from about the time I was 9 years old. It left me as the caretaker for them much too young. Unlike my older siblings, I have no memory of young active parents.” — Naomi, 23.
- According to Philippa, 28, it can be embarrassing. “I was 13 when mum had my little brother. When I would push him in the stroller at the shops, I would get disapproving looks from the old ladies because they thought I was a teenage mother.”
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Make the most of it
Hazel Nicholson, 45 year old mum to Becky, 19, Connor, 15 and now Lilly, 3, got the shock of her life when she realized she was pregnant again, not menopausal. As she told the UK’s Daily Mail, she got the shock of her life when she realised she was pregnant again, not menopausal. “We spent eight hours discussing the pros and cons of keeping our baby. The list of negatives was endless: No more freedom, no more lazy lunches. Would there be complications because of my age? The only positive was that the baby was the product of our love. For that reason alone, we decided to go ahead,” she said.
While the age gap between children matters, whether they are two or 10 years apart, you’re bound to have ups and downs like any other family.
What is your story? Are you pregnant again unexpectedly? Do you have a much older or younger sibling? If so, how do you relate to each other? Share in the comments below!