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Spacing Your Children

You have one child, and now have the opportunity to choose when to have the second. In the days of yore, when our grandparents had as many as 5 or 10 children, the age gap between the eldest and youngest was anywhere between 6 to 26 years. Those were the pre-pill days, when contraception was not as widely used as it is now. So today, how many years spacing between children would be ideal? What are the things you should consider? 

"I have an 8 year old son. We used to live with my in-laws in a joint family, but moved out a while ago, and are now a nuclear family. I now want to have a second child. Will the age gap between my children be too much?
- Namita Sadarangani 

First of all, there is no 'ideal' age gap. What age gap is ideal depends upon your individual circumstances. There are certain advantages to a small age gap, and to a large age gap. It makes sense to consider the pros and cons of both, and then to decide what is best for you. 

Advantages of a larger age gap

If Namita starts planning for a child now, the age gap between her two children will probably be 9 years. While that may seem like a large age gap at this stage, consider that when her elder child will be 29, the younger will be 20, and at that stage the age gap will not seem to be so much. In addition, the elder child will be able to pass on expert advice in terms of career, personality development and relationships to his younger brother or sister. If he is well settled at the age of 30, he will be able to take his sibling under his wing, and give him or her a good career head start. 

Her body has by now completely recovered from giving birth, and she has had time to nurture herself and get back into shape, ready to give birth a second time. 

In another ten to fifteen years, when her firstborn has moved out of the house, started work in another city, or gone abroad for further studies, she will start feeling the first pangs of loneliness. If she has a second child, she will have another ten years of joy and fulfillment as she watch him or her grow. 

If there is a larger age gap between siblings, the younger sibling gets to mix with the elder sibling's friends, which is always a good experience for him. Younger kids enjoy hanging out with older kids, and they also pick up a lot from them (good and bad!), 

The older child feels as though he is 'in charge' of his younger brother or sister. This inculcates a feeling of responsibility and nurturing in the firstborn. 

If the age gap is a little more, then one child could be in school, while you attend to the second child. In addition, the elder child would have had his share of individual attention before his sibling was born. 

If the age gap is less, a parent would not be able to get to know each child as an individual, with likes and dislikes separate from his sibling. In cases of a larger age gap, parents can enjoy and get to know each child as an individual. 

Advantages of a smaller age gap

While it would be difficult raising young children with a minimal age gap on your own, it gets easier if you enlist the support of family and friends. If you have an expert helper or maid to help you raise the children and look after them, you could definitely consider having two children close together. 

You could spend time with the both of them together, send them for classes at the same time, and they will be great company for each other. 

They will have common friends, and will learn to share things with each other. They will be able to play with the same toys, and with each other. 

There will rarely be a moment of loneliness for the children, as they would be living with their best friend. 

The children would, in all likelihood, have similar interests. 

An older child, who has been an only child for a long time, would find it harder to adjust to a new sibling, as opposed to a younger child. 

In addition, if a mother has a second child within a couple of years of the first, she is already in the correct frame of mind. Changing diapers, running around her toddler, are all second nature to her. If she waits for around three years, and then gets back to it, she'll probably feel as if she's 'back to square one', but this way, she can have two children close together and then she is 'free' of babyhood after around 4 years, as opposed to 8 years. 

Whatever you decide, remember that relationships between siblings can turn out to be great, whatever the configuration. Figure out what suits you best, keeping time, emotional and economic factors in mind, and then plan ahead. 

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