When I was pregnant with my third I saw a high school friend at a gas station.
He said, “Wow, are you pregnant again? When are you going to stop?”
Slightly taken aback I replied, “Well, I don’t know, maybe we’ll keep having babies until we have a bad one.”
He laughed like he knew a secret and said, “Yeah, but you won’t know if they’re bad until it’s too late…”
How does one even respond to that?
So I thought it’d be fun to do a big post on the pros and cons of having babies close together. I’m no expert, but I am experienced. I only have 4 and they’re not older than 4 years old, but still. I had a baby girl. 12 months and three weeks later I had a son. 15 months after that I had another son. 16 months after that I had another son. So basically, I had four babies in just under four years years. And I don’t regret it.
My pro might be your con and your con might be my pro. Know this is my opinion and, I hope, helpful to other women. As a point of reference, I’m an ENTJ, over-achiever type, self-motivated doer. Those who are wired and gifted differently may have complete opposite views. I welcome you to share those in the comments so this post is rich for years to come!
NOTE: Please know my heart is to share my experience in having had children close together to give other mothers an idea of what they’re up against as they evaluate their need for contraception and, if they so choose, for how long to use contraception between attempting to have another child. I’ve had friends not long postpartum realize they could get pregnant again, and so I’ve discussed these issues many times with various people. It is from that perspective I write this post, so please know I don’t mean to be insensitive towards fertility issues nor do I mean to trivialize the miraculous joy of life by acting as though it’s a “given.”
PRO: It’s better to run through fire than walk through it
After I’d given birth to my firstborn, I told my grandmother I intended to have 4 kids close together. You know, to “get it over with.” Personally, I was referring to the pregnancy factor of having kids. She didn’t seem phased and replied, “Well, it’s better to run through fire than walk through it.” These early years when the children are so young can be extremely difficult. The cuddles, kisses, and chubby little thighs make up for in my humble opinion, but the baby phase is all-consuming. Instead of being in and out of the baby phase for 10 years, having them close together shortens the time. This may be a con to some, but it was a pro for me.
CON: It is extremely intense
When you have multiple children and none of them can bathe themselves, make their own lunch, or be left unsupervised for any great length of time, you are constantly hyper-vigilant. Your completely focus is consumed by making sure that numerous little people are safe, fed, well-rested, and generally content. The days are long and tough and it can seem like there is no time to come up for air. I often see families at the store with a 10-year-old, 5-year-old, and baby and think that mother knew what she was doing. Only one baby home at a time! However, I will say that I absolutely adore the baby phase so while it is a con that the time is so intense, I still love it.
PRO: You don’t gain freedom, lose it, gain freedom, lose it
When your children have only one nap, then no naps, you begin to see a whole new world. Water parks, amusement parks, no strollers, no worrying about toddlers breaking down because they missed a nap! FREEDOM! Then, enter new baby, and everyone parks it at home again. Of course, many mothers simply take the newborn out with the crew for a good day, but if you are like me and other schedule/routine oriented moms, we prefer to keep the baby home for most naps.
Having babies close together in age means that for a long time, all children are still napping. They are still used to being at home, there isn’t endless school runs and extra-curricular activities that get disrupted with a new baby. A few intense years are spent revolving around the home, but when that phase is over, it’s over for good.
CON: Everyone tells you to your face that you are crazy
Really they want to say you are stupid, but they do have some filter. This may be because they had particularly difficult babies. This may be because they don’t yet have any children and can’t even fathom your decision-making process. 2-3 years between babies is a culturally common spacing, and if you announce you are pregnant it seems less shocking since your youngest isn’t a baby anymore. Even if you don’t let the comments faze you – because you know your family’s business is your own – it is disconcerting. You may have quiet and reserved friends and family… but I sure don’t!
PRO: You can go back to work sooner, if that’s your plan
If you desire to stay home with your children until they enter Kindergarten, want multiple children, and space them far apart, you may be out of the workforce for 10-15 years. If you love staying home with your kids, but love working too, you may find having babies closer together will mean you get the best of both worlds. You get the once in a lifetime chance to stay home with your children, but return to work while you are still somewhat in the loop, not decades behind in technology and certification.
CON: For a long while, the kids are no help
A family in our church has 5 children. The ages are something like 10, 8, 6, 1, and newborn. When her 1-year-old was born she said it was a whole new ballgame. There were older capable children to help do things around the house and with the baby. If you have babies close together some years will go by when you are doing everything for every single person. I’d say right now that my children are only truly helpful with tidying up. In the evenings I will point to specific areas and my two oldest truly are able to put things back where they go (because I have good storage systems). However, I still must stand and delegate. They can bring me things I need and mind instructions, but they are in no way self-sufficient.
PRO: Kids are able to play well together developmentally
I’ve noticed that my daughter and son are able to play well together because they are on each other’s level. Of course my oldest is more mature and has more developmental skills, but all in all, they can play the same game with each other and both know what’s happening. With large age gaps, the children might get along well, but don’t actually play together. This can also be con at times as well. The children are natural playmates and gravitate towards one another so when emotions are high, conflict can occur. But all in all, I class it a pro.
CON: You must be on top of discipline at all times
While having obedient children is a pro, getting them to the obedient stage takes nonstop focus. When you have multiple very young children, it is non-negotiable they do what you say. You only have two arms, and if you have more children than arms (and even if you don’t) you need your children to respond to your voice. If I get lax on discipline for even a few days we see it in their behavior. They don’t turn into nightmares overnight, but they become wise in their own eyes and question our authority. To have even a semi-ordered home with small children it’s absolutely vital they mind your instructions. And they only do what you say if you mean business all the time. All the time.
Read: Consistency is key
PRO: Everyone feels sorry for you and offers their help
The same thought that makes people say “have you lost your mind” while you’re pregnant leads them to say “Is there anything I can do to help?” postpartum. I get offers for babysitting, cleaning, and cooking with regularity. I have trouble accepting help consistently, but am regularly encouraged by the support. You can maintain an appearance of having it all together, but people who know you don’t have their head in the clouds. They know good and well you can use the help and they are willing to do it. I think this makes up for the fact they called you insane months prior.
CON: There are fewer chances to get away
I’ve been either pregnant or breastfeeding for the past few years. It’s one thing to take a weekend away, but a weekend away is not quite a weekend away if you have to bring a 3-month-old. I’m used to measuring the amount of time alone I can have by the time between a baby’s feedings. Sure I can skip one or two, but if I want to maintain my milk supply I can’t take days away from the baby frequently. I’ve always looked forward (in a bittersweet way) to the time when all babies were weaned.
Read: 48 hour mommy vacay
PRO: You are fully in the childlike innocence zone
We are in baby and toddler zone over here full force. Tonight we were doing an exercise video in the living room when I began to do a plank-stretch-like-maneuver. Immediately I hear “It’s a tunnel!!!” and everyone is crawling under me laughing and yelling. It was so much fun. Things are just so much fun with little people. They say funny things, they laugh so completely and have the brightest sparkle in their eye.
Of course, this is the case no matter how close together in age your children are, but there is something magical about having all your babies be… well… still babies. Nobody is too cool for school. Nobody is calling anybody silly or lame. Everyone is fully in it.
CON: Back to back pregnancies wear you out
No matter how fit you are, having pregnancies close together is a strain to the body. I’ve found it isn’t the physical side effects that are worse with each pregnancy, it’s the mental ones. For me, with each pregnancy comes increased hormonal interruption and disturbance and extreme debilitating fatigue. Biologically speaking, our bodies are made to incubate babies. We are also made to run, but training can result in injury. A friend with four children, 6 years and under said her core is in such a state her doctor recommended regularly seeing a chiropractor. Worth it? Yes. Easy? No.
PRO: You don’t need to buy much
We’ve used the same cribs, stroller, infant seats, Bumbo, car seats, and high chair with each child. They are still in good condition and within safety guidelines. Aside from a few gender specific items, we haven’t needed to make major purchases with any baby other than our first. Our things weren’t in the garage long enough to get dusty, let alone replaced.
So, that’s my take on the pros and cons of having babies close together. Some days I thank Jesus we are all alive to go to bed. Some days run perfectly. Both are real life. Both are worth cherishing. I found a little toy car in my Diet Coke today and laughed. That won’t happen in 5 years. I don’t take it for granted.
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