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‘It’s a brave and uncommon choice to return to babyville after a 10-year gap’

Siblings with a large age gap walk on the beach“First one?” tends to be the question most strangers ask nodding at my ‘all up front’ bump.

I put this down to the fact they see me in daylight hours without a preschooler clinging to my leg. The majority of my friends had child number two after a couple of years. And there does, if I’m honest, seem to be a social pressure that you should have your children with a small age gap so they can grow up together.

I recall one friend being annoyed with me for not doing that while on a day out at a farm park. You see, my son is best friends with her oldest son and she had another little one three years later, case in point. My little O and his buddy teamed up on a go-kart ride and little Mr Younger Brother had no one to pair up with so my friend had to jump on to the kiddy go-karts too. Whoops. Sorry. Mea culpa.

The other thing strangers have remarked about my baby bump … “is this with a different partner?”. They would assume that the significant age gap could be explained by a second marriage. It’s a human trait to want to explain unusual events isn’t it?

At first I was taken aback. Offended even. But why should I be? They don’t know me, and it’s fair comment. It is a brave and uncommon choice to return to babyville after a 10-year gap. I realised I felt happy and proud to put them right. Proud because it does take hard work to stay together. Don’t get me wrong at times we have grown apart. The trick is to grow back together again.

I couldn’t possibly have entertained having another when O was a toddler. No way. I felt I was just getting to really enjoy him. At around age three he was coming out of that really hands-on parenting time when you have to do EVERYTHING for them. The nappies were gone along with the sleepless nights, finger foods were brilliant and he could run around and tire himself out. My media work was really taking off then too so baby number two just was not on my radar at all. I felt I had just really got ‘me’ back in lots of ways too including my shape – albeit a different one to pre-O but I had got used to it and I was just starting to like it. My tummy was less wobbly and my boobs were mine again!

Relationship wise, as a couple we got a bit of our life back too. We could watch and enjoy our son together instead of one always having to carry or feed or change him. Don’t get me wrong, Mr O wasn’t getting a job and moving out, but the intensity of it all was lessening. Toddlers need to be able to explore and stumble and play alone and that was the stage we had entered. Yes, it was safe to say I was sublimely happy with my one little man.

Fast forward and O is approaching his tenth birthday. He’ll be 10 as his little brother or sister arrives. Gosh. In my head I always thought up to six years of a gap would be acceptable. Now, here we are looking at having children almost of different generations. As I acknowledge the age gap I list friends in my head calculating sibling age gaps. I don’t come across any with a 10-year difference. Quite a few had an age gap of that size between number one and number three child however which gives me a point of reference. I quiz these friends on the relationship between the oldest and youngest. The trend appears to be good but there’s a whole different dynamic in those households with the middle child so I dismiss the relevance.

And then actually, I realise that having child number two just now is what’s right for our family. I look back over the past nine years and can honestly think of no better time for us to be having another baby than now.

At the risk of being clichéd, it’s the perfect time.

We’re in the best place relationship wise and love is what it’s all about. No we don’t have my parents or family who live nearby and yes that will be incredibly hard but, what I will have this time that I didn’t have first time around is my 10-year-old young man. He’s going to be an invaluable pair of hands with a newborn in those early days.

Remember that feeling of not being able to leave the baby to have a shower or get dressed? While Mr O is still only ten he’s going to be overjoyed to have a wee person around, even although they don’t do particularly very much in the first few months. I’m hoping he’ll be besotted enough to just watch the new addition in the bassinet to give me enough time to shower and get ready. And then as bub grows the entertainment is on tap. He or she will have his/her own personal comedian, actor and storyteller in the shape of big brother O.

Thankfully O loves wee people. He’s drawn to them, to entertain them and seek out a smile. You can’t teach that. It’s just him. Before I fell pregnant I watched him last year on a visit to the UK with his five-month-old twin cousins. He was enraptured. Never having been a big bro or having babies in the house it was a completely new experience for him. And can you believe he wanted to push their pram? Now for a boy who loves his on screen world of Minecraft and Pokemon it was wonderful to watch that he was in his element with the little people.

One thing I’m guessing we won’t have is the sibling rivalry. I hear stories from friends about buying one child something because they’ve earned it and having to buy the other something too, just because. No vying for attention in that way children do. It’s in their programming. “Mummy look at meeeeee! Mummy listen to me! Mummy it’s my turn now”. Survival of the fittest in action.

And of course the fisticuffs that goes with growing up with a brother or sister probably won’t be relevant to us. One school mum friend often regales stories of her two boys (15 months apart in age) permanently locked in battle; from hiding shampoo bottles when one is in the shower to filling a school bag with more and more rocks each day and as for the physical fighting. Gosh, I’ve witnessed it a few times and it shocked me! There’s just no holds barred when it comes to sibling fights. On reflection, my aim was always to cause as much damage to my little brother as I physically could. I’m quite sure he bore the same sentiment.

I do acknowledge, however, that the dynamics of our family will change immeasurably. And O has already pointed out that he understands he won’t be ‘number one’ anymore. Just as swiftly we reassured him of his place in the family, all the while wondering how he got to be so wise. I explained that instead of the love as parents that we have being spread among two children, there will actually be more love to go around. Kind of sounds like one of those really wise things mums say, when in reality I have no idea how we’ll all react.

At the end of the day, every single family is unique in that they are made up of a collection of people who love and care for each other. Age is irrelevant. Love is all ya need!

About Jen McGinlay

Jen McGinlay is a former radio announcer from Scotland. After 10 years talking for a living Jen returned to her first love of writing. She now divides her time between the beaches and cafes of sunny Perth, writing for ...

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4 Comments so far -
  • calldot says:

    I have said some of what you said, almost word for word. We had two children 20 months apart and then the youngest born the year they turned 10 and 12. It was funny at playgroup as everyone thought my pregnancy was an accident when actually it was the mum who was going to have 3 under 5 that was the accident!
    We had some health issues at the start and had to stay in hospital longer. It was reassuring to know that the older two could get themselves fed and to and from school if they had to. They even help with changing nappies (stay away from poos though), bathtime and feeding.
    Physically I found it so much harder having a baby in my late 30s rather than in my late 20s.
    Hopefully it won’t be the case with yours but mine still fight and have sibling rivalry! I hear lots of “R is in my room, he’s broken something, he’s turned the PS4 off when I haven’t saved!” Good luck with it all! 🙂

    • Hi calldot! Thanks for reading and thanks for sharing your story with us. Sounds like you’ve got two great helpers there and I’m sure they’re learning a great deal along the way – even if they’re having their games switched off mid-way through!

      Thanks again. Take care x

  • Seadog Sally says:

    I love this article as it really resonates with me. No, I’m not a Mum who has a ten year age gap between my children, but I am one of those people who always thought that a ‘ten year gap must be a second marriage’.

    My two younger boys are very close in age – just 17 months and fight as though they were world class boxers, I’ve often thought how different it might have been if there was a bigger gap. As Jen explains there’s no perfect answer, just like there’s no perfect family!

    • Hi Sally. Thanks for reading and thanks for your comment. You’re right, there’s no ‘perfect’ anything really. We get what we get and we make the most of it. I can certainly identify with your situation. My eldest are 19 months apart and everything is a competition! So tiring. On the other side though, my brother was born when I was 19 and my other brother was 17. A 17-year age gap (but was a second marriage in this case).

      Thanks again. Take care

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