Thursday, 22 May 2014

Mind the gap

This is going to be a bit of a ramble with no point - you have been warned.

I read in The Times today that the average gap between siblings in the UK is now 3 years and 8 months. It used to be 2 years. The reasons for this are chiefly financial it seems (having two pre-school age children in nursery is very expensive). Three-plus years sounds sensible to me. The gap between my children is much larger - 7 years. This suits our family well - I love how our son (8) can look after our daughter (11 months) without having to be supervised, because he's old enough to trust. I don't mean that we leave them at home for the night and go out or anything like that, don't worry. No need to call the social.

Also there is absolutely no sibling rivalry- they are at such different stages of development.

I suppose that there are people reading this who think that the 1 or 2 year age gap between their offspring is ideal, and I am slightly mad. Fair enough: every family is different. There are advantages to having a small gap: getting over the baby stage more quickly; and ease of entertainment because they probably like similar things, so they could share toys for example.

I was never going to have a small age gap: even before I had my son I knew that having a toddler and baby in the house would send me to the asylum. I mean how do you cope with the total and complete lack of sleep for so long? Anyway, it turned out that baby #1 was a lot harder work than I imagined (he's lovely now, of course). Parenthood is such a steep learning curve, and I had little confidence in my abilities. I believe that this, in part, lead to my PND. Also he never slept. But don't get me started on that.  

I think that whatever age gap you have, you are probably happy with that. It tends to work out.

Of course you may have one child and so this isn't an issue. The average family in Britain now has less than 2 children (1.8 I think - are there lots of kids walking around with an arm missing or something?) So actually onelies are in the majority. There are still many people who are quick to judge or look down their nose at parents of only children, which annoys me. For some families, one child is just right. Especially if there are financial concerns (why bring a child into the world if you don't know how you'll feed and clothe it for the next 18 years or so?) or actually the parents are happy with their child and see no need for any more.

There will always be the people who assume that only children are spoilt. My son was an only for a few years, and he was much better behaved and less spoilt than many children with one or more siblings. That's not just me saying that, other people have told me. A child's behaviour is not down to his siblings, it's down to his parents.

There are also parents who have secondary infertility.  It must suck being told how selfish you're being by only having one child when you've been trying for years. The same goes for people who don't have any children.

People are so quick to judge aren't they?

Edit: I meant to talk about larger families too. I respect parents who manage to raise several kids to be fully-functioning human beings, while still leading normal not-too-chaotic lives. Especially if they do that without relying completely on the state for funds. And some mothers of 4-plus even work! How do they fit it all in? I am in awe. If I had four young children, I think that most of my day would be spent lying on the sofa trying to have a nap while pre-schoolers run around pulling cats' tails and eating newspaper. I couldn't bare the thought of going through the labour and newborn stage over and over - but if you've done it - good for you. And think of all the grandchildren that you have to look forward to one day. Awesome. I guess that in many countries, four or more children is the norm, and that's cool, except for the poverty side of it of course. Also many mums don't have access to contraception so really don't have the choice. But I like large families - especially if they all get on and can fit in one house for Christmas dinner.

The only other people that I respect more are those who have chosen to adopt. Seriously, wow. You people rock.

On a side note, I see that there are now more 'happy surprises' in women over the age of 35 than under 20. Apparently we've all been told for so long that our fertility drops off quickly after 35 that many women assume that they've reached the menopause in their mid-thirties. Whoops. Many women will fall pregnant within one year of coming off contraception, between the ages of 35-40. Also it seems you're more likely to have twins as you get older. All good fun.

There, I told you that there was no point to this.

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