Wednesday, March 07, 2012


I read something the other day (I can't remember where and I'm not going to bother to hunt it down) about a new study suggesting that the optimal distance between children--for the sake of their IQ, and nothing else--is at least two years.  One sentence in particular stuck out to me:  if children are much closer together than 2 years, it's all about survival, rather than nurturing.

This is something I have been thinking about a lot lately, especially as my children are getting a little older and I'm worrying about the amount of quality time the older ones get compared to the younger ones whose needs are so much more immediate and apparent.  Here is the thing:  I would love to have another baby right now (Neil is the voice of sanity here and reminds me that we do have a baby).  And some days I am so so sad that I am not pregnant, because I just want to complete our family!  I look around and I feel like there are all these little faces that are missing.  (And then some days I think about how miserable my last two pregnancies were, and I am not so sad.)  But right now I'm also struggling to keep on top of everything involved in ensuring my family's survival, and I worry that I'm not getting in enough nurturing.  Where, I find myself wondering, is that perfect balance between the right number of children and the brain power and sanity and patience to give them maximum love and attention?  And then I wonder if maybe it just comes down to spacing.  (And maybe not worrying so much about dusting and vacuuming.  Good luck with that, OCD self.)

So I'm curious.  What do you think is the optimal spacing between children?  What was it like in your family growing up and how did it play out?  What is it like in your family now, if you have children? How do you walk that fine line between survival and nurture? I would love to know, because I am seriously thinking about this all the time.


Brittanie said...

This is something I have spent a great amount of time thinking about. My conclusion - God is more involved than I realized. I have watched infertility, adoption, and "whoops" babies with friends and family. I have witnessed miracles. It has been different with each of my kids but something has occurred each time assuring me that the timing was no accident.

Even now, timing is horrible for my pregnancy. But I have no doubt God knew I would hold off. Let's just say it didn't take long to get pregnant this time around :).

Jen said...

To answer the one question, we were a little farther apart each time. 2 years 3 months, 3 years, 3 years 3 months. I can't imagine it being more perfect for our personalities and with the amount of time and attention we got from the padres.

To get to the heart of your concerns, I'm going to email you. Because I have a lot to say. But for the record, like Brittanie, I know for sure that God's timing is perfect.

Meghan said...

Two years was nice; three years was really nice. And while I agree that God's timing is always excellent, this is an area where I think he expects us to think and figure and grow a bit of wisdom. The answer we come up with is probably not as important as the principles and process we use. And popping them out is the easy part.

aLi said...

I don't think there's a good exact spacing formula to follow between kids. I think following the feelings we get from Heavenly Father are a good indicator. Each child is different. Just take them one at a time... I had strong feelings after baby number 2 that there was another one, but that it was NOT time yet. Not until the 2nd child was almost 2. (And the first 2 were 20 months apart...)
Anyway, just take them one at a time.

Kathryn said...

I wish there was a cookie cutter answer for this, but sadly there's not. I've had the same thoughts recently too. My oldest 2 are 2 years/2 weeks apart and my middle and youngest are 2 years/4 months apart. Did I mention I have 3 BOYS? It is difficult to have kids close in age, but because I want 4-6 kids before I'm 35 I want them closer in age.

My siblings and I were more spread out, not by choice. My closest siblings are 4 years older and 6 years younger than me. I wished all growing up that I had a sibling close in age to be in school with. That's a big factor in our decision to have kids closer in age if possible, but I have thought recently that 2 years might be too close. My middle child has been in competition for attention all of his life, but maybe that wouldn't be different with more years in between.

Sorry for the rambling with no answers. :) Prayer is all I know to do.

Rachel Mae said...

I have loved 2.5 years. My sister and I were almost 3 years and that seemed like a really good distance too. My brother and I are 10 years (he and my sister are 7 years), and that has its own advantages too--a totally different relationship and its own cool things.

I have to concur with Meghan on this--that God expects us to use our brains and experience in this department in addition to inspiration. I think too often we as Mormon women think there is some danger in letting things like education, resources, space, and SANITY factor into family planning decisions. I see no sin (or disadvantage) to waiting until the time is right in most, if not all, of those above categories to take on the enormous responsibility of introducing another child into the world.

Lindsey said...

It was in this month's Parenting magazine. I read it too.

Elise said...

Just my own experience--I was two years behind Ruth in school, but three ahead of Rosalind. Because of that, the last time we were in the same school was when I was in 5th grade and then we weren't in the same school till I was in 12th. Even though she ended up going to a different middle school, I did wish that we could have shared more time in the same school like Ruth and I did.

I think that I also had different relationships with them because I was the younger sister on one part but then the older on the other, but I really liked being sharing years at the same school as one of my sisters. It was weird when I was alone in the school.

This is an interesting topic though. Thanks for bringing it up!

Jolena said...

Since we got started a little later, we've talked about having them about every two years so that we'd be done before I was too far into my 30s. Our first two are going to be 20 months apart, so we're sticking with that for now. However, I don't know that I will stick with it once a year or two goes by and it's "time" to get pregnant again. I know with this one I really felt we should be getting pregnant. It made sense in a lot of ways. But for the next maybe it will make sense to wait a bit. Finances, life, and where your other kids are at all factor in. Oh, and if you can take that on for sure. I guess my point is I don't think there is an ideal time, that between thinking through it ourselves and including the Lord in the decision, that we will come up with a right time.

I had 3 years between me and both my older and younger siblings. It was a bit too much to be very good friends growing up. Now is totally different, but we were too far apart as kids. I don't know that I wanted to be closer though. That was just how it was.

I know my younger sister has two kids close together and is waiting a bit before she has another one, but then she'll probably have two more close together. So that's another idea. Mostly I'm just rambling now. :) It's a good topic. I wish there was one answer but I think it's so individual.

Emily Anne said...

i gave up on baby spacing long ago, realizing that i have no control in the matter. but i will say that i currently feel the closest to my sister who is 10 years younger than i am. we are very, very close. so you never know what kinds of friendships will evolve over time :)

but what i really came here to say was thank you for your very kind comment on my blog a few days ago. and i have thought several times that i wish we could be real-life friends. that would be lovely.

Adrienne said...

Interesting post. I think I'm on your wavelength with that one. For some reason, I have a one track mind and want to finish up our family and am always planning the next baby before the current baby can even crawl. It's like it's some race or something to finish our family before I'm 30. Which I realize is not the right attitude but I just can't seem to move on to second gear knowing our family isn't finished. I've spaced my kids closely but there are definite advantages to both as I'm sure you know.

You have cute kids and I find your blog inspiring. You are an inspiring mom and you'll do great whatever you guys decide.

Rosalind said...

Interesting topic, and a difficult question to answer. I think that different kids have different needs, and the only way you can know before they are born is to pray and ask god if the time is right. I think some kids love being close in age, or even the same age. On the other hand, some kids need a lot more attention and care. I'm really grateful that I was the last kid, and that I had three years one on one with mom and Dad, even though when I was younger I wanted a little brother or sister. I think that without that time with Mom and Dad, my life would be very different right now.

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