By Kelly Beck-O’Sullivan; homeschool teacher, mother of three, and blogger at How I Learned to Wear a Dress
One child every five to ten years is my motto. OK, it’s not so much a motto as the planned reality of my life. In our mid-twenties my husband and I gave birth to our first son. Five years later our second son arrived. Ten years after that our third bundle of boy joined the scene. He’s almost five now so guess what….
Nope. We’re done. No more babies.
We’ve managed to create a family where we fit the size average but beat the spread. It’s both exhilarating and exhausting, especially when I look at my desk and see applications for my eldest son’s semester abroad at a university in England alongside brochures for local kindergartens for my youngest.
Child spacing is a personal decision often guided by financial circumstances, fertility issues, relationship status, and sometimes, as in our case, by an early understanding and acceptance that we would be better parents with only one non-verbal, diaper wearing child at a time. Let me be clear: in no way is this a judgment of parents who have children closer together. We just knew early on, long before we married or started having children, that we would be more patient parents if we took things slowly. Call it intuition. Call it self-awareness. Call it a trait indicative of a control freak (that may be me). Just don’t call it unplanned.
The decision to wait so many years between children did not come without risk or consequence. Health concerns for both me and the babies increased with each birth. Physical discomfort was more challenging at thirty-nine than it was at twenty-four. And it was no joy to have “Advanced Maternal Age” stamped across the top of my medical records for baby number three.
There were also stupid questions and assumptions from friends, family, and the occasional stranger:
Is this your second marriage? (the questioner clearly assuming our oldest son could not possibly belong to both of us)
An oops baby! Congratulations! (seriously?)
Did you have in vitro fertilization? (Because that’s not too personal a question–here let me show you my ovulation calendar.)
Are you shopping with grandma? (a question posed to my youngest; let’s just say this was not a good day)
Most of those comments disappear into the air from which they came. What matters is what we really are, not what is assumed.
Our three boys will never be the traditional best friend brothers. They don’t share common interests in the same way more closely spaced siblings might and they will rarely all live in the same house at the same time. But they are still bonded. When the whole tribe is home there is a convergence of big brother hero worship and little brother adoration. They are friends and I know they will be there for each other.
We are also not the parents today we were when our first was born twenty years ago. The rules have changed, expectations have changed, and understanding has changed. We evolved with the times. We evolved to a state of mind where we worry less, not because we’re old and tired, though that has been suggested, but because we know children are resilient and a difference in age does not diminish their connection to each other or to us as their parents.
It may not be a perfect choice to have large spacing between children, but I have never really subscribed to the idea there is such a thing as the “perfect family”. As parents and families we do what works for us, love our kids, and hope for the best.
For a unique take on culture, society, and what it means to be a woman navigating both; please check out Kelly’s website, How I Learned to Wear a Dress , where feminism meets real life.