I appreciate the way my job gives me access to a wide range of people (age/income/etc.) so I can conduct informal surveys about stuff. It’s really helpful for parenting - I get to hear an array of experiences and explanations for different parenting choices and it’s totally fascinating and informative. When I tell older patients (i.e. from my parents’ generation and older) that my kids are 17 months apart, they are almost universally encouraging. “That’s how far apart my kids are.” “It’s great to have them close together.” And so on. When I tell younger patients (my age, with one or more children), they are almost universally incredulous. “Wow, you’re brave.”Or simply, “You’re crazy.” Uh... thanks?
We decided to have kids close together essentially to get the Baby Stuff over with. We have always planned to have two children (and by ‘we’ I mean me. I spent most of my life thinking I didn’t want any children, but with Papa Bean, I discovered a love big enough to contemplate two children and only two children. And, happily, he was good with that.) When I had each of my babies, I took about two months off, leaving my clinic to a locum who provided treatment for my patients. I don’t make money with this arrangement, but I don’t lose money. This latest leave, I have to say my business has suffered, so while it pains me to be away from my littles, I am relieved to be back in control of my practice. It’s still a really good deal, since I only work part-time. When I go back, PB takes parental leave, which is essentially EI – he brings home about half his normal pay. Obviously, this affects income, both in the short-term budgetary type changes, and in the long-term access-to-credit kind of way. The bottom line on our tax returns impacts our ability to apply for a car loan or a mortgage or whatever, and this affects our long-range forecast. When can we move into a different house? How will PBs pastoral education fit in? Can we afford this new car or those new renovations?
Then there are the Baby Logistics – diapers, breastfeeding, stroller schlepping, nap schedules, sleep deprivation, baby-proofing – the stuff of living with infants. I wanted to just do all that stuff, and do it intensely for a short time, and then be done with it, and on with the logistics of older children (school, extra-curriculars, ensuring they aren’t jerks, etc.) Ultimately, standing in the midst of that logistical intensity right now, I am totally convinced this was the best decision for our family. It works for us. Which is not to say, standing in the midst of it, that this is not without challenges. Bean does not yet Have Words, as they say; a day with two preverbal small humans makes you lose your own words by the end of it, sometimes! And yes, we have Two In Diapers, as they say; actually, I haven’t found this to be a hardship, but ask me again when Sprout starts using cloth (we’re sticking to disposables until she gains a bit more weight/size.) I did not count on the vastly increased energetic needs of an 18-month-old boy; he is a human-puppy hybrid who must be walked multiple times a day, or all that energy explodes through his feet, hands, and mouth (mostly the mouth) and we don’t have good naps, and nobody. is. happy.
But I’m pretty sure there are unique challenges to whatever spacing your children end up having. And there’s the inherent uniqueness of no two children and no two families being the same. Not to mention the extra complexities of adding more children into the mix - that just happens to not be part of our agenda. (Any Catholic readers out there? Is this whole discussion of spacing sort of moot?) Basically I'm writing this only as an encouragement to anyone thinking of/facing children with relatively close spacing that it is doable, and if your reasons are similar to ours, you’ll be happy with the decision. That being said, I would never ever presume that this is the right choice for everyone, so please don’t take this as an indictment against whatever family planning you’ve planned, m’kay? Because I have heard stories, from my totally scientific analysis of patient anecdotes, of all sorts of family spacings, and it seems like everyone, like, survives. And even ends up pretty happy. Eventually *grin*
So tell me: what’s the spacing like with your kids? Is that similar to the spacing between you and your siblings? Do you find perspectives differ between your parents and your peers on this issue?