The Age Gap :: Perks and Pitfalls

The Age Gap :: Perks and Pitfalls
Photo by Nancy Hagaman

After having my first child at 23, I had no plans for her to have a sibling right away. The narrative I aspired to for our lives included having another child by Shelby’s fifth birthday, but life had different plans. Those plans included substantial maturing on my part, and many years of my daughter being the prime focus for everyone around her. This age gap between her and her siblings has come with both perks and pitfalls.  

Challenges of a Large Age Gap

Shelby’s first sibling did not come into this world for 10 years. Her second sister was born a year and half later. For many years I would jokingly tell people that I had the best of both worlds :: a teenager and two toddlers. Today I have a college freshman, a second grader and a first grader. This was not the life I dreamed of when I was younger, but it’s also not horrible. 

This new reality was a struggle the first few years. Shelby had been an only child {and only granddaughter} for ten years. She had pretty much everything she wanted, including undivided attention from everyone around her. The birth of her first sister rocked her world. This transitioned into a life where she and I could not just spend each weekend in the mall {or toy store}, and prepared us for the dramatic arrival of her second sister. Walking through a high-risk pregnancy with a 1-year old and a pre-teen was not the most enjoyable season of my life. 

That ten year age gap has caused many differences in my daughters’ childhood. One of the most noticeable is the relationship my littles have with my parents compared to Shelby’s relationship with them. Shelby experienced a younger, healthier version of her grandparents.  My parents lived closer, which led to move sleepovers and extended time during summer months. Shelby had to walk through the scary time of my father’s cancer diagnoses and treatment. The relationship difference is not my parents’ fault – it’s just the reality that comes with a 10 year age gap. 

The Evolution of a Parent

I have become a much different parent than I was with Shelby. Part of that had to do with my drive for that unattainable perfectionism that some of us face with our first child. She never left the house without an adorable outfit that matched her socks and her oversized bow. Her sisters have experienced a more relaxed version of their mother. I have become more of a “Do you have on clothes? Okay, let’s go.” I think that’s pretty common with having three children. 

Last year, my oldest walking into her last year of high school at the same time my youngest started kindergarten was a jarring reality check for me. For the first time in many years I cried at first day drop off. I felt as if I just took Shelby to her first day of kindergarten. 

I have felt how quickly time moves. That short amount of time we have with them in our house has really caused a shift in how I parent. I’ve learned to pick my battles. If my middle daughter, Bekah, wants to only wear the color black then I let her live out that part of life. Those are small things that I’ve learned are not worth a battle. 

The Benefits of a Large Age Gap

The Age Gap :: Perks and Pitfalls

I think everyone in my house has benefited from the perks of my daughters’ age gap. Shelby has never had to share a room as I did with my sister {and as her sister’s have since birth}. I have always wanted Shelby to have her own space.  There are still some sibling squabbles between all three of them, but generally Shelby’s little sisters think she is the coolest person on the planet. 

Yes, a large perk in having this age gap is having another responsible person available to help out. I have always approached this with a lot of forethought. I never wanted Shelby to feel like a built-in babysitter. When she was in high school, we rarely left her alone with her sisters. Today, they need little supervision. It’s more along the lines of “don’t let them leave the house or cook on the stove”. There have been times I have been stuck in Houston traffic and Shelby has saved me by picking up the girls from school. When a stranger assumes she is the mother she gets a bit annoyed, but she has stepped up many times to a responsible role model for her sisters. 

There is a pretty strong chance that I will be a grandmother when my younger daughters graduate from high school. I was once the young mother at all of the school functions, and I accepted that I am one of the oldest mothers in the PTO. If I had it to do over again I would not purposefully put such a large age gap between my children, but I don’t regret the family we have today. 

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  1. I love this. I have seen this age gap in my family. it can at time be difficult but also a blessing thank you for sharing.


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