Here are 5 reasons why a few grueling years of diapers and tantrums are worth it.
Just one verse each day.
People are often quick to remark on the downside of having a gang of kids all close in age. Is it really a burden, or more of a godsend? Here, we explain the many advantages to having our kids close in age — and it’s not just about forming a close bond among siblings.
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Céline, a mother of five whose children arrived in the space of only eight years, explains: “There’s a familiar phrase used among English speakers that defines siblings born close together: Irish twins. During the potato famine, Americans, who generally had one or two children not too close in age, saw the Irish arrive on their shores with a slew of children all close in age — so much so, they couldn’t figure out who came where among the siblings. The Irish twins were children born in succession within one year.”
For me, a mom of four children who came along within about three years, I often felt that these siblings close in age intimidated people, with passers-by in the street often stopping to wish me luck, saying how they “couldn’t have done it!” Today, however — despite two or three very full and tiring years — I feel that it couldn’t have been more perfect, and that my family fulfills me, thanks to my children being so close to each other, so connected, and with everybody following the same rhythm. However, to make sure it wasn’t just me, I went to talk to other moms of kids close in age to hear their experiences.
Same rhythm, same activities
Claire, a mom of five children in six years, explains that her children all love doing the same hobbies and activities, which makes the day’s program easy to organize: “There are no heated discussions with the teens while I’m coloring with toddlers on the other,” says Claire. The days are organized around a similar rhythm. Of course, synchronizing nap time takes a bit of effort, but when it does happen, what peace! There’s also peace of mind for the parents who are able to focus on one age group at a time.
Going to the movies? There’s no need to divide yourself between the different screenings of Avatar, Harry Potter and Frozen. Everybody goes to the same show, and is content with the same tubs of popcorn (much of which often ends up on the floor). “We can do everything together,” Laetitia points out; “day trips, holidays, theme parks… ” Having children around the same age really helps when organizing activities and vacations. The needs are more or less the same for everybody, and what we expect from the day are the same. It actually does make life easier.
Camille feels the same: her experience is that they can easily find “activities that please everyone; even the bedtime story, the same nap times … and everybody bathes at the same time. Things like the school run become easier when all the kids are dropped off at kindergarten or school at the same time. The logistical advantages certainly outweigh the times when they’re all in diapers!”
Indeed, where some moms are having to struggle with the homework of the older kid, with the second child’s acne problems, and with getting the youngest out of diapers, moms of children who are all close together go through each individual problem one after the other … admittedly, multiplied by the number of children.
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There’s also another advantage to this shared rhythm: the avoidance of a dominant relationship between the “big” and the “little one.” When kids are close in age, it’s not always the same child who wins at games, it’s not always the eldest who squashes the youngest, or the youngest who wins over his mom.
A few years of diapers and it’s done
When children follow each other in quick succession, their parents stay in baby mode and, as Capucine says, “At least we don’t lose our touch; we don’t have to go back to diapers, short nights and the other joys of babyhood.” We go through everything in a few short years. Yes, they’re full, but for some people they finish quicker than others.
Some moms, like Clémentine, note some real logistical advantages: “There’s no need to pack away boxes of clothes: they’re passed on to the next straight away.” It’s true the clothes go straight from one closet to the next, but not without provoking a few emotions on seeing that cute little onesie worn by three very different models in just a few years. Géraldine even talks about “mutualizing baby equipment”; whereas Valérie reiterates: “There are lots of diapers, but soon they’re all gone.”
Having children very close together can make some financial sense, too — okay, we know those college expenses are a bit of a killer, but you’ll have a few years to prepare for that. A baby takes some financial adjusting, especially if you have to leave your job. You have to work with a new budget and new expectations. By having a cluster of kids, you never have to re-adapt; you’re well aware of the costs incurred, and with experience, you can find ways of making some savings.
Sibling bonds and mutual understanding
“For me, it is the brother-sister relationship that made us want to have kids close together. They know each other better, and they build their lives together,” explains Éléonore.
Although a small gap in age doesn’t always guarantee a certain level of harmony, it’s true that “our daughters don’t have any memories of one without the other,” says Hélène, a mom to two little girls born 17 months apart. “I love the concept! They’re learning to share, to laugh together, and to look out for each other.”
Céline, whose older children are now 9 and 10, agrees: “It’s a friendly merger, full of emotions, creating an incredible bond — and that’s it, they’re big! So I would say there’s no negative aspect. It’s tiring, that’s for sure, but the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages!”
Although this “merger” can’t be taken for granted, it is nevertheless favored by the fact that the children are going through the same stages of development at the same time, so they can perhaps understand each other better and can confide in each other, as two friends would. Whether the children are twins or are born one or two years apart, they experience the same physical and emotional changes within a short period of time. They can therefore share knowledge — sometimes by just reading between the lines — and understand each other.
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And, think about adolescence. What parent doesn’t check up on who their child is hanging out with? In the case of families with kids close in age, the company we share starts in the heart of the family. A brother can take his cue from his slightly older sister. It can be reassuring for parents to see their children going out together to visit friends they have in common.
The same education for all siblings
Whether or not to have kids in a short space of time is a choice a husband and wife should consider carefully, together. Once it is made, you have to be ready for a big change in a short period of time. The parental learning period is pretty “accelerated.” When your children are born close together, the journey from being a young couple without kids to being parents of a large family happens in such a short amount of time that it must be experienced positively, for the good of the parents as well as the children.
As adults, it’s possible to feel that you do “nothing but parent” in the first few years. But luckily, there is a huge positive point: there’s no need to split yourself in 3, 4 or 5. Parents must focus on one type of education and then follow through with its progress … at the same time as the children grow up.
In many families, the older kids complain of having a stricter education than the younger ones. In the case where children follow in quick succession, the parents don’t have time to change their parenting style; this results in a certain coherence, which can avoid jealousy or feelings of unfairness.
Valérie is happy to have embraced this way of living: “For parents, it’s also a sense of pride. We learn to surpass ourselves, to manage situations and organize aspects of life that we would, no doubt, have felt incapable of if we’d stopped to think beforehand. For me, the most important thing is to make this choice together and to deal with it on a daily basis.”
Finally, a little bit of practicality
Okay, we know there’s a lot more to life than re-gaining our pre-baby bodies, and — let’s face it — it’s rare that it ever really happens. However, while it’s certainly not a priority, the bonus of having your kids close in age is that you re-gain control of your body that much quicker. Although there is nothing quite as beautiful as a blossoming baby bump, it is nice to be able to wear clothes that don’t all require a high level of elastic. And as much as we love nursing our kids, it is also pretty great to be able to wear bras without clips, and to be done with nursing on demand. Although, be prepared: when your youngest starts elementary school, you’ll definitely experience a bit of that nostalgia to be holding them in your arms and nursing them once more.
Overall, if the early years are – unanimously – intense for the parents of children born close together, the rest is often joyous, for the parents as well as the children. With their unique bond, growing up together, the “Irish twins” are often very happy to be close to their brothers and sisters. Without denying the exhaustion that comes from giving birth in quick succession, it’s important to see our beautiful families in the most positive light and welcome these children as a blessing!
This article was originally published in the French edition ofAleteia and has been translated and/or adapted for English readers.