Mind the Gap

There are nearly 7 years between my two boys. Not exactly how I would have planned it but it’s just right for team Mumsomnia. From the day Boy1 arrived we were constantly bombarded with the inevitable question of “when are you having another?”Believe me it gets tired after about 6 months, so 7 years of it drove me mad.

Having such a big gap does mean my mum friends really vary in their stages of motherhood. From first time mothers to well established, tween handling, forgotten how to change a nappy types. Most of my pals with more than one child have age gaps of just a couple of years between them, so I’ve really seen a difference between their experience of having multiple children and my own.

With such a big gap people constantly ask me what it’s like. Had I forgotten what it’s like to have a baby around? How does Boy1 feel after being an only child for sooo long?

Nearly one year in to being a ‘gap mum’ and I thought I should share my take on it.

Big gap ‘cons’

  • Sleep! I’d been used to getting a good night’s sleep for a few years, so the arrival of Boy2 really impacted me
  • Entertaining them together can be tough and will only get tougher. It’s quite difficult to find something they both enjoy. Boy1 is getting too old for soft play just as Boy2 is getting into it. When I have a 4 year old and 11 year old to deal with, who knows what I’ll do?!
  • No joint school photos. Ok this seems quite minor, but as a lover of nostalgia, I’ll never be able to pull out a photo of both my boys sitting awkwardly close to each other, gap toothed in perfectly ironed uniforms.
  • Childcare. I worked out that by the time Boy2 is 11, we would have been paying for childcare for 17 years. Yes 17 years!! Whereas those parents who decide to bang out kids within a couple of years of each other could wipe a good five years off that figure
  • Not as many hand-me-downs. We cleared out a lot of baby stuff when we moved ‘up North’, so have pretty much started from scratch with Boy2. Thankfully we’ve been given loads of things, but it means I don’t have a loft stuffed with old clothes and toys to drag out
  • Different starts – In the time between having the boys our life has changed a lot. Boy1 spent his early years in a first floor flat in south London, no garden and parents working all hours. He even had a cheeky cockney accent for a while! Boy2 arrives to a 4 bed house in Cheshire
  • Different childhood experiences – 7 years is a long time in the world of children. So much can change from TV programmes, popular music genres and even technology, I wonder if my boys will ever be able to reminisce about ‘old school’ stuff together or will they just be generations apart
  • What saddens me the most is that there will probably come a point when Boy1 is “too cool” to talk to his baby brother. Right now he adores him and the feeling is mutual. Boy1 walks into the room and Boy2’s face lights up. I know that once Boy1 becomes a teenager, just as his little brother is in school, he probably won’t want to listen to Biff, Chip and Kipper stories and I worry it will break Boy2’s heart.

Big gap pros:

  • I only have one set of nappies to deal with. Nappies are expensive and dirty. Thankfully I’m only having to clean one bottom each day
  • Continuing the nappy theme, our luggage for days out it much lighter. When I see parents with change bags, back packs, buggy boards and the like just to visit the corner shop, I shudder
  • Boy 1 is rather independent. He gets himself washed and dressed in the morning. Plus he can make his own breakfast! So, only one breakfast to make
  • Help on hand. With an old child that likes to feel like a big boy, it’s easy to give him tasks to do to make him feel responsible, which lightens the load on me. Whilst he’s not quite up to babysitting, I can leave him to entertain baby whilst I do other jobs safe int he knowledge the only thing he’ll smoother baby with is kisses and not a pillow
  • No jealousy! Toddlers don’t ‘get’ babies. They struggle to understand why a little screaming blob suddenly commands attention from all the big people. Not a problem with a 7 year old. He understands that babies can’t do anything for themselves and that they need mummy at certain times.
  • Protective – Even with a bout of teen angst in a few years, I know Boy1 will be his brother’s security guard. He’d never let anything happen to his little pal
  • They both get to grow into their own person. Of course all siblings become individuals but Boy1 spent the first 7 years of his life being him, not being compared to anyone else. And with such a big gap Boy2 won’t have to live under the shadow of his older brother because we can’t compare two people who will always be at different life stages

For us, this gap seems to work fine. I’m not sure I would have ever been able to handle having a toddler and baby at the same time! My boys love each other and we love them even more, so we wouldn’t change them, or the gap for the world. But what works for us, doesn’t work for others. I just don’t think there’s any such thing as a perfect gap. If and when the time is right, it will work out.

xx

Saying goodbye to a special summer

Tomorrow Boy 1 goes back to school after 5 weeks of fun with me and Boy 2. Whilst he is ridiculously excited to be starting junior school and reuniting with his friends, I’m quietly mourning the loss of the summer. Not because of the blistering sunshine or an amazing foreign holiday (I live in Manchester remember), but the length of time we’ve had together. 

This has been the first and, as it has recently dawned on me, the last chance for me to spend an entire summer with both of my children. It’s usually a case of juggling a couple of weeks of annual leave, trying to find activities that my amazing childminder hasn’t already done, whilst wishing I could squeeze in a couple of hours’ rest so I don’t return to work feeling more tired than when I left.

Swimming, cycling, playing chess (he taught me!), museum trips, movie afternoons, afternoon tea, you name it – we’ve done it. The only restrictions being feeding and nappy changes. It has been so refreshing to see him enjoy himself and spend quality time with his new little brother and just be carefree. 

It seems almost unfair that with 52 weeks in a year, I’m only ‘allowed’ to spend 5 of those with my children. 

The only reason I’ve been able to have this special time is the arrival of Boy 2 and maternity leave. So I’ve been trapped between managing my tiny budget and trying to make this time as fun and special as possible.

Whilst we haven’t been able to do anything particularly expensive or extravagant, I’ve realised how fun it is to just have that time together. People always tell you to ‘enjoy every minute’ with your children and that phrase has never felt so true. 

We’ll never get this time again. Who knows when we’ll next be able to have a long summer together. And when we do, he’ll be older, cooler and (it breaks my heart to admit it) probably won’t want to hold my hand to cross the road or cuddle his little brother to the point of near suffocation. 

So, thank you boys. You’ve made my summer so special.