Bits

I really hate this type of statement, which is ubiquitous in the blogosphere:

“…I made a decision that is right for me…”

“You made a choice that is right for you and your family…”

“Make an informed choice to do what’s best for you.”

Of course people do stuff that is best for them. Who else are they best for? My aunt Muriel? I can assure you she doesn’t give a $hit, mostly because I don’t have an aunt Muriel.

Which brings me to the meaning of “judgmental.”

There are plenty of blog posts and articles about how people are judged for this, that, or the other. Sure, the usual suspects are there — judged for being fat, having/not having kids. But I have to say that I am puzzled as to what judged actually means. It seems to be overused to mean every type of disagreement. Many people state something that is right for them (*eyeroll*), only to quickly follow up how that doesn’t mean that the other choice is not valid or whatever.

I really don’t understand why everyone has to validate every opinion. There are plenty of choices that other people make that I think are wrong in the sense that I would never make them; I simply think my choice is better (for me, of course *eyeroll*). People make choices that I find boring, stupid, silly, ignorant, foolish, tasteless, and generally all sorts of idiotic. That doesn’t mean that those choices are necessarily (although they sometimes are) objectively wrong, or illegal, or that I think the people who make them are bad people (actually, there are some choices where I do really think those making them are bad people). But, for the most part, just because I think your choice is stupid doesn’t mean that you should care; I am sure many of my choices seem stupid or otherwise unfathomable to others, but so be it.

So what makes disagreeing with someone’s choice (as in, I like my choice better than your choice) judging them? I thought it’s reserved for “moral judgement” (you think that someone making a different choice is a bad person because of their choice), but it seems to spill over into the most banal of choices.

**************

A few months ago, a reader asked me to comment on the pros and cons for having kids spaced more than the seemingly requisite 2 years.

Apparently I am all sorts of weird for where we live. I did several things “not by the book,” not because I had a grand master plan, but because some things unraveled how they did. For instance, even though I am a career woman, I had my first kid at 26 (almost 27) and not in mid-30s; female colleagues my age have kids the age of my youngest, women who have kids the age of my Eldest are considerably older than me.

Then I had large gaps between kids (7 and 4 years between successive kids). That seems to baffle pretty much everyone. Unlike “Where are you from?” which always pisses me off, I actually like the question about my kids’ ages; I am amused and not in the least bit irritated by people saying “Oh, that’s quite an age span!” or something else to the effect. I respond cheerfully “That’s academic spacing!” and say something about us both working and me traveling a lot, and my DH wanting to be able to stay with all of them without the stress being unbearable, which is true enough. In reality, after Eldest we were first too broke, we could barely cover daycare for 1 (both DH and I in grad school), then I graduated and DH and I lived in different states for 2 years, until we were finally in the same place again and having real salaries, at which point we had No 2, Middle Boy, right away. However, what I tell people is that I had No 2 after the first big grant (mid-tenure track), which is technically true, but doesn’t convey the intent and how things really went about, with being broke and all (and it probably shouldn’t anyway). Kid No 3 we had right after I got tenure; I tell people he was a present to myself for tenure, still technically true, but it only worked out that way because it took a while to get my husband on board, in part because he feared the stress of staying alone with two very little and one grade-school kid when I travel.

I think the greater age span helped financially: we only had 1 year with 2 kids in daycare. There are couples with 3 kids in daycare and I have no idea how they afford it; they all must make much more money than me. From the career standpoint, in my view it helps to not have two (or more) kids who are too young at the same time. (My female colleagues with multiple kids often hire nannies. I don’t trust myself not to hire an axe murdered and am much more comfortable with a daycare center (which also takes care of backup when the teachers are sick, etc.) We have been going to this daycare center for a long time.) Considering all my kids had recurrent ear infections, it would have really been hard to have several small kids at the same time. I think having kids spaced far apart helped me balance child responsibilities with my career; we are a dual career couple with no support network on this continent, so with multiple small kids at the same time, especially during the tenure track, I think things would have been much, much harder. (The thing is, when having a new baby, the older kids don’t actually go away — while caring for a newborn is hardest the first time around and gets better with experience, every subsequent time you have the newborn plus all the big kid(s) around to care for… And being older doesn’t help.)

Con for spacing the kids: they don’t play together as much as they might if they were closer in age. Eldest doesn’t care about Middle Boy at all, which saddens both MB and me. But MB and Smurf adore each other, and MB is a great older brother (although there is plenty of wrestling, smacking and kicking each other, and other rough play which is the boy version of cuddling). Eldest likes Smurf because Smurf is the most adorable creature to ever roam the earth, but treats him more as a pet than a brother. So I joke that we had a single child, and then we had two kids. Pro: Eldest can and does occasionally babysit.

In the mornings, I drop off Eldest before coming back to finish getting the Littles ready. Eldest’s former middle school and current high school are very close to one another, so I have already been driving there for 4 years ( 3 in middle school and 1 in high school). By the time he’s done and gone to college, I will have done it for 7 years. But then MB starts middle school, and then moves onto high school, and then Smurf. By the time they are all done, I will have driven that route for 18 years. *chills*

People think this one is a con, but I think it’s a pro: we have been having little kids in the home for 15 years. Little kids are awesome and I swear they get cuter and cuter as I get older.

What say you, blogosphere? If you have multiple kids, what are the pros/cons of the age difference?

15 comments

  1. Forgive me for being Captain Obvious, but when people ask about the spacing of your kids, they may be fishing for something else entirely. Many people with odd/long spacing between children don’t do it on purpose, but rather have gone through years of infertility or multiple losses (or particularly traumatic losses) in between. Some people fishing for that info might just be gossipy, but some people might have gone through fertility crap of their own and they might be on the lookout for kindred spirits. Just a thought… (from someone who’s been working for almost two years towards even one living child to space out!)

  2. I have an eight year gap between kids, and I love it. We had a built in babysitter when the younger one required it, and though there was a couple years where older son didn’t particularly care for younger son, they’re actually great buds right now and enjoy a lot of the same interests. Older son has been a role model in a lot of good ways. And I think that older son has a better handle on what it will be like when he has kids, being old enough to see what things were like with his younger brother.

    The one down side is that both kids have had awful bouts of perfectionism because the people around them have been much older and so they don’t have people in the family similar in age/ability and feel like they ought to be able to do things as well as the older people around them.

    I honestly wonder if this notion that having multiple kids close together is actually part of the reason a lot of moms end up staying home full-time who otherwise may not. Daycare IS expensive, and it’s a lot easier when you only have one in there at a time. I think the cost of daycare and the difficulty of dealing with two or more small children at once makes it really hard to justify both parents working.

  3. We have 5 years different. I am 6 years older than my sister (academic spacing) and DH’ is five years older than his brother (his mom almost died from an ectopic pregnancy two years after DH). It works for us ;).

    I have been feeling pretty judgy about some money blogposts recently. There’s a “what bad decisions are you making now that work for you?” meme that is going around. And they’re not good decisions and aren’t really necessary.

  4. Not as young as you, when I had my first (just turned 29 and finishing up the PhD). Then a second with 2 years and I am a career woman with a career husband. Our reasoning was, lets get the it over with once, instead of spreading it out. Where it is impossible on my CV to see the first child, the second child, my career took a hit. This last year, was the first time that I felt I was close to working at the potential that I could. No nannies, no support system on this continent. It is hard (well it isn’t as hard any more, but it was really hard and exhausting), but we made it. The academic spacing might have worked too, I will never know, because I am not going to try it :).

  5. After years of fertility struggles I was 35 when my twins were born. A lot of people perceive two infants at once as a Con. They say, “I don’t think I could ever manage twins.” But we knew the total # of pregnancies I would have would be either 0 or 1, so to get two kids out of the deal is a bigger Pro than any Con anyone could ever propose. Whenever people start to tell me how hard my life must be, I tell them I won the jackpot.

  6. Three kids spread over 11 years? I’m sure you made a choice that is right for you and your family.

    Seriously, now we’re supposed to worry about getting our kids spaced correctly? Is this really a thing? Like there isn’t enough uncertainty with fertility, a willing partner, jobs, money, maternity leave, etc etc etc etc.

    But for the record, having two kids in diapers at the same time is a drag.

  7. Little kids ARE awesome. more than one at once—not so awesome. if fertility/age weren’t an issue, i’d have loved to space them out and perhaps even have a third. your family sounds really great to me.

  8. Little kids are awesome. They get awesomer as we age because our older children age too, and especially compared to the teen tantrums, the toddlers are divine!

    I am forever being accused of being judgemental. I’ve no problem with people judging me to be judgemental. As you say, to each of us our own views.

  9. I’m with Ana. My plan was five years apart. Thanks to infertility, there’s an almost eight year gap.

    And other than the suckiness that was infertility, turns out eight years is pretty good. The big one is big enough to help, and little enough that she still likes to play.

  10. Had my first at 30 (she is now 13 months). I also have two stepkids (50/50 physical custody) who are 10 and 11 (so there is a big gap!) The gap works well in that the kids get along great with each other and the older ones can help out (so far… who knows how this will pan out). The worst part right now, in my opinion, is that the needs of the older kids and the younger one are pretty different when it comes to nap time, bed time, activities, etc. The older kids have activities in the evening, the little one needs to go to bed… we used to like doing a lot “as a family,” but now my husband and I do a lot more separately because of the different schedules. Now that I know how awesome my daughter is, I can see the temptation of having more, however this is really overwhelming, and my husband has changed his tune from wanting two younger ones close in age to not wanting any more. I find the idea of another kid really daunting. I always thought I would wait until the little one is a little older, and then re-evaluate how I felt about it. I think I would prefer an age gap – four or five years seems great. Perhaps my husband will change his tune once again as well.

  11. Hi! I asked about that awhile ago! I didn’t mean to judge you (or really even to pry into your reasons), I just wondered how you felt about the family dynamic, and how it worked out with a demanding job.

    In fact, it was mainly a selfish question – since I was trying to decide about the spacing for my next kid and was looking for perspective.

    Well, we now have one in the oven, so I guess we decided a 5-year age gap is ok! Thank you for the post!

  12. I would have liked to have 2 or 3 kids, but we didn’t manage to have one until my wife was 39, and we ended up deciding not to try for more. We got pretty lucky with the one we had though, so I’m happy.

  13. I am your typical career woman – had two kids in my late thirties, 2 years apart, and hired nannies. Maybe it sounds like it was a plan, but it was anything but. Had multiple miscarriages and fertility issues before number one. Number two just happened – given prior experiences, we did not exactly worry about protection against pregnancy. Little kids are awesome and I would have had more, but my career was taking a huge hit, I was already in my forties and also had no support network. Was already stretched to a limit.

    The con for close spacing is that it is rough to have two small kids at the same time. But that is only temporary and is all over now.
    The huge pro is that they adore each other (that is not always the case with siblings, but I lucked out). They play together and support each other in every way.

    You can plan all you want, but life often has other plans. We all really just wing it.

  14. We have three, 5 and under – oldest boy is 5, and twins (boys) are 2. Two tenure track positions. You can imagine the cons. All in daycare, although my parents live close during the warm months, and that helps immensely. Didn’t plan to have twins (people always ask) but as Tigerlily says, life has other plans. Pros: they all love each other to pieces (okay, with the occasional bite from one of the 2 year olds), and wrestle and play. I’m an only child, and it’s wonderful to watch.

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