Cons of the two-year gap

Despite the positives they mentioned, the mothers I spoke to with children in this age gap area (from 18 months to 21/2 years) all felt that if they had ‘just waited another 6 months’, their lives would have been much easier.

Either their eldest would be talking, or toilet trained, or really settled at play school… in retrospect all, without exception, felt having their second child in the ‘danger year’, as expounded by psychologists, was a little too close for comfort.

So what are the really bad bits?

Most mothers interviewed found their elder child to be jealous and aggressive towards the new baby, which, although temporary and understandable, made them feel guilty and helpless.

‘I think it must be traumatic enough being two, with desires which don’t correspond to your abilities,’ says Maddie, continuing to be erudite despite her sleep deprivation. ‘Add in a baby, and the toddler not only automatically gets less attention, despite your best efforts, but has a focus for his aggression.

‘And instead of being able to come to his aid, Mom is trapped in a chair, breastfeeding someone else. It’s a really stressful situation, and I often feel like I am failing my eldest. But there is just so much that I can do.’

The guilt is big. All new second time mothers feel bad about not giving the new baby the attention that was lavished on the first. All feel personally responsible for their toddler’s tantrums – which we feel wouldn’t be happening if we could just spare more time (not screaming things like, ‘Get off your brother! Get your fingers out of his eyes! Give him back his dummy!’).

Closely allied to this guilt is the dreadful suspicion that, despite your best attempts to ignore the feeling, you secretly prefer your second child.

Objectively, this is just developmental – who wouldn’t prefer an immobile 6-month-old, smiling beatifically from his play mat, to a toddler, who is screaming his head off because you won’t let him try to use the cat as a kite? And it’s scant comfort to know that the tables will be turned as soon as the baby morphs into a whiney bastard and Attila the Toddler discovers Reason.

Then there are the practicalities – how do you sleep train children who share a room, and egg each other on as soon as your back is turned? Or get your toddler to eat properly when the baby’s lapping up bottles of Purity fruit? Or push a pram whilst keeping the eldest from running into the road?

It’s not just that you’ve dethroned your eldest. It’s that you are simply stretched too thin in the early months. Even if your older child makes the transition really smoothly, as mine did, all the horrible baby stuff is still doubled.

If one doesn’t wake up during the night, the other will. If one has a nap, the other will wake him up. If one has the snots, he’ll give it to the other. Your time with your partner is halved. Suicide hour is twice as evil. And so on…

How to survive a two year gap
  • Becomes more blasé about crying – they will both cry at the same time, and you can only deal with one at a time.
  • Stop being brave and use whatever help you can. Patch things up with your mother-in-law, suck up to the neighbour… whatever it takes.
  • Lose all vanity. If you can’t get used to looking like Death in a maternity bra, you are going to be a very unhappy woman indeed.
  • Lose any attachment you may still have to material possessions. If the Waterford crystal survived the first round, its number’s up this time. Try to get Zen about it.
  • Keep repeating to yourself… this will pass. It will get better…
  • Get really, really serious about contraception, because if you think you are stressed now… try 3 children under 4.
Do you secretly prefer your second child?
Want to know more about the two-year gap?

- Truth about the two-year-gap
- Pros of the two-year gap

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