I don’t remember a time without my brother Murray. Only 18 months apart, we were already close growing up – and when he skipped a grade, we ended up even closer, sharing classes and friends.
This also meant that our parents were inundated, with two in diapers and two busy toddlers.
Many parents decide to go the route of having children close together. The infamous “two under two” is common in many young households, eliciting awe and sympathy from friends and onlookers, often at the same time.
Ottawa resident Jade Ferguson is mother to Jacob, 27 months, and Luca, seven months.
“I decided to have them close in age because I am close in age with my siblings, and I wanted the boys to play together with the same friends,” said Ferguson, a project officer.
For Yawen Zhang, it was also a matter of wanting her children to be able to play together.
“Most of our relatives live out of country,” said the Ottawa resident. “We would like our children to be close so they can play and do lots of activities together to fill in the void of not having cousins around.”
Already, she can see a close bond developing between Owen, 2, and Jada, five months.
“Maybe it is because Owen was not the only child for long, (but) he has not had many jealous feelings towards the new baby. Owen often requests to hold Jada and pat her legs and wanting to feed her what he is eating.
“It is very gratifying for me to witness all these acts of love and kindness Owen has shown.”
One of the benefits Ottawa resident Danielle Woodland reported was that her younger daughter, two-year-old Amelia, learns quickly from sister Lilah, age four. The girls are 21 months apart.
Still, it’s not always easy.
For Zhang, sleep deprivation was a struggle – “with one baby you can compensate some sleep during the daytime, but with a baby and a toddler, I need to entertain and spend time with the toddler during the day” – and she also felt guilt when paying attention to one child over another.
“Now I’ve learned to do activities that kind of involve them both, such as reading a book with Owen while holding Jada,” she said.
And Hope Farant, mother to Fenton, four, and Walker, two, agreed. “Having two under two was definitely challenging,”
Farant and her husband wanted their first two children close in age “so that we can all grow as a family together,” she said.
“We thought it was important for our firstborn to have a sibling close in age so they could lean on each other … we also wanted our first, Fenton, to be accustomed to sharing his home and his parents for as long as he can remember.”
After Walker arrived, the Kanata-based daycare provider felt she was being pulled in two directions. Like Zhang, she “constantly felt guilty, like I wasn’t giving either of my babies enough … that was definitely a tough year.”
Still, the benefits far outweigh the costs.
“The first thing that comes to mind is the incredible bond between my two sons,” said Farant. “They are best of friends. They have common interests, and they make each other laugh hysterically.
“The other thing that comes to mind is that everything is still so fresh from the first one, if that makes sense – the breastfeeding, diapering, calming strategies, what-not-to-do’s and what-not-to-worry-abouts – it felt like we had just done it all and it just came back to us.”
While many parents plan to have children back-to-back, Erin Laking said the close age gap between her two was a happy accident.
Rowan, born in February 2013, was only five months old when the federal public servant became pregnant with Blair.
“I definitely wanted more children, but perhaps not quite so close,” said Laking, who was frequently exhausted keeping up with the needs of the kids.
Today, she wouldn’t have it any other way. The children are best friends, and Laking finds buying toys and clothing, planning outings and scheduling bedtimes easier than if the children were further apart in age.
So what would these moms say to parents who are considering a close age gap for their kids?
“I say go for it,” said Woodland, an IT system support analyst. “At first I would get comments like, ‘you have your hands full,’ or, ‘you’re brave.’ Now that they are older, I get comments about how smart the age gap was.
“The first year is challenging, I won’t lie, but now that my girls are two and almost four, it is so amazing seeing them together. My life is loud but so much fun.”
“As they get older and the bond grows, you’ll feel so blessed,” Laking added.
“In hindsight, I love that they’re so close together and I’m so glad it worked out this way. I can’t imagine siblings much further apart.”