My kids are sixteen months apart. At the time, having kids close in age sounded like a great idea. Our daughter was an angel baby, and we said, “Let’s do it again!” So we did, and then the reality of raising a very young toddler and a newborn hit us as hard as a brick to the face – for a little while, at least. Now it’s pretty great. Just as there are pros and cons to spacing kids far apart, there are pros and cons to condensing the child-rearing years, too. Here’s what to expect.
You’ll be asked if the pregnancy was planned.
I remember visiting my former co-workers with my nine-month-old daughter and announcing that I was pregnant again. There were audible gasps, and one woman immediately blurted out, “Was it planned?” Her reaction made sense. My first child was still a baby, and I was knocked up again? Surely, this was a mistake.
The older one will seem really big once the baby arrives.
With our newborn in the house, our sixteen month old seemed so big, so capable, so mature. But she wasn’t. She was still a baby herself, and I had to continually re-set my expectations for her.
You’ll still forget stuff about the baby stage.
The spit up – oh, the spit up. I thought all the details of having a baby would be fresh in my mind, since, you know, I’d just had one, but it’s amazing how quickly the ins and outs of daily life with a baby were replaced by my life with a toddler.
You will have a triple whammy of mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion for the first two-ish years.
Babies are physically demanding. They interrupt our sleep (a lot). We have to lug around heavy car seats and gear for them and just when we’re ready to head out the door, their surprise blow out diapers require immediate attention.
They’re also emotionally draining. Why aren’t you sleeping? Why are you crying? What’s the matter? They can’t tell us with words, so we live with a constant undercurrent of stress, worrying that we’re not meeting their needs as well as we should.
Toddlers’ physical and emotional needs are just as high as infants for different reasons, and you’ll be dealing with them all at the same time as the baby stuff. The cherry on top is the mental energy you’ll expend with your toddler. It feels as taxing as a game of chess with Bobby Fischer. Every day I repeatedly answered questions like, “What’s that?” and “Why?” while also strategically planning how to avoid meltdowns or deftly handle the ones that did occur.
People will ask if they’re twins.
As my son became a toddler himself, my kids looked more and more alike, sitting in their double stroller together. I still field the twin question daily, and my kids have heard my response so often that they answer for me now, “No, we’re just close in age!”
You’ll eventually treat them like twins.
In a lot of ways, my kids do feel like twins now, and my parents, who raised my twin brothers, agree. We’ve always needed two of everything: two cribs, two sets of diapers, two sets of bottles and sippy cups. We have a double stroller, two car seats, and two booster seats.
We also tend to treat them the same in many ways, blending some of their milestones. We bought them scooters at the same time and we’ll get them bikes together. My daughter wore pull-ups at night way longer than she needed to because I didn’t see a compelling reason to rock the boat until my son was ready to be out of them, too. Similarly, my son dropped his last nap earlier than he should have because it was easier for all of us not to be slaves to his sleep schedule.
Life becomes streamlined as they get older.
At first, I was simultaneously managing the most complicated elements of baby life and toddler life, but now that they’re three and four years old their schedules and needs align pretty effortlessly. They go to school together and they’re old enough to participate in the same activities. They play with the same toys, watch the same shows, and are built-in playmates. In fact, the only reason I’m able to write this article now is that the kids are entertaining themselves.
We front-loaded the chaos and challenges of the early years by having kids close in age, and it was worth it, but however you choose to plan (or not plan) your family, it will be perfect for you.