We planned relatively big age gaps knowing that at some stage we would be dealing with three very different stages of childhood at the same time.
It's one of those situations that you don't tend to give much thought when your firstborn comes along. But then the third arrives and your oldest turns eight and all of a sudden you're changing nappies one minute and discussing playground rivalry the next. And in the middle is a pre-schooler singing and dancing and pushing buttons and finding her place.
Somedays it all goes along swimmingly and others it really does require immense amounts of patience.
Perhaps the most challenging thing about the gaps that we do have is the amount of time Percy spends in the car, going to and fro between home and school and swimming and drama and dancing. And he hates the car. In fact, I would class a baby screaming in the car as one of the most stressful parenting experiences there is. Just last week I gripped the steering wheel, exhaled loudly and then joined in a rather tense rendition of The Lion Sleeps Tonight in an attempt to calm the noise. Did it work? Of course not. Was Percy perfectly fine when we got into the driveway? Yes. Being in-and-out of the car also makes for disrupted sleep patterns which certainly has contributed to Percy's relatively short day-time sleeps.
But as frustrating as interrupted sleep and loud car journeys can be, they are the only cons in this scenario. Our big age gaps (there's 3years 9months between Che and Poet and 3years 7months between Poet and Percy) have been perfect for our family and I really wouldn't have it any other way. Percy may have to accompany me to school drop-off and pick-up most days but he also gets a lot of one-on-one time with me. And when the big kids get home? Oh, the delight! He is cuddled and kissed and soothed, there is always someone building him a block tower and he always gets a story read to him, even if it's not the book of his choice.
Personally, these large age gaps have afforded me the time and space to build my career as a work-from-home writer and photographer, something that would definitely have been more difficult if I had of had a two in nappies at once, for instance. I also know myself and my body well - I needed to experience a period of independence once I weaned before I fell pregnant again. I needed to regain some energy and spend some time nurturing my self - for everyone's sake (funnily enough, Chinese Medicine believes that the ideal period between birth and the next conception to be three years).
Percy will start school the year that Che starts high school (hold me, that's going to be big) and if we do have a fourth, I'll have one in pre-school, too. I know, too, that the mental and emotional parenting will be so much more demanding than it is right now. It's something I come back to when toying with having another baby - can I juggle the social and emotional demands of a tween, a school girl, a preschooler and a newborn? How can Daniel and I make it work?
Growing a family is very much about what your heart desires. And yes, my heart longs for another babe. But I continue to remind myself to look forward and consider the logistics of a large family, the juggle of work and motherhood, the demands of siblings spread over ten years.
I'd love to hear about your chosen age-gaps. How do they work? What has been the most challenging stage so far?