If you have one or two kids and are thinking about having more, you’re probably already weighing the pros and cons. From my experience, I can tell you that there’s a special kind of chaos that comes in a household of multiple kids running around.
From getting multiple uses out of strollers, to freaking out about college tuition, to children who learn to help each other, here’s what you can expect from raising kids of multiple ages at the same time.
1. Pro: More bang for your buck
I mean this in a purely economic way. If you’re going to purchase that expensive jogging stroller and that super fancy wet wipe warmer, you might as well get some long-term use of it, right?
You can also split up big costs, such as college tuition, if your kids have wide ranges between their ages. You’ll still be hit with the astronomic cost, but it won’t be all at the same time.
2. Con: The extra costs add up
On the flip side, if you wait too long between children, you may actually end up spending more money on high-cost items. Car seats, for examples, expire after a certain amount of time, so they’re not safe to use past the expiration date.
Also, have you ever tried feeding both a picky toddler and a ravenous kid after soccer practice? We’re talking the stuff of horror movies, seriously. And let’s not even discuss college and diapers at the same time, because that’s just depressing.
3. Pro: You’ll always come out ahead
By this one I mean, when you have multiple children, you quickly learn to lower your standards and expectations about, well, everything. With four young kids, I have precisely zero expectation of anything ever going smoothly, easily, or seamlessly in my life. So, I’m never disappointed when the baby has a blowout the second we’re heading out of the door, or the toddler throws a tantrum at the store, or my kids start wrestling the only time I have an important phone call and ask them to be quiet for five measly minutes.
I have come to expect these things, so therefore, I’m not affected by them. On the flip side, when a trip actually goes off without a hitch, or the kids go to sleep on the first attempt, or someone listens to me when I ask them to do something the first time? Well, sign me up for the next lottery, because I’m feeling pretty darn lucky!
4. Con: You’ll have ridiculously low standards
See above. Your definition of a clean house, successful outing, or night of fun might be very, very different than anyone else’s. But hey, it works for you, right?
5. Pro: You become an expert at prioritizing
With multiple ages, the problems thrown your way at the same time will be diverse. You’ll learn quickly to think like a triage nurse in the emergency room. Split-open, bleeding chin or stubbed toe? Broken heart or anxiety attack? Potential allergy reaction or scraped-open knee? Allowance request or potty-training toddler emergency? You will become the world’s faster triaging parent and learn to deal with the high-needs items first. This does, of course, always include coffee for the grown-ups. Priorities, everyone!
6. Con: Someone will always need something from you
Please see: Split-open, bleeding chin.
7. Pro: You can train a few of them
Speaking of coffee, I recently hit a rather exciting parenting milestone. I was able to successfully teach my oldest, at the age of 8, to make a pot of coffee. She proudly poured me a cup while I worked in my office, and I swear it felt like a chorus of angels singing for us.
8. Con: You can only get away with so much
You can only pull off playing the quiet game or “let’s see how fast we can pick up this living room” so many times before the older kids start rolling their eyes and ruin the secret of you tricking the little ones. Darn those offspring!
9. Pro: You’ll never be alone
As a new mom, I once read a book from a mother who had eight kids. She swore that having eight kids was easier than having two or three very young children. I thought she was nuts, but as my kids grew and our family expanded, I realized very quickly how she was so right. Especially if you happen to be an at-home parent of a lot of very young children, it’s easy to feel extremely isolated and alone.
When I only had two young children, born two years apart, it felt like it was just me against the world of nonstop diapers, no sleep, and no adult interaction. But now, as a mom of a toddler, a preschooler, and two kids in school, my life is completely different.
I get dressed on a regular basis, I have a helping hand if I really need it, and I can even converse with them now. It sounds so silly, but even the smallest thing like going to the bathroom was a battle when it was just me and the littles. Now, life feels a lot less lonely.
10. Con: Your attention will be divided
Ann Lowery Forster, a mom of four, points out that it can be difficult to divide herself over her children’s varied needs. “Sometimes, I need to take the littles to the park, and my older ones need to be doing school work and are kind of over the park,” she explains. “I don't get as much play time with the littles because the bigger ones have real responsibilities that cannot be pushed as much.”
11. Pro: Your children can learn from each other
Growing up with different ages and stages, children also have the opportunity to learn from each other. You’ll eventually have built-in homework help, so you can save money on tutors.
12. Con: There will be fighting — like, a lot of fighting
The fights can be quite extensive, and there is a lot of “he’s bugging me" from the older kids, because we all know it's lame to hang out with your kid siblings. You got your degree in peace-keeping studies, right? No? Darn.
13. Pro: You get some pretty darn sweet moments
Aside from my own personal belief that a baby in the house just makes everything better, having multiple ages of children makes you privy to some pretty heart-warming moments.
As Lauren Pope, a mom of five kids ranging from 2 to almost 12 says, “It's a little surreal dealing with one in diapers while another goes through puberty, but overall I'd say that the age span is really good for everyone. The older kids and younger kids all bring something unique to the family dynamics.”
There’s something to be said for little kids “breaking up” the hardships of growing up for the big kids. What’s better than coming home from a hard day of school and snuggling a baby sister or brother? Says Foster, “The young ones keep us laughing and down to earth when puberty threatens to make everything so serious.”
And as for all those cons we talked about, we’ll just stop right there and focus on the sweet moments. Because that’s what it’s all about anyways, right?
Chaunie Brusie, B.S.N., is a registered nurse in labor and delivery, critical care, and long-term care nursing. She lives in Michigan with her husband and four young children, and she is the author of the book “Tiny Blue Lines.”