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How Far Apart Should You Space Your Children?

How Far Apart Should You Space Your Children? post image spacing kids

When a couple decides to have a family, they usually agree on how many kids they want.  They may even decide how far apart they want to space their children.  However, many people fail to consider the financial implications of spacing children.

My husband and I have three children.  Our first is 6 years old.  I was only three years into my career at the time of his birth, and my husband was a graduate student, so we knew we wouldn’t have another one right away.  I was off work for 10 weeks after his birth before I went back to full-time employment.  Even with discovering how expensive diapers and daycare were, we did fine financially surviving on my salary.

Our First Two Children Are Spaced Far Apart

My son was 4.4 years old when his sister was born.  Because she was born in the late fall, she will be a full 5 years behind her brother in school.  They are so far apart that they won’t be in day care or preschool at the same time.  Assuming my son graduates from college in 4 to 5 years, these two won’t be in college at the same time either.  This offers us positive financial benefits because we won’t have to pay for college for these two at the same time.

Many people don’t like the idea of spacing kids 4 years apart because they are afraid the children won’t be close.  I don’t know what the future holds, but right now my kids are fairly close.  My daughter, who is now 2, adores her brother, but she also likes to tease him.  They play together, though my son sometimes needs time alone in his room to play without his sister’s interference.

Our Second Two Children Are Spaced Close Together

My husband and I knew we wanted at least 3 kids, and because my second was born when I was 37.5 years old, we knew we wouldn’t have the luxury of spacing our children far apart this time.  In fact, we went to the opposite extreme!  My third child, another girl, was born 17.5 months after my second child.

While I returned to work after my second child was born, the daycare costs for two children under two in an urban area were prohibitive, so I decided to resign from my job when I had the baby.

We sent my son to a special preschool to learn Japanese (my husband’s native language), and we would like to do the same for our girls.  This school costs $650 a month for ½ day schooling; if two children are enrolled, there is a 10% discount.  Because I am not currently working, we are trying to figure out how we will come up with the $650 a month when my second child turns 3.  Even if we can find the money for her, my third child will be ready for the preschool just 1.5 years after her sister goes.  Then the cost will be roughly $1170 a month.  Because my daughter is born in the spring, the girls will only be one year apart in school.

Beyond the educational costs, there are other costs to consider when spacing children closely together.  I had hoped that my baby would be able to wear her sister’s hand me down clothes.  However, my oldest daughter is tiny; she is 2.5 years old and still wears size 18-24 month clothes.  My baby is only 9 months and wears size 12-18 months.  I see a day soon when they will wear the same size.

I had also hoped that my daughter would outgrow her crib before the baby needed one, but that has not happened.  Both girls are in cribs now.  (We saved money by buying the baby’s crib off Craigslist.)

Financial Considerations of Having Kids

There are great benefits to spacing children close together

  • you can get diapering out of the way in just a few short years
  • you can get rid of all of the baby clutter quicker
  • your children may have a very close relationship to one another

There are also important financial considerations:

  • one partner may have to leave the work force for a while if daycare costs are prohibitive
  • once children are old enough for extracurricular activities, you will have double the costs—dance lessons for two children, dance recital fees and costume costs for two children, etc.
  • there will be double the college expenses, wedding expenses, etc.

We are glad that we had three children, but the financial implications of the last two so close together worries us a bit.  If I had it to do over again, I would have probably started my family earlier and tried to space the last two about three years apart.

Melissa is a stay-at-home mom to her three young children.  She blogs about learning to live a fulfilling life on less and cooking her family healthy foods at Mom’s Plans.  She also blogs about her family’s attempts to dine out once a week for $25 or less at Dining Out Challenge.

Photo Credit: Pink Sherbet Photography

Elle: I found Melissa’s guest post interesting to read and think about. To be honest, my husband and I have talked about this topic. My sister and and were close in age and later on my brother joined us. It’s fascinating to see how we’ve grown closer as we’ve gotten older. Please share your thoughts in the comments; I’d love to see your feedback.

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  1. Interesting information. I hadn’t thought about spacing and finances. I used to assume that meant having to store (or, eek! buy more) baby stuff if we space too far. I hadn’t considered the spacing and daycare or college overlap.

    My sister and I were close together (18 months) but Mrs. SPF and her siblings (2) were 5 years apart. Definitely something to consider!

    1. With our first kid on the way, my husband and I haven’t even talked about it. From what I hear about daycare costs, how close parents have their kids has a big influence on their finances.

      My sister and I are 2 years apart and my brother is almost 8 years younger than me. I think my brother benefited financially by being born later. The family’s finances were more established, so he received an allowance ad some extras.

  2. My brothers and I are all within about 2 years of each other with the youngest being almost three.

    My wife and I have two kids that are almost exactly 3 years apart. If we decide to have more, it’s likely that the next will be at least 4 years from the current youngest.

    I’m not sure what the right answer is. To me, getting rid of the diapers and clutter are almost more important than the money, but I know when it came right down to it, the money would make itself more important. It always does, doesn’t it?

    1. I think every family has to decide what’s right for them. I know some people wait for their careers to be established and to have more income. Others want to have them earlier so when they retire, they have more time for themselves as a couple. It is fascinating how money has an effect on our decisions.

  3. My girls are 2.5 years apart and it seems like perfect spacing. They play well together and my husband and I are enjoying watching them become best friends. Although, 16 years from now when we have 2 kids in college, we might not like the spacing.

    One point I want to make is that you can plan all you want about the spacing and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. A good friend just had her second child 5 years after her first. She didn’t want them that far apart, but they had a difficult time conceiving #2. There are some things that we just don’t have control over.

  4. The financial aspect of having children wasn’t a factor at all in deciding how many and how soon to have our children. I’m thankful that money wasn’t a part of the deciding factor at all. Being a parent is such a huge blessing, and even if money is very tight, or some families have a lot more than 3 children, I still believe that the money issue shouldn’t factor in. I know many fabulous people with fabulous characters and values who made big differences in many people’s lives and in their communities, and they came from large families who were quite poor. I’m very thankful that they were born regardless of their financial status. If God wants our children to attend college, He will make the way for them. He did it for my twin sister and I; we attended the same private college (which wasn’t cheap) and graduated with owing almost nothing even though my family had nothing saved for our college education due to my dad’s unemployment for several years (during the 1980s recession). If it’s meant to be, and people work hard, it can happen.

    I’m actually surprised that the father in this scenario didn’t teach his own children Japanese if it is his native language. He could have introduced it when they were babies, and they would have been bilingual with no cost for the very expensive preschool his children attend. Wow. That’s a lot of money considering I can educate two children at home for an entire school year (one upper elem., one jr. high age) for the cost of one month of half day preschool for his child.

  5. I often wonder how folks with multiple kids very close in age can afford it, but I suppose having all the diapering and sleep deprivation over with in a short period would be a nice benefit! I only have one child, so didn’t have to deal with either of the issues though.

  6. My brother and I were 6 years apart. I think that was too far – I’d probably like to have my own 2-4 years apart. I never was at the same school with him due to the age gap, but maybe that was a good thing!

  7. I have 2 boys – 1 turned 8 in December the other turned 6 in January. They had their periods of either loving each other to pieces, playing sweetly together for hours, the older teaching his younger to read, write, etc – or screaming, fighting & not wanting to share, it really just depends on the day! LoL
    Then, I separated from their father & married my wonderful husband :) we had a daughter, who turned 1 this February & my 2 boys love her to death! They see her as their sister, not just their 1/2 sister, and I think she has made them feel closer to each other as well. They both give her all of their attention, both boys play with her together, nicely, all day long, try to teach her things together, take turns helping mommy get a diaper or feed their sister. It’s the sweetest thing you’ll ever see! :) my husband & I do plan to have another baby – he’s hoping for his own son, although he sees my boys as his own, he wants one that is his blood, which I totally understand. Although I’m secretly hoping for another little princess ;) he thinks we should wait till our daughter is 3 to have another, but I think we should get on it soon, so they are just about 2 years apart, & so I’m done having babies by the time I’m 31 or 32. I feel like when they are older/in school, the 2 older boys will drift away from their little sister (when they get their own friends, etc) but I could be wrong! Who knows?
    Growing up, I was the oldest of 3 girls, each of us 2.5 years apart, &i ended up bonding more closely with our baby sister (5 yrs younger than me) while our middle sister felt left out a lot. But as adults, we are all the closest of friends! I guess it just depends on the kids themselves, each one is different & each parent is different. But ultimately, in the long run, I personally feel that about 2 yrs apart is perfect spacing! :)

  8. Boy, am I ever right there with you on the extracurricular activities point. I have three children, two are girls spaced 2.5 years apart. Now that my older one is interested in Dance, I realize that signing her up means I’m likely committing to 2 fees for everything. It’s definitely made me second-guess myself many times.