How To Manage With an 18 Month Age Gap

How To Manage With an 18 Month Age Gap

As we gasped at the positive pregnancy test in front of us, Mr H and I had mixed reactions. Amazement – it had taken four years of trying before Holly arrived. Happiness. And dare I say trepidation? At the time Holly was only nine months old and still completely reliant on us. She still had bottles, was only just weaning, still in nappies, still slept in a cot. She was still a baby.

Holly at nine months

However over the next nine months we embraced the thought of having two children so close together – we would get all these trying baby stages out of the way all at once; the children would surely be close, being so similar in age; they would play together and keep each other occupied.

When Jack arrived the first few weeks swirled by in a blissful honeymoon state. He slept reasonably well, Holly had adapted fantastically to a big girl bed and still slept through the night, and she didn’t seem to be too phased by another little person taking up all mummy and daddy’s attention.

However things soon changed. Holly is a clever little thing and needs lot of stimulation or she finds her own, mischievous amusement – her favourite tricks being pulling wires out of the wall or emptying the bin everywhere. I tried my best to keep up to the practices I had kept to thus far – reading to her, singing nursery rhymes, playing games, making sensory bins and including her in everything as much as I could. But there were times I just couldn’t be at her beck and call – Jack now needed me too. The TV became a regular babysitter in our household and we stayed inside more and more as it was so much effort to get out of the door. On the whole she was good, but the naughty times I found hard to deal with.

Grumpy toddler
Add to that Jack got colic quite badly, which lead to many a night filled with screams and mummy or daddy bouncing him in the only thing he would sleep in, his bouncer chair. We went away on holiday with my parents when Jack was three months old and were looking forward to the break. It ended up being the hardest holiday I have ever been on. Jack had to sleep in the front room, usually with myself or Mr H laid on the sofa next to him, woken several times. He hated the heat and whilst he was awake there was rarely a time he wasn’t crying. Holly loved being free to run around in the sun and play on the beach, but with mummy and daddy low on energy, any little tantrum caused us to lose our patience. We came home feeling worse than we had before we left, and wondering how the hell we would survive. People kept telling us after six months it gets easier, after twelve months is get easier, but for us it only got harder. Each new stage brought its own set of trials.

Our two cheeky monkeys on holiday

So cut to twelve months later – J is fifteen months and H nearly three years old. We are alive. We made it. Barely. There were times we questioned whether we were strong enough as a couple to get through those hard times, there were many occasions I questioned my ability as a mum, and there were fleeting moments, I hate to admit, when I wondered whether having J had been the right thing to do.

How did we do it?

In the end nursery was our sanity. Holly started off at two mornings a week, building up to three at two years old. Those mornings when she was being looked after and provided with the attention I couldn’t give, and when Jack slept, I was able to catch up on my own sleep or do the jobs I needed to do around the house.

We took any offer of help from family and friends. I may have felt at the time that it made me a bad mum for doing it, or that it meant I couldn’t cope on my own, but I don’t know how I would have got through the days without their help. Grandparents that took the children out for the day, my sister staying and entertaining them for a few hours, or my mum who time and time again has filled my dishwasher, run the vacuum over and often taken ironing away for me so I didn’t have to look at the pile mounting up. I owe them all a debt of gratitude.

I tried to find quality time to spend with each of the children individually. This was no mean feat, but half an hour after Jack had gone to bed meant Holly could have special mummy/daddy time, or when Holly was at nursery Jack finally got a bit of the attention Holly had enjoyed when she was an only child.

Mr H and I make time with just each other. Again, this is not easy to do, but we took a leap of faith and found a babysitter who could sit for us whilst the children slept and give us time to go wherever we fancied for a couple of hours. These stolen moments were we could talk about our issues, catch up with one another or just laugh and joke were invaluable for our relationship.

When Holly was two we had to introduce the naughty step. It wasn’t the easiest thing for her to grasp and it took a while to work, but when those full-blown paddies arose, or when she lashed out at Jack, we had a tool to discipline her.

One of the things we had to remind ourselves is that Holly was in many ways still a baby too. We often found ourselves calling her a ‘big girl’, which of course she loved and it made her want to help, but it also meant we had too high expectations of her. We expected her to be grown up, not react how a two year old should, to be in control of her emotions, to know how to share. It wasn’t fair and when we took a step back to think, if Jack hadn’t have come on the scene and taken over the role of baby, would we expect so much of our eldest?

Worn out

On a similar note we often found Holly getting blamed on most of the problems, because Jack ‘didn’t know any better’. We had to remind ourselves that if she never saw Jack getting told off that she would start to resent him. We also encouraged Holly to ask mummy or daddy for help with Jack, rather than her kicking and screaming at him to get away from her. This is still a work in progress.

I found messy play a great way to get both children playing at the same time and keeping them occupied. Although at their ages they still only play side by side rather than together, from the age Jack could sit up they would play next to each other, exploring whichever activity I got out for them. We have experimented oats, water beads and coloured spaghetti, to name a few, and whilst they’ve not all been successful they filled the children’s imaginations and gave mummy and five minute coffee break.

So how do we feel fifteen months down the line? Shattered! I cannot lie, it has been so hard and there has been many a day I wanted to crawl under the duvet and pretend I was on my own. But through it all, we love our little family and wouldn’t change it for the world.

I definitely wouldn’t advise entering into this short age gap lightly. Having one child is hard, having two is even harder, but having two babies in the same house, but at different stages, is one of the biggest challenges I have had to go through. We are definitely not out of the woods yet and I’m sure there are many years of obstacles to overcome, but I finally feel like we are making progress and are heading down the path to a happy family life.

Here are some posts from some of my favourite bloggers who are also handling the same age gap, they may help, they may comfort and they may mae you smile.

Bex at The Mummy Adventure shares how hard a mummy’s job can be, especially when one falls ill.
Lucy at Dear Beautiful tries to understand the life of a toddler.
Beth at Plastic Rosaries learns to say no.
Sharon at Sharon’s blog shares what we have to look forward to when they become teenagers!
Kelle at Maggie Stone vintage discusses the ever-popular topic of babies and sleep.
Tina at The Mother Geek shares her story at 3am.
Michelle at The Crowther Clan writes a beautiful tale of her two babies.
Lady Goo Goo Gaga discuses her trials with a small age gap.
Jules at Jules at Home discusses discipline.

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