“Mummy, please help me prepare for my test. These spellings are so hard to learn,” my six-year-old pleads as he looks up from his English reader. “These Algebra equations are totally confusing!” my 12-year-old daughter sounds distraught. “Mummy will you please drop me to my tuition class? These two will have to wait as I have a test tomorrow,” The 17-year-old brushes aside his younger siblings’ pleas as unimportant.
“With the considerable difference in the age of my three children, I often feel dizzy by the diversity of their demands!” Ayesha Riaz, a stay-at-home mother, confides.
After their marriage Ayesha and her husband decided to plan their kids at least five years apart, so that they are able to give quality time and attention to each child. But at 42, she sounds totally exhausted and often wonders if this decision was wise. “I often feel bored with my monotonous life. After tending to the totally dissimilar activities and requirements of my kids, I feel I have no time left for myself.”
Asma, a working mom, made a difficult choice. She says, “In the early days of our marriage, we decided that completing our family would be our first priority as I had to go back to my career. I had three children in the short span of five years! It was a tough and very busy period for me as the physical and emotional demands of motherhood were like an unending roller coaster ride! However, those joyful but also extremely tiring years of sleepless nights and hectic days were finally over and now I feel that we made the right decision. After my youngest joint pre-school, I still had enough stamina left to pursue my goal to specialise as a gynaecologist.”
Saira, a home-based writer says, “I personally think that one should complete one’s family in the first ten years of marriage. The ideal gap, as I perceive is around three years between two children and if a couple plans to have a big family they should plan accordingly. I firmly believe that after completing their family, couples should strive for the best possible upbringing of their children, give them quality time and teach them to cherish the family bond which is one of the most valuable assets in life.”
Is there a perfect age difference between siblings? The answer varies from couple to couple. Personal choices, financial considerations and health concerns deeply affect the decision. Parents usually plan to have children three to four years apart. It seems easier for them to look after their kids one by one. But sometimes, it is too late when they realise that the prime years of their lives have been spent in raising their young ones. When they finally have time for themselves, the tide of youth is ebbing. With approaching middle age, and sometimes a failing health, they (especially mothers) often have to give up the dreams they had hoped to pursue once the kids grew up.
Saira discusses this phenomenon from the child’s point of view, “I am strictly against the ‘one late kid’ phenomenon, who ideally would accompany the couple when the older children would be busy in their lives. Often, this poor kid is bound to live in isolation, with his/her interests totally different from that of the siblings and has to grow up with already exhausted and aging parents.”
Dr Moin-uddin Qureishi states, “Where the health of the mother and child is concerned, a gap of minimum three years is ideal because in this period the mother regains her health and the calcium content of her bones is restored. The child also starts school and begins to manage a few things himself. But no rules can be set as there are many other health, social and economical issues e.g. working women or those who tied the knot a bit late in life prefer to complete their families in a shorter span.
Rukhsana Iqbal, a homemaker says, “In my opinion, there should be a gap of three to four years between siblings. Being a mother of three boys, I realise today how difficult it was for me to manage the house and the kids, not to forget my parents-in-law, which was compounded by the fact that all three births were through C-section. The gap is ideal for the simple reason that the child should be at least of an age where he/she understands that the love and attention he/she gets would have to be shared with the newcomer so that instead of a sibling jealousy, the child begins to look forward to the new arrival.”
There can be no set rule for the perfect age gap between children which would be the best for each family. It is a decision which is deeply affected by the spouses’ priorities in life. Although I firmly believe that there is a Divine Hand which can topple all human plans, once couples settle down after the honeymoon period is over, they should openly discuss with each other what they want from their future lives and go ahead with their plans in compliance with their dreams.