The Great Divide: Life with four kids ages 11 to 1

Today’s guest post is by Emily Hill. By day she is the mother of four children; by night (okay, and day too) she is the co-owner of georgie tees and a contributing writer for Boutique Cafe, Polliwogged and her company’s blog, freshly baked.

A little background first. After our two girls were five and three years of age we found ourselves in a pretty sweet place. They slept through the night, entertained themselves and attended school part time Yes, we were experiencing a really nice stage of life and it was only getting better.

Ages: 7, 5 and 1 dayI was done birthing children, or so I thought. I didn’t envy pregnant women and I wasn’t baby hungry. Then somehow, somewhere, something changed. I things it was a combination of wanting a little boy and wanting lots of grandchildren and having more kids improves the odds. Whatever my thinking, soon after my oldest turned seven and youngest turned five I gave birth to a little boy (see photo at right). And because having a second child for the sole purpose of entertaining our first worked out so well, we tried it again! When our fourth child was born my girls were nine and seven. It was a lot like having a first and second all over again…except I was nine years older and life was a lot crazier!

When people ask me about the age difference I tell them it totally works for me, but it definitely has its drawbacks. For this post I decided to channel my dad and lay out the advantages and disadvantages of our great divide in two columns. I’m not saying this is the best way to plan your family, but hey, if this approach to decision making is good enough for Stephen Covey, it’s good enough for me!

An older child

  • does a great job entertaining younger siblings.
  • can properly hold a baby, though that whole eagerness to hold said baby can wear off quickly.
  • can be taught to change a diaper (whether or not they want to is of little consequence).
  • can help while you take a nap with the baby.
  • can whip up a batch of mac and cheese on a moment’s notice.

Older children come in handy on road trips. Just sit one next to one of your younger children. (This is also a great way to keep your two oldest from fighting in the backseat.)

Older children make it easier to participate in adult conversation at family parties since they can help take shifts watching their younger counterparts.

One word: shower.

Two words: sleeping in.

Seven words: An extra cart at the grocery store.

For some reason no one makes a baby laugh like her older brother or sister. Believe me, we’ve tried.

Watching a three-year-old brother pick on his nine-year-old sister? Pure entertainment.

Watching an eleven-year-old sister care for her one-year-old sister? Priceless.

Chances are your oldest child will quickly become tired of babysitting so you’ll have to creatively bribe encourage them.For some family activities you’ll have to divide and conquer. While older ones go to the movies younger ones hit the local McDonald’s PlayPlace (and mom hits the Diet Coke).Attending and older child’s sporting event or dance class with little ones in tow becomes a spectator sport in and of itself—and a nightmare for those participating.Your youngest may be only eight when your oldest goes off to college.*
* My sister was only nine when I left for school. She was devastated.Perhaps the biggest disadvantage is it will be a while before those far-distanced siblings become true friends.
* I was probably 27 and my sister 18 before she started becoming more my friend than my little sister.


So according to my columns above, the advantages definitely outweigh the disadvantages. But while it looks good on paper, what do I really think of our family’s great divide? Well, taking the good with the bad and sometimes the ugly (have you seen a mother of four drive carpool in her PJs?), I absolutely love the geography of our family and wouldn’t have it any other way. Looking at our 2008 Christmas card photo below, would you?

P.S. I don’t think my sister would either…

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