Why the Age Gap?
Social mores constantly change. One recent example is questioning a woman if she is pregnant. Today, it’s a faux pas to broach the subject if not raised by the (hopefully!) expectant woman herself. Many firmly believe it’s never okay to ask. “Unless perhaps the baby is crowning.”
So is it okay to comment, question or assume about a family’s structure? (Tell someone how many kids you feel is “acceptable”/ Infer parents of singletons justify themselves/ Is the word “gap” to describe age difference a judgement?)
There are seven years and two months between my (fourteen year old) son and (seven-year old) daughter. So many factors influenced our circumstances during that time, there’s no single reason for this. Yet it seems to interest folk.
I don’t consider it notable but I’m surprised by the amount of comment or query I receive about the seven years. Sometimes I make light; joke about the shock of having young Mr Stunt Man. When my boy was four, five, six people asked why we would make him an “only child”. (How did they decide he was an only child?) Sometimes I just wonder why strangers or acquaintances feel so comfortable asking.
In Australia it seems the majority of families have children quite close together: eighteen months, two or three years apart. Among the majority of Russian families I know for instance, much larger differences between siblings of seven years or more are common. (Families often waited until one child was in school before having the next.) Different cultures, different circumstances.
Taking culture out of it, there are so many deeply personal reasons that figure into how families are made: things to do with relationships, financial status or fertility that are private. A friend with ten years between children has been asked if they are from the same father. Really.
People with five or more children say strangers’ jokes (“Don’t you have a TV?”) are all too regular. Not that harm is meant but is it that funny? Parents and children who’ve been made uncomfortable in public don’t think so.
Back to “age gap”, this story from a former colleague, about her friend at a job interview has always stuck with me:
Years ago when it was commonplace to discuss family status, my workmate’s friend was asked the ages of her children. She responded with two ages, some distance apart.
“Oh, that’s a big gap, isn’t it?” The prospective employer opined.
The interviewee froze then burst into unexpected tears.
“It’s not a gap” she said, before running out of the meeting.
She’d lost her middle child tragically and had not expected the comment.
I’m not trying to preach. I just want to share that sometimes, our natural curiosity and innocent lack of experience can upset others without our meaning to. I wish I’d known this when I was younger and naively assumed people just went ahead and made their families, if and when they so chose.
I am the mother with a ten year age gap. A daughter who took nearly four years to conceive who is now 18 years old. Her brother took ten more years to conceive and currently 8 years old. I don’t mind the questions but I do mind when they are asked in front of my children. We all need to think just a little more before we question what we see. Nathalie x