Mind­ing the gap as mod­ern fam­i­lies cope with tod­dlers and teens Ages are learn­ing new ways of car­ing and shar­ing a home

Ex­perts ex­plain how par­ents and their chil­dren of all ages are learn­ing new ways of car­ing and shar­ing a home There might be a gap but they’re all my ba­bies

The Sunday Post (Inverness) - - NEWS - By Alice Hinds [email protected]

Modern­fam­i­lies are chang­ing and the dy­nam­ics of fam­ily life, where there is often a decade or so be­tween chil­dren, is also chang­ing, ac­cord­ing to ex­perts.

Tana Ram­say, 44, wife of chef Gor­don, this month be­came the lat­est celebrity mum to an­nounce she will be­come one of the grow­ing band rais­ing chil­dren, from tod­dlers to teenagers, af­ter the cou­ple an­nounced they are ex­pect­ing their fifth child to­gether – 21 years af­ter their first daugh­ter was born. So-called “gap moth­er­hood” is not a new thing – there are 16 years be­tween Prince Charles and Prince Ed­ward, for ex­am­ple – but it is a grow­ing trend.

More women than ever be­fore are hav­ing chil­dren in later life, and those in their 40s are the only age group with a ris­ing preg­nancy rate.

For the last three years, more ba­bies have been born to women over 40 than to teenagers, and the con­cep­tion rate for that age group has more than dou­bled in the last two decades.

For­go­ing moth­er­hood in favour of a flour­ish­ing ca­reer, ad­vanc­ing IVF tech­nol­ogy, and an in­creas­ing num­ber of sec­ond mar­riages are all thought to have con­trib­uted to the rise in gap mums – but be­ing able to have chil­dren later in life brings chal­lenges.

Jug­gling univer­sity ap­pli­ca­tions at the same as chang­ing nap­pies or breast feed­ing while deal­ing with a stroppy teenager are just a few of the ob­sta­cles par­ents might face.

But ac­cord­ing to Sarah Red­shaw, manag­ing ed­i­tor of preg­nancy and par­ent­ing dig­i­tal re­source Baby­cen­tre UK, older moth­ers can ex­pect to en­joy the pros as well as the cons when a new bun­dle of joy ar­rives to join their older brothers and sis­ters.

She said: “Sec­ond re­la­tion­ships are re­sult­ing in large gaps be­tween sib­lings and, as women get older, they may also be­lieve they are less fer­tile than at an ear­lier age. “Women could find it more tir­ing phys­i­cally to sud­denly

re­turn to sleep­less nights af­ter, say, 20 years, but there are pros to hav­ing older chil­dren around.

“Tana Ram­say, for ex­am­ple, has four older chil­dren of a re­ally good age to help out. Par­ents who have chil­dren closer to­gether – with the av­er­age gap now about three years – won’t al­ways have that.”

With chil­dren Me­gan, 21, twins Jack and Holly, 19, and 17-year-old Matilda, the Ram­says will now have to nav­i­gate dif­fer­ent stages of par­ent­ing at the same time, which Sarah be­lieves can be dif­fi­cult.

“It can be re­ally chal­leng­ing to deal with two com­pletely dif­fer­ent ends of the spec­trum at once,” she said.

MEET THE DICKSONS Kirsteen Dick­son, 43, is mum to Hamish, 16, Mil­lie, four, and Al­fie, two.

When Kirsteen and hus­band Jonny, 48, got to­gether 10 years ago, they didn’t think hav­ing chil­dren was on the cards – but now the cou­ple couldn’t be hap­pier with their mod­ern fam­ily.

“I was only 27 when I had Hamish,” Kirsteen ex­plained. “Me and my part­ner split up but still man­aged to re­main good friends, and I be­came a sin­gle mum when Hamish was about 18 months old.

“Jonny and I had worked to­gether for a long time be­fore it grew into a re­la­tion­ship, and we even­tu­ally got to­gether when Hamish was six. “Now we’ve been to­gether for ten years.

“We tried for a long time to have chil­dren but they didn’t come along.

“We put it down to the fact that we were both a bit older, and ac­cepted the fact we might not get the chance to grow our small fam­ily. “Then five years ago we de­cided to get mar­ried. “Ev­ery­thing was booked but sud­denly we found out I was preg­nant with Mil­lie.

“It was to­tally out of the blue and we couldn’t be­lieve it. “There I was, 15 weeks preg­nant, walk­ing down the aisle. Luck­ily my dress still fit­ted. “Hamish, 12 at the time, was de­lighted when we told him. “Not even a year later, we had an­other sur­prise when Al­fie came along.

“We hadn’t planned on hav­ing an­other child, but it was a blessed sur­prise. “Al­though there’s a big gap in their ages, Hamish loves his younger sib­lings. He’s very car­ing and con­sid­er­ate, and think it has also taught him a

“Par­ents might go through teething with one child and teenage angst with an­other.

“It can re­ally test you as a par­ent.”

Al­though age gaps be­tween chil­dren are in­creas­ingly com­mon now, fam­i­lies of the fu­ture could see the op­po­site trend be­come the norm.

Ilot of re­spon­si­bil­ity com­pared to his friends. “How­ever, I’m con­scious not to use him as an­other par­ent – he’s a teenager and needs to en­joy that time and have his own life.

“It can be dif­fi­cult to jug­gle the kids’ dif­fer­ent needs at times – I’ve found my­self hav­ing a se­ri­ous con­ver­sa­tion with Hamish about his fu­ture and univer­sity while I’m chang­ing a nappy or try­ing to keep Mil­lie en­ter­tained.

“But it can be re­ally nice hav­ing an age gap, too – as a par­ent you get to ex­pe­ri­ence so many dif­fer­ent stages of life at the same time.

“You are also more re­laxed when you have a child later in life. Younger friends com­ment on how laid-back I am.

“I think it’s be­cause I’ve al­ready got one child to 16 with­out any ma­jor dis­as­ters, so I know what to ex­pect!

“At the end of the day there might be an age gap, but I don’t re­ally think about it. “They are all my ba­bies.”

Ac­cord­ing to the Of­fice for Na­tional Sta­tis­tics, more than 28,000 ba­bies were born to women in their 40s in 2016, mark­ing a sig­nif­i­cant rise from just over 12,000 in1990. Mums such as singer Janet Jack­son, who had her first child at 50, there­fore might not be able to wait be­fore try­ing for an­other.

Sarah said: “The av­er­age age for women hav­ing their first child is get­ting older.

“Per­son­ally, I had my first child at nearly 38 and then twins at 40, so I wasn’t able to leave a big age gap. “And I won­der whether that’s go­ing to be more of the case for other mums in the fu­ture.”

TV’S Mod­ern Fam­ily are one of many with chil­dren of all agesA fam­ily af­fair: Kirsteen and Jonny with chil­dren, Hamish, 16,

Mil­lie, four, and two-year-old Al­fie pic­tured at home last week

Hamish was 12 when Kirsteen mar­ried Jonny

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