I have a really big age gap between my youngest and my older children. When Rose was born Holly had just turned thirteen and Lewis, fourteen. It's funny because I had such a small age gap between my first two children and now this huge expanse of time has passed and I have now ended up with teenagers and a toddler.
I get asked a lot what I do differently, and the answer is practically everything.
It's really hard for me to even write this because in no way do I want Lewis and Holly to feel that the way in which I parented them when they were little was wrong or bad and that Rose is my second chance to get it right. Because it's not like that, I have just learnt a lot and have the wonderful advantage of hindsight. This doesn't mean I don't make mistakes now, of course I do. I have also learnt that even if you implement change, children are so individual they often resist anyway.
When Lewis was born I was only eighteen, barely old enough to look after myself. I was in a relationship on the road to nowhere, a road littered with lies and abuse. Holly was born exactly a year and ten days later and when she was newborn I found the strength from somewhere to go it alone. I was a single Mum to two children under two and life was hard work.
Six months later and refusing to live off benefits I went back to work as an agency dental nurse and the children went to nursery. I simply didn't have the time to do the things with the children that I should have done. A luxury that I have now with Rose and one of the many benefits of working from home is time.
When Lewis and Holly were little I would depend on the nursery to do all the fun stuff like crafting and painting. I so regret not doing that with them as I get so much pleasure watching Rose making her beautiful splodges of messy artwork. I don't think it has affected them in any way. In fact Lewis takes GCSE art so the nursery and school must have done a good job at nurturing his natural talent. I just feel it's me that missed out.
Another thing I've done quite differently diet. When Lewis and Holly were small I wouldn't have entertained the idea of baby led weaning (did it even exist back then?!) All three children were breastfed but with Rose I breastfed the longest (20 months) but again I had the time, inclination and energy to dedicate and give up a little bit of myself for her for that little bit longer. Lewis was fed jars of baby food from 4 months old (those were the guidelines back then) and Holly was on a mix of jars and home made purées from 4 months. With Rose we did baby led weaning and she started on finger foods at 6 months and has never eaten a jar of baby food or had anything puréed. The order of food fussiness from most fussy to least predictably is; Lewis, Holly and then Rose.
Money was another major factor and before I met Mr T (when Lewis was three and Holly was two) I couldn't afford a car so used the bus. Anyone with young children who uses public transport will know it's a serious mission. Don't forget this was before the days you could wheel a buggy on to the bus. It goes like this...
Ensure buggy is collapsed before the bus arrives, timed perfectly so that you only have to spend a couple of minutes detaining wriggling children threatening to play with the traffic at any moment. Bus arrives and leave buggy plus all shopping on the side of the road. Tell Lewis to walk on to bus and find a seat. NOT UPSTAIRS. Chuck Holly to the old lady at the front who looks responsible and hope she likes babies. Jump back off bus yelling at the bus driver not to drive off with your children. Grab the buggy, haul it onto the bus, jump off again. Repeat instruction to bus driver. Grab shopping. Throw into luggage area with buggy. Reclaim Holly and find lewis who's gone upstairs. I used to really get my sweat on!
It seems funny now but looking back it was pretty dire. Hoping for a patient bus driver and someone nice to lend a hand which happened rarely on either count. Shopping days were not my favourite.
After Mr T and I married came stability for all of us. He has been their Dad and loved them as so, unconditionally. My rock, my saviour, my partner in crime. We didn't intentionally leave such a huge age gap but it wasn't as easy as I thought it would be to get pregnant and we sadly had our share of losses in the 8 years we tried for Rose.
I could go on and on about the different ways in which I have parented and have given only a few examples. I could talk much more about sleeping arrangements, screen time and discipline, but then this post would turn into a book. The subject of parenting is so vast. I think I've done what every parent tries to do and that is the best I can with the tools and know-how that I have at the time.
One thing I do know is that no matter how differently things have gone I have loved each one of my children in exactly the same way and I think you will all agree that that is the most important thing of all.