Posted: Jul 22, 2013 12:00 PM
 
Moms are constantly pulled in many different directions at once: Do you pick up your screaming baby or get juice for your thirsty toddler? Moms quickly become master multitaskers. When your kids are close in age, it's challenging enough, but for an increasing number of moms, that's not the case. There's a growing population of “split moms,” whose children are 10 or more years apart, with vastly different wants and needs.

The five best parts of being a split mom

^ Kids aren't competing for the same type of attention.

Because Dr. McAllister's sons are so different in age, they have vastly different needs. She's able to meet each child's needs independently because they aren't competing for the same attention in the way that three boys close in age would demand. "For example, my older son, Chad, most needs 'been-there-done-that' advice and support in terms of his role as a new parent and spouse, balancing work and family and planning for the future," says Dr. McAllister, "but Oakley and Gatlin need me more for hands-on parenting and teaching them the skills they'll need to be healthy, happy adults. This ranges from checking their homework, making sure they go to bed at a reasonable hour and holding them accountable for their household chores."

^Split moms can benefit from new medical technologies.

Medicine is constantly changing, and this becomes even more apparent to a mom with children of varying ages. For example, when Dr. McAllister's oldest son was born, there was no such thing as cord blood banking! But by the time she was pregnant with her two younger sons, the technology was really beginning to develop. "I was glad to have a second chance to consider banking my babies' cord blood. It really showed me things can change between pregnancies," notes McAllister. Today, the medical advancements are even further along with cord blood being used to treat a number of blood and immune diseases. For more information, visit www.cordblood.com.

^Split moms can adapt their parenting to their evolving strengths.

Having children at different stages of life provides the opportunity to experience the benefits of two very different parenting experiences! As a younger mom, you have the benefits of having lots of extra energy to keep up with a child's antics and adventures. While you might give up some of that endurance if you enter parenthood once again as an older mom, more maturity, wisdom and patience can help you to draw on the greater perspective that time brings.

^Split moms can apply what they learned parenting their older children to their younger children.

As you've been able to learn from mistakes and see older children blossom into great adults, you don't have to micromanage your younger kids in ways you may have done with an older child. "Having raised one son to maturity and seeing what a wonderful, responsible person he's become, I realize being a good role model is one of the greatest gifts I can give to my children," says Dr. McAllister.

^Free (or at least cheap!) babysitting.

From a purely practical perspective, older kids can help out with younger ones!

The five most challenging parts of being a split mom

^Meeting everyone's needs.

It's easy to feel pulled in many different directions when children's needs vary so dramatically based on their age. Setting aside time with each child individually at least once a week can be a way to cope with this dilemma while also keeping track of what's going on in their lives. It can be as simple as a phone conversation with a grown child while making a little extra time to go out for a meal after a younger child's sporting event.

^Less "you" time.

Even more challenging is making time for yourself! Be sure to set aside some time each day, week and month to do things that you love.

^Making "split kids" close.

Many split moms worry that their children aren't as close as siblings who are nearer in age to one another. Dr. McAllister keeps a consistent look out to find ways to foster the relationships of her older and younger children by encouraging them to spend time together as brothers and also by providing them with the means to make it happen. "When Chad brings his family to visit us, I send him out with Oakley and Gatlin to go bowling, while I take my daughter-in-law and my grandchildren shopping."

^Keeping up with your career.

Split parenting raises difficulties in "getting ahead" in your work ambitions. As a split mom, you might have to put your career goals on hold twice or more. At a time when many women your age are empty-nesters and making tremendous accomplishments in their careers, you are likely taxiing teenagers around town to football games and pizza parties.

^Aging.

When you have kids more than 10 years apart, you likely had your younger children in your late thirties, even forties. It's hard not to worry about your own health: Will you be able to dance at your younger children's weddings and babysit their children? "This gives me a huge incentive to take better care of myself and it should be for all the other 'split moms and dads' too," says Dr. McAllister.

Rallie McAllister, MDRallie McAllister, M.D., M.P.H., is a family physician, co-founder of www.MommyMDGuides.com and co-author of The Mommy MD Guide to Pregnancy and Birth and The Mommy MD Guide to Your Baby's First Year. She's also a split mom. We appreciate her for sharing her thoughts on the best — and most challenging — parts about being a split mom.

More parenting challenges

4 Toughest new-mom challenges
True stories behind the happy pictures of adoption
How I told my son about his medical condition

Topics: