Split Moms

Parenting children 10 years apart in age.

By Dr. Rallie McAllister December 6, 2011
Rallie McAllister, MD, MPH is a family physician, cofounder of, and coauthor of The Mommy MD Guide to Pregnancy and Birth and The Mommy MD Guide to Your Baby’s First Year. She's also a part of the 'Split Mom' trend; women who've had children 10 years or more apart. Here, she offers her thoughts on the best—and worst—parts about being a “split mom.”

Five Great Things:

Different Needs Mean Different Challenges
Because Dr. McAllister’s sons are so different in ages, they have vastly different needs.   One way to meet every child’s needs is to find a way to meet each child’s needs independently since 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.”

Where was this the first time around?
Medical advances are constantly in motion but it becomes even more apparent to a mom with children of varying ages.  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

Parenting Act – Take 2
Having children at different stages of your 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 with keep up with a child’s antics and adventures.  While you may 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.

On this subject,  maturity and experience can often result in a more positive and relaxed parenting style.  As you have been able to learn from mistakes and see older children blossom into great people, 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.

A Little Extra Help
From a purely practical perspective, older kids can help out with younger ones!

Five Challenging Aspects of Being a “Split Mom”:

One on One Time
It’s easy to feel pulled in so many different directions when children’s needs can 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 in their lives. It can be as simple as a phone conversation with a grown child while fitting in going out for a meal after a younger child’s sporting event.

Bringing Them Closer
For many “split moms” it is difficult not to wonder if maybe your children aren’t as close as siblings who are closer in age to one another.  Dr. McAllister keeps a consistent look out to find ways to foster relationships of older and younger siblings by not only encouraging them to spend time together as brothers but also  by providing them with the means to make it happen.  “When Chad brings his new family to visit us, I send him out with Oakley and Gatlin to go bowling, while I take my daughter-in-law and my granddaughter shopping.”

Career Challenges
From a career standpoint, split parenting raises ongoing difficulties in “getting ahead” in your work ambitions.  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.

Different Life Lessons
How children of “split moms” experience financial lessons can vary dramatically – for both the good and bad.  Dr. McAllister notes that when Chad was growing up, she was a broke, starving medical student. Chad learned the value of hard work, and he learned how to live happily on a squeaky tight budget. Now that she has graduated from medical school and been working for decades, she is much more comfortable financially, doesn’t work nearly as hard as she did in her younger years.  “I worry that my teenagers aren’t learning those same lessons about hard work and budgeting as well as Chad did. “  

Staying Fit = Keeping Up
As a more mature mom it can be difficult to find the energy to keep up your younger kids.  Dr. McAllister’s advice for this challenge?  “It gives me a huge incentive to take better care of myself and should be for all the other ‘split moms and dads’ too!”