Having a child is, ahem, a major life change. Some times of life are obviously less-than-ideal for becoming a parent — like when you’re still in high school. But is there a best time to have a baby? And how do you know when that is?
My daughter was born when I was 28 and my husband was 29. We were among the first of our friends to become parents. Now that I’m approaching 31, parenting is becoming the new normal among our circle of acquaintances. That biological clock just becomes harder to resist, I guess.
We had several reasons for choosing to start our family when we did. We had already been married for 5 years when I became pregnant, so we felt like we’d had plenty of childless years together to develop our relationship. I also had finished my master’s degree and had several years of professional work experience, so I figured it would be possible to rebound from taking time off. I wanted to have my first child before age 30, because that reduces a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer. We thought we might want 3 children, and I wanted 3 years between each child, so that would allow me to finish having babies before age 35 (at 35 you become an “elderly” pregnant woman — ability to conceive and sustain a pregnancy drops significantly). In many ways, 28 seemed like the perfect age to become a mom.
On the other hand, we hadn’t reached the financial goals I had expected to reach by 28. We didn’t own a house or have disposable income. In fact, we lived in a small 2-bedroom apartment with no dishwasher and one bedroom functionally unusable due to severe mold problems. So, that was not ideal. But we told ourselves: Our financial situation could change on a dime! God will provide! We’ll find a way!
So how did things turn out? Our finances have not improved. It’s been challenging. Still, we’ve managed to get by, remain debt-free, and even move to a new apartment with a dishwasher and 2 functional bedrooms.
In some ways, it definitely would have been easier to wait to have a child until we were older and (theoretically!) had more money. Or it might have been easier to have a child when I was 23 and had more energy. Don’t underestimate the enormous amount of energy required to care for a young child.
Really, there is no perfect time to have a child, and the best time will vary from couple to couple. If you’re considering whether now is a good time to start a family, you may want to ask yourself the following questions to help you evaluate the situation:
— Am I in a stable monogamous relationship? Would my partner make a good parent?
— Do I need more time to get to know my significant other before adding a baby to the mix?
— Do my partner or I have any addictions or serious emotional problems we should work on before becoming parents?
— Am I willing to sacrifice my waistline, sleep, personal life, career goals? (Yes, you can continue to have a successful career and be a parent, but often one parent’s career does go on the backburner for awhile…)
I asked my husband what he thought about this, and he said, “Don’t ask questions. If you want to have a baby you should. Nothing’s ever going to be perfect.” So there’s a perspective from someone who’s not a Type A personality.
If you’re a parent, how old were you when you had your first child? Would you have rather been older or younger if you could have done things differently?