Young Parents, Dumb Parents?

In the 20+ years of my career, the conventional wisdom for ambitious working women has been to wait as long as possible before you have children. Invest in your education and get as many promotions under your belt before your belly expands so much you can't put on a belt. Then have your kids (max: two) close in age so that you can compress the most intense phase of child-rearing.

It was survivalist advice from early feminists. For many of us, it worked. Lots of moms I know found it easier to juggle work and raising kids because we waited until we had a modicum of career and economic security--insurance against the prejudice everyone told us we'd experience as working moms.

But the unforeseen side effect was the creation of a different prejudice, this time against women who had children before age 30, prejudice that goes something like this: Didn't you know you were supposed to wait? Were you too dumb to use birth control? Are you secretly not as ambitious as the rest of us? In Mommy Wars, 25-year-old Molly Jong-Fast (daughter of famed feminist author Erica Jong) finds herself accidentally with child: "The reaction of my other thirty-something friends to the news of my pregnancy was the same: shock, shame, pity."

Yesterday, The Washington Post ran a front-page story on the dichotomy of young parenthood, Bringing Up Babies, and Defying the Norm. According to The Post, "The majority of college graduates in metropolitan regions postpone having kids until at least their 30s or never have any." The Post's demographic data, based on 2005-2006 survey data from the University of Chicago's National Opinion Research Center, showed that among adults ages 25 to 29, 13 percent of men and 31 percent of women with four-year college degrees have had children. But take away the college degree and the numbers increase dramatically. Within the same age group, but with less education, 49 percent of men, and 62 percent of women, have kids.

For people like Molly Jong-Fast (who married, had her baby, and is now about to have twins -- all before turning 30), the trials of parenthood are compounded by lack of peers. The moms and dads in childbirth class, on the playground, at Gymboree, and at work are mostly far older. Their own friends have little understanding of daily life that starts with a crying baby at 5 a.m.

The Washington Post piece seem to reinforce the unfortunate stereotype that younger moms are dumber moms (or at least, less educated and less ambitious). But I wonder: Where are these younger moms going to be in 10 or 20 years? They won't be where I and my peers were in our late 30s and early 40s: wrestling with the my kids-or-my-work "choice" caused by intense work demands at exactly the same time of intense child-rearing, sleepless nights and child-care crises. In many regards, having children earlier can be a very savvy career move. Maybe these young moms are trend-setters, the pioneers on the having-it-all frontier.

"By the time I'm at a point in my career where I am going to be making partner, my kids are going to be old enough to be playing on their own and sleeping on their own," one 28-year-old associate at a law firm who'd recently had twins told The Post. "If I'd waited until 33 to have children, I'd have newborns at the time I would be up for partner."

So the question remains: What's the "right" time to have children? Can you benefit from having children early in your career? By spreading them out? Bunching them together? Not having them at all? Ignoring everyone's advice? What has worked for you -- and what advice would you give younger parents seeking "balance"?

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  January 16, 2008; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Conflicts
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As someone who never intended to have a child out of wedlock, the first step was to get married. That didn't happen until I was 27. The next step was to move beyond living hand to mouth. It had absolutely nothing to do with my career.

Have kids when you're in a stable, happy marriage, you both want them, and it won't force you to use food stamps. It doesn't seem that complicated.

Posted by: atb2 | January 16, 2008 7:38 AM

"Have kids when you're in a stable, happy marriage, you both want them, and it won't force you to use food stamps. It doesn't seem that complicated."

What she said.

Posted by: chittybangbang | January 16, 2008 7:40 AM

There is obviously no universal right time to have a baby. It is different for different people. I did not marry till I turned 30, so having a baby in my 20s would not have happened. I had my first child at 33 and I am set to deliver my second child at 37 1/2. There are pros and cons. Because I have finished my graduate education and reached a certain level of career advancement, I was financially stable. I also married a man who was in a similar position professionally. I was also able to work out a part time position and hold on to it. I reached a level where I can feel good about staying at till I am done Mommy tracking myself. I am not sure I will ever want to move up again. I am pretty happy with what I do and I am reasonably well compensated for it. But the flip side for my friends, who almost all waited till 30s to have kids, is this: INFERTILITY. I think at least 30-40% of my girlfriends or couples that we know have been through fertility treatments. Some range from the simple ovulating drugs to the more complex IVF or international adoption routes. I did not have fertility treatments but I spaced my kids out 4 1/2 years apart because I was so tired from my daughter's sleep disorder. Maybe if I was 10 years younger, I could have had them closer together. My SIL is reasonably financially comfortable, in a stable marriage, and is 33 years old. I am trying to encourage her to start her family. She keeps saying she isn't ready yet, for professional reasons, money, desire to keep the status quo. I keep telling her there is NO right time and you never feel fully ready but the pain of infertility is horrible. I have seen marriages split up, women go zonkers, and it is hard on them physically and professionally. I would encourage all couples to have all their children prior to 35 if possible, if not possible, try for at least your first child before 35. But as long as your in a loving stable marriage, have decent jobs, are in good health, I would encourage people to start their famiies. BTW, the one friend that I had that her first child at 26, is expecting her third child this Feburary. So even though she got an earlier start then her colleagues, she is in the same place as us in her late 30s. And all my friends that waited till late 30s-early 40s are still not pregnant or decided to adopt or stay childless.

Posted by: foamgnome | January 16, 2008 7:43 AM

"The Post indicate that in metro areas nationwide, including cities and suburbs, 13 percent of men and 31 percent of women ages 25 to 29 with four-year college degrees have had children, according to an analysis of 2000-06 social survey data from the University of Chicago's National Opinion Research Center. By contrast, 49 percent of men and 62 percent of women in that age group with less education have had children, according to the analysis by University of Maryland sociologist Steve Martin."

Maybe not technically dumber, but certainly, statistically less educated. Just saying.

Posted by: moxiemom1 | January 16, 2008 7:50 AM

I'd never categorize a younger mom as dumb. I would, however, say she's taking a risk that I would never have. But, if she's married or financially/emtoionally stable enough to do so, I say happy procreating!

Posted by: sigmagrrl | January 16, 2008 7:51 AM

I found it funny that someone in their late twenties was considered a 'young parent.' I was 26 when I married, 28 when I had my first child and 29 for the second. I remember thinking about "all those things I want to do" but decided I could do all those things after having kids, too. I did find, however, that once DD #1 was born, I wanted more flexibility in my work schedule, so I quit and dove into self employment. That was the scariest but best decision I ever made as it has allowed me the flexibility I was looking for. Hard work, but more flexible than my previous job.

Posted by: juliekirk | January 16, 2008 7:55 AM

I had my first at 28 during my husband's last year of medical school. It was an ideal time for us-he had lots of flexibility in his schedule and could be home with the baby for several months before starting residency. I was able to continue in my position in university student affairs, and am still full-time. We planned for the baby (she luckily cooperated with our timeline) and now I'm applying to doctoral programs. I absolutely resent the implication that I'm somehow less ambitious b/c we started earlier than most (well, all) of our friends--people have to choose a path that works best for them if they want to try and balance family and a career, and for some that means children in your 20's.

Posted by: sccra1 | January 16, 2008 8:09 AM

sccra1 - I agree with your statement that you resent the implication that you are less ambitious. I had my two boys at 25 and 29, which according to what I'm hearing here is too early. So, maybe I have less money than others. Where I come from that is NOT the most important thing. Can I support my family? Yes. Can I afford a McMansion? No. Is my family suffering because we don't live in luxury? No, and I think that maybe it's better that way. There are way too many overindulged kids in the DC region as it is.

All that said, my husband passed away when the boys were in elementary school. You can be sure I am glad I didn't wait to have kids...

Posted by: jjtwo | January 16, 2008 8:25 AM

Loved this story/post. My wife and I had our daughter when we were 28 (we're 30 now) and yeah, I have to say it's been alienating for us. The rest of our 20/30-something friends don't have kids and it's just gotten harder to connect.

The decision to have kids in your 20s or wait should depend on each person's life situation, but I'm glad we got started when we did. I'm doing well professionally, but not so far along in my career that having a kid is a huge pause, and I think the same goes for my wife.

Best of all, being a younger dad means more time and energy to enjoy the lives of my children and, hopefully someday, grandchildren. I love the fact that I will still only be 46 years old when my daughter graduates from high school.

Anyway, that's just our experience. Everyone should do what's best for themselves.

Posted by: bkriner | January 16, 2008 8:33 AM

I had my son when I was 22. I've worked the entire time, but because I wasn't in a senior level position I've been able to take advantage of flexible work schedules to make sure I'm home to help with homework, soccer practice, etc. I will be 40 (my husband 43) when he goes to college and positioned perfectly to go into a senior management position. And I won't have to worry about working late or missing a soccer game. Call that dumb if you want, but it's worked out perfectly for my family.

Posted by: Tammy.Farmer | January 16, 2008 8:33 AM

My wife was 36 and I was 39 when our first son was born. Now that I turned 40, I can't help but feel cheated. I chased the dream of my law career, thinking that all would be in place by the time I was ready for children. My wife did the same with her accounting background. None of that happened. Instead we're new parents who are super busy at home and facing constant uncertainty at work. Plus we don't have the luxury of spacing out children - we'll be lucky if we have one more. I know this is blasphemy in the DC area but my advice is to not be so career-focused. No job works out the way you want it to and in the end, it's just a job. Work on your marriage and family first.

Posted by: bobh1967 | January 16, 2008 8:35 AM

Waiting til you're older to have kids may mean you have no kids, or just one. The infertility factor cannot be ignored; and you never know if it's going to affect you until you are in the midst of trying. I wish I had married at 27 when I first had the chance, as I had one miscarriage after another after having had just one child at 38.

Posted by: summit118 | January 16, 2008 8:35 AM

The person in the article was right about the career benefits of having kids early. When you're reaching the time in your career when you need to work a lot and hard, your kids are older and not quite so needy for your time.

Also, I just don't want to be old and decrepit when my kids get married. That would suck. Also, I want three kids. Two is just not enough.

Posted by: rlalumiere | January 16, 2008 8:36 AM

I have two sisters, in similar professions, the elder one waited until her 30's before having children. The youngest was married and 3 months pregnant when she graduated. Now entering their 40's the elder, feels because of her children's ages she cannot make the work commitments necessary for promotion, and so has effectively been overtaken by her younger sister.

Posted by: twonineseven | January 16, 2008 8:36 AM

I'll take the other side on this - having kids when you're younger is perfectly fine, and not dumb.

Okay, my wife and I aren't the couple in question; our first was born when I was 28 and she was 29.

But my best friend, Don, and his wife, Sue, were high school sweethearts. They married the month after they both graduated from college - they were each 21 at the time. They were both engineers. Don had a good starting job lined up.

Their son was born when they were both 22; their daughter when he was 24 and she, 23. Both children came when planned. Sue went to graduate school for a Master's degree, starting when the younger child was 3. When the younger child was 5, she went back to work; as an engineer with a brand new Master's degree it was pretty easy for her to find a job despite the gap in employment.

Fast-forward a few years. Don and Sue are both 45. Both children are grown and out of the house - out of college, on their own, with good jobs. Don and Sue are free to do whatever they wanted. No more saving for college; no more worrying about day care; no more worrying about anything else to do with children.

By contrast, when I was 45 I still had a 7 year old, and was worrying about all the bringing-up-a-child issues.

Now, I would not have done what Don and Sue did. Of course, I didn't have anyone I wanted to commit the rest of my life to at that point in time.:-) But mainly, I wanted the freedom to be on my own for a while, to advance in my career, to get established, before settling down.

But on the other hand, I'm going to argue that what Don and Sue did is NOT a dumb thing to do, or bad, or anything else. It was their choice; they made it work well; and they're both very happy.

And for what it's worth, they both wound up with very successful careers. Professionally, they're where they want to be; plus they make a ton of money and they're able to dedicate a big chunk of it to whatever they want, whether that's to worthwhile causes or to making each other happy.

Posted by: m2j5c2 | January 16, 2008 8:40 AM

Foamgnome, very well said. Also agree with many other posters -- very interesting views here. The miscarriage/infertility/other disorders risks definitely increase with age for both men and women, so that is another factor.

For me I am SO SO glad I did not have children when I was younger. Part of it was that I was in a bad marriage, part was my career needed to get to a place where I had more flexibility, and part of it was simply that I needed to become more mature to be as good a mom as I can be. I can't imagine having had kids in my 20s.

Thank god for birth control and CHOICE.

Because obviously no single choice is best for everyone.

Posted by: leslie4 | January 16, 2008 8:40 AM

"25-year-old Molly Jong-Fast (daughter of famed feminist author Erica Jong) finds herself accidentally with child: "

How does one find herself accidentally with child? Did she stumble over one on the way home? Did a Stork deliver it to the wrong address? Did you go to the Cabbage Patch instead of the Pumpkin patch?

You don't "find yourself accidentally with child". You have sex, you get pregnant, plain and simple. No amount of birth control can help that. There is always a chance.

Maybe it's that mindset that is wrong with people today.

As for advice, the best advice you can get is to do things when YOU want to do them. If people give you grief, then just remind them that it's your life.

Posted by: Krazijoe | January 16, 2008 8:43 AM

"Also, I just don't want to be old and decrepit when my kids get married. That would suck. Also, I want three kids. Two is just not enough."


The Dumb Parent in todays topic...

Posted by: chittybangbang | January 16, 2008 8:46 AM

I never wanted to have kids. Apparently God had other plans, and I ended up pregnant with twins after less than 2 years of marriage. No, birth control pills do not always work.
I was devastated, but it was certainly not the childrens' fault. I got over it, so to speak. Turns out they were the best thing that has ever happened in my life. My husband and I were in our mid-20's at the time. Looking back, I, too, have regrets that I didn't make the sacrifices it would have taken to allow me to stay at home and be more involved with their childhood. On the other hand, they turned out to be remarkable young people with confidence and independence to spare. Now they are 25, and I am in my second career.

It's remarkable how nice it is to have these young adults in my life. Had I waited until I was in my late 30's or 40's, I think I would have missed out on a lot. Besides, once grandchildren show up I will still be young enough to be a fun grandmother!

Posted by: g1956 | January 16, 2008 8:54 AM

What kind of jobs require less work starting out? The experience of myself, my husband and my friends was that at the beginning of your career you worked as hard as possible to gain experience and prove yourself. As you advance, you continue to work hard but you receive more money and greater flexibility with your seniority. What am I missing here?

Posted by: moxiemom1 | January 16, 2008 8:58 AM

When, exactly, does one become "old and decrepit"? 45? Since I waited until I was "old" to have my daughter (33), I guess I'll have to push her into a young marriage so I won't be too old at her wedding, the most important day of her life.

Don't smoke, drink in moderation, sleep well, get some exercise, and eat fruits and veggies, and I'm sure the 5 years difference between 28 and 33 will be barely noticeble.

I can agree that there is a difference between having a kid at 22 vs. 42, but 27 vs 33?

Posted by: atb2 | January 16, 2008 9:00 AM

*off-topic alert!*

Count me in as a Tom Lehrer fan (and not just because of the "-LY" song on Electric Company). I have the complete songbook and his CD's.

My first-born performed "Poisoning Pigeons in the Park" at the MS talent show. The collective gasp was funny. The clear division of parents afterwards was FUNNIER. Those who were horrified ("What kind of PARENT...?!") and those who were laughing.

I had to talk the kid out of "Masochism Tango". Please, save my first meeting with the superintendent for some other time. Let's not get the pedophiles more wound up. And really, that's better sung in college, dear.

Umm...I had my first when I was 25. I was an anomoly too. Much younger moms and significantly older. It never bothered me and I think I've weathered my career ups & downs pretty well.

If we all waited until we were "ready" to have children, we'd be 50, or more!

Posted by: maryland_mother | January 16, 2008 9:03 AM

"What kind of jobs require less work starting out? "

Union jobs & government jobs.

Posted by: chittybangbang | January 16, 2008 9:03 AM

*off-topic alert!*

Count me in as a Tom Lehrer fan (and not just because of the "-LY" song on Electric Company). I have the complete songbook and his CD's.

My first-born performed "Poisoning Pigeons in the Park" at the MS talent show. The collective gasp was funny. The clear division of parents afterwards was FUNNIER. Those who were horrified ("What kind of PARENT...?!") and those who were laughing.

I had to talk the kid out of "Masochism Tango". Please, save my first meeting with the superintendent for some other time. Let's not get the pedophiles more wound up. And really, that's better sung in college, dear.

Umm...I had my first when I was 25. I was an anomoly too. Much younger moms and significantly older. It never bothered me and I think I've weathered my career ups & downs pretty well.

Whether it's been good for the children is anyone's guess. Still, at least one child has learned the fine art of "self-defensive cooking", and they know about the mysteries of the washing machine, vacuum cleaner and how toilets get cleaned.

If we all waited until we were "ready" to have children, we'd be 50, or more!

Posted by: maryland_mother | January 16, 2008 9:05 AM

Correction: if we all waited until we were ready to have children...we would be extinct.

Posted by: g1956 | January 16, 2008 9:06 AM

Sorry for the double-post.

Posted by: maryland_mother | January 16, 2008 9:07 AM

Correction: if we all waited until we were ready to have children...we would be extinct. g1956

I figured people would read between the lines.

As an "accidental" child myself, the best gift my parents gave me was to tell me I was a "surprise". Much nicer overtones when you are young and doing the math between marriage date and birthday. Ahem.

Posted by: maryland_mother | January 16, 2008 9:14 AM

I am 27 and have 5 young children. I am married, we started young. We are happy and my husband has a good career that supports my desire to be home raising our children right now. I will be ready to go back to school and my career- which I put on hold by choice-as my girls get older. By the time I am 35, I will have finished my masters and my kids will all be in upper elementary school.

The hardest part is certainly that I often don't fit in the social circles I spend most of my time with. I am the youngest Mom in the PTA, at the park or on the Nursery School Board and there is not meeting that goes by where someone doesn't feel the need to bring it up. Which is almost as exhausting as my kids on a bad day! Our friends from high school and college are starting to marry, but our lives are completely foreign to them. They do call when they make last minute plans to go out to dinner at 8pm, but our life does not allow for late nights or last minute plans. We chose what can be a very isolating situation.

The important thing is that people make the choice that is right for them. I don't know that the order in which you choose career and kids makes too much difference as long as you are doing what makes you happy.

Posted by: michelewilson | January 16, 2008 9:14 AM

Well, I'm one vote for doing it when you're ready. I had my first at 21, but looked much younger. I was married and we owned a house, but the nasty looks and comments I got were extreme. Oh, unless people assumed I was the nanny, which they often did.

My oldest daughter is now 6, and will be in first grade next year. I am still far younger than most of her friend's parents and most of my friends (10 years or more, on average). I'll be turning 30 next year, and I must admit, I'm looking forward to it. Hopefully the age-ist comments will back off at that point.

Also, my old friends from pre-children days are starting to have children. We mostly drifted apart when I started my family (yes, it was planned). They're starting to call me again, and it's really nice to re-connect.

Posted by: karen.rayne | January 16, 2008 9:17 AM

Oh, and in case there's any question about my education, I finished my bachelor's degree before I gave birth, and now I have my Ph.D. in Educational Psychology.
Karen

Posted by: karen.rayne | January 16, 2008 9:18 AM

Quote:
"No job works out the way you want it to and in the end, it's just a job. Work on your marriage and family first."

Excellent advice! Thanks, bobh1967

Posted by: silkandcotton | January 16, 2008 9:24 AM

Oh, and in case there's any question about my education, I finished my bachelor's degree before I gave birth, and now I have my Ph.D. in Educational Psychology.
Karen

Posted by: karen.rayne

You needn't feel as though you have to impress us or justify yourself--really. We're not all bumptious twits daily. All of us are periodically though.

Posted by: maryland_mother | January 16, 2008 9:25 AM

Frankly, I think this entire discussion is borderline stupid. I had my daughter "young" (25) but I'm an attorney and it all works for my family. It shouldn't matter how old or young parents are, what should matter is how well parents can provide a safe, loving, happy home for their children. What should matter is whether the parents and the child are satisfied with their lives - whether they both parents are working or not, career-oriented or not. I don't know who these other 20-something parents have as friends, but I still have a great group of childless (and mostly single) friends who I make time to see, and who come over to our house, on a regular basis. I also have friends who have children, some are my age and some are older.

Age is just a number, people.

Posted by: plawrimore1 | January 16, 2008 9:27 AM

The only problem I has with Karen's post was trying to understand the math! Had baby at 21. Baby is 6. Mom is 29?

Posted by: atb2 | January 16, 2008 9:33 AM

"My SIL is reasonably financially comfortable, in a stable marriage, and is 33 years old. I am trying to encourage her to start her family. She keeps saying she isn't ready yet, for professional reasons, money, desire to keep the status quo. I keep telling her there is NO right time and you never feel fully ready but the pain of infertility is horrible."

I'm sure those of you who "encourage" mean well, but, really. If she says she's not ready yet, listen to that statement and back off. I'm not saying there's something wrong with sharing your concerns ONCE, but the information is out there for all who want to read it. It's offensive for one adult to suggest to another adult that her reproductive decisions haven't been thought through as fully as you think they should be -- and that IS the message you send, whether you intend it or not.

If you're not ready. You're not ready. Every woman is different. Some find infertility to be the world's worst news. Others find they finally have an answer that takes the choice out of their hands and shuts up the buttinskis about whether and when they intend to have kids. Until you've walked in the moccasins of a woman who isn't chomping at the bit to reproduce, you can't anticipate how she will take life's outcomes based on how YOU would react to those same outcomes.

On a different comment, there are few statements more amusing than the declaration of a currently childless woman that two kids are not enough, she mustive haveth three.

Posted by: mn.188 | January 16, 2008 9:33 AM

Hey, try telling that to all the people who make assumptions and discriminate based on someone's age!

Maybe in an ideal world you're right, but that's not where I'm living...

Still trying to absorb other Tom Lehrer fans. Thought it was just my weird family. Kind of like the Cajun Christmas thing.

Posted by: leslie4 | January 16, 2008 9:34 AM

Still trying to absorb other Tom Lehrer fans. Thought it was just my weird family. Kind of like the Cajun Christmas thing.

Posted by: leslie4 |

Amateur!

Come to my parents home for Thanksgiving. We have the "Final Flight of Tom/Tina the Turkey". I even rigged up a pulley and little basket one year so Tina (odd numbered year) could fly around the yard.

Posted by: maryland_mother | January 16, 2008 9:37 AM

maryland mother, you are on one helluva roll today, LOL.


Posted by: mn.188 | January 16, 2008 9:38 AM

I'm in a really good mood. Must be the sleep deprivation!

Posted by: maryland_mother | January 16, 2008 9:42 AM

It's interesting to note here how many posters took advantage of the prolonged educational process for careers that require advanced degrees. A study on this would be interesting, given how many fields require advanced degrees any more. Grad school is intense, but in some ways, your time is more your own, which can make for more flexibility in child rearing. My sister-in-law, who's in her mid-twenties and currently working on her dissertation, "found herself with child." (Birth control does indeed fail now and then, no matter how careful you are.) However, they were married and in stable relationship--which is even more important than being financially stable, I'd argue--and I now have a beautiful niece who's about to become a big sister. When my SIL goes up for tenure--the most stressful point of an academic career--they'll be beyond the bottles and child care worries stage.

RE: "If we all waited until we were ready to have children, we'd be extinct." Amen!!! :) With our first pregnancy, everyone kept asking, "Are you ready?" We told them, "We're ready not to be ready."

-niner (even though it's signed as dave19er!)

Posted by: dave19er | January 16, 2008 9:43 AM

I think this is an interesting topic, but the blog badly mischaracterizes the original Post article when claiming it feeds into the dumb parent myth. There was nothing of the sort in the article.

I did think that the article was targeted at upscale parents in their twenties. A little more narrow than I'd like.

BB

Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | January 16, 2008 9:44 AM

Here's as aspect of the whole kid cyle thing that I haven't heard much about -- for those women who plan to "get serious" about their careers once the kids are in college (I'll be 50 when my last enters college) at what point does age discrimination in the workplace become a serious factor?

I've worked mostly part-time since my kids were born but have been very diligent about going to conferences, networking, publishing, keeping up my skills, etc. And due to the fact that we spaced our kids really close together (3 in 3.5 years) beginning when we were 30, I've always thought I would have plenty of time to work before retiring -- a good 20 years. But I wonder if those women who opt out in their 20's and opt back in in their 40's don't have an advantage. I worry that no one will hire an old bat in her fifties.

Posted by: justlurking | January 16, 2008 9:46 AM

mn: Maybe I should make myself clear, I encourage my SIL when she asks for advice or opinions. But I have also seen time in and time out women and men who kept saying they weren't ready and be all big and disappointed when they are infertile in their late 30s. I certainly don't offer her unsolicited advice.

Posted by: foamgnome | January 16, 2008 9:53 AM

What's funny about a lot of the comments is that everyone just assumes this ideal of having the career first is the standard everywhere. I lived in the midwest for a while and there if you are not married and with child by the time your 26-27 you are the weird one. It's all about expectations. No answer is right for everyone though, and that's what's bad about people here looking down on young mothers as dumb and in the midwest people looking down at "older" childless women as shriveled up hags. Stop worrying about what other people are doing!!

Posted by: jecarros | January 16, 2008 9:57 AM

justlurking - you are smart to be worried about age discrimination. I actually had some cosmetic surgery this year to help ward off signs of aging and several others in my age group (late 40s) have done the same. The discrimination I see is "appearance" discrimination really, though. Those that look young move ahead more quickly than those that don't.

Very sad, I know.

Posted by: jjtwo | January 16, 2008 10:03 AM

The headline is misleading - somehow aimed at amping up the same kind of peer pressure kids face on the playground. Perhaps those "young" couples (pre-30's), that have children early are less self-absorbed that those who wait and are willing to devote more of their time to raising a family?

That statement is just as inflammatory as "young parents, dumb parents". It's an individual choice. If one's peers can't understand that, it's time to change peers because by the time you have kids, one hopes you've moved on from the tauntings of a schoolyard playground.

Posted by: Jaxon1 | January 16, 2008 10:04 AM

I'm 50 and have 2 daughters 13 and 9. Most of my friends children are now in or graduated from college and they are experiencing life without the boundaries of the shool year, basketball and sitters. For those of us so inclined, they are also in their prime salary-earning years. Their children were a key part of their early married years.

Posted by: HankC_57 | January 16, 2008 10:05 AM

I must add my name to the Tom Lehrer fan club. I grew up listening to him and still laugh at songs like "The Vatican Rag" and "Wernher Von Braun".

Posted by: KLB_SS_MD | January 16, 2008 10:06 AM

foamgnome - I deliberately omitted your name from my response because I suspected that the discretion and good judgment you show online is exhibited offline. Others, however, don't have your better qualities and badger women who are married and don't have kids, and who say, plainly, I'm not ready. You can read on and on here the response to a declaration of, "I'm not ready," which is, "pshaw, you'll never be ready" delivered with a smile. I did not intend to lump you personally in with that group of dismissive dolts, and am sorry if it might have come across that way by using your statement as a jumping-off point.

Posted by: mn.188 | January 16, 2008 10:12 AM

Count me in for starting early.
I was 25 when our older child was born, our children will be 2 and 4 this year.

At 28 and 29, my husband and I can sleep through the night, take one-week vacations for two, go to the movies and eat out. We are looking forward to getting through the next couple of years with our energy levels and sense of humor intact and - just like one of the earlier posters - being in our forties when the kids graduate.

Actually, we didn't get as much flak for having kids at 25/26 as we did for getting married at 22/23. Hearing "Are you pregnant?" from every other person we told we were engaged was really, really ... whatever.

The kids were seen as normal when they came since we'd already been married for some time - and having a baby did not cost us our circle of friends. She was just worked into outings and dinners.
Moving two hundred miles away when our daughter was 4 months old *did* break that and it was hard for me to make new friends because most people my age (at my new college) had totally different time schedules and most people with kids the same age were about ten years older than us, which meant a totally different view of things... it was really hard to find someone I could talk to easily.

We moved back north just before Christmas and have been able to reconnect with some friends already; I am looking forward to wrapping up my MA at yet another college in two more years of some-study-some-family.

Glad to hear from those further along the same track that it works.

Posted by: enkafiles | January 16, 2008 10:13 AM

I was 23 when I got married (my husband was 24). We were told that we were too young. My daughter was born when I was 25 (my husband was 26). We were told that we were too young. We are younger by almost 10 years (and sometimes much, much more) than all of the other parents in my daughters grade (in fact there are a couple of parents the same age as my parents). It is very uncomfortable sometimes; for them and for us. But that is okay and sometimes it is even funny.

Posted by: 21117 | January 16, 2008 10:16 AM

The implicit point in all of the posts is the issue of time. It's much easier to make a change in your life after a decision to marry or to have children in your 20s than in your 40s. A lot of posts talk about going back to school, starting a new career or even starting their own business. Try contemplating that at 40, when retirement no longer is a distant point in time. Sorry to sound bitter but I realize now that time is the most valuable commodity in the world. You can never get it back once you've used it.

Posted by: bobh1967 | January 16, 2008 10:18 AM

just lurking -- ah, the age-ism question.

totally fascinating subject. effects both men and women, unlike the gender bias i'm always ranting about. and it's a surprise to many employees, because until it affects you, ageism is easy to ignore.

my research has found that ageism starts to kick in around age 50.

this is particularly shocking for stay-at-home moms who left the workforce in their late 30s or early 40s, before ageism was on their radar. they go back to work in their late 40s or early 50s and it's an ugly surprise. what women report is being interviewed by hiring managers who seem impossibly young -- but outrank them and control whether their resume gets past the interview. some of the bias is subtle, some obvious. and it's hard to fight and hard to prove, especially for someone trying to re-enter the workforce (vs. someone who has been fired because of age bias and has a clearcut grievance).

i'm all for cosmetic surgery and just keeping yourself healthy and youthful -- what seems to matter is how young you look and sound, not what your actual age is.

Posted by: leslie4 | January 16, 2008 10:22 AM

Do it when you're ready is the best strategy.

It would be nice if you had a job and health insurance, but babies have been born with less and done perfectly well.

I think for many that whatever disadvantage babies of younger parents might have is more than offset by the fact that they've also got younger Grandparents.

On the older career topic: one plus an older person has going into a career is that they aren't carrying a senior salary. If you're working at entry level then there are more opportunities.

Posted by: RedBird27 | January 16, 2008 10:22 AM

Karen and Michelle - I also had kids young (23) and although everyone keeps saying who cares... actually I also found it was very isolating to be at a different age than all the other moms. Can't socialize with the "kids" my age at work, they are going to happy hour. Not really fitting in with the 30s and 40s at school, they are nice but don't really want to be friends with someone who doesn't understand their music and pop references which makes them "feel old".

It made it hard not only to have a social life but to have coop babysitting, carpools, friends at summer camps etc. All these things occur naturally among friends but are so embarressing to ask someone you don't know. Do you want to carpool? Oh, you joined a carpool at the beginning of the summer? Oh, everyone has already set that up? Oh, ok.

Couldn't wait till I was in my 30s, and now (32) it actually is a little better.

Posted by: alkdjflkasjdfadsf | January 16, 2008 10:24 AM

I was 25 when I got married, 28 when I had my first child and 30 when I had the second. At that time I lived in an affluent suburb where I was the only SAHM and also the youngest mom by a good five years or more. I felt incredibly isolated--I had no friends in the neighborhood and the friends I had were still single and kid-free so I was pretty much out of that circle as well. I think back on that time with mixed feelings: on one hand I was lonely and bored and miserable in my marriage; on the other hand, I had what I consider to be the luxury of being home with my kids full time. It was a trade-off for me; I kept myself stuck in a horrible marriage because I was totally financially dependent on my husband at that time, but in the end I have to say that it was worth it to me to have been able to be home with my kids.

Since that time I went back to work, got divorced and remarried. I am 39 and my kids are 11 and 9, I'm now in a wonderful marriage and in the process of re-establishing my career. I second what a few posters above commented on: by the time I'm 50 both kids will be grown and out of the house and I will (hopefully) have a rewarding career and be able to travel, work long hours--whatever--without having to worry about babysitters or sick kids.

I'm also encouraged by a trend that I have noticed since I've been back in the workforce. A number of times I've seen women who spent their 20s and 30s building careers, had kids in their late 30s and 40s--or even 50s, go back to work full time for a while then decide they want to be home with their kids or scale back their careers dramatically. I figure this can work to younger moms' advantage; there is a whole group of women who have been going full-speed for as long as they can remember--college, grad school, high-powered career, etc; at some point it's inevitable that some of them will burn out and decide it's time to step back. That's when women who did things in the reverse order--delayed careers and had kids early--will ready and eager to step into those positions.

Posted by: maggielmcg | January 16, 2008 10:28 AM

My grandmother got married 'late' (25) and the dr's told her she was really old and they weren't sure that she was going to be able to have kids. She had two.

My mom 'delayed' getting married til she was 20, and didn't have kids til she was 22 (she had three, the third (me) at 29). She was seen as odd at the time.

I didn't get married til I was 31, and DS #1 came two years later. At some point, it seemed, we were 'ready.' I couldn't even imagine having a kid without being in a good marriage. *shrug* but I never understood wanting kids til I was, so it's hard for me to relate.

I don't think anything in the article said: dumb: it was more that the more educated you are, the more likely it is that you are waiting. I would NEVER have contemplated marriage at 22 (even I was in a relationship at the time). My mom was adamant in raising three girls who would have lots of choices. I think she would have been horrified if one of us got married before 28 - and as it was, my mom wasn't so excited by my sister's marriage (even tho she was 30 at the time...).

But - hey, yeah, it would've been NICE to meet my DH when I was younger - and have kids then - but we would've been different people and would've probably not gotten married. What we did worked for us.

And it would be nice to be younger than 54 when DS 2 goes to college, but what can ya do. I suspect that as they get slightly older we'll have more opportunities for travel, etc (altho we don't do so bad now, really - considering they've each been to jamaica, one twice, and to many different places - whereas we never went ANYWHERE). It is nice being more financially stable (my family growing up NEVER was - it was the most stressful thing in my life growing up and I vowed never to live like that).

Posted by: atlmom1234 | January 16, 2008 10:32 AM

You should wait to have a child until:

you've completed high school (preferably college if you can);

you're either (a) in a mature, responsible relationship or (b) you can manage raising a child on your own while working to support you both to the extent that you're not on public assistance

I think we can safely say that with few exceptions, a child in high school who has a baby and keeps it is not going to have a very good life. Adoption is an option as is abortion for some. The practice that's going on right now in the African American community of children and unmarried young women continuing to have babies by multiple fathers is appalling to me. It's hard enough to raise a child alone with financial support, but to do what they're doing is essentially signing some kind of an agreement with life that they will be poor for the rest of their lives and so will their kids.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | January 16, 2008 10:33 AM

I have also wondered if some of the tension I see in older first-time mothers comes from the time constraints and the pressure to get it right. By the time you are in your late 30s it is probably your last shot at starting a family and you have to get it right the first time.

All through my pregnancy and the baby years of my children, I felt more at ease and able to go with the flow than the moms around me who were agonizing over every child-related choice - from crib type and to-the-half-degree room temperature to ideal nursing schedules and baby-development courses. Of course everyone was much more relaxed by the time child number two rolled around, so maybe it is insignificant.

Posted by: enkafiles | January 16, 2008 10:34 AM

Did you ever notice how often children born of women over 35 are smaller and sicklier than their peers?

I say: go with Nature. Nature intends for women to have children under the age of 30.

Posted by: jcohen1949 | January 16, 2008 10:36 AM

See it's interesting, too, cause it *is* incredibly isolating with your first kid (especially) NO MATTER what age you are. So to say it's BECAUSE you're young, doesn't make so much sense to me. I mean, it was some of the most difficult times when I had my first son - but it wasn't because I was young (I was 33) it was because it's an isolating experience.

I was pretty much the first in my high school friends (scattered around the country - one who married the week after college) to have a kid - the others followed within short periods of time, but I found it interesting.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | January 16, 2008 10:37 AM

This is one of the dumbest arguments ever- that there is ONE age where people should have kids.

My wife and I had kids in our mid-30s, her brother had kids in his late 20s, she has cousins who had kids in their early 20s.

We deal with being 40 and having small kids. This keeps us active and excited while having the income to send them to camps and programs. We sowed our wild oats and have no problem going out on 6 dates a year.

My wife's cousins have energy, but have to get Grandma and Grandpa to watch the kids every Saturday night because they're 25 and miss the freedom their friends have. They can't move out of their parents city because they'd lose the free babysitting. They can't find the time for graduate school, law school or a PhD (only one of her cousins got her master's with kids). Without those degrees they're stuck in midlevel jobs at best.

They keep saying they don't want to be 38 and still dealing with diapers. I didn't want to be 26 and unable to work on a 3 month contract without health insurance in New York because I was dealing with diapers.

Three of her cousins divorced their cheating husbands and are single moms. I had many girlfriends in my 20s and when I met my wife I knew that there would be nothing that could tear us apart- 15 years later, it's still true. I saw enough pain to learn how to work through a relationship correctly.

Had I had kids in my 20s my parents would have been able to watch them more and for longer than they are now. But that also means that I'd spend less time with them myself! Who wants to miss out on saturday nights playing board games and eating popcorn?

Had I had kids in my 20s I couldn't have made the career leaps I did when I started consulting companies and worked 13 hour days while in graduate school.

The only real downside I see with being a young parent that is insurmountable is that young people think they have all the right ideas and I've seen a lot of bad fallout from young people making uninformed decisions that older people wouldn't make. Things like slacking off on safety, education, creative financing, etc. I warned people about mistakes they were making, but they pooh-poohed me as older and stodgy and they still had the nerve to ask me to bail them out. They know what scams look like now and 10 years later they will flail helplessly as their friends spend money on one. They are dealing with a mortgage higher than their house's value, not me.

Also, I know the three divorced cousins told me with all conviction that they were smart to find "the one" and have kids while they were young. Oh, how they crowed about their "right" decision! They were proven sadly, seriously, wrong when hubby met another 24 yr old. You don't want the 7 year itch to kick in when you're 29.

No, there is no RIGHT time to have kids. Anyone who thinks there is, isn't thinking. Every decision has pluses, every decision has minuses.

Posted by: bbcrock | January 16, 2008 10:40 AM

This all seems to have nothing to do with the age of parents and everything to do with people continuing to judge those who have made different choices than themselves. It is no different than every other work-life balance discussion and comes down to the same conclusion: do what is right for you and your family. Sharing experiences is one thing, but passing judgement, especially negative judgements, because you think your choice is "better" is a waste of time - you are a different person, with a different life, values, plans, etc.

Posted by: JJ321 | January 16, 2008 10:41 AM

Oh, but I *do* wish I was younger when the grandkids come. *sigh* I told my DH that we should have a third to ensure more grandkids, but he said it takes too long.

My SIL got married at 25 (26?) and they had a kid when she was 29. I guess that's considered young? She seems young to me, but she's my SIL - ya know. They may not have another cause the little one's going to be 2 in May - and my SIL indicated that the longer they wait between kids, the less inclined she'll be to have them..

Posted by: atlmom1234 | January 16, 2008 10:43 AM

My words of "wisdom" also apply to those being judged... who cares what others think if you are happy with your choice. Being a happy, secure person will get you more friends than being the same age.

Posted by: JJ321 | January 16, 2008 10:44 AM


Did you ever notice how often children born of women over 35 are smaller and sicklier than their peers?

I say: go with Nature. Nature intends for women to have children under the age of 30.

Posted by: jcohen1949 | January 16, 2008 10:36 AM

Yeah. Did you ever notice how Darwinism serves to eliminate the jcohens of the world thus stemming the spread of idiocy like "older women have smaller babies"?

Where do trolls find this stuff?


Posted by: mn.188 | January 16, 2008 10:49 AM

"Oh, but I *do* wish I was younger when the grandkids come. *sigh* I told my DH that we should have a third to ensure more grandkids, but he said it takes too long."

Atlmom, you might want to consider that your kids might not want to have kids. Not a good reason to have a third.

Posted by: laineypsu | January 16, 2008 10:52 AM

My wife and I are 25 and just had a pair of twins. We decided to have kids now when we have the least outside responsibility and the most amount of free time. The babies are 5 weeks old and we are very glad we have the time they really need at this stage. And a tip for anyone waiting until you are ready...there is no such thing as being ready for babies. When you decide you want kids, you just have to dive in and do it.

Posted by: JohnRhoades | January 16, 2008 10:53 AM

Amazing how quickly we go from avoiding pregnancy to rapidly seeking it. It's kind of ridiculous to argue when to have kids because many of us have little control over it (no matter how controlling we are). The right partner, the right job, enough stability but not too much...and then it is harder than we can imagine to get pregnant at the "right" time. But -- my ideal scenario is to have kids about 6-12 months AFTER all your best friends. Then you never lack for great advice from someone ahead of you, but not too ahead of you. It's really hard to be first or last, like so much of life.

Posted by: leslie4 | January 16, 2008 10:54 AM

lainey: it's partially a joke. Of course we're not having kids *just* to have grandkids.

My MIL, with five grandsons, though, *is* lobbying her kids for more - so she can have a granddaughter. I'm not sure *she's* kidding tho.

No, we're not having a third, unless something crazy happens. We're both one of three. And the middles both have 'issues'. And my MIL is the middle, too

Posted by: atlmom1234 | January 16, 2008 10:55 AM

Our decision to have children in our 30s had more to do with working to make sure that our marriage was sound and had a solid foundation before we introduced the stress of children into the mix. In addition, we were able to do a lot of things as a couple that we wanted to do (such as travel) that are less viable options now that we have children. So, when we decided to have children, we had worked out the kinks of our marriage and didn't feel like we were "giving up" much because we did a lot prior. Not all decisions to delay are career related.

Posted by: moxiemom1 | January 16, 2008 10:56 AM

Leslie: and they may be able to lend you good stuff, too! :)

Posted by: atlmom1234 | January 16, 2008 10:56 AM

"The implicit point in all of the posts is the issue of time. It's much easier to make a change in your life after a decision to marry or to have children in your 20s than in your 40s. A lot of posts talk about going back to school, starting a new career or even starting their own business. Try contemplating that at 40, when retirement no longer is a distant point in time. Sorry to sound bitter but I realize now that time is the most valuable commodity in the world. You can never get it back once you've used it."

Posted by: bobh1967 | January 16, 2008 10:18 AM
---------------

It's never too late. I'm 37 and working on changing careers from IT to becoming a physician assistant. Sure, it's a lot harder doing it now when I have two young children than it would've been 10 years ago when I was single and childless, but it's certainly not impossible. I've been working on it for 2 years and have another 4-5 years to go. If something is important to you, you find a way to make it work.

As for the discussion in general, why does anyone care how old other people are when they have kids? As long as they are fit parents, it's nobody else's business.

Posted by: dennis5 | January 16, 2008 10:57 AM

"But -- my ideal scenario is to have kids about 6-12 months AFTER all your best friends. Then you never lack for great advice from someone ahead of you, but not too ahead of you."

Leslie -- don't forget you'll also never lack for baby clothes! I love hand-me-downs.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | January 16, 2008 10:57 AM

Bobh1967, I know that story. I kept waiting to have kids until hoping I would get to a level I was satisfied with, but it never happened, although I'm getting there. I just had my first at 35 but I wish I'd started five years earlier, I think I was just a bit to seduced into wanting to be like my career-centered mentors, none of whom had children or wanted anything to do with them.

My experience is that very few people are ever satisifed with where they are in their careers. I guess its just human nature is to want something better for yourself (and your family). My advice to my daughter will be to finish her education frist. Raising a family requires money that's hard to come by when you're busy paying for school, other than that get started as soon as you find someone you can love and depend on and feel emotional ready for it. My reasons for wishing I had started earlier are the fertility issues (it took me a year to get pregnant), the dilemna of saving for retirement and college at the same time, the fact that if my daughter waits to have kids till she's 35 then I'll be 70 and less able to help her out (if I'm still around), and the simple fact that having kids forces you to get organized and confront shortcomings in your own character in a way that nothing else does. But in spite of my advice she'll do it her way, and at 36 will inevitably be asking the question "Where is my perfect life, the one I knew I was destined for at 17?" and hopefully by then I'll know exactly what to say.

Posted by: pinkoleander | January 16, 2008 11:04 AM

Why do working women/mothers have to be ambitious ladder climbers? Why cannot we simply enjoy working outside of the home while simultaneously enjoying our kids and being a mother? As a mother of two - my first at 32 and second at 36, I simply had kids late b/c it took some time to conceive. I then very nicely fit my very comfortable career and family together.

I resent the fact that we have to have some fancy title on a business card to prove ourselves. Shouldn't it be enough to enjoy your job and love being a mom?

Posted by: jcalex | January 16, 2008 11:09 AM

I just had my first at 35 but I wish I'd started five years earlier,
------

But seriously, how is that statement any more true than the person complaining that their finances would be ok, "if I only got about 10% more than I do now..."

I've been around this enough, your mind is playing tricks on you. Everyone wishes they bought real estate earlier, everyone knows they wouldn't feel self-conscious if they got that one tooth fixed, everyone will be happier when they pay off that credit card.

It's a trick we play on ourselves and the super-happy all smiles people we can't stand have developed a mental tool to stop listening to that voice.

Posted by: bbcrock | January 16, 2008 11:12 AM

Ditto for good maternity clothes!

Posted by: leslie4 | January 16, 2008 11:13 AM

It seems to me that the 20-something parents profiled in the Post article (which, in my opinion, was a desperate attempt by a reporter on deadline to create a story where there really wasn't one) are attributing way to much to their age and not nearly enough to the fact that they are parents, period. I had my first and probably only child at 35, and I have gone through just about every emotion my fellow parents a decade younger expressed in the article. My relationships with my childless friends changed when my son was born, just like they did 10 years earlier when some friends had their first child in their mid 20s. My childless friends in their 30s and older still laugh at the idea of a 9:00 am brunch and kid us for turning in before Conan O'Brian every night. My co-workers without children, whether they are 25 or 45, don't quite get what my life outside of work entails. On the flip side, co-workers with children, whether they are 22-year-old admin assistants or 50-year-old executives, totally get it. Your life changes simply because you have kids, not because of WHEN you have them. I suspect the Post reporter could have rounded up half a dozen couples in their late 30s or early 40s with infants or toddlers and written exactly the same article.

Posted by: swg2115 | January 16, 2008 11:18 AM

apropos, from Slate:

"Delaying motherhood means big income gains for educated women, because of the economies of scale in education and work which reward those who spend a long time in college and then work long hours early in their careers. For every year by which a woman delays having her first child, her lifetime earnings rise by ten percent. Of course, someone who delays having children might earn more simply because her career is her priority, but you can get around that statistical minefield by looking at women who, because of miscarriages or accidental pregnancies, do not have children at the time they would have chosen. These random misfortunes, which mean women having babies earlier or later than they would have done, all point in the same direction: a year's delay adds about one tenth to lifetime earnings."

Posted by: atb2 | January 16, 2008 11:23 AM

Yeah - fertility issues. Cuts both ways though.
My doctor told me it would take about 3 to 9 months to conceive at my age (24) and I was looking forward to a really carefree half-year.

Nothing doing. Two weeks off birth control - pregnant.

Second time around I was 26 - bound to take longer, right? Wrong.
Two weeks - bam. Sigh.

Glad I didn't go through the years-of-waiting-and-wondering
side of things, though.

Posted by: enkafiles | January 16, 2008 11:24 AM

I consider my husband and I a very blessed couple. We turn 50 this year and have raised 4 children, 3 of whom are working on graduate degrees, and the last one entering her first year of college this fall. We had fun with our kids,watching them grow and learn. I was fortunate to have married the hardest working man in the world. He wanted me to stay at home and raise our children. He worked and I learned how to budget in every sense of the word. 2nd hand stores have a wealth of books, toys and clothing that our children learned to appreciate. Because I was able to be at home and our income was not stupendous but just enough, our children were able to attend colleges on scholarship and thankfully only 1 has a loan for 3500.00 he has to pay back. They are academic and atheletic scholars whom people took interest in and helped along the way. To the young parents of today, enjoy your children, grow with them, invest time and energy in them while you can. It is the most rewarding and positive thing you can do for this society and yourself. Now that we are 50, I am beginning a new career and my husband is relaxing a lot more. Our children are positive contributers to society and I know that when we close our eyes at night we are satisfied and thankful for being allowed to raise four of the best in the world.

Posted by: slang53979 | January 16, 2008 11:24 AM

I personally find the title, "Young Parents, Dumb Parents" offensive. The assumption that younger parents are ill equipped to achieve career success while raising a child is just plain ignorant. I had my son while still in college and while, admittedly, he wasn't planned, I can't imagine my life any other way. He provided motivation for me to graduate at the top of both my college and law school classes and to earn a master's degree all while working around 30 hours/week. I never considered this a burden, or even particularly difficult, I had the support of my family, friends, and several wonderful and understanding employers. I simply did what any good parent, of any age, would do to ensure financial and emotional security for their child. I never for an instant considered any other option. As far as I was concerned, there weren't any other options. I sometimes think that older parents presuppose that younger parents are committing career suicide in order to justify their own decisions to postpone parenthood. I know many successful attorneys, law school classmates and co-workers, who have had children in their 20's, with absolutely no ill effects on their careers. Like me, they'll be able to relax knowing that they will never have to deal with infertility, the possibility of having to care for a child with special needs (which is significantly more likely for mothers over the age of 35), or postponing retirement to pay for college. Unlike many older parents, younger parents are also physically able to actively participate with their children in sports and other activities. I have had the joy of helping coach my son's little league teams, and being able to play football, basketball, lacrosse and baseball with him. Most importantly, I've had the pleasure of seeing my son develop close and meaningful relationships with his grandparents, particularly his grandfathers, which unfortunately, would not have been possible had he been born any later.

Posted by: glachapelle | January 16, 2008 11:34 AM

I had one child when I was in my early thirties and one in my late thirties. Unlike many of our friends, we didn't have any problems getting pregnant. I did, however, have very difficult pregnancies, despite my own good health. Not many people talk about it, but the older you get, the more likely you are to experience a whole host of pregnancy complications.

Posted by: glovpk77 | January 16, 2008 11:35 AM

Ok how many times have you had this discussion of when is the right time to have kids? You are beating a dead horse into the ground. Aren't there other work/home/family balance topics out there besides this one? This is getting old.

Posted by: meredithneale | January 16, 2008 11:37 AM

I don't know if there's a "ready" time to have kids but there's certainly a "not ready" time. "Not ready" time is not being able to make the sacrifices necessary to give your kids the best you can because you either want to do other things or you're not secure enough in yourself to do what's necessary. You can be a good parent at a relatively young age or a bad one at an older age (I've seen plenty of both). There isn't any one particular time table though I know with women we always have our clocks to consider.

I like the expression "life is what happens while you're planning other things" (John Lennon maybe?). As long as you're clear-eyed, consistent, hard-working and humble enough to do all the things you need to do to become a parent there's no reason not to go forward with it. Of course having loving support of the father (hopefully your husband) and your surrounding family makes an enormous difference too. However there are no perfect scenarios and if any other woman tries to convince you that there is she's probably just trying to convince herself. Our parents weren't always perfect as parents or career people and we shouldn't expect ourselves to be either. I would say just do the best you can with however motherhood unfolded for you.

Posted by: jlewislady | January 16, 2008 11:38 AM

The idea that having children in your 20's dooms your financial future is false. Read "The Millionaire Next Door," and live like those people.

I am a military officer, my wife is an ex-GS, but since our baby was born, works part time. We'll be moving this year, so we're renting a house (luckily, considering the market). Between IRA's, 401K's, TSP's, a 529, and our house down payment savings, we have over $400,000 in "the bank." No debt whatsoever. We save about 40% of our pre-tax income.

I'm 27.

Posted by: rr321 | January 16, 2008 11:42 AM

I had three kids before I was 32, the first when I was 26. My oldest was born when I was in the middle of graduate school. Prpfessors and other students thought I was crazy. I had a supportive husband (by then had been married 4 years) and supportive parents (no, not financially supportive). Everyone's situation is different. My career has not suffered from having kids early, nor has my husband's. We're not poor. We own our house and we're not struggling (other than the usual struggles of raising three kids). I'd never thought of myself as a young mother until I read that article, and I still don't. I've never had a problem relating to older moms though I do tend to socialize more with younger ones. Starting a family is such a personal choice involving so many different factors, the least of which is age!

Posted by: jcdbooker | January 16, 2008 11:42 AM

rr321, you could be my husband and I 15 years ago, only we had 3 children by 27, and owned a home. They are 21, 19 & 17 now, 2 in college on full scholarships, never went hungry, always had enough clothes(though not the super expensive stuff), and seem to be well grounded and not too materialistic. I stayed home until the youngest started school, then got my real estate license, so I could work part time. In 5 years, we will have all 3 children through school, and the house will be paid off. I will be 47, and my husband 50. It worked for us.

Posted by: sparks3 | January 16, 2008 11:56 AM

"They can't find the time for graduate school, law school or a PhD (only one of her cousins got her master's with kids). Without those degrees they're stuck in midlevel jobs at best." --bbrock

--As if the only way to lead a fullfilling and sucessful life is to go to grad school, law school, or obtain a PhD. One acheive success and earn a good income without having a fancy degree. Even people at midlevel jobs/careers earn a pretty decent income.

Posted by: Soguns1 | January 16, 2008 11:56 AM

I was a top student with full-ride to college and loved being a freshman. I married my high school sweetheart at 18, had kids at ages 21 and 23-- graduated from college at 23 with a bachelors in Chemistry. Got my doctorate at age 30 (after taking 3 years out to work full-time) and am now a tenure track professor at a large mid-western university
and have been married for 20 years with 2 teenagers.

How did having kids at a young age affect my education? I definitely had no peers with the same challenges and even had to fight the prejudice of my grad institution (married women with kids could not be serious about science) but none of my problems were due to my kids--all were due to others intentionally putting obstacles in my way. My friends tended (and still tend to be) older than me. Lots of student loans to cover day care, but will pay those off in the next 5 years. Glad I didn't wait until mid 30s to have kids since premature menopause has hit.

Most relevant question is how did my choices impact my kids? We moved several times during my quest for a tenure track position--this was hard on them, but also gave them a broader world view. Our family is stronger because of all the experiences we have shared and there is definitely a strong work ethic and education ethic instilled in the teenagers. My kids occasionally comment on how young my husband and I are compared to their friends parents, but the conversation is much more about how much we have done in our lives compared to others who waited.

Would I advise my kids to marry young and have kids young? It depends on who they wish to marry.
A strong marriage is the key to making it out of child rearing together. If anything, the more time spent nurturing your marriage the better. All kids really need is home stability, love, discipline, and fun. The age of the parents is irrelevant-just so long as the parent are emotionally mature enough to give willingly to the kids.

My husband also attended college during his mid to late 20s and has been a teacher for the last 10 years. He faced some of the same problems I did (lack of money, friends with same responsibilities) but managed to stay friends with his peer group. I think he also agrees that having kids when young is not detrimental to the kids though getting enough time to study while going to school can be a problem at times. All it really takes is flexibility in your spouse.

Posted by: nealr | January 16, 2008 11:57 AM

The truth is that roughly 50% of pregnancies are unintended, although not all are carried to term. I would guess that many people on this board did not "choose" to become parents at all.

I am almost 30, married and intentionally child-free. I expect to start trying for children in the near future because of concerns about fertility. It's frustrating that women have that timetable. I'd really prefer to wait another 10 years if I wasn't afraid I might end up with no children. But that just seems like the wrong reason to have kids now.

Posted by: messincm | January 16, 2008 11:58 AM

In my second job out of college, my boss was in her mid-30s and had two pre-teens. She mentioned they best thing she did was have her kids young, before they could affect her career.

But what got me to the point of posting. I was really struck by the statistic given. Not so much by the age of the parents, but the ~20% difference between the fathers and mothers in the demographic group. Can that all be explained by marrying outside the demographic group? Or is there something else at play?

Posted by: rubytuesday | January 16, 2008 12:02 PM

My advice. do what you want to do

I guess I should've had my kids in my 20s...Your body seems to rebound with a bit more ease..so I'm told. but it wasn't an option for me. I was single, etc....

for what it's worth, I'm 37, have a 3 year old and an infant..all of my high school and college girlfriends have chidren 10 yrs and older. so I feel like the odd one out

Posted by: kristiandenny1 | January 16, 2008 12:03 PM

Just to add. Anything below 25 years old is a young parent. A parent between the age of 25-29 is NOT a young parent. A female's fertility start to slowly decline when she reaches the age of around 25 and it significantly decline when she's around 35.

Posted by: Soguns1 | January 16, 2008 12:08 PM

My husband and I both had our first child before we were thirty as well as PhDs and jobs and a house. I'm now 33 and I had my third child just before I turned 33. When out with just the baby, I often find people assume he is my first. They are surprised to find I have a 5 year old (let alone a 2.5 year old as well!). My husband and I often feel very young when dealing with other parents of kids the same age. The choices we are faced with seem to be different, although parenting is an experience that we DO have in common. The interesting thing is that, although we are out of sync with others in the DC area, a LOT of our friends from college have kids the same age as ours. We have mini-Cornell reunions amongst 4 couples (all Cornell grads) and our 11 kids (and we are all about 33-34 years old). So we have plenty of friends who understand our situation, they just don't happen to live in DC.

Having kids early worked out well for us - I'm making my career up as I go along since I didn't have anything prior (therefore, I didn't have to "give up" anything). Every choice we make is influenced by the fact that we have children, but we are aware that when our kids are all in college we will be at the best monetary point in our careers and have the options of changing our lifestyles with plenty of time ahead.

The main drawback (compared with the other parents we interact with) is that we are much less financially stable NOW. Our house is smaller and we don't eat out as much. We try and limit the activities that our kids are involved in (as much for sanity as for money), and we rarely get babysitters (other than grandparents). But, we aren't struggling and everyone is happy.

My motto is: whatever choice you make will turn out for the best, if only because you think it did.
Carrie

Posted by: cqjudge | January 16, 2008 12:11 PM

Here in the midwest having kids in your mid-20s is the norm. I know far fewer women who wait until after 30 to start having kids, and those that do are all transplants from the East Coast!

Posted by: anny | January 16, 2008 12:15 PM

*Sigh* Good God.

Having kids in the mid-late 20's in not young or early. And I was born in raised in the D.C. area (Fairfax Co.) my whole life.

Posted by: Soguns1 | January 16, 2008 12:19 PM

I find it funny that parents in their 20s are considered young. Maybe this is because I grew up in a small town, or maybe it is because my husband is an active duty enlisted Marine. Either way, I find myself around parents who are in their 20s all the time.

I am married and will soon become a mom at 25 and my husband will become a dad at 23. The pregnancy was completely planned, and we never thought about being considered too young (except for the fact that I am often mistaken for 17 because I really do look like a teenager -good genes! Nonetheless, I am bracing myself for the teenage mother comments.)

I have completed my college education, and have a government job were I have been working my way up. I will be in a GS-13 position in the next few months before the baby is born. My husband plans on separating from the Marines, and already has several well paying job offers, any of which will make my salary look pitiful. We are soon to be homeowners, have a good amount in our savings account, have started saving for retirement, and planned out our expenses. Also, my work schedule is pretty flexible, so I am not sure what else I should have waited for. I definitely would not say I am any less ambitious than my peers or will become so after the baby is born. I still plan on striving for the GS-14 position in a year or so. Luckily, my agency does not appear to mommy-track its employees.

Posted by: audtee | January 16, 2008 12:19 PM

My SIL, who had the first at 28, actually, her DH is in the military and was enlisted when he joined (right before they were married). So when she and he got married, and she was hanging out with the military wives, she was lamenting how OLD she was - how I guess, most of those men had married REALLY young and many of them had one or two kids already.

Now that he's an officer, I think it's a little different, but she really felt completely out of place the first few years he was in the army. And the 'city' they were in didn't have much in terms of opportunities for her (not that I think she really wanted to work, anyway, but...).

Posted by: atlmom1234 | January 16, 2008 12:24 PM

I think it's hilarious that there's this assumption that all "young" parents (25-29) are in peak shape, poor, fertile, and never have high-needs babies, while all the "old" ones (30-35) are rich, hobbled and lucky they were able to conceive the Down kids they're raising.

Posted by: atb2 | January 16, 2008 12:33 PM

The other side of the equation is that without kids, my wife and I were able to do a significant amount of adventure traveling in our late 20s and early 30s (Machu Pichu, Kilimanjaro, Nepal, etc.). I'm not counting on being able to do the super active trips when I'm about to retire.

It's entirely a lifestyle issue.

In the legal profession, I'd think it'll be easier to have kids after you make partner (in your mid 30s) than when you're an associate competing for the partnership spots. That's the trend I see in the law firms.

Posted by: bhuang2 | January 16, 2008 12:34 PM

I'm glad to see people actually talking about the "I" word - infertility.
Talking about or acknowledging the fact that a woman's fertility can decline pretty fast after age 30 has become taboo, particularly in a place like DC where this biological fact of life is an inconvenient truth for so many people, men and women alike, who want to map out their lives and careers. I've even been told it's antifeminist (!?!?!) to talk about it.
We've been conditioned to believe you can have a kid pretty much anytime before 40. I call it the Holly Hunter syndrome. HH had twins at 43, and when you see that on the news, along with other late celebrity spawners you think hey, if she can do it, so can I.
If you have problems conceiving, you just go to a fertility specialist. It's like finding a good tax accountant, just google the ones with the best success rate and you'll get a baby on your schedule, right?
What you don't see, of course, are the hundreds of other 43 year olds who tried and failed to conceive. People just don't talk about it, so you only hear of the successes, not the problems.
I have nothing against fertility doctors. My wife and I had our daughter at 31 after losing 3 pregnancies. One visit to a fertility clinic and we discovered she had a genetic blood disorder that was easily fixed, but her traditional GYN had overlooked. Problem solved, and now we have a beautiful daughter. But I know several couples who met at, say, 32, married at 34, started trying at 36 and discovered it wasn't so easy. Remember the last season of Sex and the City, when Carrie decided she was 39, so she thought it was time to settle down so she could have kids. LOL! It would be funny if it didn't plant these false ideas that you can have children as late as you want. They seem to skip over the months or years of anguish, the toll it takes on everyone and their relationships, and of course the huge costs.
I know, I know, there are people like my next door neighbor who had their first kid also at 43 (must be something about that number) without trying to get pregnant. I also know couples in their mid-30s who have spent north of 80K and still no conceptions, just more appointments with more highly regarded specialists who have no real incentive to tell you the truth about your situation as long as your checks keep cashing.
Bottom line, if you want to have kids, if you feel you're as financially, emotionally and relationship steady as you can reasonably be to have a child (no, you're never really totally ready) just go for it. It's the greatest adventure you'll ever go on, and unlike your career where you can be laid off or your industry contract, you'll have the bonds of family, something that truly lasts a lifetime. Just don't wait too long...

Posted by: danacruikshank | January 16, 2008 12:41 PM

I had my now-22-month-old daughter at 37, so I should have plenty of company and not feel as isolated as the parents in this article. What I feel is that being a full-time employee and having a small child is isolating in and of itself because there just isn't much time or energy for getting together with others. Even though we are members of the parent board at daycare, we have only fleeting contact with the other parents there. I quit my "extracurricular activities" one by one because I lack the energy for them.

Don't get me wrong, my husband and I are very happy with our daughter and life is quite wonderful. It is just not a point where we are having much contact with others beyond immediate family and really close neighbors.

The ageism I believe to be pretty bogus. It's up to each of us to make contact with others. If you give up because others who are available to you are not your age, that's your own problem. I have friends of all ages. My closest friend is 75 and we never run out of things to talk about. The cool thing with that relationship is that she and my mom have become good friends too.

Posted by: blinnie | January 16, 2008 12:51 PM

Get married when you and your prospective spouse are open to the possibility of having children "whenever they arrive", have an other-directed love for your prospective spouse, you both share a mature and stable relationship, and you won't have to live in physical, financial, and social circumstances you together won't be able to tolerate.

Posted by: DoTheRightThing | January 16, 2008 12:55 PM

I was really struck by the statistic given. Not so much by the age of the parents, but the ~20% difference between the fathers and mothers in the demographic group. Can that all be explained by marrying outside the demographic group? Or is there something else at play?

Posted by: rubytuesday | January 16, 2008 12:02 PM

My strong suspicion is that, while the vast majority of women KNOW when they first become mothers, men are not nearly as likely to know when they become fathers.

My hypothesis would be that the older the man is, the more likely the woman is to tell him if he is the father of her child. (An entirely different study would have to be done to prove this, of course, i'm just hypothesizing!)

Posted by: newslinks1 | January 16, 2008 1:05 PM

I haven't read through all the posts, so I apologize if this is a repeat of what someone else had said.

Some have said (or warned) to not put so much effort into our careers and focus on family and kids earlier.

Well, that would work just fine, except for the fact I didn't have a maternal bone in my body until I hit 30 (I'll be giving birth to our first child at 32). I can honestly say that I had NO INTEREST in having kids at the age of, oh, 25, and neither did my husband. People could force the issue all they want (and trust me, they tried), but until we felt ready, it wasn't happening.

I just wonder how many others out there are like me -- I didn't wait to have kids (or a kid) until my early 30s, I just had no interest in it anytime before then.

Posted by: Corvette1975 | January 16, 2008 1:09 PM

Ah, fercrying out loud..

I meant: "I didn't INTENTIONALLY wait to have kids..."

Posted by: Corvette1975 | January 16, 2008 1:11 PM

corvette: I never even considered having kids til I was married and we were 'settled.' Of course, that was about a year into the marriage, different than what it sounds like you went thru...

Posted by: atlmom1234 | January 16, 2008 1:12 PM

There are pros and cons to having kids early and having them late. You just have to see what life brings you and take tbe best of what it offers. It is difficult to really time children. Sometimes, we have little control about how it happens. I did not have kids early because it would not have been a good move for me. I was in an unhappy marriage and had a lot of growing up to do. By the time I hit my 30s, things were better, and I met my current husband. I started considering it then, and we had our first when I was 34. And for a while, we thought that one was enough, but as I approached 40, I wanted another one. We finally had our second right before my 42nd birthday. I worried that I might be too old. We went through a string of miscarriages, so age was definintely an obstacle, but things eventually worked out and I had a healthy, robust baby girl this past December (who says older moms have sickly babies?) I do worry a bit that I will be 60 when my daughter is 18, but that is just greater incentive to take care of myself well. My career is established, my hours are flexible, and we have enough money to be reasonably comfortable even in the DC area. Most important of all, this baby is in a happy and stable home. In the end, that's what counts. If I had had all that when I was 26, who knows, maybe I would have gone for it. But I didn't, so I waited, and it's fine. People should worry less about being the right age, and think more globally about the set of right circumstances. For some people, this happens when they are pretty young. For others, not until later. And while infertility is an issue as women age, there are lots of alternatives, including fertility treatments and adoption, so for the person who really wants children, the doors do not automatically shut after you are 35. You may have to work harder or be more creative, but the end result is worth it.

Posted by: emily111 | January 16, 2008 1:45 PM

Lots of talk about the potential career impact, but there are other factors. I just got married at 31 and am looking forward to starting a family in the near future. But my 20s after finishing school were a wonderful and exciting time in my life -- I moved to a new town on my own, became fully financially independent and successful, bought my first home on my own, traveled all over the globe, took a bunch of fun classes, participated in sports leagues, etc. I would not have been able to have all of these experiences if I'd married my college boyfriend and had kids early. Sure you can do these things later if you have kids earlier, but I wouldn't swap 25-30 without kids for 45-50 with kids out of the house for anything.

Posted by: kackidee | January 16, 2008 1:49 PM

Kackidee?? Please, pick another name!

Posted by: StickyNote | January 16, 2008 1:53 PM

I don't understand the glee that some people seem to feel at the prospect of their kids leaving home. Maybe it's because my kids are still very young and I enjoy them so much, but to me, it will feel somewhat sad to have my kids grow up and move away (although I realize intellectually that this is ultimately a good thing). To me, one of the pros of having two kids that are spaced by a difference of almost 8 years is that it will give me at least an extra 8 years of having a child at home. And maybe by the time my daughter is ready to leave, I might get a grandchild from my son. I say this only half in jest.

Posted by: emily111 | January 16, 2008 1:54 PM

I planned my first pregnancy very young, and my twins were born two weeks before I turned 23. I waited until I had a touch of career experience, but while I was still early enough in my career to come across as a recent college graduate. My career is now at a level comparable with my classmates despite taking nearly a year off to care for my twins - young people are in higher demand in my field. For me, with a strong degree and a supportive husband who was less interested in the work force, it was the right decision.

And I absolutely love the shocked reactions I get when people learn that I am not only married, but have two kids already. Especially coworkers.

I mainly wanted to have children young to give myself more flexibility later in life. I now can easily have a large, well-spaced family spread out over the next 15+ years, or I can enjoy a long career-focused couple decades child-free before retirement - when I will also have the money to enjoy travel, charity work, and other luxeries that young people often can't afford.

A big thanks to the early feminists who made these options available to me. I think the "wait for children" advice is less universally relevant than it used to be, although it is still appropriate for many situations.

Posted by: ethele | January 16, 2008 1:58 PM

Emily, I don't know either since my kids are young too, but here's my theory. They make babies cute so you will put up with all the crying and poop and they make teenagers sullen and sassy, so you will kick them out of the nest!

Posted by: moxiemom1 | January 16, 2008 1:59 PM

atlmom, the military is its own microcosm. As an officer's wife, my sense is that the enlisted couples have kids in their late teens/early 20's and the military couples have them frequently in early to mid-20's. My husband and I are in our early 40's and still have kids in elementary school. Many of his peers already have kids in college!

Leslie, tell me more about cosmetic surgery. Could we possibly devote a whole day to the subject? I'd like to know what everyone else has had done, what they're contemplating having done, and why they made the decision (and how the whole career thing plays into that). I worked for an employee who used to disappear for about two weeks every year to go "to a spa." She always returned looking about ten years younger. It took me awhile to figure out it was probably cosmetic surgery and not a spa. Oh well.

Posted by: justlurking | January 16, 2008 2:03 PM

"I must add my name to the Tom Lehrer fan club. I grew up listening to him and still laugh at songs like 'The Vatican Rag' and 'Wernher Von Braun.".

Posted by: KLB_SS_MD | January 16, 2008 10:06 AM

It is hard to believe that Tom Lehrer will be eighty years old this coming April! I took the subway once to see him perform in upper Manhattan, and rode my bicycle once to hear him perform at Kresge Auditorium at MIT. Once, out of sheer curiosity, I sat in on one of his calculus courses, hoping Tom would spice up the class with a wisecrack or two. But the closest he came to humor was in enumerating mathematical series. You know: "a-1, a-2, a-3, . . . , B-1, B-2, B-29, etc."

We have none of his records, but three of his song books, which have the advantage over the recordings (as someone writes in the Introduction to the first one) that you are spared his singing voice. The first two Tom Lehrer song books are hard-cover, octavo-size, with sewn bindings, and have held up well with many years of use. The third one, "Too Many Songs by Tom Lehrer," has reprints of (nearly?) all the songs from the first two books, plus "Lobachevsky," plus the educational songs like "New Math" and "Silent E." However, it is folio size, paperback with a glued binding, and it is now falling apart when I put it up at the piano. It also lacks the illustrations in the first two books, which are often lascivious, such as the one for the"Wiener Schnitzel Waltz."

A few of the reprinted songs in "Too Many Songs" have alternate lyrics from "That Was the Week That Was" that reflect changes in the times, such as love lyrics that can be sung by an older man to a younger man, and lyrics to "In Old Mexico" that allow today's performer to avoid singing, "How I wish I could get back. To the land of the wetback. And forget the Alamo."

Posted by: MattInAberdeen | January 16, 2008 2:08 PM

Birth defects and other (possibly life-long) developmental challenges can happen to anyone, no matter how old the parents are. I'm happy to hold off until the "normal" 30s before starting my family. At least I will have accomplished a lot of my personal goals (traveling to certain places, etc.), just in case doing those things after "sending the kids off to college in 18 years" isn't an option. Life is unpredictable, and difficult to plan for.

Posted by: kamalatug | January 16, 2008 2:17 PM

I seem to be the front runner in the youngest parent at the time of 1st child's birth competiton....weird.

Posted by: chittybangbang | January 16, 2008 2:17 PM

Emily, we're thrilled to have the first one in college and can't wait for the rest to leave. :-)

Okay, that might sound horrible, but consider a few things:

- it's not like they're gone forever; you're still in touch with them on a regular basis. Especially texting and Facebooking*. Plus home on vacations

- it's a real thrill to see your child succeed on her own, and to know that you contributed to that is, well, pretty indescribable.

- and it's a lot of fun when DW and I have time for just the two of us without guilt feelings.

So, yes, we're really looking forward to being "empty-nesters". Of course, since youngest DD is only in 6th grade it's going to be a while before that happens, but...


*betcha didn't know that "Facebook" had been verbed, didya?

Posted by: ArmyBrat | January 16, 2008 2:18 PM

Moxiemom,
I suspect you are right. I do remember my mom going through a phase when she wanted her kids to grow up already. But then, she says that in their late teen years, they became human again and she did not want them to leave after all.

Posted by: emily111 | January 16, 2008 2:20 PM

ArmyBrat,
You and your wife don't sound horrible at all. I'm just not there yet. Maybe in a few years though. :)

For now, I think my kids are the most perfect and adorable beings on earth, and I am just happy to have them with me, even if it means I won't be able to retire until I'm 80.

Posted by: emily111 | January 16, 2008 2:23 PM

"For me I am SO SO glad I did not have children when I was younger. Part of it was that I was in a bad marriage, . . .I can't imagine having had kids in my 20s.

"Because obviously no single choice is best for everyone."

Posted by: leslie4 | January 16, 2008 08:40 AM

Obviously. If I had had children in my 20s, it would have meant that I was in a bad marriage, because the girl I would have married was not the right one for me. Her three children are about ten years older than mine, because she married the right husband for her ten years before I married the right wife for me.

As for the idea that parents younger than 30 are dumber than those who wait until after 30, the parents in our circle of friends do not bear out that idea. Our friends, having married young and had children right away, tend to have anywhere from five to twelve children. The parents are as smart as we are, and their children are as smart as our children are. Sandy had eight children from 13 pregnancies. I remember the wedding of Sheryl, a CPA who is Sandy's oldest, to a young physician who was the tenth of thirteen children. This young couple have three children already, with more to come.

Still, it is better to wait and to have fewer children from a good, solid, lasting marriage than to marry someone who is not right for you and wind up seeing your children grow up in what they used to call a broken home.

Posted by: MattInAberdeen | January 16, 2008 2:26 PM

my aunt constantly laments that the kids grew up and they're not with her anymore. One of them lives down the street, each of them have two kids, they are both doing great. She just misses them from when they were little. She doesn't want the alternative to what she has (them living with her! They're over 40 for goodness sake!), but she's a little sad about it every day.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | January 16, 2008 2:27 PM

Matt,
I believe my brother has a couple of the old albums. I should ask him to put them on a CD for me. Thanks for the reminder.

Posted by: KLB_SS_MD | January 16, 2008 2:31 PM

". . . it's not like they're gone forever; you're still in touch with them on a regular basis. "

Posted by: ArmyBrat | January 16, 2008 02:18 PM

Yup. The middle one (married) came to our place last night to send a FAX. It is great to see all three of them together, and even greater now that there are four, counting DIL.

"As an officer's wife, my sense is that the enlisted couples have kids in their late teens/early 20's and the military couples have them frequently in early to mid-20's."

Posted by: justlurking | January 16, 2008 02:03 PM

Does this mean that "enlisted couples" are not "military couples"?? I am amazed that ArmyBrat let this go by.

Posted by: MattInAberdeen | January 16, 2008 2:35 PM

Matt,

Nah, it is just that officer's view of the world!

Proud son of an enlisted man and enlisted woman, proud former enlisted man and proud father of an enlisted woman.

(OK, you got me, my grandfather was an officer but he had an excuse, he went to Purdon't!)

Posted by: fred | January 16, 2008 2:40 PM

How young were you when you had your first, Chitty?

Posted by: fred | January 16, 2008 2:40 PM

Well, the reality with SIL and BIL, is that she has a master's degree and he has a BS. He decided to become enlisted, even though the army very clearly wanted him to become an officer. So they were very out of the norm when they got to base as to age/experience/etc.

NOW he is an officer (he went to OCS after two tours in Iraq), so it's a little different as to who they're socializing with (not cause they don't talk with who they talked with before, it's more that they're on a diff. base so they meet the officers now).

Posted by: atlmom1234 | January 16, 2008 2:41 PM

oh, and we got a book recently called ten old men and a mouse. The end was so sad - I get choked up reading it to my 5 YO

It's talking about the mouse coming back to see the men without the kids - and one of them says something like: kids moved away huh? Yeah, don't worry, they'll see you again, when they need something.

It makes me almost cry just typing this...

Posted by: atlmom1234 | January 16, 2008 2:43 PM

I don't understand the glee that some people seem to feel at the prospect of their kids leaving home. Maybe it's because my kids are still very young and I enjoy them so much, but to me, it will feel somewhat sad to have my kids grow up and move away (although I realize intellectually that this is ultimately a good thing).

Emily,

You may be mistaking relief for glee. But yeah, I have to confess that I look forward to the day when my 401K is FULLY funded. And there won't be stray socks scattered around the house. And the towels live in the bathroom, not on the floor of my teenager's room (not even on the drying rack in the kid's room! On the floor! The kid KNOWS BETTER.).

Posted by: maryland_mother | January 16, 2008 2:43 PM

This article strikes me as funny as we had our first when we were 26 and our last when we were 39.

I guess we were too young at 26 and too old at 39!

My advice is this.

1) If you don't want kids or have serious doubts, don't cave in to outside pressure!

2) Wait a few years until your marriage is stable. Economically, you will never be totally ready to have children. As some others have stated here, there is always more to want once you have achieved your stated goals.

3) I would advise that if you want children, have them earlier than latter. For many good reasons stated above. Take this advice from a 55 yr old who has a 16 yr old still at home. Youth and its attendant energy mix much better with babies! (Let me tell you how much my knee aches today.)

4) Saying you have personal goals you want to achieve before parenthood is good, but the flip side is that with parenthood your goals may be realigned and these new goals may be just as satisfying. (Esp., when you achieve empty nest!)

Posted by: fred | January 16, 2008 2:53 PM

"Youth and its attendant energy mix much better with babies! (Let me tell you how much my knee aches today.)"

I did worry quite a bit that at 42, I would not have enough energy to properly care for a baby, but I seem to have found it, somehow. This baby actually feels easier than the one I had at 34. Go figure. Maybe because I have had a few years of training now, and the adjustment is not so abrupt.

Posted by: emily111 | January 16, 2008 2:58 PM

Emily111

It is experience factor for No. 2.

Nothing quite rocks your world or changes it than the joy, frustration, responsibility and the experience of having another human being that cannot do anything for herself!

The second one is a piece of cake! The third one is just another to take up sides with No. 1 or No. 2 depending upon the day or bribes offered!

Posted by: fred | January 16, 2008 3:06 PM

My mom always said that it was much easier to go from 2 to 3 than from 1 to 2. With the third (me) it wasn't so much of an issue of her time - as the first two were used to her not being available constantly. And they occupied each other - whether they were playing or fighting.

Of course, we had live in help til I was 5. She would rarely mention that part, though...

Posted by: atlmom1234 | January 16, 2008 3:18 PM

"Of course, we had live in help til I was 5. She would rarely mention that part, though..."

Ha, ha, ha, ha......

Posted by: chittybangbang | January 16, 2008 3:22 PM

FYI: Tom Lehrer's music is available on CD. I bought a few for my parents about five years ago.

Love the idea of talking for a whole day about cosmetic surgery. Let's save it for a Lite Friday Free for All.

Posted by: leslie4 | January 16, 2008 3:29 PM

In the legal profession, I'd think it'll be easier to have kids after you make partner (in your mid 30s) than when you're an associate competing for the partnership spots. That's the trend I see in the law firms.

Posted by: bhuang2 | January 16, 2008 12:34 PM


bhuang2 - This is a dated view of the legal industry and, while it may have been a trend in the early '90s, has changed. Partnership - if that is one's goal and for many associates of either gender, it is not -- is based on a number of factors, most importantly three-year and five-year averages. Many savvy women now have kids early in their careers both because they want to do so, and in order to get through the exhausted years before they near those all-important three and five years prior to consideration for partnership. The competitive angle is not what it once was. The competition now is with yourself, e.g., meeting the business criteria so that your performance merits partnership.

In other words, it's easier to have kids as a less-experienced attorney, if partnership is one of your life goals.

Emily, I'm with you. I never had a problem with energy, am glad our kids are spaced relatively far apart so I can enjoy each of them, and I am not looking forward to our kids leaving the house.

Posted by: mn.188 | January 16, 2008 3:30 PM

Children involve a lifestyle change, no matter how much you earn when they are born.

Young moms, there may be lots of openings in our fields when our cohort decides to opt out for a little while when they have children in 10 years!

Posted by: superlis | January 16, 2008 3:30 PM

Young moms, there may be lots of openings in our fields when our cohort decides to opt out for a little while when they have children in 10 years!

Posted by: superlis | January 16, 2008 03:30 PM

ummmmm, there may well be; however, those openings will be for someone with 10 years experience in your fields.

Posted by: mn.188 | January 16, 2008 3:37 PM

Interesting comments about going from 2 to 3. From my friends who have 3, the third was the tipping point. The transition wasn't as difficult but that is the point at which they lost all control. The house will not be clean, ever, there will not be quiet, ever and mom will not get her hair done, ever. They are all happy and love their kids, but say it is a lot harder esp. since you have to move to a zone defense as opposed to man on man. Anyone who can manage more kids than I have is admirable in my book. 2 is the limit for me.

Posted by: moxiemom1 | January 16, 2008 3:39 PM

i've always considered it one of my greatest blessings that i found my soulmate at 22 (and married him at 22). After 5 years together, which involved world travel, buying a house, extensively renovating that house, finding work we both love, etc, we were ready for kids.

Tragically, my first pg was a miscarriage (at 27). Sure, the risks for miscarriage are higher the older you get, but it didn't make me feel much better after mine at 27 to realize that mine wasn't very statistically likely.

However, it has been a tremendous source of comfort for me that I am only 27 and still have a number of years left during the "peak fertility" phase. Had I miscarried my first at 37, no doubt that (small) comfort would have been missing...

Posted by: newslinks1 | January 16, 2008 3:39 PM

My grandmother was around A LOT as well. My parents traveled a bunch (when I was little) by themselves, and she would stay with us (sometimes with her sisters). Yes, it was chaotic, and I think the biggest thing is what kind of family you'd like. I think (correct me if I'm wrong, ArmyBrat) that once you would get to three or more, every minute is spent on the kids. Like, I would be less likely to volunteer as much as I do (until they were bigger) or take that exercise class I want to (would have to figure something out at home, or whatever), and taking time for myself would be less likely.

Just my theory. It's just what type of family one would like to have.

Of course, my DS2's teacher is pregnant with number SIX at 32. And she runs a religious school and preschool. And teaches. And runs other successful programs...She's very religious, though...

Posted by: atlmom1234 | January 16, 2008 3:47 PM

I read the Post article, and -- after months of lurking -- finally signed into to WAPO to comment on this blog.

Both my kids were born before I was 30. I'm planning on re-entering the workforce when the youngest starts kindergarten; I'll be 34.

Personally, I feel really lucky that I found my soul mate early in life and that we were married "young" (I was 24, he was 27). We enjoyed a few years w/o kids and now enjoy our preschoolers immensely. My pregnancies were incredibly easy and fun (no infertility here!), and I look forward to being 47 when they are both in college. Even more, I look forward to being in my early 50s when we are done PAYING for college (although that's a different topic altogether)!

One more thing that I am really thankful for: our parents are between 61 & 66. They are young enough to not just take the kids to a park or museum, but to take them ice-skating, skiing, etc. And - god-willing - these 4 wonderful people will be a part of my kids' lives for a long time to come.

Obviously, everyone has to make their own decisions on the right time to have children. I know we made the right decision for us.

That being said, it was interesting that many of the moms I met when my youngest was a baby were 5-10 years older than me. I can't say I felt isolated by them; instead, we were all going through all the baby stuff together and related to one another. Also, since DH is a few years older than me, several of our friends who he went to school with were having kids at the same time we had ours. So I also had companionship that way. I've just gotten used to almost always being the youngest one in a group!

Posted by: nvamom | January 16, 2008 3:48 PM

Did you ever notice how often children born of women over 35 are smaller and sicklier than their peers?

I say: go with Nature. Nature intends for women to have children under the age of 30.
-----------------

Well, I got married at 25, but was not able to have children until I had my first at 33 and second shortly after I turned 36--and then thanks to surgeries to correct the problem preventing a successful, full-term pregnancy.

Son number 1 was delivered by C-section on his due date and weighed 10 and a half pounds. Son number 2 was delivered the same way six days before his due date and weighed 9 pounds.

Neither was small nor sickly.

Nature basically said that I would not be able to have kids, but my doctor made it possible for my husband and me to have two of the most wonderful sons anyone could ever want. Sometimes Nature can be trumped. :)

Posted by: lsturt | January 16, 2008 3:50 PM

There is something to be said about having kids before you are bombarded by all the books and talk shows and after seeing a bunch of your friends do it. I think you trust your instincts more. Granted, your friends can't really give you advice, but they are also more willing to babysit when they don't know what they are in for.

It can also affect your career positively in ways you would not imagine. I never would have become a doula by now and I would not have started my own line of baby clothes based on what I liked for my babies.

I had my kids at 26, 31, and 35. It was sweet having a 9-year old help me with the baby I had at 35.

Amy
Mom to 3
www.sofiabean.com

Posted by: amy | January 16, 2008 4:05 PM

I waited until my 30s to have kids mostly because I thought marriage should come first. But since my marriage ended in divorce, I'm awfully glad I built up a career foundation first. To further complicate matters, ex-DH got seriously ill and was unable to contribute financially for quite some time. So even if I'd stayed married, my ability to earn an income that would support us would have been critical.

I can't help but advise my girls to make sure they have some earning power before they take on responsiblity for children. In principle I support a wider range of choices but my own exerience makes me cautious.

Posted by: anne.saunders | January 16, 2008 4:09 PM

There is something to be said about having kids before you are bombarded by all the books and talk shows and after seeing a bunch of your friends do it. I think you trust your instincts more. Granted, your friends can't really give you advice, but they are also more willing to babysit when they don't know what they are in for.

It can also affect your career positively in ways you would not imagine. I never would have become a doula by now and I would not have started my own line of baby clothes based on what I liked for my babies.

I had my kids at 26, 31, and 35. It was sweet having a 9-year old help me with the baby I had at 35.

Amy
Mom to 3
www.sofiabean.com

Posted by: amy | January 16, 2008 4:18 PM

anne: i think my mom was unhappy with the choices available to her.

Not that she had a choice to have three daughters, but there was never any question that each of us would go to college and mom and dad would pay for it. I think she wanted us to be able to make the choices we wanted to make. She was a fabulous cook, but never was interested in teaching us to cook (or clean, or do any chores, for that matter). Our education was THE MOST important thing, that we were able to be financially sound. That if we wanted to marry and have kids, we could, but that we wouldn't be forced to do that.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | January 16, 2008 4:18 PM

We married when I was 27 and DH was 31. DD was born when I was 33. Of course, we moved across the country 1 week after the wedding, started a business, bought a house that was practically fally down to fix-up -- all during year 1 of our marriage. That was enough stress, thank you very much. Year 2, business failed, DH returned to school. Still not ready. Year 3, I was diagnosed with a rare vision problem and faced the prospect of losing my sight. Still not ready!! Year 4, DH is working again, my vision is, for the most part, saved via surgery. Almost ready. Year 5, DD is born. ACK! You're never ready, LOL.

Posted by: vegasmom89109 | January 16, 2008 4:18 PM

vegas mom: glad you can laugh about all of that now (at least it sounded like laughter).

Posted by: atlmom1234 | January 16, 2008 4:19 PM

I highly recommend laughter as a survival mechanism, LOL. It's a good skill to have as a parent as well. Taking life too seriously gets you nothing but high blood pressure.

Seriously, though, I think after all that, we jumped into parenthood with very little navel-gazing. I mean, if we weren't ready after all THAT, then maybe parenthood wasn't for us, ya know? Then, we saw the little + sign on the pregnancy test and thought, "Oh God, what have we done?" LOL

But, it's been almost 10 years and we haven't killed her or tossed her out on the street. It's been a wild, but fun ride. We are enjoying this as we suspect that the ride becomes more scary than thrilling in a couple more years . . . .

Posted by: vegasmom89109 | January 16, 2008 4:31 PM

If there's one thing I've learned in the last seven months, it's that infertility is a totally random thing. While women over 40 are statistically more likely to have problem, infertility is by no means exclusive to that age group. In fact, most of the women I've met on infertility message boards are in their 20s, not the late-30s I'd have expected. So many of the women I've "met" are heartbroken because they simply don't have enough money to pay for the treatments that could help them have more kids.

FWIW, DH and I were married at 23, and had our daughter when we were 30. It took us two weeks to get pregnant with DD, but we've now been trying for almost 18 months to give her a sibling. The issues I have now are unrelated to age. If we'd had kids right out of the gate and encountered the same issues at 25 that we're now having at 32, there's no way we could have paid for the treatments we need.

Posted by: newsahm | January 16, 2008 4:42 PM

newsahm: I learned when we were trying for a second child that secondary infertility is more common than primary infertility. This surprised me for some reason. We tried to get pregnant for 3 years. Midway through that, the doc offered to refer us to someone who could help us diagnose a potential fertility problem and/or help us with fertility treatments. That initiatied a long, honest talk and we decided to forgo the fertility route. After another year and a half, we both realized that we were very happy with one child and that perhaps this was meant to be our path. We are happy and satisfied with that decision.

Best of luck with your treatments. I do understand that dealing with fertility issues is emotional and heart-wrenching, whether you're young, old, or in between, and regardless of whether or not you already have a child. My prayers are for successful treatments, a smooth pregnancy, and a healthy mom and baby. All the best.

Posted by: vegasmom89109 | January 16, 2008 4:51 PM

OK, I don't get it. Do older feminists view having children as some sort of inconvenient, unfortunate, biological bother that has to be postponed and then gotten over with? Why else would we be having this angels-on-the-head-of a-pin debate?
I'm a 40-year old woman. My husband and I waited until late 30's to start a family, not because of my career goals (I do work, but have never perceived a problem with dropping out of work or working part time for a few years, then returning to my field), but because we wanted to be more financially secure and emotionally "ready" (ha! - as if!) Now we're struggling with infertility and still trying. Women who don't experience infertility may never realize how job, career, and even "enough" financial stability don't add up to a hill of beans compared to a couple's desire to have their own child and create their own family.
I sense that younger women - and I count women about my age and younger - have seen older women place career on an equal or higher footing than family, and thought "that's stupid". It's stupid and short-sighted when women OR men do it. Ultimately, when we become old, most of us - men and women - will look back on a fulfilled, happy life as one full of friends, family, AND contributions to the world, which can come through career AND raising the next generation. Of course I and other women want careers, we want to use our intelligence and contribute in every way, including the workplace. I know we have older feminists to thank for the fact that most of us accept as a given that we ARE equal to men and can choose to be working moms or SAHMs. But frankly, Leslie's article seems to give no thought to the incredible importance of creating and raising the next generation, and I find that a bit disturbing. I'm glad younger women seem to actually recognize how important and valuable being a mom is.
**And on the off-topic thread, I'm a pianist and was very accomplished at playing "The Masochism Tango" while in high school. Great to hear from other Tom Lehrer fans!**

Posted by: MHinNC | January 17, 2008 10:24 AM

Thanks Vegasmom, for your kind words (I hope you see this -- the Post's website wouldn't let me sign in to comment again last night).

And MH, I'd consider myself an ardent feminist (though, at 32, not an "older" one), and yes, we delayed having kids until I felt like my career had a good start and we were financially secure. Ideally, I'd have had my kids within 18-24 months of each other, to minimize my time out of the workforce. That doesn't mean that I think kids are a bother to have and raise, it's just a reflection of the reality that it's hard to have everything all at once.

Posted by: newsahm | January 17, 2008 11:16 AM

I think my stance as a feminist is that part of appreciating those who have paved they way for us is that it give us CHOICES. As the parent of 4 (3 before 30, 2 in law school), I'm watching friends in their late 30's/early 40's with babies, and realizing that I'll have kids finishing college while they're still thinking about kindergarten. Did my career get off to a slower start? Absolutely. But it was a choice I was made, and I get benefits at the back end. I'll be entering the most lucrative years of my life, career-wise, with the bulk of child-raising behind me and got to have small children when I had energy and time, if not as much money.

I have a luxury that previous generations of didn't have, knowing that opportunities would be there after kids -- maybe different opportunities than I would have had at 25, but still good ones. Again, I'm grateful for the options -- and really felt supported by professional women around me who didn't feel the same, 20 or even 10 years earlier.

Posted by: safairbank | January 19, 2008 2:10 PM

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