Yesterday was my 35th birthday and I celebrated with family and friends by attending a (Spanish-language) book club — we read La isla bajo el mar about slavery in the Dominican Republic by Isabel Allende — and three back-to-back get-togethers. There was a steady stream of well-wishes, flowers, gifts and a lot of love. Then I got home and there were similar messages on Facebook. Thank you all!
That said, I am woefully behind on my e-mails and news reading. I did catch this interesting thread in Carolyn Hax’s column about deciding the “best time” to have children.
GRASS IS GREENER
Dear Carolyn, can you offer any insight into a dilemma my husband and I are having? We are 27 and 28 and have been married for 2.5 wonderful years. We’re financially stable and we own a home. We want children and are starting to feel real baby pangs. But whenever we talk to a couple who had kids young, they all urge us to wait. We’d be the only ones among our friends (who are mostly still single, some newlyweds but years away from kids) with the responsibility of a baby. They say we should enjoy spoiling ourselves and each other for a little while longer, and that they wish they had waited longer. BUT, we have also talked to several older couples who waited longer to have children, doing so in their mid-to-late-30s. One is my husband’s sister, who unequivocally says if she had it to do again, she would have started a decade earlier. We have seen heartbreaking fertility struggles and serial miscarriages, and I have a coworker who at age 42 just took several days of personal vacation to work on coming to terms with the fact that she will never be a mom. We are sure we want kids, but it’s starting to seem like no matter WHEN we do it, we’ll have regrets either way. Can you help shed light on this? Thanks!
There will always be something you wish you had known or done. If you base your decisions on what others say, you will open yourself to even deeper regrets than if you base your decisions on what you know about yourself.
For example, some people who are the first among their friends to have kids pine for the freedom their friends still have, but others are more than ready to stop “spoiling” themselves and want no other life than the one they share with their kids. Which one are you?
Listen to your friends, by all means, but not to the conclusions they’ve drawn; those are about them.
Instead, listen to the reasons they came to these conclusions, and use them to inform your decisions. Just drawing from your examples, there’s the issue of getting your sillies and self-indulgence out of your system before throwing your needs in the backseat for 18-plus years, and there’s the issue of not waiting so long that your fertility drops off a cliff. There are also the issues of your energy level, your financial security, the ages you’ll be when your kids become adults, etc.
I got a chuckle reading the letter writer’s “booze” line because just this past weekend I was at a couple dinner parties in which there was plenty of drinking among parents while the kids played in the backyard. The difference between now and then? We called it a night at 10 p.m. and that’s fine by me.
Ultimately, I don’t think there is a magical age — and as one letter-writer pointed out, the 42-year-old could still become a mother even if not biologically. The bottom line is that raising children is expensive and time-consuming. When would you like to fit it in? It really is up to you.
When did you know it was the “right time” to have children?