By Natasha Sharma
At least twice a week in my practice, I will have a young, bright, and ambitious 20-something year old woman sitting across from me. We’ll ponder life together: Career, friends, hobbies, and relationships. And invariably at least once a week, one of them will tell me that she has a life plan, which includes having kids before the age of 30. The closer they might be to said age without the prospect of procreation in sight, the more angst they feel about ‘missing the deadline.’ When I inquire as to why the deadline is age 30, the response is usually that having kids over the age of 30 is “too old.” Other female clients of mine feel the opposite; they are in no rush and instead state that they in fact prefer to have kids much later in life. Still others, albeit a much smaller percentage, report that they know they never want to have kids and that, my friends, is totally fine (hey, it’s 2015!) But for the ones who know they want them, which is still likely to be most, it raises an interesting question: Is there such a thing as the right time to have children in life? Since 2013, the average age at which Canadian women had their first child topped 30 years. Assuming planned pregnancies by couples and/or otherwise stable familial units, I looked at the pros of having children under age 30 and of having them over age 30 (30 truly seems to be a demarcation point for so many in life, and on so many levels!). Here goes:
Under age 30.
The first and most obvious thing that comes to mind here is that a woman’s fertility is more robust under the age of 30 as compared to over. So she is likely to be able to conceive on average quicker than a woman over 30. In addition, this age bracket statistically poses the least amount of risk in terms of possible health issues for both mother and baby. Women who have children under 30 may also find themselves more energetic compared to their older counterparts, a trait that comes in pretty handy when lifting your 2 year old to the top of the jungle gym – one level at a time naturally – for the 10th time, and it may be less effortful to return to pre-pregnancy size. Mothers in this age bracket can also exercise more choice in terms of the number of years they may desire to have between a 2nd child and any beyond, and they may have greater access to supports from people like grandparents, who could be young enough yet to take boisterous toddlers off their hands for extended periods of time.
Over age 30.
The first pro that stands out for women who have children over the age of 30 is that they are less likely to experience a major disruption in their career trajectory. If they work, they tend to be more settled and secure in their chosen area or field, whatever that may be, and to experience relatively fewer set backs compared to younger mothers. To that end, women in this age bracket also report less overall stress due to having comparatively more wealth and stability to help provide for their family. They are also less likely to experience a fear of missing out on “things they never did when they were young and single/unattached”, a highly irrational but very real feeling for some younger parents. Lower stress for these women may lead to other very tangible and desirable benefits. Research suggests that women who have children later in life tend to live longer than those who have them earlier, and that the divorce rate is lower in families who have children later in life compared to earlier.
Conclusion? There is no right time to have a baby. There is only the best time, for you. Your best time is not necessarily someone else’s best time. But whenever it occurs, it should be at a point when you are ready to commit and surrender yourself consciously, happily, and with security to the inevitable changes in lifestyle and sizeable responsibility that having children entails. And, of course, the endless amounts of fun. Ladies who are reading this, one more thing: Be honest with yourself about what you want, and then be realistic. Don’t become irrationally frightened by erroneous articles using scare tactics stating fertility is virtually non-existent beyond 30 (obviously totally untrue). But do get educated about actual science and facts if you are into your mid-30’s or beyond and know you want to have children. Because – and at the risk of sounding like your mother-in-law – although there may not be a right time, there is definitely a window. And that’s just the way it is.
NKS Therapy offers services such as Career Counselling in Toronto, Couples Counselling in Toronto, Relationship Counselling in Toronto, Family Counselling in Toronto Psychoeducational Assessment Toronto, Toronto Psychologist Services, and Child Psychologist Toronto Services. Call us today at 416-745-4745. We love to help.