This is probably one of the most talked-about issues surrounding pregnancy: when is the best time to have a baby?
Some feel that you should wait until your 30s, so you have plenty of time to experience life first. Some prefer to have kids in their 20s because they want to be young moms — like me.
And while the answer isn’t, and shouldn’t, be the same for everyone, there are a few things to keep in mind when choosing to have a baby:
1. Are you in a stable relationship? — I’d personally recommend being married, but I know that doesn’t work for everyone. At the very least, you should be in a stable, committed relationship. (Yes, there’s a minority of women who choose single motherhood on purpose, but it’s a lot harder, so consider carefully before opting for this.) Remember, having a baby will not make a struggling relationship better!
2. Are you financially secure? — There’s no “perfect” time to have a baby, financially, and you’ll never have “enough” money, but realistically, do you make enough to live a comfortable life? Are you able to meet your needs now and can you afford a bit extra to take care of a child too? If you’re struggling under mountains of debt and aren’t even sure you’ll have a place to live next month, it’s probably not the right time.
3. Have you and your husband/partner discussed having children? Not just “should we,” but when, and how to raise them? — Don’t jump into parenthood until you’re both sure what you’re getting into. It’s no good if you envision a houseful of kids starting in your early 20s…but he envisions a single child, born in your mid-30s! Same goes for major parenting philosophies. If he’s a strict “children should be seen and not heard” type of guy, and you’re into attachment parenting, you’re going to run into issues. Talk about these things before deciding to have kids, and get on the same page — at least mostly. (No, you’ll never agree on everything!)
4. How does 24/7 responsibility for a child sound to you? — Some people feel completely strangled by the idea…choked of their freedom. Others relish the idea of having a baby and couldn’t care less about giving up their freedom. If you’re still in the “I-don’t-want-to-be-tied-down” camp, it’s not time to have a baby yet. It’s really, really important to be mature here, and realize that your lifestyle will change (no matter how much you swear it won’t), and that you should not have a baby if you will resent not being able to leave for spur-of-the-moment dinners at 10 PM, spend evenings in bars, or even just sleep in whenever you want.
5. Do you really want a baby? — Maybe it sounds dumb, but some people have babies because their husbands want one, their mothers are pressuring them for grandchildren, all their friends are having babies, or they think it’s “time” to do it. Those are all bad reasons to have a baby! You have to really want a child…because as wonderful as they are, they are also a challenge and a huge change in your life. Do it because you (and your husband/partner) both really want a child, not because of what anyone else says or thinks.
If you can answer these questions and feel satisfied that, yes, it’s the right time for you — then have a baby! Being a certain age doesn’t automatically make you a better or worse parent. Some people are truly, honestly ready for a baby in their very early 20s…and others really aren’t ready until their mid-30s or later. There are advantages and disadvantages to each, but neither is “better.” Perhaps a decision is better for each individual person, but not for everyone, as a blanket statement. Remember: whenever you start as a parent, however much life experience you have, you’re still a parent for the first time, and you’re still starting at the same place as every other first-time parent. (My mom and I have had extensive conversations on this topic…and we agree. I was a first-time mom at 22, she was a first-time mom at 33.)
How did you know when you were ready for a baby? Or are you not there yet?
Top image by philcampbell