I spent a fabulous weekend recently partying with some fabulous people in their mid-to-late 30s who were all childless and waiting for the “right” moment to start their family. At the end of the fabulous weekend, I went back to my partner and our three squiggly kids, who covered me with sloppy kisses, and they went back to… waiting for the right time.
It’s a very popular notion among in Western society today—waiting to have children until the time is right: until you have your career at the right point, the right house, the right car, the right balance in your bank account… I personally believe there are few cultural fallacies that as potently contribute to people’s unhappiness. What point in your career is the right point? What amount of money is sufficient? You could always make more (and spend more)…
But then, we’re a family where the money comes from freelance writing and film-making, so really, waiting for financial stability as most people define it was never in the cards in the life plan. And if I were to do it all over again—if anything, I would have had the little bums sooner and closer together.
If you’re reading me, you’re probably not waiting to have children—you’ve got them. Do you think they came at the right time? Do you think they came too early? Or did you wait too long?
The adjustment to parenthood and familyhood is never easy. Is it easier if you go straight into it after a short period together as a couple… or after years or decades of “couplehood”?
Life happens as it does, and so many of our life choices aren’t really choices. Ya’ can’t have them babies until you find the right partner. Ya both need to want them… ya both need to be on the same page… ya both have to think it’s the “right” time.
But if your idea of the “right” time is the “perfect” time, the “ideal” time… well. There’s no such thing.
(Creative Commons photo with the tag: Babies are always the same. Ha ha.)
Hey, if you’re in your twenties and cringing at this, visit The Rambling Amazon and read why she doesn’t want to have kids right now for a counterpoint.
when I had my first baba Aimee I was 27, Josh came along 18 months later then my Hollie another 18 months later! Having three aged 3 and under was tough but alot of fun! I would have loved more but for me 3 is perfect as I always felt guilty that my time was not spread evenly between them! We have so much fun and the idea of a baba now makes me freak out! I have baby nephews and its great to be able to pass them back at the end of the day! x
I have total closure now too, LP. Many of my “peers” are just now starting to have babies and have toddles and wee ones in diapers and arms… and I love to see them, but I am so glad to be moving out of that stage of my life. I worried I’d have baby envy and want another–but no. I’m done. 🙂
me too! xx
Jane, we too were of the mindset that would wait until we had a house to have kids, but we were no closer to the house and I was already 32 years old. I truly didn’t want to wait much longer and so we decided to begin trying. I got pregnant with Emma and then 16 months after having Emma had Lily. So, I agree with you about putting one’s life off and not just grabbing for the gold so to speak. I love my girls and truly happy I didn’t wait and it would be way to quiet around here. Everything happens for a reason though I suppose!! Great post and couldn’t agree more 🙂
We had our first when I was 30 – but we were trying for 2 years to get pregnant. I wasn’t planning on it taking so long, so in a way I wish we tried earlier.
We waited until we were in our early 30s to start trying, and it took a lot longer than I thought it would to get pregnant. I’m glad we waited because we did a TON of traveling, but I have to admit that during that first year of sleep deprivation, I had many moments where I wished we had done it sooner. I’m too old to be pulling all-nighters! 😉
But I agree with you – there is never a “perfect” time to have kids. Better to just rip the bandaid off and do it, so to speak.
I had my daughter when I was 22, and the only regret I have? I really had her with the wrong man. My second son with my ex was born when I was barely 26. We didn’t have our lives together, the house, the car, all of that. Actually at times we found ourselves completely unable to make ends meet before our second child together was born. Still, I never regret it. The only thing I feel bad about is I wish all my kids had the same dad. Oz isn’t perfect, but he’s definitely an improvement on the older two’s dad. That being said, he was only 16 when my oldest was born, so that probably wouldn’t have gone over too well!
When Oz and I had our next child together I was 28 and he was 22, so he was still pretty young. We didn’t have our act together and we had some rough times where we weren’t sure how we would get by, then this past year our littlest comes along a little unexpectedly. With 4 kids everyone keeps telling us that we “can’t afford” to have any more and we really need to wait until our lives are “more stable”. We’re not planning any more, but if it happens, it happens. For health reasons I’m done with babies when I turn 35 and that’s only 3 years away. We don’t really have the time to wait for the job, the house, two cars in the garage, and all of that if we’re going to try for one more girl. If we’re going to do it, we’re going to have to start thinking about it in the next year.
Thinking about it (and I know this is getting WAY long), I can’t imagine what life would be like without all four of my kids. I can’t imagine how life would be if I decided to wait until I had a career I would eventually give up, the house, the car, everything exactly the way it’s “supposed to be” before we decided to have our kids. I might never have gotten divorced and ended up with such a fantastic person! My life would be so incredibly different now. Sure, it’s not easy trucking 4 kids around with no car and living out in the country. Our house is kind of small for the number of people we’ve got living in it and we’re still living paycheck to paycheck, but it’s totally worth it. If I had waited for everything to fall in line, I would have missed out on so much. If my life wasn’t where I wanted it, I might still be childless and looking at 3 years left to safely plan a child. In the end I may have ended up with none at all. If I had to go back and do it all again, I think I might have changed a few details, and probably planned it out better so we’d be able to have two more instead of just one, because I honestly love my large family!
In a way, it’s one of those silly things to debate about, because it all happens when it happens right? One of my if I was going to be do it all over again is — sooner, closer together. But. Sooner wasn’t really in the cards. And would closer together been better? Different, for sure. Ultimately, it is what it is, they come when they come, your life changes when it must.
First of all, the English teacher in me is in love with this post because of the exceptional writing. I’m done assessing…second, this post could not have come at a better time for me. The hubs and are I going back and forth about a third kiddo. My son is the ultimate, basically parents himself. My daughter is a project with a capital P and I just keep telling myself to wait until she’s a bit older, a bit more independent, a bit more…chill. I don’t think the latter will ever happen (because she’s ME…), so I’m left wondering: When IS the best time?! I’m 32, and like another reader commented: I’m afraid I’m nearing the point in my life that I’m too old for all-nighters. Okay, this was really random and poorly written. So tell me, woman, should I go for the gold??!!! (And how difficult/different is it when the kids outnumber the adults?!)
If you’re going to have a third, go for the gold now. Having the gap–no diapers, nights full of sleep, rational children–and then going back to babies and toddlers is really tough.
(and thank you for the lovely compliment. 🙂 )
First find a man…. hmmm…. therein lies the problem! I’ve never been the ‘I’m desperate to have kids’ type, but always thought it might be kind of nice to have a couple. But the clock is ticking and there is no sign of a man on the scene, so I’m almost resigned to it not happening. Note the almost. I wouldn’t be distraught if I never had any, but it would be nice to have a shot at it. I reckon I’ve got a year to meet someone, marry him, and start the process…. then keep my fingers crossed 🙂
PS however, since I’m not currently looking for a suitable man… erm….slight problem!
Whatever the universe throws at you, you’ll make something wonderful out of it. 🙂
Although I do hope it’s not rotten eggs (sorry, really bad pun there!) 🙂
LOL. I’m pretty sure there’s a very useful chemical one can distill from rotten eggs.
Great post! With both of our children, we never considered there to be a “right” time. Meaning, we didn’t establish goals or milestones we wanted to reach prior to having our kids. Perhaps we’re unusual but I just remember that having a child seemed a natural progression of our relationship. I think if we thought too hard about it we might have scared ourselves into never having children!
As I said in the post, for us–writer and filmmaker–when would we ever be stable? When would we ever be “less busy”? I also think–we’ve done a lot of our growing as humans as a family–not solo and not as a couple–and that makes every day life easier. Know what I mean? If there’s been just the two of you for 10 years–15–changing habits and patterns to include a third little being is much tougher.
I couldn’t agree more! If you’re waiting for the right time than the time will never come. As I sit here and write these very words, I feel convicted. My husband desperately wants a third. But I am closer to forty now and a bit reluctant to get pregnant again. What’s a girl to do?
No easy answer. I know all of my pregnancies were before 35, but the one seven years after the first was absolutely the toughest. But would I have not gone through it? God, worth every agonizing moment in the end…
Yeah, I mean, this is what I keep telling my friends who are trying to time it perfectly. Nothing is perfect. You could get pregnant in three minutes or it could take you three years. I’m going to send this to a couple of folks. Good post.
There, is that better?
Thanks, Deb! I loved the 7 games to play with milk post, btw. If anyone’s reading through the comments, click here NOW: http://www.urbanmoocow.com/2013/01/7-fun-games-to-play-with-milk.html
Thanks and thanks for the plug. 🙂
I have to agree with you – I would have started earlier or maybe had my girls closer together. I’m 40 now and sooo happy that I don’t have a baby or toddler to keep up with! Maybe I’m just tired out?! I think starting later has its advantages, but physically I think it’s easier when we are younger. 🙂
Good advice. So true. Better to have the kids when you’re young and have the energy anyway!
I loved this post…and I read it a bit after reading the counter point. Did you guys plan that?
No, total coincidence; I saw Rachel’s post in my FB newsfeed today and decided to connect to it.
Awesome post! My husband and I both agree that we were at a perfect time in our lives to start our family. We had gotten to travel a lot, spend plenty of time just enjoying each other and really get settled. Where we are from, most of the girls we know were young mothers and we have seen how hard they struggled and are just so grateful to be where we are. I was thirty-four and he was thirty six when we had our first. We were/are young enough to get down on the floor and roll around with our brats, but old enough to have done some wonderful things so as to not feel like we’re missing out.
You make some excellent points. As the mom of two, I definitely agree- there is no good time to have kids. There is always a reason it is inconvenient, and it is an adjustment no matter when you do it. Our kids are five years apart, and I think there are always good and bad things about each type of spacing. If we have another, we will not wait much longer!
The “right” time is going to wizz past – I think people use this as a stalling tactic. I have some fabulous friends who are all waiting for the right time.. I want to shake them and say – It’ll soon be TOO late!! Get on with it!
Or… of course, maybe they’re delaying because they’re not 100% sure they want to be parents, ever?
True, possibly. And if you’re not sure, then for sure you ought not to be. Children need to be wanted.
I really love the thought that when I am 40, I will have a permanent live-in babysitter in my eldest… that diapers and (regular) sleepless nights will be behind me… that my children and I will be watching movies we BOTH enjoy together… I’m just so thrilled about this stage of my life.
I had mine when I had ’em. I wish I’d had them earlier when I was younger and sure I knew it all and had waaaay more energy. I wish I’d waited longer until I’d developed more patience and wisdom and sorted out my own emotional crap. I didn’t get married until 29 (squeaked it in a few weeks before 30) had our first 18 months later and our second 2 years after that. I sometimes wish we’d been together as a couple longer to really build a more solid foundation (We dated a year and were engaged for a year). Then I’m glad we got the baby stages over with early because I feel like our relationship is getting so much closer now that they are old enough to not take all of our attention and we can refocus on each other. I’m definitely in the camp of ‘there ain’t no perfect’. Now if only I could apply that wisdom to other areas of my life…
Whenever we talk about what would we have done differently… it almost always boils down to “but we really couldn’t have done it any other way.” Which makes me think that this was a post totally without a point… except that it clearly struck a nerve with so many friends and readers.
I kinda liked your point : ). I think I could have done it a ton of different ways. I could have stayed with some of the guys I was with before (my first boyfriend broke up with me and I still thank my lucky stars since I never would have and can only see how twisted a relationship it was in retrospect). I could have picked apart my hubby as I did most guys after boyfriend #1 and found ways to prevent getting close and committing. We could have waited for kids longer after getting married. We even discussed not having any. I could have gotten knocked up long before meeting hubby and mostly have luck to thank that I didn’t. I think it could have gone differently an infinite number of ways. I think the real point is that there are too many variables for us to ever be able to find perfect and holding off for it means you miss even more. The point I took for your original post was basically life is messy so embrace it. Wasn’t it John Lennon who said ‘Life is what happens when you’re making other plans’?