This is not one of those scare mongering “your ovaries are a ticking time-bomb and your womb will turned to saw dust on the stroke of midnight of your 36th birthday” posts. This is just the musings of a mum that had kids young and then went on to have a laat lammetjie*. There really aren’t any hard and fast rules about the best time to start a family, but here are a few things that you may not have thought about.
1. There is never a “perfect time” to have a baby.
I know a number of people think they need to have all their ducks in a row before they can go down the path of procreation. Things like having a good, well paying job; finding “the one” guy or girl they want to spend the rest of their lives with; owning the perfect family home.
|Line up this way please ducks.|
Now, I am not saying that having one or any of these things as a prerequisite to becoming a parent is a bad thing, but the truth of it is that none of these things are certainties. Each of these things can change in the blink of an eye due to circumstances in life. Not only that; none of these things make you a better parent than someone without them.
There is no such thing as true financial security and no perfect time to have babies.
2. You have just come off the back of partying hard, you know how to function after all nighters.
No, really. You have got this gig. You can stay up all night and still function the next day. I am sure adolescent partying habits are just nature’s way of training us for the early years of parenting. When you are in your 30s and 40s it is such a shock to the system (trying to party hard or have a small baby).
3. You aren’t just having a baby, but growing an adult and all the stages in between.
When most people get that overwhelming urge to procreate, they think of the blooming belly and the squishy baby, maybe the cute toddler or even the sweet preschooler. But this is the short end of the parenting journey, these years fly by faster than you can possibly imagine.
So how old do you want to be when your kid is a teenager? The reason I ask this is because to parent your adolescents effectively you really need to put the same amount of energy into them as you did when they were toddlers. The focus is different, but the level of energy in the same. When you add in the fact that when it comes to brain development adolescence ends at about the age of 24, that is a lot of years your kids need you to be engaged with them.
4. There is plenty of time to have a career after children
You can have a career then kids. You can have a career and kids. You can have kids then a career. None of these are wrong. There are always struggles, compromises and considerations for all of these options. Childcare is expensive. Re-entering the workforce after having kids is a challenge. Juggling Uni and small children could mean studying on the toilet. But it can be easier to start a new career post children than to try and work your way back into an old one, especially if the industry you worked in is particularly dynamic.
5. You don’t know yourself yet.
Here you are, you know who you are. You have hobbies. You have friends. You have a vision of who you are professionally. You have had the luxury of working on you for at least a decade and being in your own skin is the most comfortable thing in the world. Then you start to share your skin with someone else and piece by piece all of the above is eroded away. When you are older, you have had much more time to become set in your identity and no matter how hard you work there will always be sacrifices to who you think you were. Your body, your time, your money, your thoughts and even your feelings no longer belong solely to you. You are left with one identity. Mum.
When you have children earlier in adulthood or late adolescence you are still doing so much growing yourself. You have the opportunity to meld into the role of mum and from there grow to what you want to be along side your child.
Finding out who you are while being a mum is far gentler than finding yourself, becoming a mum and then having to totally redefine who you are afterwards. No matter how you look at it; pregnancy, breastfeeding and parenting changes you physically, emotionally, socially and financially.
*Laat lammetjie is an Afrikaans term which means “late lamb” and refers to a baby born when its siblings are quite a bit older.