I’m no parenting specialist, but I’ll tell you one thing straight off the bat — there is no right or wrong answer to the question of, “when should you have children?” Why? Because people are still going to give birth, no matter what opinion you badger them with.
But let’s agree that baby-making is a complicated matter. Here are the arguments:
“Have kids when you are young.”
Having children at a young age is advantageous for a few reasons. It’s way easier to get preggers if you are younger than if you are older. Having your own children may also reduce a woman’s risk of getting breast cancer. These are all the various medical statements the media throws out every so often. You may also hear this information from your grandparents, and possibly your own parents (but I’m just convinced they want to see some grandkids before they die). Which brings up another advantage to having kids at a young age — you’ll get to spend more time on earth with your children. Some people think it’s weird for a five-year old kid to call a 60-year old man “poppa.” And who wouldn’t want a few more years of parent-child interaction? Kids can be cool, even when they are forty. So there’s that.
“Have kids when you are older.”
On the other hand, some would say it is better to have children when you’re older. Presumably, the older you get, the more responsible, secure and stable you become. Hopefully, as you age you’ll earn more money, so you can actually afford to raise a family. You might even have a nice home, have paid off your debts, and have gotten to a point where you are ready to take the next step. Plus, if you can’t have your own children because the end-all, be-all doctors said you’re too old to be a parent, don’t listen to them — there are other ways to create a family, such as adoption. A lot of people feel that people may be wiser, more mature, and prepared for the difficult moments that go into child-rearing the older they get.
This is why the baby-schedule question is so hard. I’m 26 and I can tell you right now, I’m nowhere near ready to have a kid. But am I going to be screwed later on in life because something didn’t grow in my uterus and slide through my nether regions at the right time? It might be healthier and easier to conceive if you are 16 rather than 65. But my mom had her first kid when she was 31, and two more within five years after that. We ended up perfectly healthy, smart, and of sound mind (and she’s fine too). So who’s right? Should you have a child anyway because some medical statistic told you so? Or do you put it off until you’ve done everything you’ve ever wanted to accomplish before settling down?
You want to know how I really feel? I feel like people should have babies when they know they can devote their time and energy into raising children. And because they want to be genuinely great parents. Because having kids is tough. They need a lot of things. They need you to do a lot of things for them. I know you can live on Diet Coke and a Caesar salad for lunch, but your kids can’t. And you are totally allowed to come home at 3:30 a.m. drunk off your ass as a single adult, but to do so with a child in tow is irresponsible. A child is not some cool accessory you pick up and everyone thinks is so awesome for five minutes; the sale is final, you can’t toss it out if you get bored. You can have kids whenever you want, but just know that your entire life changes the minute you create half of yourself. You won’t be able to do the same things you used to.
That being said, you will experience a lot of cool, new things — like how cool it feels to hear a kid say “I love you” and seriously mean it. Or to see them waddle up with a crayon picture that was made especially with you in mind. And watching them graduate high school will make you feel really proud. They will drive you crazy, and you will resent them at times, but having kids can be extremely rewarding. Kids are so goofy. When your job sucks and your boss is a prick and you come home to your kid dancing on the couch wearing a Spiderman mask and declaring himself “General Poopsmith,” how can you NOT laugh?
That is a totally weird thing to say and how did they even think of something so wacky?
I don’t have any children myself, but I’m a teacher, and have worked as full-time nanny. So I’ve experienced a whole gamut of youngster personalities, and aside from actually giving birth, I’ve dedicated a lot of time to taking care of other people’s children. Some are angels, some you want to drop kick into the next playground. But they are all products of their environment, and parents largely have control over these environments. You want to have a child at 21? That’s cool. But don’t you owe it to your kid to work really hard so that you can move out of your college dorm and have a nice, safe home to raise your baby? Or if you’re over the hill and still want kids, what’s more important — complaining about your lower back pain and how high the taxes are, or letting go of your “adult” sense of self, loosening up, and having a tea party with your kid?
So here’s my final word — have children whenever the hell you want. But please, please, PLEASE, just be a good parent. Be the kind of parent you wish you’d had growing up (especially if you had fantastic parents — be BETTER than them). Don’t have children to salvage your marriage, or to put your partner between a crib and a hard place. Don’t feed them Doritos for breakfast. Don’t use the television or computer as a babysitter. Read to them each night. Play make-believe and dress-up with them. Check their candy on Halloween to make sure no one has put razor blades in their Snickers bars. Take an interest in their daily lives, laugh at the funny things they do, give them hugs when they are sad and high fives when they’ve done something awesome (which is a lot more than you’d think).
Your kids will never care how old you were when you had them, but they will care if you are a crappy parent.