We all know that having a family at the right time is paramount to our success as parents. There are a few things to consider when you begin asking yourself ‘am I ready for a baby?’; with us all being different people with different life goals and values, we’ll inevitably each have our own version of what constitutes that elusive ‘best’ age to have a baby.
For most of us, being financially secure and in a stable relationship are imperatives; for others, our position on the career or housing ladder may take priority. But more than ever, there’s another matter that’s vying for precedence above all else, one with which I have a continual struggle to get my head around…
Many of the above factors are, of course, inescapably related to experience – and thus age. But not in every single case. And just as there are exceptions in all matters in life, likewise there will be anomalies in when it comes to the best age to have a baby.
Is There a ‘Right’ or ‘Wrong’ Age to Have a Baby?
Besides which, what criteria determine whether parents have achieved success? And at which point in their child’s life is the measurement of those parameters taken? These questions are, of course, rhetorical, since it’s nigh on impossible to make a fair assessment.
And though there will be cases of parents in less than perfect situations ‘failing’, there will also be children from seemingly ideal circumstances who go on to become addicts, or convicts, or imperfect in some other way; just as there are children from all walks of life who go on to accomplish great things, triumphing ‘challenging’ backgrounds.
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So what is the right age to start your family? And if there is such a thing, does that mean that there’s also a ‘wrong’ age? Perhaps a better question might be whether or not you feel ready to start a family.
Am I Ready For a Baby?
If I had a penny for every time I heard the catchphrase ‘you’ve plenty of time yet; people are having babies later in life now’, I would be writing this piece from the sun lounger on my yacht instead of the chair at my dining room table.
The Biological Best Age to Have a Baby
I have long been challenging these well-meaning intrusions. Okay, perhaps not in the case of strangers, who are more likely to elicit a polite, well-rehearsed smile and nod of faux assent. But it needles: it’s well-documented that geriatric pregnancy, ie. leaving motherhood until our late thirties, forties – and even our fifties – carries many risks, both to ourselves and our babies.
I recently caught a piece on the radio which made me want to fist-bump the doctor speaking. She said that medically speaking teenage pregnancy is not bad. When the interviewer incredulously repeated the sentiment, the doctor confirmed that she stood by it – medically speaking teenage pregnancy is not bad.
Society versus Biology
While I in no way advocate teen pregnancy (it’s not in my life plan to see either of my daughters fall pregnant while still a child themselves), I believe there’s a new issue facing society that we need to acknowledge and address:
The socially respectable and endorsed time to start a family has gained ten years in a generation, yet evolution takes millennia – our biology has not caught up!
While I recognise this to be true and find justification of excessively late pregnancies alarming, my instinctual reaction to teen pregnancy is still one of disapproval. And so I find myself questioning my own judgement about the subject.
Though I like to think my reaction stems from concern – and in some cases I’m certain it does – I fear it may actually be the case that, as with so many other harmful subjects, societal attitudes insidiously become our default proclivities.
What’s the ‘Best’ Age to Have a Baby?
Having done some soul-searching, I wonder if perhaps there’s some defensiveness at play here too, to mask a feeling of inadequacy…
If I sometimes struggle to cope as a mother at my very acceptable age (twenty-nine when my first daughter was born), then it’s a personal affront if somebody younger – and therefore less equipped insofar as experience is concerned – can manage better. Far easier to tell myself that they are naïve/ignorant to the demands of parenthood. Which will sometimes be the case.
But not always.
So I’m trying to recognise this unattractive trait in myself if/when it appears; and if I must (privately) judge at all, I try to do so based on merit rather than age alone.
Ultimately, if there’s a pregnancy and the parents are joyful, to do anything other than sincerely wish them well is shameful, regardless of their circumstances. And, you know, if one can afford the time, some support wouldn’t go amiss either. I know first-hand how valuable that is.
What do you think the ‘best’ age to have a baby is?