More than I care to admit, the topic of relationships, careers and children has been coming up a lot around my apartment these days. This Saturday night was no different. As my housemate and I sat in the kitchen talking, we somehow stumbled onto the topic of whether to have children in your 20s, or wait until your 30s.
She said if she finds a man she wants to marry before 30, no ifs, ands or buts about it— “I popping out dem babies in my 20’s.” I giggled at her Trinidad accent, completely objecting to the idea of having any children before the age of 30. Hell, I’ll even take 29 on the verge of turning 30, but before then— I’m not feeling the idea.
According to 2010 birth statistics completed by the U.S. Census Bureau, 42 percent of women ages 25 to 34 with at least one bachelor’s degree gave birth for the first time, compared to 76 percent for women ages 35 to 44.
Although I have no desire to wait until my late 30’s or 40’s, I can understand why so many women are choosing to.
Call me selfish, but there is too much I want to do before I am 30, and right now, while I am in my 20’s— I feel this is the best time to do them. I want to travel the world, maybe move a few more times. Challenge myself career wise and achieve accomplishments my family can truly be proud of. All these things become harder to do when you have a child who depends on you to provide for them.
Also, let’s face it; we all have had those conversations with one girlfriend who’s worried about her ticking biological clock. I want to let love naturally happen. You know, boy meets girl and they begin to date before getting married? Not, boy meets girl, and girl begins to plan when they’ll get married and what color the bridesmaids’ dresses will be, all before knowing what he wants to do with the rest of his life. I don’t want to put a rush order on marriage for the sake of having children before reaching the fertility peaking age of 28.
Ninety percent of couples’ marital bliss declines within a year after the birth of their first child, according to a study done by the University of Denver. And 40 percent of children born to two parents can expect to live in a single-parent household by the time they are 18, as reported in 2009 by the U.S. Census Bureau.
My parents spent the majority of the ‘80s dating, and late in the decade, they were married. A few months after “I do,” my mother was pregnant with me. Now as a young woman, I realize my parents never had the chance to transition from dating, to husband and wife, before becoming mom and dad. As a child of divorced parents, who separated shortly after I started school, I want to spend a few years getting to know my husband— a man I’m no longer “just dating.”
Lastly, for obvious reasons, I want to be financially stable. The majority of your lifetime earning potential takes place in your 20s, says Dr. Meg Jay, author of The Defining Decade, estimating two-thirds of lifetime wage growth happens during the first 10 years of your career.
As women, we are often made to feel that our 30’s are the end of the world. Like we have to accomplish and do all of these things before we find ourselves on the other side of our 20’s. With the average person living anywhere from 72 to 80 years, not factoring personal health or family genetics, is having a child in your 30’s really that bad? But what can I say? This is just a plan, and that’s the beautiful yet nerve racking thing about them— nothing ever seems to go quite according to “the plan.”
Jasmine Berry is a senior majoring in journalism at St. John’s University. Follow her on twitter @signedjas.