When is the right time to have a child?

By on Jun 30th

Tick tick tick

Photo by John Carleton

I want to be an offbeat mom. It has been my plan to grow up, get married, and have kids. Now at twenty-seven, I feel like I'm behind on all of the above and wonder how one "knows" when it is the right time to have a child. Or, is there no right time?

Many parents inform me that if you "wait until you are ready" it "will never happen." The general consensus is that parents make their families work regardless of the obstacles presented to them. Am I being foolish by waiting until I feel financially secure before reproducing?

Ariel says…

Such a great question. I've got a slightly warped perspective on the matter, since it took me five years of trying to finally conceive — five years where we saved up and made sure we felt really financially ready to have a child.

I think back to when I first started wanting a baby at age 25, and I compare my earning potential then (I was making $500/month editing a rave magazine) vs. now (if I wanted to go back to corporate life, I'd be interviewing for Marketing Manager jobs at Micro$oft) and I feel like … maybe one silver lining of infertility was that it forced me to wait — and while I waited, I worked and saved.

But given the option, would I have had the baby in my mid-20s? YES. A million times yes. Not to get all OMG TICKING BIOLOGICAL CLOCK on you, but there's no denying that conception and birth are usually easier in your 20s than your 30s.

Then again, as someone who's worked on her career for over a decade, I also gotta say it's really nice to have a solid foundation to support my family. Not that I couldn't have gotten to this point if I'd had a child at 25, but any young working mother will tell you — it's no walk in the park.

I'm not sure I have a clear answer — on a certain level I do agree with your parents. There's no perfect time, and especially with the way Americans think about money … there's NEVER enough. And the baby industrial complex looooooves to tell you that babies cost a freaking fortune, when the reality is that thanks to handmedowns and second-hands and ingenuity, you just don't need 90% of the crap you worry about needing to save for. Then again, it's nice to be putting money into my son's college fund.

But! I'm just one perspective (mid-30s, infertility sufferer, middle class, etc). What about Stephanie, a mom in her 20s?


Stephanie says…

I love this question! While I totally understand your motivations to wait until you're financially secure, in my experience, financial security isn't always…quite so secure. As Ariel said, you quickly discover that babies don't require NEARLY as much as the media and other parents make you think they do, and you can find some really awesome stuff second-hand or at thrift stores and estate sales. In fact, I'd say the first 12 months are pretty easy on the wallet–you'd be amazed by the deals you can find online! I think the toddler years will prove to be a bit more pricey, but that's because of decisions we're making for Jasper (putting him in Montessori, mostly) that aren't decisions every parent chooses to make.

Sean and I conceived Jasper while still in college–intentionally. I got pregnant in August, and we graduated in December. Granted, we did think that it would take a little bit longer than our first try to make a baby, but we were thinking months, not years. My point: we had always discussed that IF we had children in the first place, we would have them young. This wasn't something we spent weeks or months debating — it was kind of something we just knew. If it was going to happen, we wanted to do it now, and not later.

Pre-graduation, neither of us had a truly realistic idea of what the outside world would be like, job-wise. Both of us had worked part-time jobs for years (since age 15) and a variety of places (fast food, waiting tables, coffee shops, etc.), but we had never really tried to get full-time employment. Fast forward to graduation, a cross-country move, and discovering no one will hire a woman who is a fresh graduate (with a Sociology degree, no less) and 20 weeks pregnant in a recession, and BOOM. Instant "male has to get a job and FAST" scenario.

This didn't exactly pan out the way we thought it would, and after moving BACK across the country, things got a little better. Neither of us are making tons of money (I work from home as a photographer & OBM editor, while Sean is a student and works part-time on-campus), but we're also really great planners and savers.

We don't spend money while out much (the baby really helps there, as well, and we tend to go to more free things then we used to), and we definitely don't eat out–we cook and eat nearly all of our meals at home. On top of that, we're very food-conscious, and don't buy a lot of junk food when we're at the store. Budgeting can be your BEST friend, and also allow you to still do really fun things and travel — you just have to stay aware of what you do and do not have.

And finally, I hate to echo what you've already heard, but I am a firm believer in the "no time is THE right time" philosophy of child-bearing — or maybe that should be "every time is THE right time," since I like to keep it upbeat. I listened to my body, which was screaming "BABY. NOW. WOMAN.", and Sean agreed, and that was the most thought we put into conceiving. This probably isn't a path most people are comfortable with, but we're not big schedulers or planners — just pretty decent budgeters.


And so, there are two perspectives — one from a 30-something mom who waited (albeit against her choice) and one from a 20-something mom who didn't. Offbeat Mamas, what say you? Is there a RIGHT time to have a child?