Is There An Ideal Age For This Life-Changing Milestone?

Mothers of any age seem to share many of the same experiences.  We worry about our children, and we are often tired, frustrated, or overwhelmed.  We also cherish every minute of every phase because we know they grow up too fast.

Generations ago, women typically had children at a young age, but with advancements in healthcare and increased longevity, many women now wait until they are older to start a family.

The decision of when to have children is a personal one, with couples considering many factors.  Physical health and energy levels, financial security, and careers all come into play.  So is it “better” to have children earlier, or when you are older?  It turns out; there are advantages – and disadvantages – to both.

Today.com reported:

We all know the perfect age at which to have that first baby — it’s whatever age you were when you had yours, or your mother had hers. And yet if we can be objective about it, we know there are pros and cons to motherhood at any age. Energy level, financial stability, confidence level — they’re all factors. And motherhood is so individual. Anyone who thinks all moms over 40 are too exhausted to chase after toddlers hasn’t been to a Gymboree birthday party lately.

A report released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveals that the average age of first-time moms is at its highest level, rising from 24.9 years old in 2000 to 26.3 in 2014. The number of teen births has dropped, and there’s been a big jump in the number of moms over 30. In 2014, 9 percent of the first-time moms in the U.S. were over 35.

Many couples are choosing to wait later to have children than in generations past.  Women may want to become established in their careers before having kids, and both parents may want to make sure they are financially strong before expanding their families.

Others jump right in and start a family as soon as they can.  They feel they will have more energy for their kids when they are young and may have friends their age who are having kids.  There are no right or wrong answers.

Studies show that couples are marrying later in life than a few decades ago, and the average age for having a first child increases slightly each year.  While we used to consider “older” moms as being over the age of 35, it is now increasingly common to have kids well into our forties.

Pregnant Chicken reported on the benefits of having children at a younger age:

  • Newer Equipment. All the gears and whistles haven’t been cranking as long so the machine is going to recover a little faster, plus there’s a lower risk for birth defects and miscarriage.

  • More energy. Yes, yes, I know there are 60-year-old spitfires out there and many of you are going to say you have more energy now than you did when you were in your twenties but, generally speaking, I was better equipped to run after a toddler at 21 than I was at 38.

  • You’re still young when your kids are older.How awesome would it be to have a kid leaving for college when you’re 40?

  • You could be around for some grandkids AND great-grandkids. If everyone continues your trend, you may be around to see a lot of babies, which is nice.

And there are also many benefits to having children when you are older and, generally speaking, more settled.  Pregnant Chicken continued:

  • Money and career.It may not be as much of a juggle to have a baby if you have an established career and bank balance. Come to think of it, it’s easier to do just about anything with an established career and bank balance.

  • Your friends have blazed the trail. Ahhh, nothing is better than the “don’t waste your money on that stroller” advice and the pristine hand-me-downs from your friends that have already been in the trenches for a while.

  • More mellow.You may be less likely to go nuts over things when you have a little life experience to put it all in perspective.

  • I like the fact that I’ve been able to bring more life knowledge to motherhood than I would have been able to 15 years ago.

Another unique perspective that can be brought into the debate is that many couples want large families.  They may have their first child in their early twenties, and their last in their forties.

This can be an incredibly enriching experience as the older ones watch you model good parenting skills to the younger ones – skills they will use when they have their own kids — and they can help out and gain a little experience themselves (and sometimes give mom a little break!).

And the younger ones will have a strong support system of older siblings who can offer some guidance and advice as they grow up together.  Having several children of varying ages can be a special blessing and create a unique family bond.

Many moms so completely dedicate themselves to parenting that it can be a special blessing to still have younger kids when the older ones leave home for work or school – or to start their own families.  Let’s face it, who really wants an empty nest?

And even more interesting – mothers who have children over the course of several decades may find themselves with their own little ones and grandchildren on the way!

Of course, there are disadvantages to either.  Having kids when you are older may mean you have more security and life experience, but less energy and less in common with other new moms.  And while women in their forties can still easily have healthy babies, there is more risk for birth defects or pregnancy complications.

But, there is a great deal to be said for experience, as well.  Many of us undergo a huge shift in priorities as we age.  We don’t seem to sweat the small stuff as much and, ironically, may have more patience for the craziness of raising kids simply because we don’t sweat the small stuff anymore!

The bottom line is, whatever age you decide to start a family, it will always be a blessing – there is no “perfect” age to be a mom.  We all want the best for our kids and no matter what our age, we all seem to grow up and change a little ourselves when we have a new precious life to care for.

Are you a mom who had kids fairly young, when you were a little older, or somewhere in between?  Or have you raised children throughout different phases of your life?  Leave us your thoughts in the comments.

 

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