If you're like me, you evaluate the pros and cons of any major life decision. When my husband and I were considering starting a family, I thought about my career, education, and financial stability. I wanted to know how a pregnancy and childbirth would impact the life I was living as a 20-something. In the end, the pros of waiting outweighed the cons, and we didn't have a child until I was, well, no longer a 20-something. But there are things no one tells you about having a baby in your 30s, too, and I think they're worth discussing when you're considering something as life-changing as parenthood.
Looking back, and with the knowledge I've now earned, I can tell you that I'm very happy I waited to start a family. Because I waited until I was 30 to start having kids, I was able to get a jumpstart on my career, achieve some financial stability, and buy a home before I brought kids into the mix. I was also able to travel alone and with my partner, get a Master's degree, live overseas, and have lots of sex for the sake of having sex and not, you know, for the sake of procreation.
There are some cons to starting a family a little "later" in life, though. Each pregnancy has been harder on my body and as I've gotten older. I know I will never fit into my pre-pregnancy jeans ever again. I've started to care less about that, though, so I have that going for me. I've felt way more confident in my 30s than I ever felt in my 20s, so ignoring society's expectations of postpartum women has grown easier and easier. But you wouldn't believe the comments people have made about my age, my health, and my biological clock. It seems like once a day, almost every day, someone will ask me to explain my family planning choices, even though it's honestly none of their damn business.
There's nothing more personal than deciding when or how to start a family, and for many moms like me, waiting until your 30s is absolutely the right choice. If you think it's the right choice for you, too, here are a few things I think you should know about your decision:
Pregnancy Will Probably Suck More
I can tell you that, for me, the difference between having a baby at 30 and having a baby at 38 was huge. I'm not sure if it's the difference between a first baby and a third baby, or if my body is less able to tolerate pregnancy, but my last pregnancy inspired me to never get pregnant again. It was that bad.
I'm so tired. I don't know if I would be this tired if I were younger, but I am pretty sure I haven't slept a full night since Barack Obama was elected to office the first time. I do remember pulling all nighters in college and grad school, and staying up to watch the sunrise after a night of tequila shots, so I know I had energy at some point in my life. I can safely say that, now, I am too old for that sh*t.
You May Actually Be Healthier
According to University of Texas-Austin sociologist John Mirowsky, Ph.D., women who give birth in their late teens are actually less healthy than those who wait until their 30s to have babies. While fertility does decline in your 30s, the same study found that there are social and economic benefits of waiting to procreate that can impact your health. Surprisingly, researchers believe the best age to get pregnant was late 20s to early 30s, in terms of maternal and child health outcomes.
You Probably Have Your Sh*t Together
It makes sense that waiting to have kids in your 30s might mean that you have more time to get your finances, job, education, and house in order before starting a family. In fact, science confirms it. A Danish study published in the journal PLOS actually found that moms who had their first child after age 30 had higher lifetime earnings.
People Will Ask You About It All The Damn Time
I swear, every single damn day someone asks me how old I am, and that question is always laced with disdain and judgment. More often than not, I can see the person doing the math in their head before they inevitably proclaim, "But, you have a child!" Yep. I actually have more than one. Yes, I got a so-called late start. No, I don't need you to tell me how old I was when I gave birth.
It May Be Hard To Balance Work & Life
The one downside of having an established career before having kids is trying to decide what to do next. I was fortunate enough to be able to change careers after having kids and am totally happy with that change, but there are definitely times when I regret not climbing the corporate ladder.
You Might Feel Better About Yourself
Maybe it's because I've had time to process the things that have gone down in my life, or maybe it's because I realize what's important and what's not in the long run. Either way, I just have no f*cks left to give about what other people think of me. Becoming a mom made me feel badass, strong, and better about myself than I had felt in years. So, yeah, I don't actually care if I lose the baby weight, or if I ever fit back into my pre-pregnancy jeans. I am not sure I would have felt that way in my 20s.
People Will Judge You
Not only will these people silently judge you, but they will start making comments about how tired you must be, ask you how old you'll be when your kids graduate, or ask you if you wish you'd started a family earlier. Not that I'm speaking from experience, or anything.
I am so over other people's judgment. It's none of their damn business. Whenever I start to feel sad about my choices, I think about the moments I was able to enjoy because I didn't have the added responsibility of raising a child. You know, like skinny dipping on the beach in Europe, hiking in West Africa, and even clubbing in college. Yeah, I have no regrets.
You Might Have Trouble Getting Pregnant
I worried so much about whether or not I made a mistake by waiting. I ended up not having anything to worry about, though. The good news is that if I had fertility issues, there are so many options available for would-be parents in terms of reproductive assistance. Science rules.
It's Actually Awesome
I was privileged to do so many things while I was in my 20s, including but not limited to: travel, education, career, and definitely too many tequila shots. When my friends become empty-nesters, our house will still be full of noisy kids, but my partner and I don't mind a bit. Our lives are different now (maybe even better, actually), than they were in our 20s. Besides, we are too tired to change our ways, and even if we wanted to, there's no going back now.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.