When I was younger I used to joke that if I ever had a baby, it would happen in my mid-30s. In my opinion, 35 was always my sweet spot for starting a family, (if I was going to change my mind and choose not to be kid-free forever). Things didn’t work out that way, though. My son was born a few months after I turned 30, and my “dirty thirties” wound up being dirty for a very different reason. So I know the pros and cons of having a baby in your 30s, which I imagine are a bit different from starting a family in your 20s or 40s.
Had I started a family in my 20s, well, I definitely wouldn’t have some the memories I hold dear now. I definitely enjoyed the hell out of that decade (well, at least most of it). I do occasionally fantasize about what it would have been like to have a kid back then, and maybe have a young teen to care for now. Maybe it would make traveling easier? Maybe. And I certainly can’t imagine starting all of this over again when I turn 40. Hell, I can barely manage to chase after my kid right now. But maybe, like I did in my late-20s, I'll end up changing my mind. Maybe I’ll want to mother another child by the time I'm in my 40s, and maybe I’ll even be in better shape later on in life than I am now.
Point is, there are great and not-so-great parts about becoming a parent at any age. What works for someone doesn't work for someone else, and, truly, we are the only people who, in the end, can decide which age makes the most sense for procreation. But for now, let’s focus on the good, the bad, and the ugly of having children in your 30s.
Con: It Might Be More Difficult To Take Time Off Work
If you’re deep into your career, it might be hard to suddenly take time away from your job to focus on your family. Pregnancies usually mean numerous doctor’s office visits, nausea, and work accommodations. And then there’s your maternity leave, which, if you're living in the United States, is either painfully short or non-existent. Plus, you might find you want more time with your baby, but your job might not be fond of that particular decision. So, you know, it gets complicated.
Pro: You Might Be In A Better Place Financially
For most folks, being in your 20s means you’re either in college or working a minimum wage job. That’s perfectly fine, of course, but it makes starting a family a lot more challenging. By the time you reach your third decade of life, you are hopefully doing at least somewhat better, if not much better, financially.
Con: Your Odds Of Conceiving Are Lower The Longer You Wait
If you’re hoping to conceive quickly in your 30s, you might be in for a rude awakening and a longer wait. Your odds of conceiving change from 96 percent in your early 20s to 86 percent in your early 30s, and down to 78 percent in your 40s and beyond. So trying to have a baby might get a bit, well, frustrating.
Pro: You’ll Have Had A Lot Of Time To Consider Whether Parenthood Is Actually For You
That’s not to say unexpected pregnancies don’t happen in your 30s (believe me, they do). But there’s a better chance you’ll get pregnant on purpose at this point. And this is a good thing, since that means you’ll have had more time to figure out how a new baby will fit into your life.
Con: You Might Have Less Energy To Chase Around Your Kid
Caring for kids requires a serious amount of energy. So much so that it’s exhausting just to be in the same room with them. And while you could easily pull all-nighters in your 30s, the thirty-something body is much more unforgiving when you lose a necessary amount of sleep.
Pro: You’re Taking Much Better Care Of Your Body
Sure, your body felt like it could handle more in your 20s, but how well did you take care of it? While most of your friends were out partying all night in their 20s, you may notice that they all start doing yoga, crossfit, and 5Ks in their 30s. And at least one study has claimed that we have more energy at age 31. So basically, kids are exhausting at any age, and you should be OK.
Con: You Have A Smaller Support System
Remember all the friends you had in high school? In college? Even when I was post-grad I still had a solid network of people I could count on for brunch, happy hour, late-night diner run, or whose couches I could crash on at any given moment. But once I got older, that list of reliable friends began to dwindle. People got more involved in their own lives, which means you don't have a large, consistent support system at your disposal later on in life.
Pro: You Know Who Your True Friends Are
That said, you also end up with a lot of phony or fairweather friends in your 20s that all, thankfully, dissipate with time. In your 30s you might only have two or three solid friends, but at least you know they’ll always be there.
Con: Your Odds Of Experiencing A Loss Increase
Miscarriage rates increase with age. In fact, one in four pregnancies end in a loss once you conceive past age 35. It’s scary, for sure, but plenty of moms still try to get pregnant later on in life and go on to have healthy babies.
Pro: You’ll Have More Knowledge About Taking Care Of Yourself While Pregnant
Because you’re older (and odds are, wiser), you’ll have more foresight on how to care for yourself and your growing baby-to-be once you hit your 30s. There’s less chances you’ll engage in any risky behaviors, and you’ll probably be better about eating right and taking your prenatal vitamins. You’ll also likely be better at monitoring yourself, knowing when something is wrong, knowing when to go to a doctor, and knowing when to ask for a second opinion. Basically, with age comes great self-advocacy.
Con: You'll Be An “Older” Mom
This is a bigger concern for mamas who waited until they were in their late 30s, though it really shouldn’t be. Yes, we all want to get to be in the prime of our lives when our kids get older, but that’s life. We all age eventually. And while it might be scary to think of yourself in your 60s when your kid reaches their 30s, think about all the other things you got to do in life!
Pro: You’ll Be Glad You Spent Your 20s Focusing On Yourself
When in your life will you ever get the chance to be totally self-involved again? If you’re a parent, it’s probably never (though you get some wiggle room once your kids are old enough for college). But really, if you waited to have kids, that means you probably had a lot of time (possible a full decade) to explore the world on your own and really get to know who you are, both inside and out. That is precious time you will never get back and, for the most part, never get to return to. Enjoy those memories, mama. They will keep you sane on the hardest of parenting days, and bring you much wisdom when the time comes for your own kids to grow up.
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.