Should We Wait Until We Are Older to Have Kids?

In a recent op-ed, Nona Willis Aronowitz discusses waiting until you are older to have children and the effect that has on the children themselves. She has an interesting perspective on the topic because she is a 27-year-old with a 79-year-old father. Though her mother passed away some time ago, both of her parents were older when they had her. Now, she points out, she has had to grow up faster than she would like because her father is at the age where she has to worry about him constantly. She says:

Now I move a little slower when we walk down the street together. When he runs 20 minutes late, my imagination runs wild: Has he fallen or gotten into a car accident? Has he forgotten about our appointment? Oh, God, does he have Alzheimer’s? My father continually reminds me that he can fend for himself, but his protestations fail to dismantle the layer of worry that has set up camp in my brain.

Her argument, then, is that delaying childbearing isn’t ideal for the children once they get a little bit older. She writes that she doesn’t feel right turning off her phone for days at a time, nor would she be able to start over in a new location without guilt and worry about her father’s wellbeing, and that this is ultimately unfair to her. When she should be enjoying her twenties, she is, instead, stuck worrying about her aging father.

I see Aronowitz’s point, but I have to question whether or not this feeling of being tied to a place because of care or worry for a family member is a product of her father being older, or whether it is a product of being someone’s child in general. I am the same age as Aronowitz, and my parents didn’t have me until they were in their 30s, so I can’t speak to the same exact issues that she has with her father, but I have taken on some of the caregiving duties she speaks of in her article. As a child of divorced parents, I am my parents’ emergency contact and, as such, have been called to the hospital with the added responsibility of having to call everyone else in the family to update them on the situation.

My parents tell me stories all the time about people younger than them who have suffered a fall or another similar accident. It just goes to show you that being a caregiver to your parents has very little to do with your parents’ age, but everything to do with your parents’ health, and maybe a little bit of fate. I, also, would find it very difficult to leave my parents and start a life elsewhere, not because of their age, but because of the ties we have built together. I’ll never regret the time I am able to spend with my family because we live close, and I wouldn’t trade that for all the clean slates in the world.

Also, I find it hard to believe that the drawbacks outweigh the benefits when you’re talking about childbearing at a later age. Aronowitz herself admits that her mother waited because, as an ardent feminist, she was willing to wait until she found a man who would share childrearing duties equally and her father, who was on his second marriage, wanted to wait until he was sure he could get it right. Both of her parents got to have full careers and full relationships — both with each other and with their peers — before they added a child to their lives.

In this way, to paraphrase Anne-Marie Slaughter, they were able to “have it all.” Instead of agonizing over whether or not to have their high-stress careers and the family life, they were able to have both. From a child’s perspective, too, having older parents can be incredibly beneficial. For one, since the parents have had full lives already, they can now devote lots of time to their children without worrying that they’re missing out on something. Furthermore, older parents are often more set in their careers, making it easier for them to raise a child financially. This benefits the child immensely; it is often the children of low-income families that have to grow up the fastest, since they have to worry about the family’s finances and, often, have to start working at a young age to help provide.

Caring for an aging family member isn’t easy, and older parents do mean earlier caregiving duties for their children, but does that mean that people should have children earlier just to avoid this? Should we allow our fledgeling careers and relationships to suffer by adding a baby to the mix before we’re truly ready? The bottom line is that there’s no perfect way to have a family, and the parents have to do what they think is best for them because, ultimately, that will be best for the child, too.

Related Stories:

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Why Are We Still Judging Women Without Children?

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Photo Credit: Oakley Originals


Berny p.
berny p6 years ago

Far too many people are having kids that shouldn’t even be allowed to have a pet!

Any fool can have a baby, and too many are.

wchi wink
.6 years ago

i tend to think it's better to have children a little later than too soon - gives time to know yourself, the world and life better....young people need time to gain experiences that can greatly aid them as parents!

Jessica L.
Janne O6 years ago

A sound balance is the key here as always. Yes, older parents might be wiser and more understanding, but they can also force their children to grow up earlier because they're getting old. In addition, people become more "wimpy" as they get older, and tend to over protect their children to larger degree, including normal childhood activities such as climbing trees and getting a scrape from playing.

My mother had me when she was 20. IMHO she wasted her youth and her chance to pursuit her own dreams to have me. She's not sorry but I am on her behalf. She could have done better and deserves better. She wanted to be a vet or an architect, and she had the skills to be good at it too. Now she's been in a job she calls "boring but she can handle it due to nice colleagues." Being a person who is unable to follow my dreams for other reasons, my heart bleeds for her.

Erin Delancy-Hummer
Erin Hummer6 years ago

I had my first child when I was 32 and my second child when I was 36. I don't regret it at all. I am more understanding and patient than I was in my 20's. I had no difficulties with either pregnancy. I wouldn't change a thing. I think my kids are happier than some of their friends whose parents had them in their 20's and are too busy with their social lives to be real parents.

Past Member 6 years ago

Who was that that said '..intelligence has nothing to do with parenting'?

Video: 15-Year-Old Girl Forced to Wear Electric Shock Collar For Punishment

Lyn B.
Lyn B6 years ago

Knew I did it again... Talked too much, lol!
Here's the rest:

Moving on, because I feel like it's unfair that we've gotten so far off topic. I am all for people making the well planned, intelligently thought out choice to have a child at almost any age other than super old without all contingencies planned for or super young where you have essentially a child raising a child. Furthermore, as pro-choice as I am, I am also strongly pro-adoption. As much as I think abortion needs to be a usable a option, I will never understand how sooo many young girls don't choose to adopt out their unwanted, unwarranted babies. As to older women getting pregnant, if that's what they want then they just need to look at all sides. As Lika, mentioned it can be hard and/or damn near impossible. Once having the child, even if through adoption, age can work against us. As evidenced by what's happening with my sister-inlaw!

Lyn B.
Lyn B6 years ago

YES, I OFFERED the money and the transportation and the emotional support for the abortion. I didn't list ALL the $hit that SHOULD'VE imo DEMANDED an abortion!
Both parents drink and drug. Back then and still to this day! Both are unhealthy. The "mother" in question DIDN'T STOP drinking, drugging or smoking during the pregnancy! The MOTHER didn't expect or want this baby.
I expect to get slammed for all of what I've said and all that I'm about to say but I stand firm by what I tried to do, what I've done and what I continue to try to do.
Having said that; I BEGGED her to have an abortion! And I DID OFFER THE MONEY, the time and support.
Currently and in the past I have since tried to get help for the child, the mother and the whole flippin' situation! The situation being that the parents aren't parents. They both still drink and drug. In fact one of the most horrific moments for me was going over to check on the baby and the mother, I found her TALKING TO A WALL!!!! While the baby was on a blanket on the floor! TALKING TO A WALL!
Let me TRY to give a "short" version of what I tried to do.... Called authorities (multiple times and occassions) anonymously so I could try to continue to be usable in this hellish situation. Authorities have done NOTHING! It's like beating a dead horse.

Moving on, because I feel like it's unfair that we've gotten so far off topic. I am all for people making the well planned, intelligently thought out choice to have a child at almo

Lika S.
Lika P6 years ago

You know, I think it's pretty crazy that other people are going to make a judgement on who is or isn't allowed to have a baby. I see some people here want to complain that the state pays millions to help raise a child, and while true, it's tax payer money, but are you willing to fund the $700 abortion that the couple don't have to spend either?

I have found that most of the child abuse and neglect situations happen when the parents are too young, because young men 18-23 are NOT ready for fatherhood, and young women find it too hard to try to accommodate their boyfriend or husbands, work AND be a mother. Seriously? I waited until I was 30 to have kids. On purpose. All the stupid things you do when you're youthful, you get out of your system. I don't have to worry about midlife crisis, because most of what I wanted to do, I don't regret not doing them.

Sure, you can feel sorry for yourself. I could do the same thing in the opposite way. My mom was only 21 when she got pregnant. She was a carefree college student, and my dad didn't want children at that time. Was that fair to me, that I ended up with a set of parents who weren't ready to be parents yet? No, but, that doesn't change anything. Life isn't fair, so get used to it. So some parents are older, and yes, wiser, yet this lady is complaining about having old parents and doesn't get to enjoy her 20's... Thing is, I'll be 60 when mine is 81, and I already have a back problem. When she needs anything, gue

Past Member 6 years ago

Elsie, you didn't say a word about adoption. Did your doctor make the same omission?

Elsie O.
Elsie A. O6 years ago

Before anyone delays getting pregnant, be realistic about how long you can wait and still expect to GET pregnant. I speak from painful experience.
I was 38 years old when I married my second husband. (No children by the first marriage either.) I remembered, from years ago, being told to try getting pregnant naturally for a year before seeing the fertility specialist. When I did make the appointment after a year, the doctor was horrified that I had waited. He said that at my age, every month wasted is critical. I didn't see the big deal, pointing out to him that my husband's parents were both 42 when he was born. The doctor replied, "Yes, but I'll bet it wasn't her first pregnancy." No, it wasn't. The doctor said, "We don't know why, but for some reason, that makes all the difference. It's much easier for older women to get pregnant if they've been pregnant before." He then showed me statistics on the difficulty (even with fertility treatments) of creating a first pregnancy after about age 37.
He was right. Even with fertility treatments, I was unable to get pregnant. That was 20 years ago, and I have accepted it, but it is still a loss. Considering the high population of the earth today, maybe it's just as well, but I'd be lying if I said it didn't hurt sometimes.