When is the right time to become a mum?
For some parents the ‘right’ time to start a family is meticulously planned, for others it’s a case of letting nature take it’s course. Kerry from the Parent Panel takes a look at why she chose to have children in her twenties and explores the different factors involved.
I still remember clearly the day I took the twins to the ‘weigh in clinic’ and I have to admit I was not looking my best. The twins were 3 months old and obviously keeping me very busy, so I was make-up free and in jeans and a jumper. Two SureStart workers started talking to me about how much help I could get as a Young Mum and my ears pricked up. ‘Help? Oh yes!’ That sounded good. I went on to explain that Noah was in nursery and only 18 months and that obviously having 3 under two was a challenge. Their faces could not hide their shock and I thought it was because of the quantity of children I had at such young ages, but oh no! They then informed me there was support for Mums under 20. Ok, I looked youngish at 27 but I did not look like a teenager! Then I realised that I had thrown my school’s (I am a teacher) Sixth Form sweatshirt on to keep warm on the way down and of course they had assumed I was 18 and possibly still in school. I was kind of flattered really, but once I had confessed my true age they clearly felt very embarrassed!
Strangely though, I always did feel a little out of the loop at New Mums group when Noah was a baby. I was the youngest by at least six years, but you see I never saw myself as a young mum. In fact I thought I had done things about right. I had gone to university, got a job, married and then had children, maybe slightly sooner than I would have planned but my husband is 10 years older and we had to compromise and meet in the middle as to when to start a family.
However, apart from one other, everyone else in the group was 34 plus. Clearly it seems that the 30’s is the decade to have children; both my sisters-in-law proved this by starting their families at 37!
So are there benefits to having children older or younger? I think the only people who can answer this truthfully are those that have done both and can make a comparison; because really, my sisters-in-law and I know no different.
I think it could be argued that in terms of their career they were more established and more financially stable. This made things like having a year’s maternity leave an easier option. However, it did mean that they had to return to work, not for financial benefits necessarily but to maintain their positions. Also, being further up the ladder, and subsequently a higher wage earner, your outgoings are often higher which can increase the pressure.
I however, not having worked my way up the ladder, will have to return to work at the bottom! My hands were slightly tied, as three kids in childcare costs more than my salary and I didn’t really have any choice but to be a stay at home mum.
It also could be argued that the younger you are the more energy you have, but I think this is dependent on so many factors like diet, health, and exercise. Saying that, if you were not fit before children, you will be after them, they certainly keep you on your toes!
I suppose for me the most important consideration is that by being slightly younger when starting a family, I do have more options. I can return to work when the little ones are at school and then start again at 37 or 38! (I am not saying I am going to, just mentioning this is a possibility!) I could retire earlier as my children will all be at Uni or working by the time I am 50! Or I could be travelling the world by then!
I am not sure there is a right or wrong age to have children, I think the point is that it just has to be one that is right for you and your family, but it is food for thought don’t you think?