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Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Is younger easier?

Women are delaying having kids so that they can focus on education and career. But at least two women I know advocate that women should have kids earlier in life, not later, as a tactic to plan their way around the career-family dilemma that so many women in their late 20s, 30s, and 40s struggle with.

Instead of a career interruption coming when you are a few steps up the corporate ladder, the parenthood interruption would come before you have really even grabbed on. Having kids earlier in life clears "a nice runway (for moms) to explore their careers once their kids (are) old enough to be in school," said a former high-tech exec, who now works for a non-profit in New York. And even then, it is not always easy. "There are summers and after-school care, etc., etc.," she added, "and you've still experienced a career interruption."

But her point was this: when you are young, you have not put in a lot of years on the job. Therefore, you are not walking away from a career after making big strides. You have just delayed getting started. Another friend has no regrets having her kids at 19 and 22. Sure it was hard when they were young and money was tight, but when she was 40 and fabulous, she visited with her kids at college, not with their teachers at PTA meetings.

This plan is a little late for me and my group of mom friends who are in our 30s, but it is interesting (and a little scary) to think about me having a 10-year-old son. I am just warming up to having a two-year-old. And I am hoping that once he is in school I will still have the energy to at least stand near that ladder, even if I cannot climb up it.


  1. I have often thought about which is better. I'm 36 and have a 9 and 5 year old. Compared to many of my friends, I had my kids young (at 27 and 31). Interestingly, I found that working while they were younger was a lot easier. Daycare covered the 9-5 hours and was generally open all the time. Now that they're in school, it's gotten more difficult. They have random days off and there's after school ours to deal with. I'm lucky in that the school district has an after-school program (that I pay for), but some places don't. Once the older kid hits junior high, I have no more after-school care. I think juggling those things while you're climbing the later would be harder than juggling them once you're there. I have also always sought flexible work situations. I have tons of time off and my boss has already offered a flexible schedule so that I can be home with my son after school--once he's in junior high. I guess if I'd had them younger, I would be past all that now, which might be nice. The fatigue factor is a big one though. I definitely don't have as much energy as I did when I was 21. If I'd known how much energy it takes to raise a kid, I might have seriously considered it.

  2. At some point in my life, I decided I wanted to wait until I was 30 to have kids. I watched my mom have 3 kids between ages 24 to 27. By the time the youngest was 18, my mom was 45. The way I saw it, her 20s, 30s and 40s had not been her own.
    My best friend from college had a "young" mom. Her mom had her older brother when she was 19 and my friend when she was 20. My friend's mom was still in her 30s when my friend went off to college. I thought it was nice that she was still young and kind of had her life back.

    Well, by that point, I knew I wasn't going to have a kid when I was 19 or 20, so I thought, I'll take my 20s for myself. I thought, "it's nice if you can have your 20s or your 40s relatively to yourself to travel, explore, whatever." So, I went to college. I lived overseas. I got a masters degree. I worked a little. I got married. I got a law degree. I clerked for a year, and then I got pregnant and moved to a new state.

    Now, I'm thinking, "never mind interrupted; that would be a luxury. I feel DERAILED!" Since my daughter was born, I've often wished that I had worked a few more years before having her, so that I at least had a career to go back to.

    I don't know if I particularly feel this way because I'm in the legal profession and lawyers generally pass the bar and hit the ground running . . .

    Whatever the reason . . . it sucks. :^(