This year, when my sister had her first baby at the age of 41, we had a discussion about the oldest age that is still reasonable for people to have kids.
I had Eden at the age of 24 and I was convinced Gal and I were the first parents in our class, but last year, when we met our high school friends after many years, I was surprised to discover that some of them had kids older or closer to Eden’s age. Since I had my first child 20 years ago, society has changed and 24 is now considered an early age to have kids in many places. Statistically, people now have fewer kids and start having them when they are older.
There are many advantages to having kids early, and as many disadvantages. Similarly, there are many advantages to having kids late, and as many disadvantages.
When I talked to my kids about life, I told them that many times, what they want and what they prefer is not going to be enough to make it happen. For example, no one ever plans to go through IVF treatments for 5 or 10 years and suddenly have kids when they are older.
One of my sisters said she would have a baby on her own if she did not find a partner (and then he appeared like an angel). My other sister said she was not the type to raise a child on her own and when she found her knight in shining armor, it took them 4 years of unpleasant treatments to finally have a wonderful gorgeous bundle of joy (she got pregnant while celebrating her 41st birthday).
5 advantages of having kids early
- Young mothers are stronger and more flexible and can easily carry the pregnancy. I had Noff when I was 37 and she was physically harder to carry.
- Young parents are more energetic. We recently watched videos of ourselves and I could see I had more motivation and energy with Eden than I did later.
- There is a much lower risk of fertility problems. Eggs and sperm are stronger, healthier and more available.
- Young parents have more time to be with their kids. It is great to be 45 with a 20 year old daughter. There is less of a generation gap and more shared experiences.
- Young parents have a better chance to be at their grandchildren’s wedding. They experience parenting and grand parenting separately and fully.
5 Disadvantages of having kids early
- Young parents have fewer resources. When we had Eden, we were students and had very little money, so I had to make Eden’s baby clothes, socks and shoes myself. The joy of spending money on your newborn baby is dampened by the need to save for the future.
- Young parents have less life experience. I guess that studying education put me in a better position than most people, but parents who have kids early are generally less mature. I look at Noff, who was born at a stage of our life when Gal and I were more mature, and it is easy to see the maturity reflected by her.
- Kids are more important than anything else, so it is hard to focus on work or study. When I was studying, there was a mother who studied with us. She did not care too much about her grades and used to say, “My daughter has a show at pre-school, so I can’t come to the test”. The rest of us were shocked, being so preoccupied with our academic performance, but when Eden was born during the last term of my studies, I knew exactly what she meant. Eden changed my outlook on life so dramatically that none of the courses seemed as important anymore. Generally speaking, courses and degrees required to start a career are best done without kids. Later on, extension course and further academic degrees can be a lot more easily combined with work and family.
- It is hard for young parents to afford taking a long time off work to stay with their kids. When Eden was born, I was in hospital for 10 days and had to go back for treatments for another 4 days. Although I was allowed to stay home for a month and not go to classes, I was the main earner in the family, so after a month, I had to go back to work. Luckily for us, Gal was in his last year of studies too, so he did most of the babysitting for about 7 month. I would breastfeed Eden in the morning, go to work or college, Gal would bring her to me after a few hours, I would breastfeed her in the car and he would take her home. Other times, Gal worked or studied when I was with Eden until we graduated, which meant we had little time to spend with each other.
5 advantages of having kids late
- Mature parents are more … mature. My sisters both know exactly what they want in life. They know exactly what they are giving up to have the kids and their attitude towards their parenting is very aware and responsible. I know others who have had kids at a later age and I think they their priorities are in the right order.
- Mature parents have more resources. Both my sisters are well established now, having saved over the years and having found partners with enough money for a comfortable life. While Gal and I had to borrow things and I had to make my daughter’s clothes, my sisters can simply buy anything they need. In the years they waiting to have their kids, they have managed to save enough money to afford the IVF treatment and for the luxury of going into a baby shop and just buying what they need.
- Mature parents are finished studying. Both my sisters are done with their studies. One has 3 degrees and while she was studying, she was hardly at home. She did some of her studies while also working, which meant she hardly did anything else. Can you imagine her doing all this and taking care of a baby too?
- Mature parents can afford to leave everything and stay with their kids. Neither of my sisters worries about what to do about work now that they have kids. They both know what is most important to them and they can stay with their kids as long as they want. One of them even left work in order to get pregnant.
- Having gone through many of life’s typical surprises and built their characters over the years, mature parents are more relaxed. Having the confidence provided by their resources helps them settle into their role as parents with fewer worries and their kids benefit.
5 disadvantages of having kids late
- Mature parents have less chances of conceiving naturally. As I have learned from supporting both my sisters, having your fist baby after the age of 30 can be problematic and most of their friends go through treatments and long period of pressure before they get pregnant. When you are 25, the doctor says, “Try for a year and if you don’t get pregnant, come and we’ll check”. When you are 35 or 40, trying for a year is not an option. It gets harder to conceive as you are older.
- Mature parents face higher risks of finding problems during pregnancy, both to the mother and to the baby, such as high blood pressure and Down syndrome. Older women have more twins, which can be both a blessing and a risk. After the age of 35, women must go through more medical tests and the risk of discovering that something is wrong can be very scary. Statistically, the older you are, the higher the risk is and this puts lots of pressure on mature couples.
- Mature parents are not as strong or as flexible. Time keeps ticking and our body gets weaker and more rigid. I do not think there is a way out of it. Both my sisters are very healthy. One of them is very health-conscious, looking like a 30-year-old at 41. She eats well, meditates and keeps her mind, body and soul balanced. Still, recovering from a cesarean section was hard for both of them, much harder than it is for a 24-year-old.
- There is a big generation gap between mature parents and their kids. I had Eden at 24 and, let me tell you, there is a generation gap between us. I told my kids that 10 years ago, not everyone had mobile phones and we could not call or SMS “Sorry, running late (or l8)” to someone sitting at a café waiting for us. The kids could not imagine it. Can you imagine 41 years of generation gap between my sister and her newborn son? And she is planning to have another one, as soon as she recovers and can do it medically.
- Mature parents cannot afford to have a big age gap between kids. I wanted my kids to be 5 years apart, to allow them enough attention for strong personality development. This meant I could comfortably have 4 kids. My sisters do not have a choice but to get pregnant again as soon as they can, perhaps while still breastfeeding and certainly while changing diapers.
What do you think?
Well, I wrote most of the pros and cons of having a first child early or late from the parents’ perspective.
From the kids' perspective, which is better?
Regardless of when you have had your kids, enjoy them!