In Defense of Having Kids in your Twenties
FYI: I will slowly be moving my content over to rickytheleo.blogspot.com.au, and I will also be posting new content on there from this point onwards.
Why I wrote this article
First thing’s first: At no point in this article will I be attacking those people who are simply planning to have kids in their thirties, nor will I be vilifying those people who don’t want kids at all. If that’s the way you want to do things, all the more power to you, and I wish you a happy and fulfilling life.
This article is instead aimed at those people who think having kids in your twenties is nothing but a bad idea.
There’s a lot of literature already out there on this particular topic. And yet, the myth still persists in today’s culture that by having kids in your early, mid, or even late twenties, you’re selling yourself short – your life generally just won’t be as fulfilling as that of someone who waited.
Again: If you don’t want kids before thirty, that’s entirely up to you, and I’m not trying to change your mind. However, for those who think that nothing good can come from having kids earlier, I’d like to offer some reasons as to why it can be a good idea to some, followed by some more specific counter-arguments.
It's physically easier (especially for the woman)
Everything about having kids in your twenties is physically easier for the female in the relationship. Your body heals quicker. You have more energy to bounce back from it all. And perhaps one of the bigger reasons: you’re more fertile.
There’s lots of success stories for woman having children in their late thirties, but the fact is that it’s harder to get pregnant the longer you leave it. And indeed, especially if you’re someone who knows they want kids of their own at some point, why leave it late enough to possibly require special fertility treatments?
Having your own baby in the house is very likely going to lead to more than a few sleepless nights. For most people, nights like this are easier to deal with in their twenties than thirties. This is one of the common examples used to help justify having kids earlier, but truthfully, the point of having more energy goes further than just while the child is a baby or toddler.
Let’s compare having a child at 25 to having one at 35.
By the time your kid is 5, you’re 30 or 40. School has begun for the child, and by 40 you’ll still (hopefully) have plenty of energy for the birthday parties, sick days, and general child-herding, so no biggie here. At 30, it goes without saying that having the energy for this is almost certain (even if it may not feel like it some days).
By the time your kid is 13, you’re 38 or 48. Puberty is beginning (or thereabouts at least) for the child, and you’ve got to deal with everything that comes with that.
By the time your kid is 15 through 20, you’re 40-45 or 50-55. In the latter case, you’re dealing with a (possibly rebellious) teen, and then helping your child traverse the difficulties associated with moving into young adulthood, while you’re in your fifties. Whereas in the former case, you’re doing all this with the same energy as someone in the latter case, whose child is between 5 to 10 years of age.
Let’s go a step further, and look at the possibility of having, say, three kids, two years apart each. If the youngest moves out at 18 (an ideal case), you’re either 47 or 57. Wouldn’t you prefer to have more energy for celebrating having the house to yourself again? It may not be guaranteed you’ll have more energy at 47 than at 57, but it’s assuredly more likely. More energy that can be spent on travelling and heading out. Just as importantly (arguably more so), more energy which could be spent on you, and your (potential) partner, to find yourself/yourselves once again.
In short, ten years can have a big impact in how much energy you have to raise your kids. This doesn’t mean it’s impossible to do a good job of raising your kids in the latter case - I’d never suggest that. However, the former may have a slightly easier time of it.
Being Here to See the Next Generation(s)
Throughout this point, let’s look at four cases:
- You have your first kid at 35, and they have their first kid at 35.
- You have your first kid at 35, and they have their first kid at 25.
- You have your first kid at 25, and they have their first kid at 35.
- You have your first kid at 25, and they have their first kid at 25.
In case 1, your first grandchild arrives when you’re 70. In today’s society, chances are quite likely that you’ll get to see him/her. With luck, you will probably get to see the child make it through college/secondary school too.
In cases 2 and 3, your first grandchild arrives when you’re 60. In both cases, you’re even more likely than in case 1 to be around to see it, and enjoy/be a part of it all. I.e., there’s an even greater chance you’ll get to see them make it through school, university and all, and start making their way out in the world just as your own child did.
Note, however, that with case three, if you have more than one child, chances are higher that you’ll see a grandchild earlier than this, because one of your other kids may have children before the eldest.
Finally, in case 4, your first grandchild arrives when you’re 50. You’ll pretty certainly see your grandchild make it through to young adulthood, and quite likely right into middle-age. Even better, in the early years of the grandchild’s life, you’ll be the same age as someone who had their children at 35, whose children are now in their mid-to-late adolescence. At least for the early years, you’ll actually be able to be a more physically active presence in your own grandchild’s life.
Let’s take this point a step further: great grandchildren.
Speaking personally, it was incredible being able to introduce our now 11 month old child to her great grandparents on both sides of the family, and it was easy to see how special it was for them as well. My partner knew her own great grandmother until she was 18. Her great grandmother got to see their great grandchild through the baby, child, and teen stages, and even really know the person she was becoming as an adult. My partner still speaks of how special that was to her – and really, how many people can say they’ve had the same experience?
I’m looking forward to seeing the next two (and yes, hopefully three) generations from my own line, I have to admit.
Let’s assume you’ll live to 100 – a very generous estimate, of course, but let’s just use it as our point of reference (FYI, the average age at death in Australia is around 85). Let’s also just assume that your grandchild has their first child at 30 (the average age of mothers having their first child is around 28 for Australia).
With case 1, your great grandchild will be born when you turn 100…
With cases 2 and 3, your great grandchild will be born when you’re 90. You’ll get to see them turn 10, which will undoubtedly be amazing getting to see them reach double digits.
With case 4, your great grandchild will be born when you’re 80. You’ll be able to see them through their early years, into double digits, through adolescence, and help them in defining who they are as a young adult. I don’t know about you, but that’s a pretty special idea to me.
Let’s take a look at some of the common reasons people give for not wanting kids until later, and see if they hold their water.
Yes, you'll still be able to travel
This reasoning usually comes in one of two forms (though sometimes both). The first form is summed up thusly:
I need to travel as much as possible before having children, because I won’t be able to after!
I’ve no idea where people get this idea from. To date, our 11-month old girl has been on two international flights, seven interstate flights, and several 7+ hour interstate driving trips with us. So, obviously, travelling with a baby is possible.
Did it make it any harder? Well… Not really, no. It required a bit more forethought, i.e. making sure to book a cot at any motels/hotels we stayed at, having more breaks during the long drives, etc. But harder? I’d honestly struggle to argue that it was much harder.
In the later years of the child’s life, this excuse can possibly hold up to scrutiny if it’s being argued that it’s harder to travel because kids can take up money (e.g. when they’re old enough to need their own seat on an airplane), when travelling can already take up quite enough already. So in this sense, yes, it can be harder. However, if you’re a traveller at heart, then you and your partner will be able to find a way to save up the money for it.
Harder does not equal impossible. To assume that you won’t travel again after you have kids is fatalistic at best.
The other common form of this excuse is often along the lines of:
I need to travel as much as possible before having children, so that I’m as worldly and wise as any parent can be!
On the outside, these reasons seem at least slightly nobler. However, there are still some holes which require addressing.
First, having travelled and seen a lot does not a good parent make. It’s feasible that it can help you become more “worldly” with your knowledge of other cultures. Indeed, having been to other countries myself (such as Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, South Africa, and Uruguay), I have somewhat more understanding of the customs and traditions of these other countries than most of my friends. Nonetheless, I don’t pretend that it, in itself, has somehow made me wiser. Neither do I think for a second that, in itself, it’s made me a better parent.
The good intentions behind this reasoning can be at least partially traced back to wanting to be a knowledgeable parent. Knowledge can be gained in many more ways than travelling, though. Having a story behind the knowledge can help it stick in your own mind, and can be, let’s face it, very cool. But to re-iterate: cool stories don’t make the parent.
Secondly, once again, you can travel after you have kids. For example, all of my trips to other countries (with the exception of the recent New Zealand trip) have so far been with my parents, who had taken us kids at various stages in our child, teen, and young-adult life. And as my experiences weren’t experienced alone, but were instead shared with my family, I personally consider them that much richer. Why not consider for a second that travelling with your kids, even with all the extra possible hassle, could still be an enriching experience?
Now, all of this isn’t to say that I don’t think people should travel before they have kids – indeed I think you should, if you have the opportunity. But travelling can be done after and with your kids, too. And the experience may be different, but it will be similarly as inspiring.
Yes, you’ll still be able to have sex
When people argue that you won’t have sex again after kids, it almost makes me sad. Why? Because most people without kids who think you won’t (or will very rarely) have sex after kids learned it from TV shows, movies, and yes, even couples with children who effectively blame their kids for why they don’t have sex anymore.
This view of “no sex after kids” is so heavily ingrained in so much of today’s society, that when the topic came up at work one time (because what else should you talk about at work), when asked if me and my partner were still having sex, I responded very simply with “Yep”. Naturally assuming I was simply lying for comic effect, everyone laughed, and one of my other co-workers started saying, “yeah, it can be hard to make time for it”, before I interrupted by saying “I wasn’t joking” (I was being a bit of a party-pooper here because I was bored with the topic long before it came up at work that day). I’m not sure if or how many of the others heard me say that last part, but the topic was changed after that either way.
I think this argument bothers me because of how ingrained in people’s heads it can be, despite being false. I personally know more than a few couples who are currently between 40 and 55, who shared intimate relations all through having their growing kids in the house, and up to this day. As for me and my partner, we barely even made it the full recommended six weeks after giving birth to our daughter. And why not? Having frequent sex has a slew of health benefits associated with it. But even aside from helping your health: it makes you feel good, and can help you bond/retain your bond with your partner, which aids you both greatly in retaining your sanity, which in turn helps immensely in getting through the sleepless nights and teething fits.
As with all the other arguments made by people justifying their position to not have kids before thirty, yes, it can be more difficult. But more difficult does not equal impossible.
This point does require both parties to be on the same page, of course. Plus, the first few times after she’s given birth will have to be done carefully, tenderly. In the long run though, if you can re-ignite that spark, you’ll both feel better for it.
Or, more colloquially speaking; if you’re both already going to bed tired, why not spend the extra time for you both to go to bed tired and satisfied?
No, the world’s population is not something to worry about
This argument is pretty rare, but I have seen it come up from time to time. Mostly, it’s borne from ignorance, both from the view that if you have kids early then you’ll have a lot of kids, and from the view that the global population is exploding, not slowing down, and you should do your part to slow it down by having few or no kids.
First off, just because someone has kids early doesn’t mean that they’ll have a lot of kids. Secondly, the population of humans is a very big problem, but is currently on track to sorting itself out anyway.
The fertility rate is defined as the average amount of children each woman in a population is having. 2.1 children per woman is often toted as the “replacement level”, i.e. the average amount of children born per woman which will lead to a stable population.
Many countries (especially developed countries) have a fertility rate which is below replacement level. The populations of most of these countries is still increasing due to what is known as population momentum, but will begin decreasing in time.
Even in “third-world” countries where the fertility rate is still above replacement level, the rate is still dropping nonetheless.
Given all of this, a recent study has shown that if the current trend continues, the global population will hit its peak between 2050-2100 (at about 9-10 billion), and then begin declining. One such model suggests getting to just over 8 billion around 2050 before beginning the population decline (see chart on right).
Personally, I think this could be a good thing. But if not handled properly, this could also lead to undesirable outcomes traditionally associated with an ageing population. Before we get too off-topic here though, a discussion on the possible ramifications of a decreasing population, however interesting, is unfortunately not within the scope of this article.
Hence, there is no need to worry about if you should really be having kids or not due to the large global population, because as it currently stands, the population issue is already beginning to sort itself out.
In truth, this whole article could be summed up thusly: After having kids, some things are harder, but nothing will become impossible. Other things will be easier.
Unfortunately, there’s still this stigma around young parents. This expectation that, if they have kids, then even if they’re happy with where they are, they must just be making the best out of a bad situation. Yes, maybe that’s true for some, and good on them for making the best out of it. But taking a large group of people and brushing them all with a broad stroke is unwise in any situation, to say the least.
Some people choose to have kids early, and it’s true that they may face some additional challenges because of it. But it’ll do everyone good for people to accept that these same people will have it a little better in other ways, too.