Survrey: What Is the Best Age to Have a Baby?
Thousands of mothers responded to Babytalk’s survey, and what they had to say will hit a nerve -- whether you’re 25 or 45
The best time to have a baby
Clearly, both older and younger moms have opinions about each other and who makes a better mom. But both groups also seem to be on the defensive. Could their reactions hint at an underlying insecurity with their own life decisions? Possibly. An equal percentage of both groups -- one quarter -- report that they feel self-conscious around other moms because of their age. At the same time, though, only 4 percent of the older moms and 13 percent of the younger ones cite "the disapproval of others" as one of the main drawbacks to having kids when they did. So where does the self-consciousness come from, if they don't care what others think? Astonishingly, the moms were hardest on themselves. More than half of the older moms wish they'd had their baby when they were younger; 22 percent of the younger moms wish they had waited.
Turns out, the perfect age to have a child is as much of a myth as the perfect mom. Every woman's own calculation of the right time to have kids is a complicated formula of emotional and practical factors -- health and fertility, financial stability, romantic status, career, and personal development. No matter which factors weigh most heavily in your formula, the decision to become a mom always involves trade-offs. It's those trade-offs that make us question our choices -- and the choices of other moms.
Growing up -- at any age
But for all the debate about the perfect age, many women find that their plans don't amount to much in the face of fate. For them, the perfect age comes when it comes.
"I didn't plan on being an older mom," says Ruth Babick-Scofield, 39, of Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota, "but Plan A -- to have kids before I was 35 -- did not happen. And neither did Plans B or C. In fact, I was on Plan XYZ by the time I had children. It took many years and three failed pregnancies before I became a mom. Plan A would have been nice, but Plan XYZ isn't so bad, either."
That sentiment was echoed by so many of our survey respondents. When they became a mom wasn't as important as that they simply did. Whether she had a child at 20, 28, 34, or 45, each mom has her own story to tell, a journey that she cherishes. The woman who had her daughter at 47 wrote to us about trying to conceive after years of caring for her sick parents. "After seeing so much death, I wanted a baby. I went to the fertility doctor the day I closed on the sale of my parents' house." And the 23-year-old who grew up in an instant when she gave birth to a beautiful special-needs child tells us, "She is the joy of our lives."
Perhaps none of us truly grow up until we take on the responsibility -- and experience the joy -- of caring for a child. "Just remember," Sarah Campsey of Portland, Oregon, says, "it's hard to be a mom, no matter how old you are. So let your guard down and go talk to moms of any age. We all have something to share, something to learn."
Patty Onderko is a senior editor at Babytalk. Additional reporting by Abigail Cuffey and Reena Vadehra.