When is the right time to have kids?

the right time to have kids

By Andrea Michelle

When is the right time to have kids?”

It’s the $245,000 question that’ll inevitably pop into our mind at some stage, and there’s no doubt it’s a hard one to answer. What’s with the $245k you ask? That’s the figure quoted in this article by CNNMoney to house, feed, educate, clothe, and generally maintain a child from birth till the age of 18. Yikes!

When I was in my late 20’s and I’d found the person I wanted to have children with, I started asking that same question. I asked friends with kids, I asked relatives, and I read magazine articles about it (because Google was only just invented back then).

Those friends who already had kids encouraged us to get into it asap “there’s no right time, just jump in!” I recall one saying. But I had a sneaking suspicion that they just wanted more buddies who had kids to hang out with. And my well-meaning aunties who’d all had their babies in their early 20’s were blunt “Now. You should do it now. The clock is ticking…”

But there were things I wanted to do before I had kids.”

I wanted to travel the world – London, New York, Rome, Barcelona, Berlin, and Paris all had my name on them. I loved my career and wasn’t ready to park it. I wanted to spend more time just as a couple with my partner. And then there was the very real factor of being able to afford to have babies.

I ended up having my first child two weeks before my 33rd birthday. Because I’d ticked off most of my travel to-do list. I’d achieved the level in my career that I’d been aiming for. We’d saved enough money to not be freaking out. And we were very, very lucky that we fell pregnant almost immediately after we had our ducks in a row.

That final element – the getting pregnant part – was one that I’d not even considered. But it’s one I wish I had. By the time we felt ready to have another child things didn’t go to plan. It took us quite a while to conceive, and the pregnancy was not without complication.

Since then I started Fox in Flats, and there’s been a lot of dialogue about fertility on this site. So much so, that I was interviewed by CLEO magazine for their Guide to Fertility along side a bunch of health professionals. To follow is an excerpt from the interview.

guide to fertility

 

Have you come across many women that have had trouble with their fertility? What age were they predominantly?

In a society where we’re Instagraming close-ups of our eyeballs and discussing vajazzling over brunch, strangely, the topic of fertility is rarely discussed openly.

I think it’s often because there are so many intense emotions being experienced by those who are struggling, such as frustration, sadness and a sense of failure, combined with the fact that well-meaning friends are just not sure what to say.

What not to say to someone who’s trying to have a baby

But we’ve opened up the dialogue on Fox in Flats a number of times, and the response has been overwhelming – I think sometimes we find it easier to spill in an understanding and safe online environment than with friends.

Fertility issues can be faced in any age group, but anecdotally it’s mostly in their 30’s when women discover they may have issues – mainly because that’s when loads of us start thinking about having kids.

The fact is, fertility begins to decline significantly for women in their mid-thirties, but issues are not only limited to that older demographic. Women in their twenties have shared their struggles to conceive with me.

As a rule of thumb, it’s a good idea to visit a GP for a referral to a fertility specialist if you are:

  • Over 35 and have been trying to fall pregnant for over 6 months
  • 35 and under and have been trying to fall pregnant for over 12 months.

 

 

 

Do you think age is the biggest factor in fertility? Are there other important factors in your experience? 

Because fertility begins to decline significantly for women in their mid-thirties age is a big factor.

But there are many other issues that can impact a couple’s ability to conceive. In fact one in six couples will experience difficulty in trying to fall pregnant. For women this can be for a variety of reasons such as hormone issues or endometriosis.

In many cases it’s assumed initially that the issue is with the woman’s body, but often it’s not the case. Men can have issues too such as deformities of their sperm, low sperm count, or low sperm mobility and these can have a huge impact.

Ideally, when you and your partner feel ready to start trying – or even if it’s something that you are both up for but maybe sometime down the track – it’s well worth visiting a GP together, and getting referrals for routine tests and check-ups such as sperm analysis and ultrasounds. Gaining an understanding of potential issues and being able to proactively address these can save a lot of heart ache and time wastage when you are ready to roll.

 

 

Do you think pregnancy is more difficult in your 30s or 40s? Are they any other factors that are equally important? 

The ease or otherwise of pregnancy can differ dramatically from one pregnancy to another, and the issues you might face can change. What IS important to know though is that after 35 pregnancies can become more complicated, for instance likelihoods of genetic disorders and miscarriages increase, and labour may become more difficult.

I had a pretty easy pregnancy with my first child when I was 32, until I made the rookie mistake of wearing heels throughout it, and when I was about 8 months along found I couldn’t get out of bed because I’d hurt my back – flats ladies, we all need flats!

But during my second pregnancy, tests showed that our baby was at high risk of having Down Syndrome, and this was a very emotional time for us. Also, I was sick 24/7, the kind of sickness you feel with a REALLY bad hangover, only without the funny tales from the night before. I’d not necessarily put that down to age though.

 

 

Have you heard of any old-wives tales ways to improve your fertility? Or bona fide medical ones for that matter? 

The funniest one I heard was to do a hand-stand after having sex, but unless you are an acrobat I wouldn’t recommend this!

If you’re hoping to get pregnant I’d advice both partners to prepare their bodies by eating a nutritious and balanced diet, exercising, taking appropriate vitamins and minerals (your GP can advise) and doing any necessary medical check-ups such as sperm analysis and ultrasounds. Drugs and alcohol can have a big effect on sperm, and if you do fall pregnant can harm your baby, so commonsense should prevail.

 

What age do you think women should start thinking about having children? 

There are age related factors that need to be taken seriously, but we need to find someone we want to have babies with first, right?!

For many of us there are things we’d like to do or achieve before starting a family and I’m a huge advocate of that, because once you become a mother priorities can shift dramatically and in ways you may not anticipate.

Also, I think it’s important to ask yourself the question about whether you want to have children or not instead of just assuming that it part of a life’s journey – some women don’t and that’s ok too.

 

 

A lot of readers are intimidated by starting the ‘when do you want kids’ conversation with their boyfriends… any tips? 

After you’ve figured out what you want, it’s pretty important to at least know whether your partner want to have kids too. I’ve heard too many stories about women who’ve just assumed their boyfriend wanted to have kids, only to find out years into the relationship that it was never on his radar – ever. Obviously these situations didn’t end well.

If you’re in an intimate relationship with someone, it’s natural that you’d talk about your hopes and dreams for the future, and I’d bring it up gently and in that context. I’d advise never to put the pressure on your boyfriend about this though – having children is a life changing experience, and a life-long responsibility – it’s a decision which no one should feel pressured into.

 

 

 

And today, if someone asked me the question directly “when is the right time to have kids?” I’d tell them this:

  • It’s not about checking off places to travel before you have them. I only just made it to New York all these years later having my first son, and Paris aint going anywhere.
  • Preparing financially can ease that burden, but you don’t need to have globs of cash to raise a happy child. 
  • Having children doesn’t mean your career ends there. But ensuring that your workplace is family friendly is really important, or start thinking ahead to how you may transfer your skills into a more flexible job like I did.
  • Get healthy, do the checks as outlined above regarding fertility, and be proactive with any issues that arise. Also, get on top of your general health – it’s not something to take for granted, especially once you have kids. You’ve got to do all you can to make sure you’re around the be a Grandparent, right?! 
  • Ensure your partner has patience, kindness, and that you are great mates. This will help you both deal with the inevitable stress that can come with parenthood. Plus, those qualities will come in handy if it doesn’t work out with them. Because whatever happens, being able to work together to be great parents to your child is paramount, and parenting lasts forever. 

 

 

 

Whether you’ve got kids or not – what advice would you offer those trying to decide when ‘the time is right’?

 

 

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  • Averil

    I’m a young mum- I had my first child at 25, my 2nd at 27 and my 3rd at 30. My husband and I wanted to be young parents. Falling pregnant was very easy and I had no major issues. I don’t regret having them young, it feels great now at 33 to be done and dusted. We didn’t do any overseas travel before kids because we had work and other financial commitments, we did a bit in Australia though. We are heading off on our first overseas trip as a family in a few weeks!
    I know I’ve been very fortunate though, I was lucky to meet my husband and get settled young, and lucky that we agreed on starting a family. My friends that have had kids well into their 30’s and 40’s would have loved to have started younger but they hadn’t met the right man yet. I met a lovely woman today that said she’d given up on having a baby then fell pregnant by surprise at 45. She has a 2 year old son that she’s besotted with, it was lovely to see. At the end of the day we are all on the same journey, it just happens earlier for some of us.

    • FoxInFlats

      Averil, Love your story and love that you’re getting to travel now! I agree many of us have similar paths we’d like to take – be them kids or travel or work – thrilled you are getting your trip now. Have a great time! xA

  • Kat

    I had my first just before I turned 29 and the second at 32. Our friends all started around 25-27, we were considered a bit late back then. I think the mid to late 20s is definitely best. You’re younger, fitter and more easily able to cope. Travel was irrelevant as countries are always there. In fact we ended up spending the first 13 years of our boys’ lives living in Italy, London, Bangkok and Jakarta. In each country we did much travelling all over the world, kids are so easy to travel with when they’re little, I promise. As for being responsible and financial for them for 18 years, that’s not normally the case. Few leave home and are independent at age 18. My food bills are still huge with a 19 year old uni student and a 16 year old (and their mates). My 19 year old is still very much a dependant. Both will be home many more years yet and I’m glad I’m young enough (nearly 48) to enjoy all of this. My sister waited, she wanted the lifestyle, travel, shopping etc. She’s just turned 41 and has been trying to fall pregnant for 3 years. They are now looking at the IVF path but the cost is huge. Not that I’ve said it to her but the thought of being nearly 60 when her child finishes school if she is lucky enough to fall pregnant this year scares the heck out of me. Life is good now my kids are older, don’t wait for a newer, bigger house or after doing lots of travel, it’s all there for you in the end. Enjoy them while you’re young.

    • FoxInFlats

      Hi Kat, You’ve made great points here, and I agree, it seems these days children stay at home much later than 18 – yikes! I’m pretty sure your sister has enough on her plate at the moment, that must be stressful for her, so it’s great you’ve kept that one to yourself. And I’ll bet you’ll make an awesome Auntie when the time does come! xA

  • I had my first at 26 and my last at 36 and two in between (4 girls all up) and all I can say is that if you are waiting for the right time to have kids..then you will never have kids, because there is no perfect time. I didn’t mind being a younger mother, hubby and I are looking forward to our retirement years, when our kids are grown and we can take off and do whatever we want, and still be young enough to enjoy it.

    • FoxInFlats

      Ah yes, retirement!!! How far away is that??! 😉

  • I am trying to decide this now! I am 26 and my husband is 28 and we have been married for 6 years. We have been happy to wait and enjoy our twenties just the two of us. I am getting ready to start trying soon but with my husband starting his own business, wanting to buy a bigger house, still finishing the renos on this house and me being determined to get 1 europe trip in first i worry that we will be waiting a long while before we are ‘ready’. I’d really prefer to start before we are 30 as we always said we wanted to have kids young.

    • FoxInFlats

      Ah yes, the work, house, renno thing. We totally did that too. Like ticking off the boxes you feel you need to. But listen to your heart Steph, because that’s just a societal thing, doesn’t have to be ‘your thing’ .x

  • carmen

    My feelings are there is no right or wrong time. There are just different times. I had my first at 24. Completely wrong time and wrong man. Absolutely right baby/child/now-almost-teenager! I did not plan to get pregnant when I did but I figured ‘what if this is the only baby I get?!’ So I took that baĺl and I ran with it. I have worked, studied, moved with work, travelled. My son only enhances my life and I have felt nothing but fortunate. Well ok sometimes also exasperated, tired and a bit hungry. I had my second at 34, much better time and much better man. I thought Id paid my due and got it right. Then my baby died for no reason. Still born at 40 weeks after healthy pregnancy and natural labour and delivery. No explanation. I figure if there was a ‘right’ time to have a baby I’d have a 2 1/2 year old right now. I had my 3rd at 36. Another boy and a real delight. My partner is 52 and never imagined he would have such a wonderful little son at this stage of his life. I never imagined any of it, it was just how it happened and I am grateful for all the times.

    • FoxInFlats

      Dear Carmen, My heart just broke reading that. I am so sorry for the loss of your son. When I see you there’s going to be an extra big hug. I’m really lost for words. Sorry. But what a blessing your other sons are. I’d love to see a family pic. Sounds like yours is a cool one. xxxA

      • carmen

        Thanks Andrea, kind words x I have tried to attach a picture of the older boy and younger boy

        • FoxInFlats

          Oh I love this! Such a happy shot. xxxA

  • This is fantastic advice. Seriously, every woman – and man – who potentially have children on their life’s radar should read this. You’ve certainly given me a lot to think about.
    I’m 30, my husband is 36 and there are no kids in our house (apart from the fluffy kind!)… Will there ever be? I’m not sure. Maybe one day. And if that never comes to be? Then that’s OK too, because we both agree that we’re enough for each other. If we’re blessed with a child, then – as Carmen said – that will further enhance our pretty wonderful life. x

    • FoxInFlats

      Wow thankyou for the lovely feedback Sonia. Totally agree, if you have found your love you are very lucky and children on top of that are a blessing if that is what you want. Big xxx’s to you both. x

  • So love that your are highlighting this. We spend so many years trying not to get pregnant that when you want to and it doesnt happen straight away you are baffled. I wish I could tell the old me to nurture her fertility more, treat it with more respect. I would definitely tell her to get off that pill, you’ve been on it too many years and you will spend nearly 2 years just trying to get your body to normalise again.

    Nobody talks about that side of things when they write you a prescription for the pill. Not one doc ever spoke about the side effects to your hormonal and digestive system the pill can take and how long it may take to nurture it back to working again. You sort of just believe you stop taking the pill and everything returns to normal the next month. Wish I knew that then!

    • FoxInFlats

      I love the point you made here about what youd tell your younger self about your fertility – I’m thinking that’s probably going to apply to us in some way or another about health issues that might rear their heads in the future that because of our behaviours now also – eeek!

  • Beca

    I really enjoy your articles and this one in particular. I agree with many of your readers that there’s no right time to have kids that can be applied to everyone but I do wish there were more conversations in mainstream media and among women and men about the biological implications of “waiting”. I totally understand it’s a different set of decisions if you haven’t found a partner to have kids with but for those who have a partner and know they want to have kids one day but not sure when, and are either waiting for the right time or have other things to tick off their lists first, I’d say re-write your lists if you can and put having kids earlier than later somewhere near the top of your list (if it’s something you know is for you one day – as you said, it’s not everyone’s life journey!). My hubby and I did the study/work/house reno/overseas travel first – me with the idea of having kids before 35 (the magical cut-off figure lots of friends chose too given women’s declining fertility by that age). However, life had different ideas and it took us years – after over 10 years on the Pill, I had endometriosis and PCOS and we went down the IVF route but conceived our son on a fertility drug and our daughter two years later we call a miracle as we hadn’t started trying for number two yet! However, I almost died from undiagnosed eclampsia a week after having her (I turned 38 later that year). I had never been overweight, hardly ever consume alcohol and have never been a smoker, so the PCOS and infertility were really hard to bear. Eclampsia claimed the life of the woman who my specialist obstetrician last saw before me and her husband was left to raise their newborn twins alone – eclampsia is a hideous, little understood disease, thought to be genetic but much about it is unknown. What I do know is that my fertility issues in my mid-late thirties are not uncommon and I know countless women in their 30s and 40s who have struggled with fertility issues and some, who despite trying everything, will never have the kids they vaguely contemplated in their 20s. When to have kids is such a personal decision, and so it should be, but I wish I’d known more about the reality of biology I my 20s. Premature babies are also more common for older women and more information needs to be available on how hard it is to survive the first year with a prem baby (and full-term bubs!) and the long-term health implications for bubs born early. I wouldn’t change any of what we’ve been through as a family, including eclampsia, but I think I could have been better prepared emotionally and mentally to get through the really hard and dark times if I had known a bit more about age and the biological impacts of time on women’s fertility before we popped “having kids” somewhere at the bottom of our list in our twenties.