Older Parents Tell 30-Somethings To Get Started On That Baby-Making

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older parentsThe older mom vs. young mom debate is one of many parenting conversations that simply won’t let up. Despite that women are having children later and have now access to to a range of fertility choices such as IVF and surrogacy, the “perfect age” at which to begin a family continues to be debated. All positions can of course easily warrant a pros and cons list. But even among a recent survey of parents 40 and older, they seemed to agree that the golden age to start having those babes was in your 30s.

A relatively small study by The University of California, San Francisco asked 107 parents (mostly white, married and with above-average incomes) what the advantages and disadvantages were to becoming parents at their age. Among the participants, researchers interviewed 46 couples and 15 single women who had used IVF to conceive their first child when she was 40 or over. And these older parents seemed glad that they had waited:

“A majority of women and men in the study believed that childbearing later in life resulted in advantages for themselves and their families,” the researchers wrote.

The chief advantage, according to the participants, was that they were more emotionally prepared for parenting — 72 percent of women and 57 percent of men said this was an advantage.

One father said, “I know that I’m way more self-aware than I was 20 years ago. I feel like I’m in a better position to communicate better with my child and help them more in life, and I understand how to be a supportive, encouraging parent.”

A woman said, “I just have more confidence in myself than I did in my 20s, so I don’t get fazed by as much as I might have when I was younger.”

Parents of both genders also spoke about having stronger partnerships than they did when they were younger, as well as more financial security, professional success, and career flexibility. Yet, the drawbacks weighed heavy on these parents as more than a third of women and a quarter of men cited a lack of energy when handling the kiddies. Almost half of the mothers bemoaned fertility struggles with some being instructed to just hit the IVF hard before putting any confidence in traditional baby-making. And, of course, many spoke of the cultural stigma of just being older parents.

But although these parents were happy with their personal decisions, many felt that the disadvantages outweighed the advantages. It could very well be a simple case of “the grass is always greener.” However, some participants just wished they had reached the family they had now — sooner:

“I think if I could have written out the story of my life, I would have met him younger, and I probably would have had children maybe at 35,” one woman said.

Moms and dads felt that the optimum time to begin a family would have been about five to 10 years earlier in their 30s, which offered a “compromise” between all that career success/emotional stability and the fertility obstacle course to conception.

Yet, considering how tiny this study is, I bet you could round up 107 mostly white above-average income parents who wouldn’t want to really do much tinkering with their personal timeline. If anything, these findings suggest that the choice to begin a family is unique with many modern parents deciding on their own terms when having kids is truly right for them. Everyone has regrets, but only a prospective mother and father can truly draft that pros and cons list for themselves.

(photo: Shutterstock)