Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Younger moms

Having a child at any age is a big decision, and there are a lot of factors involved in making that decision. There is no "right" age to start a family. But I am very happy that we started our family when we were younger - I like being a young mom.

I was twenty-five when I got pregnant with my first child. I had just turned thirty-three by the time I had my third son. For me, this works out just about perfectly. By the time I'm forty, I will have a fourteen-year-old, a twelve-year-old, and a seven-year-old. I will turn forty-four when our oldest starts university, and I'll be fifty when our youngest is off to school. I'm not looking forward to the day my children leave home. I'm sure I'll be a blubbering mess when I realize they've grown up and started their own lives outside of the family home. But I am glad that when they do I'll still be young and (hopefully) healthy enough to enjoy the next phase of my life.

I have quite a few girlfriends just starting their families now, in their mid- to late-thirties. I have several friends planning to start families within the next few years. I have one girlfriend who just had her first child at thirty-eight and now, turning forty, is expecting her second. And there's nothing wrong with that - some waited to get their careers underway, some took time before finding a partner they wanted to have children with, some worked to pay off student debt and buy a family home before planning to start a family.

There are a lot of arguments for waiting until you're older before having children - you're more financially stable, your relationship with your partner is more solid, you're student debt-free, you own your own home, and you have a chance to travel and go to the theatre and have nice dinners out before babies come along and your personal and social life is sidelined for a couple of decades. I didn't get to do any of those things.

But because I had children younger, I will have the opportunity to do those things when I'm a little older, and I won't have to wait until I'm in my sixties or seventies before having the freedom to do so.  Because we will be younger by the time our children are off to university, the expense of their post-secondary education will be behind us with a lot of working years left before us to ensure our retirement is comfortable - I would hate to be approaching retirement with the expense of three children's university educations hanging over my head. (We do not plan to allow our children to take on the expense of their own education and are determined to pay for it ourselves). The option of early retirement is a very real possibility for us. We will be young enough to enjoy travelling. We will be young enough to know our grandchildren. There are countless things we can look forward to doing when our children are grown that those friends just planning their families - many of whom certainly did a lot more travelling, spa days, dinners out and weekends away than we did in our twenties - can't even begin to plan for since there's that whole "family" phase of life between now and then.

And, of course, there are the advantages of being a younger mom in the here and now. There is a huge difference between having a child in your twenties and having a child in your thirties - I can attest to that even in the seven-year difference between my oldest and my youngest. Pregnancy, childbirth, the sleepless nights of infancy, keeping up with the activity level of young children - they are all much harder to handle in your thirties than in your twenties, and I can only imagine even more challenging in your forties.

I like being young enough, active enough, and fit enough to be able to keep up with my boys. I like being agile enough to climb on the jungle gym, crawl through play structures and curl up on the floor to play. I like having the energy to kick around the ball at the park, go on long hikes and bike rides and run around with my little bundles of energy. I like the fact that, although I would prefer more than a couple of consecutive hours of sleep, my body is able to deal with less and I'm able to function and see the light at the end of the tunnel when I will one day be able to spend evenings with my husband and sleep all night without be awoken by a crying baby or child with a nightmare.

I certainly had to sacrifice a lot in order to start my family young. But I think it was well worth the sacrifices for all the benefits of being a young mom.

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