I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: there is never a good time to start a family. So if you want to have children you’re just going to have to go for it.
I was 28 when my oldest son was born, on my birthday. It was the most frightening thing that had ever happened to me. After eight months (he was early) of attempting to get used to the idea I still wasn’t nearly ready mentally. I felt a terrible panic when I was left alone in my hospital room with him that first night.
We hadn’t planned to have children the same year we married. But as luck would have it we found ourselves with child shortly after. I think of it as luck because I know we would have come up with all sorts of excuses to delay otherwise.
Everything else about my life to date had been planned. I planned to be a journalist and then pursue a career as a magazine editor. I planned to study communications at university. I also planned to marry my charming work colleague. But I hadn’t planned on children before 30.
Now that my youngest is just three years away from completing high school – which means I will be done with school by 50 – I am entirely grateful for the way my life panned out. Sure it was tough establishing my career with young children. But I see friends who did the opposite: reached the heights of their career and then started a family in their forties, and they are exhausted. I am exhausted watching them try to tame small children when my husband and I are just starting to feel free again. We are able to enjoy adult-only evenings while our friends who delayed are committed to evenings at home with the kids due to unreliable babysitting arrangements.
I hear so many bright young women talk of a career-first, children-later decision that has been reached due to fear. Fifty years after women were liberated, we remain trapped in a corporate world where being a mum may be a career disadvantage. Of course this isn’t the case for all. There are some progressive companies that have eliminated the need for fear. If you know of one please nominate them for a Women’s Agenda Leadership award.
Some early career women also fear the impact of children on their double-income active lifestyle. It may not be so easy to pack your bags for an impromptu weekend away but it isn’t impossible. Then there’s the reported cost of children and the sleepless nights that we all hear and read about.
Yes it’s all true. The rich fabric of parenthood can absolutely affect you in each of those ways. There’s no point pretending otherwise. But it’s also true that children enrich your existence in so many ways that those of us who have suffered career setbacks, financial regression and a diminished social life wouldn’t do it differently if we had our time again.
Did fear delay your plans for a family? What would you advise younger women to do?