If you’re the grown child of an eager grandparent-to-be, you’ve probably heard that the ideal time to have kids is yesterday. While there’s no one-size-fits-all answer and no absolutely wrong time to have kids, you definitely shouldn’t kowtow to pressure from people outside of your relationship, even well-meaning friends and family members. Consider your options and plan ahead – but you might also want to have a plan in place if having kids happens sooner or later than you’d hoped.
Discuss with Your Partner
Hopefully, before you’ve committed to being with your partner in the long-term (either through marriage or by moving in together), you’ve discussed the prospect of having children together. Before you can be on the same page about when to have children, you both have to want them to begin with and ideally also agree on the number of children you can support. Compromise in a relationship is possible in many things, such as agreeing to have two children when one of hoped for one and the other had four in mind. However, it’s not a good idea for you to stay together if one of you steadfastly wants children while the other doesn’t want any at all. One of you will always be unhappy as a result. If you have kids when one of you isn’t fond of the idea of being a parent, the children will feel that and will suffer too.
What to Aim for with the Timing
Once you’re on the same page about having children, consider the following when deciding when to have children:
- Allow yourself time to enjoy each other’s company as a couple (this could be as long as five to ten years for some couples – or it could be almost no time at all for others, as they consider their pre-marriage time the “alone time”).
- Allow yourself time to save up (this could be one to five years, depending on your area’s cost of living and your goals for housing).
- Consider the woman’s age (it’s healthiest for a woman to have her first child by age 34 and any subsequent children by age 37; if you’re in your twenties, you have more time to delay childbirth, but the longer you wait, the greater your chances of developing problems during pregnancy and of your children having defects).
- Consider alternatives (if you’re getting together in your thirties or later, for example, you may want to adopt or use a surrogate to rule out the issue of having a child at an unhealthy age – consider the physical requirements of raising a child for both parents, though, if you’re nearing your fifties and beyond).
Consider All Your Options
Regardless of your age, adoption or surrogacy might be an option that works for you. It not only makes it possible for you to have kids at a later age – and thus save more of your income before having children – but it also allows you to keep working comfortably right until the moment you bring your new child home. You’ll even be in prime condition to take care of her during those early, hectic days, which you likely wouldn’t be the case if you gave birth. If you try to have a kid yourself for several years and it doesn’t seem to be working, you can try fertility treatments or consider adoption or surrogacy.
What to Do if Kids Come Too Soon
Of course, the opposite could happen and, even with careful birth control measures, you could be expecting sooner than you planned. It may be tougher to deal with raising a child before you have as much of your finances squared away as you hoped, but it’s not impossible. Cut out what little luxuries you can – expensive coffee, gym memberships, and cable TV, for example – to start saving more each month and paying down existing debt. Look into ways to organize even a small apartment or small house to comfortably fit a family of three or more. Consider changing a career within the next few years to afford a bigger home before you planned – but get through the pregnancy and your child’s earliest years first by tightening your belt and making do with less to provide more for your child. If you project happiness, your child will be happy, too, even in a small home without many toys.
Of course, if you don’t want children, don’t feel pressured to ever have them. Many couples have fulfilling lives without kids – and it leaves a lot more time in the day to devote to your relationship. There’s some social stigma attached to remaining childless, but that shouldn’t stop the two of you from living your lives. Plus, you’ll have a lot more time to do things like travel and you’ll have more money saved up to do it.