When Is The Right Time To Have Children?

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Baby with an iPodThis is a guest post from Cathy, who writes about family finances, parenting and cooking at Chief Family Officer.

The short answer to this question is that there is no right time. But, there are a lot of things to consider when deciding whether to have children, and many of them are financial. Here are some things to think about when you’re making that big decision:

Are you in a relatively stable place in your life? This is a basic question, but it’s the big one. While nothing can be perfect, bringing home a baby can create unimaginable upheaval, and ideally, there will be as little to stress you out as possible. That means you’ll have a stable job situation, a roof over your heads that’s not going anywhere, and the ability to provide for the necessities (food, water and shelter) for your family.

Can you afford the “unnecessary necessities”? Technically, the only necessities in life are food, water and shelter. But in our society, things like life insurance, disability insurance, and health insurance are also necessities. Once you have another, helpless person depending on you to provide them with everything they need, you realize that you need to have various forms of insurance in case you can no longer provide for them.

What stage is your career at? Assuming you’ve got the basics covered, you can go on to consider other less fundamental but yet important things like your career goals and whether they are compatible with having children. If, for instance, you want to be a super litigator, you’re probably not going to be available much. Is that okay with you and your spouse? I know many attorneys who see their children for an hour or less per day during the week, and not much more on weekends. Keep in mind that your goals will quite possibly change before or after your child arrives. Personally, I discovered that I cared less about being a great attorney and much more about being a great mom.

How old are you? A woman’s fertility is greatly affected by age, and at 35, her chances of getting pregnant and having a healthy baby start to decrease substantially. Men aren’t immune either – studies have shown that children of older men are more likely to be autistic. And, a lot of fertility problems aren’t discovered until you start trying to have a baby. I had two miscarriages before my oldest was born, so we became parents a whole year later than we expected, and now that I know what some of my friends have been through, I consider myself lucky. Also, fertility treatments are expensive and often not covered by insurance.

How much time will you be able to take off from work? If you intend to keep working after your baby is born, then you’ll want to consider the leave your employer will allow you to take. Your employer’s legal obligations are governed by state and federal law, and some laws don’t apply unless you’ve been working for a minimum amount of time.

Of course, the most important thing to consider when deciding whether to have a child is simply, do you want a child, and do you want a child now? If the answer is yes, then you’re in for a wild, fun ride!

(Photo: tedsblog)

{ 16 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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16 Responses to “When Is The Right Time To Have Children?”

  1. This is a good common sense post. We all need to be stable and in a good financial position before we think about children.

    Also, it helps if your job is one that doesn’t require travel for weeks on end.

    I think children are one of the biggest responsibilities you can have, and you need to make certain that you’re prepared to help mold them into the best person you possibly can. That requires an investment of time and other resources for success.

    Do do less is to do your children a disservice.


    • This is very solid advice. The only thing I would add is that there is no perfect time to have children. If you spend your time worrying too much about preparation you will might miss the boat altogether!

      • Spudder07 says:

        I agree totally. Some couples are much too selfish. Having a child is a gift and if you are worried about all the ways it is going to cramp your style just do not have one.

        Having your finances in order before having a child does not prevent you from losing your job or going broke after you have a child. Kids are resilient anyways. I grew up totally broke but never knew it; I was loved by parents who knew that their bank accounts did not adequately measure success.

  2. DebtGoal says:

    When deciding on children, financial planning one of the most important factors to consider. Someone with large amounts of non-mortgage debt to be paid off can have children, but a clear budget and spending controls need to be put in place.

  3. Dave says:

    Wait, so you aren’t supposed to cram major life events together? I started a new job, bought a new house, and in a 6 month period. I figured if I’m going to be stressed out, I might as well go for the trifecta!

  4. Travis says:

    Never a good time money wise to do it, there is always things to do and buy. But you can never understand how amazing sharing life with kids is until you have one of your own.

  5. There’s definitely no perfect time! But, all things being equal, why not make it as easy as possible? Of course, kids are a blessing no matter when they arrive 🙂

  6. ChristianPF says:

    I heard some good advice that you should wait until you can’t wait any longer – cause once you have them, you can’t give ’em back! 😉

  7. kitty says:

    I like how that this post mentioned woman’s age and fertility and not just concentrated on finances.
    One thing that I’d like to add is that not only having a baby after the age of 35 is more difficult, the fertility treatments become less successful as well.

    There are other health issues. The risk of having a baby with Dawn goes up exponentially with mother’s age. So do risks to mother’s health. Another often overlooked issue is how the mother’s age at having the first baby affects her risk of breast cancer later in life. If you have your baby before you are 25, your risk is smaller than average. Between 25 and 30 it is close to that of a woman who has never had children. After the age of 30, it is higher than that of a childless woman and it continues to go up with the age of the first birth. This increase may be small if you look at absolute risk rather than relative risk, but it is much more dramatic increase than for example HRT, and remember the uproar it causes. Having kids early is the single most effective thing a woman can do to reduce her chances of having breast cancer. Now – you can say “oh, I know this person who had children early and still got breast cancer”. Reducing risk is not the same as eliminating risk, it just means that if you take a 1000 women who had the first child early and a 1000 women who had the first child late, there’ll be more cases of post menopausal breast cancer in the latter group.

    Additionally, the older you get the less energy you have. This may not be apparent at 35, but it is at 50. Kids require a lot of energy. At the age of 50 you may just no be up to dealing with teenagers.

    “I heard some good advice that you should wait until you can’t wait any longer – cause once you have them, you can’t give ‘em back!”
    The problem is – you don’t know for sure that you can’t wait any longer until it’s too late. Each woman is different and you can only rely on general statistics. Some women can have children at 47 others can’t at 35…

    • unexplained infertility @ 26 says:

      1 in 6 couples (across the age spectrum) have trouble conceiving. On the flip side, nearly half of all prenancies in the U.S. are unplanned.

      Many people make a plan and have a baby. For others, it’s not so easy or it’s just too easy.

  8. JC says:

    This reminds me a lot of work done by Garth

    He came up with mathematical models that answer these questions:

    What are the chances my marriage will last?
    Should we get married??
    How many kids should you have?

  9. kathy says:

    Eighteen to twenty seven is probably ideal, at least healthwise, but depending on one’s individual circumstances.

    I was Baby #5, and my dad was 39 and my mother was 33 when I was born. I think they were tired of raising children during my school years, they seemed to lose interest in parenting me as I became a teenager.

    Therefore, I think younger is probably better, but who knows for sure?

  10. TStrump says:

    I think the best time to have kids is when you’re financially stable AND have the time to spend with them.
    Many people have kids but don’t have time because they both have to work to pay the bills.
    In my experience, though, I find that most people don’t plan that well because the urge is so great … it’s that ticking-of-the-clock thing.
    Let’s face it, they’re also cute!

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