Why Postponing Kids to Advance Your Career Is a Mistake
If you want to have kids but aren’t wedded to having biological children, you can stop reading here.
This is the month when thousands of new college graduates will mark the start of the next phase of their lives.
Do you remember when you landed your first job out of college? Chances are getting married or starting a family were the furthest things from your mind.
Of all the advice I received after graduating from college and then graduate school, no one ever talked to me about not waiting too long to have children.
Now, there are lots of reasons to not have children too early in life. In fact, I think most people shouldn’t even think about getting married or having children until they are in their late twenties or early thirties.
Why? Let’s face it, if you are like most people, you have a mountain of student loan debt, your career is just getting started and you probably haven’t met the person you are ready to marry.
Most importantly, you need to figure out who you are before committing to something as serious as marriage and parenthood.
That said, women need to think carefully about choosing to wait to have children to advance their careers. As a self-proclaimed career girl, you are probably thinking this is crazy talk coming from me.
After all, I didn’t get pregnant with D2 until I was 39 and gave birth at age 40. I deliberately put off getting married and having kids because I was so deeply wedded to my career that the thought of marriage and (biological) children seemed like a far off goal that I could address when I had time.
You’re thinking, that’s so 20th century. We have modern science to help us!
What about all of the available technologies like egg freezing? you ask. What about all of the pregnant forty-something celebrities I see in tabloids?
I know if I had to do it all over again, I would have started trying to have kids earlier. I know now there are many compelling reasons to have children before you turn 35.
It’s harder to get pregnant than you think.
Consider, a normal healthy couple with no fertility issues can spend up to a year trying to get pregnant. Yes, lots of celebrities these days are walking around in their late thrities and forties pregnant with twins. And though most won’t admit it, I would bet a month’s paycheck that most of them used some sort of assisted reproductive technology.
Think you can get pregnant working a high-pressure jobwhile stressed out, exhausted,constantly traveling and not in tip top shape? Think again. It may not be that easy.
Yes, there are many technologies to help women get pregnant at later ages but the fact is that after age 35 a woman’s fertility begins to decline and the chances of having a child with chromosomal disorders like Down’s Syndrome go up.
Added to that is a woman’s chance of miscarriage (though they can and do happen at any age) between ages 35-39 goes up to about 20% and increases to about 35% between ages 40 to 44.
I had a miscarriage before successfully getting pregnant with D2 at age 39 and believe me, nothing could prepare me for the emotional toll it took and the months of fear and anxiety it caused me.
Miscarriage steals your innocence.
Talk to any women who has had one and she’ll tell you regardless of how healthy the next pregnancy turns out to be, the spector of a miscarriage looms like a phantom in the background. The later you wait to start having children, the more you need to prepare for this reality.
Many women underestimate the psychological and financial costs of infertility.
Nearly every day there is a news article about advancements in reproductive technology but what’s rarely discussed is the emotional and financial costs of infertility. The average fertility treatment can cost several thousand dollars (and by the way, most health insurance plans don’t cover fertility treatments) and many women need multiple treatments before successfully conceiving. If you go the surrogacy route you can expect to pay upwards of $25,000 just to start.
Couples sometimes save for years, or take out massive personal loans or home equity lines of credit to pay for treatments. Think about if this is how you’d like to spend your disposable income. It’s the not-so-hidden cost that no one talks about.
Besides the financial toll, there is an emotional toll.
The impact of infertility on a relationship and your sex life can be crushing. Endless doctor visits, untold quantities of medications and constant invasive testing can challenge the strongest relationship.
Your career can overtake your personal life if you let it.
But more important than gory fertility statistics and prospect of invasive medical procedures is a reality that some women face too late: It’s far too easy to let your career overshadow your personal life.
We forget that as much as our careers need care and feeding, so do our personal lives. If marriage or a committed relationship with biological children is important to you, then you need to make room in your life to make it happen.
In my early thirties, as much as I knew I wanted a family, I invested little time in thinking about how or when I would get there. I was climbing my way up the fast track in the PR agency world and there was no way I was ready to have kids. I looked around my agency and all of the successful women I saw were single and childless.
In the nearly eight years I spent in the PR agency business, I rarely saw a pregnant woman at the senior management level. This should have been a warning sign. It took a tumultuous expatriate assignment for me to really look hard at my life and reprioritize.
What I learned over time is that your career is a never-ending journey. There’s no great time to have a child. I learned your job will take everything out of you if you let it. Your boss won’t sit you down and say, Hey, you are working really hard and I just want to make sure you are taking time out to cultivate your personal life.
I don’t know how many successful women I’ve met over the years in their mid-forties or older who are still single and childless simply because they didn’t think to get off the treadmill long enought to focus on their personal lives.
Invest as much time on your personal life as you do your career.
And so my advice to young women today is if they don’t want that life, then they need to make some choices upfront about their careers and building a family. It doesn’t happen by accident.
If being married and having biological children is important to you, then make sure you are investing in your personal life. You’ll be a happier person and chances are you’ll be even more successful at work because you are taking care of yourself.
So which ever path you choose (and it is a choice), make sure you go in with eyes wide open.
Your turn. What do you think? Do you think you had children too early, too late or at just about the right time in your life? What advice would you give to a young woman who is early in her career and thinking about when to start a family? If you don’t have children but want them how do you decide when is the right time?