A popular topic on Mumsnet lately has been the right age to have a baby. Somewhat inevitably, it’s leading to a fair few arguments, as everyone disagrees on what constitutes an “old” mum, what constitutes a “young” mum, and what is the ideal age to have a baby at.
I spoke on Radio Five Live about this last year, and you’ll probably remember me being quite affronted by another guest’s assertion that older parents had wanted their child for longer and therefore loved them more. Similar tired old stereotypes were rearing their heads during these posts on Mumsnet – the “younger parents will live longer” vs “older parents are more mature” debates are old and, quite frankly, a little bit boring.
I’ve made no attempt to hide my feelings that while having a baby at nineteen, smack bang in the middle of uni, was far from ideal; we’ve made the best of it and I wouldn’t change a thing. I couldn’t even begin to comment on what it’s like to be an older mum, as I don’t have that experience yet – but I asked some fellow bloggers about the age they became parents, and their personal views on the “right age” to have a child, and here are some of their responses.
Rachel from Coffee, Cake, Kids was 25 when she had her first child, and she said: “I wish we had held off another couple of years if I am honest. I had only graduated from uni just over a year before, so I went from being a skint student to a mum quite quickly, and there’s so much I would have liked to do before having kids. Saying that, I wouldn’t change it for the world now!”.
Kate from Family Fever said: “I was 21. In hindsight I wish he had waited a bit longer and got stable careers sorted first, but I loved the fact that we had so much energy – having had another baby at 31 I can definitely feel the difference!”.
Feeling that you’re missing out is a common theme among young parents, although not everyone feels that way.
Beth at Twinderelmo says: “I had my son at 23 and when I look back now I think it was quite young but I never felt like I missed out on partying”.
In a similar vein, Charlotte from Bloggersaurus said: “I fell pregnant at 19, gave birth just after turning 20. It wasn’t planned but I have no regrets we are a very happy family and I love being a young mum, I love that when she’s 20 I will only be 40”.
I’ll be honest, that’s something I love about being a younger parent too. SB will celebrate her 21st birthday less than a year after I celebrate my 40th, which calls for a nice big double celebration if you ask me (triple, seeing as Daf will be turning 50 that year, but I think he’d rather I didn’t mention that!). It’s quite scary to think that if she follows in my footsteps and gives birth at 19, I’ll be a nan at 38 (and I’ll be honest, I’d like it if she could hold off a little longer than that!).
While people are very forthcoming about the positives of starting early, stories of starting later on seem to be tinged slightly more with regret.
Mary from Over 40 And A Mum To One says: “I was 41. Mine was down to the situation but if things had been different I would have preferred to be mid 30’s I think”. However, she also says there are pros to being a mum a little later on in life – “We are in a financial position where I don’t need to be at work full time and I’ve travelled well before my son arrived”.
This is a definite pro, as I know right now I’m struggling with needing to work full time to keep a roof over our heads, which may not have happened had we waited until we had a little more financial security before having SB.
Sometimes, the choice is simply taken out of people’s hands. Rachel at Rachel Bustin said: “I was 33 with my first. We started trying when I was 30 but I had 3 miscarriages before we were finally lucky. I know it’s old fashioned but we wanted to wait until we were married and had bought our own house. If I knew how long it would have taken us to get pregnant I would have wanted to start earlier. I feel as If I should have be on our second now”.
It goes to show that we can have our “ideal age” to have a baby, but sometimes life has other ideas. I know that I wanted to wait and be married and financially secure before having a baby – although if that had panned out, this blog would never have existed – but my life took a very different direction. There are people out there who want to start early, and who don’t see marriage/living situation as a barrier, but for reasons like infertility, miscarriage and ill health, don’t become parents until much later on.
Most people are in agreement that there’s no uniformly perfect age to have a baby – you could suggest any age and someone would be able to find a drawback to becoming a mum at that age – but many people consider their age to be perfect for them.
Sarah at Each Peach Pear Plum says: “For me 25 was just right, I haven’t never felt it was too young. I do know friends who did think we were too young and as my hubby is 2 years younger at 23 becoming a Dad people thought it to young. However we had planned and prepared and felt it was the right time for us!”.
Renee at Mummy Tries said: “I was a few weeks away from my 30th birthday (32 and 34 with my 2nd and 3rd), and felt it was completely perfect timing. I had been on a huge journey of healing a few years previous, my husband and I had been together five years, and we were ready in every way”.
However, sometimes it’s not as simple as any age being perfect – it’s making the most of the hand life deals you, and seeing the pros and cons to every situation.
Laura from The Unsung Mum posted: “It took us a year and a half to conceive. We now wish we had kids earlier (The Hub is 37, I’m 31) but I don’t think we were ready as a couple any earlier”.
Sharon at Rivers Writes says: “I was 16 when I got pregnant, 17 by the time I gave birth. pros – I had loads of energy and have grown up with my son and we are very close, cons- none of my friends had babies so it was lonely and it was a battle to get educated etc with a baby but wouldn’t change it. 10 years on I’ve been to uni and worked full time so haven’t missed out on anything and have gained a lot”.
Personally, when I used to say how positive I felt about being a young mum, people would say “see if you’re still saying that in a year/two years”. Well, I’m now 22, and I still have no regrets about going through with the pregnancy and having a baby at 19. It definitely wasn’t planned, and the timing was less than ideal, but there’s so many pros to being this age.
Yes, I was the first of my friends to have a baby, and it was a lonely experience for a while – but my friends know that when they have babies, I’ll be on hand to offer help and advice.
We may not be financially set for life, and I may have to work, but I’m raising SB with a good work ethic, and I could’ve waited until I was 30 and still not been in the perfect financial position.
I think one thing is for sure – whether you’re 15 or 50 when you become a parent for the first time, it’s daunting and exciting and a true learning curve. We can all learn from other parents, and we’ve all got wisdom and experience that we can share with others too.
Thank you to all the bloggers who contributed towards this post; I’m sorry I couldn’t use all of your contributions. Please check out the lovely bloggers linked to in the post!