Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Problem with Having Children in Our 30s

You thought you signed on for weekly posts on Italian food and culture? Well, then let me disappoint you with this: Dead Chef does more than cook! I am the mother of a bi-cultural bundle of destruction (with another on the way) and the wife of an American who is good at everything except speaking Italian. From time to time my posts will wander into my life with these gentlemen and may or may not circle back to what we ate for lunch. *waits as readers click on more interesting bookmark and leaves the page*

Okay, so for those of you who stayed, let's move on. Here are my reflections on having children in my 30s, and why I came to the conclusion that becoming a mother in my early 20s would have been a much better choice. I mostly base my observations on my experience and that of my sister. I had my first child at the age of 34 and I'm expecting my second now at 36. My sister had her first child at 23 and her second only 14 months later. I suspect that most of the points I make will be completely obvious to you (although obvious always makes for great filler on the web, as demonstrated by this), so I'm throwing in a bonus theory that might or might not shock you.

So, what are the problems with having children in our 30s?

1. We Just Don't Have the Physique Anymore
My sister held her first child all the time for the entire first year, and not because she was following attachment parenting, but because SHE LIKED IT. When my son was born, I could wear the sling for just about 20 minutes at a time before shooting pains in my back would force me crying to my knees. We all know this: We are just not that strong and resilient as we were in our 20s. Not only we can't hold our howling toddlers for the time it takes to bring them outside the store, but we are terrified when they ask us to spin them or throw them in the air (even though we know that will be their happiest childhood memory).

2. We Read Too Many Parenting Books 
My sister relied on one book to raise her two wonderful kids. Since I became pregnant for the first time three years ago, I purchased/borrowed the following: 2 pregnancy books, 1 book for birth partners, 1 book for working mothers, 1 book on sleep training, 3 pediatrics guides, 5 parenting books for babies and toddlers, 1 parenting books for boys, 2 books on Waldorf education, 2 books on natural postpartum support, 1 book on potty training, 2 books on having a second child. (Oh, of course I had a book about how to get pregnant, too.) At 30 we love to be informed and discuss the philosophies behind everything. Of course, we also soon discover that none of those books ever describe our unique situations, but we keep on reading because it makes us feel smart and prepared. Plus, reading boosts our self-confidence while allowing us to sit, which bring us back to point #1.

3. We Are Used to Living in Luxury 
If you have a child in your 20s, you might wonder how great life would be if you hadn't had children. At 30, you know it. Right before we got pregnant, many of us were living the dream: we dined out often, traveled the world, practiced gear-laden sports, celebrated at spas, and owned pets that than ate better than most of the world's population. It's pretty obvious that when a child comes, most of the money, time, and energy spent on enjoying luxury are greatly reduced, and that's a shock.

4. We Worry Too Much
Today, all playground slides look like this to me.
The older we get, the more we worry about our children getting hurt. I suspect the reason is that aging impairs our instinctual understanding of body movement. As we become more awkward and unbalanced with every passing year, we forget how it feels to be perfectly strong, flexible, and nimble as children are. My sister would cheer her children when they would go down the slide head first. I cover my eyes and pray to the first deity that comes to mind.

5. Our Standards Are Too High
If we're lucky, by the time we hit 30 we have gotten rid of mean friends, abusive bosses, and super-slob half-boyfriends or half-girlfriends. At 30, we start saying things like, "I would never let anyone treat me like that!" and we mean it. This is an accomplishment to celebrate, but there's a downside to it. As we become more assertive, we lose some of our ability to accept life as it comes. And so when our baby does not nap, or eats erratically, or cries for hours, or in any way fails to meet our ideal family standards, we break down and frantically start looking for solutions that most likely do not exist. If we were in your 20s and used to never really having it our way, we'd be much more relaxed and accept these problems as part of life.

So, what does all of this tell us? It's time for...



This theory may prove a little controversial, if only for the fact that it has absolutely no scientific basis. Still, here it is. We have always been told that the sudden urge to become parents in our late 30s is the result of our biological clock telling us, "Now or never". Well, I don't think that's the message. I think what our biological clock is telling us is, "It's time to become grandparents!" As sad as it sounds, at 36 I could easily have an 18-year-old daughter happily pregnant with her first child. She would be a wonderfully energetic, accepting parent with no knowledge of how great life can be, and I would be the slightly less energetic, incredibly knowledgeable, well-traveled, yet prudent grandma who helps her raise her children after 8 hours of blissful, uninterrupted sleep. What a wonderful village that would be, wouldn't it?


  1. This post made me laugh. I'm in my 40s, and my eldest have flown the nest. I couldn't imagine having young children to look after now!

    1. Thank you! Yes, I've been recommending 20-year-olds I know to think about when they want to have children, and then having their first 5 years before that.