Science Tells Us When to Procreate

Does it seem to anyone else like suddenly the whole world is telling us maybe we should have babies when we’re younger? When maybe ten years ago, they told us to go ahead and wait and accomplish some career goals first, maybe get through college, find a good partner, settle down and “just be married for a while”?

Is that working for us?

For me, I’d say yes. I was still what many would consider “young” when I married at 28. By the time I had the little angel at the age of 30, I’d been in the working world for eight years, was making decent money and owned a home. My beloved and I had three years to work out our differences (ha) after marriage before introducing a baby. So different from the era of my aunts and uncles (my own parents’ timeline was very similar to mine, something definitely odd in 1974 in small-town Iowa). Many of my aunts, uncles and friends’ parents got married right after high school or in college, and more than one woman dropped out of college to have babies. They had babies when I was still trying to figure out what to be when I grew up.

As I grew up, I started thinking my parents were ANCIENT compared to my friends’ parents. Mine were anywhere from three to eight years older, and they had me when they were 30. In comparison, I’m anywhere from even to thirteen years younger than the parents of my daughter’s friends. I feel like a spring chicken, after having my daughter at the exact same age my mother had me.

Now I know there were people in the ‘70s having children later in life and we only have to look to Hollywood to see people in their twenties happily popping out kids, but my point is that it no longer seems unusual at all to wait until a woman’s mid- to late-thirties before starting a family. As a result, many women are farther along in their careers when they pipe up about maternity leave. Right? Wrong? Better? Worse?

If you’re just not sure, apparently there’s a new calculator to tell you when to have all the hot sex.

Ralph Keeney and doctoral student Dinah Vernik of Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business developed the model with the goal of balancing a woman’s professional, social and family objectives and their relative importance to a woman. The model also included age-related concerns such as diminished fertility and the likelihood of having a child with genetic ailments.

Wow. Okay.

HealthLineRX member Amanda Dameron commented:

My issue is this–it’s the year 2007 and the emphasis is still placed squarely on the woman’s shoulders. Can you imagine an article like this describing how men might limit themselves professionally by having children at certain times in their career?

I know some of it is simple logistics…we go through the pregnancies, we breastfeed. But aside from that, isn’t it time for parenting to be officially deemed a two-person job by our society, instead of something women DO and men just dabble in during their free time?

Good point, but let’s face it – who physically carries the child and needs to take at least six weeks off to properly recover? The woman. Whose career can be impacted by that? Ours. In discussing the study, Adam says:

This is important, I think, because women are waiting longer and longer to have children, largely because they want to establish themselves in their careers first. This study suggests that establishing yourself only to take a break in your career is not the best way to approach the situation, especially when other risk factors for waiting until you are older to have children are factored in.

What to do, what to do. Obviously, a calculator showing up for those of us in our thirties and forties telling us we should’ve been getting busy ten years ago while we were doing keg stands isn’t too helpful. Is this calculator useful? Or does it make procreation all about money? As if we needed more in this world to be all about money.

From Just Above Sunset, the blogger writes:

Lloyd’s conclusion –

In general, the report extends the metaphor of children as just another menu item in an array of consumer choices. All of which leaves me wondering about the weird status of children in our popular media. Have things changed so much that we must run the numbers before deciding whether to have children? Or does the baby debate just confuse a larger debate about solvable social problems (like national healthcare, free public education, walkable well-designed communities) that make parenting (and getting sick or old) so costly?

Good question. How do we decide what to do? Those larger social problems aside, is deciding to have children just another menu item in an array of consumer choices? Is that what comes down to?

Ouch. But if it’s not a little bit about money, why do we need so much to raise a child?

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