Motherhood in your 20s vs 30s
The 30s are the new 20s. We all remind ourselves of this when we see our 30th birthday fast approaching; except maybe for the ones in denial. We hear many 20-somethings say “The relationship I am in now is just a fling; I have my 30s to find someone and settle down”, “It’s okay that I don’t know what I want to do career-wise; I will figure something out by the time I turn 30”, or “What have I accomplished in my 20’s? I have nothing to show for it.” Different strokes for different folks.
I never had my path laid out for me and I never knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life. My parents always made sure I knew that they would support my choices and they gave me the space to make those choices myself. Once I completed by undergrad in Indiana and spent a year in New York ‘soul-searching’, I then moved back to India when I was 24. I didn’t know if I wanted to start working and try to become the CEO of some company, work with my dad in the family business and eventually take over, travel the world, or get married and have babies. There are those who know step by step what they were born to do and they waste no time in following their plan. So I started working, hoping that this would pave out at least the short term future for me and add some certainty to my life. I am one of the lucky ones who met her future husband a few months after moving back home. After 5 years of being married, we had our first child when I was 31 and my husband was 35, turning 36.
Different women are ready to embrace motherhood at different points in their lives. Some are ready when they are 21 and some at 35, for various reasons. The 20s are a good time to start thinking seriously about what you want and for many that includes planning motherhood. This also doesn’t mean that sometimes things don’t change along the way and you are forced to take a different path. The things that you may have wanted to accomplish in your 20s are pushed to your 30s. So what are some of the factors which lead women to prefer becoming a mother in their 20s/30s, and does everyone feel the same way? Some of my mom friends have been kind enough to contribute quotes based on their personal experiences as well.
1. Career ambitions & independence
“I know that I am done having kids and that I am only going to get more and more free time as they get older. I can start a career and not have to worry about taking a break from it to raise a newborn.”
Many married & un-married women today want to ensure and establish their independence in their 20s before anything else, so taking their careers to a certain level is of utmost priority. This is not only in the ‘developed’ countries where women have always been on par with men, worked their whole lives and made their own money regardless of their husbands. There are women who want to do one or the other, not both, since establishing a career takes dedication, time and hard work. Once they are satisfied that they have achieved what they set out to do, then comes the option of exploring the next step. Gone are the days when only the husband is ‘supposed to’ support the family. Now both the husband and wife are content. From the 30s angle, there are women who want to finish having babies when they are in their 20s so that they have time later to establish their career without interruption. I started working in my 20s, got married and had a baby in my early 30s. My career is not fully established; I am still in the process of doing so, pregnant with my second child. So again – different strokes for different folks, revealing that nothing is written in stone.
2. Emotional & mental readiness
“I had my baby when I was 28 and I think it was just the right time. I am glad we travelled and spent a lot of time with each other before we had someone else joining us and becoming a part of our everyday lives. I also feel it makes it easier to divide responsibilities because we both know who is good at what and we are happy to perform our roles as parents.”
“You have more mental and physical energy to raise a kid in your 20s. You aren’t as afraid of trying new and interesting activities and methods to raise them as there is no set benchmark.”
“In your 20s, you are not as fixed in your parenting thought pattern.”
"I had my kids in my 30s and it was a good fit for me. In my 20s, I didn't know who I was and I think it would have been hard to become responsible for someone else's life, when you are still figuring out your own. When I didn't have kids, I thought parenting would be a breeze. Now I know the truth from experience..everyday is hard and challenging and you need to be mature to be able to manage those challenges. I am glad I waited till my 30s to have kids"
How mature are we (women) in our 20s? I know that in my 20s before getting married, I went to work and then at night my sole aim was to make plans with friends and go out – somewhere...anywhere. Moreover, once I got married, I wanted time alone with my husband for a few years to explore and live life together, without a third person depending on us for their every need.
There are women who get married young and in their early 20s, who have babies soon after as a ‘custom’ and ‘expectation’ in their families. But are they mentally ready for their lives to change? Are they able to take care of themselves, let alone take care of a tiny human? Many times, these young moms also do not have a benchmark to compare their motherhood experience to nor do they have a sea of information to arm themselves with. On the other hand, the younger we are, the more open we are to trying new things and listening to opinions and suggestions. From the 30s angle, women have benchmarks and stories from friends who have already had babies on what to expect. Confidence is in abundance and the world is their oyster.
Is the emotional & mental maturity needed to take care of a child equal in both our 20s and 30s? Often when it comes to the readiness of men, we say “he may not be 100% ready today to become a father, but as soon as the baby is born, he will be ready.” How many people believe that this maturity can appear overnight and can it be applied to women as well?
3. Fitness & fertility
“The main benefit (and a big one at that) of having my kids before I turned 30, was that I was physically strong and able to have healthy, easy pregnancies and deliveries, and was able to get my shape back relatively quickly.”
“The biggest question in my mind was – do I want to be active, run around with my kids, be a young energetic mom, or will I not be as energetic if I have a baby later on in life?”
The age at which women are most physically fit to have a baby, is a discussion that has dominated social gatherings. There are two aspects to this – one is being physically fit to be able to run around after your child without having to rest every 10 minutes, and the other is medical fitness. Yes, it is believed that women are at their agile peak in their 20s.Therefore some women look at it this way – they would rather give birth as ‘young 20-something moms’ with enough energy to be active with their kids, rather than ‘older 36 year old moms’, who are over 40 when their kids become Toddlers.
People quote studies and research done on this as proof of what age is best. Popular medical research states that the 20s are your more ‘fertile’ and are the most ideal to have kids, with minimal medical problems that can creep up. Many factors dominate medical fitness in your 20s, one of the main factors being lifestyle. Often we are told to believe that unhealthy eating, alcohol consumption, smoking, lack of sleep, stress etc are the biggest vices and affect the body negatively, even leading to infertility. There are tests which doctors recommend women in their late 20s/early 30s should do to ensure that the body is working right. Having said that, you can be the biggest protestor against alcohol and smoking but still face challenges in getting pregnant at the time you planned, in your 20s.
There are women who are unable to conceive in their 20s for many years and then finally do. You find that for them, conception the second time around may happen in a jiffy! The human body is strange that way.
This article is not meant to be a final consensus on whether the 20s or 30s are more motherhood friendly, but to provoke mothers into sharing and discussing what did and didn’t work for them.
I would love to hear from you!