Is There Ever a Perfect Time to Have A(nother) Child?
As a single woman that is also a mom, I have developed two distinct groups of friends – one group is single and without children, and the other is married, with or without kids. But almost all of them have baby on the brain in some way, some of my female friends have even decided to freeze their eggs to buy a little more time and a bit of an insurance policy. Regardless of whether it is the first, second, or fifth child, we all know that having a child can have a large impact on everything from your career to your finances. However that compounded by the fact that fertility is finite can leave all us scratching our heads wondering, “When is it a good time to have a baby?”
You see, in my gender studies classes in college, we discussed the glass ceiling, and the wage gap and all of the things that women were working hard to overcome, and my interpretation of these discussions was that if we worked hard enough and long enough – we could overcome the obstacles present in our professional worlds. But, based on my recollection, something was absent from those discussions - and that was the topic of fertility.
Now, I learned about menopause from my 8th grade sex-ed class, but how that truly impacted my own fertility really didn’t resonate. The first time I really wrapped my head around the fact that women couldn’t have babies forever, was when I first began working in network news. I was running scripts, working 11pm – 10am trying to move up the ladder at a network news program, and one of my male coworkers, supremely exhausted after working what was probably a 36 hour day, said to me, “Are you sure you want to work in the business? You are young, attractive and have a lot going for you. If you stay here, you’ll become a “news nun.” (A news nun is a derogatory term used to describe women that are married to their jobs in news and therefore are unmarried and without children). Then he wandered off back to his edit room – leaving me pondering what I wanted out of my life.
Now, a couple things struck me about his comment. The first of which was, why wasn’t HE worrying about “news priests?” But that thought was quickly pushed aside for a very hard reality – my fertility was finite and perhaps my career would conflict with that fertility. That was ten years ago when I was in my early 20s. Flash-forward to the present, and the 32-year-old me has weathered the storm of an unplanned pregnancy, and very single motherhood, and some might incorrectly think that I have a better grasp on fertility, or at the very least, some relief of the stresses of that biological clock.
I still have no idea when is the best time to have a baby, but I do know I want more children. I have no idea when, or how I will meet the terms under which I’d like those children – which is in a loving committed relationship with a man that also wants kids – or when I could do so without putting my career aspirations on hold, and I still can’t tell you financially how I will manage to do so in one of the most expensive cities on the planet. But I am keenly aware of the fact that the clock is still ticking. In fact, like my single friends without kids – I too have thought about whether or not freezing my eggs is a good idea for me. And I’ve come to accept, there is no guarantee that I will be able to get pregnant when I actually try, but it is guaranteed at some point I will definitely not be able get pregnant any longer. This reality is as certain as death and taxes.
And I came to a conclusion - the management of your own fertility is actually the great equalizer among women…trying to get pregnant, trying not to get pregnant, stressing about when you should get pregnant, worrying that it isn’t a good time to be pregnant, deciding that you never want to get pregnant…all of that focus goes back to those eggs and that clock. And there is only one person that can decide when you should or should not have a baby – and that person is you.
So no, there is never a perfect time to have a(nother) child. No one fits all equation to determine a concrete answer to this huge question. Instead there is a best time for each one of us individually, after we look at all of the factors in front of us. Then we make peace with that decision.