During my therapy session today, it occurred to me that this question alone is one that, of all the questions and confusions on life I have, is the one that freaks me out the most. I’m not going to have kids tomorrow or the next day, but at 26 I have to face reality that if I am going to have children (I’d like at least 2, at most 3) I should have kids within approximately the next 10 years. That’s a lot of time and not much time at all.
For whatever reason, my biological clock started ticking loudly. I’m now 26 and I’m not getting any younger. While part of me wonders if I’ll ever be mature enough to have children, I’d like 3 of them, and a house and stability and all of those adult things. I feel terribly young — way too young to have a husband or kids — and yet I know so many people who are my age or younger who are already packing in a full house. (This article argues that you should get married in your early 20s.)
I started Google searching things like “when is the right age to have a baby?” and “how old should i be when I get married.” More often then not, I find people recommending marriage in the 20s, and popping out kids by 35 (and later and there’s a higher chance for defects).
My boyfriend and I have been together over 3 years. We both know we’re going to get married — one day — but he’s convinced that he needs to finish grad school (well he needs to start it first) and obtain a career in order to get married. If he starts grad school next fall, I’ll be 29 before he’s finished with his MA. Then there’s the PhD he may want to obtain… I’m not getting married until I’m 35 at the rate things are going.
I’m not marriage obsessed, I just wonder now that I’m 26 why I’m not getting married. I guess the way I see it is either my boyfriend and I will get married OR we won’t and I’m wasting my time with him now when I could be out dating while I still look somewhat attractive. What if I get to 30 and he decides he isn’t ready, or worse, wants to break up?
Given my health, having children is going to be extremely difficult and expensive anyway, and I don’t want to put it off too long. At the moment I’m somewhat stable in my career — somewhat as in I’ll probably need to switch jobs this year — but I’ve learned how to save and I’m starting to feel financially mature. I honestly could give two shits about being married, it’s having children that is what’s on my mind right now. I don’t want kids now, but I do want them fairly soon, in the next 5 years. Maybe I should break up with my boyfriend and date a guy in his late 30s to make sure this will happen.
The other day I randomly happened upon a blog written by a man who might be the most sexist psychologist in the modern world, which I’d write off as total BS if his blog wasn’t on Psychology Today and for the fact that the guy teaches at the London School of Economics. His whole explanation for how we act is based on his belief that men want to compete for dominance and make themselves most desirable for women because the woman picks her sexual partners and the men must just make themselves wanted. He thinks that feminism has destroyed the modern woman’s chances of happiness because it has taught us that being a mother (esp a stay-at-home mother) is something to look down upon, and in terms of evolution, that’s what a woman would be most happy doing.
Do I believe all or any of this? Not really. Obviously everyone is different, and some woman would be thrilled to chase after a corner office and live a life without children. According to this guy women are necessary in the relationship equation to force men to not have sex all the time, as gay men never stop having sex. Ignoring this guy’s obvious lack of ability to grasp reality, he makes a few good points along the way, and has lead me to some other interesting reading specifically about the woman’s role in modern society. His point on how success today is pretty much only known by the “masculine” version of success is true, even though I’m not sure competing for the corner office or making a high salary is actually masculine.
I often wonder who I’d be in society 50 years ago. I feel so lost in terms of what I want out of life these days, and deep down part of me questions if this is due to my human nature as an animal and even as a woman. But I feel dirty admitting to wanting to be feminine in the traditional sense — I couldn’t imagine accepting that my path to happiness is to be a mother, stay home, take care of the kids, cook for my husband (well, that would be a bad idea anyway since I’m a terrible cook). Then again, I feel happiest when I’m helping people, when I can be in a motherly role. My boyfriend doesn’t like it when I try to mother him (not that I try, but can’t a guy learn to iron his clothes?) so maybe having children would make me happy…
My grandmother, who is now 80, married a guy who was 20 years older than her when she was younger. She told me about the marriage a bit this weekend when I went to visit her. He was a traveling rabbi, driving around Montana, Idaho, and the Dakotas as a chaplain for the military. She liked him because men close to her age weren’t able to hold intelligent conversations (so she says, though really I think she just couldn’t find anyone willing to put up with her… she’s a bit on the nutty side of the PB&J.) After getting married, of course she didn’t work. She raised three children. That was her life.
When I talked to a career counselor for a consultation on the phone a few months ago, her voice told me she was older, perhaps in her 50s, and she went on about how I’m doing fine, that I shouldn’t worry, that only a decade or two ago I would not have any choices as a woman, and today I am doing perfectly well given how many choices I have. That gave me little comfort in my sanity.
Now that I’ve been dating a guy for more than 3 years (almost 4!) and we talk about marriage here and there, the idea of becoming a mother is going from something I thought would never happen to a possibility. Even though I know it will cost me a billion dollars to have a child or children (thanks PCOS) I have a partner now who I can see spending the rest of my life with. I know he’d be a good father. I’m not sure if I’d be a good mother… my aunt laughs whenever I talk about having kids, she thinks I’d be an awful mother (but I think despite her ability to make a great salary and force her children to eat healthy, she’s not a perfect mother either)… I just wonder if I’ll ever have kids, if being a mom is really what my genes are longing for these days… given that women are really supposed to procreate the second they hit puberty and only modern society has messed that up by creating “adolescence” (one thing I do agree with creepy sexist psychologist man about.) And now, at 26 without kids or a husband, I feel empty. Every possible path… grad school, a great career, etc, seem to be lacking something. I know I need to figure out the career thing before having children (as once I have kids I need a stable job, I’m not going to be marrying a rich guy and I’m fine with that.) But what if I wait too long and I can’t have kids? My boyfriend casually mentions that he sees us getting married in 2015. I’ll be 31. That’s not too old to get married, but it scares me that my gynecologist, when I was 15, told me if I want to have kids I should try to have them by the time I turn 30. Back then she said “don’t worry, you have time” but at 26 I don’t feel like I have any time at all. I know I can’t rely on kids to make me happy — they might do just the opposite — but at the very least they’ll help me be less selfish. So much of what makes me miserable these days is how life seems to all be about me, and there’s nothing in the world that can satisfy me, just things to do or buy to temporarily fill the void. I don’t know what would make me happy… what’s a well paying job without children in your life?
I visited my aunt, uncle and cousins for a birthday party yesterday. They live in a very nice area in a relatively nice house for said very nice area, and, while they’re probably among the poorest in said area, they still are somewhere in the upper middle class, lower upper class. (I’m not really sure where that cut off is). Regardless, they’ve been living a comfy life until the recession hit.
Now, times are hard. Well, they aren’t that hard, but hard in the sense that their mortgage is a fortune and to keep up with the quality of life they’re used to living, and fit in with their neighbors, it costs a lot. My uncle runs his own business and his clients have been drastically cutting back. Once you get used to living a certain lifestyle, it’s hard to reduce your spending. I’m almost hoping to never let myself make that much money – because I think it would just get out of hand.
Then again, I think about having children, and the kind of life I want my children to have. I was very fortunate to grow up in a house where we could afford luxuries like summer camp, art lessons, etc. I don’t mind being frugal when it comes to clothes and things, but the extracurriculars add up. I want to have a decent income to spend on my children, if I have children, and looking at my aunt and uncle who are struggling on their current salary cuts (even though jointly they still make well into the 6 figures), I wonder what sort of salary I’d have to make to be able to give my hypothetical kids a life at least comparable to the one I had as a child.
So I’m looking for creative investment ideas once I max out my Roth IRA for the year. One option is a SEP IRA or a Keogh Plan, but I don’t really want to save that much for retirement right now. I’m in my 20s and yes, it’s important to put away a lot of money for retirement but I feel like on my salary $5000 a year is enough. (Maybe I’m wrong, but regardless, that’s my current thought.)
The stock market, as we all know, is a giant toilet bowl right now, and it feels like putting money in it is just as bad as walking into a Vegas casino and flushing your money away. The hope is that it will go up over the long term. And it probably will, though no one can say what the rate of return will be, of course.
Besides starting an HSA Plan (which I should do, like, yesterday — but figuring that out is a whole other blog post-o-fun), I’m thinking that it might be a good time to start saving for my kid’s college education.
What kids, you say?
OK, so I don’t actually have any kids yet. I don’t plan on having kids until I’m 30, and that’s 6 years away.
But college prices are so expensive… and if I have kids at 30, they’ll be going to college when I’m 48 (wow, I can’t even imagine being 48). Anyway, that’s 28 years from now. Putting money away now to compound for that long will probably eek out a nice return, especially if I invest in some basic Vanguard index funds.
I’m also considering going to grad school at some point. So I’d start a 529 Plan in my name and if it turns out I never go to grad school, I’ll put the money towards my kid’s plans when I have kids. If I don’t have kids, well, then I’ll just give the money to my sister’s kids. If she doesn’t have kids, I’ll give it to my cousin’s kids. I’m sure someone in my family can use it!
Does this seem like a silly idea? I’m trying to find out more about 529 Plans.
The government site explains them a bit…
There are fees and expenses associated with 529 plans, and I won’t jump into the investment without fully understanding them. Right now it all seems like a bunch of jumbled numbers to me.
Some interesting points from the gov site…
“Under current tax law, an account holder is only permitted to change his or her investment option one time per year.”
“While each educational institution may treat assets held in a 529 plan differently, investing in a 529 plan will generally reduce a student’s eligibility to participate in need-based financial aid.”
“Before you start saving specifically for college, you should consider your overall financial situation. Instead of saving for college, you may want to focus on other financial goals like buying a home, saving for retirement, or paying off high interest credit card bills. Remember that you may face penalties or lose benefits if you do not use the money in a 529 account for higher education expenses. If you decide that saving specifically for college is right for you, then the next step is to determine whether investing in a 529 plan is your best college saving option. Investing in a 529 plan is only one of several ways to save for college. Other tax-advantaged ways to save for college include Coverdell education savings accounts, Uniform Gifts to Minors Act (“UGMA”) accounts, Uniform Transfers to Minors Act (“UTMA”) accounts, tax-exempt municipal securities, and savings bonds. Saving for college in a taxable account is another option.”
Plenty to think about. I really should be saving for a house. But it just seems like it couldn’t hurt to start saving for grad school and/or my kid’s college education. Right?
I’m only 24 years old. My body is slowly deprecating into womanhood. In fact, once upon a time I’d be in middle age right now. Except in modern society, 24 isn’t quite “that old” yet.
Still, my babymaking clock is ticking. (Do you hear it — “tick, tock. tick, tock.”) A few years ago if you asked me about the possibility of my having a family, I’d say yea, one day. Like a zillion million light years down the road.
But how long can one really wait to have kids and a family? Is it even really that important to have kids?
Speaking in simple terms of evolution, it’s quite normal to want to have kids. Heck, I should be wanting to pop out babies every change I can get from now through menopause.
The truth is, with my undoubted infertility problems (thanks PCOS!) the cost of simply getting pregnant/ having a kid is going to be very high for me. I’ll either need expensive fertility treatments that may or may not work, or I’ll have to adopt. Both of these options are expensive. It’s just like, great, take something that should be free (semen in, baby out) and make it cost a fortune before I even can so much can justify purchasing a pregnancy test.
Without all of that extra expense, having kids, well, is quite the expense. How much does one kid cost? You’ve got to feed them, clothe them, house them, bathe them, pay for school supplies, parties, hobbies, potentially college, etc etc. That sounds very expensive. Of course, lots of people just accept that having a kid is a worthwhile investment. Not to get money in return, but to get years of “awws” and “ooohs” and “that’s my son/daughter!” But how much is all that really worth?
You can have kids at any income level or age (if you can pop them out without needing expensive treatments to get pregnant in the first place.) Plenty of people have kids who live on welfare. Plenty of people have kids who are in the upper class, who can give their kids tons of money and not think twice about it. Plenty of people who have kids are in the middle class, and they get by with minimal luxuries and mostly just what they need.
I grew up with such a bizarre concept of family and money. My dad made a good salary, my mom stayed at home. We lived an upper middle class life. My parents had two kids, me and my younger sister. We never bought expensive things, but we did buy lots of things. There was never a concern about not having money to put food on the table, or to buy new clothes for the season. I was lucky. I didn’t realize just how lucky I was.
Would I want to have kids if I couldn’t give them that? Could I be selfless enough to bring another person into this world knowing just how much they’d cost me? I’d have to get better health insurance for my kids, or would I? I couldn’t have catastrophic health insurance with a child… though that’s better than no health insurance at all that many people deal with. How much money would I really need to make, over the long term, to feel comfortable popping out a baby or two?
I have friends who had kids years ago, or who are just starting families. One friend from high school just got his girlfriend pregnant accidentally, and they’re moving out of the city to the burbs and are planning on having her parents help them support the family.
Another friend of mine is in her mid 30s. She kind of wants to have kids, she makes a pretty good income, upper middle classish, but hasn’t found the right guy yet. Or at least she hasn’t found the right guy who wants to date her back, sadly. She knows that at this point in her life, she’s either going to have kids soon or not have them at all. She tries to laugh it off, but deep down I think she’s sad about it.
I know some people in their 30s who just don’t want kids. Some are in stable relationships, some are married and have just decided – no children. What does it feel like to make that decision and make it so finally?
I’ve mentioned before how my ex boyfriend is a well-to-do attorney and how sometimes I wonder what it would be like to have stayed in that relationship and lived… that life. What it would be like to know that unless something terrible happened to the country and the overall economy, I’d be financially secure until I die, and I could have kids and they’d have a good life, regardless of how much money I made personally.
Back before my time, that’s all a girl could even ask for. But now we have choice. We have freedom. And that’s great. I’m glad. I’d rather be with a guy I love than one making good money. But it’s tough when the choice is actually there. When the guy making the money still likes you. When you like him back too, but only as a friend.
It’s not like my current boyfriend isn’t working. That was the case for a while and after a year of dating an unemployed guy it started to get to me. It wasn’t even the money that was an issue, it was the sheer depression keeping him out of getting a job. While my previous boyfriend worked all the time and wanted to make a lot of money, and save it, my current boyfriend just wanted to live at home, somewhat frugally, until his savings ran out. Both lifestyles kind of drove me nuts.
But now my boyfriend has a job. He’s doing a good job with working and I’m sure he’ll do fine. He’s likely going to return to grad school for education and end up teaching at a high school. I’m confident if he is “the one” (and I think he might be) that without kids, we’d both live a very comfortable life given our expected middle class income. When I start thinking about having kids, well, that’s when I get worried.
I always wanted to have three kids. I thought that would be a good amount. My dad grew up in a large family (6 siblings including him) and I loved how that later on created such a tight-knit extended family. I don’t want six kids (oy!) but 3 would do. I don’t want a kid to grow up alone, and one sibling is nice but often not enough. Three is perfect. Except, oh my god, how much would three kids cost me?