The Three Types of 30 Year Old Parents

Eight months.

If you are around age 30 and are a mom or dad, then you likely fall into one of three categories: A) You had your first child while I was in college; B) You had your first child while I was still single and establishing my career; or C) You had your first child around the same time I did.  So your oldest child is either around ten years old, five years old, or is still an infant.  And yet you’re still about my age.

While living in Alabama from March 28th until last Friday, I worked with Mandy Wilhite-New, a girl I grew up and graduated high school with.  A while back we were talking to each other about our kids and she pointed out the fact that it’s often difficult to relate to her similar aged friends who have infants and toddlers. Mandy and her husband have both a 10 year old and a 6 year old.  It was ten years ago, back when the first Shrek movie was still in theaters, that she was experiencing what I am now.  Yet Mandy and I are both 30.

I’ve heard it said that compared to 30 years ago, today’s younger adults are more dependent on their parents both financially and emotionally. In other words, our own parents had to “become adults” more quickly than we did.  So in theory, even though by a calendar’s standards I am 30, compared to this point in my own parents’ lives, I’m more like 22 or 23.

So while I got to travel the world and take my time in settling down and getting married, I don’t have the abundant parenting experience that 30 year old parents with a 10 year old have.  It’s also safe to bet that I don’t have the same level of maturity, in certain senses, because in theory, I am a younger, less experienced adult.  I have more growing up to do and more humbling experiences to encounter.

The bottom line is that becoming a parent has a lot to do with adult maturity.  That’s obviously not to say that adults who never had children or are unable to do so are less mature; not at all.  But the undeniable fact is that becoming a parent changes you into someone else.  Becoming a parent is a disciplining process that has no other comparison.

Once you produce and care for human offspring, you will undoubtedly be removed of much selfishness and self-pride.  And no caring parent is immune to this fact.  No parent has a baby that feeds himself, changes himself, entertains himself, pays for himself, and takes care of himself.  (Or “herself” as the case may be.) So there’s your dose of irony for today: Nothing makes an adult out of a person like a baby does.

Unexpected Bonus:

Today is a Lucky Book Giveaway Day!  In the vein of “removing selfishness while serving others,” the featured book this time around is “Lead. Serve. Love.”  If you are too busy for some daily inspirational reading but still would like to somehow fit in a bit of motivation to start out or finish off your day, then this book will be perfect for you.  You can read plenty of reviews of the book here. (Its average rating was 4.5 out of 5 stars.)

To the first five readers who leave a comment saying they want it, I’ll have the book mailed to your house.  Include your mailing address in the comment itself or email it to

*Within an hour or so of this post being published, I got my 5 winners for the book.  Hint: When I give away books here on The Dadabase, it’s always on Thursday nights around 8PM Central Time.  But not every Thursday…

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  1. by Hannah

    On July 21, 2011 at 8:28 pm

    It isn’t fair to try to compare ourselves to our parents at our age because we’re most likely in entirely different circumstances. A lot more people our age had the opportunity to go to college than people our parents’ age did so priorities for our generation became different. I don’t think it makes us any less mature as adults because, for most people, the academic responsibilities of a college education force maturity on teenagers. I absolutely feel a discomfort similar to Mandy’s since we’ve moved, though. Other parents with children the same age as mine are 8 and even 10 years younger than Barry and me. Regardless of age, though, first time parents are most likely ultimately clueless about a lot and it’s nice to find comraderie. It’s just an ego blow when another mom says, “Oh, my parents didn’t allow me to watch South Park until I was in high school.”

  2. by Hannah

    On July 21, 2011 at 8:29 pm

    Oh and I’d love a book.

  3. by Sarah Tuttle

    On July 21, 2011 at 8:29 pm

    I always love reading your blogs. :) I’d like the book! :)

  4. by Ferne Emery

    On July 21, 2011 at 8:38 pm

    I love to read!

  5. by Gina Shell

    On July 21, 2011 at 8:59 pm

    Love the post and would like the book. : )

  6. by Kathleen Graythen

    On July 21, 2011 at 9:25 pm

    Sounds great, would love the book!

  7. by Jessica dukes

    On July 21, 2011 at 9:39 pm

    Good post! And the book looks great!

  8. by Jill collier

    On July 23, 2011 at 7:28 pm

    Would love a book :)

  9. by Jessica King

    On July 23, 2011 at 8:23 pm

    This article is so true! It’s everything I’ve thought but couldn’t put into words. There seems to more 30 year olds with infants around me now. However, back home most of my friends fall into the 6-10 yr old child group. Its hard sometimes b/c some days you FEEL so much younger just b/c your friends have had so much more experience with the parenthood factor. And if its not to late, I’d LOVE a copy of the book.

  10. by Vivian Rogers

    On July 23, 2011 at 8:46 pm

    Love the article! I think it’s so true. Would love a copy of the book!

  11. by Rigoberto Calderon

    On July 24, 2011 at 8:00 am

    Hi, thank you. I guess you can say that the level of maturity is different. Just one thing I don’t agree in your article is how you refer to an infant as an “it”, change “itself”, dress “itself”. Many articles I have read alternate between him and her in order to stay gender neutral. I might be too latrines for the book giveaway but I was busy taking care of my 10 year old and 23 months old girls. Thanks!

  12. by Rigoberto Calderon

    On July 24, 2011 at 8:02 am

    Sorry, I meant late. Silly autocorrect!

  13. by Nick Shell

    On July 25, 2011 at 8:40 pm

    Rigoberto, I corrected it in honor of you. Thanks for the tip!

  14. by Theresa

    On July 26, 2011 at 9:14 am

    This article rings so true. We are also in a generation in between. Our parents grew up with more hardships than we did, less technology etc. We grew up with a little more technology and less hardships perhaps. Then as we headed into college the GenX came into the world and totally blindsided everyone with their sense of entitlement. Maybe it was because they were overly protected by their parents wanting to be friends more than parents. Now we (parents in our 30s) have a chance to reverse this and set boundaries for our children and be better examples. I wonder if anyone else feels the same way.

  15. by Nick Shell

    On July 27, 2011 at 10:13 pm

    Theresa, I’m glad you can relate. It’s like we’re Generation X/Y.

  16. by Erin Leigh

    On July 28, 2011 at 9:05 am

    I am a 30 year old woman about to marry my wonderful significant other of 6 years; we plan to have children sometime in the next 2 to 3 years, after our wedding next year. I’ve also noticed the difference you’re talking about IN REVERSE — the 30 year old parents I know with very young children seem so much more “younger” and inexperienced to me in a multitude of ways. Taking parenthood entirely out of the equation, I often have trouble relating to them because what they are experiencing now seems to be a somewhat constrained version of my early 20s.

    To clarify:
    My partner and I took plenty of time to focus on education, travel, careers and life experience before deciding to form a family. We have lived overseas together and traveled extensively, as well as spent a good bit of time choosing and settling into our careers. (Which was unexpectedly fortunate as both of us had career changes we didn’t expect.) We were also lucky enough to be able to purchase and set up our home, so everything is domestically how we would like it. We’ve established good credit and paid off most of our college loans. We have also been able to assist our parents with certain financial and health concerns due to having no prioritized dependents of our own. My partner also had time to focus on a secondary vocation as a musician which has given him great personal satisfaction, while I was able to take the time to establish myself in my own artistic medium as well as my professional one. Even though there is always room for change and things can always be done differently, both of us feel very satisfied and enriched by where we’ve been and what we’ve done. He often tells me that he lived his exploratory 20s to the fullest extent and now cannot wait to do the same with his more-settled 30s. I feel the same — I was able to take the exhilarating risks and chances in life that being responsible for a child would have excluded. I had time to discover who I was and who I wanted to be, then to focus my energies on making that happen. Our families and our lives seem very rich for that.

    In contrast, many of our friends with children in the 8 – 10 range are just now going back to school, finishing up degrees, getting seriously into careers and the like. Most of those friends have never had the leisure time to really travel or fully finish their education; many report to feeling like they have multiple unrealized life goals separate from parenthood that they may never return to. A small majority are experiencing money difficulties from the expenses related to establishing a family in their early twenties, before they were truly in a fiscal and experiential situation to allow for it. Some have serious debt issues and a few have had to declare bankruptcy following the housing crisis of recent years. We also have multiple “parent” friends divorcing/separating because they never had any personal exploratory time before becoming a spouse and parent. A handful of unfortunate friends have experienced unavoidable and inevitable health conditions that are seriously compounded by their responsibilities as parents.

    Nearly universally it seems like these friends deeply love their children and wouldn’t trade their roles as parents for anything in the world, but at the same time live somewhat unrealized personal/professional/educational lives that they may not really ever be able to go back and address. Many speak of becoming parents at such a young age as something of a trade-off for their other opportunities and potentials. I think this is interesting, because I don’t hear the newer parents speaking of their parenthood in the sam

    In many ways these individuals seems younger to me because they are still wrestling with issues of education/experience/self-realization/awareness that I equate with youthful inexperience. They are non-traditional students returning to school, first time world travelers(usually with kids in tow — a factor that very much limits the travel experience itself), and returning workers coming in at the ground floor. A few are the opposite — thoroughly established in one educational/experiential/place since their early twenties. (Those friends tend to be living in the same houses their early twenties salaries could afford, working the same jobs and vacationing in the same places year after year — very little seemingly changes in their lives and they seem somewhat removed from the world outside their immediate family unit.)

    I am in no way saying these differences are a bad thing…that one is more universally desirable than the other for everyone on the planet (different strokes, as they say)…but it is interesting because those are all things I equate with just starting out in life and being “young”.

  17. by Erin Leigh

    On July 28, 2011 at 9:10 am

    *I think this is interesting, because I don’t hear the newer parents speaking of their parenthood “in the same manner.”

    (I hit the space bar accidentally.)

  18. by Laura

    On July 29, 2011 at 8:58 am

    I would love the book if anymore pop up. :o )

  19. by Lois

    On July 29, 2011 at 9:44 am

    I’m really sorry to say this but the number of abandoned and neglected children speak the lie to your statement that “Once you produce and care for human offspring, you will undoubtedly be removed of much selfishness and self-pride.”

    I do agree that parenting changes people but not all people rise to the challenge of it. I’m glad you did, but you are not all parents. One last point if you have ever brought a fussy infant or toddler into a non family style restaurant on Saturday night than you haven’t had all of your selfishness and self-pride removed.

  20. by Erin

    On July 30, 2011 at 4:44 pm

    I would have to disagree with this post, at least from my own perspective. We are obviously all different, however there are those of us that did not have financial (or even emotional)support from our parents for very long, and had a rough time starting out in our early twenties. I am 30 and expecting my first child, but I did not spend my twenties partying or simply enjoying myself by any means. And I would not say that my husband or I have the comparable maturity level of a 22 or 23 year old from our parents’ era. (If anything we joke that he and I have “old souls” and feel a decade apart from others in the 30-year age range) I spent these past several years working very hard on becoming a better person, and also on trying to get past some very difficult events from my childhood. I grew a lot as a person in the past decade, and waited to try having a child until I was mature enough, as well as settled enough in life with my husband, to be a responsible parent.

  21. by Nick Shell

    On July 30, 2011 at 7:36 pm

    Hi Erin, thanks for reading The Dadabase today. I think you and I are similar in some ways. I, too, never partied or “lived it up” in my 20′s either. I, too, have spent the past several years of my life tried to improve my self as well. I am sorry you had to encounter some tough situations growing up. That’s where we differ- but you had to make yourself a stronger person because of it. And I totally admire you for that. Thank you for commenting.

  22. by Victoria Pulla

    On August 4, 2011 at 10:08 am

    Here I am, at 26 years old with a 3 1/2 year old daughter. She took us by surprise and I did have to take a step back in my personal/professional goals once she was born.

    Before she was born I was in the fast-track of becoming what I had always dreamnt of being. After our baby came,we ended up moving to Ecuador in South America due to the housing crisis in the States.
    I had to drop off school, decided to be a stay at home mom, and basically my world stopped for the next two and some years. My income came from tutoring and selling some high end jewelry to a few select clients, but it was nothing compared to a steady paycheck week after week.

    Although my personal/professional self was at a stall I grew up in so many different ways. I became less selfish, more involved with people, and all of a sudden a trip out to the local beach for 2 days was so much more fulfilling with my newly formed family than those I had taken alone or with friends during the years prior.

    Right now I’m just finishing a BA, for the past year I have been a high positioned executive in a field I never thought of. One of the reasons I got hired in a male dominated industry at such a young age is because of my life perspective and my old soul as my boss once put it.
    My lifelong career dreams remain dreams for now, somehow I have faith I will find a way to start on jewelry again.

    Thanks to my husband who was a light and somehow my connection to the “real” world all the time I spent at home caring for the baby, we are not in any kind of financial difficulties, together we have paid off loans, and managed to make a good quality living in a country where most people struggle to make ends meet.

    We own real state some of which we rent for some extra income,we are planning on building/buying a larger home for the family, we have set goals that within the next 3 years we must own our own business, either together or separate and start traveling the world, some of those trips we will do without our daughter.

    We’re old souls in our late 20s who have somehow managed to find a balance between responsibility and careers/dreams. We can still party like twenty-somethings, we are still young enough to catch up on all those things we had to give up for a while, and we’re happy that we’ll be still young (as my parents are-they’re in their early 50s) when the time for playing with grandkids comes around.

  23. by Steve

    On August 5, 2011 at 8:48 am

    I find this article very enlightening, and very relatable to our generation. I’m a 39 year old dad of two kids aged 13 and 9, divorced and remarried to a woman older than I, with teenaged kids.

    I have friends and stepsiblings who started their families later (my stepsister had her first child in April at 35), and I have a friend who is my age who has a 25 year old son! I would say that, overall, we’re finding folks having kids later (it depends some on the demographics, but it’s basically true), and what I hope is that it’s people who are trying to get jobs and careers going in this economy and “sowing their wild oats” before they settle down, marry and have children. With the economy the way it is, it’s a perfectly reasonable argument.

    I feel, though, that we’ve settled into a place where EVERYONE feels entitled now. Our parents feel entitled to pat themselves on the back for a job well done (?) and to put off retiring until they’re 80, as long as they can stay in the high-pay, low-labor sort of jobs they’ve moved up into. My generation is often living WITH those same parents or draining significant resources from them, ironically enough because the jobs they’d be moving into now are filled with their parents :) My generation is also the first to truly lack a sense of general responsibility for life, although that is by no means true for everyone. The generation after mine is more isolationist – they will reap the true grim harvest of our parent’s and our poor legislative and parental diligence, and will have a bleaker road to hoe – and more likely to increase the trend of sponging off their parents. After that? The jury is still out on them; they’re mostly still little guys and gals :)

    As thirtysomething parents, most of us would be wise to look to our grandparents’ examples of saving anything they could, living within their means (most of those folks had no credit cards when they were young parents), and by spending as much direct time with their children as they could. I think the economy may strengthen this article’s underlying arguments even further – people will have children later and later, and pretty soon the article will have to be written about fortysomething parents with children! I’d like to think that those folks are just saving their money, getting rid of debt and credit, and preparing to spend a lot of time being in-the-trenches parents…but I think it’s really more of a sense of ME rather than a sense of preparation.

    Great article, Nick. Thanks!

  24. by Jane

    On August 5, 2011 at 10:40 am

    I have to agree with Erin. I think there is a major class division that you are missing here. My husband and I came from struggling working class families and were completely on our own at 18. We moved in together after high school and I went to college and he got a job. And I don’t mean party-find yourself-fun college, I went to a local school and worked my way through. My husband apprenticed to a trade because we had ZERO financial help from our parents, and we didn’t need two sets of student loans to pay off. We are in our early thirties and had our first child at 27. Even at 20 I felt much older than my peers, and I didn’t have children. I think a lot of people my age are just spoiled, frankly. I can’t imagine supporting my kids well into their twenties even if I can afford it. Relatives and employees of mine who are supported by their parents for an extended period are all immature and less responsible than those who were on their own. I am the youngest person in my company to be promoted to my position. My husband was earning enough at 20 to buy us a house. We work hard because we know the only way to get anything is to get it for ourselves. Parents think they’re helping by letting their kids depend on them but they’re not.

  25. by btjnark

    On August 8, 2011 at 8:32 am

    Steve was right on! Problems with today’s parents:

    1. They’re far too concerned with themselves to be good parents. The day you have children is supposed to be the day you stop asking “what would I like?” If more parents tried parenting and gave up their “me time” we would have far fewer social problems and more adults of better character than we do now. If more parents were willing to give up the McMansion, the 2 vacations a year, the two new cars every other year and the designer clothes (even at TJMaxx they cost more than what our grandparents would wear)to RAISE their own children instead of dropping them off for stranger to raise, the children we’re raising would be better prepared to act like grownups themselves.
    2. The “academic responsiblities” of a college education? To compare that to the pressures of raising a family is naive and immature – like most parents today – whether they’re in their 20′s, 30′s or 40′s.
    3. Retirement is not supposed to be a 25 year vacation. We all hope to live well enough to pay our bills, and pay for food and medication while we enjoy our kids and grandchildren and garden – but vinyards? Touring the world on a sailboat? Give me a break. Social Security was designed to help those who couldn’t help themselves, and the rest of us were supposed to save up – not buy prada and pray the stock market doesn’t tank.

  26. by Dani

    On August 9, 2011 at 12:38 pm

    OMG!! I love those baby shoes, they are awesome! I always get them online at
    your baby is super cute BTW.

  27. by Katy Jay

    On August 11, 2011 at 7:33 am

    I find it extremely interesting that you would label folks who have children in their 30s as *less* mature parents. My husband and I waited in part because we wanted to be done growing up!

    We wanted to make sure we had a solid marriage of several years, we wanted to have a house, we wanted to be established in our careers before making the leap. I’m not mom of the year now by any means, but I would have been a truly lousy mother at 23.

    We didn’t party our way through college, either, nor did we rely on family for handouts. We worked our way up from cheap apartment to nicer place to house on our own. We saved and budgeted and acted responsibly. Part of responsibility, part of maturity, is not having a child when you can’t afford to take care of him or her.

    And frankly, I know twenty-something parents who haven’t done a lot of growing up, and are still partying, and are still relying on Mommy and Daddy to bail them out (literally and figuratively). Reproducing doesn’t confer automatic maturity the way you appear to believe it does.

  28. by Nick Shell

    On August 11, 2011 at 6:44 pm

    Hi Katy Jay, thanks for reading and commenting on The Dadabase. Just like you, I didn’t party either in college, nor did I “sow any wild oats” during my early 20′s. But I have to stand by my belief that there is a certain kind of maturity that only comes through parenting.

  29. by Anonymous

    On August 12, 2011 at 9:59 am

    Last night I was at a birthday party where we were ALL between the ages of 29 & 32 and I happen to be a ripe 30 years of age. However, I was the ONLY one with a child (I have a 1 year old and a 3 year old). They were all talking about the cool local bands and new bars and I was like, “I finally weaned the little one….yeah…” To hear I’m a ‘young’ 30 is mindblowing!

  30. by Nick Shell

    On August 12, 2011 at 7:22 pm

    That’s hilarious!

  31. by Amanda

    On February 15, 2012 at 8:11 am

    So I just discovered this website and am late to the game here, but this particular article is very timely for me! I just turned 31 in January and am expecting my first (a son!) in April. However, I am married to a man 14yrs older than I am who has two children from a previous marriage. They were 10 and 13 when we were first got married, and are 17 and 20 now. A few years back I was talking with a former college roommate on the phone. She was talking about potty training. I told her that I was teaching my stepson how to drive. Last year her daughter started school, my stepson graduated from high school. Talk about a disconnect! Since I live in the South, though, I think we start things a little earlier than in other areas of the country… I feel a little “old” to be having my first child. Several of my friends already have two or three kids… which is great, because I get all the “been there, done that” advice, but it’s not so great because I get all the “been there, done that” advice and I don’t really have any peers that I know personally that I can share this first-time mommy glow with! However, my stepdaughter is also pregnant… our circumstances are vastly different (hers was an unplanned teenage pregnancy, mine finally happened after almost 6 agonizing years) but at least we get to share a cool bond! Our house is going to be VERY busy this spring, as my stepdaughter’s baby is due just a month after my son is due!

  32. by kate

    On March 8, 2012 at 10:41 am

    I am a mother in my early 30s (32 in june, tad older than you) and my children are 6, 3.5 and 9 months. So i do have a baby like you, but it is my third. I actually dont know many people my age, what I run into mostly is that the other parents of kids my kids age are 10-15 years older than me. We still make friends and can relate, but it can also provide a noticeable difference since they graduate high school when i was just a grade schooler.