It's rare that a parenting topic gets covered in high-fashion Vogue, but when it does, it has a tendency to make a splash. I was intrigued by Tanya Selvaratnam's latest piece for the magazine: "Postponing Motherhood: When Does It Actually Become Too Late?" In her article, she states that many women in her generation waited too long to have kids and missed out on motherhood.
It's a tricky subject. We are living in a society that is much different than the society of our parents' and grandparents' time. Look no further than Marie Claire's February 2014 issue, which is a celebration of the single, independent woman. With sections on how to travel alone and how to live alone, the feature reflects the new culture that we live in. Since we are taking time for ourselves, women today are taking longer to get married. In 1960, the median age for an American woman to first get married was 20; now, it's 27.
Even though marriage can be put off for as long as we want, kids can't be postponed for too long (if you want them). Our biological clocks still exist. Amongst all of the great discussions in Marie Claire about the benefits of not being tied down in our 20s, the magazine acknowledges that, by 27, our fertility is already starting to decline. The best age to have a baby biologically is 20. According to a 2009 CDC study, by age 40, our chances of a live birth are 18.7 percent; by 44, this decreases to 2.9 percent.
The message behind these statistics is easy to brush off. "We are not conditioned to feel the urgency of fertility," Selvaratnam writes in Vogue. This was the case for 37-year-old Hilary Grove, who was under the impression that it wasn't "a big deal" to wait before having kids. Now, she struggles to get pregnant.
Should we be having kids younger then? My mom was 23 when she had me, and I love how close we are. Today, she is in her 40s, and I can't imagine her having me now. We've already had so much time together.
These days, society is also encouraging millennials to postpone having kids, to work on our careers, relationships, ourselves, and our generation is not so keen on following in our parents' footsteps. We're a bit slower with everything, from moving out to getting married, so it is no surprise that many 20- and 30-somethings feel that they are not ready for a kid. As my colleague Jessie pointed out in her recent post, millennials aren't financially secure enough to raise a child. Though more people are graduating from college than ever, they are increasingly working at dead-end jobs, with the added burden of student loans.
As a millennial still fairly fresh out of school, it's even hard for me to believe that I could be having kids of my own at this stage in my life. This is despite my mom's eager anticipation, which grew once I got engaged. (In typical millennial fashion, I still think I'm too young!) However, Selvaratnam's Vogue piece serves as a reminder that there is a biological expiration date for conceiving, though it varies from person to person. That's important, and it's something for me to consider in my 10-year plan.