5.03.2013

"You can have a career at anytime. But you only have a short period where you can be a young, hot mom."

Catch the 30 Rock quote? With Mother's Day quickly approaching, I thought I would share my thoughts on something that's been bugging me for quite a while. Over the course of our engagement and marriage, I've seen a host of articles promoting the advantages of getting married young, most recently this one from Slate. Not one of those articles has ever mentioned children.

Now, before I get to my thoughts on this topic, I just want to say that if you, single or married, want nothing more than to have a baby, I want that for you too. If you are avoiding pregnancy based on serious reasons related to your physical, mental, or financial health, I've been there and I feel for you as well. 

It's just that, from a secular standpoint, I know there are plenty of advantages to postponing children, especially in terms of one's career and finances. We would certainly be able to buy a house a lot sooner if we had taken that path! But there also many non-religious reasons to get married young and have kids shortly afterwards. The fact is, there are sacrifices to be made either way. What a couple gives up by postponing children is just somehow never mentioned.   

4x6 Version

My husband and I are twenty-three years old. We will celebrate our third wedding anniversary this summer and welcome our second child this fall. 

We started dating at fifteen and got married before my senior year and his junior year of college. As the very fortunate recipients of full-tuition academic scholarships, we were nearly financially independent since entering college. After our wedding, we were able to make ends meet on our student budget without much stress. I graduated in May 2011 and worked as a nanny until our daughter arrived shortly before my husband’s graduation the following year.

Pregnancy Announcement

It had always been our plan for my husband to pursue a PhD, but when he received a very generous job offer from a major tech company during his senior year, we couldn’t pass up such a promising opportunity. After his graduation, we moved across the country to the west coast, where my husband works as a software developer and I stay home with our very rambunctious toddler. 

We consider ourselves extremely blessed to have begun our lives together at such an early age. We have the SAT to thank for paving the way to our happiness because without the scholarships that led to our financial stability, we could not have gotten married in college. We attribute my husband’s job offer more to good fortune and a practical major rather than purely hard work. In this uncertain economy, a stable job can be hard to come by, especially right after college.

Claire, Day Ten

    There is quite the stigma attached to marrying young and even more attached to having kids young. If one sees a couple in their early twenties playing with a toddler at the park, one might assume certain things. Maybe they got pregnant and felt obliged to wed? Maybe they’re Mormon? I usually wonder if they’d like to be friends. 

  The more pessimistic might think the mother and father in the park are sacrificing the happiness that stems from achieving educational and career goals to provide for their children. While I am proud of my college degree, I can say without a doubt that the happiest moments of my life are enthusiastically answering my husband’s proposal, reciting my wedding vows, seeing a positive pregnancy test, meeting my daughter for the first time, and discovering that she will be a big sister.

Untitled

If more young people were willing to entertain the possibility of marriage and, in particular, of having children soon into their marriage, I am confident they could experience the same joy. While it is certainly true that these moments will be still be there when they’ve achieved their professional aspirations, there are more than a few advantages to starting a family sooner rather than later. 

 I have always dreamed of staying home with my children in their formative years. If my husband and I had gotten married when we did but both worked for five years after graduation, it would have been difficult to adjust to one income when we eventually had children and I left my job to care for them. Because we welcomed our daughter shortly before my husband graduated and started his career, we experienced quite the opposite phenomenon. While we technically had two incomes before her birth, thanks to on-campus jobs and summer internships, when we transitioned to one income we also more than tripled our take-home pay.

Kerry Park

  Assuming one is in a committed relationship with the necessary financial resources, the younger one has children, the healthier it is for both mother and baby. At our church mom’s group a few weeks ago, we had a disheartening conversation about trying for a second, third, or fourth child.  Most were worried about the likelihood of conceiving again or the increased risk of genetic abnormalities. As the next youngest member of the group is twelve years my senior, I did not have much to contribute to the conversation. 

However, I can attest to the benefits of youth when complications arise. Our daughter was born premature via emergency caesarean. Age plays a large role in recovering from a c-section in both the short and long term. I was off pain medication and feeling back to normal long before the standard six-week recovery period. This much shorter recovery time is greatly attributed to my age. I am not in amazing shape nor have an extremely high pain tolerance. Our daughter’s dramatic entrance into the world has had little effect on the timing and risks of my second pregnancy, once again largely due to my age.

Halloween

    We will be forty when our oldest child graduates from high school. Instead of backpacking through Europe on a shoestring budget in our twenties, maybe we’ll treat ourselves to a little more luxurious version of the same trip in our forties. We spent a semester abroad in college and have stayed in more than enough hostels to last a lifetime. Perhaps more significantly, we will have at least twenty-five years before retirement. Although we contribute the employer-matched amount to my husband’s 401k, we can devote the larger portion of our savings to college funds for the time-being because we’ll have decades to make up the difference later. I am aware of the many obstacles, but if I decide to enter the work force when our children are grown, I will have plenty of time to do so. 

My family is my greatest source of happiness. With the United States’ average life expectancy hovering in the late seventies, there is a good chance that my husband and I will be around to enjoy the future generations of our family. Starting a family at a young age will hopefully allow us to spend more time with our grandchildren and quite possibly great-grandchildren. As our parents are all healthy and in their early to mid-fifties, there is also the likely prospect that they will be around for many years and will establish a strong, lasting bond with their grandchildren.

Pregnancy Announcement

  If my husband and I are blessed to make it to our fiftieth or sixtieth anniversary celebration, I highly doubt we will look around the room full of our descendants and feel anything but gratitude for starting our family when we did. If one of us passes away tomorrow, we will feel even more thankful for every day we spent united with the people we love.

13 comments:

  1. So proud to have role models like you guys :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Caitlin, I've missed seeing you lately. Delighted about your news of a second on the way!! Great points, too. I always wished to have married and begun having children younger. Some of us had to wait around for God to send the man first! Congratulations and don't let nay-sayers bring you down, you're doing a great job!

    ReplyDelete
  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Y'all have got to come back to Texas - plenty of young mommies (and daddies!) here! I don't feel like there's a
    "stigma" against having kids young here, provided you're married first. People are always asking us when we're going to start having kids!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Caitlin -- I have often admired your courage and witness. This post is incredible! Thank you so much for boldly sharing your faith and love for one another! And congratulations on your new little one - how exciting :)

    ReplyDelete
  6. I don't notice a backlash , I do notice that more mothers are starting older than they used to and it is rare to see new moms younger than 25 ( probably 27 where I live) . The truth of the matter is, aside from younger eggs and a bit more energy, there really isn't much a below 25 mom is going to give to a child that the child truly needs.
    When the life expectancy was 50 it was advantageous to start having children in the late teens and early 20s but with medical advances a 31 year old mother ( my age when I was pregnant with my first) is in far better physical condition than the 23 year old mother in the 20s and has a greater chance of both her and the baby surviving pregnancy.

    Mothers my age are certainly curious as to why anyone would choose to parent when they could be gaining valuable life and relationship knowledge , knowing that there are 20 good childbearing years ahead. Frankly we do know what you are missing out on ( and I'm not talking about cosmos with your girlfriends at a bar) . Maybe your career isn't important to you but a long and stable job history, home ( ideally one you own) ,nest egg, college fund, retirement fund , rainy day fund...all the things kids need , every day. Aside from the financials kids benefit from a regretless mother and father , emotional maturity and a deeper understanding of the world idealistic 23 year olds simply don't possess. When "it" hits the fan , and by the bit I have read you both seem to be living quite the charmed life so far, how will you react? You don't know and that is simply because you haven't lived long enough to find out . I always would recommend finding out as much about you and your spouse at your worst before adding little ones to the mix.

    The flip side is that some people will never be mature enough to be parents, and this doesn't seem to be true in your case what-so-ever . Having kids should never be based on some date on your drivers license alone but the willingness to HAPPILY put yourself on the back-burner for 20 years or so. So if you feel there's a backlash I would have to say it's probably in your head; we all know it's hard and whatever age you are parenting is tough .

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I just want to say you don't know that there's "20 good childbearing years ahead." Some women lose their fertility early. And even in the best cases, by 35 your eggs begin to age and your fertility declines (albeit not at the same rate for everyone). It's not a guarantee that you can get pregnant in your 30s, and definitely by 43 your chances of conceiving on your own are like 3%. Not that it doesn't happen, but it's not as easy or common as you state. And IVF isn't a guarantee of pregnancy either, even with donor eggs or sperm. It's still only a 50% chance at best of pregnancy. From a biological standpoint, our bodies are designed to bear children earlier not later.

      The only issue I have with the posters thoughts is that I don't think it's going to be as easy to enter the workforce later as she thinks it is. That's where the real backlash will be. Hopefully, she'll try before her kids are grown and she's 40. Entering the workforce at 40 with only the jobs you worked as a kid in college will be challenging. That said, everyone needs to be able to make the choice that fits them best. I just hope, dear author, that you consider the impact being out of the workforce for so long will have. You might want to think about reentering the workforce, once your kids enter school. Good luck to you and Congrats on following your dream!

      Delete
  7. Hi! Great post. I was about to write just a simple, "I'm a young mom too (24, married, expecting our second child), and I loved what you wrote!" but then I just read the previous commenter's comment and wow - I have to respond.

    PoorMom: "I don't notice a backlash." You ARE the backlash. Inflammatory statements such as "There really isn't much a below 25 mom is going to give to a child that the child truly needs," "Mothers my age are certainly curious as to why anyone would choose to parent when they could be gaining valuable life and relationship knowledge," and "Kids benefit from a regretless mother and father, emotional maturity and a deeper understanding of the world idealistic 23 year olds simply don't possess" are EXACTLY the backlash we are talking about.

    I could pick your comment apart sentence by sentence (and trust me, I really want to), but I'm going to swallow my temper and simply remind you that just because YOU might have been an inadequate parent in your early twenties doesn't mean that you can apply that broadly to everyone else.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Caitlin, as Katie mentioned above, it has everything to do with where you live. I previously taught high school in two different areas of the state. One was suburban and rich, the other was small-town and military-based.

    Even though I taught the small town kids after the suburban kids, the small town kids are the ones that are married. Maybe it seems like in a place like Seattle that people don't have kids young, but trust me, they do. The overall age for a woman at marriage and first birth is increasing, and some of that is just because teen pregnancy is at historically low levels.

    Most of your points, I completely disagree with you on. Or more accurately, they in no way reflect what's right for me, but don't think for a second that me or every other person that waited until past 30 to have a kid is judging you. I have a degree and I'm a stay at home dad, but waiting was what's right for us. Moms are so overly judgmental about everything else regarding parenting, you should stop worrying about it now. You can come hangout at my blog or with me on Twitter. I accept you.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I was married at 23, and completed my family, launched a career and earned my first graduate degree by 30. My husband earned a PhD and racked up a couple of years as a professional engineer by 28.

    Everyone thought we were nuts to have kids in our early 20's. We thought we were making the most of a decade.

    Like Caitlin, my husband works in a lucrative field that values his skill set, which gave us a degree of economic autonomy in our 20's that few people have. My degrees made it possible to find flexible work while my kids were young and created a solid base for career growth in my 30's.

    Now 42 and 43, our kids are teenagers and we're able to 'lean in' during our peak career years while our same-age coworkers are struggling to balance demanding careers with time-intensive young children. While I'll say that it is never easy to manage careers and young kids, it seems infinitely more challenging when you're the boss rather than an employee. The career stakes are certainly higher now than they were in our 20's.

    Accelerated adulthood isn't for everyone. But if you have the job opportunities and the work ethic to grow a family and a career simultaneously, it can be tremendously rewarding and set you up for a much easier middle age.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I am right there with you Caitlin. We married at 23. I just turned 25, and we have a one year old and one on the way! I am a stay at home mom and my husband is a Catholic missionary. Our salary is 100 percent fundraised. I'm sure people think we are crazy. But to me nothing is more important than my family, and we trust that God will provide for us the way he always has. In response to some above comments I have to say, I cannot imagine resenting my kids or regretting anything we've chosen. I've come to accept that the way we live is counter cultural, but we have everything that we need. Life isn't easy, but we aren't called to an easy, comfortable life. We are HAPPY and blessed beyond measure. Thank you for this post. God bless your family!!

    ReplyDelete
  11. I have been reading the various comments and opinions on here. First of all, Caitlin I love your website and I think that you should be proud of what you have accomplished. You evidently have a devoted husband and a beautiful baby with another little one on the way - something which people way beyond your years struggle to find and have. You should not have to justify yourself to anyone. As far as age is concerned, there is no right or wrong answer. We are all individuals with a mind of our own and have a basic human right to have children and settle down when we see fit - whether that be at 16 or 40. Everyone's circumstances are different and Caitlin I applaud you for sharing your story and your experiences with being a young mother. Your post is very informative and has made me consider factors that I would not have done otherwise. As you so rightly say, as long as you and your family are happy, it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks ;-)

    ReplyDelete

You are awesome.