Yesterday The Daily Mail ran a story titled “The Women Who Wish They Hadn’t Left It So Late To Start A Family.” The article is filled with multiple women’s experiences with regretting putting their career before settling down and having a family and some of the stories were truly upsetting. The older mothers had to deal with husbands dying while they had two babies at home, miscarriages and just feeling old next to the other younger moms. But just blaming the choice to have a family later in life all on your career seems a little too simple. As Bethenny Frankel said in a recent interview with Forbes, “It would be easy for me to blame the career path on why I had children so late, but it’s honestly not true. I could have had kids 10 years ago but I hadn’t met the right person and I didn’t feel it was the right time. I didn’t have the financial means to do it so I just kept going on with my life.” Careers can contribute to the decision to put off having kids but there are other factors and we talked to women who were glad they put their careers before having kids.
Julie Brannon, CPT of Bailey’s Naturals, told The Grindstone:
“I put off starting my family until I was 40, in favor of a career in broadcasting. I’m quite comfortable with the decision, as I had more than my fair share of travel, excitement, and adventures prior to my daughters birth. That meant that when Bailey (now 14) came along I was able to focus fully on being the best parent I could be. Becoming a mom changes you in every conceivable way, and shortly after her birth I retired from the industry and started my own business. I named it after her, and credit her for saving me from a life of self-absorption!
I also think being a bit older means being a bit wiser and infinitely more patient. However…. when I hit menopause — she hit puberty. I honestly don’t believe I ever considered the timing of that, and I don’t think most older moms do. Still, had it occurred to me it wouldn’t have been a deal breaker. I simply can’t imagine my life without Bailey.”
Mohana Phongsavan told The Grindstone:
“We waited until I was 32 to have our baby; I wanted to be married for at least four years and also have stability at my new job as part of a startup. I wouldn’t say it was career motivated as much as it was part of my goal to be in control of the timing so that when the baby did come, I was completely focused on him instead of the juggling and guilt everyone talks about.
We are in pause mode before number two, however, as I’m in the middle of a career transition. I don’t think so many people regret waiting as they do settling for the wrong partner so that they can start a family.”
And these women are obviously not alone. More and more women are waiting to have children later in life. A new report from the Pew Research Center’s Social & Demographic Trends project compared characteristics of U.S. mothers who gave birth in 1990 and in 2008. Among the most striking findings: mothers of newborns in all race and ethnic groups are now older than their counterparts 20 years ago. Fourteen percent of births in 2008 were to women ages 35 and older. The United States Census Bureau also found more women with a college degree are waiting to have children later in life. The bureau calls the trend a “delayer boom.” Instead of having children in their early 20s, most women with a bachelor’s degree are choosing to wait.“Medical technology and fertility treatments have made it possible, to not only have babies, but to have healthy babies” later in life, said D’Vera Cohn, one of the report’s co-authors. “The larger trend, I think, is that Americans are achieving the traditional milestones of adult life at later ages than they used to.” People might spend more years on education, wait until they finish college to marry and then wait until they’ve established a career to have children, Cohn said. Some notable women who waited to have children include Emma Thompson, Susan Sarandon, Madonna, JK Rowling, Annette Bening, Brooke Shields, Helen Hunt and author Helen Fielding.
Not that there aren’t some mixed feelings (as well as more medical risk) about having children later in life, but it can’t all be blamed on careers. Bethenny Frankel does say that now that she is 41 and may not be able to have more children (she recently had a miscarriage) that it can feel like a sacrifice but she says, “I can’t really attribute that to my career because it’s just the way the whole path went. It wasn’t like I was always so focused on work. I just didn’t have the financial means.”