By Julie Ryan Evans for Betty Confidential
What is the best age to become a parent? Is it better to have your babies young while you have more energy and your eggs are fresh, or is it better to wait until you've found some more maturity, established yourself and built a career?
Everyone has a different answer, but over the past 40 years the age at which women have their first child has crept up and up. Parenthood has been paused for degrees and careers as women fought their way up the corporate ladder.
But that upward swing may be on its way down, according to new data from the Center for Health Statistics published in the Wall Street Journal. They report that the mean age at which women deliver their first child has dropped from 25.2 in 2005 to 25.0 in 2006. That's the first reported drop since they began collecting data.
While one year of data does not a trend make, it's an interesting shift for sure.
"It's the first time it's ever gone down, and certainly that's noteworthy," said Brady Hamilton, co-author of the study in the WSJ article.
So why now, after all the years?
The WSJ article points to more Hispanics in this country who tend to have children younger as well as to an overall increase in teen pregnancies. They also cite experts who say that women today just assume they'll have it all and don't feel the need to postpone motherhood to fight their way up the ladder... they just assume the ladder will be there when they're ready to start climbing.
And you have to wonder if women haven't seen and learned from the struggles of many women who wait to have children only to be faced with infertility. They've also likely seen that no matter how long you delay motherhood, work-life balance remains elusive. Plus, there's the allure of the Hollywood baby bunch (from Brangelina and beyond) that has made pregnancy and childrearing more glamorous than ever -- at any age. Surely a stunning new mother like 24-year-old Ashlee Simpson is apt to get some biological clocks ticking sooner rather than later. What influence even younger mothers in the spotlight like Jamie Lynn Spears and Bristol Palin is yet to be seen.
If I had it to do over again, would I have children earlier? Assuming I got to have the exact same ones I have now, then probably yes. My husband and I waited until we had several degrees completed and careers commenced before we started trying -- we had a plan. But that plan didn't include the years of heartbreaking infertility and miscarriages we went through, and I can't help but wonder if we could have avoided them if only we had started in our mid 20s rather than as we entered our 30s.