"Ideal" Age for Childbearing

So, this past week Gallup released a poll revealing that 58% of Americans said that the ideal age for childbearing is 25 or younger. Enter, social media debates. For days now, I’ve watched my newsfeed explode in response to this survey, and I braced myself for the argument I’ve come to know well. The one that suggests that the older a woman is, the better parent she will be. “Do you even remember what you were DOING at age 25?!” screamed one irate blogger. “I’ll give you a hint…think round the clock parties, frat-boy chasing, and all around debauchery!”

Pardon me, but do you know what I was doing at 25? Giving birth to my 3rd child. By choice, I might add. So while some of you made habit of stumbling home from clubs at 2 am, some of your peers were in the routine of nursing our infants back to sleep during that un-godly hour. To each her own, right? And don’t you dare for a second feel sorry for me, or my children. I wouldn’t have it any other way. And I’m pretty sure– based on the way my children happily embrace their lives every day– that they wouldn’t change it either.

My first child was born when I was 17, and my last at age 30, and I can tell you this much…that feeling of protectiveness and profound dedication to each one of my children was the same at 17 as it was at 30, once they were placed in my arms all squalling and naked and helpless. And it’s here that I always feel as if I have to add a side note: the one that assures the reader that my children are socially well-adjusted, empathetic, scholarly young citizens in the making. And even if they weren’t, it wouldn’t necessarily mean that the age of their mother was a contributing factor to their hypothetical failure to thrive.( But that’s another topic in and of itself.)

These kinds of polls serve no purpose, really, except to stir up a slew of debates that are constantly circulating in the world of motherhood. Debates on age, education, financial stability, marital status, and how all of these play into the public perception of the “ideal” parent. It’s provocative to say that, biologically speaking, the ideal age to have a child is at 17 when a women’s body is at the peak of its fertility. In terms of social parameters, no one would go out on a limb and declare that having a child at 17 is a good idea. But all that aside, it’s impossible to pinpoint a perfect age for one to embark on this amazing journey called parenthood. Perhaps you weren’t ready to set your life aside for another when you were 25. Consider for a minute that some of us were. And perhaps think about that the next time you go spewing your ageist notions of who the ideal parent is for all to hear.

 

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