Monday night I was happily browsing the Frisky and laughing about a pie chart of brunch when an article caught my eye. It was one of those combinations of links that send you off site to The Buzz Worthy section and it was titled rather ominously, Smart Women Have Babies in Their 20s, by Adriana Velez. I clicked the link with mild feelings of trepidation.
See here’s the thing. I’m 25, I’m not married and I live with my boyfriend and 2 dogs in a 500 sq. foot apartment. Additionally, I am precancerous, meaning less than a year ago I had to have irregular cells removed from my cervix via an LEEP procedure. I’m also in grad school. I’m not in the place in my life where having children seems even remotely possible. I’ve comforted myself that it was now normal to not think about children until you were in your 30s.
That was until I opened this article where Adriana tells me, “you’re more of a fertile Myrtle when you’re younger, so there’s that.” She goes on flippantly to wonder if 20-somethings are really advancing their careers anyway, because she apparently wasn’t. She includes her own graduate school experience, “that involved falling asleep in the library and not getting a PhD.” Oh Adriana, you and your post about wasting a decade of your life is so, so amusing to a terrified 25-five-year-old.
This article that has sent me into a panic was based on another article from Slate’s XXfactor, where Jessica Grose points out a few reasons why women who are career ambitious should be having children sooner, not later. Jessica was fairly even-handed and acknowledges that, “when you decide to have a child is deeply idiosyncratic, and there are so many factors that go into it – a economic, romantic, emotional – not to mention the fact that you can’t just schedule in a baby like you schedule a vacation.” Her argument for having children in your 20s is based on Anna Jesus’ experiences having a child while in medical school. Anna opted to try for a child due to a medical diagnosis that would see her fertility decline rapidly in later years.
In speaking to Flurt!’s founder, Amanda, she said about the article, “at first I laughed, but I think the point is that women have more energy in their 20s and it’s a smart choice if they REALLY want kids. But you shouldn’t have kids in your 20s if your career is more important and you think you might want kids.” I agree, and yet it’s not because I value my career more than a family – it’s that I do not even begin to grasp how to be a parent. 3 years ago I was living in my friend’s storage space while I was going to school. I’ve never even bought an actual bed – only an Ikea futon. I can’t drive. There are so many reasons why I am so relieved when Aunt Flo comes to visit every month.
My very level-headed friend Joanna Schroeder had her first child when she was 27 but says that, “here in LA I am almost always the youngest mom of an 8 year-old, being 35. I know tons of moms who had their kids at 42 or so. Older moms tend to be very patient, content as moms and secure in their identities. All generalizations, of course. But this sort of shit [the article in question] is just… shit.”
I think we have to leave it there. No matter what government policy, NY Times article, or mommy-blogger tries to tell us gurls, we can’t have children on anyone else’s timeline. It simply won’t work. I have no doubt if some ‘accident’ happened and I got preggers I could probably make it work, but I don’t have to do that either. Freedom of choice means allowing gurls, and women to decide for herself when and if having children is right for her.
I’m the meantime I will be over here wringing my hands and worrying, yet again, that as a 20-something I am irrevocably throwing my life away.