Thursday, January 17, 2008

Young(ish) Parents

I was thrilled to read this piece in the Washington Post this week.

In it, a number of families who had children before they turned 30 discussed the ways they feel somewhat ostracized from their peers and a bit young to join some of their parental peers in their discussions. This past year I was almost happy to turn 30 when I realized that it somehow legitimized me as a parent. There IS some parenting age-ism, especially in a city like Boston where so many parents wait until their mid-30's/early 40's to procreate. We did not. And that sets us apart from about 90 percent of our friends up here.

This age thing really bothered me at first, but now that Sam is almost a year, I no longer care that much. Yes, most of my mommy friends are in their mid-30's (and early 40's) while I just crossed the threshold, but now we all have one giant thing in common so other things do not matter as much. But that does not mean that I have forgotten the sting of one mother in my mother's group telling me that she thought I was 19. And even though I tried to take it as a compliment, I know she did not mean it as one.

It is hard for parents who decide to do it a bit younger. We have less money. We are still working on our degrees and our careers, unlike many of my mommy friends who are much more comfortable and spend much more time with their spouses. There are certainly huge advantages to having children older. I chose to have my children young(er) for a few reasons. One, I just wanted them. Two, I wanted to have them before 35 so that I can get gene tested for breast cancer and get a mastectomy if I need to (this may need further explanation at another date). And three, I was afraid of having problems and I wanted to know sooner rather than later. Obviously, the third concern was not valid, but I feel very lucky in that respect. I do not regret those as the reasons we started early.

Of course, in many parts of the country, my birth state included, we are on the old end of having our first child. But in my world, in the circles I run in, we were the first, the pioneers of child rearing, if you will. In Boston, people work on their degrees until they are in their mid-30's and barely get started on their careers until then. Plus, the cost of living makes it impractical to buy real estate, especially a single family home inside the city belt, for most young families. I try not to compare myself to much to the other parents in my circle because they and their husbands are lawyers, doctors and PhDs. So of course they can afford things we cannot. But I think we make the best of what we do have and look forward to the time when our kids are a bit older when we will have all the things that they have.

As with everything else, there are advantages and disadvantages to having children older and younger. I am thrilled with the way things worked out and could not ask for better mommy friends, even if I am slightly younger than some of them. But it did take a while. I spent a few months feeling out of the loop and somewhat lonely. And I still feel that way sometimes when I realize that most of the people I am closest to do not have the same responsibilities I do. Sometimes I envy and miss that. But I also feel like I made the decision to have Sam with both feet on the ground. I wanted a baby. Badly. I have no regrets.


Lis Garrett said...

Ithaca is the same way - most parents here are on the older side. I turned 30, September 2007. My husband is 42, and together we have three children. I was 21 when I had my first, 24 when I had my second, and 27 when I had my third. I definitely feel out of place at times, especially when I have almost 9 years of parenting under my belt as opposed to many of the mid 30-40ish women I know who are on their first child. Also, living in a college town where the parents are professionals, I feel very much out of place because I do NOT have a degree (over 60 credit hours, but no degree). Ah well. I do my own thing anyway and, like you, try not to let it bother me.

Stephanie said...

Let me be the Yin to your Yang! I am 30, unmarried, living in SIN with my boyfiend in the lovely red state of Georgia. Most of my friends back home (NY/NJ) are single, no children so I have to think about that to ground me. Otherwise, I am usually treated like a pariah: I get the "what are you waiting for?" comment more than I'd like. When I first moved here, nearly all the guys I met were married, divorced and with child(ren) by the ripe old age of 25. No wonder people look at me like I'm an old maid. Incredibly hot, but an old main nonetheless. ;)