Not long ago, I overheard a co-worker of mine, who is a mother of two, give some advice to another co-worker, who is single, about waiting to have kids until later in life.
The mom told the single co-worker, “Girl, you wait and have as much fun as you can, before having children. Travel, see the world, enjoy your marriage and don’t have kids until your mid or late 30’s.”
Thursday night, while driving home from Duffy’s Tavern in West Miami, where my men’s church group gathers after our bi-monthly meetings (we talk a little about God, we bond, we break bread together and well, we enjoy a few spirits), I was listening to a guest host on a nationally-syndicated radio program, The Mark Levin Show. The host was talking to a caller, who was discussing the U.S. economy and mentioned that he and his wife were very concerned because they were trying to have a baby.
Without a hitch, the host interrupted by asking him, “How old are you?”
The caller said 35. The host said, “You are much too young to have or even be thinking about having a baby.”
Really?... It’s funny, in today’s society that seems to be the prevailing thought.
People are waiting longer to get married and thus waiting longer to have children. I am a prime example.
However, just a short generation ago, that was not the case (my parents got married when my Dad was 25 and a year later, I was born).
Although I agree with my co-worker's assessment on enjoying marriage, which my wife and I have always made a point to put first (after God), since without which, we have no family, I vehemently disagree with her advice to wait for children.
Many people reason their way into waiting, “We can’t afford it now.” “We’re not ready.” “We want to establish our career first.” Meanwhile, we wait longer and longer and longer…
Yanik and I had our first daughter when I was 37-years-old and by the time our son (our 3rd) was born, I was 43.
Did I have the same energy level at 37 as I did when I was 27?
I know people say that 30’s are the new 20’s and 40’s are the new 30’s but, as good a shape as you may try to keep your body in, the older you get the more worn your body gets and the harder it is to recover. I don't know about you but, the older I get, the more tired I am and the less energy I seem to have.
I was probably in the best shape of my life at 33. It was a “me” time in my life (although my wife would argue it still is) when all my focus was on working out and looking as good as possible (thus it was when I met my wife). As Al Pacino says in the last line of The Devil's Advocate, "Vanity, definitely my favorite sin."
Even so, I knew that my reflexes were not the same as they were when I was 21. This became evident to me in my baseball skills; having played for most of my life.
You can see it in professional athletes. No, matter how good they maintain themselves, their bodies start deteriorating with age. Sure, you have a few freaks of nature that play well into their early 40’s but most athletes are forced to end their careers when their bodies start declining physically by their mid to late 30’s.
So, is that the best time to start having a family? Shouldn’t the most important purpose of our life (raising our children) deserve our optimum capacity?
Not to mention that the older we get, the more trouble we have conceiving. My wife and I tried for several years before conceiving our first (and if any of you have experience difficulty getting pregnant, you understand the stress and pressure involved) and we also had trouble conceiving our second. Our third was an unexpected gift from God.
Given my experience, I would argue against waiting to have children.
I have friends who are in their mid-40’s like me, who have children in college or high school. By the time they hit their mid-50’s, their children will be starting their careers, and they can start relaxing and enjoying their marriages without the pressures of the kids.
Meanwhile, by the time my son is out of college (hopefully, 18 years from now), I will be 64, ouch!! And, if that weren't daunting enough, if my youngest daughter gets married at 26 (20 years from now), I will be considered a senior citizen as I walk her down the aisle (and hopefully she will not wait untill her early 30’s to get married or I may not even be around!).
My wife and I have often discussed that if we had met earlier in life and started to have children younger, we may have had five kids by now. However, at this stage in our life, that seems highly improbable.
It may be true that children take a big toll on marriages in terms of time, finances, and stress, but they are also marriages greatest gift and God-given calling. Pope John Paul II once wrote that the closest man could even slightly approach (in a finite way) God's (infinite) self-giving love is through the intimate relationship between husband and wife, where we actively partake in God's Creation of life.
We are all wired to want children. Some may suppress it but it is there. Just like a will to live and a longing for Truth (God), it is ingrained in our humanity. You can call it a survival instinct, you can call it an innate longing for immortality, or you can call it God having written it into our heart.
Even at my age, with my deteriorating and worn down body, I enjoy fatherhood tremendously and still hold onto the hope of convincing my wife to partake in God's Creation, ONE more time... Although, my wife would say, "Not a chance!" I will leave that in God's hands.
But, returning to the advice offered by my co-worker and the radio host (which reflect an overriding sentiment today), I will instead counsel my children differently. I will recommend, if God places the right person in their life to marry, to have children younger (in mid to late 20’s) rather than waiting until they're older and, with God's Grace, they can enjoy His greatest gift a lot sooner and a lot longer.