What’s the best age to become a parent?

Ottawa parents in their 20s, 30s and 40s dish on the  pros and cons of having babies earlier versus later in life

There is no perfect age to become a parent. However old you are, having a child is an adventure full of joys and challenges.

While younger parents have more energy to keep up with their little ones, many also face financial constraints.

Older first-time parents are often more stable in their careers and finances, but may have to deal with additional health concerns during pregnancy.

Parenting Times asked six Ottawa moms to share the ups and downs of becoming a parent in their 20s, 30s and 40s.

Becoming a parent in your 20s

Pros can include: More energy

Cons can include: Tighter finances

Melissa Miller, registered practical nurse

Mother of: Colton, 5, and Kealey, 2

Became a mother at: 22

How did you decide that this was a good time for you? I knew I wanted to have them young. My boyfriend and I had been together almost two years and were living together. I just felt like we needed a baby.

What are the advantages of becoming a parent in your 20s? Being young, I still have energy to play and do fun things with them and while I still feel worn out and like they have way more energy than me, I just imagine this feeling would be multiplied by 10 if I was an older parent. I also think to the future, and since I had my children relatively young, they will be adults while I’m still young-ish and can be an involved grandma. My husband and I will be 42/43 when our youngest is 18, leaving us (hopefully) lots of time to travel and have fun on our own.

Do you ever wish that you had waited? I was in nursing school when I got pregnant with my first, so I ended up having to go back to school part-time when he was six weeks old, so that part was really hard. I wish I’d had either finished school sooner or had him a little bit later.

What’s the verdict? Overall I am very happy with our choice to have our family young-ish. I have my career now and he doesn’t remember any of those long days where mom was busy with schoolwork.

Sara Woodley, elementary school teacher

Mother of: Scarlett, 5 and Susanna, 2

Became a mother at: 25

How did you decide that this was a good time for you? I had bought a house and had a full-time career. My “biological clock” was ticking loudly and my husband is several years older than I am, so we decided to go ahead and try.

What are the advantages of becoming a parent in your 20s? I feel like I have energy, being young. I plan my retirement with the idea that my children will be out of school and maybe even living on their own at that point.

Do you ever wish that you had waited? Occasionally when I feel like we aren’t as comfortable financially as we could have been if we had waited, I wish we had waited three or more years to start. But then I wouldn’t have the girls I have! Sometimes I also felt (when I was still in my mid-20s) that I was losing friends who had more “freedom,” as they were free to go out whenever they pleased.

What’s the verdict? As I get older, I realize that I am in a great spot and I’m lucky to have two healthy and happy children.

Becoming a parent in your 30s

Pros can include: Financial stability, relationship and job security

Cons can include: Less energy

Sarah Honsberger, elementary school teacher

Mother of: Madison, 2

Became a mother at: 36

Why did you wait? I became a parent in my 30s for a few reasons. I was not in a stable relationship and wasn’t financially stable in my 20s so I never really considered becoming a parent at that time. I love kids and always have and that is why I am a teacher, but I never had the urge to get pregnant until I was almost 33. I only wanted a baby after I had been with my husband for a few years.

What are the advantages of having kids in your 30s? I got to see and do so many cool things in my 20s and 30s before having her that I don’t feel like I missed out on life. I have travelled so many places, tried so many things, met so many people, and enjoyed life before kids. I was not in the headspace to have kids in my 20s.

What’s the verdict? I had no idea how much being a mother would encompass my whole life and change my perspective on myself, my identity and so many other aspects of life. I’m glad that I knew who I was when I had her.

Karen McIntyre, legal assistant

Mother of: Jordan, 2

Became a mother at: 36

Are you glad that you waited? I am glad I had my son later – I was able to see my friends raise their babies and got to learn what to do and what not to do. I’ve been very fortunate and have been able to travel more than most and although I am looking forward to going on family vacations, it is not going to be the same type of vacation as I experienced without a child. I was able to secure myself in my career. I was not ready for a child earlier, so for me, the timing worked.

Jessica Gage, R&D researcher (see picture on page 56)

Mother of: Cara, 4, and Gianna, 2

Became a mother at: 30

How did you decide that this was a good time for you? My husband and I spent the majority of our 20s in school, so between tuition, studying, and extended hours that we needed to put in to finish our degrees, taking a year off to spend with my children was not an option for us.

What are the advantages of becoming a parent in your 30s? Becoming a parent in my 30s meant that I had a chance to establish myself in my career before going on mat leave, which gave me a bit more flexibility in the amount of time I was able to take off after my kids were born.

What’s the verdict? For us, the timing was perfect. Waiting a little bit longer to have children gave me and my husband a few years to focus on each other before adding kids into the mix.

Becoming a parent in your 40s

Pros can include: Life experience

Cons can include: Less energy

Cynthia Lambert, stay-at-home mom (top right)

Mother of: Shayne, 25, Brendan, 22, Calvin, 21 and
Jennifer, 2

Became a mother (again) at: 47

You became a parent in your 20s and then your 40s? Honestly, I didn’t think that it could happen naturally at my age, but there was a part of me that was hopeful. We were just about to give up and go one of the alternate routes when, surprise, it happened naturally! I had become pregnant at the age of 46!

What are some of the advantages of parenting in your 40s? I’ve already “been there, done that” and we have all or most of the material things we need in our home. I’d have to say life experience, a strong marriage, and financial stability are definitely advantages that I didn’t have in my 20s. I also feel that I have much more patience than I had back then.

What are some of the challenges? The biggest disadvantage now at 49 is that I don’t have as much energy to run and jump and follow her in her games. It’s less often that I get that spontaneous energy to take her out to the park, to a playgroup, or to the pool.

Another disadvantage is that she doesn’t have any siblings close to her age. Her big brothers are more like uncles to her.

I often worry about my own mortality, and hope that her dad and I will stay healthy and be around a long time for her.

I have yet to meet another mom that’s my age at a toddler playgroup. When I see someone my age in these settings, it’s usually the caregiver or grandmother.

What’s the verdict? I’m very blessed to be given the opportunity to experience that all over again. This time around, I’m going to try to make the hands on the clock turn a lot slower!