Get married first, then focus on career

, , , , ,

Women who want to have kids should make it a high priority in their early twenties to find a partner. This week’s Newsweek cover story, Marriage by the Numbers, says is okay to wait until after 35 to get married. Newsweek is revising the saying that a woman has more chance of getting hit by a truck than getting married after age 35.

But the article ignores one of the most pressing issues facing Generation X: Infertility. No generation of women has had more trouble with fertility than this generation who received the terrible advice, “Wait. You have time. Focus on your career first.”

In fact, you have your whole life to get a career. This is not true about having a baby.

Even if you are past your early twenties, or not heterosexual, if you’re single and want to have kids with a partner, you need to find one now. Take that career drive and direct it toward mating because your career skills will outlast your ovaries.

In case you think you’re waiting for “the right time,” there is no evidence to show when in a woman’s career is best to have kids. At any point, she is thrown off track. At any point when a woman has kids, statistically she will start to earn less money even if she takes no maternity leave whatsoever. There is no evidence to show that it’s easier to take time out of the workforce at a certain point in a career. People just plain don’t know.

Phyllis Moen, professor of sociology at the University of Minnesota, told me in an interview, “Don’t wait until the right time in your career to have a child or it will never come.”

However there is lots of evidence to show that a woman’s biological clock takes a nose-dive at age 35. I know, because that’s when I started having kids. The geneticist showed me and my husband a graph of Down’s Syndrome and we nearly keeled over when we saw the cliff at 35. We had no idea. That Down’s Syndrome cliff, though, is a stand-in for everything, because a huge percentage of fertility statistics get bad at 35.

There is also lots of evidence to say that having kids at least two years apart is best for the kids. However there is a distinct advantage for first-born kids. They are richer, smarter, and as if that’s not enough, year after year 90% of Harvard’s incoming freshmen are first-born. You can mitigate the impact of birth order on your second child by having three years between kids.

If you start when you are thirty-one, you can have two kids, three years apart, before you’re thirty-five. But this plan does not take into consideration that about 20% of pregnancies end in a miscarriage. This means you have almost a 50% chance of having to go through three pregnancies to have two kids, which means you should start when you’re thirty.

If you want to have babies when you’re thirty, then you probably want to be married when you’re twenty-eight. This is good news because if you marry very young you’re more likely to get divorced, but the statistics get much better if you wait until you’re twenty-five. For a healthy marriage, experts think people should be married two or three years before they consider having children. A reasonable expectation is to meet someone, date for a couple of years, and get engaged with almost a year’s time to pull off a wedding. So you need to meet the person at age twenty-four.

So this means that it may make sense for men to work full-speed ahead on their career in their early twenties, but women cannot afford that. Women need to make time in their lives to search for a mate in the same systematic, focused way that women have been searching for careers in their early twenties. And don’t tell yourself you’re waiting until you know yourself better. Getting to know yourself is a lifelong process, and after age twenty-five, waiting to get married won’t decrease your chance of divorce.

The good news here is that a large body of research shows that you will gain more happiness by being married than by having a good job. Yes, you should not have to choose between a good job and marriage. But this column is not about what is fair or what is just. It is about what is real.

You have a biological clock that does not pay attention to issues of social justice. You cannot control your biological clock and you cannot control the workplace. But you can control where you spend your time and energy, and you should look hard for a husband early on. Line up the marriage first, then the career.


349 replies
Newer Comments »
  1. Jamie
    Jamie says:

    Sounds great… Too bad life doesn’t work like that! Yeah, I want a husband at 25, baby at 27, and a mansion as well. Guess what? You don’t always get what you want. This article makes me want to puck!

    • jerry
      jerry says:

      Why is it when women hear something they don’t like they get angry. Even though these are the facts. Women today are just plain nuts!

      • Baby Doll
        Baby Doll says:

        Jerry, I love how you call women “nuts” when it’s actually rather “nuts” to make negative generalizations about all women because of your biased and irrational ideas/thoughts about women. If you want to avoid sounding just as crazy the poster you responded to, learn to see and treat people as individuals. Don’t lump me in with other people just because we both happen to have XX chromosomes. Thanks.

      • Susan
        Susan says:

        Why is it that the minute a woman expresses an opinion that a man disagrees with in any way, she is instantly & abjectly denigrated – in this case, as “nuts”?

        I (for example) wanted to be married at 21 and have children by age 24. And yet I did not get married until I was 30. And why is that? Because I *wasn’t* focused on that enough? No, I don’t think so: it was because I didn’t meet the one who was right for me until then.

        SO, when an article comes along making it seem like it’s somehow your fault, your lack of focus, that caused this, it’s very irritating to those of us who know better.

        • Khamilah
          Khamilah says:

          I’ve heard of people who married in their early twenties and got an early divorce cause they didn’t know what they were doing. We are still developing and usually around 30 is when most people know what they want. So this article makes no sense in that at 30, I have to start chasing men? you are right. they make it the woman’s fault why she isn’t married earlier than the norm. I went to universities throughout my twenties. I made myself available but no one gave me the time of day. Its not my fault at all. Everything is timing. Career first because you could be a single mother with kids and it will be very hard to start a career with young children. Very hard. This article is a lie.

          • Paul Neubauer
            Paul Neubauer says:

            The key is to marry a man who is 36-56, that’s when they are ready to marry and have the means, maturity and experience to care for you. If you marry in your own age group you’re stuck with someone just as clueless and immature as yourself.

          • Jaelinque
            Jaelinque says:

            Yeah, Paul, ’cause ending up a widow at fifty, is FUN!
            That’s like, what, around twenty five years alone? Or, in my case, with the women tend to live up to 95 almost half your lifetime alone!
            Men have shorter lifespans, so to ‘grow old together” women should aim to marry younger man, not older.

          • lisa
            lisa says:

            I like the article, because it was short, concise and to the point. That being said, I agree with you, Khamilah, because I am in the boat you have described. I am 45 with a preschooler and my husband can’t support us because alcohol is first. Food, bus pass, and a phone is not in the budget. I am now looking for a job in which I can take my son so I can provide more of the basics besides rent and utilities. At least I have a bachelor’s and a master’s degree so those papers should give me an advantage.

          • Pertinax
            Pertinax says:

            I know this is not recent. Far from recent.


            The article pretty clearly stated its purpose:

            Showing you the numbers and the biology behind giving birth, having kids, and getting married.

            You and several others completely misunderstood it. It is not saying what is fair; what is real. The way our bodies work.

  2. Penelope Trunk
    Penelope Trunk says:

    Hi, Jamie. I think people get what they want if they make it a huge priority. If you make getting a husband your number-one priority, you’ll find one. If you decide that having a mansion is a really, really high priority, then you can get that, too.

    It’s about prioritizing. I think the media makes women feel like it’s bad to make getting a husband a top priority. But it’s not. It’s part of reality.

    That said, I did not make finding a husband my top priority in my twenties. So I didn’t get one then. But I can see that what I did make my top priority in my twenties — finding a career — I did really well.

    We can’t have everything. We have to give something up. Giving up having kids early is much riskier than giving up finding a career early.

    • maya
      maya says:

      I’m sorry, I understand this article is “advice” but can you really expect life to always turn out as planned and prescribed? Sure, making things a priority can make them happen but only if you are willing to make them happen at any cost.
      Yes, it is true that fertility declines with age and there never really is a perfect time to have kids in your career graph. There are pros and cons for every age and stage. But seriously calculating “the age” to meet the future husband-which happens to be 24? Seriously?! What if you don’t find that person by then? Or what if you find someone and decide that since it is the right age, we should get married, make a mistake and suffer for the rest of your life? Is that less risky?
      If you marry early and have kids early, how the hell are you going to take care of them if you don’t have your career on track? Depend on the husband entirely? What if he cheats, leaves or dies? You are left as a poor single mother. Is that less risky? People seem to forget that there is a lot more to kids than simply having them at the right age. What if a woman gives up her career to get married and have kids and then doesn’t get pregnant until 35 anyway? What if she is infertile anyway? What about women who go to grad school and end up spending several years there? Their careers are delayed and so are marriages. Does that mean they shouldn’t go to grad school? Or have kids in grad school and then make a mess of it (esp. if the husband is also in grad school). Is that somehow less stressful? Can our lives be defined solely by biological clocks even for those who do want children? As if there is nothing else!
      Nothing in life works out exactly as planned even if you prioritize. People move, break up, lose jobs, derail or switch careers, get sick and what not. You cannot CONTROL everything in life and especially relationships because that involves the free will of another person. Much depends on who you meet and when and what you make of it. You could meet the perfect man at age 18, but if you are not ready to be in relationship, you will mess it up. Prioritizing finding a husband has such a desperate ring to it that I’m pretty sure this is not the best way to find a quality partner. Marriage and kids are just one part of life that has to fit together with other parts properly.
      Besides, I know many women who have prioritized finding a husband and are still single and childless. On top of that they don’t have their dreams. On the other hand, many single women who prioritized their career and dreams may not be partnered but are at least secure and happy. It is not as if their options are closed entirely and they can still find The One and have biological children or explore other options. But one thing is certain–the quality of their marriage and raising kids will be far better than anybody who chose to stick to some timeline.

      Both marriage and children are very serious decisions that cannot be confined to and dictated by a timeline just because of our biological clocks.

      Sure, if life works out perfectly for some people such that they meet the perfect person by age 24, finish grad school by 26 (if they end up going), get on track in their career and get married by 28, get financially secure by 30 so that they can start having kids and by 35 have it all -the job, the house, the car, the picket fence, the husband, the solid marriage, the 2.5 kids/pet, their health-then that is great! But does life really work out like that for most people?

      I believe there are too many people getting married when they shouldn’t and getting married to people they shouldn’t and having kids when they shouldn’t. Just because of these dumb timelines, we have a lot more divorces and bad parenting which is not only a problem for those involved but society in general.

      The only takeaway from this article is to be mindful of your biological clock and not unnecessarily delay marriage and kids. I think society in general is already reminding us of this all the time. Therefore, there is no need to write such articles-thank you-we already know.

  3. Gail
    Gail says:

    I’ve got news for you. Babies come when they are supposed to, career or no career. It’s God’s plan. I know this from personal experience, as neither of my two kids were planned. Had my daughter at age 31, and had a tough time during her childbirth. So I swore “No more babies – she’s fine as an only child!” Fast forward nine years – I found myself unexpectedly pregnant again, at age 40, which is supposed to be above and beyond the range to have a healthy baby. Gave birth two days before my 41st birthday to a son who’s as strong as an ox, and sharp as a tack. No Down’s syndrome there!

    Yes, I know that I have been lucky. And maybe women would benefit from having kids sooner than I did. But after being told at age 18 that I would never have any babies at all, all I can say is that women should take doctor’s advice with a grain of salt. Doctors aren’t in control – God is!

    • Baby Doll
      Baby Doll says:

      Babies come when you don’t know how to or refuse to use contraception properly. Some people can and do use it correctly and either plan their babies or never have babies because they don’t want children. If you can’t use contraception properly, you are too immature to be having penile-vaginal sex. Take responsibility for your behavior instead of blaming it on a being who may or may not exist.

      • em
        em says:

        Saying having a baby is purely down to using contraceptives correctly is pie in the sky dreaming – sure it’ll statistically take your chances down to 1 in 100 in the first year of pill use and closer to 1 in 1000 later on – that’s just high odds Russian roulette. It also entirely ignores the reality that not everyone’s fertility is as high as they want it to be. PCOS and ovarian cysts etc can lead to low enough fertility that the chance of getting pregnant is low enough that taking contraceptives may rule out rather than control when a person will get pregnant. When it’s unlikely to happen you’re just lucky if it does. Assuming everything will run like clock work is one of the points this article’s trying to warn against.

        • sase
          sase says:

          You gave such a polite response to a rude remark that I thought I would applaud you for your courtesy. I have PCOS so when I hear people make flippant comments about getting pregnant, I get mad and then I get upset because they don’t know what it is like to have a doctor tell you at a very young age that you may be infertile.

          • Dirk
            Dirk says:

            Women have 10 different forms of birth control, men have only one. Yet women still blame men when they get pregnant.

      • MC
        MC says:

        Baby Doll,

        Your writing shows two things that reflects your ignorance.

        First, even a high school student knows that contraceptive methods do not completely protect against pregnancy or STDs. The only sure way to avoid pregnancy is to not have sex at all.

        Second, You apparently haven’t read what Gail wrote. Unlike your speculation, she didn’t “forget” to use condoms, neither was she so stupid that she choose not to use contraception and then find it strange that she accidentally got pregnant. In her post she writes that her doctors who had diagnosed her told her she was infertile, explaining why she and her husband didn’t use contraception.

        Perhaps it would be wise to stop assuming that you are the smartest person in the world, because you’re clearly not.


        Just a Passerby

        p.s. In other note, thank you Penelope interesting and insightful post.

      • Wassup
        Wassup says:

        I’ve never heard anything more stupid in my life. NO contraception is EVER 100%, Take this from someone who has used condoms all the time WHILST being on the pill and still managed to be pregnant.

    • Melissa
      Melissa says:

      I hate to tell you this, but even if you use contraception properly, it’s still not 100% effective and women DO get pregnant while on birth control.

      • Ashers
        Ashers says:

        That’s so true! I know dozens of women who have been pleasantly surprised by a pregnancy while on birth control, and most of the time it wasn’t because the couple didn’t use the contraceptive correctly. It’s just GOD saying, “You are ready, now.”

        And it’s rediculous to put our reproductive organs down! If having children will make you happy and you are good in character, then go after it, and this article will show you how. But don’t put our reproductive organs up too high either. Just leave them right in the middle where they are and leave it to each couple to decide what’s best. Societies’ opinion will always sway and change. Do not try to live up to anyone standards, but instead sit down and draft up your own.

    • Rashmi
      Rashmi says:

      Very well said!!!

      Thanks to this blog as it has made my confusion clear.
      I am going to be 26 in this Feb, still whenever someone use to talk about my marriage, I use to deny clearly taking career at my first priority. But this blog has helped me much.
      Also its a good saying that though a girl have good career before marriage but after marriage its always a new start….
      I guess now I must change my priority to get married first…
      Thanks a lot… :)

  4. Sara Jones
    Sara Jones says:

    Wow, all the money I have spent on grad school could have easily been used for much better (and, frankly funner) purposes. I guess I should throw the towel in at 32—according to this article. I assume, you met your man at the appropriate age and time and life has been wonderful living in the McMansion all the while. That is one thing I find hilarious. At age 24, many of the Mommier than thou women I know met the men that they would later marry and become fathers to their children at the most ridiculous of places—-drunk in bars, as a result of a one-night stand, etc. Drink up girls and marry the first loser you can get, according to this article.

    * * * * *

    Hi, Sara.I met my husband pretty late. But I do not harbor resentment toward people who married early — no matter where they met their mate. I now understand that we get what we work hard to get. I focused on my career in my twenties and I ended up with great work. I see now that there is no biological clock on working, but there is on having babies. So it seems like common sense to handle the thing that has a deadline on it first, and then handle the thing with no deadline.


    • Sophi
      Sophi says:

      There is age discrimination in many industries, especially the corporate world, even if there’s not ‘supposed’ to be any. I have worked in a couple large corporations and have witnessed it. Some people (over 50) get ‘pushed’ out of their jobs in a ‘discreet’ way, even though they still have enough brains and dedication. There are industries that just prefer to hire young professional, straight out of college or graduate school.
      Even in the medical/science world where I work in, there can be some limits to when you actually start your career. While there tends to be much less age discrimination in the medical field, that’s only if you are already working there for a while and have the experience under your belt. If you take too much time off (years to raise a child) your skills need updating (which can take a year or more in some cases) and you may still not be a desirable candidate vs. someone who may be your same age but has been continuously working, or has less breaks in their resume.
      Maybe some fields may be easier to start later in life, but there still can be age discrimination even if it’s indirect.

    • christine kay waite
      christine kay waite says:

      Dear Sara,

      Even though I don’t have a career established because I had children young and only retrained when I divorced 8 years ago and now in my 40’s I find that it is hopeless in getting employment that is ‘reasonable’ or ‘related’ and the only jobs that I managed to get are ones that no else wants to do and no surprises there – yes I work at a BP gas station and the beauty in that job is that I get see a lot lets face it some how or another people are highly dependant on cars.

      My employment downfall can be put down to several things: 1. simply my age, 2. I’m a threat to my cohort’s relationships – both female and male are threaten by my single status as I’m pleasant, look a lot younger, reasonable attractive and get on better with the opposite sex, 3. staying at home too long, 4. possibly not been a brilliant hob nob as I’m friendly but don’t like to gossip, 5. being moderately deaf and dyslexia in writing with auditory discrimination issues.

      With the recently recession I observed from various regional statistics within New Zealand from social welfare, suggest people over 40 – 54, 55 – 65yrs appear to be the ones most vulnerable in going into welfare when compared with other groups from 2005 – 2010 and for sure there would be some very contemptous social demographics to be revealed directly and indirectly.

      Even though my marriage didn’t work out and I’m poor, no family support and struggling to raise a challenging teenager I have no regrets as these were my choices, but I do agree that ‘ageism’ exists (hitting women firstly in numbers in their 40’s and men in theirs 50’s) – and there is so such competition out there for the ‘better jobs’ between men and women which is creating further pressure to develop and keeping working in order to keep my seat warm at work, basically equalizing career or parent traps for both sexes.

      Further more mortgages 10 – 15yrs ago use to be more based on one income and some part on a second income – (this is going by New Zealand). So it was a lot easier for people to have a choice to be at home or work or live on their own or even get out of a abusive relationship. So it seems now that a large middle class are now simply a new working class – some might blame women movement, but I would scratch a little harder and it could be the wealthy and the banks have to answer for, as they have created their own wealth on the capitalism principles of demand and supply (simply more middle and working class people willing to be shackled to jobs) and stiff competition – (so basically if you don’t keep working there will always be someone else who will be willing to do the job with out time off) so therefore the wealthy have basically used the largely middle class invention of feminism as a vehicle of entrapment and profit.

      Because I’m last born out of six and therefore a bit of a myth buster I think I can reinvent myself in my own good time if that’s what I want – most probably when I have no more dependants, since the conventional world no longer finds me useful.

      • Punch Fashion
        Punch Fashion says:

        “My employment downfall can be put down to several things:…2. I’m a threat to my cohort’s relationships – both female and male are threaten by my single status as I’m pleasant, look a lot younger, reasonable attractive and get on better with the opposite sex, … 4. possibly not been a brilliant hob nob as I’m friendly but don’t like to gossip, 5. being moderately deaf and dyslexia in writing with auditory discrimination issues.”

        HAHAHA! Right, forget about the fact that you clearly have subpar writing skills and minimal relevant work experience, it’s really your overwhelmingly threatening cougar sex appeal and dislike of gossip that are preventing you from getting a job. Sorry, but that is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard. Also if anything, studies indicate that attractiveness is actually beneficial to hiring, and I’m pretty sure an interviewer has never asked me how I get along with men. If you think your so hot then get a job as a model. You clearly think that’s where you belong.

  5. Janine Mosley
    Janine Mosley says:

    I’ve been obsessively planning the chronnology of having baby #1 for almost 10 years now. It sounds like this article was written about me. I’m 30 and career focused. Got married two years ago at 28. Now planning to conceive. First child at 31, wait 2-3 years, second child before 34 to avoid the probability of a genetic abnormality.

    It is re-assuring that the logic behind my ‘planning’ can be backed up with expert opinion. Otherwise, it feels a little cold and calculating.

    • Esme
      Esme says:

      It “feels a little cold and calculating”? That’s because it IS. I’m glad you’re comforted by advice from one “expert” that your obsession is acceptable. I have a feeling you might be setting yourself up for quite the fall down the line–life is rarely as neat and tidy as you’d like it to be.

  6. Jeni
    Jeni says:

    I did what this article suggested as the ultimate guide line for a woman’s biologica/career life. My time line had a plan. I knew for certain that I wanted my education and my career and at least one child. The husband and the McMansion was a mystery. When I was 19, I met my husband at a Christmas party. I was a freshman in college and very focused on my education and career path (in graphic design). We dated for 2 years, lived together for 2 years, one of which we were engaged for. And we’ve been married for 11 years (together for 16). I had my first son at 27, my second son at 30 and just had my third boy at 34. Motherhood has taken me by surprise. I love it and get more from it than any other thing I’ve ever experienced. I have my own graphic design studio, 12 years now going strong. Having my own business was always my goal and I know contributes to my confidence as a mother. I want to show my kids that women can do all things with their lives and their choices. But now I’ve found that with my life in full swing and my kids as beautiful as they are, I want to continue to grow my family. I never thought that I would have wanted a big family, but life is funny that way… full of surprises …. especially in myself! But now, the conflict is with my husband. He is 9 years older than me and does not want to have any more kids because he’s said he feels he’s getting too old. I’m 35 and he’s 44. He is an incredible, very interactive father and a good, loving, healthy man. There are things in his life which he wants to achieve and I feel that I’m at a point where there’s a fine balance between time and both of us being able to achieve our goals. For the first time in our relationship, I wonder if we both want the same things out of life? So, even when you “do” what “they say” you’re supposed to “do”, I’m still left with questions about my wants and needs and trying to balance it all with the people and choices in my life. Is this natural to still want? I fret sometimes that it’s bad karma. But then I think, “Don’t limit yourself!!!!” Any feedback, I would be curious to read

    * * * * * * *

    Hi, Jeni. I just wanted to say thank you for writing such a candid and honest comment. These are the kinds of stories that we can all learn from. The more honest people are about what’s happening in their life, no matter what’s happening, the more we can learn. I learned from this one, so thanks.


    • ME
      ME says:

      I also wanted more children (have 2; had them at age 22 & 25) but husband was more pragmatic financially in that I was basically a stay-at-home mom (though I did earn a little money part-time) & we could not afford a 3rd child (braces, tutors, college, sports stuff, etc.). I BADGERED him for years! And even had a “false pregnancy” (immaculate conception, I guess, in that he had had a vasectomy & I didn’t have sex w/anyone else!) where I had the symptoms of being pregnant & even started lactating when my sister-in-law became pregnant w/her 3rd. Doc said he could stop the lactation w/male hormones, but I asked him if it was “dangerous health-wise” & he said, “No.” It would eventually stop (though he did say, “Too bad there is no call for wet nurses” as I would be perfect for the job!).

      But my putting so much pressure on my husband finally made him break down & agree to have the vasectomy reversed. But then I realized how selfish & not right it was for ME to decide for us to have another child. If both people are not in agreement, I don’t think it is right to have another child (if there is a choice). A child needs both parents to be 100% for the decision & we were in the position to make a decision (our 1st was not “planned” exactly, but this would be a PLANNED PREGNANCY–reversing a vasectomy…

      So we did not have another baby (biologically), but did become foster parents so my “maternal” instincts could be fulfilled & it was a great experience to provide love for these infants going up for adoption (both my husband & I have sisters who were adopted into our families so we are strong proponents of adoption).

      And the state paid for their medical care. We did pay for many expenses, but the large expenses of medical care was paid by the state.

  7. Ap
    Ap says:

    Get a partner! Now!
    What the hell, these things happen or they don’t. One sure fire way of making it not happen is to have that “I need a partner to copulate with and make babies” look on your face when you meet someone…

  8. John Hansen
    John Hansen says:

    You could always just not have kids.

    An adult life with a loving man is great – several women including my wife have told me.

    It’s also not a great world to be bringing kids into.

      • Baby Doll
        Baby Doll says:

        There is no better world. That’s why you shouldn’t have children. If you wouldn’t wish horrible stuff on your worst enemy, why would you force someone you care about to risk experiencing this stuff? If you want to be a parent, just adopt. There are millions of kids out there who would want you as a parent and the earth is already overburdened as it is.

      • Joe
        Joe says:

        Because there are also lots of wonderful things in this world to experience. I’ve never heard a more sad, cynical, and overall hopeless statement than what you just said.

        • Mae
          Mae says:

          Yea, maybe that person is a little over-cynical but its also a very realist perception. Despite the ills of the world today… overpopulation isn’t just a myth or theory. I think adoption is a great alternative to having your own child naturally. Its commendable. I don’t know…. I considering having a child biologically but then again, why bring another person into the world just so there can be “more of me” when there are already so many children in existence who needs a home and family to love them?

  9. Kevin
    Kevin says:

    Wow, my wife and I are both 36. We do not have any kids right now. We have been married almost 5 years. It sounds like it is not a good idea for us to by this article. But going by what Janine “Baby Machine” Mosley says, I can still pickup women 9 years my junior, just like her husband did when he was 28 and she was 19. Given this, I now know I can go out and get a 27 year-old uterus that is prime for baby having. I need some advice on how to tell my wife this. Any help?

    My mother was 38 when I was born, but I like this strong case for younger women. Thanks Penelope! You’re the best!

  10. Jeni
    Jeni says:

    Why am I not surprised that these last two comments by men suggest that once again they are clueless to women’s issues? And I don’t believe that their wives are being completely honest with them or themselves. What nerve!!! To call Janine Mosely a “Baby Machine”!!! You are so out of your league that you have not only embarrassed yourself, but both you, Kevin and your neanderthall, counterpart John Hansen have set back men and their thinking. Just not getting the entire point of the original article. The least that can be done is to respect the women that have the intelligence to “plan” their families. We should have more Mosely’s and less of you in the world. Actually, I should thank both you and John for NOT reproducing. THANK YOU for not creating more like minded people like you!

    • Baby Doll
      Baby Doll says:

      All John Hansen said is that you don’t have to have kids and you can still be happy. That has nothing to do with him not understanding women’s issues and not respecting women who plan their children. Nor does it mean that his wife isn’t being honest with him. Not all women want children and if you can’t comprehend that then you are the one who doesn’t understand women’s issues, which include women who don’t want to have kids, too. And there was absolutely no reason to compare him to Kevin who was the only one who used an insulting term. Because of your quickness to lump people together and use insulting terms instead of speaking like a civilized person, perhaps it would have been best had you not bred. Hopefully, your child isn’t harmed by your irrationality.

  11. Stephanie
    Stephanie says:

    Thank you to all of you who have completely discounted those of us that have “disrupted” plans. You must have sore backs – that is from being bent over and looking down on the rest of us with no “plan”. As for Jeni – you need to go out and get a sense of humor so you might be able to decipher sarcasm from reality. God bless those who live their lives so willy nilly as to think that they might actually have children IF and WHEN they deem fit – for them – not for anyone elses’ calender. And God bless those who want to plan out every step of their lives – I pray that it all works out for you both. John Hansen – blessings to you for not feeling that life is otherwise unfit if you do not have children. To the panel of judges above, please let us all be – well – who we want to be and when we want to be it.

  12. Karyn24
    Karyn24 says:

    Wow, this article is a reality check. I married and had my children in my early 20’s and wouldn’t change it for anything in the world. That was 15 years ago and back then I felt out of step. Now I am glad things played out the way they did. Did my husband and I plan it? No. Did we struggle? Yes. Did I sacrifice some freedom? Absolutely. But now I am still young enough to enjoy my kids AND concentrate on nurturing them and my career. (I am in my mid-30’s now.) As a mother, I do put my children and their well-being first. I finished my college education when my children were in grammar school so they were thrilled to see Mom graduate. Fertility is finite, careers and educations are not. Women need to make peace with that. One can go back to college or finish grad school after 35, but to attempt to START a family after 35 is sadly disappointing for a lot of women. Some of my friends, who are struggling with infertility, felt they were sold a “bill of goods” by believing they can “have it all and wait for the education, the knight in shining armor, the big house, etc.” Some women are struggling and embittered by buying into that unrealistic mindset. (No, that doesn’t mean-getting pregnant just for the sake of it, but if our ancestors had to wait for conditions to be perfect..ummm..none of us would be here.)
    There is a reason women have the ability to conceive a healthy child in their prime reproducing years..20s-35. They are young, usually healthy, and their bodies are more resilient to the stresses of child-bearing. The same could be said for men and athletic ability. A man is at his peak, physically, at those ages as well. There are laws of nature that dictate what science and social mores can not reproduce. Sorry girls, but those are the facts o’ life.

  13. PG
    PG says:

    Sorry, but that’s simply not going to wash for a bunch of us out here.

    I’m a 42 year old male, never married. My career has been a priority (and I was not cut out for marriage before). The fact of the matter is that I’m looking at marriage, and perhaps parenthood, in my 40s. It simply wasn’t going to happen any other way (it might have in my late 30s, but didn’t). I know a number of single women like myself.

    I take issue with a few things here. First of all, my 42 is not your 42. Quite frankly, I’m in good shape (grateful for my good health) and everyone thinks I’m about 10 years younger than I really am. Sure, there are people my age who aren’t as fit, but there actually is a bigger variation than you think (esp. here in LA).

    Secondly, many of us (men and women) just aren’t cut out to be married and have kids in our 20s. For too many reasons to go into. One thing sure to keep those of us single in our 20s is to try and put out a rather shrill warning that we’d better get to it earlier. Everyone is aware of the consequences of delaying it, but this article, done up in the manner of some friendly advice, doesn’t take the full picture into account.

    And that is, nature adapts. People are living longer, and with changing diets (i.e. Asia) growing larger. Our lifespans used to be 45 or so, now they reach into the 70s. If you look around you will see people having healthy babies in their 30s and even 40s.

    There are always going to be some women that wait too long or just can’t do it later. That’s unfortunately true. However it’s simply not as dire as you make it sound.

    • AC
      AC says:


      I find your comments refreshing. I am a 37 year old female (never married) and am currently finishing up a BSBA in Accounting (finally graduate this May). I would agree with you and from what I have seen personally that many, many people are simply not ready for the demands of marriage and children in their 20s and 30s (as our current divorce rate shows) and that it has been shown that older parents do make better parents—not just from the perspective of more maturity but the fact that they are more stabilized in their careers and finances. People are living longer and healthier lives and it would only make sense that people would be parents later as well.

      As for the fertility concerns, yes there is a risk—but has anybody ever heard of adoption????

    • Nikki
      Nikki says:

      Thanks for your reply. P.’s advice is in a vacuum for those who think they can pull off the ideal. Good luck – life happens. As usual, there’s nothing in here that P. writes that addresses starting from where you might be individually. But extremely expressed opinions are great for getting blog traffic.

  14. Daniela
    Daniela says:

    Wow! This can be a pretty dishartening column to read if you’re a single woman in you thirties or late 20’s! Thankfully it looks like I’m on the right track… In a couple of months, 3 days before my 24th birthday, it will be my 2 year anniversary with my boyfriend. We are planning on waiting a couple more years to get married and hopefully have children right around age 30. The prospect of having children and putting a damper on my career still terrifies me nonetheless.

  15. John Hansen
    John Hansen says:

    Why am I not surprised that these last two comments by men suggest that once again they are clueless to women's issues?

    Having a baby where half the marriage doesn’t want one is not a woman’s issue – it’s a FAMILY ISSUE! And I don't believe that their wives are being completely honest with them or themselves. I mentioned that to my wife and she said you are so misguided (that is the nice way) She said a baby is everyone’s business and that there must be an agreement before having one – or either may leave the relationship. Both you, Kevin and your neanderthall, counterpart John Hansen have set back men and their thinking. NO – we’ve enlightened men who might not understand yet. You being nasty doesn’t prove your points at all. Men and women need to be in agreement on the baby issue. The author of this article says the woman needs to have everything scheduled right down to the dates of births,etc. With a woman being driven like that – most men will just leave – as they should. Where is the FUN a man needs to have with his chosen a couple of years before having to make a choice on a baby? FUN – without that – why be married – of for that matter why even be alive? Live should not be one obstacle course after another – work, wars, famine and disease are enough – a man and a woman should be there for each other and talk of the other later. MajorHart

  16. Sabrina
    Sabrina says:

    I think women should do what they want to do when they’re ready for it, not based on what peers or trends say.

  17. MajorHart
    MajorHart says:

    >John Hansen – blessings to you for not feeling that life is otherwise unfit if you do not have children.

    Thanks much. The glue that will hold a family together during the stressful time of child raising will be based on what kind and how solid the love relationship is between the two mates. That comes from quality adult time together – have fun, and sometimes “just being.” The confidence my wife and I have with each other and the understandings we have could not have been developed with a scheduled life or babies. We had none and are fully happy. If we had some we’d be happy too, because we had quality time to get to know each other and fall in love. I’d like to hear from more women that have a quality life with their husbands and for a few years before they begin to desire babies. With some it becomes such a compulsion that they will dump their loving husband and do it on their own – drawing welfare for support. That is wrong. My wife works with a number of young to 40ish women that work part time to meet people and for a little extra money and are 3/4 supported by OUR tax dollars. We think that is wrong – if you want to have babies – let your man out if he doesn’t – and then be prepared to work to support yourself and them. MajorHart

  18. Stephen Crowley
    Stephen Crowley says:

    It’s not God’s plan, there is no such thing, people get pregnant, some people dont. It depends on many factors such as using a condom, number of sperm present, etc, etc, its not magic people!

    • Ashers
      Ashers says:

      It’s not magIc, but you are still wrong. It is faith, it is GOD. All of the medical knowledge we have today is a whisper of a glimmer of a grain of sand in the whole working of fertility and pregnancy and birth. What is unknown to us may seem magical and feel magical, but it isn’t magic. It is GOD hard at work.

      I met my husband (34) when I was 23, we worked at the same restaurant and had a lot in common and became good friends. Everyone knew we had a thing for each other but it wasn’t acted on because I do not date people from work. Eventually I found a better job, but he and I never lost touch. I even went through a whole relationship and messy breakup with another individual. But it turned serious and we became honest with each other. We dated for three weeks, after having been friends for 3 years, and then moved in together. He proposed to me several times, but finally, three months after moving in together, I said yes. And it was beautiful to marry my best friend just three months after that. This may seem rash to an outsider, but we truly live on the same frequency and love eachother more and more deeply everyday.

      Sure seems like three would be our number right?

      My husband and I both want a big family and to start building it right away, but we have encountered medical problems. And because of my age (25), I have not been able to find a doctor that will take our hopes seriously. It seems like ageism to me. And I can not seem to find a way around it. We are not a struggling pair either, but we are not wealthy. We work hard and save for the things we have. We own a little business but both work jobs outside of that and I’m a full time student. Yes, it’s a lot, but there is room here for a child. Our hearts and minds and home are ready. And three miscarriages later, we are not giving up. No matter how difficult it is. We will find a way to overcome this Rh negativity! God willing.

  19. Lucy
    Lucy says:

    I married when I was 21 and when my husband was 23. We agreed at that time that we’d later have two children (I wanted 3, but agreed to 2). I graduated from law school when I was 26. I wanted to start a family at that time, but my husband was not ready. I tried to be patient, but when I turned 28 and he said he still wasn’t ready to start trying, I suggested marriage counseling. He left me a couple weeks before I turned 29, in part because he felt like having kids would mean his career would never get started. Now I face my divorce being finalized around my 30th birthday. I plan on becoming a foster parent next year, and then I plan to get remarried in 2009 when I am 31. I want to try having children right off. I’ve already fallen in love again. Ideally, I would want to know someone more than a year before getting married, but I probably will not wait longer. Ideally, I would want to be married for a year or two before having children, but I probably will start trying as soon as I am married. Ideally, I would have followed this plan you have laid out, and I hope women still in their early 20s read it. However, we can only control and foresee so much. I still want a family, and I think I will still have one. For some women, their husbands dragged them along longer, promising to be ready to have children soon but leaving them at age 35 or 40. I say, if you think you are still fertile, and you want to have children, find a partner who also wants children. I do not have any regrets. I have a lesson on how much of life and I can and cannot control. Let’s be supportive of one another as women, whatever situations we are in. I wish all of you luck in getting what you want out of life.

    • karen
      karen says:


      your comment echoes what i feel, although we try to map out our lives as best we can they don’t always go to plan. Life throws numerous challenges at you, feelings, emotions even people change, planning is no use if you and your partner are not doing it together. We put so much strain on ourselves to achieve things by a certain age. As a 24, soon to be 25 year old female i’m caught in the middle between alllowing my career to flourish and hopefully start my own business to taking the next step with my boyfriend of 3 years, yes you can do both i just hope i give them both the attention they deserve and need. According to this article i suppose i’m heading down the write path, but that doesnn’t make it any less scarier and i don’t know what tomorrow holds for me.

      I wish you the best of luck on your journey.

  20. MajorHart
    MajorHart says:

    Isn’t there anything in your life worth doing other than having kids?

    What about your new law degree and chance to become a well paid attorney. What could you and your former husband do to be happy with your new career and his. With you being so driven to just have babies, I can see why he bailed out. Kids are not the only reason to be alive or be married. FUN – LOVE of two adults, FUN – Sharing of career interests and income opportunities – FUN – there’s a big, big world out there for two people and if the people want to – the kids come – it should not be because they have to. You have everything so planned – he just had to get out. Your next man may give you kids but he isn’t going to like your fixation either and you’ll likely have your kids but be single again.

    • CM
      CM says:

      Moron, she didn’t say she only cared about having kids. However, they are a dream of hers. Her husband would have kept putting it off until she was infertile. Is that OK? No. You can have a career for the rest of your life, but not babies.

      Anyway, as for teh story, many people DO prioritize finding a husband in their 20s, but it doesn’t happen for everyone. All kinds of things get in the way in life: Illnesses, accidents, bad luck, guys who commit and then change their minds about kids, etc. Please don’t make assumptions. I know a woman whose husband canj’t have children and they are only finding out now. Is she supposed to leave him? (And NO adoption is not easy – it requires a lot of jumping thru hoops over years.) My point being, it’s not easy to get everything ona timeline. Don’t judge.

  21. Single in NY
    Single in NY says:

    I find your article simplistic. It has alienated me as a reader of yours, and I bought your book and check your site for career advice! I am a single Gen X female in my early 30s raised in a single parent household. I think that your article missed a reality in this country that relationships, dating or marriage, even with lots of kids, don’t always work out. I would rather not have kids than be a female raising children on my own without a well-paying career. I couldn’t afford not to go full speed ahead with my career after college. Have you heard of student loans? (“A Man is Not a Financial Plan” -bumper sticker, Did you ponder that you might be alienating your 30-something single female readers who are in the work world? I’ll look for career advice elsewhere from now on.

  22. fred
    fred says:

    i’m alienated by MajorHart – oh how seeeensitive of me…A Man IS a Financial Plan – men want to work for something/someone – a wife, a family – it gives him worth – he wants to provide — i’ll look for career advice from Penelope

  23. MajorHart
    MajorHart says:

    Fred – you’re so out of touch with reality. You might need to support a wife and family but 8 of 10 guys I know do now – I don’t. I have plenty of worth and no need to provide. Are you trying to impress the women here with your asinine ramblings?

    Well there are some very intelligent women her who can see past your platitudes about what men want and what they should be doing. Get a clue.

  24. Lisa
    Lisa says:

    Penelope, I’ve spent the last few days devouring your blog archives. I think your outlook on careers is sharp, original, and convincing.

    As for this string of comments…I believe it’s our perogative and responsibility to read what interests and informs us. I feel more knowledgeable for having read this column. We don’t have to agree. Whether or not we do, I believe we have a responsibility to voice our opinions without being petty or condescending. I find that people who become obnoxiously defensive most often lack confidence in their own convictions.

    I believe the crux of what Penelope is saying is true; the window of fertility is a reality. There is no certainty of finding a spouse, but there is no certainty of anything. I don’t think anyone is arguing that you put all of your eggs in one basket. But it’s important to know what your priorities are. For me, it was the difference between being lazy on a Saturday night or gathering myself up off the couch and meeting friends and friends-of-friends for a drink.

    • Marian
      Marian says:

      “.I don’t think anyone is arguing that you put all of your eggs in one basket.”

      LOL!! Isn’t that just exactly what everyone is discussing/’arguing’.

      Isn’t that exactly what you do when you get married and have sex with the same person exclusively?? sperm + egg + uterus.. hmmmm..

      I’m sure the world would be a much different place if guys and girls of optimal child-bearing age were not compelled (because of financial limitations) to ‘commit’ to each other in such an old fashioned way.

      Go back 1 to 2 hundred years and life expectancy was so much lower. Marriage was useful & served the purpose of protecting women who did not have freedom.

      I can only see two significant advantages of marriage at this point:

      1. The ability for a couple to ‘announce’ to the world-at-large that they are committed to each other to the exclusion of all others such that the world-at-large can treat them as a ‘unit’.

      2. Financial protection (via legal means) for the care of children in the event the Marriage breaks down.

      Thanks for the blog post Penelope, and to the other stimulating comments. This is an old post but it is really helpful to hear all the different stories.

      I am 30 and have been married to a guy since I was 22 who is ~15yrs older. We always said we’d like to have kids but we haven’t really got around to it yet. I feel like I have now got my career going well but am not that ambitious to aggressively pursue it. OTOH I love the financial freedom that it has given me and don’t want to give that up.

      My husband has been drifting for some time – idealistically pursuing ideas but not actually turning anything into a financial income. So, as much as he says he wants to sort himself out and have kids etc, he isn’t really acting on any of it.

      Maybe he doesn’t really want them enough.

      It all depends on the needs/wants of *both* people. People often ask me if I want to have kids and I say ‘Yes, but only if he does too.’

      I don’t want it that badly that I would want it at all costs, even if that meant me being a single mum. But then again… maybe. The other day there was this little kid on the train and I found myself getting wet-eyed and wanting to have kids. I wonder if I am feeling clucky or if it just because I feel I am running out of time… so I notice this sort of thing more acutely.

      Reading this was a real wake-up for me to figure out my priorities. Thanks!!

      A word of warning to the guys out there: a couple of times women have assumed that we don’t have kids yet because my husband is ‘not ready’. So they have privately subtly insinuated that I should just stop taking the pill so we can have an ‘accident’ / unplanned pregnancy.

      This is easy to pull off if you are on the pill…. you just don’t take it; everyone (including the guy) just thinks you were the 0.1% (or whatever it is) for which the pill did not ‘work’.

      How horrible; the guy thinks he is participating in planned parenting but is in fact being used/deceived in such a profound manner.

      This is another reason why it is important to remember that the only guaranteed way to avoid pregnancy is to not have sex.

  25. MajorHart
    MajorHart says:

    This is not to any specific person.

    The overriding thing I notice here is a drive to have kids – at the expense of a loving marriage and a good successful career.

    Some women plan it out in their teens and they dont take into account (or give any concerns to) what the husband of male partner might want or need.

    Let’s make no mistake – these attitudes are a WANT – not a need. And what would you tell the potential husband when you meet him. “I want to have kids, we’re going to have kids and how many and when *I* want to or else you’re irresponsible, and I’ll dump you.”

    Where is the FUN in this for a man – where is the reason to be with a woman at all? Where is the goodtimes and adjustment to each other? Where are the sportsbars and tailgate parties? Where are the dancing and moonlight walks along the beach – talking about love of each other and for each other – not about making babies? Where is the sex without feeling it’s to make babies only. Sex is to build love and for fun too.

    Give this plan to most men and they will run for the woods. I am so glad to hear from women who think having babies (or not) should be a mutual decision and if that’s all you’re married for – your whole marriage is a waste. Be honest with your husband or boyfriend – let him know if he is just a means to an end and nothing more. Some men might fall for that (we are notoriously stupid sometimes) but most quality men will see they are just being used, and will hit the road. Oh, and be ready to support those kids if you have them. There’s no reason I and others should have to pay for your compulsion. MajorHart

  26. J
    J says:

    oh my goodness MajorHart..calm down! Everyone wants to have fun in their marriage, hopefully its what drove the relaitonship in the first place. I believe Penelope even said *ideally* you would spend 2 years dating and one year engaged—lots and lots of time for fun. She’s also not suggesting women rope unsuspecting men into having children. All she is saying is, biology is biology and science is science, and while anyone can trot out a ‘i’m the exception and i got pregnant with a healthy baby at 45’ story, thats not the reality for most women and they need to be aware of it and prioritize accordingly. Period. So people that don’t want kids don’t even need to worry about it. And all that time between finding your mate and having kids- it’s built in to get to know each other, enjoy each other and have fun. Some people even manage to have fun after you have kids beleive it or not. And if you find you don’t want the same things early in the relationship, then you move on no harm no foul. MajorHart, I just really think you need to relax.

  27. MajorHart
    MajorHart says:

    I am relaxed – totally.

    The problem is the harsh structuring. If I knew I had 2 years to get to know my wife and have fun and that in 3 a baby was required. I would never enjoy even a minute of that time.

    Example: As a young man of 30 in Tacoma – I had 8 male friends. 5 of them had a girlfriend get pregnant on them – 3 got married but were very unhappy about the blackmail and trickery involved. Two hit the road.

    Of the other 3 – two of the new wives were pregnant within two months, even though they promised they would wait at least two years because they knew their husbands did not want children even that soon. Their husbands were exremely unhappy and in almost all the cases sex and adult only pleasures such as sportbars, camping, fishing, fun with other single friends – became a thing of the past. Ohe had a good marriage and is still happy at last contact.

    The others are all unhappy at last contact – which was about 20 years ago now.

    I do want to know that my wife will see to it that she doesn’t get pregnant until we mutually agree and without nagging and threats. If she knows she’s going to be alone – if she truly loves her husband and I’m wondering how many women truly do, she will take her pill religiously and/or get an abortion.

    I know some women truly do love their husbands and believe something as important as having a baby needs to be a mutual decision.

    I dated a girl in Lincoln Nebraska – we hit it off very well and I would have liked to continue going with her but she started talking about marriage in the first and second weeks and what sex of child I wanted in the third. She wouldnt’t let up on it – it was clear that was all that was on her mind and she was only 21.

    Another good female friend had her first pregnancy (illegitimate) at 15 and second at 20 – and was angling for more at that age. I really liked her and was very fond of her two kids and while we never had sex or anything more than a friendship – I would have liked to have been a factor in helping her raise those two kids – love, money, moral support, maybe even a marriage if I did feel I was being used – but I didnt want any of my own for at least 4 years and she knew it and married someone else.

    We need to know when we are not going to have babies and a general framework for when we are if we have discussed it and mutually agreed – but not down to a specific year.

    Now – please – just relaxxxxxxxxxx.

    • Margaret
      Margaret says:

      I've read several of your posts. You have some insights into women's needs, but you seem to resent women's needs.
      On one post you admit that women have a "drive to have kids". I agree and also note that men have a drive to have sex. You claim the drive to have kids is "a want not a need". Applying the same logic, men's drive to have sex is a want not a need. Men won't DIE if they don't have sex. Women won't DIE without babies either, but society will die within one generation if women do not have babies.
      Men often impose their need for sex on women. Ideally sex should be an expression of affection and mutually fun. Yes, when women are in love, their sex desire can match a man's, but after the honeymoon period (up to 2 years) life becomes more routine, then many women's desire for sex drops off. At this time many women put effort into the sexual side of marriage/relationship because they have affection and respect for their man. She will accommodate his needs out of love for him.
      Is it so unreasonable for a woman to expect a man to accommodate her needs for babies? Biologically men find it hard to relate to babies until they are born. Yes, a decision of this importance should be discussed but a husband's reluctance should not necessarily hold the veto to stop a woman having a baby. Many fathers fall in love with their babies once they are born. Sometimes nature takes its course anyway with the woman becoming pregnant unexpectedly.
      A loving husband will respect his wife's needs, just as she accommodates and respects his needs. The husband expects sex for the rest of his life. Sex after children is women's gift to men and men should accept that gift with joy and gratitude. Once the family has the desired number of children there is no actual biological need for sex. Sex is a want not a need, after all many men go without for years with no ill effects. If she is giving regular sex for more than two years, then she is putting effort into the relationship and she should be respected for that effort. Too many men regard sex as some sort of requirement or ‘right’. It is a not a ‘right’ because it intrudes upon the body of another. Sex must be mutually agreed, just like babies.
      Both a loving husband and a loving wife acknowledges and respectfully meets each other's needs. It is not reasonable for a man to expect his needs to be met all the while complaining that women are scheming, planning and manipulative.
      Your comments saying that men should leave when they find out that women want babies is harsh. Yes, men do not want to be manipulated and pressured into babies any more than women want to be manipulated and pressured into sex.
      Don't allow men to loose touch with the human side of family life. That means acknowledging that babies are a part of life. For society to continue, someone must have babies.

      • sara
        sara says:

        I just wonder why do you think women’s libido will drop like that after 2 years? I love sex, is it because you have the same parter for a longer time? Then is not a libido problem. But I also find it hard to be pleasurable when I’m not in love. Are women doomed? Men just have so many advantages over women, as, for example, can decide whenever in their life to have kids. This idea makes me depressed

  28. megan
    megan says:

    Here’s the thing: I’m in my mid-twenties, and my partner is in her late twenties. In addition to the complications of having biological children in a same-sex relationship, neither of us are ready for kids emotionally or financially, and are unlikely to be ready in the next few years. We both have relatively steady jobs, as steady as anything these days, but we don’t make enough to be able to honestly say we could raise a child. Now, maybe if we had taken the advice in another column and chosen careers that were higher paying (I teach Jr High and she’s in technical theatre) we wouldn’t have the money issue, but I think we would still have the emotional one. We’re just not ready. I know no one is ever really ready, and I suppose if we were forced to we would rise to the occasion, but why put our biological clocks before our emotional clocks?

    Also, while I understand the drive to have a biological child, what’s to stop these successful and stable women in their thirties and forties from adopting? There are lots of children who need the kind of home that these women can provide, why not suggest to them that they *can* have it all… it just doesn’t look like it used to.

  29. MajorHart
    MajorHart says:

    Hi. I’m glad you brought those things up. It’s very hard to see any kind of job stability these days and that adds a lot of stress and more things to consider. If we decide we really want a baby – natural, adopted, we have to make sure we can afford to take good care of them.

    My wife and I also had qualms about the kind of world we would be bringing the baby up in. it’s not a very pretty place now.

    Still, we’re glad we’re here as we try to help turn America around and make it work for the people again.

    If I did have a child – I would have major problems with sending it over to iraq to die or in wondering what kind of job it would be able to get with all the outsourcing.

    That said – I wish you the best and hope you can get what you want. AND I applaud your caution.


  30. JG
    JG says:

    Thank you for your frank and thoughtful piece. As a 25-year-old woman with strong career aspirations, and even stronger family aspirations, I take your words to heart. I’d like to pull out two quotes that I found especially powerful and true:

    “Women need to make time in their lives to search for a mate in the same systematic, focused way that women have been searching for careers in their early twenties.”

    “I think people get what they want if they make it a huge priority. If you make getting a husband your number-one priority, you'll find one.”

    I find it odd that some other readers took issue with these statements, countering with such platitudes as, “these things happen or they don't.”

    One thing that many people seem not to realize is that you can increase your chances of meeting an appropriate mate if you approach the task with the same tenacity and smart work that you would apply to a job search. No, this does not mean hanging out at the local bar night after night with a dewy twinkle in your eye. It means thinking strategically about the best avenues for meeting people who click with you, and then applying a significant amount of effort and time to the pursuit.

    Singles today have tools and opportunities that were not as present – if at all – for previous generations. (Examples: online dating sites, singles events at local cultural organizations, an ever expanding wealth of local volunteer opportunities, etc.) If someone puts in the time and effort to exploit these avenues (and yes, it does take time and effort), they have a much better chance at meeting someone than the person who lulls around waiting for Cupid to make it all happen for them.

    Like so much in business, dating is a numbers game. One would never approach their business with the attitude, “The next sale will come my way when the time is right.” Finding a mate is the same way: the more time you devote to meeting new people (in the right contexts and settings), the more likely you are to find someone whose attributes compliment your own.

    Regardless of one’s feelings around when a woman should have a family vs. focus on her career, I think every women should consider that she can make big things happen in her life – even finding a mate – if she sets priorities and applies herself.

  31. hateyou
    hateyou says:

    This post is pathetic with a capital P. Good for you if you are married by age 25. I was married at age 30 and am now considering separating/divorcing because my husband has become abusive. I am now 31.5. What hope do I have then?? Since, according to you I have to do it all by 35, yet I need a few years to date first, a year to get engaged, then antoher few years of marriage, try to have kids (pray to god we don’t have problems).. and I’ll be how old then?

    Good on you for making women in their 30’s who haven’t ‘settled down’ yet and found a man feel like even more shit. You make me sick. I may as well kill myself now right? cos life aint worth living if you don’t have a (rich) husband, 2 kids (3 years apart), and a picket fence by age 35?!

  32. hateyou
    hateyou says:

    btw I wanted to add I am definitely NOT a ‘career woman’ either. I never choice one over the other. In fact, I have no career at all and YES there IS a time limit to your career.. how many 50 year olds can just turn up at a job interview and get the job? or even get the interview in the first place?

    Even I am finding myself competing against 21 year old college graduates.

    This ‘piece’ of crap that you have written is the most misinformed, poorly researched piece of work I have seen online on this subject.

    • p is ill-informed and dilusional
      p is ill-informed and dilusional says:

      I completely agree with you hateyou and all the other folks who noted the complete delusional self-righteous blab in this article. It is a researched FACT that women (and men) are less hireable as they get older. You provide facts with no back-up annotation. It just seems like you live in a bubble. I know plenty of women (and men) who do have a hard time meeting appropriate mates for them (is it crazy if they would like to meet someone who can string together a few words- and maybe is not a drunk/drug addict/deadbeat dad to his baby-mama etc)?! You are basically saying a woman’s life has no value on it’s own and she should just find some sperm donor really. who is going to help provide for her and her children however, if she just “finds someone” to have children with. ick.

  33. Kristen
    Kristen says:

    Wow! If women weren’t stressed out enough about fertility, this article sure put the nail in the coffin. Unfortunately life doesn’t always pan out the way we plan. I can say that my twenties followed “the plan”, hell I was ahead of it! I met the guy at 22 moved in together at 24, got engaged at 25 and was married at 29. I thought he was a great guy, I loved him and I loved his family. I thought I was on the way to a perfect life. Shortly after we married he became obsessed with porn and wouldn’t touch me. Then he was faulting me on all my shortcomings for not measuring up to his porn star expectations. After seeking marriage counseling and desperately trying to make my marriage work, I couldn’t take the abuse anymore and left. Now I find myself a divorced 32-year old woman who is off-track according to “the plan”. There is no way I am going to let this article bother me. Life just isn’t perfect. Even if you follow “the plan”, there are plenty of other conditions that your child can be born with that have no correlation with the age of the mother. How many children are born with with Cerebral Palsy, Cystic Fibrosis, Muscular Dystrophy? How many children are affected by autism? Don’t these conditions also require an awful lot of courage, patience, work and love on the part of the parents?
    There is no need to freak out ladies. There is no age limit on adopting a child and there are plenty of children that need good parents. Take the time to find a quality guy if you want one, but also don’t be afraid to raise a child alone.

    • sara
      sara says:

      you actually made me feel better, because after reading the article I started to stress out a little bit :)

    • Leh
      Leh says:

      Bless you Kristen, thank you for the comfort. It is true. Life does not pan out perfectly always. And what is “perfect” anyway? Is there one kind of perfect? There are blessings in any life situation. Good and not so good, in any life situation. I am 35 and single, never married…dated a lot in college but none was it. It was great but there was so much drama involved too. What can one expect in our 20’s when we (and the men) are still trying to find ourselves? Then, after a bad heartbreak, I broke away from ALL dating, and focused on work. It was my time to experience healing, self-focus, and peace. Now, I find myself continually disappointed with the men I meet (online or offline), because none match the quality I expect. Perhaps, my past life experience makes me scared to give them chances as well once I feel let down. Still, I am very hopeful, being a thorough romantic and knowing there are many I have never met who I can experience love with. Babies are not a priority-I have always had a leaning towards adoption since the time I had started dating. Yet, having babies with him won’t be out of the question because of my age. Maybe am just an optimist and have no problem living in my own bubble, even if it’s naive.

      I want to caution women – you may make relationships a priority, but do not LOSE yourself in the relationship that you forget work or d oit half-heartedly. Keep your work going with conscious awareness, keep soul-searching (if you haven’t found yet) for your life’s work as a source of joy too – that’s your ticket to independence and happiness. If the relationship doesn’t work out, what do you have left in the end? No relationship, nor satisfying work. Work is guaranteed with effort in that direction. A mate… who knows? It’s a question mark there, isn’t it. Glad to say, my experiences have taught me so much and made me more aware of many things now, including self-knowledge, what am truly looking for in a relationship and the concept of balance, sense of security, and self-respect. If it weren’t for my life lessons, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I am full of gratitude.

      Thanks Penelope, for your thought-provoking and discussion provoking columns. Appreciate your work.

  34. Kiki
    Kiki says:

    I understand that it seems the point is about prioritizing.
    I have prioritized finding a partner for about 4 years now, and I havent even found a fling, or short relationship. Meeting someone, falling in love, and raising a family is THE most important things to me. I have read books, I have joined clubs, met lots of new people, worked on bettering me, etc etc. I dont understand how finding a husband (or in my case a life partner) is so easy even if it is a priority.
    My current plan is to find happiness so that I attract good people. I was miserable in my last job, so I am focusing on finding a career helps me towards happiness, thereby attracting good people, and hopefully a life partner, to me. Please help me find the flaw in my logic!! I would love to find my life partner by 24, but it is creeping up on me and I havent even had any serious relationships yet, how am i supposed to find the “one” by 24?

    • Esme
      Esme says:

      You’re 24, and you’ve been spending 4 years of your young life (some of the best years of your life) scheming and planning how to meet your “life partner”? How sad. You’re priority right now should be enjoying yourself and having fun. When I was your age, I was out at clubs with my fun girlfriends. I met my husband on my 30th birthday, when I wasn’t even looking for anyone. We waited two years to marry, we just celebrated our 25th anniversary. My life is good. I can’t even imagine making it my mission to seek some sperm donor just so I could procreate. As it happens, we never had children, but I’ve never been a person who thinks that life is meaningless without a miniature ME. There will always be someone else willing to keep the society going; not my responsibility. Trust me, kids are not the be all and end all. We have many friends who would gladly trade places with us.

  35. Country Chuck
    Country Chuck says:

    Life is more than makking babies. Life doesn’t always work out the way you expect it to either. Some things just aren’t meant to be put on a schedule.

  36. MajorHart
    MajorHart says:

    > Life is more than makking babies. Life doesn’t always work out the way you expect it to either. Some things just aren’t meant to be put on a schedule

    I TOTALLY AGREE CHUCK. But I don’t think many women will. I’ve been watching and studying this subject for YEARS NOW and 98.9 of women in my view are calculating and thinking about making babies from age 10 or so. Some would say that is the environment – that we encourage it by giving them dollies and carriages and milk bottles – I think some of it is genetic but not bacause of the dollies, etc.

    I would think that if all there was to live is making babies – there would be non point in living at all.

    While a man is having fun with his buddies at a sports bar or party and the woman who pretends to be having fun too IS NOT – she is planning every step of the way. Men can just be and have fun – women are always planning, scheming and talking about going to “another level” and a man that doesn’t want to go there is said to be “irresponsible.” Apparently because thats all that is in their lives, they think we should be that way too. I pity them and I’m so happy for the very few that have escaped that trap, and live their lives for themselves and their man if they have one.

    I know many, many men are with a woman that they love and would just as soon that situation go on forever – but almost alway his woman is planning on “starting a family.” If he doesn’t want one – she will get pregnant by someone else and he will still be legally responsible. The compulsion is that strong.

    I’ve been on a lost of forums on this subject and to hear all the women talking of how much they love their fantastic man but that they are going to leave him if he won’t consent to kids or more kids (sometimes the woman is 45)

    There has to be more to life than that.

    Thanks for the post.


  37. Scorpio
    Scorpio says:

    I don’t think it’s fair to categorize women this way. Not everyone will want to follow this path.

    I feel sorry for any impressionable young women reading this and feeling stressed about having to start dating because they’re 24 years old and they’ll need to spend enough years with “Mr. Rightnow” before marrying him at the age of 28.

    Perhaps it wasn’t your intention, but, with this post, you have reduced women to mere time-ticking procreating machines, and you’ve reduced men to commodities that can be claimed in marriage and slaved throughout their youth. There is more to life.

    I’m 27, I’ve been dating my boyfriend for 7 years and we are in no hurry to take on marriage or children. He respects the goals that I’ve set out in my life and I respect his. Children are not a factor right now.

    More and more educated women are fulfilling their career and scholarly objectives, and as long as the glass ceiling is cracking, I fear no social injustice.

    So, yes, my biological clock isn’t “paying attention” but I’m not concerned because, as with all women, my brain does the thinking.

  38. Gemini Girl
    Gemini Girl says:

    This article is ridiculous. since when is finding a “husband” a job? Finding someone to share the rest of your life with is a wonderful part of life. And having kids with that person is even greater! Treating it liek a “job” and priority is twisted and inhumane. I wouldn’t have wanted to be a product of a business deal. If it’s meant to be it’s meant to be. And you never find what you want if you’re looking for it.

  39. wantsababy
    wantsababy says:

    My problem was being ambivalent about starting a family. Additionally I became chronically ill in my twenties and the only thing on my mind at the time was survival.

    I kissed a lot of frogs and spent an unproductive time (7 yrs) in a relationship with a man who was married but I didn’t know that until half way through, and by then I was “in love”. He asked me to marry and then drug his feet. By the time I gained the courage to leave him I was already 36.

    Fast forward to today (44.5 years of age)and I’ve met someone wonderful – single, younger and we want a family. Theoretically I can still reproduce, regular periods though perimenopause seems to be setting in. We have been trying for six months without success, so my Obgyn has referred me to an infertility clinic.

    If I had had a crystal ball way back when and knew I would want a family I would have frozen my eggs. I’m sure my mother would have helped with the cost, since when I was first diagnosed with lupus the first thing she wanted to know is if I would be able to have kids, God rest her soul.

    Sometimes life does not cooperate with your plans or your plans change. I would urge young women to concentrate on finding the right guy and banking her eggs as well. You never know. If I had been able to do that, I’d be happily pregnant now instead of waiting on pins and needles to see if I still can or not.

  40. mambera
    mambera says:

    Sorry, it’s just not true that by “making marriage a priority” you can just make it happen.

    I knew I wanted kids and I was focused on finding the right partner from the time I was in my early 20s. (I’m now 31.) It was always easy for me to find men (they found me really) but hard for me to find ones I really liked. I dated a lot of men and had a couple of long-term relationships that ultimately weren’t right.

    It’s easy to find *a* guy. There’s no way to predict whether you’ll find the *right* guy.

    There’s a huge element of luck to meeting the right person. There are no guarantees in life, and just working hard isn’t always enough.

  41. J
    J says:

    Well, what if you met husband at 21, married at 28, and started trying at 31 but you had 5 miscarriages and there was no answer from specialists as to why. You had tests on egg quality and all girl parts, and nada. My docs assured me that this was not age-related. I did have children, but gasp, my first was born a few days past my 35th birthday. I am planning on starting for #2 shortly. Sometimes best laid plans of mice and men. There are women who meet hubby late, who have fertility issues at the age of 25, there are so many variations. Sometimes, you just don’t get it all in a neat little package and it hurts.

  42. Lily Pond
    Lily Pond says:

    God, reading this was really scary. Penelope I know what you mean, but it was tough for me to read it, as I know it was a slap in the face for many women single women out there. I’m 28 and single. I’ve never had a boyfriend in my life. I consider myself an educated woman, I have a Masters degree, I speak several languages and I am well travelled. I have to recognise that I’ve spend many years studying, first in University and then I worked in my field and then went back to school. I’m by no means ugly I consider myself pretty and funny. I have a lot of friends, but I’ve never really clicked romantically with anyone in my life. After University most of my friends started to get married and now 95% of them are either married or in a serious relationship, which makes me feel even more anguished.
    I truly believe that women in this generation have it rough, it’s either your career or a family, or struggle if you want both, it’s so unfair. Men can be really mean with this subject because their biological clock doesn’t tick as loud as ours, it’s not that obvious for them. But to tell you the truth, even now that I’m still alone I cannot think of a single guy that I met in my early twenties that I could’ve married. I also think that marriage is the last thing in the minds of most guys in their 20’s, therefore women should not feel guilty about not meeting The One early on, because men are rarely eager to commit at that age. I think it’s a conbination of luck and destiny if and when we meet our ideal partner.
    All I can say is that there’s nothing that would make me happier than to find a loving husband and THEN start a family, until then I’m just going to spend time with my family, go out with friends, work and just plain LIVE.

    • MajorHart
      MajorHart says:

      I highly admire your educational and career accomplishmnents. I’d rather have a woman like that than any other. I do have that.

      If I were looking I would still choose a woman with your education and other accomplishments BUT I would not want kids anytime. I don’t understand why many women can’t be happy with a good career and a good loving man. Forever. And I made a committment to such a great woman and I’d do it again the same way.

      We both love kids (other people’s) and when we want to return to a sane life – we go to our home with 3 entertaining cats.

      Your views respected.

      Some can and that shows me that this thing about kids is a want – not a need.

      • The translator
        The translator says:

        Do you have any single brothers? I am educated, I love my career and my life, but every man I meet wants to have children… I cannot figure this out for the life of me! I have no biological clock whatsoever! I love to travel and learn new things, both of which would be ruined by children. I would be perfectly content with a good career and a good man, but men always stare at me blankly when I say I do not want children… why is this??

    • ME
      ME says:

      My son is 30 & has a great career as a civil engineer & is very kind, fun-loving, & has lots of interests (surfing, triathlons, art, skiing, reading, good restaurants–just having plain fun!). Where are you located? He is a “catch.” But he is rather shy. Women are chasing him down, but I think he wants/needs an educated, sophisticated, caring woman. His last relationship was w/a model so I think he got that out of his system! She just wanted to party & buy shoes!

  43. lmv
    lmv says:

    it would seem that P. is just a poster child for perfect, on-time living, would it not? and yet. even nastier, more disheartening, and downright judgmental than the original post is the smugness oozing from this comments thread. so, great — you had the financial resources, marvelous foresight, and just plain luck to get everything done on time, ladies. cheers. really.

  44. kristin
    kristin says:

    i feel like this blog post is speaking directly to me. but while the possibility of its truth does scare the living shit out of me, it’s still not enough to bring me to my knees.

  45. Yeme
    Yeme says:

    This is an interesting article about women needing to be in tone with our biological clocks. Many individuals who answered the column are not looking at this information for what it is: ADVICE. Yes, some of the information is purely scientific in nature, but the reality is life is what YOU make it.

    What do you want? Are you ready for marriage and children?

    A timeline for marriage and children are accomplished in YOUR OWN TIME. No one else's time frame should suggest when you can expect to be married or raise children. There is no time factor setup or edged in stone as to who's method of timeliness works best for family. The reality is that some people are suited for marriage, children or children without being married.

    However, recommendations are listed above about the female and our biological clocks. Having children before 35 assures less health risk and stress on the feminine physique. Does it decrease other stress in our life such as student loans fees, credit card debt, mortgage payments, etc?

    Women please define YOU before running off to marry the first man in sight. Is the man right for you? Does he fit into your lifestyle: morally/ethically, emotionally or financially? Does he appear to be into you or into himself? Does he want the most out of life? Is he willing to take flight at the first sign of a disaster? Is he going to be there till your dying day? Know the man you are going to marry and have children with for a secure worry-free future.

    Again, please think about what you want out of life. Are children going to stop your life goals, such as finishing school, moving across country or being financial stable? Are children going to enhance your life's goals? Are children going to take care of themselves in the event of divorce, loss of employment, or excessive work hours? Or, are you going to pawn your children off on other family members during these periods of time? Think about how you fit into the family triangle of accountability: husband, wife and children.

    Look at YOUR situation and be logical. Are you and your wonderful love bug going to be ready for life's obstacles?

    Marriage and children bring a lot of joy to this world, but under what circumstances is this true?

    Bottom line, at this time can you afford being married? Can you afford being married with children? Can you afford being married with children while paying off a car note, mortgage and student loans? These questions and concerns are more important than one's biological clock.

Newer Comments »

Comments are closed.