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.


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  1. jessi
    jessi says:

    Even if one IS married, that isn’t always the magic component. I am married, 34 years old, but separated, going through a divorce. I also just found out that I’m pregnant. I am well educated (master’s degree), have a great job and a good salary. But, I kept the home and have the whole mortgage by myself. I also have student loans and other bills. My husband says that a baby will only compound our problems and does not want to reconcile because I’m pregnant. I really don’t either, as we can’t be in the same room together more than 10 minutes without fighting. He told me that he would like me to keep the baby but share 50% custody, he would remain at his apartment and me at the house. I don’t think that I am capable of maintaining the home, the yard, our 2 dogs, 2 cats and my 2 jobs while being a single parent. Not to mention that daycare is $1,300 a month in my city. With my $1,200 mortgage payment and other bills, I wouldn’t have enough left over to pay my other bills or eat!! So… I thought that I tried to do everything right by finding a great guy, getting an education and a good job with great benefits, and I still end up NOT in the right position to bring a child into this world. I’m not sure what I’m going to do yet.

    • kay
      kay says:

      Life is life, sometimes we make, it sometimes we don’t, whether we are driven, ambitious or have luck in finding happiness and a future in either: love – (possible family) – or a career -‘whatever’ – everything has a price with no guarantees! However in saying so, nothing ventured nothing gained and assuming that able body and independent minded persons are able to take into account their our own and risk/ reward ratio it’s essentially a players game.

      I think what the this writer is saying – (in a nutshell) – that the pendulum and value of marriage and possible parenthood has swung a little astray and out the window and women do have the body clock factor that is less obvious for men and very possibly some women may miss the ‘love boat’ especially when you do the maths – lower ratio of quality men over women as for an example and a snap shot of this is simply more men die off as years go on and more are found in prison.
      I think the most important thing is to stop kidding our selfs and demand personal ‘authenticity’ by simply asking truthfully – who am I? For example if I’m not career driven, so what! – why bother fulfilling social expectations. What do I really want? For example maybe I want to be famous and having a family could screw this up. What can I really do? For example if you are confined to a wheelchair you are less likely to join the Russian ballet.
      Therefore at best we all need to be the driver of our own vehicle(s) and not the passenger (what society says we ought to do and that includes the jingles we get from our own cohorts/peers), so we can see more clearly and respond to the opportunities that we most value and the rationale in some our choices, but of course there will always be fraction of mystery and an element of luck that will add to our own outcome.

      Good luck christine kay waite

      • MajorHart
        MajorHart says:

        >lower ratio of quality men over women as for an example

        I trust you are NOT saying quality men has anything to do with wanting children?

        It doesn’t


    • MajorHart
      MajorHart says:

      If I could not afford a child it’s probably not a good world to bring the child into.

      Get an abortion.

      That is a perfectly moral solution.

      Much better than bringing a child into a world of hardship and no husband as well. – Plue you get to keep your career and can make your payments.


      • christine kay waite
        christine kay waite says:

        MajorHart in response to your question on the ‘ratio of quality men over women’ and whether it is subjected to having children. I was implying that quality is about finding someone special and who is essentially stable and willing to have a long term relationship/companionship regardless of whether they want children or not.

  2. Francesa
    Francesa says:

    Okay. Clearly this article is joke and not to be taken seriously by a real woman. The fact that one woman would encourage another to for-go her career and seek a husband is a bit archaic. The divorce rat alone should deter young women these days from jumping into a marriage with a man that may not be mature enough to handle marriage. Times are changing it is complete emotional suicide if a woman does not develop who she is prior to getting married. My career is what has given me guidance into becoming the woman I am today. Not to mention my self-confidence and overall self-esteem have grown tremendously since my twenties. There is no way that I would have developed this type of emotional and spiritual stamina having been married at twenty.

    I am sure that it is possible for some women in their twenties to find true love and marry. But I simply cannot condone a woman putting herself on hold to enter into marriage. These days, a woman can not afford to be without education and career. It just isn’t sensible or empowering.

    Surely, there are warnings for women having children later in life. However, there is no guarantee that these women would not have had these seems issues in their twenties as well. There is no medical evidence to confirm that women who wait later in life would have had healthier children in their twenties. Plus, with the numerous amount of options for women these days when it comes to having children, opting for a career first is not crazy.

    We must also remind one another that marriage does not always equal children.~Marriage is not a guarantee.


  3. orugal
    orugal says:

    This article is not meant to insult but it does. I don’t need a career, but I do want to pursue my music and be happily married while I do it. I am 24 and at this point I would be happy to just be MARRIED. Kids can come later and if needed adoption is an option. No person should be placed within a ridiculous time limit to find happiness in life. It’s probably one of the reasons the suicide rate in the USA is so high. Unreasonable expectations on every level. From looks, life, marriage, children, college, careers, money….judgement comes from every angle. Not being married and having children is NOT the end of the world. Do I want marriage, hell yes! It’s the life I want, but if I had to I could survive alone.

    • MajorHart
      MajorHart says:

      Many times in my view the happiest people are those not compelled to get married.

      I was happily single and met a great lady and we are still extremely happy and supportive after 40 years. She chose to not have children and I agreed – while we were still dating – it’s owrked well for us.


  4. Sally
    Sally says:

    The article just highlights statistics, and I don’t think it’s meant to insult. It also does not say that a woman cannot have children in her 40s, just that it’s statistically more difficult.

    Personally, I’m just 30 and don’t particularly want kids. If I did, I would have made decisions differently (not taking my current job two years ago, and moving across the country), because I agree that you do have to choose your priorities.

    And if I change my mind? Well, I have a mother who had me at 23, and an auntie who had her first child at 42 (healthy, happy, very intelligent girl). Oh, and my mother started her (very successful) third career at 41.

    There’s many different ways – life doesn’t end when you have kids… or if you choose to not have them at all!

  5. Anon
    Anon says:

    Shouldn’t we focus on better prenatal and child care to increase the chance of healthier babies in older women rather than give up completely on women after age 35? Biology is not destiny.

    The message of this article is a dangerous one. It strikes me as backwards to advise women to hurry up and find a mate to avoid missing out in the game of biological musical chairs (really?). What about other options for having a family – adoption for example?

    This article asserts that women should not have to choose between family and career, yet it warns exactly that. And the idea that women who don’t marry in their twenties didn’t make relationships a priority is really not supported.

    I thought we had made sufficient progress so that women are living longer, healthier lives, now have more options for careers and can better afford to choose wisely instead of adhering to a social mandate to pair off and procreate according to a rigid time-line.

    What about studies that show financially stable, well educated women tend to wait longer to marry and are less likely to divorce. And that happiness is related more to socioeconomic status and quality of life rather than marital status alone…???

    This article is alarmist and a setback for women everywhere. It cautions that we must all marry in our twenties or prepare for the statistical likelihood of an unhappy life alone? What?

    – Last born, Harvard grad

  6. Renee
    Renee says:

    I really hate to see something as beautiful as marriage and family reduced to a bunch of statistical mumbo jumbo. You are correct, if marriage and family are goals for your life, pursue them right away. I think a pitfall of many relationships is the amount of energy spent on fretting over all of theses ridiculous benchmarks for when to get married, when to have the first baby, how to make sure the second child is going to get into Harvard, what position to concieve a blue-eyed child because we all know they score higher on tests… etc. etc. etc. I recommend marrying your best friend, especially if you want it to last. LIVE YOUR LIFE AND BE HAPPY! THE END!

  7. Anon
    Anon says:

    I really do hope that the original post is satire. Because if not, the ‘research’ cited has been seriously misrepresented. The author is entitled to her opinion, however it’s irresponsible to use anecdotal examples to justify one woman’s formula for ‘happiness’. Ridiculous is right – add misleading and unjustifiably pessimistic.

    If you read the Newsweek article which prompted the post:

    “The good news is that older singles who desire a spouse appear to face far kinder odds nowadays. When the Census last crunched the numbers in 1996, a single woman at 40 had a 40.8 percent chance of eventually marrying. Today those odds are probably even higher – and may be only slightly worse than the probability of correctly choosing “heads” or “tails” in a coin toss.”

    “Fertility crisis”? Where is your evidence to support that claim? “Down’s Syndrome Cliff”? The chance increases with the age but even still, (follow the web link) a woman at the age of 35 has a 99% of having a baby that does not have Down’s Syndrome.

    So research is “mumbo jumbo”? Quite the opposite, it offers a reality check against bogus conventional wisdom.
    Snap out of it.

  8. Spaz
    Spaz says:

    “a woman at the age of 35 has a 99% of having a baby that does not have Down’s Syndrome.”

    OK Mr./Ms. statistics quoter, fill in the blank: “a woman at the age of 35 has a __% of having a baby with or without Down’s Syndrome.”

    Fact is it is a LOT harder for a woman to get pregnant after age 35.

  9. Anon
    Anon says:

    The author and other posters quote statistics as well, BTW. Glad you asked. Upon further reading at the March of Dimes and Mayo Clinic sites, the odds for a woman at 35:
    1/400 (less than 1%) of babies are likely to be born with Down’s Syndrome.

    ” * At age 25, the risk of having a baby with Down syndrome is 1 in 1,250.
    * At age 30, the risk is 1 in 1,000.
    * At age 35, the risk is 1 in 400.
    * At age 40, the risk is 1 in 100.
    * At age 45, the risk is 1 in 30.

    Yes, fertility in women does decrease with age, but that has always been the case. What HAS changed is the recent availability of fertility drugs and other options.

    I think the point is that the picture is not as bleak for older women as the author would have us believe.

  10. Alex
    Alex says:

    I find your definition of parenting limiting and insulting at best. This is 2010, we are not tied to our hormones or our eggs. The right time to meet someone is not something one engineers or “puts effort into” in the ways you do a business. I am surrounded with people who got married in their early 20s and regretted it as the person you are at 21 and 29 are not the same. Just like the businesses you start at that age. You will end up with a flawed relationship that started too early, but on time and on budget, well done! And quite frankly, this is completely ignoring women who decide to adopt when they are no longer able to give birth naturally. Please don’t write about this as a good way to do business. This is an intellectual way to do life. And life isn’t that black and white. Unless you’re living in the 1950s.

  11. Anon
    Anon says:

    Penelope is also ignoring that many women do meet their spouses at work and college – while they are involved in other priorities. How is that to happen for women who put their careers on hold? The idea that one must marry by 30 and must have a baby by a certain age, etc. is a view that is less relevant to the lives of women today that it was, say, in the 1950’s.

    Penelope is scaring us into believing that there’s still an early “sell by” date on women and that women in their 30’s who haven’t married missed their chance for happiness – a narrow and insulting view that shortchanges us all.

  12. quiet observer
    quiet observer says:

    Ladies, please calm down.
    The original author was not trying to insult women by advising that they marry first and then focus on career later. All she was saying, if I understood her correctly, was that if a woman has the choice (i.e. she is presented with a great marriage proposal) at an early age, she should not turn it down in favor of her career. The reason being that career can wait; her biological clock can’t.
    This is sound advice when you really consider it.

  13. Anon
    Anon says:

    Some of us are quite calm, we can just spot faulty reasoning present in the original post. Does having a career necessarily dictate turning down a marriage proposal? I think not.

  14. Sarah M
    Sarah M says:

    You don’t sound as though you have done very much research on this topic besides being blessed with success. Much of what you are parroting is a regurgitation of the attacks made on women in the media in the 1980’s and much of it was addressed very wisely by Susan Faludi in Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women.

    The media, through – €˜ – €˜trend journalism,'' helped create the backlash against women's rights and feminism in the 1980s by coining the terms – €˜ – €˜mommy track,'' – €˜ – €˜biological clock,'' and – €˜ – €˜man shortage.'' The press sought to answer the question of why women, after years of advances, still felt dissatisfied. Their answer was that feminism's achievements, not society's – €˜ – €˜resistance to these partial achievements,'' were causing the stress among women.

    By accepting phrases such as ‘biological clock’ as a timeless irrefutable truth, you are showing that you do not have a sense of your place in history.

    I wouldn’t wish on you any of the events that have derailed millions of women in our country from having the kind of ‘success’ that you have, except of course for the first and primary reason, that being that they don’t want what you want. And for all that you come across as young, inexperienced, smug and self-satisfied, I do not wish you the experiences that will humanize you.

    But I do hope that the kind of pressure that superficial writing with no effort at research, perspective or understanding puts on young women is not allowed to stand unchallenged.

    And in ten years when you have been out of touch with everything except children, and find out that the job market and the start-up investors are not lining up to welcome you back, don’t just become a conservative family values pundit, but finally put some thought into the historical context of your situation.

  15. ky
    ky says:

    i think you are crazy, its an article and it should be taken in the context its written, its not the bible and has not been written by a doctor, so read, look at the facts, take it with a pinch of salt and make your own mind up about your life but do not sit there and tear it apart just because you want your two pence worth. move on get over it and personly i agree with the article

  16. Anon
    Anon says:

    It’s precisely because I have looked at the facts that I disagree and feel I aught to be vocal about it. I really wish some didn’t resort to name-calling and telling others what to do. This is a public forum.

  17. quiet observer
    quiet observer says:

    Vocal or not, the facts will remain stubborn and won’t go away.
    1. For women who desire to have children, it is reasonable to do so when they are still young, energetic and fertile, and when their chances of having an equally fertile mate who desires children are highest.
    2. For those who prefer a career, there is no reason to be angry. Focus on your career and be happy.
    3. Heck, this is life; nothing is cast in stone. It is possible for a woman to carry a pregnancy to term at age 60. My own mother gave birth to me when she was 42, and I turned out OK. But why take a risk when you don’t have to? 4. While it is understood that you cannot make a man marry you at any time, you surely can accept a good marriage proposal if the only reason to turn it down is because you want to pursue a career. Career can wait; your eggs cannot. 5. Unlike men, you can’t produce new eggs every 60 days; the Creator has endowed you with all the eggs you will ever have from birth. Use them for their purpose when you can, before they all go away or become unusable.

    Thus ends the contributions of the Quiet Observer

    • kay
      kay says:

      Dear quiet observer

      Thank you quiet observer I think you have defined the wisdom simply and definitely better than myself – (I’m not a very good writer!). Anyway my understanding from your take is that you simply can not take life/opportunities/choices that past our way for granted for what ever the odds maybe.

      Christine Kay

    • kay
      kay says:

      Dusted and done I’m out Roger! Well I guess this will be my last post for this forum. From my experience and honestly I have found from my own ‘preoccupations and life attempts’ have been more or less half cracked out to be what they are suppose to be.

      In a brief and crude manner of speaking it seems to be from my brief experience of worldly success and to be the best of the best in an significant or creative endeavor you have to be absolutely driven and give it everything.

      When I was young naive married mother (and unexpectedly very unsupported, terribly lonely and non perfect) of a very young child I was still very grateful for all the small things that came with the very unique position I had been granted.

      The simple things such as climbing a tree, run/drawing a circle schema, packing a nutritious lunch and hold that little person’s hand to cross a street. To be part of a voluntary run pre school, primary school (New Zealand) was such a privilege (now I’m in my early 40’s I have long parted this scene and not likely to be part of it again or at the same sense).
      Although I was in my 20’s and nearly died having this child I gave everything I could give – especially – love. But this child is a person who turn out to have very different, difficult and translated and twisted things and saw things in their own terms. And at best with little supported a sheer 18 year life sentence that can turn and break you.Oh my goodness parenting is one of the most toughest jobs ever

      Yeah one can analysis and narrow down the pieces and yeah it things could still be whole lot worst playing Russian roulette with the devil.

      Even with luxury of time and with all the ‘what ifs’ life can be bittersweet like a sugar almond.

      Thank you all
      Christine Kay

  18. kay
    kay says:

    At the end of day I’m just a struggling ordinary person (as I’m pretty deaf and have auditory/writing disabilities – hmm bad luck for me) who has made some attempt of realizing my potential, only to find that my good was never good enough for a conventional career and in today with a ‘gradual shrinking middle class’ and both sexes competing equally for the better jobs I simply stink!

    Let’s face it there’s got to be a few indians among the chiefs.

    So wrongly/rightly my internal rationale as drop out women in her youth was that I – (and please don’t be unkind and judgmental as I’m speaking very honestly and certainly not cognitively at time, but mostly subconsciously would be a better to place my train of thought ) – to find a suitable and loving mate as I knew best. As I couldn’t get very far on my own as I saw everything as been cut throat and too dam competitive. So yes I can say I’m a cop out and had children as I didn’t see the point in me.

    That’s not to say that I didn’t have any ‘shine’ and didn’t get a taste of success on my own at a later age and yes I did get recognized by some top people, but oh boy did I have to work bloody hard with few advantages – my age and my own belief. But to continue to be really successfully at what I did, would have meant extreme personal independence and a die hard dedication and relentless work.

    Now back to now it’s not simply that I have given up, it’s just simply I find juggling the family ball extreme difficult when it’s own needs have snowballed and have simply got out of control. But as the show Scrubs says ‘I’m no Superman’. And isn’t parenting a job in it self, well I find it is for me.

    Regardless of what we want out of lives, whether it be career(s), marriage, children try to be honest and hope like best that if it involves others as it usually does, that they will be equally honest and considerate. No guarantees.

    At the end of the day we are all pretty dispensable and can not take things for granted as we could equally dumped or things can go wrong and they do go wrong in a careers, business, employment, family, health or marriage etc.

    Christine Kay

  19. Nicki
    Nicki says:

    Well, you know what they say about statistics, you can make them up, twist them to your purposes or simply agree they are numbers skewed by the input data requested.

    Suffice to say, if you’re a woman over the age of 30 reading this article – you might be depressed or worse if you take it too seriously. For some of us, having a family has always been at the forefront. However life as a way of messing up the best laid plans.

    It is very idealistic, arrogant and simplistic to say that career-mindedness would keep a woman from having a family. There are doubtless scores of women who have failed relationships that eat up time and emotional well-being on the path to “the right one”. Much like a college student leaving school and moving from job to job in search of the correct position for them – not everyone meets their match when they want to do so.

    I have found that many of the women I know with very smart little ones to genius teenagers didn’t even get married until they were in their 30s and some of them didn’t have kids until their 40s. Which reminds me, my mother was born to my grandmother (age 48) and she was a normal, healthy person and my best friend was born to her mother (age 42) and is a normal, healthy person.

    I, for one, fell into my career while battling health issues and suffering through some painful relationships. It’s thriving. Do I wish I had magically fallen into a husband and children? I don’t know, some days… but realistically when I meet the right person now – I have no debt, have had all the “me” years I could ever need, have recovered my health and learned a LOT of life lessons. What better person to stay home and raise a family?

    I’m not angered by this article, I just find it very naive and a bit insulting at its core. Food for thought.

    • AHD
      AHD says:

      I agree that statistics can be manipulated, but they are also a great tool. The key is just to be careful where you get your statistics! Read reputable websites and journalists, not just blogs by non-scientists. 

  20. Anon
    Anon says:

    Dear Quiet Observer, once again you, and others who buy into PT’s neo-conservative rhetoric, miss the point. You oversimplify and twist the facts to support your view. Those that disagree with you are not angry, but rather concerned that she might be teaching young women that they must put all else on hold to find a spouse.

    Please refer to posts from other women. Some prefer raising a family, some prefer having a career, and some have managed to do both, successfully. It’s a bit unreasonable to tell women who have chosen to have a family later in life that they’re making the wrong decision for themselves. As I said before, biology is not destiny. It seems there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to life. There are plenty of examples of that here.

    So I’m a bit weary of trying to get that point across. Last post for me as well.

  21. Biscuit
    Biscuit says:

    I really enjoyed this post. At age 20, I am currently living with my partner, ready to get married in about a year. Personally, I am looking forward to having kids young (as my own mother did), knowing that the older I get the more likely I am to become more tired and boring. I also fear the prospect of letting that biological clock tick until it’s too late and I have to join thousands of other “older” Australian women paying big bucks for fertility treatments.

    I was living on my own for a few months before moving in with my partner, and the change has been dramatic. I no longer stress out about bills or where the grocery money is going to come from – I have a man to take care of me, and I love it! I still have my own moderate income (nothing’s changed there!), the difference now being that I can choose where it goes :)

  22. Lola
    Lola says:

    Tired and boring? Wow, you make it sound like growing up and older is lame! I am a woman sho spent the bulk of her 20’s in college/ grad school, traveling, lots of dating, lots of great times with friends, clubs, etc. I’m now 34, and get so many compliements that I don’t look a day older than 24. (yes, Botox helps). Perhaps not having kids yet has kept me young at heart and vibrant. I sleep 8-9 hours a day! I have lots of energy, still going out with friends most weekends, out dancing until 3 am, football games, parties. I do desire children, when I meet the right man. I’ve been engaged twice, one cheated on me, the other became abusive, so I left them both. I am confident that the right person is out there for me. I have no fears that I won’t be able to have children (unless I wait until after 40). My cycles are like clockwork. I am enjoying my life and live every day to the fullest, am grateful for my education and career, and if I have children that will make my life richer, and if not, it just wasn’t meant to be, but I will be happy either way.

    • Biscuit
      Biscuit says:

      Wow! Haha, I’m 20 and I can barely manage staying up past midnight! I figure if my stamina is this low now, it can only get worse from here.

      I think I’m lucky in that I never really dated, and sorta fell into this relationship by accident. Two years on, with naivety disappearing very rapidly, it’s looking pretty indestructible! (I mean, if he can put up with me when I’m being a grouch, that’s gotta mean something!).

      Our plan is to get married ASAP, hold off on the kids thing for a few years, and in the mean time travel (I’d be too scared to go it alone anyway). We have simple needs, an income that makes his parents think we must be starving ourselves but could actually see us with our own house in a few years (again, simple needs!) and enough luxuries in the meantime to keep us well and truly satisfied.

      There’s a lot of babies around. Some schools you have to sign up for practically before the baby is born, because of waiting lists! I’m sure there must be enough of them out there. So whether you do or don’t want to have kids young – or at all – it shouldn’t really matter. Of course, there’s always limits, and I don’t agree with the age of some women when they decide to have children.

  23. chopsdudley
    chopsdudley says:

    Focus on career and self sufficiency first. So many marriages end in divorce, check out the statistics so why make that a priority?

    • Biscuit
      Biscuit says:

      And that’s the problem. We’re too selfish to “make things work” with another person. ‘Me first’ doesn’t work in a relationship.

  24. Aspiring
    Aspiring says:

    As a 17-year-old girl with dreams of being educated, self-sufficient, and successful, this article makes me want to cry.
    So it’s okay that men can have both a marriage and a job at the same time, but women for some reason have to compromise on this?

  25. Chrissy
    Chrissy says:

    While I agree with the points made in this article, it is not as easy as you make it sound. I have been putting myself “out there” and exploring every avenue possible to find “the one” and at 29 it simply hasn’t happened. Your math is correct and realistic, and it is the same math I’ve been doing for the last 10 years. But, knowing the statistics does not make the man appear out of nowhere. Women today seem to be having a more difficult time than ever meeting men willing to settle down and have families. Most women I know who are my age and married with children, had to drag the guy kicking and screaming to the altar- after announcing a pregnancy- not exactly ideal.

    Meanwhile, my education and career are moving swiftly forward. Because I have no husband or children, I have used this time to continue my education, and make inroads in my field that I may not have been able to make later. I have not put my “search” on the back burner, and continue to be involved in volunteer and professional activities that expose me to a variety of people as well as utilizing other avenues to meet single, eligible men. But, at what cost have I focused on my education and career? Are those two things that I am so proud to have attained exactly what is keeping the men at bay? Where are the statistics about successful young women marrying? Is it social suicide to attain a high level of education at a young age?

    I realize this is a career focused blog, and I enjoy reading the daily advice, and it has helped me to think differently about how to approach my career, but this particular article is a bit unrealistic and insensitive. No one can make their perfect mate appear out of thin air, and meeting people willing to have families is harder than ever- specifically because of all the “wait until your career is solid” advice.

  26. MajorHart
    MajorHart says:

    Thanks Sophi for the comments – I have a couple to add.

    Here’s yours:

    ybe some guys want to continue their education, travel, engage in other pursuits, etc. before having kids. I know this is what I am doing, which is why I never would have thought of marrying in my 20s.
    I meet men constantly, and have become friends with some of the most wonderful men. But they are not ready for marriage yet either


    Maybe they aren’t ready for marriage yet because they don’t want to be fathers. Finding a woman (as I did) that thinks other pursuits in life are more important is a reason many of use don’t want marriage. So many women see marriage as just a step to having kids, building a family etc. Well a man and his wife are a family and spending time together and in business / sports / travel brings us great pleasure – and it is enough.

    And for the who said that men often want to do thsse things and put off parenting – maybe they want to do thing INSTREAD of parenting.

    I respect you all here and this is a good forum and a necessary subject to explore.

    We had many reasons to not have kids (mostly mentioned already) but One of the reasons we didn’t want kids is that we don’t think it would be fair to put them into this troubled economy right now and with little or noi futures or opportunites to get ahead. We made our choice some years ago but are more than sure now that it was the right choice.

    We do like kids but my wife is a casino supervisor and frankly taking care of kids too would put here on the high stress edge. and it would take a toll on our relationship too – even with my help.

    And the kids might turn out to be delinquent or drug users, criminals etc.

    I read where one accounting manager is highly successful and a great wife too and her husband is delighted also.

    We only know that is her perception at this particular tme.

    What is the future for her kids – will they be able to buy a home or will they DIE in some far off land – trying to further the goals of international corporations. Will there be a college that can give them a degree that is worth something and will there be a jog waiting for them when they graduate.

    Will they too have to live on credit because the jobs have been sent overseas or h1b’s brought here to take the good jobs. Will chase bank as they did us – triple their interest rates and doubble their minimum payment when they are fully current?

    WOmen have a very strong maternal urge – men don’t experiecne that and maybe we can see the obstacles to raising kids.

    Youre posts appreciated.


  27. Emily
    Emily says:

    Geeze…what is with all the commenters taking this so pesonally?!? If life hasn’t worked out this way for you, if you have actively chosen not to pursue this lifestyle, and if you have zero interest in the things she mentioned – then *gasp* don’t pay any attention to her. No need to be so rude about it.

    All this harping on about how she is “telling” women what to do, says to me many people lack comprehension skills. She never once implied this is what one must do. She simply stated that “ideally” this is how one’s life would pan out.

    In plain simple english; if having a family and kids is very important to you – make sure that you don’t push that to the back burner for your career. Instead if at all possible, have both front burners going at the same time i.e. career and family. That’s all she is saying. It’s not insulting. It’s not offensive and it’s certainly no judgement on your own path.

    As for me…
    I graduated from university at 20 and begun my professional (in the sense that I was working in my field w/a starting salary just over 50k) career right away. I completed my MBA at age 22 and continued on in my field. I am now 29 and in a managerial position at work and have broken the 6-figure barrier (my graduate degree, CPA certification and post-graudate courses have all greatly helped me in advancing). I would consider myself highly satisfied with my career.

    I met my now-husband the summer I turned 20. We dated for 2yrs got engaged when I was 22.5yrs and got married 6mnths later, just as I turned 23. Focused on our marriage, careers and having fun for the next 3yrs. When I was 26, we had our first child, I took my 6mnth maternity leave (we were based in the UK at the time), and I jumped right back into work without missing a beat. 3yrs later, and we are expecting baby #2 this summer. And that will be the end of baby making.

    So according to Penny’s guidelines I am on the right track. And I have managed to do this without forsaking my career. So ladies, it can be done. Don’t let anyone tell you different.

  28. Seriously?
    Seriously? says:

    I find this article very difficult to read. Frankly, as a class, women have worked tirelessly to attain their place in society. I think it’s a COMPLETE misnomer that women cannot both have a fulfilling personal life AND successful career. I don’t really care what the numbers or statistics show. The numbers will change, if less women have your mentality, and embrace an optimistic and hopeful outlook on the matter.

    Your “guidance” is nothing but pessimistic, dream-smashing nonsense. I feel sorry for the women who have followed it.

  29. Lola
    Lola says:

    @Emily, things must be different in the UK. How on earth does one graduate from college at age 20 and complete an MBA in 2 years? Most bachelor degree programs take 4+ years and MBA programs 2+ years? As a 34 year old woman, I have absolutely NO regrets about spending my 20’s attending college (bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate) and dating many men. I do want children, very much, but I knew that I would become restless in a monogamous relationship in my 20’s. (smile)

  30. Lola
    Lola says:

    And…. must be nice to make 6 figures with a master’s degree…. I have a doctorate and am barely clearing $70k teaching at a university. I think that I chose the wrong career…

  31. Diana
    Diana says:

    Bottom line here is the Penelope is trying (and succeeding wildly, I’ll add) to be a provocateur.

    This post is divisive, and alienating to those who have struggled or are struggling in a society that says there is really only ONE way to be considered OK, and to have a good life.

  32. Kerri
    Kerri says:

    I have to say I just don’t get the background assumptions of this article.

    I’m a 27 year old woman who can’t imagine wanting to have children. Many of my friends are dying to, but I am single mostly because I really can’t convince myself that it will be rewarding to push a human being out of my vagina, at great risk to my own health, and then spend every minute of the next twenty years obsessed with that little person for no reason other his/her having once caused me great pain. Oh, and in order to have the privilege of going through this, I have to agree to let some man-baby not only into my vagina but also into my life? For the privilege of ruining my looks and my health and never getting a good night’s sleep again, I get to come home every night NOT to my clean, neat, quiet apartment but instead to both a crying, vomiting, pooping child AND a grumpy, unreasonable, demanding man lying on my couch playing Halo and asking me to do his laundry?

    Why does that sound like a good deal to so many women? I just don’t get it.

    • EE
      EE says:

      Sounds like you just don’t like kids and you just don’t like men either.

      Did you read the article?  Don’t want children?  Don’t get them.  This article was for the women who want to have kids, but wait much longer in life, NOT for women who never want kids and NOT for women who hate men.

    • Newt
      Newt says:

      Right on Kerri! So true! I look at many of my friend’s lives, and this is what they settled for – a boring husband with a job he hates, so he’s either a drunk, addicted to internet porn, or into video games; and then a baby they can’t afford to seal the deal! You don’t have to hate men to see that traditional gender roles and LifeScript propaganda offer little rewards to women.

  33. Jessica
    Jessica says:

    Anyone who is actually in corporate American knows there is a HUGE biological clock on your career.

    I’d love to see the face of my interviewer at a top advertising agency when I told them that I took 3 years off of my career path to have a child. They’d look at me like I had 4 heads.

    Taking time off from your career in your 20s puts you at an extreme disadvantage from your younger colleagues, who don’t need to paid as much as you do to support your family and who are willing to work the long hours you won’t. NO interviewer is going to want to hear that you felt you couldn’t handle a child and a career, as millions of women do it everyday, and tons do it in my office on a daily basis.

    Husbands happen when you find them. You can’t force that unless you go out with every lousy profile you see on Match.com and settle for the best of. A career you can actively pursue with skills, talents, past experience and networking. And you can obtain your goals.

    But the one thing a company will not ever want to hear is that a woman took off time from the most crucial years of her career to find a husband and get pregnant when millions of other women are doing both at the same time and are pretty damn good at it.

  34. Aimee
    Aimee says:

    Thank you so much for what you’ve written. I’ve just turned 26, yikes. I want to be married, have kids, and have a better career than I do now, but have been struggling at what order, etc. I feel like I should find personal happiness at work before I invite someone into my life and put some kids in my bad job. It makes me feel like I’m going to fail them and then I’ll have to do all the patching up to cover it later. Your article provides new points and everything in it is well-explained, as usual.

  35. lilz
    lilz says:

    Wow. This is the worst advice I’ve ever read. I am thirty and single and a happy woman, and have no intention of even looking for a husband right now. This is the 21st century–what is wrong with you for preaching this baby-hungry nonsense? Some women enjoy being independent, and being allowed to work long hours or stay out all night if the spirit moves them. I think it’s silly to make having babies a big life goal. In case you hadn’t noticed, there isn’t exactly a shortage of them these days.

    • Kaleigh M
      Kaleigh M says:

      oh my gosh – THANK YOU. I hate how my mom, and all my mom’s friends/co-workers etc – talk to me about having children like it’s something that’s definitely on the agenda. 

      A principle I like to live by is “Just because I can, doesn’t mean I have to” there are a lot of good looking guys I meet on the weekends that I could take home……….but I usually don’t. I could be an irresponsible moron and drink on worknights and show up to work hungover………but I don’t. Just the same, im 26 – single – and am move concerned about finding my first career and working for something I care about than having a family. Truth be told – I’m a bit of a lone wolf and am not even really interested in having a boyfriend right now. Havent been on a date in 4 years – but am not upset about it. I am not “on the market” and am not dating right now.I think it will be a surprise if I can even manage to find someone I can tolerate long enough to let in to my busy life – that is assuming they don’t mind not seeing much of me – and don’t throw a fit when all of my free time doesnt go towards them. I have friends, and hobbies too.

      The world’s population is exploding, and definitely won’t crumble if I don’t contribute 1-2 spawn of my own. Instead of having children cause “it’s what every woman does” I think I will be selfish, and use all that money I wont be spending on extra food, clothes, and school – on myself and a nice 2 week annual vacation to a new country every year. I am more motivated to dedicate my life and efforts to a cause that can find a solution to manage the worlds future popolation explosions and food/water shortages…………… hmmmm

    • Guest
      Guest says:

      When you’re 80, lonely and all your aged friends are busy with their grandchildren’s birthdays, then you’ll know Penelope is right.

      • Keisha Fabo
        Keisha Fabo says:

        Will P still be right when lilz is a widow in a nursing home and none of her kids or grandkids come see her? Or are you magically sure that’s just never going to happen?

  36. John Hansen
    John Hansen says:

    Thanks to Jan and now Lilz.

    Having babies is not necessary for people to be happy. Some people feel that is the reason we are here. I disagree.

    We ae not compelled to do that. There’s a lot of other paths many of us want to take in life and having babies would prevent us doing that. We only have on life and how we choose it spend it is up to us. My wife and I are older now but we enjoyed being in business together and still are – we enjoyed just getting up and moving to far away states and then getting jobs or in my case doing things on the computer nad playing music in nightclubs.

    We didn’t hve kids and neither of us would have changed a thing We do think kids are sometimes very cute but we’re glad to see them go home with their parents – those people who could even start to do all the things we did i life.

    This is a good forum though as things like this need to be discussed.

    If women feel compelled to have babies – maybe that compulsion will leave them feeling trapped for many years and with an otherwise empty life and maybe – an unhappy husband.

    John Hansen

  37. Kurt
    Kurt says:

    I wonder how many women in law school right now will never get married. Law students graduate with so much debt and the job market is not good for them – many could spent 10 years or more slaving away at law firms doing the type of work they don’t enjoy just to pay down debt. If they focus on their careers and paying down debt, they might not seriously look for a husband until they are in their mid-30s, and if they haven’t been in a relationship for a long time, they may have unintentionally developed selfish habits/tendencies in the interim that will turn off many potential suitors. I know career women who are in their late 30s and cannot find anyone who wants to marry them partially because they are bitter and have developed other bad habits.

  38. Rachel
    Rachel says:

    When I was in my early twenties, I tried like crazy to find a guy and scared them all away. Now that I’m in my late 30’s I gave up trying, and have had more dates than ever.
    So probably I won’t have kids. Some women are better off without them–not the majority but a few like me.
    Just because you want a husband at 22 doesn’t mean one will magically appear. Sometimes the best laid schemes go awry.
    If anything about your article made me want to “puck” it was the idea that we can always get what we want when we want it. Not always!

  39. mduggins
    mduggins says:

    The concept of the firstborn being smarter and richer is totally erroneous. My younger sister is a nurse and makes a better living than I probably ever will. I know some other families with similar traits, also. Just my 2¢ worth, thanks!

  40. Rachel
    Rachel says:

    Oddly enough the thought of never having children seldom bothers me anymore. I know a lot of selfish parents and a lot of unselfish celibates who never had children of their “own.” Mother Teresa for example and Amy Carmichael. I love my nephews and mentor troubled children who don’t get enough attention from their parents at home. :)

  41. SJA
    SJA says:

    I just felt compelled to agree with the commenter above who asked: ‘Did feminism ever happen?’ and point out the fact that, believe it or not, engagement and marriage are not in fact prerequisites for having children.

  42. Lee
    Lee says:

    All of this discussion is well and good and I actually agree with Penelope in the sense that women should think more seriously about getting married younger than we’ve been taught to growing up in the late 20th century, BUT there’s one point that I haven’t seen mentioned: what are young adults (early 20s-mid 30s) supposed to do when the economic reality simply does not enable them to set out and start families at a young age, no matter how much they may want to? Many of today’s young adults do not even have the benefit of a satisfying career “in lieu of” a family, as so many of these articles seem to think that we’re all able to obtain one or the other. The media often portrays Generation Y as a bunch of whiny, lazy kids who expect too much from work and all the luxuries in life without working for it. The reality, from what I know of people my age (yes, I’m one of them) who do not come from wealthy backgrounds is that the vast majority of us do not have the luxury of secure jobs with benefits and health insurance and are busting our behinds working contract, sometimes two and three or more jobs to survive.

    “Why not get a ‘secure’ job, like government or teaching or nursing or engineering?” you say…well, the cat’s outta the bag on those fields being the safest bets, and they are now oversaturated with grads who honestly believed that they were doing the right thing when they chose their programs.

    Then there’s the skyrocketing cost of living in many parts of the country (U.S.) and, on top of all that, student loans…we’re so stretched and strained financially that we cannot even think about marriage and kids…and the situation is not getting any better.

    There are both men and women who want to start families in their 20s and 30s, but the economic reality simply does not allow them to pursue it. And, on top of that, they are unable to find career satisfaction and success no matter how hard they work, simply because the jobs aren’t there anymore.

    The result? Well, look at terrorism (check out the ages and marital statuses of those involved), look at London, look at the young contract workers in your own office (especially the young men). If things don’t start to improve for young adults, we can only expect more of the same.

  43. MajorHart
    MajorHart says:

    My wife and I were all wrapped up in business and not really wanting to be parents anyway – but frankly the way things were going we felt their opportunities would have been very limited and those situations are much worse today.

    To have kids for OUR pleasure is one thing but you have to think of the kids too and what will the do when they grow up.


  44. Lee
    Lee says:

    I also want to write one more comment for those of you out there who are in your late 20s or 30s or 40s and are unmarried yet wish to be: don’t let these statistics and “best case scenarios” get you down. I should know: my parents are a textbook example of a couple that had the ‘perfect’ set-up in their younger years: met in the early days of college, married at 24 and 25, both found satisfying corporate career success in good companies, saved their money, bought their home, and had us kids when they were good and ready and had enough to live on so Mom could stay at home. Then disaster struck in a *major* way when they were in their 40s and, long story short, my mother is now widowed and completely drained in every way you can imagine: emotionally, physically, financially, etc.

    The bottom line here is that there are really no winners and losers in this life. Everyone has their ups and down. We all really just need to focus more on being satisfied and grateful for what we have and where we are, no matter what the anxiety-provoking “scientifically proven” article-of-the-week says. Just my two cents :)

    • christina
      christina says:

      Thank you for saying this. The article above seemed really inflexible and honestly made me feel like crap. I got married in my twenties and I’m now 34 and starting all over from scratch. All my friends are getting married, have been married and/or having kids now.
      I already feel like I’m running out of time. This article doesn’t inspire me at all. You never know what is going to happen down the line. You can plan as much as you want to make all the right decisions and then something happens and everything gets turned around…
      Bam! You are back to square one.

  45. Ellen
    Ellen says:

    I’ve never wanted kids, and still don’t at 33.  I thought I’d have to wait until 40 till I could say to all those people who tell me I’ll change my mind when I’m older ‘See, I said I wasn’t having kids!’.. I’m happy to know I’ve already missed the boat.  But for young women who do want kids, sounds like good advice.

  46. Choosing Career Now
    Choosing Career Now says:

    I went to school and college at the same time and worked my can off to get the best career I could get my hands on. I married young (at age 22). We invested all we had in building the life we wanted before we were to focus on kids. I supported him in his fast-growing career and sometimes neglected my own — which had great benefits (great for having kids, you know), but was mostly unfulfilling. It even sent me into career depression more times than I can count. But it seemed we had it all, so I stayed in it for the hope of a more fulfilling future when we had kids. We just needed to finish enjoying our sheek DINK lifestyle that involved traveling, fancy home remodels, exciting and fast-paced goals …

    What I didn’t know was that during this time he’d managed to have flings/affairs with 14 other women. He didn’t want to be married to me (despite the fact that we believe we had a wonderful sex life and a pedestal-worthy marriage in every other aspect, he had a hole to fill that I still don’t understand). I found all that out two months ago and we’re headed for the big divorce. I’m age 28 …. the “age to find a partner” … and I have emotional baggage up the ying yang, a career that drove me into career depression several times over the past 5 years because I find it un-fulfilling … and a desire to have children. I really feel like I had it all and lost it all.

    The point of my sorry little story is: it doesn’t matter what you do. Life happens. I guess you just do what you can … with what you can get … when you can get it.

    Right now I’m talking to a fun company about taking a pay cut to find career fulfillment. I’m taking the time I need to find my ground again (which will be a while), whether or not I have it. While this article puts me in a cold sweat, sometimes the options just aren’t there to have everything you want. This time, I choose career.

  47. K.N
    K.N says:

    WoW… Worst thing I have read in a while :-) 

    “Start looking for a husband when you are in your early twenties”

    Is “looking ” for a guy the same as getting a washing machine or television maybe ? U search for various models, decide which one would be suitable and then buy it. 

    So u think marriage is as simple as that ??? everything in this life is NOT a business dear madam…

    btw my mommy has the same thoughts about marriage…

    • Guest
      Guest says:

      What you’re saying doesn’t make sense. How else do you meet people if you’re not “looking”?

      Your inability to give a reason is a reflection of your intellect, KN.

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