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When's the Right Time for Having Kids?

October 9, 2003 |

My husband and I are in our early 30s and are trying to decide when to start a family. We have only been married for a year and would like to wait a while. It seems as if, biologically speaking, it would be better if we got to the task at hand. We are having a blast right now. Having a baby is such a leap of faith and I can't even imagine what a baby will do to our marriage. Any advice?
—Michelle and Will

Dear Folks,
It's a happy predicament, to be in love and wondering when to start a family. Things could be worse. And though you hear the clock ticking, you shouldn't let yourselves be rushed or pressured by family into begetting offspring. Having kids is like leaving Laguna Beach and moving to Minnesota: You have to be prepared for some big changes that, in fact, you can't really prepare yourself for.

My honest feeling is that the impulse to parenthood has to come from the woman, and then the man has to look into his heart and see what he wants. It's a big thing to bring a child into the world and to be her sun and sky and horizon for those crucial years and be ever after entwined. For one thing, it brings to an end the delightful period of self-invention called adolescence, which for some people lasts a lifetime. There's sleep deprivation, of course, which makes you slightly psychotic. Your sex life disappears for awhile. Conversation changes: You don't talk about movies in the same serious way you used to—you discuss the intelligence and personality and weight gain and small motor skills and bowel movements of Little Bebop. You lose interest in restaurants. You lose track of fashion and what's hot now and what hip people are talking about. You're no longer one of them.

I myself was never happier than when the burden of hipness was lifted from me, but I can't speak for you. I advocate freedom for you, delicious freedom, and you should go and enjoy it together and make good memories—go do everything, see China and hike the Himalayas and bike across Costa Rica and scuba-dive the Great Barrier Reef and see if you hear a still small voice saying, "When are you going to have me?" I don't know any parents who regret parenthood, not really, but plenty of them regret not having enjoyed their early married years more.

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