There is a lot to comment on in Penelope Trunk’s Blueprint for a Woman’s Life (via Instapundit). Here’s what she says about marriage:
If you want to have kids, you should aim to be done by the time you are 35, when your eggs start going bad fast. This means you need to get started when you are 30, which means you need to get the guy you want to have kids with by the time you’re 28. People who marry too early are very likely to get divorced. But by age 25, you are safe from those statistical trends. So why not marry early? In any case, start looking very seriously for a husband by the time you are 24. Here is a blog post that summarizes this argument and links to the research to back it up.
The only thing shocking about this paragraph is that 24 is an “early” start. When I was growing up in the Soviet Union, the popular wisdom was that a woman has to be done having kids by the time she turns 25. In the 80s, college students were making their trip to ZAGS before receiving their diplomas. Now Russians are also delaying childbirth. I recently tracked down my former classmates. Family planing-wise women my age fall into three groups: First, there are the ones who followed the 80s path, got married and had children in early twenties. Then there are the ones like me, who married and had children late. The third group is comprised chiefly of those who moved to Israel, married and had children early, but given how in Israel everyone is baby-happy, by the time their children were bni mitzvah, they observed plenty of women braving advance maternal age to have #6 or #7, and went for more. Who knew Russian women were capable of bearing three or even four children?
Initially I planned on getting married early, only it didn’t work out that way. Maybe I was looking for the right guy in all the wrong places, and, actually, I was about to give up on the whole arty hubby idea when I found DH. It’s good that I gave myself plenty of extra time, then. I don’t think starting to look at 24 is “early”. I don’t think 18 is early. Or even 15. Mind you, a girl doesn’t need to sleep with her dates to be looking a for a future husband. And if a girl is going to date, she might as well date the kind of men she can see herself marrying.
While it’s true that early marriage is correlated to divorce, correlation is not causation. Certainly older people are less attractive to the opposite sex, but being unattractive didn’t stop many millions from having affairs. Being older and wiser is a factor too, but then there is Newt Gingrich.
Two generations ago, people married early and didn’t get divorced. It might just be that the demographic averse to divorces is the demographic that spends its early twenties establishing themselves and thus delays marriage. Marrying within that crowd, even if the bride is 21, will probably not increase her chances of divorce. Staying together while going to school and starting a career can be a challenge, but nothing is impossible for people in love.
The Generation X blueprint was “I’m going to wait until my late 30s-early 40s to have children because it’s, like, totally possible. Like, my great aunt did it.” I’m not saying it never works out, but my 39-year old neighbor conceived via IVF after three years of trying. DH reminds me that for Bay Area the overall Generation X the blueprint is to wait for the inheritance. Many an overpriced house was purchased with late great grandpa’s money.
I noticed that late motherhood ages women. “Are you pregnant?” is often an uncomfortable question to ask a woman in early stages of pregnancy. The uncomfortable question on the playground is “Are you a grandma?” I asked it one time too many… actually just one time, I learned quick. I was convinced that I’m talking to a grandmother. Her kids were a little older than mine, and she had them in late 30s-early 40s, with difficulties and without much break in-between. Pregnancy pounds are hard to shed, especially for older moms, and especially when they have children in quick secession. Younger moms have an easier time keeping up with babies and toddlers. They get tired, for sure, but they don’t seem to age so much. If a younger mom lets herself go, she can put herself together and still look hot. If a 40 year-old mom lets herself go, she’ll find a middle age woman in the mirror. That woman I met on the playground was not 10 years older than me, but she looked like she was a different generation altogether.
Women who marry and have children early will sure miss out on some of these coveted Sex in the City experiences, but they will have some extra time to have an extra kid or two, as some of my classmates did. They will enter the empty-ester stage quicker, which will leave them with more time at the tail end of the careers, and more time to spend with their husbands while they are still relatively young. Say, a woman who had one child at 24 and another at 26, will be 44 when the youngest goes to college. She’ll be heading out to opera or the Wine Country with her still hot hubby when other women in her age group will be attending PTA meetings. Something to consider.