sitting on the edge of the sandbox, biting my tongue

August 19, 2011

Penelope Trunk’s Blueprint

Filed under: relationships, society — Tags: , , , — edge of the sandbox @ 12:19 pm

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.



  1. “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.”

    Okay, now I’m a little depressed. snicker.

    But I’ll console myself with: better late than never.

    Have a great one,

    Comment by nooneofanyimport — August 19, 2011 @ 1:35 pm

    • Well, you and me will be about 1/2 done at 44, which still beats keeping up with two pre-schoolers… or a toddler and a baby.

      Comment by edge of the sandbox — August 19, 2011 @ 4:07 pm

  2. What I want to know is, why are those Sex in the City experiences coveted?
    As a mother of 3 daughters, I’m not going to tell them the Gen X line. We set out to establish ourselves and experience life, travel before settling down. I did. It was lonely. Some of us even pushed guys away at that stage because we didn’t want to get too serious before we did the experiences thing. On the other side, I have a few friends who did marriage around 23 and kids in their late 20s and early 30s, when I was starting a family. They did have easier pregnancies. They did recover better. They did manage early childhood sleep dep better. They weren’t so young that they were stupid parents either. I’m fluffy and 40 and beginning to get my groove back. They are still hot and got their grooves back a few years back.

    Comment by AHLondon — August 19, 2011 @ 8:16 pm

    • Twins are extra hard on your body, too, and they are more common in older mothers.
      I traveled quite a bit too in my 20s, but looking at it now, I wish I’d traveled with my husband.

      Comment by edge of the sandbox — August 21, 2011 @ 9:19 pm

  3. Love this, and I struggle a lot with this. My Soviet calendar is telling me it’s time, and actually already a little late for #1, but my Western calendar is all career and education and I want to eat at this great restaurant oriented. I think one of the reasons people have kids early in Russia is that there is honestly nothing else to do, no opportunities for women. Here, you can do whatever the hell you want, so 24 starts looking earlier and earlier every year.

    Comment by Vicki — August 21, 2011 @ 4:28 pm

    • Nobody had that many opportunities there for either men or women, and, actually, interest in private life, as opposed to politicized public life, was kind of like an act of a rebellion. So people had their small families. Also there was no birth control to speak of, and the word on the street was to not abort the first pregnancy.
      BTW, your great restaurant scene is unlikely to disappear on you. You can certainly go out on date nights once you have children, although not as often, and you are not going to be carefree until they grow up. My kids are 4 and 2, and when we leave them with my parents (my parent, not some babysitter!) I worry. But it’s getting easier.

      Comment by edge of the sandbox — August 21, 2011 @ 9:26 pm

      • Yup, I think a lot of us are “don’t abort the first one, just in case” babies.

        Comment by Alina Adams — August 22, 2011 @ 4:43 pm

  4. I had my first child a few months before turning 30 (scandalously old by Soviet standards; horribly early by Manhattan’s), my second a few weeks before turning 34 (with some secondary infertility issues in between) and my third at 37 (though I kept telling myself I conceived at 36, ergo those were statistically younger eggs). While I am not a pleasant pregnant person in general, my third pregnancy was much, much harder than my first, and I suspect age was the primary culprit. I also had complications with the delivery. Yes, I know women who got spontaneously pregnant at 42 (anything past that is IVF-time), but I certainly wouldn’t encourage my daughter to play the odds like that. Not to mention, it’s just harder to do it all then! So here I am, about to turn 42 with a 12 year old, and eight year old, and a 4 1/2 year old. Not quite sending them off to college yet, but they will all be in school fulltime come September! That’s something!

    And I started dating “seriously” (i.e. only guys I’d be willing to marry) after 25. In fact, from 25 to 28, I only dated Jews. Because I would only marry a Jew. And then I met my non-Jewish now husband and…. yeah, planning is good. An open mind is sometimes even better.

    Comment by Alina Adams — August 22, 2011 @ 4:42 pm

    • I had a child at [barely] 34 and [barely] 36. They are 25 months apart, mainly because I didn’t want to take any chances with advanced maternal age. And I did have a complication with delivery the second time.

      Comment by edge of the sandbox — August 24, 2011 @ 9:51 am

  5. […] some sort of a cold, which is nothing major for younger people.  Something to consider in deciding when to have children: older grandparents are less reliable.  So we ended up taking the kids with us, which made it a […]

    Pingback by Vacation Propaganda Review « sitting on the edge of the sandbox, biting my tongue — August 24, 2011 @ 10:43 am

  6. […] Love this post a lot. […]

    Pingback by Friday Links — August 26, 2011 @ 4:14 am

  7. For me, it’s all about when you can trick someone into marrying you..err…I mean, find the love of your life.

    I think there’s a real disconnect between an optimal time for a woman physically to have a baby (which is probably 16 1/2) and emotionally and financially. And then there’s the complication that it’s different for every person.

    I had my children when I was 31 and 34 when my children were born and I was just on the cusp professionally of being able to afford a family. The idea that I could have had them earlier and then “made up” for my career later, when they were in college, just doesn’t make sense for my situation.


    Comment by Marinka — August 26, 2011 @ 5:16 am

    • “I had my children when I was 31 and 34 when my children were born and I was just on the cusp professionally of being able to afford a family.’
      That puts you well within Penelope Trunk’s ideal childbearing age. And, I think, it’s true that it will take that long for a daughter of immigrants/an immigrant to establish herself because you can’t rely on inheritance to buy a house, etc.
      Another thing to consider is why our education takes us so long if don’t learn much. So much of grade school is glorified babysitting. Bachelor’s degrees are not enough, so we need MA/MS/MBA to get anywhere, really. It’s wasted time.

      Comment by edge of the sandbox — August 26, 2011 @ 10:29 am

  8. […] Trunk broke the mold recommending to start the husband hunt “early”, by 24.  I commented back then that’s what’s shocking about this statement is that 24 is considered early, […]

    Pingback by Was The South Always Different? « sitting on the edge of the sandbox, biting my tongue — July 23, 2012 @ 2:17 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at

%d bloggers like this: