The comment came midway through our Christmas dinner. Somewhere in between goat cheese canapés and roast beef, one of my friends started talking about children – and who, out of those of us around the table, might have them next.
There were a few two, three, and four-year timelines, depending on who was and wasn’t single. Then it came to me.
“I’m not sure you’ll have kids, Liv,” the friend mused, thoughtfully. “And if you do, it won’t be for a while.”
“I just think you’re very focused on other things.”
At first, I bristled. There’s every chance I could meet someone, get pregnant and have a family within the year. God knows others have done it. But on reflection, I think she was right.
At 29, I am pretty consumed by my career. There are clear goals I want to hit and trajectories I’ve envisioned following, all within the next five years. Then there are my friendships and all the socialising that comes with them. My diary is consistently packed, often weeks in advance. I’m not sure how a child could possibly fit into that. And, as it transpires, I’m far from the only one.
New research has revealed that women are having children much later in life. Figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) this week showed that women who are now in their forties in England and Wales had children a decade later than their mothers. Meanwhile, the study also found that the number of women having children before the age of 30 has nearly halved in two generations. And I’ll bet this figure is only going to increase as years go by.
It’s a net positive that modern society celebrates a lot more than having children. Women can quite easily go through their adult lives feeling full and accomplished without feeling the need to procreate. And while friends my age are popping kids out left, right and centre, I feel no desire to do so myself.
At least, not right now. Frankly, the whole thing terrifies me. The responsibility. The sleep deprivation. The potential physical and psychological toll of childbirth. No, thank you.
I’d much rather wait until I’m a little older and wiser, with slightly more stable finances, and a more established career I can afford to take time away from. It would be quite nice to own a home, too – a process that has long been delayed for people in my generation thanks to the recession and cost of living crisis.
Of course, there are some crucial caveats here. Biologically speaking, there are clear time constraints to this decision. After all, women who have children after the age of 35 are considered “geriatric” given the higher risk. I’ll be turning 30 in May, which leaves me with around five years before my fertility starts to really fall off a cliff. If I think too deeply about the mathematics of it all, my head starts to hurt. Two years to meet someone? Three years to be together? Then boom, with child? That seems like a terribly fast and stressful timeline.
But I’m not going to let that pressure me into doing anything before I’m ready. Besides, the other obvious caveat is that having children generally requires finding a suitable partner to have them with. Ask a single person in their late twenties or early thirties how their dating life is going, and you’ll quickly understand why this process is taking slightly longer for so many of us.
If it’s meant to happen, I believe that it will. But right now, with a busy career, plenty of friends and family around me, and a second book on the way, I’m in no hurry.