When is the best time to start a family?


Babies never look like this.

That’s the question someone asked me recently. My answer is:


1.    Your eggs get rusty. This happens sooner than most women realize. At age 20, most women who have sex every other day can easily get knocked up within a year’s time, if not sooner. By age 30, only 63 percent of women are so lucky. By age 35, the pregnancy rate drops to one in two. By age 40, only a third of women can get pregnant (without professional help). Your risk of having a complication—Down syndrome, miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, C-section, fetal distress—also rise with age, especially after age 35.

2.    You lose your energy. Most babies will cry for food roughly once every two hours for their first six weeks of life, if not much longer. My daughter did not sleep through the night until long after her first birthday and she never napped longer than 20 minutes. You will pull many all-nighters as a parent, but they won’t be as fun as the all-nighters you pulled in high school or in college. You’ll spend these all nighters cleaning up throw up and rocking a feverish, crying kid.

3.   Your parents are too old to baby sit and enjoy their grandchildren, assuming they are in the area. Grandparents are every parent’s mental and physical lifesavers. Try not to wait so long that you become sandwiched between caring for your kids and caring for your elderly parents.


1.    Your career is firmly established. You won’t be quite yourself again for about a year after having a baby. More important, daycare centers are germ petri dishes. Your kid is going to catch every single illness ever invented during his or her first few years of life. Because daycare centers send kids home when they have fevers, diarrhea, pink eye, and more, you’re going to miss lots of workdays to tend to your sick kid and then tend to yourself once you catch the same germ.

2.   You have some money saved. It costs somewhere between $125,000 and $250,000 to raise a kid from babyhood to age 18—and that doesn’t even include the price of a college education. In just one year, a baby will run you between $9,000 and $11,000 for diapers, formula, furniture, clothes, gear and more. Breast-feeding, cloth diapers, and hand-me-downs will lower those costs somewhat, but a baby will still double your health insurance premiums. Full time childcare will run you somewhere between $3000 and $8500 a year.

3.   You’ve gotten the wanderlust out of your system. Sure some people still travel and live it up after parenthood, but they usually have trust funds. Make sure you are ready to embrace amusement parks, family style restaurants, G-rated movies, and Disney on Ice as your primary forms of entertainment.

4.    You’ve solved your marital problems. Repeat after me: A baby will not fix your marriage. It will not bring you closer. It will not give you something in common. It’s the opposite. A baby will stress the best of marriages and will end the worst of them. Most couples experience a drop in marital satisfaction after baby. Before you get pregnant, learn how to communicate, solve problems and manage conflict.

Having a baby isn’t for everyone. Raising a child will be one of the hardest things you’ve ever done. It will tax your energy, your brainpower, your bank account, your sanity, your marriage, your furniture, your carpeting, your sex life, your career, your car upholstery and more. At the same time, you’ll experience the priceless joys of watching another human grow up. And your child will teach you many important lessons about wonder, fun, and life in general.

When is the best time to have a child? What are some reasons to start a family? What are some reasons not to? Leave a comment.

11 comments… add one

  • Tish August 5, 2009, 12:11 pm

    What if the two things you mentioned aren’t at the same time – like due to the economy, money is hard to come by and there is no job security – - but you are older than 30 and worried that if you don’t start, you won’t be able to in the future? And with everyone getting married older, popping out kids is almost a honeymoon tradition these days. I heard a saying – there is never a good time to have a kid, but there is a better than most time to have one. I just keep hoping that the stars will line up and everything will work out. Almost seems like an act of God at this point. :)

  • Sarah August 5, 2009, 12:11 pm

    All I can say is: THANK YOU! I am so sick the pressure to have kids…of course, I want a BABY…who doesn’t? Well, most people, right? But I KNOW I’m not ready for the financial cost, emotional commitment or the child/teenager that inevitably follows after the ‘baby’ gets bigger! Thank you for putting a real spin on parenthood, I’m sure it’s fantastic and great and incomparable to anything else-but, I agree, having kids isn’t for everyone, and I so appreciate your honesty! You rock, Alisa!

    Many Blessings,
    -Sarah Liz

  • Alisa August 5, 2009, 12:16 pm

    Tish: you’re right. There is never a good time. And the lists really don’t align. Just make sure your marriage is strong. That’s the most important point. Because you won’t have the energy to work on it when you’re up all night w the baby. The other stuff you can work out one way or another.

  • RC - Rambling Along... August 5, 2009, 1:05 pm

    I now tell my friends to not have children until they realize they want a “toddler/child,” not when they want a “baby.”

    Now that my little guy is a toddler, I have realized the baby part was exhausting, but at the same time, rewarding and easy compared to keeping up with a toddler. Now that he is a toddler, he never slows down – there is no catnap together on the couch to recuperate a little of the night’s missed sleep.

    So make certain you are ready for it all – life after baby is no longer a baby.

  • Kyle August 5, 2009, 6:48 pm

    My husband and I are hoping to have kids in 5-10 years (a psychic told us 7 years so she’d be right on schedule).

    While I wouldn’t say we’d be living it up we will definitely be traveling with them. I don’t think it’s really fair to say that most people who travel with their kids have trust funds. We’ve been saving up our money since we got married to travel and then have kids and continue traveling. I have read blogs of quite a few families who do this. I think living globally is the way of the future. Just my two cents. :)

  • Alisa August 5, 2009, 10:12 pm

    Kyle– you are correct. You don’t need a trust fund to travel post child. That was just my snarkiness coming thru. Although, in reality, traveling isn’t quite as fun with a kid in tow because they say things like, “Escargot? Ewwww.” Or that might make it more fun. It depends on your perspective. All I know is this: when I go to Italy? The family is not coming with me.

  • Kelly Marie August 6, 2009, 12:14 am

    Thank you, Alisa! Very well written and I like your snarkiness (I can relate to it!)

  • Teresa August 6, 2009, 12:04 pm

    My husband and I got married at 23/24 and had our daughter at 29/30. So we waited 7 years. I really don’t think it makes that much of a difference. We were much more mature, but I don’t think how many years you are married before makes a difference. It’s the relationship the two of you have together. I agree with the other comments about baby life is easy – it’s toddler life that is exhausting!!! ha ha
    My daughter is 19 months old and I love her more than anything – but 1 is enough for me :)

  • Sue August 6, 2009, 1:53 pm

    We have a wonderful son who is almost 8 months old. We openly discussed the best time to have children, and we waited longer than what I anticipated, and less than what he wanted (we’re in our mid-30′s). While our pregnancy wasn’t planned, it wasn’t being prevented, either…for several months. Looking back, I wish we would have had more open and frank discussions, because I’m currently living with a rebellious husband who isn’t getting enough ‘action’ for his satisfaction. It’s a very stressful situation, and I’m hoping that we’re strong enough to make it through.

  • Amora August 23, 2012, 11:52 pm

    I’m twenty and I would like to have kids before I’m 25. I would like to be married first I think that’d be best, but I must say that even if I would have to be a single mom my child would be well taken care of I have a lot going and I can afford a child while taking time off. I am in a committed relationship, but we aren’t even engaged. I guess anything could happen in four or five years. Is that the wrong way to look at this situation? I mean would it be unfair to my child for me to be fine with the fact that he/she could grow up in a one parent household? I truly feel that I am ready for a child, I’m really ready for a family. I have no idea about what I should do.

  • Taylor M March 12, 2013, 3:33 pm

    Uhm I’m engaged and he wants kids, but here’s the kicker. We are 17 and I’m about to graduate and he will next year. I have taken 3 health classes and understand that way back when girls were already mothers by now because the body is reaching it’s peak and fast. We really want a family but I dont want to wait to long. I dont want my first pregnancy to be risky…any advice?


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