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Want to be a single mother by choice? You’ll face joys and challenges

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Are you a single mom? Single mom by choice? What advice do you give women thinking of having a baby on her own? 

Not a week goes by that I don't find myself in conversation with a childless woman in her 30s worried about whether to have kids, wondering if she should become a single mom by choice.

The typical scenario: She's not dating anyone she really likes, or is in a relationship she's not sure about, but really wants to be a mom.

She worries that:

  1. She won't find the right partner.
  2. If she does marry and they have a kid, it will end in divorce.
  3. Having a baby on her own will turn out terribly because single motherhood is universally terrible.

She asks: How hard is it to be a single mom?

My advice is always the same to women thinking about being a single mom by choice:

Why women become single mothers by choice

How do I prepare to be a single mom by choice?

This is some advice single moms by choice shared on Reddit:

What you should know before becoming a single parent by choice

Are there any single mother by choice regrets?

When deciding to be a single mom by choice, consider these facts

Bottom line: You're not getting any younger—don't wait for a husband before having a baby because you can be a single mom by choice

My advice is always the same to women thinking about being a single mom by choice:

Have a baby! You will never regret having a baby! Yeah, divorce is hard. Being a mom alone is hard. But it is not full of regret.

Having kids in a tough situation is way, way easier than denying the very thing that your body is biologically designed to do and is screaming at you to manifest. Some women's bodies do not scream that at them. Yours is. Listen to that! 

Do not live with regret. 

Regret is the worst. 

Have a baby!

Here's the thing with babies. You have no idea how much you will love them. I know one or two moms who will occasionally say they wish they didn't have kids. Or so many kids. I appreciate that. Totally human. But 99% of the moms I know will tell you:

Your love for your baby will blow your fucking mind. You think you have been in love with men. You think you love your family. You think you love Patrick Dempsey and Sephora.

You don't know shit.

Wait until you have a baby.

Mind = Blown.

What about waiting around to marry “the one,” or whatever? Read my How many divorce stories started with ‘I knew he was the one!' Your fertility is finite. The years you will have the energy to parent little kids are limited.

So go ahead and have a kid or three with your really nice boyfriend you're not 100% sure about because, listen — you have no idea how you will feel when you see him changing poopy pants, or when he steps in and takes over when you have crippling postpartum depression and your milk won't come in and you haven't washed your hair for 11 days and he spoons you in bed anyway.

And that man of your dreams you're waiting for with whom you just instantly connect? Well, he might just check out and not really be interested in family life or start spending long nights at the office with that really pretty colleague. In short, you have no way of knowing what life with that guy will be like.

And if there isn't a really nice guy on the scene, well, you are an adult woman and you know the ways you can have a baby.

Because life is about taking risks. Marriage is a risk. Having babies is a risk. There are no guarantees. The best things are hard. All cliches. All true.

Have the baby.

Then you will be a single mom. And that is scary, and you will be afraid of being poor and messing up your kids. But married moms worry about that, too. And half of married moms end up single moms.

And you have so many amazing opportunities as a woman to earn a great living and control your schedule and bring up awesome children and still find romantic love. So just do that. I'm here for you. And other moms, too.

Why women become single mothers by choice

Dr. Jennifer Roelands, an integrative medicine trained OB/GYN who runs a telehealth practice based in Los Angeles, says there are a lot of reasons a woman might choose to become a single mother:

  1. She hasn’t found the right partner and wants to have a child (or children) before her fertility window ends.
  2. She's invested a lot of money and time into a successful career.
  3. She doesn’t want to devote effort into a relationship but wants to be a mother.
  4. She never wants to get married but still wants to be a mother.
  5. She had a bad relationship and feels like she’d prefer to parent alone.

How do I prepare to be a single mom by choice?

To prepare to be a single mom by choice, get advice from women who have already made the decision.

Mikki Morrissette is a publisher and editor at Minnesota Women’s Press and is the author of numerous books about becoming a single mom by choice, including Choosing Single Motherhood: The Thinking Woman’s Guide

She says there is no perfect formula for deciding to be a single mom by choice, but you can ask yourself these questions to determine if it’s the right decision for you:

1. Can you afford it? 

Research the costs to conceive, adopt, and any other method you plan to explore. Consider the monthly budget you will need to raise the child, including child care, education, medical needs, clothing, and more.

2. Do you have support?

Morrissette says that no one can become a single mom by choice without a village, no matter how self-sufficient, strong, and excited they may be about the journey. Her advice? Begin to build your support system.

You can reach out to family and friends and seek help from professionals like doulas, nannies, and other child care professionals. is a great resource to find help.

3. Have you researched first-hand experiences?

Find other moms who have already become mothers by choice and get insight from:

  • Reddit – The subreddits r/SingleMothersbyChoice and r/Parenting offer a forum where you can ask questions and read posts from single moms who decided to have children without a partner
  • Facebook groups – Search Facebook groups for “single moms by choice”
  • Apps Friend apps like Meetup and Nextdoor can possibly connect you with single moms in your area
  • YouTube – One mom, Alicia Latrice, shares her journey here about how she decided to become a single mother by choice:

Stats about single mothers in the United States.

Jennifer A. Salem, Esq., founder and owner of Origins Legal Group, LLC in Las Vegas, adopted her infant daughter at the age of 41.

She offers this advice for women preparing for single motherhood: 

  • Find a job with a flexible schedule: Salem owns her own business so she can dictate her own hours. It helps if you can find a work-from-home job like bookkeeping, or a position with flexible hours.
  • Seek help: Salem’s mom took care of her daughter when she first went back to work full time. Figure out a plan for child care before you have to scramble to find someone. 
  • Go with the flow: Salem says she decided early on to have fun and go with the flow, knowing she wouldn’t always have a sitter and would have to bring her child along for errands and time with friends. 
  • Consider adoption: Salem says some women think they cannot adopt if they are single, but she is proof that it’s possible.

Another single mom by choice offered this advice:

“Get a strong community together, and ask for help! Save money as a cushion. Before baby comes, food prep so it's easy to heat and serve. Make sure your car is in good working order, and get backup car seats and bases for your community. It’s really doable!”

Beth, SMBC of a 6-year-old

This is some advice single moms by choice shared on Reddit:

Advice from a Reddit thread about becoming a single mom by choice.
Advice from a Reddit thread about becoming a single mom by choice.
Advice from a Reddit thread about becoming a single mom by choice.

What you should know before becoming a single parent by choice

If you’re considering becoming a single parent by choice, Roelands says these are some questions to ask yourself first: 

  1. How do you see your role as a parent?
  2. How do you want to raise your child(ren)?
  3. Are you emotionally and financially ready to take on the responsibilities of parenthood?
  4. Do you have a support system to help?

Above all, Roelands says, “it is simply your choice.”

What is the best age to get pregnant and have a baby biologically?

When it comes to straight fertility, it is easiest to get pregnant in your late teens and early 20s, when fertility is at its highest, according to the Cleveland Clinic1.

As women age, the risks of birth defects increase. Fertility declines starting at age 32, and starts to plummet starting at age 37, according to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology2.

The risk of birth abnormalities, including chromosomal abnormalities, increases as a mother ages.

Will you choose IVF and use a sperm donor?

In vitro fertilization or IVF involves collecting eggs from the mother and using sperm to fertilize them in a lab. The fertilized egg(s) are placed into the mother’s uterus or frozen for later use. 

A less expensive alternative to IVF is intrauterine insemination (IUI), where the sperm is injected into the uterus. Of the two fertility treatments, IVF has a higher success rate, according to the Cleveland Clinic3.

You can choose your sperm donor for IVF or IUI — either someone you know or a named or anonymous donor you don’t know.

Here are some factors to consider before choosing IVF vs IUI:

Success rate50-75% with one round40-50% after several rounds
CostCan be $20,000 or more per IVF round, according to GoodRX Health4Between $500 and $4,000
ProcedureMore complex, involves multiple procedures over time, including medication, bloodwork, ultrasounds, and anesthesia for egg retrieval before the fertilized egg is implanted in the uterusLess invasive, performed during ovulation, takes a few minutes as an outpatient procedure, may require some medication to improve success
RisksAccording to the Mayo Clinic5, some risks include multiple births, birth defects, low birth weight, premature delivery, miscarriage, and other health risksRisks include multiple births, spotting, and possible infection of the area being treated
TimeOne round of IVF can take two or three weeks (you may require more than one round)Procedure takes a few minutes, and the office visit might take about 20 minutes (you might need more than one round)
Pre-screening the embryo for genetic disordersYes, because embryos are developed in an incubator, they can be tested for genetic diseasesNo, there is no access to the fertilized embryo in IUI

What about egg freezing for single moms?

For the last decade, feminists have been loving the new push for young, professional women to freeze their eggs to give them more flexibility in finding a romantic partner while prioritizing professional success with abandon.

Google, Apple and Facebook all offered this expensive procedure as an employee perk — one heralded as an excellent step towards gender equality in the workplace.

Harsh facts about egg freezing

However, the Washington Post6 published an extensive article broadcasting what fertility experts have long known: egg freezing is successful only a small percentages of the time, a fact that the burgeoning fertility industry keeps under wraps.

Taking care of elderly parents? 5 tips for the sandwich generation

Are there any single mother by choice regrets?

There are plenty of famous women who became single moms by choice: Sandra Bullock, Charlize Theron, and Mindy Kaling, to name a few. While Bullock and Theron both adopted their children, Kaling has two biological children and hasn’t revealed their father’s identity. 

Bullock told People after her daughter’s adoption in 2015 that there’s no doubt in her mind she was meant to adopt her children: “I can tell you absolutely, the exact right children came to me at the exact right time.”

Several women on Reddit have sought — and shared — advice about becoming a single mother by choice:

Most had no regrets about their decision to become a single mom:

Single moms by choice on Reddit share their experiences.

While others admitted to struggling without a supportive partner to help out:

Are single mothers by choice happy?

Overwhelmingly, single moms on Reddit said they didn't regret their decision to become a single mom by choice. However, that doesn't mean single mothers by choice are always happy and never struggle:

Roelands says she had a patient who decided to undergo IVF to have a child. 

“She decided that she wanted a baby and was in her early 40s and did not want to miss the chance,” Roelands says.

The woman had supportive friends and her mother backing her up throughout the process. 

“She is a wonderful mother and happy with her choice,” Roelands says.

When deciding to be a single mom by choice, consider these facts

It is unfair that women have a devastatingly smaller fertility window than men. But the science is there. Embrace it. Inform your daughters and friends accordingly.

Support single moms and all women as we navigate these unprecedented waters, as we seek out fulfillment for ourselves and our families, and equality and choice for women everywhere.

Your uterus and ovaries take a turn for the worse at age 27. Age 35? Yours is officially a high-risk pregnancy. Come 40 — forget it. Your chances of having a baby without significant fertility treatments are slim. Women who find themselves facing those chances often also find themselves devastated and broke7.

These are facts. Not trends or social movements. You cannot change biology.

Other facts: humans find relationships with other humans to be the most important and enjoyable parts of their lives. Relationships with romantic partners. Relationships with children. Another force of biology.

And yet I once read with horror a New York Times Magazine article8 about college women and the hookup culture, which found:

  1. Young women are so busy pursuing their careers that they don't have time for real boyfriends, and instead have “hookup buddies” and dole out copious numbers of blow jobs as the sole way they connect with men
  2. Wome are not factoring in a husband or children into near-term goals.
  3. College guys get what they want sexually because they are now the minority, and market economics dictates they have the power to get what they want sexually. And what they want are BJs.

This article made me a little sad, and a lot angry. If in your parenting you relegate family planning to an afterthought, you denigrate your children, their innate dreams and desires, and stunt their potential to truly achieve fulfillment in both work and family that we all strive for.

Yes, we have a lot of work to do on the front of gender equality at work. Yes it is fantastic that young women see a clear connection between their hard work and smarts and professional potential.

But this article quotes numerous college students and experts who say that pressure from parents and society is for young women to focus on professional achievement above all else — and far above marriage and children. A few quotes:

“I positioned myself in college in such a way that I can’t have a meaningful romantic relationship, because I’m always busy.”

“They envisioned their 20s as a period of unencumbered striving, when they might work at a bank in Hong Kong one year, then go to business school, then move to a corporate job in New York. The idea of lugging a relationship through all those transitions was hard for many to imagine.”

“Increasingly many privileged young people see college as a unique life stage in which they don’t — and shouldn’t — have obligations other than their own self-development.

“A. said that she did not want to settle down until she could choose a partner knowing that his goals and values were fixed.” 

“[The women] tried very hard to separate sex from emotion, because they believed that getting too attached to someone would interfere with their work. They saw a woman’s marrying young as either proof of a lack of ambition or a tragic mistake that would stunt her career.”

I admit that I have held that latter attitude. I was 28 when I married, 31 when I had my first child. People — and by “people,” I mean New York City liberals — often remark how young I was when I married, even though I was a full year older than the national average for women, and pushing my fertility luck when I got pregnant.

Once, when I was in my early 20s, my mom casually said: “You should have your kids by the time you're 30.” At the time that struck me as sexist and old-fashioned. Today, it sounds to me simply sensible and respectful of nature.

Don’t be a helicopter mom: Overprotective parents can hurt their kids

Which is exactly the message that I will impart on my daughter. It goes without saying that my daughter's intellectual interests and aptitude will be nurtured.

But what about her personal ones? The standard-issue advice for college-bound women is to establish a career first, then start a family. But the laws of fertility include a time limit. Career does not. 

The laws of the heart demand spontaneity and serendipity. Women need love — romantic love, maternal love. Career is but one part of a young woman's development. As a mother, it is my obligation to encourage my daughter to develop every part of herself.

What to tell your child when his father is not involved.

Bottom line: You're not getting any younger—don't wait for a husband before having a baby because you can be a single mom by choice

There are no guarantees. Even if you meet that great guy, there are still no guarantees.

Take the pressure off yourself to have a “perfect,” life. Embrace that that might not make you happy in the first place.

Embrace the power of your career, economic, and legal opportunities as a woman— which are unprecedented in history. Embrace the growing social acceptance of having a child outside of that Ozzie and Harriet fantasy. Embrace your choice.

At the end of the day, you cannot predict the future.

Life happens, and you have to take control when you can.


  1. “What’s the Best Age To Get Pregnant?” January 21, 2022. Cleveland Clinic.
  2. “Having a Baby After Age 35: How Aging Affects Fertility and Pregnancy” February 2023. American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
  3. “What’s the Difference Between IVF and IUI?” January 31, 2022. Cleveland Clinic.
  4. “IUI vs. IVF: Which Is Right for You?” June 13, 2022. GoodRx Health.
  5. “In vitro fertilization (IVF)” Sept. 10, 2021. Mayo Clinic.
  6. “The struggle to conceive with frozen eggs” January 27, 2018. Washington Post.
  7. “Dear Fertility Doc: Should I Be Worried About My Biological Clock?” Jun 23, 2022. Forbes Health.
  8. “Sex on Campus: She Can Play That Game, Too” July 12, 2013. New York Times.


Just wow. I hardly know where to start with this article so this is probably going to be LONG (also I’m stuck waiting at the car dealership right now). I honestly can’t believe it was written by the woman that wrote the books she has and runs a Facebook group focused on achieving financial independence for women. This article is nothing but fear mongering sprinkled with errors and half truths to convince women towards a decision that will most likely NOT result in financial independence and pushes us right back into Leave it to Beaver. 
Yes, fertility begins to decrease at 35 and plummets even more sharply at 40 for women who try to get pregnant using their own eggs at that time. But Emma states that our uterus and ovaries take a turn for the worse at age 27. Guess what, our uterus is just fine for FOREVER. It is the egg quality that determine birth defects and chromosomal abnormalities. You can have a kid at 70 using your uterus and donor eggs. Your uterus is not affected reproductively by age….it is the eggs. At age 35, she states “Yours is officially a high-risk pregnancy.” That’s because of the lowered egg quality and higher risk of birth defects. If you are using eggs frozen when you were younger, donor eggs, or donor embryos, it is irrelevant. Actually studies have shown that other than a slightly increased risk of elevated blood pressure, there is absolutely NO increased health risk for older pregnant mothers. It’s odd to me, since the article started off talking about the new technology available to women such as egg freezing, no options that are available to women now are discussed.
Emma seems to think we just decide we’re going to find someone to love AND who loves us back while we’re young and that’s that. Women shouldn’t just wait around for Cupid to strike your heart; go get that man! And if it doesn’t work out? No problem! Get divorced and find someone else because Emma has found dating in her late 30’s “far more enjoyable” since she’s no longer “desperately trying to find a father for children I craved”. She says, “What if we gave women permission to marry and start a family with a fantastic person while their bodies are equipped to do so — then, should they need to, gracefully move on to other relationships that fulfill the next chapter of their lives?”. She’s encouraging women to have kids early at a very high cost. The cost of a broken family because you settled for a nice guy to have kids with early leading inevitably to divorce when these women need to move on to the “next chapter of their lives”. Do you think she even reads the posts on her Facebook group?? Post after post every single day about angry and heartbroken women struggling to recover from failed marriages financially and emotionally, dealing for years with ex-husbands that make their lives and their children’s lives a living hell? And how about the children torn apart by these divorces that are devastated? It is unbelievably irresponsible to even suggest this to women because the “laws of fertility include a time limit but a career does not”.
Emma is adamant that the longer a woman waits to have babies, the fewer choices we have. No. Whether we have babies young or old(er), our choices are DIFFERENT. Every choice has tradeoffs, risks and benefits and women that have children at a younger age also change their choices in life. She never mentions the negatives to having children at a young age which I think is bizarre because there are so many valid reasons why women are now waiting until they are older to become mothers. I do agree that women should be very well informed about these choices. Thanks to medical technology today, we have many. Egg freezing is unproven in my opinion but women may choose to freeze embryos (created with anonymous sperm donors) which have been shown to remain viable for decades. Or, if they find love later in life, they could use donor eggs and their partner’s sperm. I feel like this article is going to come back and haunt Emma if she continues a career in which she supposedly advocates for women’s opportunity and success.

Emma, I totally agree with you. Unfortunately, it takes two to have children. I have two graduate degrees, and a decent job that enables me to be financially independent. I’m turning 32 in couple months and I’ve been looking for a life partner for the past five years in New York City with zero luck. Honestly, I do not see it’s women who do not want to have kids, or delay motherhood. It’s more on the men. I cannot tell you how many guys roll their eyes when I mention marriage/kids, it’s just not in their time horizon (and some of these men are 40+ and still waiting for someone better to show up around the corner). I have numerous girlfriends who dated over 5 years without a ring on their fingers. And I can assure you, most of them cannot wait for their boyfriends to propose yet they don’t want to appear desperate and just let the men drag them along year after year. And numerous girlfriends who are over 35 and have been single for 5+ years. And these are all highly educated, smart, pretty professional women.

Yes Emma! I too will be making sure daughter is aware that having a career shouldn’t stop you having child early. I’d be encouraging her to find a nice guy when she’s young and have kids and pursue her career at the same time. As someone who had a termination in my 20s, when I was in a long-term relationship, I wish I’d had the courage to go ahead with the pregnancy with or without my partner’s approval. My ideal nuclear family was so drummed into me though that it wasn’t until my biological clock was ticking so loudly I couldn’t cover my ears and ignore it that I had no choice but to go it alone as a solo mum. However, men need to step up to the plate on this one too. Too many men have zero respect for the limitations of female biology when it comes to fertility. I wouldn’t have hesitated to become a parent in my 20s but none of the men I had relationships with were up for it. They still weren’t up for it in my 30s. I wasted my fertile years with men who delayed and delayed making ‘grown-up’ commitments like marriage or kids until I gave up and left. Yes, I made bad choices in men and I accept that, and maybe I should have embraced single motherhood earlier, but I do think that too often the responsibility for procreation, or delaying it, is placed on women’s shoulders when men need to stand up and be counted too.

Oh KT, what a sad post. I don’t know how old you are, or how old your kids are but either way I hope it’s not trite to suggest that it’s never too late to have amazing and interesting adventures! You can still do WHATEVER you want to and achieve whatever you want to. There’s never been a better time for mothers to achieve whatever they set out to. Take your kids on the ride with you! Or if that’s not your bag as you had them young you’ve got plenty of time to go on wild and crazy adventures after they’ve ‘flown the nest’! Then your friends who had kids late will be looking at you enviously!

I understand your viewpoint and the article was well-written, but having kids young was my biggest mistake and biggest regret in life. My childfree friends went on have interesting and amazing adventures while me and the friends who had kids young live in miserable day-to-day boredom. I love my kids but don’t think I would’ve missed out on much if they’d never been born. Having kids young made me miss out on so much and have so many regrets of what I won’t get to do.

Even if I’d waited too long to have kids and hadn’t been able to have them and regretted it, that would’ve only been one regret. I could live with that. However, I can’t live with myself now because having kids has led me to miss out on so much in life and have many regrets. I will not only be telling my kids not to have children when they’re young, but will also tell them that they should really think about if they even want kids because it’s not the rosy picture that’s portrayed.

I’d MUCH rather have a spouse that I’m in love with than a kid, so that’s why I put off marriage until I met the love of my life. Now, I visit the homes of my friends who are divorced and stuck with the screaming brat kids and am so grateful I chose not to have a baby with someone I don’t love. Actually, I’m so grateful that I chose not to have kids at all. I can’t even imagine how dreadful my life would be if I had a kid at a young age. I’d probably regret it for the rest of my life.

Why can’t we accept the reality that comes with liberation—that different women are going to make different choices? The expectation—or should I say, the prescription—that all women should have their children before thirty is as offensive as it is unrealistic.

The fact that there are a vocal group of young women who postpone romance and family planning is a good thing. They are exercising their option and their agency to design a life on their terms and their timeline. THIS IS PROGRESS. There is no path in life that doesn’t include some sort of sacrifice, and I suggest we let young adults decide for themselves which sacrifices to sign up for.

I also don’t believe that the anecdotal testimonials represent the majority of young women. The draw for love and motherhood for twenty-something women has not evaporated in this demographic—but there are other realistic models to pursue. I say, let the women make their own decisions. It’s neither your business, nor mine.

Vicki Marie – I get so disappointed when women’s issues come up and someone argues: Just respect everyone’s choices!! Urgh! My blood pressure just spiked typing that.

Just because someone makes a choices does not mean it is an informed one, or a good one. Yes, we all aim for choice (career, family, reproductive, political, and on). But are those choices totally informed about the true realities of fertility? About biologicla drive to be a parent? The human need for partnership?

Many members of the current crop of professional women in their late 30s and 40s (not to mention those older), did not approach their lives, careers and family planning with clarity. I am not blaming them. That group of women broke glass ceilings, busted into professional and educational towers that were previously off-limits. While the movement cheered them on and held them up as glowing examples, family planning was an after thought. Until it wasn’t.

One of my fav examples of this paradox is this NYT story:

>>With long brown hair and come-hither curves, Melissa Foss looks — and feels — fabulous at 41. “I’ve spent hours of my life and a lot of money making sure I was healthy, and that my hair was shiny, my teeth were white and my complexion clear,” said Ms. Foss, a magazine editor in New York City.

So when it came to conceiving a child with her husband, a marketing executive, Ms. Foss wasn’t at all worried. After all, she noted, those same traits of youth and beauty “are all the hallmarks of fertility.”

Fifteen unsuccessful rounds of in vitro fertilization later, Ms. Foss now realizes that appearances can be deceiving. “I’d based a lot of my self-worth on looking young and fertile, and to have that not be the case was really depressing and shocking,” she said. The couple are now trying to have a baby with the help of a surrogate and a donor egg.


Today we are in a fascinating and critical moment in the history in feminism. The majority political, legal, education and business hurdles have been lifted and we are working out the finer points of equality and what it means to be an empowered woman. What can we learn from previous generations? What have I learned? What, as a mother, will I teach my daughter from this chapter in feminism?

If all we can take away is: “To each her own!” We have failed our children so so so so so miserably.

i’ll never be a mom, so i don’t have a horse in this race, but what say you to this story:

Specifically this:

The widely cited statistic that one in three women ages 35 to 39 will not be pregnant after a year of trying, for instance, is based on an article published in 2004 in the journal Human Reproduction. Rarely mentioned is the source of the data: French birth records from 1670 to 1830. The chance of remaining childless—30 percent—was also calculated based on historical populations.

And this:

Surprisingly few well-designed studies of female age and natural fertility include women born in the 20th century—but those that do tend to paint a more optimistic picture. One study, published in Obstetrics & Gynecology in 2004 and headed by David Dunson (now of Duke University), examined the chances of pregnancy among 770 European women. It found that with sex at least twice a week, 82 percent of 35-to-39-year-old women conceive within a year, compared with 86 percent of 27-to-34-year-olds. (The fertility of women in their late 20s and early 30s was almost identical—news in and of itself.) Another study, released this March in Fertility and Sterility and led by Kenneth Rothman of Boston University, followed 2,820 Danish women as they tried to get pregnant. Among women having sex during their fertile times, 78 percent of 35-to-40-year-olds got pregnant within a year, compared with 84 percent of 20-to-34-year-olds. A study headed by Anne Steiner, an associate professor at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, the results of which were presented in June, found that among 38- and 39-year-olds who had been pregnant before, 80 percent of white women of normal weight got pregnant naturally within six months (although that percentage was lower among other races and among the overweight). “In our data, we’re not seeing huge drops until age 40,” she told me.

Thank you for posting this data. I think it adds to this discussion. So this evens out the playing field quite well for us gals. I agree that post forty it gets more difficult, but this is very encouraging.

Like the idea of a marriage 10 year contract, this type of thing requires a massive change in “the way we do things”. At least for a certain type of ambitious, educated women. This type of change takes years. I actually do agree with you and I think it’s important for lots of people to get out there and challenge the status quo because that’s the only way it will eventually happen.

I had my kids at a “decent” age – 30 and 32 and had no fertility problems, but I am seeing friends around me have fertility issues now. Not all of them is due to the fact that they just met their partner later in life… some of these folks have been with their partners a long time and just didn’t start trying until later. I know I waited as long as I did because I just wanted to live responsibility free for a while and didn’t have a real urgent drive to have kids yet. But it’s also because I thought it happens pretty easily. It’s “natural” it’ll “just happen”. That’s why it was a shock to me when my first pregnancy was high risk (I had no problems getting pregnant, but found out there was more to being pregnant than just getting pregnant… who knew?!!).

I believe it is because you don’t hear a lot about fertility issues or at least think too seriously about them until you are around the age where it starts to really affect you. And by then it could be too late. In fact, the couple friends I have who knew AHEAD OF TIME that their family had a history of fertility issues and had given it real thought already got very serious about getting pregnant around 26-27 and even then they still had some issues. Yes, probably someone in their family scared the crap out of them that they might not be able to have babies if they wait too long. But you know what? That is a fact. Maybe scare tactics are the best way to really get someone to accept the truth and take things seriously. Maybe they should talk about fertility more in sex and health education in high school (which I guess is usually about preventing pregnancy). Or female mentors at work should make a real effort to communicate with the younger women just starting out that there is MUCH more to life than a career and if you wait too long to start that family thing, you may not get the chance.

Maybe women just need to get more “ambitious” about having families as well as being ambitious about having a career.

I agree with everything you say, Erica. Yes, I am calling for a massive overhaul of thinking. But let’s remember that attitudes about dating, marriage and careers have taken a drastic change in just a couple generations, so I am optimistic that change is possible in the near-term.

And yes, most educated people intellectually understand fertility and the risks of waiting. But our behaviors suggest we turn a blind eye to those realities.

That’s exactly the point Zabeth. Finding someone you want to have kids with or marry is not easy for most of us. That is exactly why the article was so sad. Cutting out the possibility of romantic relationships and children for a decade is cheating yourself out of a big part of life right at the time that having a baby is best for the health of the child *and* the mother (having children younger reduces risks of not just breast cancer but also heart disease, hypertension, and other cancers). And by the time these young women decide they want to get married and/or have kids they won’t have any experience dating or knowing how to have a romantic partnership. I’ve met so many smart privileged female college students this summer in DC for internships and most of them sound like the young women in this article. From my perspective, Emma is talking about a work-life balance in each decade of life and I fully support that.

Hi C. Lynn — Of course life happens. But I reject the idea that romantic partnership is simply a product of serendipity and aligning stars. Let’s be grown ups here. There is no other part of life — career, finances, fitness, friendships — that we assign a la-la fairytale attitude. There are dire consequences to refusing to take responsibility for your romantic and family planning. I aim to empower my daughter to get what she wants, not sit back and wait for cupid to strike her heart.

“There is no other part of life — career, finances, fitness, friendships — that we assign a la-la fairytale attitude.”

The difference here is that you have greater control over these areas. You can find another job, start a business, pick investments, choose where and how you want to exercise, start or end new relationships (that don’t have the pressures that come along with sex and romantic partnerships). Whereas you can’t control whether or not another person is attracted to you, wants to be with you or marry you. You can’t make someone else love or want you. You can put yourself out there to make the most of romantic opportunities available but you can’t control how others will respond to you.

I loved your concept about marrying young, but had to agree with Denise – life happens. I married at 24, but didn’t have my first child until I was 29 because I wasn’t ready. I had my second child at 34 and loved the spacing between the two.

It is really sad that young women feel that they can’t marry until everything is in place. I know my daughter sort of feels that way. I also hate the quick sex & blow jobs that 20 somethings are participating in these days because (I believe) it leaves young women in a bad state of mind.

Here’s the thing – when the man for you shows up, it almost doesn’t matter what other things you are doing, you marry and either continue with your original plans or make new ones.

C. Lynn

I was lucky. I married at 36 (which seemed just a little older than average, in the DC area), had kids at 37, 39, and 42, and then divorced at 45. For my own selish reasons, I’d like to see my kids having their kids earlier than I did, since I want to be young enough to have fun with them. Also, in terms of retirement planning, it’s better to get started early so you’re not hit with college and retirement costs at the same time, as I will be. But….you can’t plan for love in your 20s, much as you can’t plan for it at any age. If it doesn’t happen, what can you do?

All this said, that article scared the sh*t out of me when I think about dating now. But as a 40-something woman, at least I have more confidence and shouldn’t be afraid to speak my mind. Hopefully I’ll be able to raise my daughters to be the same way. What craziness!

I agree, the thought of all those BJs make a girl’s jaw tired! But the fact that dating in college is so distorted just underscores my point: young women are denying deep emotional, biologically driven needs for the sake of professional success. Today they are denying themselves love and fulfilling sex, but in a few years that translates into both romantic and maternal love. You get what you want in this world. It is all about where you put your energy.

Hi Eve, you were very lucky, you were really quite old (from a medical perspective) to have children anyway as for age 42 wow, I know a lot people won’t like this but that is very old, sorry. I am definitely encouraging my daughter to have kids before 30 if possible as I would anyone under 30. If men want children and to get married the old fashioned way, averages show they prefer to marry before 35. If they marry over 35 and want children they will look for a much younger women (only if they want kids). They tend to go off women over 35 if that a woman wants children. Not nice facts but ask any guy, if nothing else for medical reasons and health reasons.

I’m not sure of your sources for those stats, but they are telling — biology is not to be ignored!

My mom and all her sisters and so many other people I know had kids over 40. My mom’s good friend just had one accidentally at 49. It’s a myth that your fertility is over when you’re 40. But these women were all healthy and took care of themselves. The majority of women in the US are now overweight and obese so that’s probably why they have such a hard time getting pregnant.

I tend to agree. I think that a lot of infertility is less about age than about health. Read Pottengers Cats and see what I am talking about. I know a woman who naturally conceived (unplanned) and had a baby at 47. I had mine first try each child at 36 and 39. I think I am a MUCH better mom now than I would have been in my twenties. I am NOT arguing that your odds are much much better younger. BUT I don’t think it is wise to just find Mr. Good Enough to slap a ring on for ten years In order to pop out a child. That doesnt sit well with me.

Sorry to bring you into the modern world, but most men don’t want an old-fashioned girl anymore. Studies show that men will pick a woman who’s even far older than them with a college degree than pick someone without a degree. If men really wanted old-fashioned girls, there wouldn’t be so many poor single women without a high school diploma or college degree living in rural towns.

To me this, and other articles I’ve read as of late, seem to be a response to Jean Twenge’s article about how long women can delay their plans to have children. It also resonates with what another Feminist, Sheryl Sandberg, has to say in her book “Lean In.” I’m also not at all surprised that many of these articles are written by other women.

With all that said- and trying to pull everything together- I think certain messages are reinforced to women in order to maintain the status quo. As long as women believe that the proper time for marriage and family is between 20-30 without fully understanding fertility, their bodies (let’s be real many women DON’T understand them), and where these statistics about fertility actually come from (see Twenge’s article) they will continue to make decisions that may inhibit their careers and financial capabilities and leave them dependent (see Sandberg’s “Lean In”); thus keeping society- and our position in it- exactly where it is.

In my eyes 28 or 31 isn’t too young to marry and start a family (nor is it really pushing your fertility either). I too wanted to be married and pregnant by a certain time but as another poster commented, sometimes life happens and not everything is under your complete control.

I’m unresolved about what I’d tell my daughter about marriage/family/career. There are certainly things I’d want to her to know that my mother didn’t tell me. I certainly want her to be as well educated as possible but I also want her to be able to position herself to meet quality men and have meaningful relationships too. But at the same token I wouldn’t want her to feel the same (seemingly unyielding) pressures about marriage and children.

Zabeth – Part of the big issue here is that women are looking for the right person with whom to start families. Of course, half of those “right person” has an excellent chance of also becoming an ex. But as young women have more and more professional opportunties, and face pressure to maximize those opportuntiies, the threshold for “right person” get higher and higher. Further, as a society, we are increasingly focused on personal development – growing as people and professionals through work, travel, hobbies and therapy :) As the students in the NYT article say – they expect their male peers to grow and change in the near-term, and don’t want to commit to them until they “Become who they are.” Well, by then the women’s fertility is depleted, and there are still no guarantees.

I call for a shake-up of the whole thing: get married young to a nice guy who will be a good dad and hopefully support you and care for you long-term. And, when all those business trips to Hong Kong and IPOs and medical residencies force the couple apart, they can start anew with different partners. Certainly, this is not idea, but as a divorced mom myself, I can say that dating in my late 30s is far more enjoyable, genuine than if I were desperately trying to find a father for children I craved but did not have.

Then what’s the point of getting married at all? Why not just have kids and then date later or do what other people have been doing- date, move in together, maybe have some kids, and decide whether or not you want to stay together. What’s the point of all the formalities all together- whether they be a formal marriage ceremony OR contract?

The fifty percent statistic is fifty percent of ALL marriages. Everybody knows that once you’ve been divorced, your chances of divorcing again are much higher. First marriages actually have a pretty good success rate if people stick with them.

I agree generally. It’s human nature to want to have a sort of ‘model’ for success. I DO NOT think it’s a negative trend for women to not factor in babies before 30 though. Family and maternal love is not only biological. Is there a lack of population concern? because at some points in this article it sounds so; reminder: we are nearly 7billion on the planet and cannot afford to feed us all, let alone provide a standard of living which is relatively equal for all. For every educated women who wants to concentrate on other things besides making babies, there are girls who have babies without thinking about it (at 16 years of age no less). So for now, I still think there is a balance. Don’t assume your daughter will want biological children. The rewards of being a foster mother and/or adopting children are equally as fulfilling and should also be considered a legitimate (and in my world premier) family option.

There is a population shortage – shortage of professional, educated people — the very people who are waiting to have babies, and as a result, have fewer children than they would like — and the economy needs. Agreed: adoption and foster care are excellent alternatives and should be given more government and corporate support. But as along as affluent women have access to sophisticated fertility treatments, biological children will continue to be the preference.

Adopting children has its own issues and of course no one ever thinks about the effects on the adoptee (not the least of which is not being able to access their original birth certificate in most U.S. states–you know, that geneology thing the rest of us take for granted?) and most definitely do not think about how it affects the surrendering parents. Never, ever, ever, ever, EVER tell anyone that adoption should be their first option for “building a family.” The selfishness inherent in that notion is breathtaking, that some other family should willingly tear itself up just to make you happy.

If you want to be a foster parent, that’s great. Lots of kids need foster parents. Most adoption, though, is practiced as legal child trafficking. Mostly because most adoption in the United States is not from U.S. foster care.

And at the end of the day, it’s not reproduction. It’s not “having kids.” If you want to HAVE KIDS, there’s only one way to do that. You make the baby with your own egg.

Have you heard of the book Spirit Babies? It explains this beautiful idea that if you are meant to be the parent of a particular soul, it doesn’t really matter how it happens. I don’t think that just because a child doesn’t come from your egg that he/she is any less your child. This is what I have heard from the people I know who have adopted. It’s astonishing how many foster kids there are in Los Angeles County alone, never mind the rest of the world, so not sure what you mean by a family tearing itself up to make someone happy. Obviously this is all a personal choice. I just feel sad when women are unable to have their own children and adoption is looked down upon.

Well. Yes and no. I never, while going to college and planning for the career I wanted and while getting going on that career post-graduation,pushed aside thoughts of marriage and children until “later.” I never thought I couldn’t do both. I also, like you, figured 30 or 31 would be a great time to have a first child.

Life had other plans, as it often does. You can’t shove yourself into a mold of marrying young if, you know, the right man isn’t also there. Sure I’d have loved to have had a child at 31, but at 30 the man I thought would be that kid’s father changed his mind on the whole together-forever thing, and i didn’t meet the right man until I was nearly 33.

Life happens. And while it is still true statistically that fertility goes down steadily as your 20 leave you, it doesn’t entirely disappear and plenty of folks (me included!) have no trouble having babies late into their 30s.

I’m not saying I was lucky. I’m saying I lived my life the way it unfolded for me. You can plan and then you have to follow the places the chips fall.

I am reading a bunch of stuff lately about moms who became moms young talking about how that choice was better, but it seems plenty of young moms didn’t choose it so much as dealt with it when it happened. Which is exactly what I did.

There are some things we have control over, and some things we do not.The longer you wait to have babies, the fewer choices you have. Period.

Of course life happens, and we roll with the punches sometimes. But I challenge women who, at a late age and face fertility issues, who throw their hands up and say, “Gosh! This just HAPPENED to me! I didn’t luck out and find a guy at the right time!” Sure she may have been born with fertility issues, but age is the likely culprit.

Suggesting to young women to ignore family planning in their 20s and focus only on career has created untold social ills: countless women (and their spouses) who are devastated by infertility. A boom in babies born to older moms and suffer developmental and other challenges – not to mention the financial costs to the whole health and education systems.

There is a reason that the UK and France have launched public health campaigns to encourage women to have children younger than the current trend.

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