Where do babies fit in for millennials?

Last week we were talking about millennials, those folks born between approximately 1982 and 2000. They’re between 18 and 36 years old now. Many of these younger adults seem to be putting off marrying and having children, possibly forever. Being a couple generations older, I asked for younger readers to enlighten me. A couple did, but I need more input.

Here’s what I see. Our world has changed so much since I was young. The grandparents and great grandparents of today’s young adults married in their early 20s, if not younger. Statistics show the age of first marriage steadily creeping upward, averaging about 27 for women and 29 for men now. That’s an average. I know many who are well into their 30s and not even close to marriage.

Back in the day, the economy was so astonishingly different that a couple could afford to live on just one income. They could afford to buy a house and raise a family. The wives were free to focus on home and children. Hence the baby boom.

It’s not like that today. I wouldn’t want live in a world where a woman didn’t have the same rights as men to pursue an education and a career. But it takes years to finish school and get established in a career, years of paying off student loans and working far more than 40 hours a week. Where does having a baby fit in? It goes onto the back burner or off the stove altogether. Birth control, now readily available—you can buy condoms at the grocery store!—makes sure there are no oops babies.

Meanwhile, the cost of living has escalated to the point it takes at least two incomes to survive. In the major metropolitan areas where the jobs are, many young people may never be able to afford to buy a home. In the Bay Area, it costs almost a million dollars for a falling-down 1950s tract house, more for anything better. How can you raise children when you’re living in a cubbyhole of an apartment, maybe even sharing it with other millennials who can’t afford their own homes?

People do it, of course. Babies do come. My Facebook feed is full of baby pictures, but  those parents are mostly older, just barely managing to procreate before it’s too late. I suspect many of today’s millennials will “age out” before they have a chance to create a traditional family. Currently one in five American women reach menopause without becoming mothers. I wonder what the ratio will be in 20 years?

Please do comment. What do you see happening? What is it like for you?


10 thoughts on “Where do babies fit in for millennials?

  1. I’m an older millennial at 36. I was adopted when I was a baby and all I’ve ever wanted was to be a mother and have children of my own. I am an only child, and my mother wants to be a grandmother too. I went to college, accumulated student loans and am still paying them off. I live in Southern California, and the cost of living is astronomical. I have a full-time job , but it’s not enough for me to buy a house or invest with. I desperately want to have a child, but my boyfriend of three years does not. He doesn’t believe in marriage either (another millennial trend). My boyfriend owns a house, but depends on me for half the mortgage payment every month. We couldn’t afford to do it alone. We have a wonderful life together, it’s very peaceful, but a little too quiet. I always dreamed of having a house full of kids all running around, playing with friends, etc. If I stay with him any longer, I’m afraid I will age out of having children of my own. I’m not sure if I could even afford to have one by myself. I would probably have to move back into my mom’s house. I love my boyfriend, but I have to make a tough decision VERY soon. Do I stay with him and never have kids? Or leave him and try another way. At my age, I would have to immediately start dating, hopefully find a partner who also wants kids, fall in love, get married, and then…hope for a successful pregnancy. After all of that, I’d be pushing 40. At this point, I feel like my best and quickest option is to go to sperm bank and be a single mother on my own. I feel paralyzed and I can’t make a decision. All my girlfriends got married and had kids years ago. I do feel left behind and it’s very hard to look at all their cute baby pics on social media. It just makes me sad to think I will never get to experience motherhood. I feel like I wasted so much time on a career that didn’t pan out and dating the wrong guys. I’m finally with a really great man, but I’m not sure his love can fill the void of having no children. I’m devastated. I know if I stay with him I will regret never having children and I will end up resenting him for it. I read this blog searching for advice to help push me in the right direction–either coming to terms with being childless or to jump off that cliff of uncertainty and start over on a new path with no guarantee of having a child of my own.


    • Hi DJ,

      I’m Crystal. I’m the original poster, and I have advice for you. Take it or leave it, I guess. I am very much pro-baby. I had a baby last year, after a marriage with no kids, and then got divorced because of that issue. You sound like a wonderful person, who would be a wonderful mother. Also your mother, who wants grandchildren, would be a wonderful grandmother. When my older sister had her first child, and my mother became a grandmother for the very first time, even though I knew my parents were awesome, I was totally blown away by how wonderful my parents were at being grandparents. It was amazing to see that loving bond.

      First of all, your boyfriend, who owns a house and can’t afford this house without you, and doesn’t believe in marriage, is a tool. There is absolutely no excuse for him depending on you for half the mortgage payment, unless he is willing to give you a ring and properly wed you, AND make all your dreams come true. Since he doesn’t believe in marriage, why should you believe in having a nuclear family? I think your sperm bank baby idea is the perfect answer to his non-belief in marriage, (while having ALL the benefits of a WIFE). It is 2018. If men don’t want marriage, and they basically just want what they want all the time, then women should respond in kind. Also, added benefit is if you and your boyfriend break up, and then you go and date again, there won’t be any baby daddy drama. I’m not a lawyer or anything, but in the state I live in, I have seen how long-time boyfriend-girlfriend cohabitating people when they break up end up going through a divorce court situation where the ex gets half of the house that she lived in and helped pay for, just FYI. You are his common law wife, okay?

      I was going to write another paragraph about how having a baby really isn’t as hard as everyone makes it out to be. But I don’t have any way to judge your own situation. I say go for the sperm bank!


  2. I’m 32 years old. I got married just before my 30th birthday. I didn’t buy my first house until I was 31 years old. I didn’t finish my medical training until I was 30 and have just started the job I’ve been training for for the last 12 years. I don’t want children. My life is full enough as it is and to be honest I would struggle to find the time. I would make the time if it was a priority but it isn’t. If I change my mind and its too late then that’s the choice I will have made and I’ll have to reconcile that with all the other great things I’ve achieved in that time by not having a child. There’s so much more to life than becoming a parent.


  3. I’m 35 years old. You were hoping for more input, so here goes. I dated my ex-boyfriend for 10 years, starting in our last year of college. During that time we went through a series of low-wage jobs, finally started careers, then I spent three years in law school. We weren’t married and didn’t really talk much about having kids. It was hard enough to just take care of ourselves, with huge amounts of school loan debt for both of us, and me trying to work while in law school full time. Plus, most of our friends weren’t married and none of them had children, so it felt like the norm to be child-free. I kept saying we’d decide on marriage and kids after I was done with school. Then it was after I found the right job. Finally I realized the relationship wasn’t what I wanted and I was just pushing off the inevitable pain from ending it.

    Our relationship ended about four years ago, and I very quickly felt the pressure of being a childless woman in her 30s. I know I have options like adoption that will be available once I’m too old to have biological children, but I don’t want to be caring for a baby in my 40s. And at any rate, I’ve never been thrilled about the idea of pregnancy and childbirth even when I do think about having kids, so I’ve been open to taking the biological route off the table for a long time. Still, it is like a window has been closing and there’s so little time until it’s shut.

    I have a long-term, committed boyfriend who wants us to get married, but he is absolutely certain he does not want children. I don’t have very strong feelings either way. I just have this paralyzing fear that I might someday feel regret. Regret for not having children? Regret for ending a wonderful relationship when I don’t even know that I want kids? I don’t know, I think it’s both. So now I’m stuck and this window is still closing. I keep putting off the decision of marriage until we can “figure out” this whole kid thing. I’m worried that I won’t make a decision until it’s too late to actively make a decision, since my age will decide for me.

    [Side note on the “Millennial” label: 1982, really? I was born in 1982, which apparently makes me a “Millennial,” though I don’t identify as one and I can’t say I identify with the 18 year-olds who are also lumped into this group. I could have a kid that’s 18 right now!]


    • Erin, thank you for sharing this. I know what you mean about the 1982 date. Different sources use different dates to define millennials. I’m a baby boomer, but I feel very different from people born right after War II or during the 1960s. Silly labels. But I really appreciate your story.


  4. This is a few month’s old, but here it goes. My husband and I are in our early 30s. Together for over 10 years and married for four. I always assumed I would be a mom and really do want the experience. HOWEVER, college left me a with a crapload of debt, and while my job pays decent enough, I will still be paying these things off forever. Add that to my husband deciding he couldn’t stand to work for someone else anymore and started his own business that makes very little (which I initially supported but really don’t think it’s worth the stress anymore). So here we are in our early 30’s with mountains of credit card and student loan debt due to bad choices in our younger years. I am also the breadwinner and wouldn’t be able to afford being out of work for any substantial amount of time. Add that to lack of affordable childcare in our area and minimal support system….My husband thinks it would all magically work out if we went ahead and tried for kids but isn’t begging to have them either.

    We now have too much debt and never traveled or did any of the things I always wanted before starting a family. By the time we would be in a position that I would feel comfortable with, I’ll be close to 40. I don’t want to bring a child into a financially unstable home or one with older parents. We both have parents who died young, and due to health issues, being older parents probably isn’t a great idea for us either.

    What really gets me is the few times I have expressed my concern to a friend or family member as to why we have postponed having a baby they usually respond with “There is never a good time,” “Oh you’ll figure it out,” or something like “Babies really aren’t that expensive” and “you can still travel with kids!” etc. I do believe there are better times to bring a child into this world though, and I also believe in taking my mental health (and my husband’s) into consideration. It isn’t fair to purposely bring a child into this world when we aren’t stable enough to feel comfortable with it.

    So now I am trying to come to terms and reconcile my past choices and what it means for my future. While I really, really want to have a child, I don’t want to continue the pattern of financial or emotional issues because I grew up in that kind of household and don’t want to do that to another child. With the debt we have at this point, we won’t be living it up without children, but at least I can find some comfort in knowing that I’m not projecting our struggles onto another living person.


    • Rach, thank you for sharing this. What a tough situation and not an unusual one, I think. It’s so hard to get clear financially these days. I hope you can find a way to do some of the things you have always wanted to do.


  5. I’m 37 years old and have never really had the feeling of wanting children of my own through lately have gone through stages of wanting a child, then not and feeling anxious because I cannot make up my mind. Perhaps it’s a time thing, easy to say when you are younger, changes when you are older. However, a lot of what is preventing me from deciding is finance/debt. I refuse to bring a child into the world if I am struggling to put food on the table for myself. And the debt due to dumb decisions made in my younger years and though budgeting wasn’t taught in main school and parents just did what they could to get by. If I had gone to university instead of work, I might have learned what not to do! I often curse myself for the financial mistakes I made.
    I’m an only child and my mother had me at 42 though she passed away a few years ago (cancer) and back in the early 80s having a child in your early 40’s was a no no! But I turned out all right. Sometimes I feel a sense of pressure from others around me that a woman in a relationship ought to want/have a child–though I have known people older than myself who have not had children and they are very happy and have many friends.
    My husband also works in a retirement village and says only a small percentage of residents get visits from their kids/grand/great grandkids, some seldom and others never. Most families come out of the woodwork once they have passed over to rifle through their gear. It’s sad but reality I guess. For those that had children early in their lives, those kids are now busy with their own lives and their kids’ lives, etc.
    If I become financially able by my early 40’s, do I really want to up-end my life for a family of my own? Or be content hearing about my friends’ kids and their lives, knowing I can travel and spend money of my own instead of having the life sucked out of me and drained financially by children until they can stand on their own.


  6. This comment is late but still valid I guess: In Australia I think a lot of people still follow the old traditional pattern: having babies in their twenties. Early twenties.


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