When Couples Put Off Having Children Until It’s Too Late

The photo offers the words "Not yet! Not ever? in a foggy sky over a green cliff with yellow flowers, wave spray and calm pale blue water.

You know how you think about going out, but you mess around and time passes and after a while it’s too late or you decide you’re fine with staying home? Deciding whether to have children can be like that.

We often hear these days that couples are delaying parenthood. While you’re busy going to school and building your careers, it doesn’t make sense to start a family. You want to travel and have adventures, too. You’re not ready for 2 a.m. feedings and constant responsibility. Time passes. Suddenly you’re in your late 30s or even early 40s and NOW, when your fertility is dwindling, you’re ready to have a family. Or maybe at least one of you has decided life is good just the way it is so let’s forget about babies.

Ring any bells?  

I was born in the post-WWII baby boom. Our fathers had just survived a war and were happy to be alive. Jobs were plentiful, college was not required, houses were affordable, and birth control was not a thing. Couples married in their early 20s and had children right away. They didn’t consider any other way of living. They would have their adventures after the children were grown.

Now, people are waiting longer to get married, averaging 27 for women and 29 for men. Maybe they’re being smart and skipping that “practice marriage” some of us older folk tried right out of college. The pressure to marry so they could have sex without worrying about out-of-wedlock pregnancy has faded away. Marriage is no longer required for sex or having babies.

It takes longer to “settle down” these days. You need a college degree to get any kind of job, need to work way more than 40 hours a week to establish your career, and homes are ridiculously expensive. Husbands and wives both have to work to pay the bills. And what about those student loan debts? So you put off parenthood. Years pass. You lose the urge. Or whoops, when you do start trying, you can’t get pregnant, and you dive into the miseries of infertility.

Does any of this sound familiar? Does it make sense? Are you caught between the clock and getting your life together? Are you putting off parenthood? Does your partner feel it’s too late while you still want to try? Is life just fine without children?

Has not yet turned into not at all?

Please share in the comments.


Mother’s Day is over. Hallelujah. I don’t know about you, but I have heard enough about the glories of motherhood. I want to tell you about something nice that happened to me. I was taking it easy on Sunday watching a TV show when my phone rang. John, a 90-year-old friend who used to sing in my church choir, told me I had been on his mind. He knew that Mother’s Day was painful for me because I’d never had a chance to be a mother. He wanted me to know that I would have been a wonderful mother. He was sure of it.

I don’t know how you all would have reacted, but I was touched and pleased. It was so sweet for this great-great grandfather who says his family is what keeps him going to think of me sitting alone in my house on Mother’s Day and understand that it could be a difficult day.

How did your Mother’s Day go?

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3 thoughts on “When Couples Put Off Having Children Until It’s Too Late

  1. Yes, “not yet” turned into “not at all” for me. I always wanted children but waited until I felt ready. But waiting until my early 30s was too late for me. After many, many years of grieving, I can honestly say that I like my life now. Of course, I had to completely change everything because I had structured my entire life around raising children (my career, where I lived, etc.). I doubt I would be this happy and comfortable in my own skin if I was living my old life. That old life didn’t fit me anymore.


  2. I used to love this time of year, but like most holidays – Mother’s Day is becoming a painful reminder that I’ll never have a family of my own.
    I have an amazing mom to celebrate on mother’s day, so I try to focus my attention on her; in addition to my mother-in-law, and more recently, my step-daughter. On Mother’s Day, my large extended family meets after church for a yummy southern lunch prepared at the home where we all grew up – this day in particular, the women are not allowed to lift a finger, so the men do all of the cooking and cleaning! Before we eat, one of the men says a prayer and thanks all generations of mothers for giving each of us life, reminding them that children are life’s greatest blessings. While we eat, we visit and share stories about growing up. And later, we give the moms their well-deserved gifts (some home-made) and tell them how much we love them.
    I help the boys, as they awkwardly wait for all the girls to go first in the buffet line, and then they direct me to go next…I do deep-breathing meditation during the prayer so that I don’t burst into tears…as we tell stories about our childhood, my cousins discuss the many features and traits that their children share with them while I do my best not to imagine how my kids might have looked or talked or walked…then I give my mom her present and she gratefully reminds me that she is so happy and lucky to have me as a daughter – her statement both warms and breaks my heart. At the end of the day, I am physically, mentally, and emotionally drained. Oh, and this year my step-daughter (who gave me cards, or flowers, or sweet thoughtful Mother’s Day presents over the years) didn’t even text.
    While I love my family very much, it’s getting more difficult to celebrate Mother’s Day because it is full of bittersweet moments that are constant reminders of what will never be.


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