Delaying Motherhood: Smart or Selfish?

Delaying Motherhood

Is having a child the end of living your professional and personal, non familial dreams? I can safely say that my current lifestyle on my present income would be a financial impossibility after children.

I am twenty seven years old and I have spent the last six years of my life living out my wildest dreams; from being paid to perform to traveling the world to living in New York City. All of it has been made possible, or at the very least significantly simpler by one thing, no children.

While I may be reaching the child bearing age, or well into it, depending on who you ask, I have no plans to start the baby making process any time soon. I can’t even fathom being responsible for another being at this point in my life. Seriously, I was dog sitting for a friend last year and stressed out the whole time. I hated having to plan my day around getting back to the apartment just to walk the damn dog again.

I don’t think it’s a maturity issue, it’s more that I find these young adult years of my life to be a unique opportunity. The chance to be selfish with my time, money, and resources. It’s a chance that may not come around again until I’m a retired, empty nester, and quite frankly, I’m not willing to put all my hopes on that chance 30 to 40 years down the line. After all, I’ve got my health NOW, I’ve got time NOW, I may not have a ton of money now, but when you’re just worrying about yourself, you can sacrifice a lot of comforts to make things more affordable creating significantly more opportunities.

For example, I can couchsurf while traveling, live in a tiny NYC apartment with a ton of roommates, and employ a whole host of cost cutting strategies on everything from my day to day to extraordinary adventures because the only comfort and safety level I have to consider is my own.

Even my mom who got married relatively young at age 24 didn’t have her first child until she was 32 (and that was over thirty years ago). She and my dad traveled Europe for 100 days, road tripping and camping out instead. They also went to Egypt to visit the pyramids. Then they went on Safari in Kenya. Throughout that time they launched major careers in big time companies. THEN they had five children.

I guess I’ve always been of the same mindset. I’ve got lots to do before having any babies. Not just because I’ve got some pretty wild personal dreams, but because I honestly can’t afford them. I don’t have the time or the money to have a baby. Or rather, I don’t have the desire to prioritize baby making and raising a child in the immediate future. And the last thing I want is to get pregnant now and put all the dreams I never got to pursue or follow on my child.

Just to clarify, I don’t think you can’t have independent dreams after childbirth, but they instantly become a secondary or tertiary priority, particularly when resources like time and money are limited. I’m not ready to be that selfless.

Ironically, I think having a baby at this point in my life would also be incredibly selfish. Having a dependent on my limited income would put me below the poverty line (even outside of NYC) and able to collect on all kinds of public assistance. Even if I chose not to collect from Uncle Sam, I’d have to get some fiscal support from somewhere, parents, friends, family; at least while I figured my shit out. Considering all that burden, having a baby now is probably more selfish than following my own dreams.

Now I’m not blissfully unaware of the realities of biology. I understand that time is of the essence when considering fetal and maternal health, but pre-thirty is just too pre-mature for me. I’m also not so naïve to think that everything will align perfectly in my future creating the perfect conditions for bringing life into the world, specifically my world. But not having a financial plan for such an occasion is the definition of irresponsible. I am more willing to accept not being married, not even having a partner, or a whole host of other possible realities before I am willing to consider having a child without a sound financial plan.

So is the pursuit of my personal and professional dreams first and foremost selfish? Maybe. But certainly not any more selfish than having a baby before I’m ready, financially or emotionally, and putting undue burden on myself, the government, my family, and most importantly, my future child.

About The Author

Stefanie O’Connell is a New York City based actress and freelance writer. She chronicles her struggle to “live the dream” on a starving artists’ budget at thebrokeandbeautifullife.com.

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29 responses

  1. LOVE this post, Stephanie! I am sure people will have a lot of opinions on this :) Personally, I agree and think if I had a baby right now (I’m 28), that would be really selfish and a horrible idea. My brother, a physician, reminds me that pre-35 is a better idea, so I think sometime between now and then will be best for me. But I do understand people have different values and opinions on this. I think you have to be prepared mentally, emotionally, and financially before having a baby – regardless of age.

    P.s. Nice new blog layout, Josh. I love it!
    Natalie @ Financegirl recently posted…Is Selling Your House Without A Realtor A Good Idea?My Profile

  2. This is an insightful reflection on a very personal issue–thank you for sharing. I completely agree with you that it’s wise to live out your dreams and aspirations before settling down to parenthood. My husband and I got married at 24 and we’re only just now (at 30) ready to have babies. Like your parents, we’ve traveled and done lots of adventurous stuff together (I too lived in a tiny NYC apartment and am glad I did!).

    No sense in cutting your dreams short just to fulfill a societal expectation of motherhood–more power to you for pursuing what you want! I think that will make you a stronger, more well-rounded mother (if and when) you do have children! I know I feel that way about myself.
    Mrs. Frugalwoods recently posted…Frugal Hound Sniffs: An Interview SeriesMy Profile

  3. Smart post, Stefanie. I am amazed when people say it’s selfish to delay or forego motherhood. To me, it’s completely selfish and immature to have a child without having thought it out well and good and without being prepared to make the many, many sacrifices that come with parenting. Babies and children need lots of love, lots of time and attention, and a fair amount of cash as well. When one chooses to make decisions that produce a baby, they should be well-aware that it could, in fact, lead to a baby, and if they’re not ready for that responsibility, then that is true selfishness. I think you’re smart – and selfLESS – to know that you’re not ready to settle down and raise a baby, and to avoid putting yourself in a situation in which one will come into the world when you’re not ready for it.
    Laurie @thefrugalfarmer recently posted…A Singular Focus of Paying Off Debt Leads to PeaceMy Profile

  4. As a parent, I can say everything changes when the child comes. We waited until we had stable finances and no credit card debt. I think it worked out well for us. Now, since my son was born, I have been able to enjoy different things, but I really enjoy my life. I did what I wanted to do when I was single along within my marriage pre-baby. You really have to be ready for a child. It is not easy.
    Grayson @ Debt Roundup recently posted…How One Simple Excel Mistake Cost Me $10,000My Profile

  5. I think that there is no right answer except your own personal answer. If you do not feel like you are ready to have kids, then you are not. And if you never feel ready, then that’s fine too. I had my son at 27 and I remember my obgyn telling me there was no good time to have kids because when you are young and have the energy, you don’t have money and when you are “old” and have the money you don’t have energy. You really just have to go with your heart and no one can judge you for that.
    Shannon @ Financially Blonde recently posted…Music Mondays – I Would Do AnythingMy Profile

  6. Not selfish at all…you’re only 27! Still young. We didn’t have our first child until last year when I was 33 and my wife 31. We were married for 5 years and financially stable. I love the little one but I think if we had rushed into having a child, we would have missed out on a lot of things in life that would be difficult to do with a little one. And health wise, I’ve heard what Natalie mentioned above…that pre-35 is what most physicians say.
    Andrew@LivingRichCheaply recently posted…How Exciting is Your City?My Profile

  7. Oh wow, Stefanie… you’re way too young! I just found out yesterday that my oldest daughter who is 34 next month is likely going to wait another 9 – 14 months before getting pregnant for her second. Her baby is 9 months now. Well at least now I know they’re planning a second, this was always an open question. Anyways, one of my other daughters just turned 29 and she always said she wanted to have her kids young (like at 25) but it seems she’s farther from that now than before (lives with her boyfriend but he’s still trying to get established in a career). It seems to me that the old rule of before 35 is being pushed out now, am I wrong? BTW, you are one of 5, what number are you and how many sisters and brothers? I know you said your parents are asking about grandchildren (I was guilty of that as soon as my daughter married in 2011) but to me that is sort of unfair as you are quite young. Is it because you are the oldest?

    Nice new site look Joshua! I did a double take, especially when I started reading the article and then I figured out it was Stefanie.
    debs@debtdebs recently posted…Money Lessons in Marine LifeMy Profile

  8. I will admit it is a completely selfish decision on my part not to have kids. Yep..don’t miss them, never have. It’s not for everyone and it’s completely personal, no matter how much people like to butt in! Enjoy your life. You can always change your mind.
    kemkem recently posted…House of Terror, BudapestMy Profile

  9. I just got married this past Saturday (woohoo!) and already parents have been bothering us about grandchildren. This actually happened before the wedding, too. I keep saying “unless you plan to quit your jobs and move in with us and be a live-in nanny while we work and travel and enjoy ourselves, you’ll be waiting for a few years!”. I want to travel far more than I’ve ever been able to so far.
    Daisy @ Prairie Eco Thrifter recently posted…How Healthy Do You Eat? Take These Steps to Improve Your DietMy Profile

  10. I understand where you are coming from, I used to feel that way too. My only caveat is that fertility declines steadily after 30, and while you think that infertility only happens to other people, or to “older” people…you are wrong.

    By all means, wait until you are ‘ready’. But don’t wait too long, or you’ll find yourself childless and disappointed that you didn’t get your Shit together sooner.

    -someone who’s been there and wishes she could give back the free t-shirt

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