A Case for Not Waiting Between Marriage and Baby
The internet is abuzz with the news that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are expecting their first child, an announcement made less than five months after their much-publicized wedding. Under ordinary circumstances, the rush to have children after marriage might be greeted skeptically, but the royal couple is exempt from this criticism because Markle is 37 and commentators seem to agree that her biological clock doesn’t have much time to dilly dally.
On the other hand, most couples wait at least a few years between marriage and baby. The only people I know who actually encourage children early in a marriage are the would-be grandparents or those whose religion eschews birth control. Otherwise, most advice givers, especially exhausted couples who actually have children, are quick to encourage newlyweds to hold off.
Reasons to Wait
Some of the most compelling reasons to wait to procreate include the following:
- Children change your life and your relationship completely. Therefore, you should get to know each other and have fun before setting off the baby bomb.
- Divorce is incredibly traumatic on kids, so you need to make sure your marriage is strong before bringing children into it. Don’t add new stressors until you have mastered marital communication.
- Kids are expensive.
All of those reasons for waiting are valid, but none of them convinced me nor my husband to put the kibosh on our procreating plans. We weren’t royal or flush in cash, nor were we on the other side of 35. Rather, we were twenty-somethings with no real reason to hurry, but we did anyway. Our first bundle of joy arrived ten months after our wedding, and we had three children by our fifth anniversary. Our friends were happy for us, but I’m sure many wondered what we were thinking.
Therefore, I’ll try to make the unorthodox case for not waiting between marriage and baby.
Grow Together as a Couple and as a Family
Children change your life and your relationship completely, but this is even more reason to welcome them into a nascent, but stable, relationship. Why not grow together as a couple as you grow a family? Babies don’t always tear a couple apart, nor do they necessitate putting the married relationship on hold. Instead, this relationship can become stronger, not weaker, as a family grows.
Admittedly, this goes against numerous studies showing kids decrease marital satisfaction, but maybe this decrease comes as a result of getting too comfortable with a relationship that doesn’t include kids. Start married life with a baby and you can’t go down the happiness scale because you haven’t had time to go up it.
The best way to get to know your spouse is in a high-stress situation, and I can’t think of that many things more high stress than having kids, other than an illness or death. You could crack under the strain, but if you can survive a newlywed phase that includes morning sickness, mood swings, and colic, the rest is easy peasy.
Children Don't Cause Divorce
Divorce is traumatic, but I haven’t seen data suggesting couples who have kids early in marriage are any more likely to divorce than those who wait. Statistically, divorce rates are affected by age at marriage, poverty, and education levels. The stress of new parenthood can increase the number or severity of arguments between spouses, but this problem is rooted in the ways couples communicate, rather than in the DNA of any one baby.
In other words, people divorce; it stinks. If your gut is telling you something is off or if you can’t communicate with your spouse, you shouldn’t have kids nine months nor nine years after getting married. You probably shouldn’t have gotten married in the first place. Communication is a skill that can be learned and one that always needs to be practiced, but this is a different issue than the length of time between marriage and the baby carriage.
Divorce is traumatic, but I haven’t seen data suggesting couples who have kids early in marriage are any more likely to divorce than those who wait.
Kids Are Expensive
I don’t have a good counterpoint to the kids are expensive argument for waiting. Kids cost money to raise, a lot of money. Some studies try to quantify the cost of a child and estimate it at over $200,000 from birth to age 17 per child.
Because of these statistics, many couples wait to have children until they feel financially secure, but the definition of financial security can feel like a moving target. According to Business Insider, the typical homeowner is 40. Women reach their peak earning potential around age 40 and men around age 49. Waiting for these milestones probably means waiting yourself out of the possibility of children.
If you haven’t discussed finances before tying the knot, that’s a big problem. Raising kids on a budget is possible, just don’t worry about the Joneses and make sure you and your partner explicitly discuss your financial values.
If you are a newlywed unsure if you should have kids right away, you probably shouldn’t have kids right away. On the other hand, if your biological clock is deafening, why wait?
© 2018 M Riley