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Should we really plan when to start a family?

First TV presenter Kirstie Allsop aired her views that she thought women should have babies before university. Now Labour’s childcare spokesman (or woman), Lucy Powell has announced that she thinks we ought to have children in our thirties in order to establish a career before motherhood kicks in. They’re both valid opinions – of which they’re of course entitled to – but with respect, do we really need instructions about reproducing? As we all know, the baby/career debate is one with lots of mileage and part of modern society. But shouldn’t these women be flying the flag for working mums as opposed to telling us the ‘right’ way to go about things? There will always be arguments for and against having children early on or once a career has been paved out, but is there ever really going to be a right answer?

For me, the debate on the best time to start baby making is jam packed with ‘ifs’ and ‘buts.’ Scheduling a time to have kids is all well and good, but what it things don’t go to plan? What if you decide to have children when you’ve hit the salary bracket you were aiming for, only to find you want a career change just as you were about to take the non-contraceptive plunge? On the other hand, you could make a decision to start a family before your career takes off, but find that the reality of buying a home delays your strategy. What’s more, pregnancies can sometimes take a while to happen and on other occasions, they can come as a bit of a shock. Whichever route you take, there is every chance that your plan could turn into a distant memory regardless of what you’re aiming for.

In my opinion having a long-term baby making plan is nice in theory, but a bit pointless in practice. We never know what life is going to throw as us, so what’s the point in designating a particular period to parenthood? Surely setting out goalposts just makes the disappointment of missing even worse and adds more pressure? I know people who were determined to have kids by the time they were 30 and then became depressed when they’d not met the right person to have them with.

Although everyone is different, when it came to starting a family I just went with what felt right. I didn’t make a conscious decision as to when I’d want to go about creating a mini-me, but I knew I wanted children and figured I’d know when to take the plunge. Incidentally,  I wouldn’t say I became a mum once my career had peaked, but I felt I’d explored enough of the world to take a step back from it and put my efforts into my baby.

Of course this doesn’t mean that having a baby shouldn’t involve some thought. Bringing a little person into the world is a big responsibility and a decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly. But what we should remember is that every potential parent is different. We all have different lifestyles, different ambitions and want different things out of life. The idea that there is a hard and fast rule to the timing of parenthood is both impractical, unrealistic and in many cases, out of our control. After all, kids don’t come with rule books, so why should their conception be any different?

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