When's the Best Time to Start a Family?


When's the Best Time to Start a Family?
Figuring out when to have kids. Inside are the biological myths and realities about conception.

We think the biological clock is unique to women and that men hear it second-hand, via gentle prodding or violent arm-twisting and some, due to the volume on their televisions, never hear it at all. Is it true that most guys are seeking another decade of bar-hopping and deafening Pay-Per-View while their mates are shopping for ovulation predictor kits? In my case, I was ready; he wasn't. I was a month shy of 28 when I met Ben, my future spouse; he was 24. Early on we both glimpsed marriage and kids down the road, but how long was the road? On his map it was long enough to get settled into a career, save a nest egg, and watch The Matrix 500 more times. This meant engaged after two years, married a year later, and kids when the jabbing of my elbow in his side became too much to bear. I wanted three kids and figured my career could wait; I suspected my eggs couldn't. We took his route, started trying eight months after we were married, and had a baby boy more than two years later—with the help of fertility treatment.

Kara and Peter Thornton (not their real names) are in the reverse situation. Before they married—when she was 25 and he was 31—they discussed having kids once Kara reached her late twenties. "Now I'm 28, but I don't feel ready," says Kara. "He's really pushing for kids, but I want to develop my career, travel, have fun. Most of my friends are single; his are all having kids." Kara and Peter, who live on Manhattan's Upper East Side, are also at odds over where to raise a family. "He grew up in the city and wants to raise kids in the city. I grew up in the suburbs and want to raise kids there. Having this issue unresolved also makes me hesitant." Kara expects they'll compromise: "I could wait four years; he wants them now. We'll probably meet halfway."


Compromise is good for relationships. But while you're synchronizing your heads and hearts, other vitals are seeking your attention with a barely audible cry: There are rarely symptoms of the decline in fertility that begins in a woman's twenties or even of the plummeting of fertility ten years before menopause, which the average American woman enters at age 51.

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