At What Age Should You Have a Baby?
Having kids is a big responsibility, and a life altering event. Many people who have kids as teenagers often comment and complain about how they wish they had waited a few years before jumping into such a huge commitment. Raising children is probably a much more serious commitment than getting married, because when you're married you can always walk away from the situation if things get bad. When you're a parent, you're responsible for not only your life, but your child's life as well. There is no walking away or throwing in the towel when you have kids (well aside from putting your children up for adoption, which probably shouldn't be considered an option for most people). While there's definitely teenagers who mature faster than others, I think a rule of thumb should be applied when questioning what age you should have children. It would probably be best if people wait until they are in their mid-20's or 30's before having children, and for many reasons.
Teenagers and young 20-something adults are not as mentally sound in most cases as adults who are older than the age of 25. Of course, there are immature people of all ages, but they are much more commonly found in the age groups that are younger than 25. This is because the frontal lobe of the brain finally finishes it's development between the ages of 22 and 25. This portion of the brain is one of the most important ones, as it controls decision-making as well as many other important functions of the brain. So a person who is 20 years old may be very smart for their age, maybe even smarter than a 30 year old, but they will still probably be much more smarter at making decisions by the time they turn 25 if they can just wait things out a little. Because of this major change in the brain during these years, people often wake up one day and suddenly decide that their feelings have changed when it comes to many things. They may all of a sudden want different things in life than they previously did. So if two 20 year old's are dating and they are trying to have children, it may not be the best decision at that point. Not just because their decision-making skills may improve within 5 years, but also mainly because one of them may start to feel differently about the situation and change their mind within a few years and want a new partner or different lifestyle. Another thing to keep in mind, is that people in their late 20's and 30's generally have more life experiences under their belt than a person who is 19 or 20. They've spent years paying bills, working full-time jobs, as well as dealing with stress and big responsibilities. It may not be best for a teen or very young adult to start taking on a huge responsibility like having a kid, until after they've dealt with many other responsibilities in life for awhile to see if they can handle it and fit a baby into their lifestyle.
When it comes to babies, they sure aren't cheap. As of 2011, the average cost to raise a child per year is now around $12,000 per year. That works out to be about $216,000 total for 18 years of parenting, and that's not including tuition costs if you plan to send your kid to college. As a teenager, a person will probably have a hard enough time raising enough money to live on themselves, in addition to having to worry about gathering up an extra 12 grand every year for their child. 18 years is a very long time, and people who have kids too early in life often regret that they never had time to get an education or build a business. This is because once a person has a child, they are constantly preoccupied with raising that child, that they don't have time to focus on their business or school, so many become stuck in the same struggle for money for the rest of their lives. It's probably best for teens to focus on their financial goals first, before having kids. Life is already difficult for most, there's no reason to purposely complicate things further.
All Eyes On You
When you're a teen parent, people are more critical of what you do and how you do it than they would be with an older adult. Older people don't trust teens, and you can't really blame them for it because it's not as if the stereotype doesn't have a little truth to it. Teens are notorious for being irresponsible and making poor decisions. This is all probably because of a lack of life experiences and a partially-developed frontal lobe, as discussed previously. So when a teen has a parent, there will be much more prying eyes into your personal life, because people outside of your household (maybe even inside) will be concerned and worried for the welfare of your children. Nobody likes to hear about kids being abused or found in run-down homes with nothing to eat and their bodies being malnourished. So people often keep their eyes out for these types of things, and not just people, but government and state agencies as well. Agencies like CPS (Child Protective Services) and the Department of Human Services (DHS) investigate complaints from neighbors or evidence that a person is abusing their children or otherwise neglecting them. They are especially vigilant when it comes to teen mothers, because there is probably a higher incidence rate for them when it comes to abusive households with teenage parents in them. So if you decide to have kids at a young age, just keep in mind that you will probably have to make sure that you maintain a good image to the community so you don't run into hassles and problems such as these.
Once a person has their first child, they are now responsible for someone else's life, every day of the week, for 18 years. This means having to give up a lot of hobbies or fun things you would normally be doing with some of that time. It means having to stay home on Friday nights when everyone else your age is out having fun at the bars or clubs. Even if the nightlife isn't your scene, there will definitely be many times where you will probably wish you had waited a little longer in life before having kids. A single mother will have to find someone to watch their kid while they go on dates, and many men may become disinterested if they find out she already has kids (Lots of people want to have their first kid with someone else who has never had kids before, so the experience of it being "the first time" is similar for both). A young man who has to pay child support may want to go out and do things or buy something for himself, but won't have enough money because of the monthly payments he has to make. Maybe your friends will be going on an overseas or multi-country trip or adventure, and you can't go because you have a child to look after. You should enjoy your youth while you still have it. Your teen and young adult years only last for about 10 years. After that, most people have 50 or 60 more years of adult life. So there's really no reason why someone should rush into more responsibilities during the time period that many call "the prime" of their lives. Instead, you should spent that time doing all the fun things you can't do once you have kids.
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