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What Was I Waiting For?

I’m just going to dive right into this one.  No meandering run-up to this.  On Sunday, The Washington Post published an article by Mark Regnerus, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Texas at Austin, titled Say Yes.  What Are You Waiting For. He seems to think, and believes that he has data to back this up, that American women would be much better off if we married younger.  Young.  At 20 or 21.  To men who are a few years older than us.  And that the main reason we’re currently putting off until later is because our parents are leading us to believe that we should (I’m not going to spell out his nonsense arguements, read them yourself).

I found so much about his argument repellent.  And silly.  I immediately started to think of the man I thought I loved when I was 21.  Even though I cared about him deeply, I knew – KNEW, that there was no way we were meant to be together.  There was just NO way.  And sure enough we split up before I graduated from college (he was a couple of years older, go figure).  He tracked me down a few years later and we got together for a weekend, for old times sake.  Even though only a few years had passed we had nothing in common anymore.  Nothing to talk about.  Well, nothing but sex.  And yes, if we’d stayed together that might not have happened.  Might not.

The article set off a wonderful discussion on Slate’s XXFactor. Many of the writer’s comments were similar to my thoughts on the topic.  That Regnerus was a big fat idiot.  Well, they were more articulate than that.  But that was the gist of it.

There was one post that pointed out that perhaps there was something redeemable in Regnerus’s article.  Emily Yoffe made the case that, “maybe finding early love and making it permanent might be a beneficial thing for many people. It certainly saves on the years of heartache, dead ends, and wondering if you’ll find someone while you can still have children.”

Well damn.  Why’d she have to go and say that?  Because yeah, I can think of a few (dozen) women I know whose lives might have been much happier, better, easier if they didn’t have that whole biological clock thing hanging over them. So here we are.  A big fat idiot with a mostly repellent argument does bring up a salient point.  Well, he didn’t bring it up, but the article did.  Not all women want to have kids.  And not all marriages are about kids.  But if a woman does want to get married and have kids then perhaps she ought to get her butt in gear and get married before the age of 30.

And least that’s what I think.  I think.  But I also think that no one should get married before they’re ready or to anyone they don’t want to marry.  I’d like to know what you think about this.  This is clearly not a yes/no question.  It’s complicated.  And messy.  And maybe even ridiculous.  But I think it’s fascinating that it’s 2009 and we’re still tossing this one around in the Sunday papers, trying to make heads or tails of it.

Do you think women who know or think they’d like to get married and have kids should be focused on getting married before the age of 30?

  • Yes. They’ll save themselves years of stress and potential issues with infertility by marrying and having kids early. (16 votes)
  • No. 30 is too young a threshold. And it’s ridiculous to expect women to priortize family over career and personal goals. (16 votes)
  • Actually, 30 might be too old a threshold. Women who know they want a family should be looking to get married by 25 or 28. (9 votes)
  • I can’t possibly answer this one. I don’t think people make choices like this (who/when they will marry) based on these issues. (35 votes)

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19 to “What Was I Waiting For?”


  1. Anonymous says:

    I will be 30 this year, and one thing I have learned is that I still have lots to learn. I dont think there is a “too old or too young” an age for marrying if you just know you have found your soul mate, unless your underage, then I say wait……Whn I was 20 you couldnt tell me anything! When I was 25 I was becoming a bit wiser but still had a ways to go as far as even knowing what I wanted or needed from a man, much less actually knowing how to go about getting it.

    I want children someday and Im not opposed to marriage although its not an absolute requirement. I dont know many HAPPY married people so it would take a helluva guy to put me in the marriage frame of mind.

    I do think if my biological clock from time to time but not to the point where Im willing to marry any slimeball whos willing to take the plunge. I figure worst case scenario I can have a baby on my own. I make enough money…. I’d use my support system of friends and family to help me if need be. they say it takes a village right?

    Basically, whats the point of getting hitched and having kids with someone when you barely even know yourself??? Just for the sake of having kids is NOT a good reason. Once a person is mature and ready for marriage and/or children I say go for it. Until then, whats the rush?

    DetroitFitChick

  2. SpikeTheLobster says:

    My partner’s 34 and we don’t have kids yet. Provided we do it in the next two or three years and are careful, there isn’t too much risk. 40 is a more dangerous point – though my boss in France had a perfectly healthy little one at that age. And if it gets too late, adopt. It’s better than faking a relationship every day for the rest of your life.

  3. undersundog says:

    My mom was 37 when she had me. Ten years later she adopted my little brother, two more years later, she adopted my second little brother.

    Yes, my parents are older than most. But they’re also at a stage in their lives where they don’t have to work as hard as young parents, so they’re able to participate much more fully in my brothers’ activites than they even could when I was growing up.

    Sure, being an older parent isn’t for everyone. But it’s one way to do it and my parents are great at it.

    Oh yah, my mom had an unsuccessful first marriage when she was 28 – partially because she felt that old pressure…

    My answer: A solid WAIT UNTIL YOU’RE READY.

  4. lorilori17 says:

    I voted “can’t possibly answer this”, but my true answer contains a little of all four responses :) I have known plenty of women who felt the peer pressure to be married + kids at a certain age, and plenty who felt the opposite pressure – that it was optimal to wait. The only thing that bothers me about any of this are people (men and women) who have this timeline for marriage & family spelled out, and if they aren’t hitting the milestones they have created for themselves, they are truly in a panic. That makes me cringe!

    I only skimmed the article, but noticed that the author doesn’t even bring up how dating and “hooking up” have changed for college-age people. If we were all still “courting,” he wouldn’t have a job, I suppose. :)

    I’m 37, no kids. I got married at 27. Any earlier would have been crazy-wrong for me; I was not prepared to make any sort of commitment before then, and even at 27 (with the right guy) it was hard. Not everyone’s maturity level is at the same place at any age, and I’d be willing to bet that a lot of 22-year old women are in the same place I was then – having a good time and not ready to jump into marriage (and maybe kids).

  5. Veka says:

    Wow, undersundog sounds just like me. My mom was 2 months short of 42 when she had me. She was also married in her early twenties, long before she met my dad. They never had any kids and divorced after only a few years of marriage. I know many people who dive into a relationship and get married very young (regardless of if they have kids or not), and I see a lot of problems and divorces. I think getting married too young is worse a lot of times because they still have their whole lives ahead of them and don’t really know what they want. Or when the future hits them like a ton of bricks, they may regret getting married so young and missing out on other life experiences.

    But I’m not knocking on people who get married young, because I also know some couples who were high school sweethearts, etc. and they are doing great. But for the most part, it’s not a fairy tale like that. I almost made the mistake of picking up and moving far away to be with C because he kept on telling me he wanted to marry and be with me… and let’s just say I’m glad I didn’t.

    In conclusion, I think it’s different for everyone, and it’s impossible to say at what age to settle down (and, for some, have kids).

  6. Singlegal says:

    i was married at 26 and, well, we know how that ended. I didn’t have any interest in kids so that wasn’t the reason. I’m not sure I felt age had much to do with it – it felt right, and I went with it (probably live my life a little TOO freely by this principle, but that’s a story for another day). So, I’m not sure that I think age has much to do with

  7. queenieNYC says:

    There is no one answer to this question. At all. I answered for myself, by saying is that 30 is too young a threshold – for me, my career and my life (including the family I already have) have always been more important than having children, something that has never been on my “must-do” list.

    But it is just impossible for me to dictate what is and isn’t right for anyone else. And, unlike Mr Regnerus, I know it’s not my place, either.

  8. Bob Matsuoka says:

    We were married at 38/37. About to celebrate our 10th anniversary this year. I can’t say our choice would work for everyone, particularly if you want children (we have two; women should keep track of their FSH levels if they want to wait), but we’re very happy with our choice.

  9. Mhlia says:

    So many conflicting feelings… first off, I hate that a woman’s “market value” is determined by her youth/looks and fertility. There is a whole generation (or more) of men out there looking for a life partner, not a womb with no brain or ambition. Secondly, I am glad that I focused on my career in my 20′s. If it weren’t for that, we’d be a lot more freaked out than we are at the potential of my husband losing his job. Thirdly, I’m one of those people whose life goal wasn’t to be a MOM. Before I met my husband, I wasn’t sure I wanted kids. Fourthly, it is only because I now know this amazing person (whom I married) that I can even imagine wanting a child. And fifthly, just because you get married young doesn’t mean that you’ll have kids within your prime fertility range anyway!

    So, to wrap up… I met my husband at 28, married at 30, and now at 32 we’re looking at at least another year before we event attempt to get pregnant. Thank you, economy. I will feel incredibly lucky if we do manage to have a child. But if we don’t have children, I’ll also continue to feel incredibly lucky that I waited to meet this man. Grief perhaps at no children, but no regrets.

  10. SINgleGIRL says:

    -Detroit Fit Chick
    I think everything you wrong sounds smart and reasonable. You’ve made choices that were 100% right for you. I certainly wasn’t suggesting that anyone was wrong by waiting or not prioritizing kids (I’m not planning on having any, myself). Just theorizing that some people might be happier if they didn’t spend their mid to late 30s obsessed with finding a partner and getting pregnant.
    -SpiketheLobster
    Your wording is so important – better than faking it. So many of us are familiar with the “faking it” and want the real thing for ourselves. And dammit we deserve it. And yes, I know a couple of women who’ve had kids at and everything’s been fine, healthwise.
    -undersundog
    Welcome to the blog. And thank you so much for sharing that personal info. I don’t really know anyone in that situation, though I do know people who had kids at 40 (some of my friends) and I hear very mixed things. They adore their kids but didn’t always want to wait quite as long as they did. Anyway, it’s good to hear some happiness about it.
    -lorilori17
    I agree with you, the panic to conform to society’s timeline’s makes me cringe too. I’ve seen a lot of that. And you’re right, this guy didn’t even mention the major shift in “courtship rituals” among the very group he pretends to be studying.
    -Veka
    I also know a lot of people who married young and were divorced by the time they were 30. Some had kids in those early marriages, some didn’t. Like I’ve said, I agree with you conclusion. I just wonder if this is something worth thinking about.
    -Singlegal
    Seems like you got married because you wanted to. Which is why I’m guessing most modern people do. :-)
    -queenieNYC
    I would not imagine a universal proscriptive here (whereas Mr. R is a big fat idiot who seems to believe he knows what’s best for us all). But after seeing so many of my friends spending the years between 34-40 in various states of panic and misery, I’m willing to be open to the possibility that maybe, just maybe, it could be good to rethink family as it relates to work and fertility as a whole. For people who want to. Maybe
    -Bob Matsuoka
    Welcome to the blog and thank you so much for sharing your personal story. Yeah – later marriages can and do work!
    -Mhlia
    Welcome to the blog! Yeah, the market value reasoning is why I started to call him a big fat idiot. I personally think I have more to offer now than I did at 21, but whatever.

  11. Bibliomom says:

    Let’s see in my case I married my High School Sweetheart in college at the tender age of 20 and was divorced by 30. That allowed me to have kids and then also free up a lot of time in my 30s. Now I’m 33 and a single Mom of two little girls. I’m torn at what I would advise them to do but it would probably air heavily on the side of “Wait until you’re finished with college and are at least getting started in your profession”. Marrying young has definite disadvantages. But I don’t think it’s a problem if the two people grow together in a mutual respectful relationship. In your 20s there is a lot of growing and maturing to be done. In the case of my relationship he stayed developmentally in his teens while I matured. We didn’t match in our world view and that created a whole mess of problems. I’m glad that I’m 33 and basically done having kids (yep I’ve left the door open in case some wonderful man comes along and we want to expand our family but it’s not a NEED of mine).

  12. Pansophy says:

    In principle one of the greatest things about technology is that is has made it possible to be single parents. So people would make their lives much simpler if they separated having kids from who they marry.

    Instead people get married to the wrong person, have kids, and get divorced and now they have to deal with someone forever while holding all kinds of anger at them even though it wasn’t right to begin with…or…people are ‘smart’ and wait to find the perfect person that may never come and so they don’t have a partner or kids.

    It’s just a really complicated question and all the rules are still changing before our eyes.

  13. aGirlNamedMe says:

    I didn’t read the article – doubt that I will. I already feel all kinds of pissed off just reading your description of it.

    Most teens and young adults are simply not equipped to make these life-changing decisions. They haven’t had the experience of living long enough to know the long-term consequences of their actions.

    I married at 18. Over the next seven years, I changed a great deal (duh!) and we were no longer heading in the same direction at the same pace.

    I don’t regret the marriage – I definitely learned a few things and had experiences I would not have otherwise had. I did what I thought was best for me at the time, for sure.

    But…seriously?

  14. starangel82 says:

    Simone, you know how I feel about this topic…. but for those of you who don’t, I don’t think you can put a number on this. I think people should get married when they think it is right for them. While I do think more people in their teens/early-twenties are not quite mature enough to handle the magnitude (both good and bad) of marriage, I know there are some that are. Who are we to say who can and can’t handle marriage? I don’t think young people should be frowned upon for marrying young (well, except for maybe under 18). I don’t think people who wait until their 30s or above should be dissected because they chose to wait. It is all about what is right for each person and knowing yourself.

  15. SINgleGIRL says:

    -Bibliomom
    Thx so much for sharing your story. According to the brilliant Mr. R you did everything right. But of course even when we do everything right, things don’t always work out the way we planned. Life’s funny like that.
    -Pansophy
    “Instead people get married to the wrong person, have kids, and get divorced and now they have to deal with someone forever while holding all kinds of anger at them even though it wasn’t right to begin with…or…people are ‘smart’ and wait to find the perfect person that may never come and so they don’t have a partner or kids.” Yep, that pretty much sums up my thinking on the topic. 2009 and we still haven’t found a way around this one.
    -AGirlNamedMe
    All kinds of pissed off -love it. And yeah, it’s a good way to describe how I felt reading it. Thanks for sharing your story. It sounds like you have a really good perspective on it all. Like I said, if I married the guy I was with at 21 it would have been disastrous. Without a doubt. Not that I think all youngish marriages are bad. I know a couple who married at 21 and they’re still together and have two wonderful kids who are, gasp, starting to look at colleges.
    -starangel82
    Yes, it was funny. I read your post after I’d written this one (I almost always write my posts a day or two in advance, except for the ranty, short ones). I absolutely agree that everyone should do what’s right for them.

    However, I think this is where I differ with a lot of my readers and maybe this is an age thing- I know that when I was in my late 20s there was this sense amongst me and my friends that we had all of the time in the world to have kids. That there was no rush. We had our careers to focus on and/or we were having fun. And then the next thing we knew we were all 35. Some of us were fine with our decisions. Many were not. Some rushed into marriages with men they barely knew, others spent small fortunes on fertility treatments. Others just seem miserable all of the time. And, frankly, many men do not want to date women over the age of 35 who are in a rush to have kids (I have a couple of guy friends, each well past the age of 45 who have ‘no women over the age 35′ rules because they don’t want to deal with biological clock issues.) It’s like a bad odor -Desperation. So I think there’s something to be said for being more conscious of this. For women my age speaking about it openly and saying, hey I’m happy but maybe I might be happier if I’d thought about this earlier. One day I was 29 and the next I was 35. Time passes too damn fast.

  16. jamy.barab says:

    This is funny–I went to grad school with Mark Regnerus. You really couldn’t find a nicer guy if you tried. As to his argument, I think it’s flawed because it assumes that women (and men) really do want to get married at younger ages but “societal pressures” keep them from doing so. In fact, the reason people marry later and less often is that women are (almost) the economic equals of men. Thus, the main societal function of marriage has disappeared. Marriage, quite rightly stated by Regnerus, has economic advantages. But since women’s earning power is good, they can afford to raise children on their own, thus no longer settle for a match that serves those purposes less then their own happiness.

    Personally, at 40, I sure expected to be married. However, I don’t regret (with possibly one exception) not marrying any of my exes. Better to be single and happy than sadly divorced.

  17. Jennifer-from-NY says:

    First I’d like to say that I just started reading your blog and I love it. Second about the actual content of the post: I answered that I can’t judge for most women on your quiz. But I have to say that I’m 20 and would like to be married relatively soon. Some of it is family related and part of it is just that I know I really want to have a family and that has been something I’ve wanted for a while. So I’m hoping to be married before 25. No way of knowing if that will work out but it’s what I’m hoping for.

  18. Simone Grant says:

    -jamy.barab
    I echo you sentiments of rather being happily single than unhappily married. I just frequently wonder if maybe I should have made some different decisions fifteen years ago.
    -Jennifer-from-NY
    Welcome to the blog. I’m glad you found me and thank you for commenting. I hope you’re able to find someone you love and who wants what you want when you want it. I think those are the keys – wanting the same things at the same time. At least that’s what I’ve observed.

  19. PAN33 says:

    I’m 21 years old and I’m engaged and I can tell you that I have faced extreme criticism and skepticism from every single member of my family. Maybe it’s just my experience but I find there is an extreme cynicism surrounding the idea of love these days. Certainly a lot of people do get divorced these days and there is a lot of bitterness but I question the idea that you’re more likely to find true love at an older age than at a younger age. Relationships take work and dedication, you have to be willing to change alongside someone and grow together … but we change and grow throughout our lives – people are just as able to make it work in their early 20s as they are at an older age. That said, I don’t like any sort of pressure coming or going in either direction – people should be free to decide on their own when they’re ready.
    From my experiences coming straight out of university there does seem to be a change in attitude toward young marriages occurring – for years women were told to wait until their 30s and I think people feel free now to at least get engaged at younger ages.
    Again, I’m coming from a particular point of view but I find that we hear far more these days about marriages that went bad/are bad than we do about good marriages that are lasting. For my part, I’d like to see a little renewed hope in the world and belief in love.
    Bottom line – people should be free from societal pressures on this subject – marry who you want and when you want to marry.