At what age is it good to have children?

by Helena Rodriguez

The miniature rubber duckie on the soap dish in my shower always reminds me of Amanda. Dear, sweet Amanda. But here lately, I see the rubber duckie and all I can think is, “Amanda is pregnant! Amanda is pregnant!”

Amanda was my daughter Laura’s best friend when we lived in Abilene, Texas. She gave me the rubber duckie and some bubble bath for Christmas before we moved back to Portales in December of 2002. Amanda is 14, only a few months older than my Laura.

Amanda has an angelic face framed by her long cinnamon-colored hair and she has a cute Texas twang. She was one of my students when I helped teach a catechism class at our church in Abilene. Amanda came from a dysfunctional family.

While I was saddened by the news, I can’t say I was surprised. I was more upset. It made me want to scream, “Hello! Somebody should have seen this coming! Why didn’t somebody do something before it was too late?”

The issue of teen pregnancy is a big one with plenty of blame to go around. There’s a lot I can say about that. But then I got started thinking in a different direction, about what we consider to be the “ideal age” for parenthood.

Last weekend, I talked to a close family member of mine who is only a few years older than me. She is almost at the opposite end of the spectrum from Amanda when it comes to motherhood. She is bordering on 40 and her oldest child just started kindergarten. By her frame of mind, she started motherhood too late and wishes she had had her children sooner.

Of course the extreme opposite end of the motherhood spectrum, by today’s standards, would be that 56-year-old grandmother who recently gave birth to twins in New York.
I reassured my family member that the mid-30s is not considered old nowadays to have children. But still, she has this notion in her head that she’ll be an old lady before her children are grown.

I think that beats the alternative, which is becoming a grandparent before you’re even 40. Some of my classmates who had children very young are already becoming grandparents.

I told this family member of mine that as much as I love my daughter, Laura (I have to say this), I wish I would have waited a few more years. I was 22 when I had Laura. I was fresh out of college and unmarried. Personally, I think 22 is too young to become a mother. Sadly, here in New Mexico, a state plagued by a high teen pregnancy rate, it’s not so young.

At least I had a college degree when I had Laura. But still, I was immature and not financially stable. I wish I had been married. I was young, alone and just setting out into the real world. That’s one thing I pointed out to this relative. At least she and her husband (they are both college graduates) were financially stable when they started their family.
All of these thoughts about age and motherhood made me think back to the Biblical times and wonder whether age was ever a factor back then. By all Biblical accounts, Mary must have been young, perhaps a teenager, when she had Jesus. At the opposite end of the spectrum, in the Old Testament, was Sarah, who became a mother to Isaac at age 90.

Only God really knows when a person is ready for parenthood. We all mature at different levels. Who’s to say that a woman in her 50s or 60s can’t be just as good a mom as someone in her 20s or 30s, or vice versa? When it comes to teen moms these days, though, that’s a whole other subject. There have been success stories, but statistically speaking, they are usually the exceptions, not the norm.

As for Amanda, she’s a straight-A student and a survivor. But the odds are stacked against her even more now.

And that’s why my heart sinks when I see that rubber duckie in my shower.

Helena Rodriguez is a columnist for Freedom Newspapers of New Mexico. She can be reached at:
helena_rodriguez@link.freedom.com