By Michael Stelzer Jocks, History Faculty.
I met Jen when we were both twenty years old. We were half-way through college, and had plans to go to graduate school. We were instantly inseparable. We wanted to move to the big city, experience independence and live our lives. In other words, we had no thought of having children.
In our early twenties, Chicago was the place to be and graduate school took up all our energy. After graduation, Jen and I were both lucky enough to find jobs at Robert Morris. Economically stable, we figured we might as well get married. We were 26, and we were Chicagoans through and through. Each weekend we hung out with friends, disposing all of our disposable income. Still, no plans for children.
At 29, things changed. Jen and I made a decision. We wanted a child.
Our first daughter, Noah, was born when we were 30 years old. Though both Jen and I had advanced degrees, and full time careers, we never knew hard-work until Noah arrived. From Noah’s first three months, when she inconsolably cried every night from 6-9pm, to today when she has the attitude of a 16 year old in a 6 year old’s body, every day was, and has been a new challenge that continuously tests us physically and psychologically. We have come to the realization that our 9-5 jobs are relaxing in comparison to our grueling occupations as mom and dad.
But, we were not done. Since one offspring didn’t break us, why not sire a second child? Lane was born when we were 32 years of age, making us parents twice over. The second is definitely easier than the first. However, the problem was Jen and I no longer had numerical superiority. It was 2 against 2 on the best days. 1 against 2 when Jen or I had an evening class. On those nights,mom or dad was outnumbered and outgunned.
I sometimes wonder: What would have happened if Jen and I had had these two kids when we first met? I shudder at the thought. At 20, both of us were still children ourselves. We were self-centered and immature. Everything revolved around our needs and desires, and there is no doubt that emotionally and mentally we would not have been prepared for children. For us, the correct decision was to wait until our thirties. We needed the extra decade for psychological stability.
Yet, biologically, and physically, the opposite is true. Women reach their peak of fertility at 19. Men around the same age. 19! That is when nature intended for us to have Noah and Lane. At 19, my wife and I were in college, living on 4 hours of sleep, eating terrible food, and, yet, feeling indestructible. At that age, we would have physically been prepared for children much more than our 30 something selves.
The only thing I can figure is that Mother Nature must love a paradox.