Mother Nature Loves A Paradox

Posted: May 13, 2013 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , ,

By Michael Stelzer Jocks, History Faculty.

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Noah and Lane

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.

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Comments
  1. Lee Lazar says:

    Truly.

    I think that the scientific studies show that the human brain reaches its maturity around our mid-20’s. Perhaps child-rearing, from a biological perspective, is supposed to play a role in this process? Lately, I have given a lot of thought to your paradox. The physical challenges of raising a new child have taken their toll this time around but mentally & psychologically I am stronger this time around at 35.

    • MSJ says:

      Lee, thanks for your comment. I can believe the human brain reaches maturity at that age. 25 or so seems like when I first felt I was an adult, but I know at that age I still wanted things for myself, and my relationship with Jen.

  2. adhd2phd says:

    As someone who actually had a child in my 20’s (my daughter was born when I was 22) I was really interested to read this blog. I have always wondered what it would be like to have had children in my 30’s. I know that this would not have been possible because of my wife’s health problems so I certainly understand the biological imperative.
    I think that MSJ’s paradox is explained by one institution which has existed throughout human history: the extended multi-generational family which is still a lot more common than most people realize. As anyone knows who has actually done it, raising children is not a one person or even a two person job but really requires a whole network of people. In extended multigenerational families you can have parents in their twenties having children and providing the bulk of the care while their grandparents, who are in their forties, can provide help, guidance and maturity while they still have the physical stamina to chase down a toddler. My grandson was born when I was 43 and at 48 I take care of him by myself three or four evenings a week and often on weekends while my daughter works as a nurse. It can be difficult and frustrating but it is definitely worth it. When I pick my grandson up from day care I often see other grandparents picking up their grandchildren. We give one another a tired nod of recognition and walk on.

    • MSJ says:

      Thank you so much for the reply…and, I completely agree. I did not have time to get into the social aspects of this situation, and the changing face of our modern world in regards to child-rearing. The anthropologist Sarah Blaffer Hrdy points to the importance of ‘alloparents’ in human child rearing, and she is so right. The issue is, Jen and I have no family living close to us. However, we now have a very tight-knit community of ‘alloparents’: our neighborhood friends and fellow parents. The problem is, this is rare in today’s America.

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