Newlyweds: the dreaded baby pressure
When I asked my MMs (Married Mates) if the whole baby pressure for newlyweds was a ‘thing’, all but one of them screamed, ‘Oh my gosh, YES!’ (The one who didn’t had her children with her then boyfriend/now husband before they tied the knot.) So this week, I asked my MMs about how they deal with the pressure (and I’ve thrown in a few facts for good measure).
Imagine this: you’ve just got home from an amazing wedding and the most incredible holiday ever. You’re starting to get back into the swing of the usual day-to-day goings on. When, all of a sudden, friends, family and even co-workers are bombarding you with comments like: ‘when are the babies coming?’; ‘start before you’re 35 otherwise you’ll be too old to keep up’, or ‘the older you get, the less fertile you are’. So, how do you react?
The family nag
The most common place baby pressure comes from is family and close friends. More specifically, your parents and grandparents. You can kind of excuse the grandparents, putting it down to a difference in generations. But it’s a bit trickier with your parents.
‘It’s exhausting’, says Romy who’s just had her first child after five years of marriage. ‘We started off by responding to those sorts of questions politely. But it soon got to the point where I was like, ‘could you mind your own business please?’ And why not? I don’t see what our private plans have to do with anyone; close family members or not.’
Nathan, who’s been married for just over two years, tells us why his parents apply the pressure: ‘I’m surprised at how my parents can still nag us even when they live halfway around the world. But because we’re here [in the UK] and they’re in Australia, I think they’re looking to fill the void of me gone, which is human nature I suppose. That, plus they’re getting older and they’d love to have a little person around.’
The peer pressure
The baby nag also comes from friends and co-workers in the form of good old-fashioned peer pressure. (Yep – it exists beyond high school!) Although it’s not as overt as when you were 15, it can still get to you. Lou tells me about how her FWKs (Friends With Kids) get into her head.
‘Most of my married friends have babies. I go round their houses to catch up – to make things easier. We coo over the baby, and talk about sleeping and eating patterns, then they all say something like, ‘well… what are you waiting for?’ And because I’m surrounded by cute babies and witnessing how happy they all are, I head home to my husband and ask, ‘they’re right – what ARE we waiting for?’ But we’re enjoying just being married. That blasé attitude to starting a family gets in your head and you start second-guessing yourself.’
Whether that’s peer pressure or friends giving perspective, it’s only natural to dwell on the What-ifs. But if you and your partner have clear plans for your life together, have confidence in them. You shouldn’t be forced to travel down a road you’re not ready to go down.
The tick-tock argument – cue the facts
And then there’s the whole ‘time is running out’ pressure. Unlike a few decades ago where women married and had children very young, times have changed. Nowadays, women focus on education and their careers, leading them to settling down later on in their lives. And to prove it, I went digging around The Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) website.
The facts show us that the age distribution of people getting married and women giving birth in the UK has changed considerably. In 2012, the average age for men and women to get married in the UK was 36.5 and 34 years respectively. Those figures have increased by almost eight years for both men and women since 1972.
Adding to that, every year since 2001, the most popular age group for married women in the UK to have their first child has been aged 30–34. While in the older age groups there have been significant increases too. For example, the number of women in the 35–39 age group who gave birth to their first child between 1971 and 2009 has increased from 42,100 to 80,700. That’s an increase of 92% over 38 years. (source: http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/dcp171766_259965.pdf)
Okay, so the facts speak for themselves. As a nation, we’re choosing to live life for longer before getting married and starting a family. So how come people are still applying the tick-tock, why-wait baby pressure? If you’ve experienced the incessant questioning we’ve touched on, we want to hear from you. Share your insights in the comments box below.
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