Was talking to a friend of mine the other day, as you do when you’re thirty, about the right time to have a kid, and they were saying something about how they wanted to wait until they were settled with their career and such, and that got me thinking…when is that? Is there actually a point when people are settled with their careers?
I mean I feel like for writers there’s this ideal that you’ll be midlist, you’ll put out a book, or more, a year, and you’ll have fifty or a hundred thousand fans who devour everything you write, and even though you still have to work, you’re at least somewhat settled.
But that’s not the career that most of my long-time writer friends seem to have. Even five or ten or fifteen books, there is still an element of precariousness to their career. They can get dropped by their publisher. They can get burned and need to switch genres. There must be some people out there who are sitting pretty. I mean, Naomi Novik and Lois Bujold and David Weber and Mercedes Lackey are people who exist. But that’s not most people. So then what? Do you not have kids while you wait for something that might not ever come?
And even when that kind of relative security does descend, when does it happen? Not when you’re in your thirties, that’s for sure. In most professions, it doesn’t seem like there’s any element of security until you’re, at a minimum, in your forties. Many of my friends are in academia, for instance. If they’re lucky and got a good head of steam, they have their PhDs by age thirty. Then what? Maybe 3-6 years of post-docs? Then if they’re lucky a tenure-track position. Another seven years of waiting to see if they get tenure? Or for lawyers, you’re waiting to make partner. For doctors you’re waiting to finish residency, fellowship, etc.
For men I guess the option really is to marry a much-younger woman and put off having children until you’re forty. But that’s not what most people are doing. Most people find, sometime before the age of forty, the person they’re going to be with.
These aren’t profound revelations, of course. I think they’re what most college-educated thirtysomethings come to realize at some point. But it’s kind of silly that it needs to be a revelation at all, because it should’ve been possible for all of us, when we were in our twenties, to sit down and make these calculations and realize, “Holy shit. It’s not gonna work out. If I’m gonna have children, it’ll need to be during a time when I’m still unsteady and unestablished.”
Bu whatever, if I’d been capable when I was in my twenties of making those calculations, then probably by now I’d have averted so many other of life’s miseries that I really would be established =]