PARENTS

Is 26 The Perfect Age To Start A Family?

14/08/2014 16:47 | Updated 22 May 2015
Is 26 the perfect age to start a family?

When I was 26, I was running around the desert covering the Gulf War for the newspaper I was working for. I was like a reckless teenager, running from one peril to another. I was involved in two car crashes and broke my collar bone.

But even then, I didn't feel fear. I was only responsible for myself and if I came a cropper, so be it.

When my dad was 26, he had me. And he told me, when he was in his early 50s, how he wished he'd waited so that he could have had the reckless, responsibility-free Twenties that I'd had.

But now that I'm in my late 40s, I wish I'd had kids younger. Yes, even though I wasn't remotely ready for them.

For I became a father when I was 40 years old, and had my second child, three years later, to add to the stepdaughter I already had with my wife.

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My 26-year-old self wouldn't have had a clue how to raise children. My 26 year-old self was just a child himself.

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I lived in a bedsit, got drunk way too often, did things I'd regret if I could remember them. There is no way in a million years I was ready to be a father.

But now, when I calculate how old I will be when/if the youngest leaves home, I would swap all that derring-do of my youth for a few more years of action-packed activity with my own kids and their kids to come.

My own dad is still young enough to have a pint with, not just with me, but with the grandchildren my brothers had when they were in their 20s.

This is why I'm in agreement with a new survey that reveals mums and dad believe 26 is the perfect age to have a baby.

OK, not all of us are lucky enough to have met The One to settle down with at that age, but if you have, the message is: Don't hang about having children.

The study of 2,000 parents, by the health supplements company Seven Seas Pregnancy, showed that a third of parents said having children at a younger age meant they could have a bigger family, and a fifth believed being youthful would help them have more in common with their children.

This is something I've seen for myself: my kids are hooked on computer games, but I can barely turn the computer on. Whenever they get stuck on something, they phone a friend's dad rather than ask me because they know there's no point.

But other people choose to delay, either because they enjoy running around and being immature idiots and never want the rollercoaster ride to stop (me!) or for more sensible practical reasons, such as wanting to own a house (dream on!) or earn a collective wage of £25,000 a year (more realistic) before settling down to have a family.

A fifth of parents said they were initially worried about having kids because they didn't feel their lifestyles were healthy enough because of smoking and drinking.

Claire Halsey, Clinical Psychologist, said: "We would have expected parents to think the perfect age to start a family to be late twenties to early thirties, as opposed to mid-twenties.

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Contrary to popular belief younger women are planning a family after just a few years of working rather than waiting to establish a career, going travelling or spending time on hobbies. Perhaps there is a realisation that as the recession affects work prospects, planning for a family can come first and career later.

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So what do you think? Is there a right age to start a family? Or is it different strokes for different folks?

I know if I had my time again, I would have had kids earlier, but then I wouldn't have the children I've been blessed with, so what's the point of regretting?

I just need to make sure I live long enough to enjoy a pint with both them and my grandchildren.

What age did you start your family?

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